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Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Theatre

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Abstract

Aleister Crowley’s (1875–1947; see figure 4.1) Rite of Saturn premiered at London’s Caxton Hall in 1910. This was the first of seven magical rituals that were performed between October 19 and November 30, as part of a larger work titled Rites of Eleusis.1 Crowley’s Rites of Eleusis were a mixture of poetry, ecstatic dance, music, and ceremonial magic that he had developed with the initiates of the Argenteum Astrum, a secret society whose members studied and practiced ceremonial magic. The elements of ceremonial magic were plentiful within the Rites of Eleusis: the performers were actual magicians who performed incantations and magical gestures, the costumes included hooded robes, the stage was decorated with an altar bearing a collection of occult symbols, and the audiences were encouraged to wear specific colors that corresponded to the nature of the god being evoked in each of the rituals. Some audience members were sympathetic to Crowley’s theatrical aesthetic. For others, the performance, which was staged in semidarkness, suggested something diabolical or perverse. A critic from one periodical, the Penny Illustrated Paper, accused Crowley of using the Rites of Eleusis to “suggest an elusive form of Phallicism or sex worship” and to compel audiences to witness a “Black Mass.”2

Keywords

Spiritual Experience Audience Member High Altar Symbolist Drama Photo Courtesy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
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  2. 3.
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  3. 5.
    For more information on Neitszche’s distinctions between “master morality” and “slave morality,” see Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, e-book version (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 154–155..Google Scholar
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© Edmund B. Lingan 2014

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