A blog post written by Aaron Leitch – via The Hermit’s Lamp: The Continuing Tradition of the Modern Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Tag Archives: tabatha cicero
The new book by Chic & Tabatha Cicero, “Golden Dawn Magic: A Complete Guide to the High Magical Arts,” is an introduction to the practices of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn: its unique selling point is that it goes into slightly more depth than other such introductory guides. So for example, it does not simply describe the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, or the Middle Pillar Ritual, but outlines preliminary exercises of which a practioner could make use in order to get used to those rituals beforehand.
Moreover, advanced techniques such as god-form assumption, tarot divination, etc are mentioned, and the results are combined to show a Golden Dawn magician would formulate a complete “Z2” Magic of Light Ritual.
It is probably most helpful to think of this as a companion volume to the Ciceros’ “The Essential Golden Dawn,” the difference being that the former book outlines the theory, whilst the latter the practice. Nevertheless, it is at the end of the day only an introduction, and as such the authors continually refer to their other publications as shedding more light on the subject, for example: Self Initiation into the Golden Dawn; Tarot Talismans; as well as Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn itself.
“The Hermetic Tablet: Journal of Western Ritual Magic, Autumnal Equinox 2014” is a new journal just published, featuring contributions from the great and the good of the Western Mystery Tradition. It even includes a pair of articles by me in it!
My own contribution is entitled “Non Divinatory Uses of the Tarot” and is the transcript of a public talk I gave in Salford in March earlier this year. It also features a ritual I composed entitled “Meditation On The Sun” which I also demonstrated on the same occasion.
It is currently available in paperback or limited edition hardback from lulu.com. For more information, and to order your copy, click on the link below:
This is a follow up post to my original blog World Tarot Day, which was first proclaimed in 2003 and is celebrated on May 25th each year. Since I first wrote that blog post, more Tarot decks have come into my possession, so I thought I would write a completely new blog post reviewing them as well.
This deck was created by Sandra Tabatha Cicero of the Golden Dawn-fame. I once attended a public talk in London where she explained the complete background of this deck. It turns out that Tabby is a bit of a nut for Babylonian mythology! Each minor represents an aspect of ancient Babylonian folklore or mythology in general, whilst each Major is an actual Babylonian deity or pair of deities, apart from the “Wheel of Fortune” and “Temperance.” The former is “The Tablet of Destiny,” an artefact first mentioned in the Enuma Elish, whilst the latter is the “Tree of Life” – the point being that the Babylonian version is more primordial than that mentioned in the Book of Genesis, upon which the Qabalistic Tree of Life is based.
Unusually, this is an 83 card deck. There is an extra Major called “Genesis” which is without number or attribution. Tabby explained that she had created this card because in her view the Babylonian concept of the creation of the Universe was not well represented in the conventional Major Arcana.
The four other extra cards are additional Court Cards named “Kerubs,” thus allowing the five elements (i.e. Spirit in addition to the other four) to be represented.
IMHO, Tabby is to be congratulated for having created a truly original deck. It is completely unlike the Golden Dawn deck, a version of which she also created. Also, it has the distinction of being a completely illustrated deck which is not just another Rider-Waite clone or variant. Meanwhile, going through the meanings of the cards is a lesson in Babylonian mythology in itself.
The Tarot of Marseilles
The Tarot of Marseilles is a classic deck, the original design dating from 1760, although cognate decks can be found dating from 1650. Nowadays there are many reproductions of the original version available – some good (e.g. the Jodorowsky / Camoin version), and some which are quite frankly cheap knock-offs.
Incidentally, in his book The Way of Tarot, Alejandro Jodorowksy appears to have been labouring all his life under the misapprehension that the Tarot of Marseilles is the oldest known version of the Tarot, this due to the fact that Max Ernst once told him so whilst warning him against the Rider-Waite deck. Unfortunately, Max Ernst told Jodo a crock of shit! The oldest two decks are in fact the Visconti and Sola-Buschi, both mid 15th century… the latter of which inspired the artwork in the Rider-Waite.
This deck is essentially a variation of the Rider Waite, but with the key difference that that artwork consists of digital photography of the eponymous “Sensual Goddess” acting out the scenes depicted on the cards. As it happens, this Sensual Goddess is a buxom glamour-model (actually the photographer’s wife), often (but not always) in a state of undress.
Fortunately, however, the deck stays on the right-side of artistic nudity. Indeed, the creators make a point of the fact that they have tried to keep it glamorous without being smutty.
Nevertheless, this deck will not please those of a prudish disposition. This makes me wonder: this deck may be great for doing readings for oneself, but one would have to exercise a great deal of discretion if one wanted to give readings for other people. Even if the nudity did not bother them, it might still distract them from the seriousness of the Tarot reading!
That aside, it’s clear from the LWB that the creators know their Tarot, and have done their research into the subject. In this regard, I would like to relate a story: on receiving the deck, went through each card with the LWB. As I did so, I picked up a psychic vibe from the cards: that the whole project to create the deck had been a *magical operation* undertaken by the photographer and his wife (i.e. the Sensual Goddess), and that here I was, effectively participating in it down the line, as it were. So one could say that I am writing this review because I am caught up in the spell. 🙂
Maxwell Miller, the creator of this deck, has not done himself any favours by giving it the exact same name as a number of completely dissimilar decks, (so says the author of The Magus – :::shudder:::). That being said, however, I must say how much I really enjoy the artwork in this particular deck, which contains Astrological, Alchemical, Qabalistic, Sufi, Hindu symbolism and more. In other words, it is “Universal” because it draws on traditions from across the globe.
This is a 74 card deck instead of the traditional 78: instead of having King, Queen, Prince (Knight) and Princess (Page), the court cards are simply King, Queen and Knave. But the quality of the artwork is almost enough to tempt me to overlook this detail.
This is an amusing take on the Rider-Waite Deck. It attempts to imagine what Pamela Colman-Smith’s artwork would have looked like if the scenes had been observed from the reverse-angle, i.e. behind the characters depicted in the cards. This allows for a scope of creativity… which is only realised in some of the cards.
So for example, in “The Magician” we find out that there is a cheeky monkey hiding behind the eponymous main character, thus pointing out the tricksterish associations of the card. In the 4 of Chalices (i.e. Cups), we find out that the thoughtful looking man is actually Bellerophon, awaiting Pegasus to come to him, whilst the King of Chalices is revealed as Noah – i.e. because he was master of the deluge.
Unfortunately, though, a number of the cards are no more than depictions of original Colman-Smith version, from a different angle but adding nothing new in the way of symbolism. Also, because many of them are facing away from the viewer, one cannot see the character’s facial expressions. Taken to the extreme, in the 4 of Pentacles the main character, by having his back to the viewer, conceals all of the traditional symbolism associated with that card!
I mention this because of the striking art-work (much use of Photoshop, methinks). Whilst visually this is an appealing deck (always an important consideration if you are doing Tarot readings for clients), in some cards it lacks some of the traditional symbolism.
Recently I asked the question:
What book(s) would you recommend to a complete beginner on magick? Shameless plugs only if genuine.
I now present some of the answers I received.
Enchanted: Titania’s Book of White Magic comes recommended from Facebook fan Diane J Reed, who says:
I absolutely love this book … (it’s out of print, so you have to get a used copy). The book is just gorgeous and only deals with “white” magic used for good purposes, but the photography is so beautiful it will make you drool.
I personally am not cognisant with this work, but Titania Hardie, the author, describes it as being within the Wiccan tradition. Whilst on the subject of Wicca, another FB fan, Philip Dean Fox, recommends Witchcraft: A Beginner’s Guide by Teresa Moorey, and two books by Susan Bowes: Life Magic – The power of positive witchcraft. and Notions and Potions: A safe, practical guide to creating magic and miracles. Meanwhile, another FB friend, Adrien, recommends Christopher Penczak’s The Inner Temple of Witchcraft: Magick, Meditation and Psychic Development (Penczak Temple).
Oliver St John recommends Hermetic Qabalah: A Foundation in the Art of Magick by, er, Oliver St John. He assures me:
I still use my own copies for reference, tables, correspondences and other information stored all in one place and easy to find. When I started out I had to have 6 books open at once to find all this stuff.
Oliver also makes the point that:
… plugs to one side, it is a really good question. Where on earth do we start? The milestones like “Complete Golden Dawn” and Crowley’s “Magick” are useless to a complete beginner. I would recommend getting a grounding in at least the basics of astrology and setting up a horoscope. It amazes me how many occultists don’t know the first thing about astrology.
Indeed! Several months ago I gave myself the task of doing a short ten-minute talk to members of a highly secretive branch of the Illuminati (nb: they are not secretive at all! They just don’t want it publicly known that they have a scruff like me as one of their members!) outlining a number of basic reference works for people who might, for all I know, be complete beginners to the mysteries. I remember that many years ago I read a remark by Israel Regardie about the first Knowledge Lecture of the Golden Dawn, recommending to just get any old book on astrology to look up basic terms thereon – so that is exactly what I did, and what I recommended in turn to the members of this order. As it happens, when I went into Waterstones that fateful day, the first book on the subject which I picked up was Teach Yourself Astrology.
Apart from that, there are a few other old favourites that I would personally recommend, e.g.
- The Hermetica, by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy;
- The Middle Pillar, by Israel Regardie (edited by Chic & Tabatha Cicero);
- Several of the works of Dion Fortune, especially
- A Textbook of Theosophy, by C W Leadbeater; and
- The Art and Practice of Astral Projection, by Ophiel.
Stop all your verbal attacks against Chic, Tabby, Nick Farrell, Pat Zalewski, the SRIA and all the rest, and use your supposed EU trademarks to stop the neo-nazis in Greece from bringing the “Golden Dawn” name into disrepute.
If you want to be remembered for doing something good for the Golden Dawn community, that is.
Today I am going to do a survey of the grade of 6=5 Adeptus Major, by examining how the various different offshoots of the Golden Dawn – the Alpha et Omega, the Stella Matutina, the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross – decided to deal with the subject. The one thing they all have in common is that they agree the grade has to do with Geburah – in the same way that 5=6 Adeptus Minor is to do with Tiphereth – but there the similarities end. Each different faction went off in their own direction, having different ideas about what the Adeptus Major was actually meant to do.
As far as I am aware, none of the published Adeptus Major rituals are used by modern day Golden Dawn orders – they have gone on to use different or modified versions.
Alpha Et Omega
The Alpha et Omega 6=5 so-called Ritual has now been published: as an appendix to Tabatha Cicero’s new publication, “Book of the Concourse of the Watchtowers.” I say so-called because the version published is not a real ritual. It does not have an opening or closing, nor does it have any drama in it. It consists of one chief officer, the “Conferring Adept,” teaching the signs and words of the grade to the Aspirant, who is prompted throughout the ceremony by a conductor. The explanation of the Tarot cards is brief. If anything, it is more of a fragment of a ritual – perhaps part of something that remains unpublished, or a work-in-progress.
The only interesting thing, IMHO, is that the brief explanation of the nature of the signs gives a tantalising glimpse into what Mathers might have imagined the work of an Adeptus Major to be – i.e. the use of Geburah-force to subdue evil entities – although no detail is given about the Adeptus Major curriculum itself. It is also interesting in that the symbolism anticipated the ideas the Crowley expressed about the nature of the Adeptus Major grade in the latter’s John St John.
Now the Adeptus Major ritual of the Stella Matutina is a far more interesting affair. An incomplete version of the ritual was published by Pat Zalewski in his book Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn: fortunately though, I have seen a copy dating from a Stella Matutina temple circa 1916, so I have been able to compare. Now this is a proper ritual. It has drama, it has beautiful ritualistic speeches, but most importantly it introduces in the course of the ritual several key qabalistic concepts which provide much food for thought. The ritual should be read in conjunction with the account of W B Yeats’ own experience of this ceremony, which is printed in George Mills Harper’s Yeats’ Golden Dawn, which gives details of the astral work that went on invisibly as the ceremony took place.
This ritual lays much emphasis on the Shekinah – the divine presence of God – who is here portrayed by a female officer. Why the Shekinah? I believe the answer must lie in the fact that in Gematria, “Geburah” is equivalent to “Debir,” which is the Holy of Holies, where the Shekinah was said to reside upon the Ark of the Covenant between the wings of the two kerubs. The aspirant is therefore the High Priest, who goes into the Holy of Holies (actually the Vault of the Adepti which has been re-dressed for the occasion) and after a period of meditation discovers the Shekinah, who first comes to him (or her) like a light-bearer in darkness.
An interesting feature is that the Aspirant remains completely silent throughout the ceremony, until formally released at its climax. It is worth noting that quite separately Wynn Westcott did indeed describe the Adeptus Major grade as:
“…a degree of death and solemnity—referring to the precedent stage of obscuration, during which silent study and meditation may be considered as the typical condition…”
One is tempted to speculate that in this respect the Stella Matutina ceremony is probably more to what Westcott intended than that of the AO! Unlike the AO ceremony, which is nothing but signs and an explanation thereof, the Stella Matutina 6=5 mentions two signs (“thou shalt avert thy eyes from evil as did Isis on the right … thou shalt withdraw from evil as did Nephthys on the left,”) but does not really demonstrate what they are: obviously part of the esotery that was only transmitted from person to person.
The lacuna in Zalewski’s ritual amounts to three-fifths of the oath being omitted (the oath of an Adeptus Major is in five parts), as well as an instruction that the Aspirant is censed in the form of a Pentagram, before being led out temporarily before the next point in the ceremony. When read in full, the oath of the Adeptus Major reveals that the duty of the new initiate is to apply the severity of Geburah to his or her own moral nature, whilst emphatically being merciful to the faults of others.
I found one mistake when I first read Zalewski’s version, however: when I checked, I found that the mistake had been in the original ritual! Namely: the wrong passages of the Sepher Yetzirah are quoted when the aspirant is given the teachings of the Paths of Mem and Lamed.
A sort of curriculum has emerged as to what the Stella Matutina envisioned for the Adeptus Major grade. Although on first reading it does not seem much, from my own personal researches I believe that additional papers were also issued to the adepts which suggested ways in which the Adeptus Major practices could be extended to achieve extremely sophisticated results. In any event, the lines “try to find your own Path for the Inner Life,” and “now is the time to fill in gaps of the 5=6 syllabus and to choose your special subject in which to qualify,” conceal more than they reveal: I get the impression that Felkin, the author of the Stella Matutina 6=5 ritual, believed that if the Adeptus Minor grade was equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree in Magic, then the Adeptus Major was equivalent to a Master’s.
Holy Order of the Golden Dawn / Fellowship of the Rosy Cross
The Holy Order of the Golden Dawn Adeptus Major Ritual has now been published in Regardie’s Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. It catches Waite as he was beginning to embrace mysticism, yet had not completely thrown off all of the trappings of the original GD. Now here is a curious thing: despite superficial differences, much of the underlying structure of the first Waite ritual is identical to that of the Stella Matutina version. E.g. the aspirant remains in silence until released in the final part of the ceremony, he or she goes into the Vault for a period of meditation, before encountering the Shekinah, who leads the aspirant out. Intriguingly, Waite identifies the Shekinah as Nuit, and the newly advanced aspirant as Horus. Could this in fact mean that Waite was a secret Thelemite (extremely ironic given the caning he received from Crowley in the Equinox)? Or perhaps when Crowley received the Book of the Law, the Gods were telling him not to become the prophet of a new aeon, but that he was now ready to become an Adeptus Major?
After the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn closed, Waite founded the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. The grades are named after those of the Golden Dawn – but Waite finally took the opportunity to abandon the last vestiges GD dogma of which he disapproved and finally do his own thing. Nevertheless, the FRC Adeptus Major ritual still displays certain similarities to the version he wrote for the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn. There is a sojourn within the sanctuary, the Shekinah makes an appearance – but the insistence of silence is strictly removed. Needless to say, any references to Horus and Nuit have been removed.
As far as I know, there was no curriculum per se for the FRC grades – I believe that Waite intended the ceremony itself to be both the initiation into and the teaching of a given grade. In this sense the FRC is rather like a masonic version of Rosicrucianism. I did hear one senior esotericist say that this being the case, an initiate could theoretically be advanced through each grade at successive meetings, or slightly less than a year if they met every month, although I doubt very much that this would happen in practice.
An Order is simply a temporary vehicle of transmission — a means whereby suitable individuals may be trained to awaken within their hearts the consciousness of the boundless Light. But sooner or later, it would appear that the initiates foster loyalty to the external husk, the shell, the organisation of grades at the expense of that dynamic spirit for which the shell was constructed. So often has it happened in the past. Every religion stands as eloquent witness to this fact. It is the fate which has overtaken the Golden Dawn. Practically the whole membership is fanatically attached to individuals conducting Temple work as well as to the mechanical system of grades of the Order. But when this piece of teaching and that document of importance is withdrawn from circulation, mutilated, and in some cases destroyed, none has come forward to register an objection.
Its Chiefs have developed the tyranny of sacerdotalism. They have a perverse inclination towards priestcraft, and secrecy has ever been the forcing ground in which such corruption may prosper. Obligations to personal allegiance whether tacit or avowed, is the ideal method of enhancing
the personal reputation of those who for many years have sat resolutely and persistently upon the pastos of the hidden knowledge. If by any chance the hidden knowledge were removed from their custody, their power would be gone. For in most cases their dominion does not consist in the gravitational attraction of spiritual attainment or even ordinary erudition. Their power is vested solely in the one fact, that they happen to be in possession of the private documents for distribution to those to whom they personally wish to bestow a favour as a mark of their
Israel Regardie, What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn