An Ankh, once belonging to Reginald Gardner, who was one of the founding chiefs of Whare Ra.
To Treadwells last Monday for an evening entitled “Golden Dawn: Hidden History,” featuring a talk by GD expert Dr Tony Fuller. The small meeting room was packed (the event was sold out). I noticed a large number of dodgy characters from the London occult scene (i.e. people I knew!) lurking in the audience, as well as representatives of at least two or three different Golden Dawn orders dressed in mufti.
Tony, 73, had been planning to do a slide-show but opted instead to just talk from notes. He revealed that he himself had been introduced to the occult as a twelve year old boy reading Dennis Wheatley’s “The Devil Rides Out,” and following up references to real-occult works mentioned in the otherwise fictional novel. At the time he did not know that the Hermes Temple of the Stella Matutina was active (though on its last legs) in Bristol, England, whilst elsewhere in his native New Zealand was Whare Ra Temple, in Havelock North.
Whare Ra, he said, was a temple which in its heyday had approximately three hundred members. Havelock North, the town in which it was situated, only had a population of about a thousand. In other words, almost a half of the adult population of Havelock North were members of Whare Ra! That this was possible is due to the fact that the town had been a hotbed of spiritual activity for some time before the Stella Matutina ever arrived there – the “Havelock Work” was founded in 1908, mainly by people who themselves went on to play prominent roles in the Whare Ra temple.
Tony pointed out that the prominence of symbolism of the Divine Feminine in the Golden Dawn – for example, the way in which both Isis and Nephthys feature as god-forms in the temple of the Neophyte, with Hathor standing guard in the far East – as well as the feminine figures in the Tarot keys which make up the paths of the Middle Pillar of the Tree of Life. The fact that there was such a feminist trend in the GD he attributed to the influence of Anna Kingsford on its original founders.
Amongst other items of information I gleaned:
- Tony acquired an amount of Alpha et Omega material from a former member who had travelled to New Zealand to get her grades in the Stella Matutina at Whare Ra. Amongst this cache was the only known copy of Mathers’ 6=5 ritual, as well as the long-lost corpus of Theoricus Adeptus Minor papers (nb: these have now seen the light of day in Sandra Tabatha Cicero’s The Book of the Concourse of the Watchtowers.
- Tony showed us an Ankh (pictured above), at least a hundred years old, once belonging to Reginald Gardner, one of the first chiefs of Whare Ra. The example above is approximately 28cm tall (I photographed it against a sheet of A4 paper to give an example of its scale). Curiously, the only teaching regarding the Ankh was reserved to one of the Third Order grades (in the Stella Matutina the grades went all the way up to 9=2) – Tony described this as in a certain way the “key” to Golden Dawn magic.
- Although Mathers had written detailed analyses of the Neophyte and Zelator rituals (the Z papers, and the ZZ papers, now published in Pat Zalewski’s Inner Order Teachings of the Golden Dawn), to the best of Tony’s knowledge, no equivalent analyses were ever written about any of the higher grades, such as Theoricus, Practicus, Philosophus, etc. As to why this was, Tony believed that it was because there was no need – once an Adept was high enough to be in a position to be concerned about such things, he or she ought to be able to work out the details for him/herself.
To London yesterday for an evening at Treadwell’s dedicated to Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum, aka Moina Mathers. Twenty seven people were crammed into the downstairs meeting room to hear three speakers give their take on this very important figure in the history of the Golden Dawn.
Moina (née Mina Bergson, 28 February 1865 – 25 July 1928) was an artist by training, joining the Slade School in 1880. She always expressed an interest in getting back to her artistic career, but her involvement with magic, her husband S L Macgregor Mathers and poverty (arising therefrom) meant she never quite made it. As a magician, she is noted for the facts that she was a very talented clairvoyant, and helped channel a lot of the Golden Dawn’s inner order material. Moreover, however, she was instrumental in creating (with her husband) the “Rites Of Isis” – and therefore became one of the first modern Isian Priestess.
Christine, one of the speakers, had managed to translate two accounts written by contemporary French journalists of the Mathers’ “Rites of Isis” – and they appeared to be very impressive ceremonies. One journalist, André Gauché, seemed to be happy embroider his account with a certain amount of lurid fiction, although it did correspond in large parts with another account of a public ceremony staged at the Great Paris Exhibition of 1890. Mathers’ husband claimed that he and his wife were genuine Isis worshippers and also pantheists.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Golden Dawn was pioneering in insisting on admitting men and women on terms of perfect equality, because history of the time was written by men, there was a lot of focus on the Order’s male founders and not so much on its female members, such as Moina. Consequently there is not so much actually written about her comparatively speaking. Regarding details of her later life, she became ill in 1927, and passed on in 1928. What personal effects she had she left to her younger brother Paul Bergson. However her most important legacy – what she contributed to the Golden Dawn and subsequent Alpha Et Omega, suffered in 1939 when the then head of the AO burned the Order’s possessions, including a lot of furniture and papers which were painted or created by Moina.
I am indebted to the Hermetic Library for finding this news story. Apparently Watkins Books – one of London’s three leading occult bookstores – has been saved from closing. (This, if you recall, is the bookshop which I allege is the model for the one in Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.) Had it closed it would have been disastrous for the London – and UK – occult scene (I have patronised it myself on several occasions).
Full story here.
Watkins Books of Cecil Court, off Charing Cross Road, London, is no more. Apparently they were lumbered with a massive tax bill from a previous owner – that, together with the collapse of price fixing in the book trade has seen it and other independant book stores go to the wall.
Watkins for those that do not know was until last week one of London’ – and the UK’s – leading occult booksellers. I myself have been a customer there! Now this means there are only two decent occult bookshops left in London – Atlantis, and Treadwells.
What is not generally known is that Watkins was the model for the Wizard’s Bookshop Flourish and Botts from the Harry Potter series of novels! I present the following evidence to back up my claim:
- Diagon Alley is clearly stated as being off Charing Cross Road. There is a pub at its top (the Leaky Cauldron).
- Cecil Court is just off Charing Cross Road. There is a licensed restaurant at its top. So not exactly a pub, but you can drink there, and one has to remember that J K is entitled to some artistic license (no pun intended).
- Both Watkins and Flourish and Botts are the leading bookshops for Wizards.
So all in all, QED.