From 1920 to 1923, Aleister Crowley established a spiritual center for his new order in Sicily – it would be known as the “Abbey of Thelema.” His idea was to create a school for magick – not to be confused with magic, a term Crowley believed was reserved for tricksters who performed to a crowd on stage. Crowley’s sort of magick was centered around manipulating external events through meditation, ceremony and ritual.
The bible to Crowley’s new religion was “The Book of the Law”, which he had written by the instruction of his guardian angel Aiwass. The central belief of his organization was “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Practitioners of Thelema, or Thelemites, do not believe this means do whatever you feel like doing, rather it’s an instruction to follow their true self’s desires. A major objective for Thelemites is to “Cross into the abyss”. This is a metaphor for death and rebirth that requires contact with a guardian angel that helps them become reborn into the supernal triad as an ascended person. “The great work” is an act of enlightenment in chasing one’s true potential. It can be seen across modern day Hermetic occultism.
Crowley would paint the walls of the abbey with Thelemic deities and symbols using oil paints from France. An area known as the nightmare wall featured a large yellow cyclops that Crowley deemed the eternal idol. He would encourage Thelemites to take psychedelic drugs then stare at the hellish painting until they had fully conquered fear itself.
Orgies and drug use were routine at the abbey, despite the prevalence of children running around on the premises. The children were even witnesses to the acts of “Sex Magick” – a belief that the soul’s intentions can be heard by the universe at the moment of orgasm.
Crowley’s drug use eventually spiraled out of control and he would later become a full blown heroin addict. The hedonistic practices at the Abbey of Thelema escalated in debauchery to include animal sacrifice and bestiality. But it became a hot spot for celebrities – attracting a British Model, Betty May, and her husband Raol Loveday. Betty never quite got along with Crowley – she considered the abbey dirty and didn’t enjoy life at the commune. After Crowley caught her reading a newspaper – a forbidden item – she left the next day while her husband stayed behind.
Loveday remained in the commune due to illness and his devotion to Crowley. He had recently consumed water from a local fresh spring despite Crowley’s warning that his immune system would not be up to the task. Loveday would die of a bacterial infection in 1923.
May blamed Crowley for her husband’s death and leaked his cult’s hedonistic practices to the press. She believed that her husband had become ill from drinking the sacrificial blood of a cat. Her story was picked up by Newspapers world wide. The fascist government of Mussolini ran Crowley and the Thelemites out of Cecily, and it would remain abandoned until present day. Those who visit claim it remains haunted and contains a supernatural presence.
- “What Is Thelema? | Occult 101.” Www.youtube.com, Da’at Darling, 3 Aug. 2020, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7M-aIV9w8k. Accessed 31 Dec. 2021.
- Barry Van-Asten. “Ghost Blooms: RAOUL LOVEDAY: THE CEFALU POET.” Ghost Blooms, AUDRAREP, 19 May 2018, ghostblooms-van-asten.blogspot.com/2018/05/raoul-loveday-cefalu-poet.html. Accessed 31 Dec. 2021.
- “Daughter of the Beast: Lola Zaza Crowley | History 101.” Www.history101.com, http://www.history101.com/daughter-of-the-beast-lola-zaza-crowley/. Accessed 31 Dec. 2021.
- Anglis, Jaclyn. “Meet the ‘Wickedest Man in the World’ Who Horrified 20th-Century Britain.” All That’s Interesting, 22 Aug. 2021, allthatsinteresting.com/aleister-crowley#:~:text=Meanwhile%2C%20their%20daughter%20Lilith%20had%20died%20of%20typhoid. Accessed 31 Dec. 2021.
- Thomas, Kristin. “Abandoned Abbey of Thelema – Where Occultist Aleister Crowley Shocked the World.” The Vintage News, 14 May 2018, http://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/05/14/abbey-of-thelema/. Accessed 31 Dec. 2021.