Asmodel, by Aleister Crowley

Sulamith Wülfing - Flower
Sulamith Wülfing – Flower (1931) – from Pigtails in Paint

This is a beautiful and strange poem about a loved girl who seems to come from an outer world, maybe from dreams, or from a star, a spiritual bride descending on the bed of the desiring poet, and their mystical union mixes extasy with agony. Both erotic and esoteric, full of hidden meanings, these verses are difficult to interpret. The 1905 edition of the poem states that the title means: ‘One of the “Intelligences” of the Planet Venus.’

Asmodel is the name of a somewhat “unofficial” angel, not recognized by Judaeo-Christian orthodoxy; it governs the month April and protects those born under the astrological sign of Taurus; one associates to it the qualities of patience and cosmic love (or unconditional love of the divine).

A similar name is Asmodeus, a very official devil of orthodoxy. In the famous witch-hunter’s manual Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published by the Dominican inquisitor Heinrich Institoris in 1487, Question 4 of Part One asks “by which demons such practices are carried out,” and listing the names and features of various devils, it says (translation by Christopher S. Mackay, Cambridge University Press, 2009):

Nonetheless, as the demon of fornication and the prince of that filthy act he is called “Asmodaeus,” which is translated as “making of judgment,” because a terrible judgment was made on Sodom and four other cities on account of such vice.

This description fits well the debauchee who called himself “the Beast 666” and who was denounced in the press as “the wickedest man in the world.” Anyway, after the title, Asmodel is never named in the poem, which does not mention any angels or devils.

by Aleister Crowley

CALL down the star whose tender eyes
Were on thy bosom at thy birth!
Call, one long passionate note that sighs!
Call, till its beauty bend to earth,
Meet thee and lift thee and devise
Strange loves within the gleaming girth,
And kisses underneath the star
Where on her brows its seven rays are.

Call her, the maiden of thy sleep,
And fashion into human shape
The whirling fountains fiery and deep,
The incense-columns that bedrape
Her glimmering limbs, when shadows creep
Among blue tresses that escape
The golden torque that binds her hair,
Whose swarthy splendours drench the air.

She comes! she comes! The spirit glances
In quick delight to hold her kiss;
The fuming air shimmers and dances;
The moonlight’s trembling ecstasies
Swoon; and her soul, as my soul, trances,
Knowing no longer aught that is;
Only united, moving, mixed,
A music infinitely fixed.

Music that throbs, and soars, and burns,
And breaks the possible, to dwell
One moving monotone, nor turns,
Making hell heaven, and heaven hell,
The steady impossible song that yearns
And brooks no mortal in its swell—
This monotone immortal lips
Make in our infinite eclipse!

Formless, above all shape and shade;
Lampless, beyond all light and flame;
Timeless, above all age and grade;
Moveless, beyond the mighty name;
A mystic mortal and a maid,
Filled with all things to fill the same,
To overflow the shores of God,
Mingling our proper period.

The agony is passed: behold
How shape and light are born again;
How emerald and starry gold
Burn in the midnight; how the pain
Of our incredible marriage-fold
And bed of birthless travail wane;
And how our molten limbs divide,
And self and self again abide.

The agony of extreme joy,
And horror of the infinite blind
Passions that sear us and destroy,
Rebuilding for the deathless mind
A deathless body, whose alloy
Is gold and fire, whose passions find
The tears of their caress a dew,
Fiery, to make creation new.

This agony and bloody sweat,
This scarring torture of desire,
Refine us, madden us, and set
The feast of unbegotten fire
Before our mouths, that mingle yet
In this; the mighty-moulded lyre
Of many stars still strikes above
Chords of the mastery of love.

This subtle fire, this secret flame,
Flashes between us as she goes
Beyond the night, beyond the Name,
Back to her unsubstantial snows;
Cold, glittering, intense, the same
Now, yesterday, for aye! she glows
No woman of my mystic bed;
A star, far off, forgotten, dead.

Only to me looks out for ever
From her cold eyes a fire like death;
Only to me her breasts can never
Lose the red brand that quickeneth;
Only to me her eyelids sever
And lips respire her equal breath;
Still in the unknown star I see
The very god that is of me.

The day’s pale countenance is lifted,
The rude sun’s forehead he uncovers;
No soft delicious clouds have drifted,
No wing of midnight’s bird that hovers;
Yet still the hard blind blue is rifted,
And still my star and I as lovers
Year to each other through the sky
With eyes half closed in ecstasy.

Night, Night, O mother Night, descend!
O daughter of the sleeping sea!
O dusk, O sister-spirit, lend
Thy wings, thy shadows, unto me!
O mother, mother, mother, bend
And shroud the world in mystery
That secrets of our bed forbidden
Cover their faces, and be hidden!

O steadfast, O mysterious bride!
O woman, O divine and dead!
O wings immeasurably wide!
O star, O sister of my bed!
O living lover, at my side
Clinging, the spring, the fountain-head
Of musical slow waters, white
With thousand-folded rays of light!

Come! Once again I call, I call,
I call, O perfect soul, to thee,
With chants, and murmurs mystical,
And whispers wiser than the sea:
O lover, come to me! The pall
Of night is woven: fair and free,
Draw to my kisses; let thy breath
Mingle for love the wine of death!

Source: The Temple of the Holy Ghost, I, The Court of the Profane, in The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley, Volume I (1905). See the digitisation of the original on the IAPSOP site, and the simple text online version by The Hermetic Library.

William Blake - The Agony in the Garden
William Blake – The Agony in the Garden (c.1799-1800) – from Wikimedia Commons

Previously published on Agapeta, 2018/02/03.

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