Scarlet sheila

Love, I love you!  Night, night, cover us!  Thou art
night, O my love; and there are no stars but thine
eyes.

Dark night, sweet night, so warm and yet so fresh,
so scented yet so holy, cover me, cover me!

Let me be no more!  Let me be Thine; let me be
Thou; let me be neither Thou nor I; let there be
love in night and night in love.

N.O.X. the night of Pan; and Laylah, the night
before His threshold!

– Aleister Crowley, “Southern Cross”, The Book of Lies

In New York on July 3, 1915, a drunken Aleister Crowley took a motorboat to the Statue of Liberty with a huddled mass of equally well-lubricated companions, unfurled a tricolour flag and there announced the establishment of the Irish republic. At Lady Liberty’s feet, Crowley — the “Great Beast”, Satanic provocateur, the 20th century’s most notorious practitioner of the dark arts — tore up his British passport in a transport of high Hibernian passion.

Suffice it to say the impulsive gesture received no diplomatic recognition. And if we’re going to be picky it took place on the wrong side of the Atlantic, and Crowley wasn’t actually Irish. But just as he would exert an incalculable influence on occult practice in his time, Crowley was once again at the vanguard: the Easter Rebellion followed less than a year later and in 1919 the Irish Free State was a reality.

Along for the ride that July morning was a certain “Miss Waddell”, who according to a contemporary news report was “playing patriotic Irish airs on her violin”. It had already been quite a ride for the woman who was now serving as Crowley’s “scarlet woman” or “Whore of Babylon”, one of a series of female accomplices he conspired with in mescaline-fuelled “sex magick” rituals.

She was born Leila Ida Nerissa Bathurst Waddell in Australia on this day in 1880, the fourth of those names honouring her unprepossessing New South Wales hometown. Trained as a violinist, Waddell taught music in Sydney schools before turning to popular entertainment, accompanying early movies with gypsy melodies.

In 1908 Waddell left Australia and toured Europe and the United States with a vaudeville act made up of female violinists, along the way encountering Crowley who was captivated by the part-Maori beauty. They performed esoteric rites in public, one such event in London’s Caxton Hall seeing Crowley invoking the spirit of Mars while Waddell fiddled gamely (her musicianship was apparently nothing to write home about).

After following Crowley on his eccentric journeys, taking part in his drug-fuelled ceremonies and appearing in his writings under a number of guises, Waddell returned to Australia in 1923 to care for her sick father. She subsequently fell ill herself and died in Sydney in 1932. Her obituary in the city’s main newspaper of the time makes no mention of Crowley.

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5 comments

  1. Norman Wheeler

    DO WHAT THOU WILT SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW

    A wonderful little website. Informative and beautiful.

    LOVE IS THE LAW, LOVE UNDER WILL

  2. Pingback: The Duck-Billed Platypus « Strange Flowers

  3. Pingback: Pearls: Aleister Crowley « Strange Flowers

  4. David Bottrill

    Laylah Memorial Fund:

    For 84 years Laylah she has lain in an unmarked grave in in a cemetery in Sydney, New South Wales in Australia. A nearby rubbish bin was the only visual marker for those looking for the plot. The burial licence for the plot has long expired which raised the possibility (albeit slight) that it could be reused.
    The cemetery management were completely unaware of Laylah’s history when I called them. I provided Laylah’s story to them. I advised them of the coverage, by Australian newspapers, throughout her life of her musical career, liaison with Crowley and death.
    Her obituary can be read here – http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/waddell-leila-ida-14835.

    I also alerted them to the ongoing interest in Laylah on the internet, the National Library of Australia’s online holdings, in the biographical project being undertaken by Sr Osis of OTO New Zealand and in the installation of a life-size figure of Laylah (by Collective 777) installed as part of Bathurst’s 200th anniversary celebration.
    As a result Laylah, (under her legal name) will be included on a register of internees of historical significance and the indignity of the rubbish bin was promptly removed.

    The cemetery also advised that with a monument in place the plot would be preserved. So I applied for and was given permission to make arrangements for this to happen. So, after more than 80 years an opportunity has arisen to place a monument on the site.

    A dedicated account has been opened and donations are now sought to enable the commission, installation and ongoing maintenance of a suitable memorial (which will also reference the sister who is buried there with Laylah).
    Account Financial Institution: People’s Choice Credit Union
    Account Name: Laylah Memorial Fund
    BSB: 805 050
    Account Number: 102162366
    I will be arranging a method for interested international donors to contribute shortly.

    Any funds remaining from the project will be donated to an appropriate charity researching or treating women’s cancer.

    In due course a public event will be announced to mark the installation of the memorial and celebrate her life. This will occur in 2017, details TBA. It is hoped that members of the extended Waddell family, local and regional historical societies will attend and participate.

    Developments will be advertised through LAShTAL and other social media including on the Templar Camp Facebook page located at – https://www.facebook.com/Templar-Camp-Ordo-Templi-Orientis-Australian-Capital-Territory-226738407484887

    Requests for anonymity from donors will be respected.

    Enquiries/comments – Templar@otoaustralia.org.au
    David Bottrill, Templar Camp, Canberra Australia

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