Women in Thelema: Interview With A Female Star
[The following is an interview that appeared in Daughters of Babalon Volume 2, which will be available in October. Daughters of Babalon is the work of Heather Schubert, a long time Thelemite, Priestess and Magician. She features the work of women involved in Thelema and Magick, and her journals can be purchased through Lulu.Com and Amazon.com. For a uniquely female experience on magical work and creative Thelema, I highly recommend her work and support her efforts.]
Q. How long have you been interested in Thelema?
A. I’ve been interested in Thelema for over twenty-five years. I consider myself a Thelemite insomuch as I use Thelema as a vehicle for Gnosis.
Q. Over the years, how actively have you been involved with Thelemic groups or organizations?
A. I have been involved in two: O.T.O and O.T.K. I was a member of O.T.O for about fifteen years, and was a 6th degree and the High Priestess of my local Rose Croix chapter when I left. I was a founding member of The Order of Thelemic Knights and am actively helping to promote a view of Thelema which is unique to that organization.
Q. Membership in Thelemic groups or organizations is made up from the much larger communities in which they exist. Since these smaller communities mirror the larger ones, Thelemic communities often face the same problems and issues that exist within society. With that in mind, would you tell us what you believe are the main problems or issues woman face today within our Thelemic communities?
A. As I stated above, I have taken part in two Thelemic experiments. In one, women are largely seen as vehicle or altar and tool to be used. In many ways emphasizing the archetype of Babalon as purely unadulterated sexuality, has enslaved woman much the same way the Virgin archetype has in Christianity. In fact, in some organizations it seems the only mode of advancement for women is if one is willing to do some pretty un-fraternal things. In those particular groups women have a much easier time if their partners are popular or connected to the powers-that-be, and never complain or make waves when physically or mentally abused by others. If women DO report abuses, they are generally not taken seriously or worse: the blame is put on them. I have personally seen this happen a lot. Though not exclusive to women, but to victims in general. It seems this old aeon mentality to sweep these distasteful issues under a nice oriental rug whose multi-colored beauty is supposed to WOW the world is preferable than to face these serious issues head on.
Unfortunately, this has had the unintended effect of women not coming forward, and only speaking in confidence with trusted friends or elders of the Order. My husband, for example, who served in one of the ruling bodies for 11 years had many members, mostly women approach him in confidence, asking for his help in particular through having the ear of Grand Lodge, but always bound him by oath to keep their identities secret. The powers-that-be figured that if there was really a problem, these people would come to them directly, but seeing how victims were treated when they DID reveal themselves, made them afraid. The “culture of fear” does exist, no matter the lengths they may go to hide it. Our larger society has taken a stand in the #metoo movement which has no doubt had a voice and sparked conversation in said Order.
The other Order, the one in which I am involved today, is a new aeon organization and treats people as people. There, we have had no such issues. We have molded an all-inclusive space for women where there is no room for poor behavior from their male counterparts. It helps that advancement in in this particular Order is based on works completed in each grade, the ability to keep one’s oaths, and as such it is a smaller organization when compared to the first Order, which has the Crowley brand to attract people.
Q. In your opinion how much does gender affect spiritual progression of the Magician?
A. I know I am not the first to say this, in fact it is accepted by many men that it is much easier for women to connect to the Divine through the fault of social engineering, like in gender-based rolls. Men seem to have to work harder to achieve a relationship with some aspect of The Divine which is neither male or female, which is the trick in my opinion. We tend to want to dress up the Divine in our preferred body parts and personality which is a function of the anima and animus. It is a natural thing to do, but we must understand WHY we do it.
Q. Is there a woman living or dead, who has inspired you along your spiritual path? Would you tell us a little about her and what ways she inspired you?
A. There are several women who have inspired me, but I will talk about one here. Rosaleen Norton (1917 -1979), also known as The Witch of Kings Cross in Sydney Australia. She’s the real deal. Though during her time she was accused of devil worship, animal sacrifice, and obscenity, which found her in the newspapers or in front of a judge on more than one occasion having to defend and explain herself.
She was a trance artist and ritualist, and this is how she made contact with her preferred God Pan whom she held in the highest. But here is why I admire her so much: She created her art and worked her spiritual practice despite constant ridicule. In her I found qualities I lacked in myself. The ability to get outside herself, to be open to an experience which she has no control over. The ability not to logic it out and tell yourself that they are only parts of her own mind. She believed in those spirits and the power they held to teach us and give us wisdom. She had a Bohemian soul during a very conservative era. She looked like a witch, she held private rituals in her very small and dilapidated apartment, she painted uncensored scenes of naked women, men and beasts. In contrast, there’s nothing about me that says I am in anyway interesting. I’m reserved and logical, Rosaleen was not. She did not let a restrictive society get in her way. She loved and respected the gods as if they were lovers, friends and teachers. I respect her for being bold and unapologetically herself.
Q. Do you have any advice for women who are just getting into Thelema?
A. Study and read about other female magicians. Sometimes you must go out of your way to find them. Even Rose Kelly who was instrumental in the writing of the Book of the Law is only an afterthought or footnote in the Thelemic history. Listen to women and their experiences in magical and initiatory orders.
We stand on the shoulder of giants whose stories are seldom told or shared. Women like Leia Bathurst Waddell, Leah Hirsig, Jane Wolf, Marjory Cameron, Dion Fortune, Phyllis Seckler (to name but a few). The Western Mystery Tradition and ceremonial magic are still dominated by men, but there are some amazing magicians out there that we can learn a great deal from, men AND women. You will know you have found a good mentor whatever their sex may be, if they are not demeaning, or treat you as a pet. A good teacher will rejoice to see you grow, your ability to stand on your own. Remember that all groups, not just the Thelemic ones, tend to degenerate very quickly into personality cults. Don’t be a groupie, and to thine own self be true.