Rose Armenian Waiter

Rose Armenian Waiter Cover
I have for some time been fascinated with the name "Aiwass", again the first version of the name, which Crowley understood as being the true author of Liber L vel Legis (AKA Liber AL).

Where did this name come from? And what if anything does it mean or can it tell us about the origin of the author?

One thing not generally known is that "Aiwass" was in fact a common term, an English transliteration of an apparently Turkish word, though ultimately of Armenian origin, which described a certain kind of servant in the employ of wealthy and noble Turkish families. The "Aiwass" had a number of different duties, one of which, interestingly was as a messenger.

We read for example the following description of Turkish women and their escorts, published 1877 in London Society:

"At that time, cloaked and 'yashmaked' groups, preceded by an 'aiwass' (messenger) carrying a paper lantern, flit about the usually silent streets and lanes of the Mussulman city".

And then we have this more specific explanation of the word in an 1886 book, Eastern Life and Scenery":

"The aiwass is the general useful servant of the whole [Turkish] house; several are employed in large families: they carry the dinners, execute commissions, and do most of the hard work. Aiwass are frequently called upon to accompany parties of the women and children who are not entitled to expect the escort of a lalla. These aiwass are mostly Armenians, free servants receiving wages..."

Thus, we see that that prior to 1904, the word Aiwass (transliterated also ayvaz) was already associated with the idea of being a messenger, or providing a specific service.

Another, even more interesting, meaning for the word is one associated again particularly with Armenians, and this is the idea of a servant who brings the food to the table from the kitchen. In other words, it means "waiter".

We read, in 1854, in Chamber's journal of popular literature of an ayvaz "or servant attending on the guests", and in 1858, a commercial dictionary explains that an ayvaz is "a scullion who attends at meals in Turkey, usually an Armenian." From The Sultan and His People published in 1857, we read that at a Turkish table "different preparations of food are successively placed by the ayvaz or scullion."

Also, a number of mid-20th-century books on Turkish theater point out that stock characters include an Armenian waiter or butler called an ayvaz.

Now, let us recall something from the origin myth of Thelema. Crowley tells us that it was Rose in fact who initially came into contact with the spirit entities that would eventually manifest as the author of Liber AL. It was Rose who said, mysteriously, and irritatingly (to Crowley), "they are waiting for you". A couple of days later, Crowley recorded in his diary that Rose had revealed to him "the waiter was Horus." He notes that the use of that word, "waiter", may have been "another sneer", presumably on his own part in doubting Rose, but it seems he could have and probably did convey this doubt to Rose, and maybe even used that sneer "waiter" to refer to her informant. Of course it is possible that Rose herself used the word "waiter".

A few days later, Crowley is not precise about the date, Rose corrected his understanding regarding the name of her informant. Yes, it was Horus who was the relevant deity, but he had sent an Earthly messenger to actually talk to Rose, and eventually Crowley. And that messenger's name was Aiwass.

Crowley, in Equinox of the Gods, indicates that name was unfamiliar to him, and that he imagined Rose might have made it up because it sounded something like "Aiwa", the Arabic for "yes". But it also sounded exactly like aiwass, the Turkish or Armenian word for a "messenger" or "waiter".

Now, you might object, what would an Armenian waiter be doing in Egypt? As it turns out, Crowley in Confessions describes an encounter he had with an aiwass, an Armenian waiter, during an earlier trip to Egypt:

"I reached Aden on the ninth. It must be a perfectly ghastly place to live in. As I was to land in Egypt, I had to be quarantined for a day at Moses' Wells, regulation being that one must be eleven days out from Bombay, in case of plague. Moses' Wells is the most hateful place I have ever been in, with the possible exception of Gibraltar. I note in my diary that the food was "beastly, and abominable, and absurdly dear". If I remember correctly, it was cooked by a Greek and served by an Armenian."

And as Crowley tells us, in 1904 he and his wife had an entourage of servants in Egypt, and so many were they that he himself did not keep track of them and their names and duties. They had a head servant for that, whose name he can only vaguely recall, and anyway, in a Victorian household, even in Egypt, his wife would have been more likely to have had some knowledge of the servants and their responsibilities.

It may have even been the case that Crowley employed an Armenian waiter, without his being aware of it. And Rose, perhaps miffed that Crowley had made fun of her by calling her informant a "waiter", decided a few days later to call him exactly that. Of course Crowley may have been made aware of the joke, or made up the name himself as part of a joke to convey in the myth.

What we do know is that the word aiwass, or as it was also transliterated, aiwaz or even ayvaz, was not a new or unknown word, even in English, especially in the part of the world in which Crowley encountered Aiwaz.

Additionally, the link of the word to Armenians specifically may have something to do with the fact that Aiwass or Ayvaz is an Armenian name, allegedly of some long standing, though it was claimed the family originally had come from Gallicia, north of the Carpathians.

Suggested e-books:

Anonymous - The Urantia Papers
Aleister Crowley - One Star In Sight

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