Led Zeppelin is one of the most iconic and influential bands in the history of rock music, known for their innovative sound, powerful lyrics, and electrifying live performances. However, the band’s music is also characterized by a deep and abiding fascination with the occult, drawing on themes from mythology, mysticism, and esotericism to explore the mysteries of human existence. In this essay, we will explore the occult influences on Led Zeppelin’s music, from the work of the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley to the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien.
One of the most prominent occult influences on Led Zeppelin’s music is the work of Aleister Crowley. Crowley was a British occultist and magician who founded the religious philosophy of Thelema, which centers on the idea of individualism, personal freedom, and the pursuit of spiritual knowledge. Crowley’s work was a major influence on Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, Jimmy Page, who was a devoted follower of the occultist and even owned Crowley’s former home, Boleskine House.
The influence of Crowley’s work is particularly evident in Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, which features the iconic song “Stairway to Heaven.” The lyrics of this song contain numerous references to Crowley’s work, including the line “To be a rock and not to roll,” which is taken from Crowley’s “Book of the Law.” The song’s mystical themes and evocative imagery, including references to “bustles in hedgerows” and “a new day dawning,” also reflect Crowley’s belief in the transformative power of spiritual awakening.
Another significant occult influence on Led Zeppelin’s music is the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien. The band’s lyrics are filled with references to Tolkien’s Middle-earth mythology, including the song “Ramble On,” which includes the lines “Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor / I met a girl so fair.” The band’s use of Tolkien’s imagery reflects their fascination with the power of myth and the enduring appeal of archetypal symbols and motifs.
Led Zeppelin’s music is also characterized by a general sense of mystery and ambiguity that invites interpretation and reflection. The band’s use of enigmatic imagery, cryptic lyrics, and hypnotic instrumentation creates an otherworldly atmosphere that suggests that there are deeper, more spiritual dimensions of reality waiting to be explored.
It is worth noting that Led Zeppelin’s interest in the occult was not simply a passing fancy or a calculated attempt to attract attention. Rather, it was a deeply held personal belief that they incorporated into their music and their lives. In this sense, their music can be seen as a genuine attempt to connect with a deeper, more spiritual dimension of reality and to explore the mysteries of human existence on their own terms.
However, it is also important to recognize the problematic aspects of the band’s fascination with the occult. Crowley, in particular, was a controversial figure whose work has been criticized for its misogyny, racism, and promotion of drug use. Led Zeppelin’s use of his imagery and ideas has been the subject of criticism and debate, with some accusing the band of promoting his controversial views.
In conclusion, Led Zeppelin’s music is characterized by a deep and abiding fascination with the occult, drawing on themes from mythology, mysticism, and esotericism to explore the mysteries of human existence. The influence of Aleister Crowley and J.R.R. Tolkien is particularly evident in their work, reflecting the enduring appeal of these figures and their work. While their interest in the occult was not without controversy, their music remains a testament to the enduring power of myth, symbolism, and the human search for meaning and purpose in a world that often seems devoid of it.