For all its faults, social media can also deliver some good things, especially when acting as platforms for well-known artists and musicians to connect with their fan base. As one example, the Instagram feed of Jimmy Page – the legendary guitarist for Led Zeppelin – has shared a number of personal anecdotes and photos direct from the man himself, despite his mostly private lifestyle.
One such shared memory would no doubt have grabbed the attention of those interested in the occult and/or ancient Egypt: Page posted a well-known stereogram picture of a zeppelin flying over the Giza pyramids, taken in 1931, along with an image of himself in front of the Great Sphinx, with a tantalising caption noting that he first visited the site in 1977, and it “was the first of what was to be a succession of intense visits to the pyramids of Giza and the Sphynx.”
I say ‘tantalising’, because as many know, Jimmy Page has long been fascinated with occultist Aleister Crowley (see “Occult Rock” for more) and his revelatory experience while honeymooning in Egypt in 1904 with his wife Rose Edith Kelly, where Crowley claims they both came into contact with supernatural entities – firstly Rose, who went into trance states, proclaimed prophetic messages allegedly from the Egyptian god Horus, and led Crowley to a museum to show him the Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu (exhibit number 666, natch). Crowley says he was subsequently contacted by a supernatural entity named Aiwass, who dictated a text, Liber AL vel Legis (aka The Book of the Law), which became the foundational document for his philosophy/religion of Thelema.
Page has stated that he became interested in Crowley and the occult at a young age, reading Magick in Theory and Practice at age 11 (or in other interviews, at age 15), which sparked a lifelong fascination with the infamous British occultist. As Led Zeppelin grew to be one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Page employed his new-found wealth to snap up all manner of memorabilia and artefacts associated with Crowley, from rare publications and items of his personal wardrobe, right through to Crowley’s one-time abode at Loch Ness, Boleskine House.
At one point, Page apparently even attempted to purchase the ancient Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu (known in Thelema as the Stele of Revealing). After engaging the legendary album art design team HipGnosis (Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell) – perhaps best known for the iconic cover art for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – for Led Zeppelin’s upcoming album Houses of the Holy (1973), Page requested that ‘Po’ try and buy the stele while he was in Egypt in January 1973 photographing the pyramids during the design phase of the Dark Side of the Moon project.
Egypt was preparing for another Arab-Israeli war, and the museum in Cairo was deserted and surrounded by sandbags in case of an air strike. Its director had never heard of Led Zeppelin, but he agreed to give Po a private viewing of the stele.
“He escorted me through a series of underground catacombs, walking by torchlight for what seemed like miles,” says Po, “glimpsing dust-covered mummies and gold chariots and other relics. It was very spooky, and like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. We finally came to a box and opened it up and inside was the Stele of Revealing. I got chills just looking at it.”
Po tried to bid for the artifact. “I said, ‘How much do you want? Five thousand dollars, ten thousand.’ I went up to twenty-five thousand dollars, but the director insisted it wasn’t for sale.” Eventually, he offered to make Po a plaster cast for $2,000, if Jimmy Page wrote a letter confirming he’d buy it.
…Po’s failed bid to buy the original was a rare instance of someone saying no to Led Zeppelin.Bring It On Home: Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin and Beyond – The Story of Rock’s Greatest Manager, by Mark Blake (2018)
Whether Page assented to the $2,000 plaster copy is unknown, though he is seen holding a facsimile of the artifact, in front of a wreathed portrait of Aleister Crowley, in a short segment of Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising film (which Page originally created the soundtrack to, before a falling out with Anger – the linked version on YouTube has placed Page’s soundtrack over the original film).
Thirty one years after his bid to purchase the Stele of Revealing failed, Page returned to to Cairo to view the artifact, on the 100th anniversary of Crowley’s channelling of The Book of the Law – a visit that has been noted on his Instagram account on the corresponding day each year (April 9) with some accompanying images (including a photo of the #666 catalogue card number):
So what would the “intense” experiences be that Page referred to in his post? Perhaps he was simply referring to the emotional effects of visiting artifacts and locations that act as a touchstone for his Crowley obsession. But he could also have been suggesting magickal, paranormal, or at least liminal experiences, as he has previously discussed the alternative states of consciousness associated with ritual magick.
When once asked in relation to his magickal interests whether he felt like the music he was creating and playing was tapping into some ‘other’ energy, Page replied “I’m reluctant to get into it because it just sounds…pretentious. But yeah, obviously, you can tell that from the live things. It was almost a trance-state sometimes.” (When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin, by Mick Wall).
More explicitly, in an interview with Paul Kent in 2003, the rock guitar god said in relation to his interest in magick: “I found that [Crowley’s] system worked. Plus, all the aspects of ritual magick, talismanic magick – I could see that it worked.”
In Circus magazine in 1976 Page noted that he had read Crowley’s “technical works… and still refer to them from time to time because of his system… My studies have been quite intensive but I don’t particularly want to go into it because it’s a personal thing… Reading about different things that people were supposed to have experienced, and seeing whether you could do it yourself.” (my emphasis)
Did Jimmy Page replicate Aleister and Rose Crowleys’ experience in Egypt, summoning otherworldly entities from the Egyptian pantheon?