It is written in Liber AL vel Legis II:36, “There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times.” Crowley comments, “The entry of the Sun into the cardinal signs of the elements at the Equinoxes and Solstices are suitable for festivals. The difference between ‘rituals’ and ‘feasts’ is this: by the one a particular form of energy is generated, while there is a general discharge of one’s superfluous force in the other. Yet a feast implies periodical nourishment.” This cycle of dramatic rituals are therefore invocations. They are intended to generate energy at the entrance of the Sun into the cardinal signs of elements at the four quarters of the year, i.e. the Equinoxes and Solstices.
The entire cycle of rituals simultaneously show:
- The macrocosmic cycle of the Sun going through the seasons
- The microcosmic cycle of Man going through the generations/Incarnation (birth/youth-adulthood-old age-death).
- The process of Attainment from 0=0 to 8=3 and back again.
The energies of each ritual correspond to each of these planes at once:
Each ritual invokes a particular energy. Each ritual has a particular Word of Power associated therewith and it is intoned in between the scenes. The Word also appears once in each ritual within a particular Scene.
Each of the four rituals has 3 scenes for a total of 12 scenes for the entire cycle, one for each of the signs of the Zodiac. The middle scene of each ritual is the sign of the Equinox or Solstice – for example, the middle scene in Autumn is Libra. The first scene is therefore Virgo, the sign before Libra, and the last scene is Scorpio, the sign after Libra. In general, the first scene represents events leading up to the Equinox or Solstice, the middle scene represents the actual turning-point, and the last scene represents events leading to the next Equinox or Solstice.
The Basic Characters
- (☉/♂) Priest/King – the conscious Self. The Child who grows to become King who attains and becomes a Priest and then dies and is reborn as the Child.
- (☽/♀) Priestess/Queen – the Non-Self (the unconscious self, the “higher self,” etc.). The Mother of the Child, the Queen/Beloved of the King, the High Priestess of the Priest.
- (+ and -) 2 Children – the duality of the World. Various roles throughout the entire cycle.
- (⊕) The People (participants) – the inhabitants of the World; they identify (at least their conscious selves) with the Priest.
Also known as “The Hour of Truth”
The Word of this ceremony is ‘THELEMA’ (Theh-lay-muh). It is intoned three times in between scenes, i.e. between Scenes 1 & 2 and between Scenes 2 & 3, by the People/Congregants.
The Talisman of this ceremony is an ostrich plume (or a smaller representation thereof).
SCENE 1: Virgo.
The End of Summer, the Threat of Winter/Death, the possibility of Immortality.
SETTING: The Kingdom at Sunset1; it is almost the time of harvest2. The King is entering Old Age. The room is lit, but dimly; the primary light comes from the West, i.e. the setting Sun. There are fields of wheat3 surrounding everyone or up on the Throne. Leaves are scattered about that are colored by Autumn. The King is enthroned in the East, facing Westward; he is wearing a white robe under his scarlet robe; the Queen is wearing a green robe over white and her hair is filled with 12 white flowers in a crown. + holds the Sword, – holds the Balances; the Staff and Lantern are hidden behind the Throne.
+ and – stand on either side of the King and speak as if announcing news to the Kingdom.
+: “Thrust in thy sickle and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; the harvest of the earth is ripe.”4
–: “Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”5
KING: “Let there goeth forth a sickle that shall reap every flower!”6
+ and – march to the West side of the Temple and turn to face East. The Queen paces around, looking very worried.
KING: My Queen! The fruits of our labors are ripened. It is a time for reaping and rejoicing, yet you appear discontent.
QUEEN: Harvest time is indeed upon us… yet I tremble in fear at the thought of enduring another winter storm. What if our harvest does not last until the next blooming of flowers? What if you fail of an heir and we are left in darkness?
The King looks disappointed but does not respond. + and – take a few steps forward while + says:
+: My Queen, we may know of a certain solution to your sorrows.
+ and – stop before – speaks.
–: Indeed, the legend we have heard in our youth of the potion that provides permanence.
QUEEN: Ah! Yes! Yes! The Elixir of Immortality. I know this legend; how I could I have forgotten! If you could but find and drink of it, Eternal life would be granted. Winter storm would pose no threat; fear of having no heir would be banished at last!
KING: This sounds good, too good to be true. Where might I find this Elixir and what must I do?
QUEEN: It is said there is but one soul upon the Earth who has the Wisdom7 to create this Elixir.
+ and – are becoming excited by the Queen’s tale, taking further steps towards the East while + says:
+: The Priestess Nuit!
+ and – stop before – speaks.
–: Yet she lives afar off!
QUEEN: Across the great span of the wilderness to the West, you may find her at the summit of the highest, most holy mountain. There, where the Earth meets the Heavens!8 I must warn you, though, that I have heard many have tried and all have failed, for they did not persist.
+ and – take their final steps to be right next to the King in the East while + says:
+: They were turned aside by adversity.
+ and – stop before – speaks.
–: They settled for something less than that ultimate end.
+ and – turn around simultaneously to face the West.
KING: I will seek only Nuit. I will “turn not aside for aught”9.
QUEEN: Ah! Our perpetual predicament may be resolved at last! Save your Kingdom from disrepair; save your Queen from utter despair. The wasteland awaits thee, my King! Follow the footsteps of the Camel10 that lead the way through the desert.11
KING: Let the preparations be made at once!
QUEEN: But, my King, if you are gone, who will rule in your stead?
+ steps forward and raises the Sword.
+: I will rule with the severe sword!
– steps forward and raises the Balances.
–: I will rule with the benevolent balances!
KING: Only they who have the right of God and might of Will may take the throne. [+ and – step back to the sides] My Queen, you must rule in my stead.
QUEEN: How should I be worthy to ascend to the throne and administer the royal decrees to our Brothers and Sisters?
KING: The most potent power derives from the most solemn service12. Divest yourself of all pursuit of pleasure and all sin of selfishness.
QUEEN: I see “nothing but a blank midnight in this Emptying of the Soul!”13
KING: “This is the necessary condition of Illumination.”14 Even as the Sun is swallowed in Sea [The King points to the West] you too must undergo the darkness of the Night of Pan, purged of all egoity!
The King takes the Queen by the hand and slowly leads her into the West. As they walk, drums beat slowly and softly but become louder and faster.
QUEEN: “Why do I sweat with blood and dew? Blind horror catches at my breath. The path of the abyss runs through things darker, dismaller than death! …There is no memory possible of this unfathomable hell. Even the shadows that arise are things too dreadful to recount!”15
The drums become louder and more chaotic. The King and Queen approach the West; the rhythm of their words carry them onward.
KING: “This is the end of all our pain, the dissolution of the brain! For lo! in this no mortar sticks; Down come the house – a hail of bricks!”16
The drums are loud and completely chaotic; there is no rhythm.
QUEEN: “But my soul faints, my stomach sinks. Let me pass on! [The Queen pushes away the King to make the final steps to the West alone] My being drinks the nectar-poison of the Sphinx. This is a bitter medicine! Black, black, intolerably black! Go, spectre of the ages, go!”17
The drums stop suddenly. The Queen arises solemnly and turns to the East in the attitude of Resurrection, i.e. the sign of Osiris Risen.
KING: You have passed beyond… Beloved, thy stature spans the sky.18
QUEEN: Verily; but it is not I. The ego dissolves – pale phantom form blown from the black mouth of the storm. It is another that arises! …Ay, there is no more potent spell. Through life, through death, by land and sea, most surely will I follow thee.19
KING: Follow thyself, not me!20 It is complete! The Kingdom will obey thine command! My departure is nigh at hand!
END SCENE. Congregants repeatedly intone ‘THELEMA’ in between scenes.
SCENE 2: Libra.
The Installment of the Queen as Ruler of the Kingdom.
The light from the West is slightly darker; the Sun is halfway concealed by the horizon. The King stands in front of the Throne in the East and the Queen stands before him. + and – stand on either side of the Queen, facing her. + holds the Sword, – holds the Balances.
KING: The preparations for my departure into the wilderness of the West are almost complete. My final act is to raise you to the throne as Ruler21 of this Kingdom.
The King comes down from the Throne. He takes the Queen’s hand and sets her in the Throne where she sits. The King turns to address the People.
KING: I say that ‘Every man and every woman is a star.’ I do not fool and flatter women; I do not despise and abuse them. To me a woman is Herself, absolute, original, independent, free, self-justified, exactly as a man is. I dare not thwart Her Going, [The King turns to face the Queen] Goddess thee! I arrogate no right upon your will; I claim not to deflect your development, to dispose of your desires, or to determine your destiny. You are your own sole arbiter. I do not want you as a slave; I want you free and royal, whether your love fight death in my arms by night, or your loyalty ride by day beside me in the Charge of the Battle of Life.22
+ advances and hands the Sword to the Queen who holds it between her legs.
KING: Let your rule be strong yet precise. O be thou proud and mighty among men!23
– advances and hands the Balances to the Queen who holds it against the hilt of the Sword. She holds both Sword and Balances at once.24
KING: Let your rule be merciful yet fair. Bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men!25
The King takes a Crown of ostrich plumes26 and places it on the Queen’s head.
KING: May Truth stand upon your crown, eternally alert. Truth is your Path, and Truth is your Goal; [The King kneels while + and – give smaller versions of the ostrich plume to each Congregant.] Ay! there shall come to you a moment of great Light when, understanding what is Truth, you will understand your Self, for you are Truth!27
The King pauses and smiles.
KING: It is accomplished! [The King genuflects and extends his arms towards the Queen while saying:] “Unto thee is all power given.”28
The King, +, –, and the People applaud.
QUEEN: “I will glorify myself and live deliciously. I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.”29 I will rule firmly with severity yet justly with mercy. I will not only uphold thine power, but it shall wax in strength to cover the world. Remember, my King: Seek only Nuit! Turn not aside for aught! I entrust unto thee this staff to support you in daytime [+ takes the staff]. I impart unto thee this lantern to guide you in darkness [– takes the lantern]30. I empower thee with this most holy word of force and fire31 that thou mayst endure unto the End: THELEMA.”
The Queen kisses the King.
QUEEN: The wasteland awaits thee, my King! Follow the footsteps of the Camel that lead the way through the desert.
END SCENE. Congregants repeatedly intone ‘THELEMA’ in between scenes.
SCENE 3: Scorpio.
The Kings leaves to wander in the wilderness.
The Light from the West is even darker; the Sun is almost set on the horizon. The King is prepared to leave the Queen32 and the Kingdom to wander in the wilderness33 for 50 days34. The King faces the Queen who is enthroned in the East.
The King closes the Veil, hiding the Queen from sight. He then turns towards the West.
KING: My Kingdom is secure with Justice enthroned.35 Her eyes of equity are etched into my brain. Her Word awakens my intent. Her kiss lingers on my lips. “Now, I goeth solitary…”36 Bearing my staff as support by day [+ raises the staff] and my lantern as guide by night [– raises the lantern].
The King points to the ground in the West.
KING: Look! The footprints of a Camel! The initiation of my journey is at hand.
The King lifts his Lance, pointing it to the Western horizon.
KING: “With my burning spear, to the wilderness I wander!”37
The King then holds the Lance upright with both hands, right over left, and begins to slowly march towards the West where the Sun sets completely and darkness envelops the Kingdom. + and – hold the staff and lantern and walk on either side of the King. + and – slowly and solemnly chant the word ‘THELEMA,’ starting loudly and slowly becoming silent.
+ and –: THELEMA… THELEMA… THELEMA…
1In the symbolism of day and night, this ceremony corresponds to Sunset as, in the symbolism of the seasons, it corresponds to Autumn.
2Virgo is the sign just before Libra, which is the traditional time of harvest.
3Wheat and corn are attributed to Virgo.
4Adapted from Revelation 14:15.
5Adapted from Revelation 14:18.
6From The Vision and the Voice, 7th Aethyr. The reference is to the coming month of Libra that is of harvest; Saturn, whose weapon is the sickle, is exalted in Libra.
7Virgo is Atu IX: The Hermit, Mercury or Wisdom.
8The mountain is the Holy Mountain, Abiegnus of the Rosicrucians; the Summit is where the Goat-God Pan lives, i.e. Capricorn the Winter Solstice, and it is seen symbolically as the High Altar in the Gnostic Mass.
9c.f. The Vision and the Voice, 20th Aethyr.
10The Book of Lies, chapter 73. It is not realized that Death rides this Camel of Initiation.
11This refers to the Gimel that literally means “camel,” which is the path of Atu II: The High Priestess that leads from Tiphareth across the Abyss to the Supernals.
12A reference to “Liber 194: An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order” where, when speaking about governmental positions in O.T.O., Crowley writes, “with us Government is Service, and nothing else.”
21This is seen in the Gnostic Mass when the Priest upraises the Priestess and sets her upon the summit of the Earth.
22This entire speech is adapted from the New Comment on Liber AL III:55.
23Liber AL II:77.
24This is Woman as Justice, seen in Atu VIII: Adjustment, to which is attributed the sign of Libra. It also is a reference to the liberation of Women from the subservience of the Old Aeon, c.f. Liber AL III:10, “Let the woman be girt with a sword before me.”
25Liber AL I:15.
26These are the feathers of Maat, c.f. The Book of Thoth, “She is crowned with the ostrich plumes of Maat, the Egyptian goddess of Justice.”
27This speech is adapted from the chapter “Truth” in Little Essays Towards Truth.
28A reference to Liber AL I:15, “…and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given.”
29Adapted from Revelation 18:7 where it refers to Babylon.
30The lantern and staff are the weapons of the Hermit as seen in Atu IX: The Hermit. They also reflect the Pillar of Fire that guided Moses in the desert by night and the Pillar of Cloud that guided him in the desert by day.
31Liber AL II:20.
32This is seen in the Gnostic Mass when the Priest closes the veil after raising Priestess to the summit of the Earth.
33The wilderness represents spiritual austerities as when Jesus fasted in the desert and Buddha meditated under the Bodhi tree. In terms of Thelema, it represents the Abyss. Crowley associates the Yod, which is attributed to Atu IX: The Hermit, with “Parzival in the desert. Christ taking refuge in Egypt, and on the Mount tempted by the Devil. The unconscious Will, or Word” in Magick in Theory and Practice.
3450 is the number of Nun, which is attributed to Atu XIII: Death and therefore Scorpio. It is also a reference to Christ’s wandering 40 days in the wilderness and Buddha’s 49 days of meditation under the Bodhi tree before enlightenment. In both cases this period directly precedes their temptation by Satan/Mara. This period is also seen in the Gnostic Mass after the Veil is drawn (the Sunlight dwindling in Sunset/Autumn) and the Priest circumambulating 3 times; it is seen at the beginning of the Winter Solstice ceremony.
35This represents the attainment of 7=4. The next step is to cross the Abyss and attain 8=3, which is shown in the Winter Solstice ceremony.
36A reference to The Vision and the Voice, 13th Aethyr, “The hermit goeth solitary, and giveth only of his light unto men”; it is therefore also a reference to the attainment of the Grade of Hermit.
37Adapted from The Vision and the Voice, 10th Aethyr.