The Thelema Abbey Today

The Thelema Abbey Today Cover
The villa has often been described by biographers as an unsanitary hovel. This is simply not true for as I passed through room after room the sheer size of the place surprised me. In my imagination it had consisted of two or three rooms and two corridors. As for being unsanitary, half of the houses in Sicily at the time had no bathroom or toilet. As I stood in the doorway, directly in front of me lay the kitchen, with modern fittings built in by the people who stayed after Crowley in the 60's and 70's.

Evidence of this period is scattered all around the villa in the form of broken chairs, discarded clothes, steel bed frames, even an ancient TV. Something strange struck me about the kitchen in particular. Doubling as a dining room it had an open bottle of wine with glasses on a carefully laid table, plates were piled on the drawing board and aged clothes were still waiting to be removed from the washing machine. Everything was completely intact as if someone had gone for a long walk and never returned.

The house had been redecorated in a style typical of the period with gaudy wallpaper and dull colours. In the hallway, crumbling layers of plaster exposed the original bright reds beneath. The shutters in many of the rooms were drawn and nailed down, and the darkness of the villa was a sharp contrast to the merciless sun outside. As I passed from room to room I had to use my torch. Exhilaration shot through my veins as I entered the final room: upon every wall obscured by a layer of blue-tinged white wash I was able to make out paintings of faces, strange designs and symbols.

Over the course of my stay, I spent every day removing the white wash from the wall using cotton wool and a mist spray to gently rinse away the water based layer, painstakingly bringing out the oil based work beneath. The task was grueling in the hideous closeness of the heat but immensely rewarding. It was very strange to get so close to the work of this man, seeing the minutest detail every brush stroke he had made.

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