Author Topic: Commentary on Aleister Crowley’s “Pan to Artemis”  (Read 1066 times)


Commentary on Aleister Crowley’s “Pan to Artemis”
« on: May 04, 2019, 10:56:07 pm »

Commentary on Aleister Crowley’s Pan to Artemis
by Olive Fontaine

Category: Lunar verse, Theology, Literary Eisegesis.

Aleister Crowley, sometimes called the Magus of the new Aeon, was a prolific writer who made enormous contributions to both ceremonial magic and the study of the occult. As a skilled wordsmith, he also wrote a number of poems.

Some of these are of particular interest to the practitioner, such as A-ha!, because they are either about spiritual practice itself or were inspired by related mystical insights. As a result, analysis of these writings can be prove to be quite worthwhile, and sometimes different approaches can reveal layers of meaning which are not apparent from a topical reading.

Another such poem is Pan to Artemis. A simple reading might suggest, especially given the author, that these words are entirely useless to lunar devotees, if not outright blasphemous. They can be seen as a paean to the corruption of innocence, and to the inevitable fall of nobility into greed and lust. But these words, spoken by one who is an adherent of Lady Artemis and the way of the Moon, take on a whole different spirit. It is a loving appeal to the Goddess by one seeking union, and a praising of the sublime attributes of her archetype.

It is interesting to note that despite the title of the poem, Pan is only referenced (obliquely) a single time in-text; meaning that the context of this poem is particularly ripe for alternate interpretations. We can also view the words as being spoken by Endymion (another significant mythological lover of the moon) or by the accomplished lunar devotee herself. All this is not to say that this interpretation is more accurate than any other - that it was intended or even foreseen by the founder of Thelema. I am instead interested in using the poem as a way to talk about the perspective of Artemism, and in providing fellow lunar devotees with the words and sense of a very nice Invocation!


Pan to Artemis

Uncharmable charmer
Of Bacchus and Mars        [1]
In the sounding rebounding
Abyss of the stars!       [2]
O virgin in armour,
Thine arrows unsling     [3]
In the brilliant resilient
First rays of the spring!

By the force of the fashion
Of love, when I broke
Through the shroud, through the cloud,
Through the storm, through the smoke,   [4]
To the mountain of passion
Volcanic that woke ---
By the rage of the mage     [5]
I invoke, I invoke!     [6]

By the midnight of madness: -    [7]
The lone-lying sea,     [8]
The swoon of the moon,
Your swoon into me,     *
The sentinel sadness
Of cliff-clinging pine,
That night of delight 
You were mine, you were mine!     [9]

You were mine, O my saint,
My maiden, my mate,     [10]
By the might of the right
Of the night of our fate.     [11]
Though I fall, though I faint,
Though I char, though I choke,     [12]
By the hour of our power
I invoke, I invoke!

By the mystical union
Of fairy and faun,     [13]
Unspoken, unbroken -
The dust to the dawn! -     [14]
A secret communion
Unmeasured, unsung,
The listless, resistless,
Tumultuous tongue! -     [15]

O virgin in armour,     [16]
Thine arrows unsling,
In the brilliant resilient
First rays of the spring!
No Godhead could charm her,     [17]
But manhood awoke -    [18]
O fiery Valkyrie,
I invoke, I invoke!

1. What flawless elegance!

2. That abyss which she makes her kingdom! Unparalleled, she expertly navigates the waters of Nun.

3. Heavenly arrows, made of silver and dipped in poison.

4. That consistent dedication and application of Will on the path of mastery, which allows one to fully penetrate delusion, ignorance, distraction/temptation, and doubt/weariness. (Loosely correlated to shroud, cloud, storm, smoke.)

5. “Rage” should primarily be understood in the literary sense - prophetic passion and feeling. Or if you like - the natural rising momentum of the true magus. The “mountain of passion” after all, is more akin to love and creative joy rather than indignation, as we shall see clearly later in the text.

6. The first instance of the triple invocation of Artemis present here; a significant number of supplications. (Three times, twice repeated is six, also the number of stanzas in the poem.)

7. Which none know better than the Moon Goddess and Pan himself!

8. Each line in this stanza should be understood as following the “By the” of the first line (By the lone-lying sea, by the swoon of the moon, etc). The speaker is calling upon and drawing power from these several lunar images.

9. O most holy night! It is only right that this most sublime of the invocations be much further commented on than the others.

10. The lover of the Goddess knows her by all three of these relations. The Saint that transmits divinely inspired knowledge; The Maiden who provides the example of purity and fertile potential, typifying the qualities of the aspirant; The Mate, who by an admixture of essence bears and brings forth the spiritual child - the perfected self. The Lunar adept will also find herself wearing these three images in turn as her Bhakti progresses.

11. “The might of the right(rite?) of the night of our fate” does have a certain dread power in it for the accomplished devotee. As if to say “Come to me, white Goddess, for the sake of our consummated love, for the sake of our heir!”

12. With personal mistakes and shortcomings always clearly in sight, we do not falter but persist in our work. Having tasted perfection in union with Her, how could we do other?

13. The Fairy is the Moon Goddess (or if you like, the Platonic Form of the High Priestess), the Faun is the physical body. Their union is accomplished by the close accordance of the potential Will of the former, and the actualizing Will of the second.

14. Note: not “the dusk to the dawn,” meaning all night long, but rather the union of “the dust to the dawn,” (the insignificant or material to the heavenly and eternal), further explaining the previous lines.

15. Interesting line that can be taken a few different ways. Firstly, it could mean that the communion is unsung and unmeasured by “the listless, resistless, tumultuous tongue,” thus affirming the Artemist maxim of truth in silence rather than speech. Alternately, these attributes could describe the tongue of Pan (the supplicant) - as he pours out verse after rhyme as a libation to his belovèd.

16. The armor of a sure self-confidence, and an impenetrable aura.

17. For she that is in me is greater than thee, o cosmic adversary.

18. “Manhood,” could denote creative potency realized. Like the nymphs and wild virgins who lived and loved with Diana, one who would approach her must first cultivate negative freedom - freedom from conditioned things (purity). But final success involves something more, a positive freedom of creative power (virility), which is conceived between the receptive potential of the adept and the holy inspiration of the goddess. A cheeky interpretation of the line is that the manhood ‘rising up’ is an erection. This is also symbolically powerful. If one has understanding of a deep esoteric mystery which need not be expounded here, this can be seen as a phallus on the body of the Goddess - representing the reconciliation of certain dualities such as masculine/feminine and virility/fertility. This image of the embodied goddess is both the cultivated soil and the sower of seeds. Such a symbol is not so strange for the Lady Artemis as it may at first seem, especially considering the forceful and active qualities repeatedly assigned to her here and elsewhere.

* This is the single oblique mention of Pan which I spoke of before. Here Pan is represented symbolically by the night sky, or the “everythingness” all about - a common substitution, while Artemis is depicted as the body of the lunar orb. Therefore, “the swoon of the moon, your swoon into me,” refers to the movement of the Moon (Artemis) into and through the darkness of night (Pan).

On Reciting the Poem

The Poem can be used as an invocation of Artemis in a fairly simple way. The verses should first be contemplated and committed to memory. Then one can begin to use the recitation for magical purposes. Preferably, one should prepare a space which is pleasing to the goddess and which is conducive to practice. Then, one should banish the space, preferably with the Gnostic lunar banishing ritual of the Pentagram which I’ve shared here (the  form of the ceremony has been refined further, look for an update in that thread soon). Next, one may perform a planetary Moon-invoking Hexagram ritual, if she is able. Thereafter, one may begin her recitation. She may do this in a posture that is suitable for her - whether that be a “calling down the moon” posture, standing with hands in prayer, or sitting with folded hands. The words should be spoken clearly and respectfully, with an air of solemn seriousness. Further practice will teach one which words to emphasize and to inflect with emotion. Repeated recitations will cause the words to reveal new meaning and significance to the adept. One may begin to see astral images during the recitation and the ceremony builds up psychical power. One may see the sad and untamed images of the third stanza vividly, or she may begin to see the Godform of Artemis in the first or the last. Similar developments should be seen as progress in effectively using the invocation.

Once the recitation has been completed, one may opt to conclude by tracing a virgin crescent over one’s body in the manner of a catholic crossing himself. The movement of the hand begins at the left side of the crown, and curves outward to the adept’s right, coming back leftward to finish the crescent at the heart. As one makes this motion, she should say “Selene Eleison” [Luna have mercy].

Whether or not this last step has been performed, one may then progress directly into whatever other practice she has set before herself - yoga, more ceremony, exercise of creativity, or anything else that furthers her magical Will.

« Last Edit: May 05, 2019, 02:18:12 am by Olive »
    Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,
     Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth, -
And ever-changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

-Percy Bysshe Shelley