Between occultism and drama. Henrik Ibsen and Aleister Crowley


  • Giuliano D’Amico Volda University College



Occultism, drama, Ibsen, Crowley


The article investigates the references to the works of Henrik Ibsen that the writer and occultist Aleister Crowley scattered in his writings around the turn of the 20th century, in the early phase of his career as a writer and occultist. Crowley’s reading of Ibsen has a marked a socio-political bent, especially in his interpretation of the work of the Norwegian playwright as an act of rebellion against the bourgeois (and for Crowley, Victorian) system of values. Also, such view is enriched by a spiritual and individualistic interpretation of Ibsen as an “Artist”, i.e., in the light of Crowley’s occult doctrine, Thelema, of an individual who has found his own “Will” and can inspire others to do so. Such social and spiritual interpretations of Ibsen on Crowley’s part found their literary realization in his one-act play The Mother’s Tragedy (1899). The article claims that Crowley’s reading of Ibsen can give some new insight in the mechanisms of reception of the Norwegian playwright, by opening up for a reading of some of his plays within an occult discourse. Also, it is an occasion to treat Crowley – a figure that was constantly present in the European cultural and literary life of the last decade of the 19th century and of the first five decades of the 20th – with a different attitude than the irony and disdain to which he is often exposed.

Author Biography

Giuliano D’Amico, Volda University College

GIULIANO D’AMICO is Associate Professor of Scandinavian literature at Volda University College. He received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Oslo in 2011. Among his most recent publications, Domesticating Ibsen for Italy. Enrico and Icilio Polese’s Ibsen Campaign (Edizioni di Pagina 2013), Den engasjerte kosmopolitt. Nye Bjørnson-studier (Novus 2013, co-edited with Liv Bliksrud, Marius Wulfsberg and Arnfinn Åslund) and Lyset kommer fra sør. Italias frigjøringskamp sett av datidens norske forfattere (Gyldendal 2011, co-edited with Elettra Carbone). He has also published a number of articles on Scandinavian literature in Edda, Ibsen Studies and Scandinavian Studies among others. E-mail:




How to Cite

D’Amico, Giuliano. 2015. “Between occultism and drama. Henrik Ibsen and Aleister Crowley”. Nordlit, no. 34 (February):95–103.