The Scarlet Letter
Volume III, Number 1 | Sept. 1995
The Atu of Hecate
by Sr. Beta Voluspa
Certainly, witches in his day were a different breed. Given a few hundred years of persecution, an oral tradition can suffer great diffusion. In Crowley's time, they would still carry the stigma of the burning years: portrayed as filthy old hags who cast wicked spells on innocent livestock and made up love potions for silly village girls. They were illiterate and superstitious women, Gypsies who stole and cursed and read fortunes in the fair. But mostly, they were old.
In Magick T&P, Chapter III, Crowley states “it is only the romantic mediaeval perversion of science that represents young women as partaking in witchcraft, which is, properly speaking, restricted to the use of such women as are no longer capable of corresponding to the formula of the male, and are therefore neuter rather than feminine. It is for this reason that their method has always been referred to the moon, in that sense of the term in which she appears, not as the feminine correlative of the sun, but as the burnt-out, dead, airless satellite of earth.”
This really bothered me when I first read it while preparing to take my Minerval. After all, I was a witch, a Priestess, and a young one at that. My perception of myself is hardly burnt-out and dead! To me witches are connected to that raw earth energy, the great earth-goddesses whose heart heats the pulse of the universe, whose yoni eternally receives and delivers, giver of life and death: maiden-mother-crone.
Uh-oh, there is that death thing again. And on it's heels, the old woman, who is apparently no longer capable of corresponding to the Formula of the Male. Meaning, I suppose, that she is no longer capable of reproducing or menstruating. It is this aspect of womanhood to which Crowley attributes witchcraft; the old woman who no longer is the vessel by which will becomes manifest. She serves only her own will, which in the course of time has become honed until it is razor sharp.
Perhaps it is a fear of the Goddess as a giver of death. Hecate is a more fearful psycopomp than naughty. trickster Hermes. She'd wither you with a glance, turn you to stone with her yoni, stagnant and waiting. Kali devouring Shiva's entrails even as she enveloped his jade stalk, I ask you, what could be more terrifying to the Formula of the Male than one out-of-control bitch goddess?
Now, the maiden and mother aspect of the goddess are abundantly worshiped in Thelemic rites and literature, witness the Liber XV Gnostic Mass, and the formulation of the Tetragrammaton. But interestingly enough, the Vital Triads lists The Three Goddesses as the Virgin, the Wife, and the Mother. Those initiated into women's mysteries will get a good laugh out of that; it is so linga-centric! All three are defined in relation to the masculine! The virgin, who has not known man, the wife who cares for him, and the mother who suckled him at her breast.
The card attributed to the old woman, the Witch, is the Moon. In women's mysteries, the moon is related to the menses because of the cyclic nature of both. The Crone belongs here as the instructor into the women's mysteries, something Crowley would know little about. The three ages of womanhood celebrate the continuity of the female: "..and let them not speak of thee at all since thou art continuous!" Leave out the Crone in the triad of Goddesses, and women loose touch with the sense of that cycle of life and death. It is the nature of women to deal with death as well as life; it is indeed a feminine characteristic, not neuter by any means.
So is there a place at the Thelemic table for a witch, young or old? I, for one, find that a woman in touch with her inner divine, practiced at ritual and energy work, drawing down godforms, and whipping up a mean cup of artemisia absinthium can be real helpful in magickal application. As for a menopausal Babalon (realizing that a hot-flash from a Scarlet Woman could kill a horse at a hundred paces), absolutely! That is, if one can handle an experienced female sex magician who has no fear of pregnancy, and can herd a gaggle of goetic demons in her sleep!
And, if you are real, real lucky, you will he embracing that Valkyrie when your time comes, head erect, eyes wide open.