Rose Edith Kelly
23 July 1874|
1932 (aged 57–58)|
Frederick Thomas Skerrett
(m. 1897; his death 1899)
(m. 1903; div. 1909)
Rose Edith Kelly (23 July 1874 – 1932) married noted author, magician and occultist Aleister Crowley in 1903. In 1904, she aided him in the Cairo Working that led to the reception of The Book of the Law, on which Crowley based much of his philosophy and religion, Thelema.
Rose Edith Kelly was born at 78 Cambridge Terrace, Paddington, England, to Frederic Festus Kelly and Blanche Bradford Kelly. Her grandfather, also named Frederic Festus Kelly, was the founder of Kelly's Directories Ltd.
She was the oldest of three children, her siblings being Eleanor Constance Mary and Gerald Festus.
In 1880, the family moved to Camberwell Vicarage, where her father served as the curate for the Parish of St. Giles for the next 35 years. In 1895, Rose escorted her brother Gerald to Cape Town, South Africa, where he convalesced from a liver ailment during the winter of 1895-96.
On 31 August 1897 she married Major Frederick Thomas Skerrett at St Giles’ Church, Camberwell. He was a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps and about fifteen years older than her. He died on 19 August 1899.
In 1901, widowed after a two-year marriage to Major Skerrett (described consistently as an "older man"), she joined her brother Gerald in Paris, France, where she stayed for six months.
Marriage to Crowley and The Book of the Law
Rose and Aleister Crowley eloped on 11 August and married on 12 August 1903, in order to save her from an arranged marriage. Their relationship, however, went beyond a marriage of convenience. The two went on an extended honeymoon that brought them to Cairo, Egypt in early 1904.
On 16 March 1904, "in an avowedly frivolous attempt to impress his wife", Crowley tried to "shew the Sylphs" to her using the Bornless Ritual. Although she could see nothing, she did seem to enter into a light trance and repeatedly said, "They're waiting for you!" After asking the god Thoth to clarify the matter and getting Rose to identify the source of the message as Horus, Crowley took Rose to the Boulaq Museum and asked her to point out Horus to him. She passed several common images of the god and led Aleister straight to a painted wooden funerary stele, the Stele of Revealing, from the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt, depicting Horus receiving a sacrifice from the deceased, a priest named Ankh-af-na-khonsu. Crowley was impressed by the fact that the museum had numbered this piece 666, the number that he had identified with since childhood.
This synchronicity and others caused him to pay closer attention to what Rose told him. At her direction, on three successive days beginning 8 April 1904, he entered his room and starting at noon, and for exactly one hour, wrote down what he claimed he heard dictated from a shadowy presence behind him who identified himself as Aiwass. The results over the three days were the three chapters of verse known as The Book of the Law. At one point Crowley failed to hear a sentence, which Rose later amended to page 19 of the original manuscript 'The Five Pointed Star, with a Circle in the Middle, & the circle is Red.'
- Sutin pp. 111-113.
- Sutin pp. 114-116.
- Sutin, p. 120. See following pages for the rest of the story.
- For childhood, Sutin, pp. 20-21.
- Mentions continuing interest, prior to this date: Liber 777, p. 49.
- The Equinox of the Gods Chapter 7, section VII.6. Quoted in The Holy Books of Thelema, Preface, x-xi; manuscript image p. 149.
- Crowley, Aleister. (1979). The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. London;Boston : Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- The Holy Books of Thelema. (1983). York Beach: Samuel Weiser, Inc.
- Hudson, Derek. (1975). For Love of Painting - The Life of Sir Gerald Kelly. London: Peter Davies.
- Martin Booth. (2000). A Magick Life - a biography of Aleister Crowley. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
- Sutin, Lawrence. (2000). Do What Thou Wilt: A life of Aleister Crowley. New York: St. Martin's Griffin 2002.