Leila Waddell (1880 – 1932)
Leila Ida Nerissa Bathurst Waddell, also known as Laylah, was a daughter of Irish immigrants to Australia, Mr and Mrs David Waddell of Bathurst and Randwick. Part-Maori, she was a voluptuous beauty and became a famed Scarlet Woman of Aleister Crowley, and a powerful historical figure in magicK and Thelema in her own right.
Leila Waddell was familiarly addressed by Crowley as “Laylah,” and was immortalized in his 1912 volume The Book of Lies and his autobiography The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Crowley referred to her variously as “Divine Whore”, “Mother of heaven”, “Sister Cybele”, “Scarlet Woman”, and most affectionately of all, “Whore of Babylon”. Crowley’s famous Book of Lies was largely dedicated to Waddell, with poems like “Duck Billed Platypus” and “Waratah Blossoms”.
In 1912 Waddell, and fellow Crowley students Mary Desti and Mary Butts, were given co-authorship crediton Crowley’s Magick (Book 4) as they wrote down his words, helped shape them by asking defining questions, and elicited Crowley’s commentary on pertinent points.
As Crowley’s magical partner, she practised MagicK and became a founding member of the original company of the Rites of Eleusis. Waddell herself was an accomplished writer, magician, and a founding member of the original company of the Rites of Eleusis. She was, arguably, Aleister Crowley’s most powerful muse, as she inspired numerous poems in addition to numerous chapters in The Book of Lies. Aleister Crowley based two of his short stories on Leila – “The Vixen” and “The Violinist.”
The room was cloudy with a poisonous incense: saffron, opoponax, galbanum, musk, and myrrh, the purity of the last ingredient a curse of blasphemy, the final sneer; as a degenerate might insult a Raphael by putting it in a room devoted to debauchery. The girl was tall and finely built, huntress-lithe. Her dress, close fitted, was of a gold-brown silk that matched, but could not rival, the coils that bound her brow – glittering and hissing like snakes.” – The Violinist” by Francis Bendick (Aleister Crowley)
Leila Waddells relationship with Crowley disintegrated as a consequence of his infidelities.
Leila returned to Sydney in 1923 when her father was in failing health. She appeared with the Conservatorium Orchestra and with the Royal Philharmonic Society of Sydney.
She died unmarried of cancer in 1932 at age 52. The Sydney Morning Herald noted: ‘Besides possessing an excellent technique, Miss Waddell’s style as a violinist was particularly marked by charm and refinement”.
Behold! I have lived many years, and I have travelled in
every land that is under the dominion of the
Sun, and I have sailed the seas from pole to pole.
Now do I lift up my voice and testify that all is
vanity on earth, except the love of a good woman, and
that good woman LAYLAH. And I testify
that in heaven all is vanity (for I have journeyed
oft, and sojourned oft, in every heaven), except the
love of OUR LADY BABALON. And I testify
that beyond heaven and earth is the love of OUR
And seeing that I am old and well stricken in years,
and that my natural forces fail, therefore do I rise
up i my throne and call upon THE END.
For I am youth eternal and force infinite.
And at THE END is SHE that was LAYLAH, and
BABALON, and NUIT, being…
Poets have feigned songs about her, and the prophets have spoken vain things, and the young men have dreamed vain dreams; but this is she, that immaculate, the name of whose name may not be spoken. Thought cannot pierce the glory that defendeth her, for thought is smitten dead before her presence. Memory is blank, and in the most ancient books of Magick are neither words to conjure her, nor adorations to praise her. Will bends like a reed in the tempests that sweep the borders of her kingdom, and imagination cannot figure so much as one petal of the lilies whereon she standeth in the lake of crystal, in the sea of glass. This is she that hath bedecked her hair with seven stars, the seven breaths of God that move and thrill its excellence. And she hath tired her hair with seven combs, whereupon are written the seven secret names of God that are not known even of the Angels, or of the Archangels, or of the Leader of the armies of the Lord. Holy, Holy, Holy art thou, and blessed be Thy name for ever, unto whom the Aeons are but the pulsings of thy blood.
By Aleister Crowley
TO LAYLAH EIGHT-AND-TWENTY
Lamp of living loveliness,
Maid miraculously male,
Rapture of thine own excess
Blushing through the velvet veil
Where the olive cheeks aglow
Shadow-soften into snow,
Breasts like Bacchanals afloat
Under the proudly phallic throat!
Be thou to my pilgrimage
Light, and laughter sweet and sage,
Till the darkling day expire
Of my life in thy caress,
Thou my frenzy and my fire,
Lamp of living loveliness!
From Sydney Morning Herald September 14, 1932:
MISS LEILA WADELL
“The death occurred yesterday of Miss Leila Ida Bathurst Waddell, the Sydney violinist, who achieved considerable fame abroad. She was the daughter of Mr. David Waddell, of Bathurst and Randwick, and Mrs. Waddell, of Bellevue Hill. A pupil of Mr. Henri Stael, Miss Waddell became teacher of the violin at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Croydon, and Ascham and Kambala schools. She made her public debut at the organ recitals of the then city organist (Mr. Arthur Mason), and joined, as a soloist, “The Brescians,” a party from Europe, who appeared in peasant festival costumes in association with J. T. West’s early cinematograph shows. Mr. West introduced her to London, and she achieved success as the leader of the Gipsy Band in “The Waltz Dream” at Daly’s Theatre. As “The Ragtime Gipsy,” Miss Waddell won fame in vaudeville throughout England. She toured Europe with a party which she formed of six girl violinists with a talent for stately dancing, and also with trios and quartets. Miss Waddell next visited the United States, and stayed there for many years. She studied under great teachers, including Leopold Auer. She travelled across the country, appearing in all the great cities. She returned to Sydney a few years ago after a long absence. She had since been a member of J. C. Williamson Ltd orchestras at Her Majesty’s and the Criterion, and was also engaged for the Conservatorium and Philharmonic Society’s orchestras. Despite a recent serious illness, she retained her position as teacher of the violin at the Convent School of the Sacred Heart, Elizabeth Bay. Besides possessing an excellent technique, Miss Waddell’s style as a violinist was particularly marked by charm and refinement.”