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Babalon

From Thelemapedia

Babalon as depicted in the card "Lust" in the Thoth Tarot deck
Babalon as depicted in the card "Lust" in the Thoth Tarot deck
Babalon is referred to as the Scarlet Woman, the Great Mother, and the Mother of Abominations. Her godform is that of a sacred whore, and her primary symbol is the Chalice or Graal. Her consort is Chaos, the “Father of Life” and the male form of the Creative Principle. Babalon is often described as being girt with a sword and riding the Beast, with whom Aleister Crowley personally identified. As Aleister Crowley wrote, “She rides astride the Beast; in her left hand she holds the reins, representing the passion which unites them. In her right she holds aloft the cup, the Holy Grail aflame with love and death. In this cup are mingled the elements of the sacrament of the Aeon” (Book of Thoth). In a more general sense, Babalon represents the liberated woman and the full expression of the sexual impulse.
Table of contents

Babalon as the Gateway to the City of Pyramids

Within the mystical system of Crowley, the adept reaches a final stage where he or she must cross the Abyss, that great wilderness of nothingness and dissolution. Choronzon is the dweller there, and his job is to trap the traveler in his meaningless world of illusion. However, Babalon is on just the other side, beckoning. If the adept gives himself to her—the symbol of this act is the pouring of the adept’s blood into her graal—he becomes impregnated in her, then to be reborn as a master and a saint that dwells in the City of the Pyramids. This process is beautifully described in the 15th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice:

As the dancer whirls, she chants in a strange, slow voice, quickening as she goes: Lo! I gather up every spirit that is pure, and weave him into my vesture of flame. I lick up the lives of men, and their souls sparkle from mine eyes. I am the mighty sorceress, the lust of the spirit. And by my dancing I gather for my mother Nuit the heads of all them that are baptized in the waters of life. I am the lust of the spirit that eateth up the soul of man. I have prepared a feast for the adepts, and they that partake thereof shall see God.

The concept contained within Babalon is that of the mystical ideal, the quest to become one with all. This process necessarily requires refusing to deny anything, becoming perfectly passive the world, allowing all experience to come forward, abandoning oneself into the deluge of sensation. Through this, the mystic comes to direct contact with life, formulating the wine of the Graal, being the distilled understanding derived from raw experience. This process clearly has its analogue in the career of the lady of the night.

Babalon is described in various places in the Thelemic texts, but her most edifying appearance is in The Vision and the Voice, as part of the vision which explains the function of the Chalice:

Let him look upon the cup whose blood is mingled therein, for the wine of the cup is the blood of the saints. Glory unto the Scarlet Woman, Babalon the Mother of Abominations, that rideth upon the Beast, for she hath spilt their blood in every corner of the earth and lo! she hath mingled it in the cup of her whoredom.
With the breath of her kisses hath she fermented it, and it hath become the wine of the Sacrament, the wine of the Sabbath; and in the Holy Assembly hath she poured it out for her worshipers, and they had become drunken thereon, so that face to face they beheld my Father. Thus are they made worthy to become partakers of the Mystery of this holy vessel, for the blood is the life. So sitteth she from age to age, and the righteous are never weary of her kisses, and by her murders and fornications she seduceth the world. Therein is manifested the glory of my Father, who is truth.
(This wine is such that its virtue radiateth through the cup, and I reel under the intoxication of it. And every thought is destroyed by it. It abideth alone, and its name is Compassion. I understand by "Compassion," the sacrament of suffering, partaken by the true worshipers of the Highest. And it is an ecstasy in which there is no trace of pain. Its passivity (=passion) is like the giving-up of the self to the beloved.)

The Vision and the Voice, 12th Aethyr, Aleister Crowley.

The spelling of her Name as 'Babalon' is not revealed until the vision of the 10th Aethyr, where it is used to banish the forces of Choronzon. The discovery of the spelling represents Crowley successfully crossing the Abyss, and entering into the Sphere of Binah, which is also attributed to Babalon.

The Great Whore

Babalon bears this title because she denies no one, and yet she extracts a great price—the very blood of the adept and his ego-identity as an earthly individual. This aspect of Babalon is described further from the 12th Aethyr:

This is the Mystery of Babylon, the Mother of Abominations, and this is the mystery of her adulteries, for she hath yielded up herself to everything that liveth, and hath become a partaker in its mystery. And because she hath made her self the servant of each, therefore is she become the mistress of all. Not as yet canst thou comprehend her glory.
Beautiful art thou, O Babylon, and desirable, for thou hast given thyself to everything that liveth, and thy weakness hath subdued their strength. For in that union thou didst understand. Therefore art thou called Understanding, O Babylon, Lady of the Night!

The office of the Scarlet Woman

Although Crowley often wrote that Babalon and the Scarlet Woman are one, there are also many instances where the Scarlet Woman is seen more as a representative or physical manifestation of the universal feminine principle. In a footnote to Liber Reguli, Crowley mentions that of the “Gods of the Aeon,” the Scarlet Woman and the Beast are “the earthly emissaries of those Gods.” He then writes in Commentaries:

It is necessary to say here that The Beast appears to be a definite individual; to wit, the man Aleister Crowley. But the Scarlet Woman is an officer replaceable as need arises. Thus to this present date of writing, Anno XVI, Sun in Sagittarius, there have been several holders of the title.

Individual Scarlet Women

Aleister Crowley believed that many of his lovers were playing a cosmic role, even to the point of fulfilling prophesy. The following is a list of women that he considered to have been (or might have been) Scarlet Women (quotes are from Commentaries):

Many modern Thelemites believe that the essential form of the Scarlet Woman (as well as the Beast) can be fulfilled by any magician who so chooses.

As the Great Mother

Within the Gnostic Mass, Babalon is mentioned in the Gnostic Creed:

And I believe in one Earth, the Mother of us all, and in one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest, Mystery of Mystery, in Her name BABALON.

Babalon is identified with Binah on the Tree of Life, the sphere that represents the Great Sea and the mother-goddesses Isis, Bhavani, and Muat. Moreover, she represents all physical mothers. Sabazius and Helena (1998) write:

BABALON, as the Great Mother, represents MATTER, a word which is derived from the Latin word for Mother. She is the physical mother of each of us, the one who provided us with material flesh to clothe our naked spirits; She is the Archetypal Mother, the Great Yoni, the Womb of all that lives through the flowing of Blood; She is the Great Sea, the Divine Blood itself which cloaks the World and which courses through our veins; and She is Mother Earth, the Womb of All Life that we know.

Babalon in the Book of Lies

The 49th chapter of Crowley's Book of Lies, called "Waratah-Blossoms", is dedicated to Babalon:

     Seven are the veils of the dancing-girl in the harem
         of IT.
     Seven are the names, and seven are the lamps beside
         Her bed.
     Seven eunuchs guard Her with drawn swords; No
         Man may come nigh unto Her.
     In Her wine-cup are seven streams of the blood of
         the Seven Spirits of God.
     Seven are the heads of THE BEAST whereon She
         rideth.
     The head of an Angel: the head of a Saint: the head
         of a Poet: the head of An Adulterous Woman: the
         head of a Man of Valour: the head of a Satyr:
         and the head of a Lion-Serpent.
    Seven letters hath Her holiest name; and it is
none
     This is the Seal upon the Ring that is on the Fore-
         finger of IT: and it is the Seal upon the Tombs of
         them whom She hath slain.
     Here is Wisdom.  Let Him that hath Understanding
         count the Number of Our Lady; for it is the
         Number of a Woman; and Her Number is
               An Hundred and Fifty and Six.

Crowley's Commentary

On this chapter, Crowley writes:

49 is the square of 7. 7 is the passive and feminine number. The chapter should be read in connection with Chapter 31 for IT now reappears. The chapter heading, the Waratah, is a voluptuous scarlet flower, common in Australia, and this connects the chapter with Chapters 28 and 29; but this is only an allusion, for the subject of the chapter is OUR LADY BABALON, who is conceived as the feminine counterpart of IT. This does not agree very well with the common or orthodox theogony of Chapter 11; but it is to be explained by the dithyrambic nature of the chapter. In paragraph 3 NO MAN is of course NEMO, the Master of the Temple, Liber 418 will explain most of the allusions in this chapter. In paragraphs 5 and 6 the author frankly identifies himself with the BEAST referred to in the book, and in the Apocalypse, and in LIBER LEGIS. In paragraph 6 the word "angel" may refer to his mission, and the word "lion-serpent" to the sigil of his ascending decan. (Teth = Snake = spermatozoon and Leo in the Zodiac, which like Teth itself has the snake-form. theta first written {Sun} = Lingam-Yoni and Sol.) Paragraph 7 explains the theological difficulty referred to above. There is only one symbol, but this symbol has many names: of those names BABALON is the holiest. It is the name referred to in Liber Legis, 1, 22. It will be noticed that the figure, or sigil, of BABALON is a seal upon a ring, and this ring is upon the forefinger of IT. This identifies further the symbol with itself. It is...said to be the seal upon the tombs of them that she hath slain, that is, of the Masters of the Temple."

The Scarlet Woman in the Book of the Law

From Chapter I:

15. Now ye shall know that the chosen priest & apostle of infinite space is the prince-priest the Beast; and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given. They shall gather my children into their fold: they shall bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men.
16. For he is ever a sun, and she a moon. But to him is the winged secret flame, and to her the stooping starlight.
—AL I:15-16

From Chapter III:

43. Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men; as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and an-hungered.
44. But let her raise herself with pride! Let her follow me in my way! Let her work the work of wickedness! Let her kill her heart! Let her be loud and adulterous! Let her be covered with jewels, and rich garments, and let her be shameless before all men!
45. Then will I lift her to pinnacles of power: then will I breed from her a child mightier than all the kings of the earth. I will fill her with joy: with my force shall she see & strike at the worship of Nu: she shall achieve Hadit.
—AL III:43-45

Biblical origins

Principally, the godform of Babalon seems to be derived from a scene in the Revelations, a source of much inspiration in Crowley's cosmology. In "Revelations", we find this passage:

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. :— Revelations 17:3-6

The text goes on to identify her as the female complement of the Beast, an image also transported into Thelema.

Etymology

The name Babalon may derive from several sources. Firstly, there is the obvious resemblance to Babylon. Babylon was a major city in Mesopotamia, part of the Sumerian culture. Coincidentally, the Sumerian deity Ishtar bears an uncanny resemblance to the Crowleyan Babalon. Babylon itself is a city that is referred to in several places in the Bible, usually as an image of a once-glorious paradise that has fallen into ruin, a warning against the evils of decadence:

And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. —Revelations 18:1-5

A second possibility is from the Enochian word BABALOND, which is translated a harlot. This is most probable, given that The Vision and the Voice was obtained by Crowley through skrying, after he had conducted invocations using the Enochian system of magick.

Crowley probably chose the spelling of Babalon for its Qabalistic significance. By replacing the letter 'y' with an 'a', the word 'AL' appears in the center. The whole then naturally breaks into Bab-al-on. 'Bab' is Arabic for a door, or gate. 'AL' is the Key of Liber Legis, and is also a Qabalistic title of God, meaning 'The One' in Hebrew. 'On' is the name of the Egyptian city that the Greeks called Heliopolis, the City of the Pyramids. By gematria, Babalon sums to 156, which is the number of squares on each of the elemental Enochian tablets of Dee and Kelly. These tablets are themselves identified with the City of the Pyramids, with each square being the base of a pyramid.

See also

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