The main demonic character in the humouristic-apocalyptic story Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman goes by the name Anthony Crowley - a name which instantly jumped out at me because of its similarity to the famous English occultist and magician Aleister Crowley.

Ordinarily I would have dismissed it as a coincidence, since the surname Crowley isn't too uncommon, and in the context of Good Omens it even has a fictional etymology, being derived from "Crawly" the serpent in the Garden of Eden. But given the context - a book which talks a great deal about the occult and contains a great many British cultural references - I have to wonder if it is a deliberate reference.

What evidence is there that Crowley's name was chosen to refer to Aleister Crowley?

Evidence might take the form of e.g. quotes from the authors, comparisons with other things in the text, or any other reasonable course of deduction.

  • 1
    It's worth noting that a year before Good Omens was published, Gaiman's first issue of Sandman was published, which featured Roderick Burgess, a demonic cult leader clearly modeled after Aleister Crowley. So Crowley was top-of-mind for Gaiman around that time period.
    – Dan Staley
    Aug 2 '20 at 16:56

I have not been able to source a quote from the author, but there is an interview which offers some circumstantial evidence that Crowley is indeed named after the famous Occultist.

Actor Mark Sheppard played a character called Crowley in the TV series Supernatural. There is a common presumption among fans of that show that the character was inspired by Crowley from Good Omens. In an interview, Sheppard claims to have met Neil Gaiman, who rebuffed the claim. Of more relevance to the question is this quote:

“The names are the same, but it’s always a nod to Aleister Crowley. Everything has always been a nod to Aleister Crowley.”

The context of this quote strongly suggests that Sheppard also got this from Gaiman himself. If so, that would be a confirmation by the author that the name is a reference to the occultist.

As an interesting aside, the demon Crowley and the occultist both share the same initial, A, which is further evidence the collusion is deliberate. However, demon Crowley's first name is hidden for much of the book but is later revealed to be Antony, not Aleister. The reason for this is a somewhat obscure literary pun.

"'Heigh ho,' said Anthony Crowley, and just drove anyway."

This is a take on the nursery rhyme (originally a music hall song) A Frog He Would A-wooing Go which ends with the words "Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley", a mere letter's difference from the book quote. It's a thin connection, but if Crowley's name is already used by the authors for one somewhere obscure reference, it seems likely that the much more obvious reference was also intentional.

  • 3
    Wow, nice catch on that Anthony Rowley thing! I hadn't noticed Crowley's first name being kept hidden until then, but that's a pretty funny shaggy frog story: keep the name secret throughout most of the book before revealing it just for a one-line obscure reference.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 25 '17 at 20:55

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