Aleister Crowley, Jimmy Page and the Curse of Led Zeppelin-When Myth, Magick and Weird Facts Collide

The curse of Led Zeppelin. People started to whisper about this in the late seventies. Nobody had any particular facts. But when Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died in September 1980, things started to pick up. So—is there anything to this so called Led Zeppelin “curse”? Nonsense, right? Let’s see…

mathers  aleister-crowley2 JimmyPage

Most of the curse talk is centered around the little understood late 19th century magician, Aleister Crowley. To say the word magician in the 21st century conjures up images of David Blaine or David Copperfield working illusions. In the late 1800’s, there existed a different kind of magician.

These guys were serious-unlocking dimensions, communication with extra terrestial intelligences, communication with the dead, thought teleportation, spirit photography-spooky stuff, and grounded in science. The spiritualist movement was huge at this time, and though many charlatans inhabited the terrain, making the public think this was all some tomfoolery, others knew better. (Read up on the influence of Helena Blavatsky in the spiritual movement and Theosophy).

Much of this work was centered in England around the Golden Dawn Society. Founded by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers in the late 1880’s, it was a secret society based loosely on Freemasonry, and like the Masons, had access to ancient secret Egyptian knowledge…supposedly. Their intent wasn’t evil or underhanded, they knew that humans had unlimited potential, and had vast untapped reservoirs waiting to be discovered. In short, they wanted mankind to rise up to a higher level of consciousness and awareness, not bad aspirations. They attracted high society intellectuals (William Butler Yeats was an early member), but infighting for control of the group, and a new member, Aleister Crowley, caused rifts that tore the group apart.

By the early 1900’s, the group had splintered into several sects and Crowley was off on his own.

The salacious aspects of Crowley are the easiest to locate in books and internet articles: copious use of drugs and sex. Lots and lots of sex. And sex while on drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. You get the idea. His life is far too much to cover here, but suffice it to say, Crowley continued on an esoteric magical path that continued to confound and mystify-and push the boundaries of understanding of the unseen further than anyone in the last 200 years. (he is indirectly responsible for Scientology, but was long dead when L Ron Hubbard foisted that scam onto the public). He became known as the master magician of the early 20th century-part devil incarnate or part receptacle of interdimensional knowledge? It was easy to find both opinions.

crowley3

Enter Rock n Roll. From Beatle-esque good times to the psychedelic movement was a scant three years. Fans and bands were looking for something further. LSD and a rainbow of other drugs gave the insight that there actually was something further out there. Bands started to get weird and fans got weirder as the sixties shifted into 1970. It was around this time that Jimmy Page began to have a large fixation with Aleister Crowley. His bookstore he financed, The Equinox, was named after a Crowley journal, and it stocked some seriously rare and pricey occult books.

This is the time when supposedly Page asked the band to perform a magical ritual with him, a ritual that would bring the band power unimaginable and something akin to everlasting life. Now for anyone who has heard or talked to people “in the know”, this kind of magic is nothing to fool with. It supposedly involves forces with powers beyond any human imagination, and is not to be trifled with by anyone not steeped in mountains of experience, certainly not for novice stoned guitartists.(The oracle at Delphi giving mixed prophecies is a good ancient example).  Blame hubris, blame drugs, but Page got the band, minus one, to join in this solemn and ancient ceremony. Jon Paul Jones was either skeptical enough or learned enough to stay far away.

zep3

The first evidence of this pact showed up on Led Zeppelin III. It was years before I discovered its exixtence. Between the end of  the last song and the paper label is the outro groove. (this is where matrix numbers used by the pressing plant are usually located).  Written into the vinyl (carved with a stylus into the test pressing acetate more correctly) was So Mote it Be on one side and Do What Thou Wilt on the other. These are basic stock phrases that are in the core of Crowley’s belief system, and are familiar to most who are aware of him.

The magical significance of a Crowley power phrase spinnning simultaneously on thousands of turntables across the  world could not have escaped Page’s notice.

zoso

It was on Led Zeppelin IV that the symbolism became more overt. No band name or title graced the cover or spine. Inside, a haunting painting of the hermit, a powerful tarot card symbol, was the sole image. On the innersleeve-more esoterica.

Four symbols boldy across the sleeve. From left to right, these represent Page, Jones, Bonham and Plant. Page has said in interviews that most of these were taken Rudolf Koch’s 1955 Book of Signs, a collection of ancient and magical symbols from across the world. Plant’s is the easiest to decipher, the feather of truth from the Egyptian goddess Ma’at. Plant brought the truth and spoke it. Bonhams’s is the least esoteric-depending on who you believe it is either a symbol for a drumkit, the family unit, or the Ballantine Beer logo. Wise pundits refer to the latter as most likely. Jon Paul Jones’ logo, likely chosen by Page, is an ancient Celtic symbol with differing meanings and was co-opted by the early Christian church as a meaning for Trinity. The famed Zoso symbol is harder to pin down. Page famously has said he will never tell anyone what it means, but that it has obvious magical and occult significance. Robert Plant once said that in a quietly guarded moment, Page revealed the full meaning of all four signs, including a lengthy discussion of what Zoso meant. Unfortuntely for the rock world, Plant said “I was a bit wasted at the time, and by the next morning I had forgotten. I asked him the next day to tell me again and he said he couldn’t/wouldn’t”

denny denny 2

Even Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention, the ethereal voice on Battle of Evermore got her own symbol (cue foreshadowing music here) in the credits. Her symbol is related to both godhead and the power of the female.

 

Page at Boleskin, Crowley's mansionPage at Boleskin, Crowley’s mansion

 

Page with Miss PamelaPage with Miss Pamela

That is a lot of esoteric ballyhoo, but where is the curse? According to Pamela des Barres, groupie extraordinaire and main squeeze of Page during this era, Jimmy got very deep into the Crowley myth, tasking her to scour San Francisco and Los Angeles for Crowleyania. She managed to come up with some impressive artifacts, manuscripts and even the magical robes Crowley wore. Then Page dropped a large chunk of change to acquire Crowley’s mansion,Boleskin, located on Loch Ness. Page said that the house had a history of suicides. This was  now a serious obsession, but he managed to keep it fairly quiet above boards.

Visitors to Boleskin said that at dusk, the outdoor patio was awash with phantoms and ghostly shapes, residue of decades of conjuring and whatnot. Whatever you believe, maids and servants were a quick turnover in employment, as all agreed the place was haunted to the point of being uninhabitable and beyond creepy.

220px-BobbyBeausoleilLP

Enter Kenneth Anger, Crowley disciple and filmaker. He was a noted underground filmaker, drug taker and subversive. When Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin hatched a plan to exorcise and levitate the Pentagon in 1967, people took it as a Yippie lark, a stage show.

However, Anger was ensconced under a truck, busily drawing magic circles, burning incense and chanting spells in Enochian-truly and seriously trying to do a real ritual exorcism. When plans for his film Lucifer Rising began to go astray-the lead actor was Bobby Beausoleil, later convicted of murder as a Manson family member, had to quit; Anton Lavey of the Church of Satan had a cameo; he had an off and on relation with the Rolling Stones for soundtrack work, (oddly right before the Altamont tragedy); rough cuts and cameras were stolen. In stepped Jimmy Page to do the soundtrack. This was the start of a love/hate relationship between Anger and Page.

The music Page produced was genuinely creepy (some showed up on In Through the Out Door as the intro to In the Evening.) Anger moved into Boleskin and they shared their love of Crowley memorabila.  Anger was eventually asked to leave Page’s house where he had been living  as the relationship degenerated and Page pulled out in 1975. Anger did a major flame job in the media publicly, but privately said he had cursed Page and Zep with one monster of a spell, the hugest psychic whammy he could conjure, replete with the worst Crowleyisms he could muster.  This is where shit really started to go south.

First Robert Plant was in a horrific car crash, plunging off a cliff in Greece in 1975, nearly killing himself, his wife and child Karac. This forced a cancelation of the remainder of the Physical Graffiti tour, and postponed the recording of Presence, which Plant was forced to record in a wheelchair.  The make up tour was then plagued by a plethora of highly negative events. A sudden case of laryngitis for Plant after the band had shipped all of their equipment and instruments to the States meant zero rehearsing was possible.

Ticketless fans in Cincinnati rioted and stormed the gates (oddly the site of the infamous trampling incident at the Who two years later that killed eleven), In San Francisco, manager Peter Grant and John Bonham roughed up Bill Graham and nearly beat a Bill Graham employee to death-Bonham and Grant narrowly escaped serious charges and incarceration. Then Karac got sick. Plant took him to the best physicians money and private jets could buy. All had the same answer-‘we have no idea what is wrong’. He passed away in 1977 right after the Graham incident, and as the band arrived in New Orleans, they got the news.  The tour was immediately canceled.

Plant quit the band and music in response to Page and Jones not showing up to his son’s funeral. Zeppelin truly seemed cursed.Things continued to implode. Page was nearly comatose on a daily basis from a crippling heroin addiction. Bonham’s alcoholism raged out of control, and he became increasingly violent and unpredictable.  In 1978, Sandy Denny, the goddess of Battle of Evermore plunged drunkenly down a flight of stairs and broke her neck and died. Finally, in  September 1980, John Bonham was sent home blisteringly drunk from a band rehearsal. Handlers tucked him in bed, he’d only drank 40 or so shots, he would be fine. Incorrect. He died in his sleep, and so did Zeppelin. The curse had cut a swath through the band in under five years. Only Jon Paul Jones, the only one not to sign the supposed pact, remained unscathed.

When all is said and done, it is pretty easy to chalk all of the above up to circumstance and chance. Eerie circumstances, but nevertheless, a round of odd coincidences. Clearly occult practices were genuinely involved on some level, and some creepy and frightening personages dance in the background of the story.

Personally?  I am not so sure. Things started to backfire just as the band became the worldwide legends they had tried to magically invoke. But this is the thing that gets me–when so called ‘black magicians’ mess with this stuff, they usually do a protective spell on themselves for extra safety.

Because black-ish magic is notorious for either backfiring or not working in the way it was supposed to. Collateral damage around events associated with this behavior is well known. But Page’s extra level of spell could be simple, like “make sure nothing happens to me”.

And looking back on Page’s career since 1980: his level of heroin addiction, lack of production musically (ignoring the Firm), failed Zeppelin reunions, and general dearth of accomplishments after nearly two decades of brilliance….it gives me pause. Nothing, literally nothing has happened to him. Good or bad. Just as it was phrased. And a fairly decent body count to go along with it is just enough to make you wonder. Really wonder.

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  • Crowley died in 1947, but left several historical and cultural legacies....One being the Thelemite, Jack Parsons, who founded the Jet Propulsion Lab...which lead to NASA...He would place spells upon each early rocket launch, so offering some protection to the success...

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory logo.svg

    Another was Crowley's genetic link to the famous Bush family.....

    Another was the way his "free expression" philosophy, based on sex, drugs and magick, led to the 1960s sexual revolution of the Hippies and others....Many rock stars were indeed obsessed with imitating Crowley....If not with sex magick, then at least with the drugs and rock music...a means of anti-establishment self expression....this breaking cultural norms and going beyond them, as Crowley sought to practice...Crowley's experiments with sex magick, were similar to several pop star lives of excess and hedonism, decades later...experiments with drugs, etc, also...So he set that standard for many to follow, it would seem.

  • Of course, years after his initiation into the Golden Dawn Society, lead by Mathers, you will see how Crowley shaped the OTO and created an esoteric philosophy known as "Thelema," which means "will," in Greek...

    Crowley's unicursal hexagram

    "To do thy will, shall be the whole of the law..." Written up in Crowley's book of the law...The vid attached offers a fairly comprehensive summary of his life....which was indeed notorious, as well as fascinating......I think the striking thing is what lay at the core of his seeking full freedom of expression, his will to express......Which of course was his strict religious upbringing.....So a rebel with a cause and vision, as it were....Indeed, religion can create the worst of Satanists...the most evil and corrupted, ones...So corrupted, as to invoke the demon, Choronzon, outside the protection of suitably cast magical pentacle and circle....So as to become possessed by that powerful denizen of the lower astral plane...The idea of moving beyond the guardian of the abyss, being that the persona incarnated may directly link up with the higher planes, the final obstacle surmounted by the adept, to move beyond the abyss (lower astral) into higher levels....Levels upon which the higher guardians may be found...

    The demon Choronzon, is a collective consciousness, of all the astral substances, that "rule" the lower astral plane..the abyss, that dark resistance, along with materiality,  through which spirit evolves....Contrary to many beliefs about him, Crowley was obsessed with progression up to the magickal grade Ipsissimus, the highest. That belief in himself being the "Great Beast," a way of purging his unhappy religious childhood, from his deformed psyche...

    • Thanks Drekx. Crowley got a Cambridge education and would then inherit a fortune. He would die a drug addict and penniless, but he would leave behind a legend that mankind will view with both horror and great curiosity.

      "Love is the law, love under wilt."  Just make sure you live up to those words, because Charles Manson used similar quotations about love with his followers also, and especially with the new and curious.  

      • Great magicians, of both paths, are frequently marked with strong will, and/or scientific curiosity.....Yes, he was useless in managing his financial affairs and died penniless.....I will also add that he tapped into the energies being focussed upon humanity between 1914 to 1945, the shamballa impact...His persona was one of 1st ray...the will and purpose energy....This quality is fearless of consequences.....It strives without concern for self, or others, thus many of his followers became nervous wrecks, or died...and he paid little attention to his health, apart from his mountaineering, which again was all about demonstrating his will over nature...to surmount and conquer, as his personality dictated....To become an Ipsissimus....a grade higher than Magister Templi...So a driven man, in several ways, not just in the occult practices....

        The polar opposite ray (and so a twin,) is the 7th ray of magic and order.....Such persons as the Elizabethan, Dr John Dee, expressed it in similarly invoking Choronzon and obtaining Enochian codes....

        These magicians were of note in historical terms and opened many doors to understanding the astral plane and it's protocols...

        Note that Dee, unlike Crowley, sought to increase governance of society, rather than to challenge the norms of his day....He became court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I and was head of the embryonic British Intelligence service....He was also the architect of what later became the British Empire....His forte was administration and organisation, the qualities of the 7th ray....Crowley, in contrast, was an aspect of the destroyer ray......Bringing down the old forms and norms, so that a new way could be constructed, later...Of course, not realising that he would not actually lead that new order, as he thought he might...

  • "When All Are One and One Is All..."

    tumblr_nffkreUx5r1ttz156o1_500.gif

    "We come from the land of the ice and snow, 

    From the Midnight Sun where the hot springs flow...."

    Synchromystic clues abound... I Love Zeppelin! I'll leave it at that. ~InLight555 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtN8oBjMr_E
    Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.
    • Thanks Stick. This brings back wonderful memories like no other. Not to mention possible hearing loss.

      • :-)

  • Wow, very interesting, thank you for the read, I do so appreciate it when people do good research :-)  I was recently reading about the rock star lolita fixation, Page is talked about a lot, he liked them very young, it seems.  Crowley gives me the creeps, the Lam entity was bad news, the whole Golden Dawn thing smells like bad ju-ju though I admit to a fondness for Dion Fortune.  

    I looked up a band I listened to when I was young and found out that they were heavily into some sort of nature magic, they even sold cd's with spots of blood and other fluids on them from the members performing some sort of ritual on them... at the time we didn't have the internet, lol, I just thought they had cool tunes.  They called themselves pagans, which is cool and all (whatever floats your boat) but I don't like blood magic, so I feel weird listening to their tunes now.  Turns out the singer died falling from a balcony, supposedly he didn't do drugs or drink and was happy, so I wonder now if he had some sort of faustian bargain that came due.  Do you think the 27 club is a socially created phenomenon or one that has an esoteric basis?  I'm on the fence... 

    • KELLY: "The Golden Dawn" by Israel Regardie is not really that bad or dangerous of a read for anyone who is interested in getting firsthand knowledge about that organization. It is true that Crowley was a member (and Israel Regardie was his secretary at that time); I have had some pleasant spiritual moments reading the passages and enjoyed working tarot with the Golden Dawn tarot deck (as opposed to Crowley's Thoth deck). I was laughed at by two members of O.T.O. for my interest in Regardie, as opposed to Crowley (sorry people, Crowley's writings and rituals scared the living hell out of me at that time, and still do). One lodge member told me "why learn from Luke Skywalker when you can learn from Yoda instead?" 

      The Golden Dawn sect was disbanded due to in-fighting, and many blamed member Aleister Crowley for this (who was trying to "take over" the mission and functions of the lodge). Israel Regardie reportedly defended Crowley when questioned about this disbanding of the sect, and stated "what Crowley was doing was something different, and that's all."

      For the curious, here's a video of O.T.O.'s Egyptian Gnostic Mass, first written about in 1913 (56 minutes).. THERE IS A LOT OF "rhythm with the words" FROM THIS MASS THAT I SPOTTED THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH USES IN THEIR OWN SUNDAY MASSES.

      Click   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhUpJubHlAc

      Here's the book "The Golden Dawn" by Israel Regardie. I view it as relatively harmless, and recommend it for the curious only.

      The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order (Llewellyn's Golden Dawn Series)

      • Hmm, you've given me some things to think about, Malcolm, thanks for the link.  I've only read excerpts but I will check it out, I am interested in many different aspects of "magick", from a scholarly view if nothing else.  

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