Understanding the Religion of Thelema

Aleister Crowley, English writer and magician
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Thelema is a complicated set of magical, mystical and religious beliefs formed in the 20th century by Aleister Crowley. Thelemites might be anything from atheists to polytheists, viewing the involved beings as actual entities or primal archetypes. Today it is embraced by a variety of occult groups including the Ordo Templis Orientis (O.T.O.) and Argenteum Astrum (A.A.), the Order of the Silver Star.


Thelema is based on the writings of Aleister Crowley, particularly the Book of the Law, which was dictated to Crowley in 1904 by a Holy Guardian Angel called Aiwass. Crowley is considered a prophet, and his works are the only ones considered canonical. Interpretation of those texts is left up to individual believers.

Basic Beliefs: The Great Work

Thelemites strive to ascend to higher states of existence, uniting oneself with higher powers, and understanding and embracing one's True Will, their ultimate purpose, and place in life.

The Law of Thelema

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." "Thou wilt" here means to live by one's own True Will.

"Every Man and Every Woman Is a Star."

Each person possesses unique talents, abilities, and potentials, and none should be impeded in seeking out their True Self.

"Love Is the law. Law Under will."

Each person is united with his True Will through love. Discovering is a process of understanding and unity, not force and coercion.

The Aeon of Horus

We live in the Age of Horus, child of Isis and Osiris, who represented the previous ages. The age of Isis was a time of matriarchy. The age of Osiris was a time of patriarchy with a religious emphasis on sacrifice. The age of Horus is an age of individualism, of the child Horus striking out on his own to learn and grow.

Thelemic Deities

The three most commonly discussed deities in Thelema are Nuit, Hadit, and Ra Hoor Khuit, commonly equated to the Egyptian deities Isis, Osiris and Horus. These may be considered literal beings, or they may be archetypes.

Holidays and Celebrations

  • Rituals of the Elements and Feasts of the Times, which is celebrated on the equinoxes and solstices
  • A feast for the Equinox of the Gods, Spring equinox, celebrating the founding of Thelema
  • The feast for the First Night of the Prophet and His Bride, August 12, celebrating Crowley's first marriage to Rose Kelly, who assisted in his original revelations.
  • The feast for the Three Days of the Writing of the Book of the Law, April 8 - 10
  • The feast for the Supreme Ritual, March 20, the Thelemic New Year.

Thelemites also commonly celebrate significant milestones in one's life:

  • A feast for Life, for the birth of a child.
  • The feast for Fire, for the coming-of-age of a boy.
  • The feast for Water, for the coming-of-age of a girl.
  • Greater Feast for Death, to memorialize one who has died.
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Beyer, Catherine. "Understanding the Religion of Thelema." Learn Religions, Sep. 3, 2021, learnreligions.com/thelema-95700. Beyer, Catherine. (2021, September 3). Understanding the Religion of Thelema. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/thelema-95700 Beyer, Catherine. "Understanding the Religion of Thelema." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/thelema-95700 (accessed June 5, 2023).