A Close Reading of an Excerpt of “The Cry of the 2nd Æthyr,” The Vision and The Voice
I am the harlot that shaketh Death.
This shaking giveth the Peace of Satiate Lust.
Immortality jetteth from my skull,
And music from my vulva.
Immortality jetteth from my vulva also,
For my Whoredom is a sweet scent like a seven-stringed instrument,
Played unto God the Invisible, the all-ruler,
That goeth along giving the shrill scream of orgasm.
This fall, I am undertaking a 77-day sacramental devotion to Babalon via the Ecclesia Babalon’s Call to Babalon ritual. As part of this ritual, observers recite the above excerpt from Aleister Crowley’s The Vision and The Voice as a mantra, repeated 49 times in praise of Her. These are the words of a song about Babalon, sung ostensibly by Her to Crowley after he properly recited The Cry of the 2nd Æthyr.
After several days of learning repeating and learning the mantra, I felt the next natural step would be to conduct an analysis of these important lines, which I have completed over the course of several days and have now collected it all in one place for ease of reference. These are simply my interpretations based on my own studies and experience; they are in no way official, blessed, or approved of by anyone but myself. I share this in hopes that it might bring something to your own practice and observances of worshipping the Holy Harlot.
“I am the harlot that shaketh Death…”
The song is written in first person, making it both about Babalon as well as whomever recites it. So these lines are both what She declares about herself, as well as what the Holy Assembly confirms about themselves in the recitation of these lines…
I am the conduit of the flesh, the warm body that receives and gives. I am physical pleasure and emotional connection. I am courage and ferocity and tenderness.
This physical connection reminds us of the power of the sacred sexual to give life, to affirm the living, to empower and consecrate, to experience Malkuth in all aspects. It reminds us that the body ties us to the here and now.
Life is the only force strong enough to challenge Death’s fearsome hold on our minds. Love is the only conqueror of fear. In the moments during and following the ecstasy of Love, we are not Death’s eventual victims, but Death’s open defiers.
The harlot knows the only things that threaten Death, that even temporarily shakes its cold grip on our psyches, are Love and Life.
“This shaking giveth the Peace of Satiate Lust.”
This shaking is the quake of orgasm, of the petit mort, when for a moment we meld with the Universe and we’re neither living nor dead, self nor other. We become One within the company of the many.
In that moment of bliss, a mere preview of Ascendance, the fear of and obsession with death subsides. Our Lust for Life is satisfied, our hunger to experience the fullness of living is satiated by our lover’s and the Sacred Whore’s ministrations.
For a moment, we are at Peace, and that in itself is a powerful motivation to return to the sacred embrace, again and again. The difference between worship and addiction lies in devotion:
To what am I devoted when I seek the sacred embrace with the Other?
To my lover?
Or to the Oneness we are joining via this intimate exchange?
“Immortality jetteth from my skull, and music from my vulva…”
The skull, the container of the brain and mind, the seat of consciousness. Kundalini rises from the root chakra to the crown chakra, energetically bursting upwards and out of the skull, onward to infinity.
Kundalini—this animating energy, this spark of the divine—is what makes us the ‘below’ reflecting the ‘above.’ Energy is neither created nor destroyed, merely transmuted. The spark that animated each of us goes on forever, is immortal.
Music is perceived by us as sound, but is really just blended, harmonious waves of energy. Music jetting from the vulva is the waves of love and bliss created in the throes of ecstatic connection with the Other—whether the Other is lover or offspring, my reflection or my issue—and whether the connection is in receiving or giving Life.
The connections made at the generative locale, sacral chakra to sacral chakra, are the music of the creative universe. Holy, holy, holy.
“Immortality jetteth from my vulva also…”
With this line, I’m contemplating the immortality that issues from the holy vulva. If Kundalini is the awakening that connects us with the above, Kether, then the immortality of the vulva connects us with the below, Malkuth, as the anchoring of Life in the material.
To me, this necessarily references both birth and the sexual mysteries. The blood of the vulva is Life; it indicates the ability to conceive, gestate, birth, and nurture a growing entity—physical or metaphorical offspring. All human life arrives through the portal of the Mother, generation after generation, extending through time immemorial in both directions… each life is mortal, yet life itself is immortal.
The holy connection between lovers is the other way that immortality bursts from the vulva. The orgasm is a micro-death experience, when the experience of the Self falls away, and for one blissful moment, our objective selves melt into the totality. This perception immortality is fleeting, yet the truth is there always and infinitely: “We are eternal; all this pain is an illusion.”
“For my Whoredom is a sweet scent like a seven-stringed instrument…”
After two previous lines discussing immortality, the mantra returns to the topic of Her whoredom. It may seem strange to the uninitiated that we would esteem Our Lady’s promiscuity as a virtue. But to those who are able to see past the knee-jerk societal reaction, to the symbolism beneath, the significance of Her whoredom is clear.
The practice of a harlot is active receptivity. The harlot doesn’t simply passively acquiesce to receiving the Other; rather, this is a willful act of hospitality, loving kindness, and initiation into the creative Mysteries. She is all-loving, all-giving when met with a fair exchange of energy.
That Her whoredom is likened to a sweet scent recalls other sweetly scented things—flowers, incense resins, fruits, and perfumes—all things that are commonly used as offerings and gifts to gods and those we love. Her harlotry is a gift, an offering to receive us into her inner sanctum as a Beloved, even if only for the space of a few moments.
The number 7 is holy and recurrent across many traditions (7 planets, 7 chakras, 7 notes, 7 days in the week, etc.) As the number of feminine materiality, the feminine body, and feminine wisdom, it is sacred to Babalon.
Finally, the comparison of Her whoredom extends to music as well, another common offering to the gods.
“…Played unto God the Invisible, the all-ruler”
This line further describes the “music” played by Babalon’s Whoredom.
Here, her willingness to take on the role of Sacred Whore is specifically compared to music played for “God the Invisible, the all-ruler.” This is an interesting line, for She Herself is a goddess… to whom would the divine pay homage??
Babalon is associated with Binah, the uppermost station of the divine feminine in the Tree of Life and the counterpart to the uppermost station of the divine masculine, Chokmah. The only entity above the two of Them is Kether—the pure and undivided light of the Divine—and the void of the Ains, from which that light issued.
This pure light of Godhead is invisible, ineffable, unknowable, and yet omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. It is the All, the Source, and is neither masculine nor feminine, but the two integrated into The One.
Babalon’s Whoredom is, quite simply, Her holy contribution to Godself. She receives the essence of the masculine Force and transmutes it into Form, creating and birthing all that is, was, will ever be. This is her role, and it is the creation of all we know.
“That goeth along giving the shrill scream of orgasm.”
The last line of the mantra returns to describing the nature of Her whoredom, this time describing it as something that both “goeth along” and “giving the shrill scream of orgasm.”
“Goeth along” to me implies movement, path walking, independence, changes, distribution, interaction with multiples and many. It is a phrase that brings to mind transience, journeying, walking the earth. She is not married or committed to any one thing or person.
“Giving the shrill scream of orgasm” sounds to me like a call, like a bird call or mating call, or perhaps even a calling card or personal mark. The mark of Her current is the wild scream of release, of hunger, of primal desire fulfilled. It is both arousing and terrifying. Undignified. Uncontrolled. Unleashed.
Babalon is beyond anyone’s ability to contain. She is not something to be captured or conquered, but experienced and given away, shared, channeled.
She is a lesson in detachment and personal sovereignty that chooses to deeply connect and feel. And because She welcomes all, those connections and feelings can sometimes be dirty, frightening, sorrowful, and wretched, but holy nonetheless.
When we give ourselves completely in worship of Her—every last drop of our essence—we surrender to the flow of energetic connection by being willing to accept and experience all the richness that material reality has to offer, both exquisitely pleasant and exquisitely unpleasant.
Now, whenever I recite these lines during worship, I understand them to be at once praise of Her holiness, as well as recognition of my own divinity as a deliberate and intentional reflection of Her.
In Nomine Babalon