Saturday, 9 January 2016

Fire at historic Boleskine House

By Barry Van-Asten
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law
‘IN THE EAST, that is, in the direction of Boleskine, which is situated on the South-Eastern shore of Loch Ness in Scotland, two miles east of Foyers, is a shrine or High Altar.’ – Liber XV

On Wednesday 23rd December 2015 ev fire crews from Foyers, Inverness, Beauly and Dingwall raced to save the historic Boleskine House on the shore of Loch Ness, Scotland. The alarm was raised at 1.40 pm when a motorist travelling on the A82 Inverness to Fort William Road noticed smoke on the north side of the Loch. Only two hours later sixty per cent of the building had been destroyed. More than thirty fire crew attempted to save the house and concentrated on saving the west wing as flames roared fuelled by the wind. Fortunately no-one was inside the property and no-one was injured, but what is the great mystery concerning the house and its many legends and why is it so important to many people?

‘Set up my image in the East: thou shalt buy thee an image which I will show thee, especial, not unlike the one thou knowest. And it shall be suddenly easy for thee to do this.’ – Liber AL, III.21

In certain magical circles Boleskine House can be viewed as a ‘Kiblah’ or Mecca, a central ‘High Altar’ which Thelemites (those who practice a magical system of attainment given by the prophet and occultist Aleister Crowley) face during rituals.

‘Remeber that your ‘East’, your Kiblah, is Boleskine House...’ 1.

Crowley purchased Boleskine House (which was built around 1760) in 1899 specifically to perform the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage:
‘If possible the whole of this Operation should be performed in a place where solitude can be obtained; the best being, as Abramelin writes: "Where there is a small wood, in the midst of which you shall make a small Altar, and you shall cover the same with a hut of fine branches, so that the rain may not fall thereon and extinguish the Lamps and the Censer." The Altar should be made of wood and in the manner of a cupboard, so that it may hold all the necessary things. There should be two tunics, one of linen, and the other of Crimson or Scarlet Silk with gold. The sacred oil is prepared from myrrh, cinnamon and galangal mixed with olive oil. The incense of Olibanum, storax, and lign aloes, or cedar, is reduced to a fine powder and well mixed together. The Wand is cut from an Almond tree.’ 2.

Boleskine House shown from the front with a view of the Loch
behind it. Published in Crowley's Manifesto of the MMM 1912-13

Crowley was unable to complete the ritual (which takes six months of preparations and devotions) at Boleskine due to an interruption in April 1900 ev to assist MacGregor Mathers, the Head of The Golden Dawn (of which Crowley was a member) in Paris and many believe the demons connected to the Sacred Magic had been evoked and were already attached to the house, through the talismans Crowley created for use in the ritual. 3.

Also from the same publication of 1912-13 showing the front of
the house with steps to the formal garden. Notice the original roof
with its attic windows where Crowley re-discovered Liber AL in 1909

There has been several deaths at Boleskine including Mrs Janetta Fraser Macpherson Fraser on 31st January 1887, widow of the late Archibald Thomas Frederick Fraser of Abertarrf [died 1884], and great granddaughter of the Right honourable Simon, eleventh Lord Lovat (of the 45); Katherine Innes on 29th November 1898, aged 71, eldest Daughter of the late Cosmo Innes, and Widow of the late John Hill Burton and more recently (and gruesomely) Major Edward Grant (1909-1960) who blew his brains out in a bedroom of Boleskine House with a shotgun on 8th November 1960! The house was also the centre of numerous legends:
‘The house was built on land purchased from the Church on a site reputedly chosen to annoy Lord Lovat whose estate surrounded the property. There is a legend which states that the house may have been built on the site of a church which caught fire trapping the entire congregation who perished inside, but there is no evidence to prove this.

There is also the legend that the minister for Boleskine during the mid to late 17th century, the Reverend Thomas Houston was plagued by a local wizard who raised the bodies of the dead in the burial ground (indeed his own grave is located there) and that he had to lay the dead.’ 4.
Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who is a Crowley enthusiast with a fine collection of rare Crowley memorabilia, bought Boleskine House in 1971 and financed the restoration of the house which was completed by Jimmy’s childhood friend Malcolm Dent; Dent lived at the house and experienced many strange paranormal phenomena. Jimmy had very little to do with the house and would have been very busy musically, recording and touring to stay in such a remote and isolated house.

‘Jimmy Page sold Boleskine House in 1991 to retired hoteliers Ronald and Annette MacGillivray who ran the residence as a B&B. Ronald MacGillivray was born in Ibrox, Glasgow and he was Chairman of the Clan MacGillivray International Association which began in 1999. Ronald died aged 67 in 2002 and the funeral service was held at Boleskine House. The MacGillivray’s who had no interest in the dark history of Boleskine did not encourage sight-seeing and claimed that nothing out of the ordinary happened during their occupation of the house.’ 5.
Annette MacGillivray and her husband Ronald spent a lot of money re-furbishing the house which needed a new roof. The house had four bedrooms, a huge drawing room, dining room, library and many smaller rooms. Following Ronald’s death the house was sold to a Dutch couple who used the house as their holiday home. It was the owners’ daughter and her partner who were shopping on the day prior to Christmas Eve who returned to find the house ablaze.

Boleskine House after the fire: 'The largest room has a bow
window and here I made my door and constructed the terrace
and lodge. Inside the room I set up my oratory proper.’6.
I have visited the area and seen Boleskine House on three occasions and also camped near the old graveyard behind the house where there is definitely an odd and even malevolent atmosphere 7. Whatever becomes of the remains of Boleskine House Liber Al vel Legis (the Book of the Law) makes it quite clear that the site shall remain sacred whether or not a 'physical' building is there or not:

‘But your holy place shall be untouched throughout the centuries: though with fire and sword it be burnt down & shattered, yet an invisible house there standeth, and shall stand until the fall of the Great Equinox; when Hrumachis shall arise and the double-wanded one assume my throne and place.’ – Liber AL, III.34


1. Magick Without Tears. Aleister Crowley. Thelema Publications. 1954, edited by Karl Germer. Also Llewellyn. 1973 [Israel Regardie] and New Falcon Publications. 1991.
2. The Equinox Volume 1, number III. The Temple of Solomon the King
3. For more on Crowley and Boleskine House see The Confessions of Aleister Crowley’. Edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant. London. 1969.
4. Boleskine House: A Brief History by Barry Van-Asten. The Voice of Fire. Volume I, Number III. Winter Solstice, December 2013 ev. []
5. Ibid.
6. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant. London. 1969. p. 184
7. Friday 13th April 2007 ev; Friday 18th April 2008 ev and Wednesday 17th September 2014 ev.


Love is the law, love under will

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