Aleister Crowley was a notorious occultist, mountaineer and all round bete noir of late Victorian and Edwardian England. He died in obscurity in an Eastbourne boarding house in 1947. His enjoyable ‘auto-hagiography’ – ‘The Confessions of Aleister Crowley’ are dedicated to Sir Richard Burton. It may we be that Crowley modelled himself to some extent on Burton – certainly he travelled many of the same routes. Crowley expressed his wish to follow in Burton’s footsteps to Mecca but decided it was a ‘rather vieux jeu‘ Despite this his says that he learnt several chapters of the Koran and of course, was fluent in Arabic. Crowley possessed the Arabian Nights white leather bound 10 volume set and travelled in the Sahara desert, conjuring spirits on the way.
Another area that they shared an interest was that of sex. Crowley was famous for his sex magic rituals – in an age of hypocrisy and secrecy. Burton released volumes of eastern knowledge on all matters regarding sex and sexuality, which doubtless had an effect on the relationship between scholarship and pornography.
One of Crowley’s assumed titles was ‘The Master Therion’ and there is a reference to ‘Theria’ (the plural of therion – beast) in The Kasidah:
Where hideous Theria of the wild
rended their fellows limb by limb;
Where horrid Saurians of the sea
in waves of blood were wont to swim
Crowley, The Great Beast, surely remembered this verse when giving himself yet another infamous title.