The Eloquent Blood: The Goddess Babalon and the Construction of Femininities in Western Esotericism

ISBN : 9780190065027

Manon Hedenborg White
368 Pages
156 x 156 mm
Pub date
Dec 2019
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In the conventional dichotomy of chaste, pure Madonna and libidinous whore, the former has usually been viewed as the ideal form of femininity. However, there is a modern religious movement in which the negative stereotype of the harlot is inverted and exalted. The Eloquent Blood focuses on the changing construction of femininity and feminine sexuality in interpretations of the goddess Babalon. A central deity in Thelema, the religion founded by the notorious British occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), Babalon is based on Crowley's favorable reinterpretation of the biblical Whore of Babylon, and is associated with liberated female sexuality and the spiritual ideal of passionate union with existence. Analyzing historical and contemporary written sources, qualitative interviews, and ethnographic fieldwork in the Anglo-American esoteric milieu, the study traces interpretations of Babalon from the works of Crowley and some of his key disciples-including the rocket scientist John "Jack" Whiteside Parsons, and the enigmatic British occultist Kenneth Grant-until the present. From the 1990s onwards, this study shows, female and LGBTQ esotericists have challenged historical interpretations of Babalon, drawing on feminist and queer thought and conceptualizing femininity in new ways. Tracing the trajectory of a particular gendered symbol from the fin-de-siecle until today, Manon Hedenborg White explores the changing role of women in Western esotericism, and shows how evolving constructions of gender have shaped the development of esotericism. Combining research on historical and contemporary Western esotericism with feminist and queer theory, the book sheds new light on the ways in which esoteric movements and systems of thought have developed over time in relation to political movements.


I. Encountering the Scarlet Goddess
II. Divine Women, Femmes, and Whores: The Theorization of Multiple Femininities
III. The Scarlet Goddess and the Wine of Her Fornications: Crowley, Babalon, and the Femme Fatale 1898-1909
IV. Yielding Peaches and Women with Whips: Babalon, Crowley, and Magical Systematization 1911-1947
V. Her Banner is Unfolded: Babalon and Scarlet Femininities in the Writings of Jack Parsons
VI. Kundalini, Kalas, and Qadeshim: Babalon and Femininity as Other in the Writings of Kenneth Grant
VII. Intermezzo: Contemporary Occultism and Thelema
VIII. It All Goes in the Cup: Receptivity and Unstable Polarities in the Contemporary Babalon Discourse
IX. Feminist Difference: Babalon and the Hope of an Alternative Femininity
X. Inhabiting the Uninhibited: Babalon, Sexual Politics, and the Liberation of the Desiring Feminine Subject
XI. Possession and Dispossession: Embodiment, Ecstasy, and Erotic Destruction
XII. Like Fire and Powder: Erotic Destruction and the Eloquent Blood
XIII. Bibliography

About the author: 

Manon Hedenborg White holds a PhD in the History of Religions from Uppsala University (Sweden). Awarded an international postdoctoral grant from the Swedish Research Council, she is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Sodertorn University (Sweden). She is currently a guest researcher at the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. Her research explores issues of gender and sexuality in modern Western esotericism, occultism, and new religious movements.

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