Greetings fellow Pagans!
I was recently invited to give a lecture on “ceremonial magick” to a local group of second degree Wiccans. After accepting the invitation, I took some time to consider what direction such a lecture should take. What about ceremonial magick would interest them, and how could I present it in a manner to which they could relate?
The answer came quickly enough: I would give them a condensed history lesson about the Western Mystery Tradition – covering the development of Hermeticism, the Hebrew and later Christian Qabalah, Rosicrucianism, Masonry, the Golden Dawn and Thelema. Finally, all of this would culminate in a discussion about the rise of Wicca and its interrelationship with all of the above.
In the lecture, I pointed out the influence of the Golden Dawn in Wicca’s magickal methods – such as circle castings, pentagrams, Watchtower guardians, the four Elements, etc. I discussed the impact of Regardie’s publication of ‘The Golden Dawn’ on mid-twentieth century occultism (Neo-paganism included). And I even discussed Gerald Gardner’s association with Thelema – drawing much from my old Thelemic Origins of Wicca essay.
Overall, I’d call the event a resounding success, and it looks like I’m going to have to come up with some ideas for a future lecture for the same group.
Meanwhile, in the days since the event I have discovered there is something in the air about this subject. I just received the latest edition of Hermetic Virtues Magazine, and wouldn’t you know it included a wonderful essay by Peregrin Wildoak entitled The Influence of the Golden Dawn in Wicca. I have been wanting to write that very essay for many years – but it looks like Peregrin beat me to it, and did it better than I would have done. I forwarded a copy to the Wiccan priestess who organized my lecture, so she could offer it as “further reading” to her students. (I also recommend you get a copy of the latest Hermetic Virtues to check it out!)
I sent a message to Peregrin, offering my kudos and asking if he had ever read my Thelemic Origins… essay. He said he had indeed read it, and even brought it up in a related lecture he had given: The Influence of Aleister Crowley on the Development of Wicca. Let me quote his reply here:
thanks for this
Yes, I read your very interesting article…and politely disagreed with its central thesis in another recent lecture Would love a counter argument if you wish
That certainly piqued my interest. I doubted he disagreed with my premise of a Thelemic influence upon the development of Wicca. So I read his essay to find his specific point of dissent. I discovered a quote from my essay in a section entitled Myth Number 3 – Wicca as an Outer Court to the OTO or a Thelemic Vehicle:
“I’ve come to understand that Gerald Gardner intended from the very beginning for Wicca to be a largely Thelemic system.”
Having read the entire article, I think I understand where Preegrin disagrees with my statement. The above quote could be taken in one of two ways: Either I understand Wicca was intended as an organizational Thelemeic (that is, OTO) vehicle, or that it was a philosophical Thelemic vehicle.
In fact, I meant the latter. I am not among those who have suspected Wicca was intended as an outer court to the OTO, or even an “OTO for the masses.” Instead, my view is that Wicca was (to an extent) built upon Thelemic philosophy.
Of course, Peregrin also disagrees with that premise – and to prove it he cites several departures from (or in some cases the absence of) Thelemic philosophy in the Wiccan religion. And he is correct – such departures and absences do exist, and he does a fine job of pointing them out.
However, to play devil’s advocate, I would also point out that Thelema was intended to be a highly individualized philosophy. Are not those who dissect the Book of the Law and nit-pick specific points of Thelemic philosophy supposed to be “centers of pestilence”? Is it not the one cardinal rule of Thelema that one should follow his own True Will no matter what? Given this nature of the system, I don’t find it so hard to believe that Gerald Gardner felt at liberty to take Wicca in directions that might conflict with any of Crowley’s writings.
Still, I will admit my statement that Wicca was intended as “a Thelemic system” might have been over-stating the case to some extent. (That essay was one of my earliest pieces, and not an example of my best writing.) I certainly don’t view Wicca as just Thelema with Neo-pagan overlay.
However, the influence of Thelema and its philosophies upon Gardner cannot be denied. (Nor, to be fair, does Peregrin attempt to deny them in his essay.) I see more of Thelema in Wicca than the mere “fleshing out of sparse material” that Gardner claimed it to be. I believe Gardner’s occultism was heavily Crowley-influenced – first through Crowley’s published writings, then during Gardner’s time with the OTO – and that this formed the foundation upon which Wicca was ultimately constructed. (Much in the manner that Thelema is founded upon Golden Dawn principles, while it is not “Golden Dawn” in and of itself.)
Though, it is true that Gardner was taking Wicca in directions that often left the greater Thelemic system behind, and that Doreen Valiente took it even further afield. I suspect the apparent disagreement between me and Peregrim Wildoak on this issue is largely one of semantics.
Greetings to my students!
After I gave my Ceremonial Magick classes in North Carolina (six classes of material packed into two sessions!), one of my students asked me to take her to the store’s bookshelves and show her my best recommendations for further reading. Now, back home in Florida, we are reaching the last few classes of the course – where we finally begin to take all the basic rituals, correspondences and theory and put them together in rituals of practical magick. Once we are done, I suspct my current students are also going to want resources for further reading and study.
Even outside of my classes, I know many of you reading this blog are solitary practitioners. And I’m sure you would also like to know which books I recommend to futher your understanding of the Western Mystery Tradition and the practice of Hermetic Ceremonial Magick.
So, I’ve made this blog entry for both groups of students and practitioners. Much like the post I made concerning books about Babylonian and Semitic myth and magick, I will here gather the titles that I have found most useful in my own Ceremonial Magick studies – both when I was a solitary seeker and even still today.
We are very fortunate today, in that we have dozens of great resources that seekers in previous generations have had to do without. I hope you will find this list useful in your studies.
The Essential Golden Dawn : An Introduction to High Magic - Chic and Tabatha Cicero
A great general introduction to the Western Mystery Tradition as a whole. It traces the historical development of the WMT and introduces the student to many of the basic theories and philosophies behind our magick. Some of the basic rituals are also included.
Modern Magick: Twelve Lessons in the High Magickal Arts – Donald Michael Kraig
This is where it all started for me! When I was handed my first copy of this book, I was already practicing my own intuitive forms of magick (much akin to Hoodoo, really). But after just one look inside this book, I knew I had found something vastly important and powerful. I made up my mind then and there to put myself through the (at the time) Eleven Lessons – and the rest is history. This is not specifically a “Golden Dawn” text, but it does focus on Golden Dawn rituals and techniques, and I highly recommend it as an introduction to the practical side of the Hermetic Arts.
Self-Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group – Chic and Tabatha Cicero
The Ciceros created this resource with the solitary practitioner in mind. They gathered a very large amount of the Grade curriculum of the Outer Order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, then expanded it with extra-curricular study material. Then they created a ritual process of Self Initiation by which the solitary seeker can progress through the Grade material. The Self Initiation rituals will certainly not make you a member of an Order, but they will introduce you to the forces invoked in each Grade of the Outer Order. There are even quizzes at the end of each Grade, so you’ll know when you’ve incorperated enough knowledge to move on to the lessons of the next Grade. This textbook is so useful, it is even used as a study guide by students of the H.O.G.D. itself.
Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple – Chic and Tabatha Cicero
There have been several different editions of this text under different names. You can also find the material split between Creating Magical Tools and Ritual Use of Magical Tools. The above-linked version is the one I found and used many many years ago – in fact I think it was the first Cicero book I ever owned. It outlines in exhaustive detail how to build all the tools, furniture, robes, talismans and other ritual paraphernalia associated with Golden Dawn magick. Though you certainly won’t have to build everything you find in this book to practice at home, it contains enough to set up a fully functioning Traditional G.D. Temple. Plus, it gives you the magickal theory behind each tool along with the rituals to conscrate and use them.
The Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot – Tabatha Cicero and Chic Cicero
This is a Tarot Deck, but it does come with a book. If you’re going to get into Golden Dawn magick, you’re going to be using the Tarot. And this deck is specially made for use in Golden Dawn ceremonies. (I still prefer the Smith-Waite deck for divinations, but this deck can’t be beat for G.D. work!)
The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order – edited by Israel Regardie
This is where it all started – at least for those of us practicing the Golden Dawn today. After 1900, the original Order of the Golden Dawn split into several different groups. One of them became the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, which still exists today. Another became the Alpha et Omega, which closed its doors sometime in the 1940s. And another became the Stella Matutina – which was the branch joined by Israel Regardie. The Stella Matutina closed most of its doors in the middle of the 2oth century. (Only one Temple remained, but it had changed its name to the Order of Smaragdum Thallasses – better known as the Whare Ra Temple – and operated secretly in New Zealand until 1978.) Before the bulk of the Stella Matutina Temples died away, Israel Regardie decided to save the Tradition by publishing the Order’s papers. This decision was controversial, but most today agree that it saved the Golden Dawn. This book is that publication – so you can see for yourself where it all began. This was the book used by Chic Cicero to found his own Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – which is by far the world’s largest and most successful Golden Dawn Order today. This book also serves as the “advanced manual” that takes you to the next step beyond the Ciceros’ Self Initiation… book.
The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic – edited by Israel Regardie
A good companion volume to The Golden Dawn above. This book contains a lot of early Golden Dawn material that didn’t make it into the first book.
A Garden of Pomegranates: Skrying on the Tree of Life – Israel Regardie, Chic and Tabatha Cicero
This is one of the books by Israel Regardie that the Ciceros greatly expanded and then republished for the modern student. It is an excellent exploration of the Tree of Life and the magickal and Hermetic concepts that it embodies. In my intro classes, I give you the basics of the Tree of Life – but this text will take you to the next level and beyond. It includes guided meditations to introduce you to the energies, correspondences, angels and other magickal beings associated with every Sephirah and Path of the Tree.
The Middle Pillar: The Balance Between Mind and Magic – Israel Regardie, Chic and Tabatha Cicero
The is another Israel Regardie original, expanded and republished by the Ciceros. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorites. It outlines the psychological aspects of Qabalistic and Hermetic practice – that is how the material interfaces with and changes your psyche. While I am no fan of the “psychological theory of magick” that does not mean there is no psychology at all involved in its theory and practice. I describe it this way: Magick is not “a form of psychology” any more than an engine is “a car.” Yet, without an engine a car is just a dead thing and doesn’t get you anywhere. How magick affects your mind, and how your mind affects your magick, it extremely important to understand.
Godwin’s Cabalistic Encyclopedia – David Godwin
This is a wonderfully useful resource for anyone studying the Western Hermetic Qabalah. Godwin has gathered every Hebrew name and term he could find, given them in English and Hebrew characters, their Gematira values and explained what they mean. As an appendix, he has also included a copy of “Sepher Sephiroth” – which gathers even more Hebrew words and phrases according to their Gematria values. (Kind of a 777 for the Golden Dawn crowd.)
Prometheus Rising – Robert Anton Wilson, Introduced by Israel Regardie.
And speaking of understanding psychology, this book is an absolute must-read. It is an easy-to-understand operator’s manual for your brain – complete with exercises. And the concepts it teaches are, as I said above, extremely important to your own spirutal development and your successful use of that thing called Magick. ( I drew upon the material in this book in my own Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires.)
Ishtar Rising: Or, Why the Goddess Went to Hell and What to Expect Now That She’s Returning – Robert Anton Wilson
See above. I consider this to be the second half of Prometheus Rising. And, as the title suggests, this book focuses upon the sacred feminine within all of us – and even explains why magick and witchcraft have returned to our culture in a big way. Highly recommended!
(NOTE: I will soon be adding a list of traditional Qabalistic texts to this list, such as the Zohar and Sepher Yetzirah. Stay tuned.)
The following books were not part of my own early studies into Ceremonial magick, but I believe they are potentially useful to today’s students:
Experiencing the Kabbalah: A Simple Guide to Spiritual Wholeness – Chic and Tabatha Cicero
“Kabbalah, a spiritual system grounded in symmetry and logic, is rarely addressed in a format that is suitable for beginners. Experiencing the Kabbalah goes against the trend, however, by presenting both historical and practical information on the Kabbalah that focuses on experiencing this ancient spiritual system rather than just reading about it. Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero accomplish this through a sort of ritual drama that they call “Walking the Tree of Life.” It characterizes each Sephiroth (different aspects of the divine) of the Kabbalah as a person, from the stable Malkuth to the enigmatic Kether, granting readers a fuller understanding of the Sephiroth and the paths between them. Experiencing the Kabbalah is an innovative guide for beginners as well as informative reading for adept practitioners.”
Making Talismans: Living Entities of Power – Nick Farrell
“Discover the secret keys and practical techniques to turn mundane objects into “living entities of power,” bringing real change in your life. By pooling magical practices from shamanism, paganism, the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn, and Dion Fortune, Making Talismans offers training and techniques for performing advanced magical talismanic operations.”
King Over the Water: Samuel Mathers and the Golden Dawn - Nick Farrell
If you are interested in the history of the Golden Dawn, this is a great place to start. This book explores the life and times one of the founders of the G.D. without the usual lens of myth and legend surrounding him. Spoiler alert! Mathers was a fallible human being like the rest of us.
Mathers’ Last Secret REVISED – The Rituals and Teachings of the Alpha et Omega – Nick Farrell
The Alpha et Omega is the branch of the Order founded by Mathers after the original group split apart. This book is a good companion to King Over the Water, as well as Regardie’s The Golden Dawn. It contains the rituals used by Mathers’ A.O. before it closed its doors in the 1940s. Here, you can see how things were done in the A.O. as opposed to what the Stella Matutina was up to on their side of the fence.
By Names and Images: Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life – Peregrin Wildoak
“The Golden Dawn (GD) system of magic is the main source of the esoteric and magical wisdom and techniques practiced in the West today. While the rituals and bare teachings of the tradition have been published for sixty years, the inner workings and esoteric keys that empower those rituals have largely remained unpublished or unexplored in contemporary works. By Names and Images remedies this lack by providing detailed and clear instructions for the visualisations, spiritual connections and energetic practices required for every major GD practice and ritual, as well as several unpublished techniques. Focusing on the meanings and use of sacred names and practical techniques of visualisation, the book thoroughly explores meditation and divination, purification ritual, invocation and evocation, grades of initiation, and direct experience of the inner realms. Also covered is an explanation of the Qabalah and its use as a magical framework. While the book is sufficiently practical and clearly explained to be of huge benefit to a newcomer to magic, its primary aim is to allow people already practicing the Golden Dawn system to do so more effectively, and to be touched by the amazing spiritual blessings the rituals offer.”
This list is certainly not exhaustive – I could have included many further books by authors like Pat Zalewski, John Michael Greer and others. And I could have included even more by authors like the Ciceros and Donald Michael Kraig. However, I think this list is certainly more than enough to give you a sound start and a well-rounded understanding of the Golden Dawn and its magickal tradition. It will also help you to avoid wasting your time and money on books that are of lesser quality, or just re-hashes of what has already been written by the fine authors listed above.
There is also a lot of good material still in the works, too – so I’ll likely be expanding this list in the future. Meanwhile, if this list isn’t enough to keep you occupied, check out this post listing the best Golden Dawn, Hermetic and Rosicrucian blogs out there – so you can keep your eyes on the ever-developing Western Mystery Tradition.
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Greetings Avid Readers!
The latest edition of Hermetic Virtues is finally out! It was published on June 24th, in order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the consecration of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s Vault of the Adepti. It even includes the very same signed announcement I published here (and which has appeared on blogs and forums across the ‘net).
And what’s more, it also includes an essay by yours truly called Two Thrones for the Golden Dawn. In the essay, I discuss the mythical structure of the Hall of the Neophytes and why we place the Coptic-Egyptian godforms in their traditional positions. Some groups have made changes to these godforms (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but I explain exactly why we choose to keep them where they where in 1888 when the original Order was founded. (What can I say? The HOGD is a traditional Order.)
I am especially proud of this essay because Tabatha Cicero made reference to an earlier version of it in a piece she wrote for the latest edition of the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. In fact, her essay is what prompted me to get this one completed and published at last.
There are also essays and reviews by such big names as Chic Cicero (HOGD), John Michael Greer (DOGD), Nick Farrell (MOAA), Sam Scarborough (OSM), Jayne Gibson (HOGD), Eric Sisco (SRICF) and many more. If you want to see a great review of the entire magazine, check out Peregrin Wildoak’s blog.
If you get a chance, make sure to drop a note of congratulations to the Hermetic Virtues team and give them kudos for their own five year anniversary. We haven’t seen a magazine of this caliber since Gnosis – so let’s hope they stay around for decades!