THE FEMININE CURRENT IN THE GOLDEN DAWN
(A version of this article first appeared in SWEEPINGS).
Many Wiccans and Pagans, whilst declaring themselves "eclectic" seem
to avoid the Golden Dawn like the plague. This is quite understanda-
ble, since on the face of it the GD seems to be counter to most of the
Pagan philosophies. (The open hostilities and down putting directed at
Wiccans that pour out of some GD practitioners does not help the
The GD Is often viewed as inflexible, patriarchal, authoritarian and
stuck up its own behind. A few Wiccans do practise the GD, but most of
these, I feel do so with the belief that the two are watertight compa-
rtments - that is Wicca is a religion and the GD a "system". Most
(including myself), if they confide in you will admit that they view
the GD as more "powerful" - at least in the magical as opposed to the
It is my aim here to show that the essence of the GD is not inherently
patriarchal and opposed to Pagan ideology. This I believe can be r-
eadily observed if we remember that the Hermetic Order of the Golden
Dawn was a late 19th century outward manifestation of a spiritual
system aeons old. The essence of the system would therefore be con-
tained within, but not altered by, and outward form that reflected
late 19th century western occult ideology. (Remember also that the GD
first emerged via Masonic sources and thus the outer form was heavily
coloured by that system.) This essence can however be readily "tapped
into". This will then help the magician avoid being trapped into
"believing" the GD's outer form. The essence I speak of is, of course,
On the face of it to say that the GD's essence is Goddess sounds
absurd. But please do not judge the GD book by its cover. Forget the
outer form, forget the Victorian pomposity, forget the props. Let's go
a little deeper.
First off, the original GD System relied heavily on its ceremonial in-
itiations. The process of initiation (even the mimicry of ritual
initiation) always involves a death and re-birth, which can only truly
occur via Goddess, since only the "female" force of the universe can
give birth. Thus straightaway we see that at the core of the GD is an
unrecognised Goddess force. To deny it is to say that either, a) the
GD initiations do not involve a re-birth; b) something other than Go-
ddess can give birth; or c) the GD initiations are not effective,
which anyone who has undergone them will heartily dispute.
Christopher S Hyatt, the main collaborator with the late Israel Regar-
die before his death, in a recent book - The Secrets of Western Tantra
- makes several hints which echo the views I express. Says Hyatt, when
tracing the link between the GD and the Tantric Goddess:
"...one attribute among many others which gives the whole show away is
the equality between male and female adepts." (p.69)
For a Masonically derived Order in Victorian England this was an unpr-
ecedented and daring move. Yet this had to, and did occur, since the
Order's essence is based firmly on Goddess and the co-equality of the
sexes. Looking a little more closely at the formation of the Order
will also show many other clues regarding the hidden Goddess essence.
Firstly, the leading light of the Order, S L MacGregor Mathers, was an
ardent supporter of the equality of the sexes and the young feminist
movement. In his introduction to "The Kabbalah Unveiled" he sets the
record straight concerning the nature of divinity:
"...the translators of the Bible have crowded out and smoothed up eve-
ry reference to the fact that Divinity is both masculine and femini-
ne... now we hear much of the Father and the Son, but we hear nothing
of the Mother in the ordinary religions of the day."
Presuming the hidden Goddess essence and following the mythology of
the Order, it becomes apparent why the "Secret Chiefs" chose such a
person to lead the GD. If the Order's essence was patriarchal they
would surely have chosen a different man.
Continuing with the examination we find that the Outer Order rituals
are based upon a set of cipher manuscripts. In those manuscripts, as
published in "The Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn", we
find the candidate is often referred to as "she". In an age when women
were still calling themselves "brothers" and "chairmen", this is
Further, the Order was chartered and given authority (ie, symbolic
life) by a woman (Sr SDA). Now admittedly serious doubt has been cast
upon this history, but regardless of whether the events occurred in
shared space-time or Westcott's mind, the symbolism is important - it
is a symbolic birth performed by a Goddess figure.
This theme is further developed in the naming of the first true GD
temple in England (and the initial temple of many GD Orders worldwide)
as the Isis-Urania temple. Thus the Order is visibly dedicated to, and
under the influence of, the Goddess. Behind all things, even GD t-
emples, is the Mother.
Before having a quick flick through Regardie's "The Golden Dawn" to
see what Goddess essence we can find there, let's pay attention to
some of the more prominent proteges of the Order. Firstly Mathers
himself went on to utilise his GD adeptship to develop, along with his
wife Moina, the Rites of Isis in Paris (the couple nearly always
worked as a partnership in their occult work.) Secondly Aleister Cr-
owley, despite his male ego, misogyny and viciousness went on to pr-
oduce a sort of Nuit "cult", using GD based techniques. Crowley him-
self is an excellent example of my point that inner essences do not
necessarily reflect outer forms and vice versa. It is hard to imagine
that such a person as Crowley (the man) could act as medium to such
Goddess inspired beauty as the closing paragraphs of the first chapter
of Liber Al vel Legis. Yet Goddess came forth anyway. Crowley, like
the GD was outwardly patriarchal, but contained the essence of God-
dess. There is no more Goddess inspired thealogy than Crowley's maxim,
"Do what Thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law".
Dion Fortune, initiate of the Stella Matutina, also used GD based tec-
hniques to help formulate her Pagan workings, the focus of which was
the Goddess Isis.
The most obvious evidence of Goddess in the GD is the Rose-Cross, the
symbol of the combined female and male forces. The GD's Inner Order,
the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis claimed a Rosicrucian lineage, and
the links between the Rosicrucians and Goddess have been detailed
beautifully by Gareth Knight in his book, "The Rose Cross and the
We come then to the GD tarot, and find it restoring the court cards to
an equal sexual balance based upon the Tetragrammaton. The male knave
(page) of the exoteric packs of the era was correctly replaced by the
female princess, symbolic of the Earth Goddess.
In Qabalistic philosophy we find the spirit of the Divine often refe-
rred to as Shekinah, which is seen as having a female essence. This is
shown clearly by Mathers when he correctly translates a passage from
the Sepher Yetzirah:
"...AChTh RVCh ALHIM ChIIM: Achath (feminine, not Achad, masculine)
Ruach Elohim Chiim; One is She the Spirit of the Elohim of Life."
This thealogy is followed in the GD. Israel Regardie shows this in his
ritual for Spiritual Advancement, which is based firmly upon the Z
documents of the Inner Order. Here he implores the Mother of Goddesses
and Gods (Aima Elohim) to aid him in his quest. Regardie even uses a
cauldron as a symbol of the Great Mother. This, believe it or not, is
not a Wiccan ritual, but pure Golden Dawn.
The main weapon of the RR et AC adept, the Lotus Wand, has embodied
within it much Goddess essence. It is described as, "...a simple wand
surmounted by the lotus flower of Isis. It symbolises the development
of creation." (The Golden Dawn, 5th ed. p224.) This indicates that the
creation of the Spirit, the Heavens and the Earth comes from the Great
Mother Isis. The wand also represents the Kundalini - a feminine
Goddess force. This to me is a beautiful tool, alive with Goddess,
much more so than the Wiccan athame (which is objected to by some
feminist Witches as being aggressive and masculine).
Finally let us return to initiations. The two most important init-
iations of the GD/RR et AC system, the Neophyte and the Adeptus Minor
ceremonies, both contain the hidden Goddess essence.
The Neophyte ceremony is based on the myth of the Slain and Risen
Osiris, where the candidate acts as the Slain Osiris. This myth ho-
wever is a later patriarchal rendition of the Ishtar and earlier Inna-
na myth of Goddess descending into the Underworld. The Goddess is thus
present deep within the archetypal theme of the ceremony. Further, the
act that seals the initiation proper, the final consecration, is
conducted by Officers representing "the Goddesses of the Scale of the
Balance". And as the badge of the grade is placed upon the new init-
iate, "... it is as the two Great Goddesses Isis and Nepthys, stret-
ched forth their wings over Osiris (the initiate) to restore him again
to life." The candidate is thus re-born to a fuller life by the power
The Adeptus Minor ceremony contains much Goddess essence quite openly.
The clearest example of this is the Vault of the Adepti, and obvious
symbol of the Womb of Goddess. As Regardie briefly points out in his
introduction to the Golden Dawn, the candidate is led through the Twin
Pillars which symbolise the vagina and into the womb itself. There she
returns to the Great Mother and is re-born and out through the vagina
once more. The symbolism is so obvious, so beautiful and so potent,
and I am surprised some Wiccan/Pagan group hasn't adapted the ceremony
in their own workings.
From the foregoing it can easily be seen that Goddess is alive and
well within the GD - at least in its essence. Sadly not many GD adepts
are aware of this. Most GD magicians get too caught up in the outer
form and potency of the system to notice where the energy and beauty
originate. I am not claiming that the GD is, or should be, a religion.
It is not, and its essence is not. The essence is however Goddess and
Her continuing manifestation in this world. If we are to remember and
consciously perceive this it will transform our GD work. Then the GD
will no longer be "dry" and without life - the perceptions most
Wiccans and natural Goddess worshippers intuitively feel.
For 100 years the Golden Dawn has concealed Her, the Mother of Light,
Life and Love. But now in this time when She is being worshipped by so
many in so many different ways, the Golden Dawn will at last reveal
its secret. And just as the Stone that the Builders rejected shall
become the Cornerstone of the Temple, so too shall Goddess become the
key to the 21st century manifestations of what is now the Golden Dawn.
The new Golden Dawn shall one day become as important as the Wiccan
movement in the collective invocation of Goddess. This process is
already beginning, and we can all take part in and promote it if we
Will. But whether we chose to or not, now is the time to bury the
false split between ceremonial and Pagan magic, for both are born of
the Mother and both will lead us back to her.
Next: Warriorship (Swein Runestaff W.o.W.)