Let us begin with a quote from that most important of witchcraft texts, the inquisitor’s bible, Malleus Maleficarum:

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in woman is insatiable.

The fantasies of the witch hunters do conceal a truth, not only about sex but about the source of power: woman. There is both fascination and fear at work here.

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in woman is insatiable.

For all the tongs, pincers, irons and fire, they are frightened of the carnal appetite of woman. This is the first principle of witchcraft, before poppets, dolls, charms, chants, potions, candles and claptrap: the raw power of female sexuality. Stripped bare, violated, hung in strappado, burned, yet woman remains miraculously unquenchable amongst the flames.

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in woman is insatiable.

Though the inquisition is still with us, she cannot be burned when she is the fire. So can we find in modern witchcraft a way to access this incandescent power? Are there voices, and is there a goddess who addresses carnal lust?

We are the witchcraft. We are the oldest organisation in the world. When man was first born, we were. We sang the first cradle song. We healed the first wound, we comforted the first terror. We were the Guardians against the Darkness, the Helpers on the Left Hand Side.
We are on the side of man, of life and of the individual. Therefore we are against religion, morality and government. Therefore our name is Lucifer.

We are on the side of freedom, of love, of joy and laughter and divine drunkenness. Therefore our name is Babalon.

Sometimes we move openly, sometimes in silence and in secret. Night and day are one to us, calm and storm, seasons and the cycles of man, all these things are one, for we are at the roots. Supplicant we stand before the Powers of Life and Death, and are heard of these powers and avail. Our way is the secret way, the unknown direction. Ours is the way of the serpent in the underbrush, our knowledge is in the eyes of goats and of women.

This is one of the surviving fragments of the work of Jack Parsons. Written in 1950 at the nativity of modern pagan witchcraft and yet his writing and ideas are still largely unknown. His is a name not mentioned in the history of the Craft or the index of Ronald Hutton’s
Triumph of the Moon. Our own work is a continuation of the spirit, if not the letter, of his work and a return to the roots of witchcraft. In the instinctive and passionate example of Jack Parsons, we can find a way to reconnect with the primal spirit of woman and man: a partnership of equals. The story of Jack can be reduced to one whispered word, the name of his goddess: Babalon. The derided whore of Revelation. In Revelation 17 John of Patmos evokes her:

And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

But this is not a strictly Christian image, behind the sulphur and brimstone is the oracular goddess of love and war come to engulf the world. Not a black or a white, but a red goddess. We have exposed the pagan origins of Revelation in our writing. Our research has taken us on pilgrimage to the very cave where John composed his poison pen letter to the goddess. We have done more bible study than most devout Christians. The inescapable fact of our research is that Christianity is violently opposed to the goddess, to witchcraft and to the pursuit of knowledge. In particular, the images of Revelation comes from the demonisation of the goddess known as Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, a slur repeated in biblical literature since the captivity in Babylon. The failure of the god of the Jewish people to save Jerusalem and the Temple from destruction was squarely blamed on the worship of pagan divinities in the propaganda hate-speak of the biblical Prophets.

In Revelation John continues the war against women, and in particular their oracular role. In Ephesus the priestess would bind a band around her forehead inscribed with the Greek word MYSTERY and utter prophecies. This speaking goddess was a threat to those who saw religion as signed and sealed in a book. It is this direct connection that defines witchcraft.

In the pagan cults it was wine which inspired divine intoxication, a wine loaded with hashish, opium, henbane and rue, a wine sweetened with sexual juices. But to John, this was a poisoned chalice and the priestess who entered possession states, a whore. Needless to say, drugs of vision are also those of sexual ecstasy, and a witchcraft that does not fly to the sabbat on these wings is no witchcraft at all. Limitations on sexual freedom go hand in hand with the banning of the sabbatic wine.

In the iconography of Babalon and glimpses through biblical scripture, it is possible to experience a forbidden history unfurling which drenches us in perfume and nectar, which lacerates us with thorns. Woman is the second sex, raped, degraded, despised and demonised. Yet her erotic power burns undiminished. This is Babalon. From a legacy of Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, Aphrodite, a goddess has arrived, one who is not chaste and virginal, one who is not disconnected from her body, one who possesses us with the fury of Eros and the ecstasy of living witchcraft. Babalon is the critical figure behind the Enochian angel magic of John Dee, Babalon confounded Crowley and Babalon turned Jack Parsons into living flame. Rather than a reconstruction of the past, this is a goddess who is taking form around us and within us now.

Alkistis Dimech and Peter Grey
2010 Presentation: Raw Power: Witchcraft, Babalon and Female Sexuality

Dance of the Seven Veils by Gaston Bussière, 1925

It’s now almost impossible to explain the sensual, erotic effect of those words on a young mind: dance of the seven veils!

How old was I when first heard them? Seven, eight? I knew in some remote way the dance was performed by Salomé for king Herod. And that during this sinuous, sensuous dance, Salomé undraped her curvaceous body for Herod’s greedy eyes.

I knew, too, that Salomé’s dance had little to do with the waltz, foxtrot, or cha-cha witnessed occasionally at parental parties, where heavily cosmetisised women danced with slim grey men: their husbands or lovers.

No, Salomé’s dance would have been far more exotic: seductively removing those ethereal silken veils for Herod; much more “One thousand and one Arabian nights” than cocktails in suburbia. Indeed, in my mind’s eye, I saw Salomé as a dusky beauty performing a belly dance, those incredible rolling movements of her taut abdomen arousing me in much the same way as they must have aroused Herod.

I saw her in my imagination wearing transparent harem pants, bare footed, those veils flowing gracefully over full swaying breasts…I had seen (often) my mother and her friends (more than a little intoxicated, usually) in their underwear: seen their stockings and garters, their lacy panties, slightly see-through. Salomé would have been so much more erotic…

Then, growing up, I discovered the dance of the seven veils supposedly originated with the myth of Ishtar’s descent to the underworld. Translations of the Akkadian version of the myth tell us that Ishtar had to surrender her crown, her earrings and bracelets; the Sumerian version of the tale concerns Inanna, queen of heaven and earth, who on visiting the underworld is called upon to give up all items symbolising the power of queenship: her crown, breastplate, royal robes, measuring rod, beads and jewellery.

So, Salomé’s dance was a simple biblical retelling of the myth of Ishtar? She danced for her stepfather and his friends for a rather gruesome reward. Also, reference to the bible story reveals no mention of the number seven!

It is to Oscar Wilde and his play Salomé that we must turn to find a mention of “seven veils”, and that in the English translation of the French stage directions. Hence the description of the dance from Wilde’s play:

HERODIAS. Let us go within. The voice of that man (John the Baptist) maddens me. I will not have my daughter dance while he is constantly crying out. I will not have her dance while you look at her in this fashion. In a word, I will not have her dance.

HEROD. Do not rise, my wife, my queen, it will avail thee nothing. I will not go within till she hath danced. Dance, Salomé, dance for me.

HERODIAS. Do not dance, my daughter.

SALOME. I am ready Tetrarch. (Salomé dances the dance of the seven veils.)

Of course, Wilde was being risqué in portraying Salomé as a bizarre, evil character, sexually obsessed with John the Baptist. This female demands the head of the man she desires – and when it is finally presented to her, she gently kisses the corpse lips.

Undoubtedly, Wilde was influenced by Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s 1870 poem “The Daughter of Herodias”. Here O’Shaughnessy describes Salomé dancing:

She freed and floated on the air her arms
Above dim veils that hid her bosom’s charms…
The veils fell round her like thin coiling mists
Shot through by topaz suns and amethysts.

The poem continues to briefly describe her ‘jewelled body’ as the flowing veils part and fall.

Interestingly, if one digs deep enough into the original bible story two key Greek words dispel any suggestion of salaciousness from Salomé’s dance: firstly the word “korasion” used to describe Salomé, means a very young girl, one not yet old enough to marry, and who has not yet menstruated; secondly the word “orxeomai” to dance, also means a young child at play…

Oh, how swiftly the erotic becomes bland, frigid, dull. All those impassioned, masturbatory visions experienced in boyhood, lascivious and horny, are as dust! The Salomé of my imagination is nothing more than the prurient fantasy of old men who should have known better. How disappointing is that…?