Since Led Zeppelin started using satanic imagery within their artistic output, there has been a constant source of speculation regarding whether Jimmy Page is an occultist or whether he just holds a deep fascination of the dark world. He certainly hasn’t ever flat-out denied the constant swirling of rumours regarding his association with Satanism, but, did Page just use it to feed his image? Does the connection run deeper?
The first real glimpse into how Page ingrained the worlds of Satanism and music together came in Led Zeppelin’s iconic 1970 track, ‘Stairway To Heaven‘, which according to sum, borrowed a subliminal satanic message. When listened to backwards, the song allegedly features the verse, “Oh, here’s to my sweet Satan, The one whose little path made me sad, Whose power is Satan. He’ll give those with him 666, There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, Sad Satan.”
Things went a step further and rumours intensified in the 1970s when Page splashed out on Boleskine House, a manor in the Scottish highlands that notorious occultist Aleister Crowley once owned in the early 1900s. Crowley was known as ‘the wickedest man in the world’ and created the belief system, ‘Thelema’. It has been likened to being a form of modern Paganism. Thelema would gift the writer with the title of ‘the wickedest man alive’ but, despite this moniker, there was something about him that allured The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie to him, following his death in 1947 when he became immortalised in culture.
In his autobiography, Crowley claimed that his purpose in life had been to “bring oriental wisdom to Europe and to restore paganism in a purer form”. Various thinkers influenced Crowley’s writing, ranging from eastern religious movements and practices, like Hindu yoga and Buddhism, all the way to scientific naturalism. Above all, Crowley was a firm believer in the power of magic. It was enough of an alluring prospect to grab Page’s attention when Crowley’s house went up for sale.
However, Page only frequented Boleskine House on a handful of occasions because it gave him “bad vibes.” The guitarist chiefly refused to stay there and eventually sold the property in the 1990s after letting one of his childhood friends, Malcolm Dent, live there for close to 20-years. Dent later recalled, “Doors would be slamming all night, you’d go into a room and carpets and rugs would be piled up. We just used to say that was Aleister doing his thing.”
Interviews have frequently probed Page about this matter over the years. However, the guitarist previously always attempted to keep his cards regarding the occult firmly close to his chest. He once told Rolling Stone: “I don’t really want to go on about my personal beliefs or my involvement in magic. I’m not interested in turning anybody on to anybody that I’m turned on to. If people want to find things, they find them it themselves.”
This statement doesn’t see Page flat-out deny that he believes in Crowley’s work and leaves the door wide open on the validity of the claims that have been an albatross around his neck for almost the entirety of his career. In truth, those rumours and that belief system can be traced back to one book — The Golden Dawn.
Crowley’s belief system, Thelema, was based on The Golden Dawn and this was the originator of 20th Century Western occultism. Despite its devolution in 1903, it would inspire thinkers like Crowley to create work in the spirit of The Golden Dawn‘s value system. When Page appeared at the Oxford Union in 2017, a student in attendance asked him about his involvement with this world, and his response was his most eye-opening on the subject to date. “I was very interested in Eastern and Western mysticism,” Page stated. “I spent time reading and researching when I was younger. I guess that’s it.
“There were some very eminent characters in The Golden Dawn, and I found it very interesting to see the history of those who had been in it and this esoteric movement,” the Led Zeppelin guitarist added. “Also, sort of what went on and the off-shoots of it of that sort of love of all things mystical and magical and all things bright and beautiful really,” he said grinningly.
Page then laughed off whether ‘Stairway To Heaven’ had that infamous subliminal message hidden within it, adding: “I’m going to go straight back to The Beatles here because there was a time when somebody wrote a thesis about Paul McCartney being dead. If you playback the records, I’m being serious here even though it’s crazy, but, if you playback the records there was something that says ‘Paul Is Dead’ and then they started to playback a whole manner of records. Of course, we were going to be main candidates for it, and somebody said, ‘It says my sweet satan in it’, and I thought, ‘Gosh, it’s hard enough writing music one way round’,” Page said to a fit of laughter from the crowd.
There it is then; Jimmy Page isn’t an occultist and never really has been. He was just fascinated by a weird and wonderful world and couldn’t stop himself from reading about it — not a satanist, just a lover of good books. There’s a stark difference between researching the characters who formed the cult and how they managed to create something as dystopian as The Golden Dawn, without believing their messages. The fact that Page had endless riches meant that he didn’t think twice about ploughing a fortune into Boleskine House due to the historical significance of the property rather than him worshipping the work of Aleister Crowley.
Jimmy Page is just another history buff, who had the finances available to own a part of the world that he was researching, another example of the truth not being beguiling as the myth.