Saturday, August 10, 2019

Aleister Crowley's Wardrobe

Years ago a document billing itself as "The Thelemite Test" was being circulated online. One of the questions, for which you presumably got a point towards your "real Thelemite" status, was "Would you purchase a collection of Aleister Crowley's laundry lists?" The idea being, of course, that you gained points as a Thelemite for being willing to purchase anything, no matter how trivial, connected with The Great Beast himself.

According to this article, Crowley's laundry lists may remain lost but what he actually put his laundry into might not be. The article recounts the tale of a "spooky haunted wardrobe" that might have once belonged to Crowley. Unsurprisingly, the wardrobe allegedly has had something to do with various paranormal phenomena over the years.

The ornately carved cupboard has a large satanic head carving on the front in the style of furniture carved by Crowley, who called himself 'The Great Beast 666', lived in Torbay at two periods of his life and made heavily carved furniture. It was bought by a Winner Street shop in a house clearance but within weeks the shop owner was so spooked by spooky goings on that they put out a desperate appeal in the media for somebody to take it away.

The shop was trashed in the night and owner Linda Bell gradually became convinced the wardrobe was causing poltergeist activity, there were spinning chandeliers and the wardrobe doors would either refuse to be forced shut or would open by themselves when locked shut. It was so bad that Linda couldn't wait to find a buyer and shifted the ornate old cupboard from her shop, the curiously-named 'Olden Ewe' (near the Oldenburg pub).

This all happened shortly before Halloween in 2015. Eventually Linda managed to sell it at cost with no profit. Step forward new owners, Zena Corden and her daughter Tabitha Wright, who bought the piece and shipped it home to Derby where it went on display in their museum of the weird, Curiouser and Curiouser, in a listed building dating back hundreds of years.

Zena is a taxidermist and collector of Memento Mori (including jewellery made from dead people's teeth and hair). It is Zena who has dug up the link to Aleister Crowley. She said: "Crowley used to live down there and he carved furniture like this. His furniture is quite hard to come by and it's so rare that it would be impossible to authenticate. But I think this wardrobe is cobbled together from other things and the head looks like something he might have carved.

"Everybody says the head is Pan - but Pan is just a fun nymph, it looks more malicious than that to me. It has got an aura about it." Firstly it was a star exhibit at Curiouser and Curiouser in Wardwick, a historic building in Derby. But Tabitha said that lots of people hated it. People claimed if they went near it they had headaches and felt sick. Just like in Paignton the door would keep opening even when locked - or refuse to shut, no matter how hard it was forced.

Zena said: "We had paranormal investigators come around and they told us their meters were so off the charts that they thought an old electricity junction box behind the wardrobe must be still live. "We debunked that when we got an electrician to come and disconnect it and he said 'It's totally and utterly dead and it has been for many years'."

A couple of points. I had no idea that Crowley carved furniture, but if he did I can see the face of Pan as something he might carve. Second, it probably is in fact the face of Pan, who in Crowley's conception was a lot more sinister than "a fun nymph." To Crowley, Pan represented All, the totality of Nature, which can be both delightful and cruel depending upon the circumstances. Reading Crowley's "Hymn to Pan" will disabuse you of the notion that the poem is about nothing more than "a fun nymph."

Also, it probably is worth pointing out that the paranormal stories surrounding items associated with Crowley are probably not true, or at the very least exaggerated. I'm a practicing magician too, and I do rituals in my bedroom before I go to sleep all the time. But I would be very surprised if that resulted in any of my bedroom furniture becoming haunted. Magick just doesn't work that way.

I'll wrap this up with one more quote from the article.

Zena refuses to believe that the wardrobe has brought bad luck, and she also holds no fear of the so-called 'curse of Crowley'. She says Crowley was not as wicked as people believe, but was a great showman and publicist.

I really appreciate seeing that in print, especially with that Boleskine yellow journalism nonsense that may have led someone unhinged to start a second fire at what remained of the property. Crowley was a man who liked to test the limits of whether there was any such thing as bad publicity, and the tabloids delighted in making up stories about him during his life. It's good to see an article in the media quoting someone who actually gets that.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: