☉︎ in 3° Libra : ☽︎ in 28° Taurus : Anno Vvii
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
To my Unknown Friend: Greeting and health.
The subject of the Scarlet Woman comes up enough to warrant its own discussion to get at the heart of the matter from a theological perspective. Much rubbish has been written about the ‘sacred whore’ and an attempt made to whitewash over the instructions for the Scarlet Woman found in the third chapter of the Book of the Law.
Let’s explore this briefly. What does the Book of the Law say exactly:
43. Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men: as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and an-hungered. 44.But let her raise herself in pride! Let her follow me in my way! Let her work the work of wickedness! Let her kill her heart! Let her be loud and adulterous! Let her be covered with jewels, and rich garments, and let her be shameless before all men! 45.Then will I lift her to pinnacles of power: then will I breed from her a child mightier than all the kings of the earth. I will fill her with joy: with my force shall she see & strike at the worship of Nu: she shall achieve Hadit.
Crowley interpreted it as direct prophecy toward the Office of the Scarlet Woman .. directly .. and said as much .. directly. There are actually very few places in the Book of the Law that could be said to be so specific, but this is one of them. There isn’t much to offer past that except personal preference on interpretation if one wishes.
That said, there are several notable points here that can be found against modern perceptions of the Scarlet Woman persona.
(A) The Scarlet Woman is not a prostitute or “slutish” in nature.
The Scarlet Woman is not your personal whore, so to speak, nor it is a role model for such behavior either. In fact, quite the opposite. The Scarlet Woman is called “loud and adulterous” in a complementary sense. While this follows the verses of “Come forth, o children, under the stars, & take your fill of love!” (AL 1.12) and “… take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will!” (AL 1.51) in a near sexual libertine sense, it intentionally uses the pejorative word “adulterous” here. Adultery is really nothing more than sexual activity outside the legality of marriage. It is a moral and legal offense but it is not a sexual offense. The outrage here is against the moral systems rather than the natural systems. This follows the denunciation of the whole “pity and compassion and tenderness” thing from the Old Aeon perspective found more often in Chapter 2 than anywhere else. But it has little to no reference with regard to the sexual prowess or lack thereof for any particular woman—and anyone that suggests “acting like a Scarlet Woman” means acting like a sexual plaything for the entertainment of others is just off their gourd.
I mean, besides, what happens to her if she were to go back to “toy with old sweetnesses”? She is cast aside “as a shrinking and despised harlot.” The word ‘harlot’ is only used in the pejorative in Class A material. Now she’s the plaything in and of the streets, despised and alone.
(B) The Scarlet Woman, as a motif, is emblematic of all women under the aegis of the Law of Thelema.
If there was any doubt as to the elevation of women in Thelema, this also disabuses that notion with the ‘achieving of Hadit’ definitively clearing the HGA field for women, and ‘striking at the worship of Nu’ removing any kind of pagan, Gaia, kumbaya, tree-hugging, shit singing-circle nonsense from the field. This series of verses truly shines a light on the misguided notion from Crowley that women have no souls.
However, also, women are not men’s earth mother waiting to be impregnated by their bullshit. Thelemites do not worship the nebulous and unknown. We are to push forward (or inward for those who prefer Old Aeon directions) to Nuit through the realization (or achievement) of Hadit. We worship the now, the here, the “this,” the moment as it unfolds. More specifically, we do not offer women a chance for enlightenment through some notion of joining with men or dicks or trees (or Trees of Life) pretending to be dicks. They are perfectly capable of reaching that source of themselves all on their own.
And notice that while the Scarlet Woman is often “conjoined” with The Beast in much of Crowley’s writings, there is no mention of The Beast at all in these verses. This is the persona, if you will, of Ra-Hoor-Khuit here, the godform that is embodied through the concepts of war and vengeance. The Scarlet Woman is addressed individually and independently of any other entity to manage her. Many seem to miss that in Chapter 1, where Crowley offered the “stops” that we take for granted now, there are two independent clauses in the verse that first mentions the Scarlet Woman. The first defines The Beast. The second is “and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given” (AL 1.15a).
The Scarlet Woman, in Chapter 3, is given a path to power and a path to poverty—”A King may choose his garment as he will: there is no certain test: but a beggar cannot hide his poverty (AL 2.58).—both of which are wrapped up in the sexual symbolism of the adulteress and the harlot respectively. But where is The Beast in all this? Nowhere to be found. Why? Simple: “Let the woman be girt with a sword before me: let blood flow to my name” (AL 3.11). She can take pride of herself in all ways of her coming and going or she can wallow in the street of her own shame. Her choice. It is no odds which she chooses. But there is also no middle ground. The Thelemic woman is not limp dishrag. She is no servant of man, and in her is “all power given.”
Though we have to ask ourselves why the “work the work of wickedness”? Are we seeing all this from some old aeonic perspective? In a sense, yes. Aside from the fact that all of this filters through the unconsciousness of the Prophet, we also have to keep in mind the Book of the Law is an announcement, of sorts, of the Aeon of Horus and the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical revolutions that brings. There is an aspect of change, both imminent and distant, that will always appear in defiance of established means and modes just as it does in every past religious mutation (ex., Christianity brought a certain defiance of Judaism to the table both in the original teachings of Christ and the later mutation brought on by Paul’s approach).
Where the Old Aeon would find sexually deviancy, the New Aeon finds hedonism. Where the Old Aeon would find sexual control, the New Aeon finds enthusiastic consent. Where the Old Aeon would find a binary dichotomy in many areas of life and society, the New Aeon finds a breakdown of such roles and identities. The perspectives of the Old Aeon are changing and mutating in very dramatic and challenging ways not just sexually but ethically, politically, epistemologically and so on. This can appear, from the outside looking inside, to be quite antinomian (“wicked”) to those who are unfamiliar and unaccustomed to a Thelemic perspective.
What we find here is a call toward the Scarlet Woman (and by extension women in general) to “work the work of wickedness,” to actively breakdown the mores of the Old Aeon. Never before in history has there been so much focus been on the ability and power of women (“is all power given”). It’s always been there, subtly, but now it’s out in the open, working, moving, changing history as it is being created. Thelema doesn’t just empower women, it openly calls and encourages women to take that power and do something with it that alters the course of the future. By any standard outside of Thelema, this will appear to be the “work of wickedness.”
Love is the law, love under will.
 Moreover, I consider it to be a failing of our education system that grammar doesn’t even remotely register when people read through the Book of the Law. One of the first things I did when I started taking exegetic studies seriously was to sit down with an English professor and go through the Book of the Law grammatically. I only wish I had those notes today. I may have to find another English professor to collaborate with that in the near future.
[This is a reworking of an original essay entitled, Concerning the Scarlet Woman, from 2018.]