A lot of assumptions are made about the Scarlet Woman, by those who should know better, without even checking The Book of the Law. AL is clear and concise on who the Scarlet Woman is, what her duties and rewards are, and what her penalty will be for deserting the work to which she is called.
First, the Scarlet Witch is the woman of the Beast. In them “is all power given.” Crowley wrote in the Old Comment: “I am inclined … to believe that ‘the Beast’ and ‘the Scarlet Woman’ do no denote persons, but are titles of office, that of the Hierophant and High Priestess.” He himself worked with several Scarlet Women. Among them Rose Kelly who was instrumental in the reception of The Book of the Law, Mary d’Esti Sturgis who communicated the instructions to write Liber ABA to him, and at least six others who served, at least in Crowley’s case, exact purposes in communicating with discarnate intelligences. If there were several Scarlet Woman, can there be several Beasts? Or is there only one per æon? Luckily, that is an area we need not pursue in this essay. However, it might be wise to suggest that a male in a sex magick operation should identify with the Beast, and a female in such an operation identify with the Scarlet Woman; for purity of passion needs to be brought by both to such a rite.
Nuit also equates the Scarlet Woman to the Moon, and to Nuit herself. Positive lunar traits she should seek to emulate are: “Passive, patient, tenacious; imaginative; sensitive; a maternal nature; sympathetic; receptive; a good memory.” Negative lunar traits she should seek to overcome are: “Moody; clannish; changeable; weak reasoning power; unreliable; gullible; narrow-minded; reluctant to forgive.”
In the “High Priestess” card we do not find much that helps us expand the idea of the Scarlet Woman. However, in the “Lust” card, the theme of the Beast and Scarlet Woman conjoined is well treated. This card represents “the joy of strength exercised” and “vigour and the rapture of vigour.”
Crowley goes on to say:
"She rides astride the Beast; in her left hand she holds the reins, representing the passions which unite them. In her right hand she holds aloft the cup, the Holy Grail aflame with love and death. In this cup are mingled the elements of the sacrament of the Aeon.The energy is primitive, creative—completely independent of the criticism of reason.The sacrament is the physic-cal-magical formula attaining initiation, for the accomplish-ment of the Great Work."
Of course, references to the Scarlet Woman do not begin with The Book of the Law; she is also mentioned in that contemptible hodge-podge that Christians call “The Revelation of St. John the Divine.” Kenneth Grant felt that the pre-Christian origin of the Scarlet Woman had been forgotten, with only references to Temple Prostitution remaining to remind us of this holy office.
The Scarlet Woman is the chosen vehicle of the supreme goddess, as well as for the archetype Babalon; for, as the moon, she is the gate of the sun—she admits the Solar force through her gate. Also the line from AL, Chapter One, “Sweet-smelling perfume of sweat,” could be related generally to the Scarlet woman, and particularly to female sexual lubricant. Grant also claimed that Eastern thought held that, with the Kundalini fully raised, magical power enters the vaginal secretions.
In “Comment D,” Crowley wrote of the Scarlet Woman: “for without Woman man has no power” and that for the Thelemite, the Scarlet Woman is “their guide in darkness, making them pure, single of heart, awake to the highest” and of the formula of the Beast/Scarlet Woman, he went on to say, “I have the power to kindle in my mind the Essence of the Abstract Soul; she that of making all that may be dear and near and clear to men and women, that so they may find their joy in all.”
In AL III:44, we have the equivalent of a job description of the Scarlet Woman. She is to be loud, shameless, proud; covered with jewels (chakras that are in order) and rich garments (a bold, bright aura). She is to follow Ra Hoor Khuit’s lead and do the work of wickedness (however that may seem to be defined at the moment)—and the hard part, she is to kill her heart. I have heard several people give the opinion that this means to be as cold and as hard-hearted as a prostitute. I disagree with that extreme interpretation. Obviously, she cannot have the dreamy, soap-opera-y fantasies of a teenage girl with a “love-addiction”. I would suggest rather that a proud, independent woman, with perhaps a touch of the hardness mentioned before, would be the ideal.
In AL III:45 Ra Hoor Khuit outlines the rewards that he will give to the successful Scarlet Woman: He will fill her with joy, with his force she will achieve the transcendental experience and unite with Nuit, he will breed from her a child mightier than all the kings of the earth, and he will lift her to the pinnacles of power. Surely, this is a just reward for whatever sacrifices she has to make to successfully fulfill this work.
In AL III:43, we also learn that there are penalties for the Scarlet Woman who fails:
Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men: as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and anhungered.
In the end we can only say that this is a high, holy office; not to be assumed lightly; but also not to be treated with scorn or derision. The individual who takes the oath of a Scarlet Woman is giving up much; it is an oath that will stay with her for the rest of her current incarnation; such an individual is truly worthy of our praise and respect.
So save your cheap jokes, and your derisive remarks—your talk of asylums and your childish bathroom humor—for this is one writer that feels only respect for any Scarlet Woman.