Mystery of Sokar

Sokar (or Seker) means ‘pure’. Depending on how the name is spelled, there is also a link with the principle of power itself (sekhem), for Sokar is Lord of Death and Resurrection. He is sometimes depicted as a mummified hawk and at other times as a white mound or shroud surmounted by a black hawk’s head.

Egyptian God SokarAccording to EA Wallis Budge, Sokar was “originally a power of darkness, or of the night”.[1] As such, his attributes are identical with those of Set. Sokar is called the ‘great god, who came into being in the beginning, he who resteth upon the darkness’. As such he was ancient even when the Pyramids were built, as are his rites. Among other of his titles are ‘He who raises up in the desert’ and ‘Dweller in the secret place, king of eternity, power of the everlasting’. The region of the underworld particularly associated with Sokar is Imhet (or Amhet), meaning ‘Abode of the Desert’. He is also ‘Lord of the gates of the tomb’ as the opener of the sealed entrances to the labyrinthine Necropolis. As lord of transformations in the underworld he is depicted as winged and standing on the back of a serpent. He is sometimes depicted as crowned with a disc and the twin plumes of Ma’at.

Sokar’s chief cult centre was at Memphis, which was also the principle cult centre of Ptah. Sokar was frequently merged with the attributes of Ptah, the self-created craftsman of the gods. Silver bowls and artefacts made from metal were frequently consecrated in his name. He was associated with agriculture as well as irrigation. His cult followers did rites of purification and embalming in his name.

The fiction writer Algernon Blackwood was able to convey some profound insights into the soul of Egypt, and of the vast expanse of the desert wilderness. In ‘Sand’, his writing was inspired by his experiences of the desert near Cairo.

Through this sand which was the wreck of countless geological ages, rushed life that was terrific and uplifting, too huge to include melancholy, too deep to betray itself in movement. Here was the stillness of eternity. Behind the spread grey masque of apparent death lay stores of accumulated life, ready to break forth at any point. In the Desert he felt himself absolutely royal.

And this contrast of Life, veiling itself in Death, was a contradiction that somehow intoxicated. The Desert exhilaration never left him. He was never alone. A companionship of millions went with him, and he felt the Desert close, as stars are close to one another, or grains of sand.

Hennu Boat of Sokar

Of all the rites of Sokar the procession of the hennu boat is perhaps the most striking and unique to him. The Sokar boat or hennu represents the sun’s journey by night through the underworld. The image of the hawk-headed Sokar was placed in a boat shaped like a sledge with runners. The boat was never intended to sail on water, it was built to be carried, and was said by some to be steered by the dead. If so, then the navigation took place among the stars, for the hennu was an astral vessel.

Depictions of Sokar in the hennu boat sometimes show his hawk’s head only, while his body is covered in a white, luminous shroud. According to Antoine Gigal, the shroud was made of special luminous cells.[2] The luminosity is the covering of ‘all that is created and all that can ever be created’. On the day of the festival of Sokar, the high priest raised up an ark or small wooden shrine at the moment of sunrise and placed it on the hennu boat. The shrine and hennu boat was then pulled along across the sands in a circular procession about the temple of the god, mirroring the revolution of the sun, planets or other celestial bodies.

The higher end of the sledge was fashioned in the shape of the head of an oryx, a species of desert antelope and the original type of the unicorn. The hennu boat was in the charge of the High Priest of Memphis, called Ur-kherp-hem, ‘Great One of the Hammer’, a reference to Ptah as cosmic creator god.

We associate Sokar with Scorpio and the month of October, which according to the alchemists is the only time when iron can be turned into gold.[3] The desert oryx, a gentle creature unless attacked, seems an unlikely association. However, Scorpio’s twin sign in the Zodiac is Taurus, denoting a horned beast, and October embraces the Sun’s entry into Sagittarius, the Centaur.

‘Oryx’ is an anglicisation of the Greek ορυξ, derived from the Libyan orus, ‘digger’. The white Arabic oryx is known to dig out a bed in the sand to keep cool. The desert beast can survive for long periods without water, like the camel. It can detect rainfall at a great distance and can travel thousands of miles in pursuit of the water.

Sokar Boat: Oryx maau-hetch hieroglyphsThe hieroglyphic determinative for ‘oryx’ is frequently mistaken for that of a goat. The Egyptian name is ma’au hetch, denoting the bright white colour of the Arabian species of oryx and the straightness (ma’at) of its horn. The ma’au is cognate with ‘truth’, ‘regularly and always’, ‘purity’ and ‘a gift’. According to Budge it is also the name of ‘a star’ and ‘a god’.[4] Taking all into consideration the star may be Regulus, heart of the Lion constellation. Ma’au is the name of Apep in the form of a lion-serpent, the most ancient astroglyph for Leo. The lion-serpent image combines Leo (lion) with Scorpio (snake). The eagle is a further symbol of Scorpio frequently paired with the lion in alchemy. Hetech means ‘white’, ‘shining’, and the name can be spelled with a stylised staff and shen loop for ‘eternity’. The name is etymologically linked with ‘elders’ and ‘nobility’. The Egyptian name of the oryx is usually spelled in hieroglyphics with the sickle ma’a, ‘Lion of Truth’. The same hieroglyph, in combination with the hetch mace, denotes any sharp instrument as well as the action of digging or piercing.

Sokar and the Unicorn

The oryx is mentioned six times in the King James Bible. The Aramaic re’em is mistranslated there as ‘unicorn’. The same word was translated into Greek as monokeros (μονoκερως) in the Septuagint. In Psalm 22: 21, the word karen, meaning ‘horn’, is written in the singular form. According to Jewish folklore, when King David was a shepherd he was carried up into the sky by an oryx after he mistook its horn for a mountain. He is then saved by the intervention of a passing lion, which causes the oryx to bow its head in respect. Another legend has it that Noah strapped the long, sharp horns of the oryx to the Ark so the animals inside could breathe.[5] The transposition of the tale of Noah’s Ark from that of the exceedingly ancient hennu boat is fairly obvious. There were long held associations between the oryx, the lion—with its connotations of nobility—and mountains, as ‘high’, ‘strong’.

The Aramaic re’em (RAM) has the value of 241 and is a metathesis of aramea (ARM), ‘mountain or mountainous place’. It is also equal to ‘speak forth, command or give a word’ (AMR) and is the root of Genesis I: 3, “And the Elohim said, Let there be light: and there was light”. The number 241 is that of Albarah, ‘wings of God’, which is a term used in alchemy for Mercury or Quicksilver. As with other species of antelope, the oryx is able to run at great speed.

The word ‘oryx’ is used as a name for a stonemason’s pickaxe, owing to the strength and sharpness of the creature’s horn, and possibly owing to the fact that the oryx sometimes uses it to excavate the desert sand. In Greek it has the value 630, equal to ‘Holy Spirit’ (RVChA QDIShA) and Seraphim (ShRPIM), ‘fiery serpents’.

The oryx carries the secret of the Lord of the Necropolis in its heart and its name, which is a reliquary for a vast tract of forgotten knowledge. The Golden Dawn named the initiate of Hod, the 8th sephira, Monokeros de Astris, ‘unicorn of the stars’. Hod is the Temple of Water on the Hermetic Tree of Life, and at the same time corresponds to Mercury. The unicorn is thus an apt cipher for the way of returning through the double gates of the underworld to the abode of the Gods.

Lord of the Necropolis

Sokar is and has always been Lord of the Saqqara Necropolis near Memphis and Giza. In predynastic times, a labyrinth was dug out of the desert sands beneath the Saqqara complex. Finely fashioned, highly polished granite arks weighing upwards of 50 tons were placed in cavities there. The arks or vessels are cathodic, for they are polished like glass on the inside. There are no historical records of the builders of these impossible artefacts but they are thought by some to be the ‘old ones’ or ‘elders’ referred to in sacred texts, or their descendants.

The Great Old Ones is a term used in scriptures referring to an elder race that pre-existed that of the human, indistinguishable from gods. Either they, or their descendants, are referred to in the book of Genesis as Nephilim or ‘giants’, ‘men of renown’. Between Memphis and the Saqqara Necropolis was once a sacred acacia tree. One of the Egyptian names for Memphis is Ankh-Tawy, ‘Life of the Two Lands’. Thus the Tree of Eternity spreads its roots and branches between the worlds of the living and the dead.


1. Budge, Gods of the Egyptians Vol. I, pp. 504–505.
2. The Mystery of the Sokar Hennu Boat, Antoine Gigal, 2013. From Gigal Research—Archaeological and historical researches.
3. The month of Scorpio (October–November) is the ‘death’ of the year in the northern hemisphere of the globe. Thus the Tarot card Death XIII, corresponding to Scorpio, is called Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gate of Death.
4. Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Volume I, pp. 270 A.
5. Robert Graves, Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis, Chapter 7, ‘The Reem and the Ziz’.

The portrait of Sokar at the head of the article is from Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Sokar XIII. The Tarot card and its full description can be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St. John 2019

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Aleister Crowley and Thelema—Equinox of the Gods

Aleister Crowley preferred to cast himself in the mould of the Eliatic Greek school, going so far as to adopt the argumentative methods and intellectual idealism of Socrates.

Crowley Equinox: Bulaq Stele of RevealingThe (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, rails against such reasoning and argument. The rationalist science of today has its roots firmly immersed in the clay of classical Greek dogma. Thus scientism is not only against nature but has also tricked mankind with its stream of inventions. Consequently, all life on the planet is now under threat of imminent extinction.

Natural law (or Thelema) is in fact esoteric. Esotericism is at the core of Liber AL vel Legis, but it is precisely the logic-defying nature of this doctrine that leads Thelemites to embrace what is an essentially isolationist interpretation of the path.[1]

The aim of magick is to make direct contact with occult intelligences. Historically, such contact refutes mainstream dogma. Religion is about belief. The value of belief is in the telling of a good story but that is ultimately a bar to Gnosis. The ancient Egyptians had no word in their language for ‘religion’; the concept did not exist for them. The Book of the Law is a transmission from an ancient Egyptian source. As such, it is a knowledge stream that vastly predates both science and religion. According to Liber AL, III: 2,

There is division hither homeward; there is a word not known. Spelling is defunct; all is not aught. Beware! Hold! Raise the spell of Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

‘All is not aught’ is a succinct though subtle refutation of certain streams of the Eastern philosophy as construed by Western academic atheism. The circle of ‘all’ is the infinite expression of all possibility (Nuit), as defined by the point (Hadit), the esoteric factor. The absence of sense objects is not the same as ‘nothing at all’. In Qabalah, the source of all, AIN, is called ‘negativity’, as it is beyond description. Yet even AIN has a dual meaning, for it is the eye (A’ain) of the beholder. Postmodern or faux Non-Dualism declares that ‘everything is true and equally untrue’.

The statement declares a ‘truth’ (untruth) that is descriptive only of human reason, denying even the possibility of reality. As symbol, it admits only to relativism, and falls back ultimately on self-determinism and self-love as the solution to the dilemma it produces.[2]

Causal determinism originated with Socrates, who demanded there should be a naturalistic explanation for all sacred myths.[3] The prevailing dogma of scientism owes to this ancient Greek argument. In the 19th century, Schopenhauer put forward his doctrine of self-willed intellectual determinism in The World as Will and Representation (1818). This is the basis of Crowley’s rationalist interpretation of the Law of Thelema. It is the basis of today’s academic psychologisation of the mysteries. The postmodern school of the ‘Left Hand path’ also requires causal determinism as its philosophical basis.

The dogmatic assumption is that there is a natural order of the cosmos that is rationally comprehensible (and so limiting). Such a natural order is not even differentiated from, say, social order or convention. It then follows, if one accepts this, that one must isolate or separate one’s intelligence from this situation to resolve the paradox with free will and achieve meaningful individual expression.[4]

Taken to the logical extreme, the postmodern Left Hand path school of thought produces the self-confining, self-limiting doctrine of Isolate Intelligence.[5]

Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, the Hindu sage and devotee of Kali, held a view that reconciled the inevitable nihilism and isolationism of rational Non-Dualism with the apparent emotionalism of devotional mysticism.

God has form and He is formless too. Further, He is beyond both form and formlessness. No one can limit Him.[6]

Crowley and the Equinox of the Gods

It is probable that Crowley received the writing of the Book of the Law on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd April 1904, not the 8th, 9th and 10th as he subsequently claimed. This was first noted by Kenneth Grant, who studied the diaries and holograph MSS of Crowley at first hand, while receiving personal tuition from him.[7] Crowley cared little for such trifles as historical times and dates. The time and date of his birth is a documented fact. By his own admission his recorded time of birth indicated that Cancer, ruled by the Moon, was rising on the hour.[8] Crowley much preferred the fiery solar-masculine sign of Leo the Lion over the watery, feminine-lunar Cancer the Crab. He therefore simply changed the time of his birth to suit.

Does it matter? If it matters at all, then it matters only for the purposes of understanding how practical magick works. The timing of things is vital in magick. To separate magick from nature is to separate man from truth with the divisive sword of intellectual reason. When a magical operation is performed on the Equinox of Aries (20th March, the initiation of the Cairo working), the fulmination of that work arrives with the full Moon. In 1904, the full Moon in Libra very nearly coincided with Easter (Friday 1st April), and there was a lunar eclipse so that any corresponding events would be marked ever more deeply.

None of this need be of any concern to historians or scholars of the life and times of Aleister Crowley. Let it be then, that Crowley wrote down the book on the 8th, 9th and 10th April 1904. Then we can all sleep safe in our beds. After all, some observe this ritually, by reading aloud from the three chapters of Liber AL vel Legis, one for each day. A magical (and poetic) approach is to read from the book on the full Moon immediately following the Equinox of Aries each year. Anciently it has always been the Moon, and not any arbitrary calendrical date that determined the times for rituals. Crowley, on the other hand, wisely suggested it might be best to burn the book after the first reading.

Crowley and Ouarda the Seer

Equinox of the Gods: Ouarda the Seer, Rose Edith KellyShould it bother us that Crowley suppressed the truth concerning the role of his wife, Rose or Ouarda the Seer, in the reception of the Book of the Law? As she was the mediumistic agent throughout the Cairo Working, Rose may very well have received and telepathically (or otherwise) transmitted the book to the scribe Crowley. This would account for the instructions on practice given him in the middle of the second chapter that he clearly refused to obey. It would account for the fact of Rose’s handwritten notes added to the manuscript, not to mention that even by his own account the ‘Beast’ had to consult with her concerning his anxiety over the neologism, ‘unfragmentary’ (Liber XXX, I: 26). After that, the tone of the book becomes increasingly cryptic and menacing—hence the second verse of the third chapter that we have quoted.

Wise Words and Foolish

Some have interpreted, “there is a word not known” (AL, III: 2), as meaning that Crowley somehow failed to utter a word to inaugurate the New Aeon. The Aeon that subsequently ensued was abortive, so it is said. This has deluded some (including perhaps Crowley) into thinking an actual word—a word that can be spelled or spoken—is a necessary part of the equipment of a Magus that is somehow in charge or governance of an entire epoch in the history of human civilisation. Some have posited that an Aeon of Ma’at swiftly superseded Crowley’s Aeon of Horus.[9] This was later qualified by Kenneth Grant as a dual Aeon of Horus-Maat. Grant also made much mention in his books and letters of a ‘Wordless Aeon’. Others would have it that all aeons in time are presided over by Horus and Ma’at in both ancient Egyptian and astrological terms. The balance of the year is Aries and Libra. There is nothing in the Book of the Law about any ‘New Aeon’. All of this has introduced some bewilderment in the minds of those students of the occult wishing to find truth in written words and historical facts, so called. According to Liber AL, III: 75,

The ending of the words is the Word Abrahadabra.

ABRAHADABRA adds Qabalistically to 418. It appears in the Key of Solomon as a spell for invisibility; one of the original forms of the spell was ABRAKALA.[9] Crowley’s favoured interpretation was typically solar-phallic, ‘Father-Sun-Satan’. However, the seven-lettered ABRAKALA expresses the power of the divine creatrix, summed up in 256 or 16 x 16, the shade of the full Moon. There are three colours or primary kalas for the face of the White Goddess, white, black and red. She is either visible, invisible or in eclipse. During eclipse, a shade appears ahead of time, so to speak, thanks to the intervention of the body of the earth. Thus the powers of a lunar eclipse include prophecy, divination and oracular utterance.

One thing we can be certain of is that Rose Edith Kelly (Rose Crowley) was the Pythoness and oracular seer that brought us the Book of the Law.


1. From ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].
2. ‘Lapis Philosophorum’ [ibid].
3. See R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Sacred Science (pp. 18, Inner Traditions International) and Plato’s Phaedrus for the naturalistic explanation that Socrates gives for all sacred myths. The interested reader is encouraged to read the Foreword by Robert Graves to his second edition of The White Goddess, as it is relevant in the present context [Faber and Faber].
4. ‘Lapis Philosophorum’ [ibid].
5. Isolate Intelligence is the core doctrine of some postmodern Left-hand path occult organisations. The Temple of Set, founded by Michael Aquino, is a notable example as Aquino coined the term. Zos Kia Cultus, ‘Self-Love’ and ‘As-If’ cults also posit the Isolate Intelligence or ‘single Self as supreme reality’.
6. Recorded by Sri Mandiram, March 11, 1883: Conversations with Sri Ramakrishna [Vedanta Press].
7. See Kenneth Grant, Beyond the Mauve Zone pp. 34 [Starfire Publishing].
8. Confessions of Aleister Crowley, by Aleister Crowley.
9. A disaffected disciple of Crowley, Charles Stansfeld Jones (Frater Achad) posited an Aeon of Ma’at as commencing from 1948 e.v. See The Incoming of the Aeon of Maat [Starfire Publishing].
10. See also ABRQRBA, another less corrupt form of ‘Abrahadabra’.

© Oliver St. John, 2018, 2019

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Oracle of Babalon

The Enochian Legacy: A book collector, Sir Robert Cotton (1571–1631), purchased the field where John Dee had buried his diary records, and proceeded to dig them up. The Cotton Manuscripts were subsequently edited and published by Meric Casaubon in his A True and Faithful Relation (1659).

Babalon Oracle and Enochian

An operation recorded by John Dee on the 23rd May 1587 is commonly thought to have been the result of skrying the 7th Aethyr of the Enochian system. There is no evidence from John Dee’s diaries that Dee and Kelly ever skryed any of the 30 Aethyrs directly; the idea originated from comparison of the Daughter of Fortitude oracle with Aleister Crowley’s skrying of the 7th Aethyr, centuries later. The spirit invoked in the skrying crystal by John Dee was Madimi, the same spirit that was contacted at the beginning of the Enochian work. The mischievous spirit had sometimes appeared naked, causing some consternation to the two men.

Enochian Oracle of Babalon: Whore of Babylon, William Blake

There is a popular myth that the vision so unnerved Kelly that it caused him to permanently part company with Dee and sever all relations. This story was elaborated and dramatised somewhat by Kenneth Grant in his book, The Magical Revival and has been oft repeated; the alleged criminal activities of Kelly that supposedly followed might owe more to Crowley’s past life fantasies than any historical evidence. In fact, according to Dee’s record, the reading over of the Oracle from the Daughter of Fortitude, described in the diary as the “Golden Woman”, caused the two men “great comfort”. The vision was received soon after Dee and Kelly, with some reluctance, obeyed an instruction to share their wives in common. This is all the more extraordinary on consideration that all four parties involved were devout, God-fearing Christians. On 3rd May, the four had signed a pledge, concerning what was termed as a strange and secret doctrine that “should unto no mortal man be disclosed”:

We four (whose heads appeared under one crystalline crown, and in one pillar united and enclosed) do most humbly and heartily thank thee (O Almighty God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier) for all thy mercies and benefits hitherto received in our own persons, and in them that appertain unto us; and at this present do faithfully and sincerely confess and acknowledge that thy profound wisdom in this most new and strange doctrine (among Christians) propounded, commended and enjoined unto us four only, is above our human reason, and our Catholic Christian profession to like of…

John Dee’s method of invocation appears to have been a simple prayer to be “instructed in the understanding and practice of wisdom”. The result was a beautiful and truly remarkable oracle received from Sophia or Babalon, whose mystery is that she is a harlot, loved by many, and yet remains a virgin. A Hermeticist may readily understand this to be Isis, Nuit-Babalon or the Shakti of the Eastern Tantras. As Shekinah or female holy presence her natural abode is Binah or Saturn, above the Abyss of the Hermetic Tree of Life. As the Graal or Graal cup holder, she is naturally the receiver of all and the refuser of none. The vision was, however, received by two men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Kelly described Babalon in terms evocative of the Scarlet Woman (Babylon) of the book of Revelation or Apocalypse:

All her attire is like beaten gold; she hath on her forehead a cross crystalline, her neck and breast are bare unto under her dugs. She hath a girdle of beaten gold slackly buckled unto her with a pendant of gold down to the ground.

The Oracle of Babalon

I am the daughter of fortitude and ravished every hour, from my youth. For behold, I am understanding, and science dwelleth in me; and the heavens oppress me. They covet and desire me with infinite appetite; for none that are earthly have embraced me, for I am shadowed with the circle of the sun, and covered with the morning clouds. My feet are swifter than the winds, and my hands are sweeter than the morning dew. My garments are from the beginning, and my dwelling place is in my self. The lion knoweth not where I walk, neither do the beasts of the field understand me. I am deflowered, and yet a virgin; I sanctify, and am not sanctified. Happy is he that embraceth me: for in the night season I am sweet, and in the day full of pleasure. My company is a harmony of many symbols, and my lips sweeter than health itself. I am a harlot for such as ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not: For lo, I am loved by many, and I am a lover to many; and as many as come unto me as they should do, have [my knowledge].

As yet, I walk in the clouds; as yet, I am carried by the winds, and cannot descend unto you for the multitude of your abominations, and the filthy loathsomeness of your dwelling places.

Purge your streets, o ye sons of men, and wash your houses clean; make yourselves holy, and put on [the garments of truth]. Cast out your old strumpets, and burn their clothes; [avoid the company of the profane, for they do not know me] and then will I come and dwell amongst you. I will open my garments, and stand naked before you, that your love may be more enflamed towards me. And behold, I will bring forth children unto you, and they shall be [as vessels of love and truth].

Babalon added repeated warnings not ever to disclose this knowledge to the profane. The vision describes the method of Enochian sexual magick best termed as Jnanamudra; when practiced by the adept, Jnanamudra leads automatically to Mahamudra. The Oracle bears comparison with the Sethian Gnostic text, Thunder Perfect Mind or Divine Barbelo, dated to the middle of the 2nd century CE. However, Dee and Kelly could not possibly have seen this, since the Nag Hammadi texts were buried in a cave in Egypt and not discovered until 1945 e.v. It is worth noting that John Dee began his Enochian magical operation to recover lost ancient books through the means of clairvoyance.


From the forthcoming book, Enochian Magick—Skrying the Aethyrs.
We have taken the liberty of revising some of the Oracle as it appears in the Cotton Ms. for the purpose of magical invocation: In Nomine Babalon. Any altered or moved text is placed in paranthesis.

a) The word ‘symbols’ is sometimes given as ‘cymbals’; the English language of the time had no standard spelling, the word could be either, and either word fits the context.
b) The original text gives ‘entertainment’ which we have rendered ‘knowledge’. Babalon is clearly not an entrepreneur.
c) The sentence, “As yet I walk in the clouds…” was originally the last; we have placed it here where it sits more comfortably in the overall flow of the passage.
d) The last line, originally “sons of love”, could be interpreted ‘sons of God’, since in the Enochian language, ‘love’, BLIOR, is a name of the Holy Guardian Angel. One thinks also of the Nephalim, mentioned in the book of Genesis and Apocryphal book of Enoch—the lost book that John Dee was in fact hoping to recover by clairvoyant means.

A Note on Jack Parsons and the Babalon Working: It was most probably Jack Parsons, a rocket scientist and former disciple of Aleister Crowley, that initially made the comparison between the vision of Babalon and Crowley’s skrying of the 7th Aethyr. The Babalon Working of Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, is now widely documented. Through this, Parsons obtained his Liber 49, an Oracle from Babalon that Parsons imagined to be a fourth chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018
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