Things you thought were true about the GD but probably weren’t.
Things you thought were true about the GD but probably weren’t.

Things you thought were true about the GD but probably weren’t.

This article is a bit of fun and the list is not exhaustive. If anyone can think of others put them in the comments box
It is not called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

The “Golden Dawn” was never called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD).  That was invented by Regardie for his book.  The First Order was called the Golden Dawn in the Outer (GDO) although on some letterheads it was called the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn.  Hermetic Order does appear on some letter heads and course material but it was not the name of the Order.  I pointed this out in my book Making Talismans and one Order immediately changed its name.  Mathers wanted to call the AO the Golden Dawn but decided that the name was profaned by the Horos court case.  In the AO 0=0 he said that the Order was sometimes known as the Golden Dawn but that name has been profaned and we no longer use it.  He looked forward to the day that it was possible to drop the AO name and become Golden Dawn in the Outer again.  We guess once the name has been forgotten and no longer associated with sex scandals, cults, swindlers, law suits and serial liars…. good luck with that.

The Kerux has a Caduceus Wand
This is based on a misreading of Regardie’s Golden Dawn during the 1970’s by one of his students in the early days of the re-formation of the order. It has ended up in several books and repeated by several orders who claim they had nothing to do with Regardie. The Kerux carried a stick with three colours on it. You need it to be stick because you are barred during the ritual by each of the three colours. If the Kerux staff has a black and white snake on it you will have someone’s eye out.
Neophytes are taught the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram as their primary magical tool
In fact they are taught the invoking pentagram. The banishing pentagram is just a footnote in the original knowledge paper. Modern Golden Dawn orders hardly ever do the invoking pentagram and say that it is safety to banish first, even when they are doing an invoking ritual.
 It is not clear when the banishing replaced the invoking. The last Golden Dawn temple Whare Ra would perform a banishing before doing a working in space which had not been used for one before. It seems likely that that the banishing obsession comes from Wicca. Magically the invoking provides just as much protection as the banishing.  When you invoke you call upon the divine names and angels for protection, when you banish you are asking those names and angels to remove something for you.
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is elemental
The LRP has never been considered elemental by the Golden Dawn. Those who have read Regardie know that the you are drawing the invoking and banishing earth pentagram, but this was not a fact known to a Neophyte, nor indeed any of the outer order. When the information was first taught, the GD didn’t have a second order so the Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram system had not been developed. It was always designed to be a positive force (invoking) or a negative force (banishing).  This is more news to groups outside the Golden Dawn who use it to “open and close” ritual space.
The Tablet of the element is a like a talisman and the pentagrams should be drawn on them.
Whare Ra teachers were quite clear on this. The tablets were doorways and you drew your pentagrams through and behind them. In fact I was told that if you tried to invoke onto the tablet you got a belt of elemental force which was unbalanced.
The Golden Dawn ritual is colourful
Other than a few diagrams there was very little colour in the GD. The tablets were either black and white, or white and red lettering. The tarot cards were black and white most of the officers were black and white. This made the appearance of the vault even more memorable. The second order is full colour.
The elemental grade rituals do not use Godforms
While the 0=0 ritual had the Z documents which described the use of Godforms the elemental grades had little or nothing, at least written down in Regardie. This has lead some to believe that either the godforms are not used in the grades above 0=0 or that they were the same as the 0=0.
The 0=0 is based on the Temple of Maat and is therefore pretty specific. The use of those Godforms would not work in the others. It would be a bit like staging Hamlet using the same set and character’s from Antony and Cleopatra. Also some godforms are named.
There is no doubt that Mathers intended that there were godforms for the elemental grades. He even wrote a paper on the ones for the 1=10. The others are sort of mentioned by name in the rituals.
What seems to have happened is that the AO and SM and Whare Ra developed their own set of Godforms. These have been lost. Dion Fortune said that the godforms are the missing keys to understanding any ritual. It is fairly clear that each order must develop its own system of Godforms for the outer order.
The Golden Dawn used masks
This is based on a piece of the ritual which says “The priest who wears the mask of….” It has also appeared in a few of the 1980’s coffee table books about magic where the fact that the GD used it was a throwback to the magic of Ancient Greece. While masks are a good idea in the two rituals where they can be used, they are a pain in the arse. It requires you to limit your visibility.  It is hard to wear a nemyis.  If you have the masks on sticks you need more hands than Kali to  read a script and hold your elemental weapons and often shove candles or water into a candidate’s heart centre. Whare Ra did not use them and there is no indication that anyone else did either.
Wynn Westcott and Sam Mathers were initiates of the Golden Dawn
In fact neither of them is recorded having any form of initiation within the Golden Dawn system. The closest either of them came was to take up the cross of suffering during Corpus Christie. Apparently Mathers did it first and was too scared to do it again, Westcott did it next and he faced the same problem (I can’t think why,  it is not so bad once you are up). They off-loaded the job on minions there after. While they may have initiated people into the system they never experienced it for themselves. This makes the second generation of Golden Dawn people more significant than the founders who never experienced it.
Westcott had to quit the GD because Mathers hid some second order papers with Wyn’s name and address on them in a taxi.
Westcott did quit (temporarily) because of personal problems (something to do with not working with women for a while). However he did say that someone had been contacting his work and was out to get him but never said what the problem was.
Just before he quit he was “promoted” with a key title by Mathers. This strange and unnecessary if Mathers was going to frame him. The story was coined by Crowley many years after the fact and was probably made up. The quote was that he was “paid to sit on stiffs not raise them” is pure Crowley.
Crowley might have received it from Mathers (who made it up) but it was not true. It is incredibly unlikely that Mathers would have profaned his own material by giving it to the great unwashed. When he joined Mathers’s AO, Westcott had his name and address put on the AO labels so that if someone died the material would be returned to him. Hardly wise if his employers had made him choose between his job as a coroner and the Golden Dawn. Anyway at the time Westcott was the head of Soc Ros. Given that masons populated all levels of the establishment it is unlikely that any of them would have objected to a group that met in Mark Mason’s Hall.

Mathers was a virgin
Mina Mathers was terrified of sex. Even by standards of Victorian society she was completely frigid. When she discovered that sex was how she was born she could not look at her “parents the same way ever again”.
Consequently she made a bit thing about telling everyone that both her and Sam “kept themselves pure”. The downside was Sam never got the memo. While in Paris, he was poking the maid. It is not being judgemental to say this, the set up was just as hypocritical as the rest of Victorian/ Edwardian society.  Sex with one’s wife was supposed to be a chaste experience while your average male was supposed to be out whoring.
Sam’s working relationship with the staff  was discovered when a member from London visited Paris and apparently the house was in an uproar because Sam had been caught out. The incident was circulated with some amusement among London members and ended up recorded in the Waite papers.  As far as I am aware no one ever asked Sam “are you a virgin?… if it is not a personal question” and no one would dare to ask Mina.
Israel Regardie was an expert on the Golden Dawn rituals
Regardie said that he only attended seven rituals within the Bristol Temple. It is fairly likely that he was not even initiated into the 0=0, but that the Bristol temple accepted his initiation into an American order which had a warrant from Westcott and was using the 0=0 ritual copied from Crowley’s Equinox. Most of the information Regardie learnt from Bristol was through letters and while it was clear he worked very hard on the material he did not get much ritual experience in the system. He never did an officer’s role in Bristol. Anyone who has worked the system will tell you that the system is lived in practice. Regardie carried out three 0-0 initiations in the late 1970s as Hierophant. That was the only temple experience he had.
Bristol was using cut down rituals at the time and, according to Regardie, their ritual skills were not up to much. He did not think much of the Golden Dawn rituals and for most of his life advocated doing the 0=0 and then making the student do Watchtower rituals before the Portal and then the 5=6. Many have assumed that Regardie got most of his Golden Dawn expertise from Crowley. Regardie said that the Great Beast never taught him any magic.
Israel Regardie was a 7=4
Regardie only gained a 5=6 when he left the Bristol Temple. Before his death, when he visited Pat Zalewski in New Zealand, Pat awarded him a 6=5 in recognition of his service to the Order. Over his remaining years Pat used to promote and demote Regardie to 7=4 as a joke between them. When Regardie died they gave him an honorary 7=4 and this was published in the Falcon Press Edition. Regardie was not ever a 7=4 in the Bristol Temple.
The Golden Dawn and AO carried out initiation rituals above 5=6
In Whare Ra there were 6=5 and 7=4 initiations. These were rare and even rarer were the 8=3 and 9=2. However at least they existed. Although Mathers appears to have written a 6=5 and 7=4 ritual for his AO there is no proof that it was ever used. Before Sam’s death, admission to the 6=5 (at least) was by cheque. The earliest AO ritual mentions 6=5 and 7=4 in the 0=0 but the set of material stops at the 5=6. Although there were temple chiefs that held the 7=4 rank, there were no reports of an initiation ceremony being involved. Indeed some AO members travelled to New Zealand to have an initiation into the 6=5 and 7=4.
In the Golden Dawn and the rebel temples there were no 6=5 or 7=4 rituals. People held these titles but they appeared to have been awarded without an initiation. This is similar to the 5=6 grade which was also “awarded” before the inner order was created.
The Golden Dawn had a tarot deck for divination
Despite the fact that its system has influenced Tarot for nearly a century, the Golden Dawn didn’t have a deck of its own. The Trumps for the initiation were drawn in Black and White and adepts were expected to colour them in when they had been given the colouring instructions. But this is only half the Major Arcana.
For divination most used the Marseilles deck for divination until the Waite deck appeared on the scene. Felkin was aware of the problem and asked Westcott to design him a deck. This was done in black and white and was supposed to be coloured. The prototype was on little yellow cards and adepts were expected to draw their own from that template. This appears to have happened in the SM and Whare Ra but not in the AO. When Builders of the Adytum set up in New Zealand Whare Ra members were allowed to join at their existing grades. Since BOTA had a good colourable tarot deck many of them used that. A complete deck suitable for divination didn’t appear until the 1980s with the Regardie/ Wang deck. A complete deck for use for everything did not happen until Tabatha Cicero’s deck.
Westcott Forged the Cipher Manuscripts
This old chestnut comes up when people have only read people who have glanced at the Magicians of the Golden Dawn. Westcott never forged the Cipher documents although he did translate them. These documents provided the outline for the order with the grades from 0=0 to 4=7. The cipher outline was enough for Mathers to knock together a passable ritual. These ciphers were not forged and have been fairly accurately sourced to a leading mason called McKenzie.
What Westcott has alleged to have forged were the letters between Fräulein Sprengel’s and himself which gave him permission to establish the Order based on the Cipher manuscripts and the right to initiate. He was also charged with forging her signature on the Warrant of the Isis-Urania Temple. The evidence from Howe is not bad and enables him to dismiss the entire Golden Dawn tradition as based on forgery.
Of course, to modern non-masonic minds this is total rubbish. An order stands or falls on the ability of its teachers and teachings. It is hard to find a single Magical Order anywhere which was formed in a “correct way”.
However to the masonic mind you need permission from someone above you in the food chain to give you the right to initiate. Howe does have a point that Sprengel was “too convenient” for Westcott.
However Howe is not conclusive in his evidence that Westcott did invent Sprengel. He points to the fact that the letters included phrases and writing which indicated that they were written by an English person who knew German. What is strange then, if it were a forgery, that Westcott made such a pig’s ear of it. Surely someone with his connections could have found a better forger? From most sane people’s perspective the Cipher documents alone provide enough of a template for the order to be formed correctly. Springel was a minor part of the story. The concept that it needed lineage belongs to a hide bound tradition that should have died out about the same time when the GD admitted women into its ranks.
Fräulein Sprengel’s first name was Anna
This is a myth which comes from Dr Felkin’s enthusiastic and at times hair brained researches into GD history before the First World War. In all the letters and documents connected with Sprengel she has no first name. Felkin however found the name Anna when he was convinced he found the Secret Order behind the GD. Although his discoveries, along with the real vault of CRC did not pan out to much, the name Anna was forever associated with Fräulein Sprengel. . Amusingly it has even been assumed that Westcott invented the name “Anna” from Anna Kingsford who ran the western hermetic branch of the Theosophical Society. In fact she never was an Anna in the first place.

The publication of Regardie’s book caused the GD to close down
The Golden Dawn book hit the shops in 1939 Bristol carried on until the death of the last Adept in the 1970s, although they stopped initiating long before that. Whare Ra closed in 1978. Only the AO’s London Temple closed soon after the Second World War and that was less to do with Regardie’s book and more to do with falling membership. People are not often aware that although the GD book was important it was a complete flop and suffered from a minimal distribution. It was not until the book was bought by Llewellyn in the 1960s and the occult boom happened that it started to get the attention it deserved.
It would have been great to be in the Golden Dawn or Whare Ra
The original Golden Dawn was nothing more than a Masonic side order that admitted women, radical for its time but nothing to see here move on please. It became more interesting when Mathers provided the Z documents and made the rituals magical. Then the second generation of people who benefited from the system came into their own as Magicians. These were the Florence Farrs, the WB Yeats, Edward Berridge, Crowley and Brodie Innes. However even that dated.
My experience with Whare Ra was that the Golden Dawn was not enough for them. They took the system as far as it could go and then started to branch out into other areas. The temple set up was incredibly secretive and people carried this obsession to their grave. If two Whare Ra people met each other in the street they would ignore each other. If one dared to greet another they would lift their nose up and walk away.
Dr Felkin was famous in Havelock North because of his masonic and medical connections and his strange house. When I first moved to Havelock North I wrote the obituary for the last chief of Whare Ra. I didn’t know that of course. I covered his death as if it was the Mayor of Havelock North (which he was). In the process of researching the article I rang through whose who of Whare Ra people to ask them about the guy. No one thought to mention his connection with Whare Ra.
Later when I started finding out about Whare Ra people I rang all these people again. I discovered if you asked a direct question you could “sometimes” get an answer.
While there is no doubt that it would have been interesting to know what they knew about the Golden Dawn there was a reason that the order closed. It had lost touch with the world around it and the sort of approach to magic that was developing. It survived as long as it did in New Zealand because the country was a backwater away from the rest of the world. Even New Zealand had to change and despite a conservative backlash in the late 1970s and Early 80s it changed radically. Edwardian Orders do not work that well in that environment.
I find it interesting that as Whare Ra was closing Regardie was helping Chic Cicero and Adam Forrest form the HOGD. With the books that Chic produced based around Regardie’s the Order managed to survive 21st century. Some of the important material from Whare Ra has been saved and this is now coming back into the modern Order. People like Pat Zalewski and Perigrin Wildoak are making new information available. This is keeping the GD refreshed and relevant.
It is fair to say that many modern people who apply to join the Aurora Aurea would not have been accepted in any Golden Dawn Order in any period. Modern students expect everything to be done for them, preferably for free, and if they don’t get cosmic consciousness by next Tuesday they will slag you off on the internet. The idea behind the Golden Dawn is that you work and many modern magicians can’t do that.

It was impossible for a GD temple to ban women
Although a 5=6 adept swore to keep the balance of sexes in a Golden Dawn temple, masonic sexism still was a powerful force within the early order.  One technique that the misogynists used was to set up temples that had people “pre-trained” effectively this meant only master masons were admitted.  There were a couple of goes at setting this up the most successful was the Bradford Temple.  “You know we never thought that by making a requirement that members being master masons we were keeping women out… never mind…. oath… yes but we have made a requirement that we are all master masons and “The Ladies” don’t have trouser legs to roll up and it does not do to bare their breasts”  Fortunately this attitude was rare.  The Golden Dawn still remained a game changer in this regard.
Bram Stoker  a member of the Golden Dawn

No he wasn’t. He might have known Pam Coleman Smith but she was not a member of the Golden Dawn either.  So people wanting a place where they can be vampires will probably not find their home in the Golden Dawn.  Besides Dawn is not a good place for a Vampire to be… you tend to be all smoking shoes and dust clouds.


  1. GREAT and wonderful post Nick! Thank you; a definite referal page for me to pass on to folk. Just make sure you keep the permalink 🙂

    Just a quick point – from memory (at work)I seem to recall letters between Regardie and Dion Fortune in Gareth Knight’s Dion biog. These show Dion and Penry Evans planning to and making a trip to Regardie’s 0=0. Unless I am mistaken or it was another initiation. Have you seen this letters? Ta 🙂

    I think the most important part of this post is how the older Orders were (a) not full of wonder and magic and all things nice and (b) cannot work today. Thanks 🙂

  2. By elemental I meant air in the east, fire in the south, water in the west, earth in the North.
    I agree that they were taught both, but the Invoking was the prime one (which is why it was the main one listed in the Knowlege paper ONE) … in most modern GD groups the invoking is hardly ever used. Whare Ra was taught to do a banishing on unfamilair space too. But nothing like what we did in HOGD.

    Whare Ra might have had them in the Z1 but they didn’t use masks.

  3. Great article! I have often wondered about the origin of the GD and thought 3 Masons dug up some rituals that the Masons stopped using and began their own order. Due to vows of secrecy and possibly to save face of the Masonic Lodge, they created a cover story as to where the material came from.
    En Pax,
    Puer Aeternus

  4. Why would you connect the emphasis on the banishing form of the Pentagram Ritual to Wicca? It’s quite clear that a Wiccan circle is opened with invoking pentagrams and closed with banishing pentagrams. This puts the emphasis on the invoking form.

    In fact, in my coven*, we frequently “extend” the circle at the end of the ritual, rather than close it. We don’t use any pentagrams when extending.

    *Whether we are “Wicca” depends on how narrowly one defines Wicca.

  5. I wonder if the reason Mathers and Westcott were uncomfortable on the Cross of Obligation in the Corpus Christi ritual was because they hadn’t had the experience of being on it in the initiation. Perhaps the egregore was poking at them suggesting that they needed to go through the initiatory rituals themselves as candidates?

  6. Here’s another false rumor: the Golden Dawn was (is) a Christian Order.

    Chic once told me that Regardie told *him* that the GD was clearly a Pagan magical order. In all of the Cipher Manuscripts, “Christ” is mentioned only once, as a reference to something else. All the godforms described are Pagan ones. The early GD was obsessed with ancient Pagan religions (Egyptian, Hellenic, Jainist, ‘Hindoo’).

    Certainly the early members thought of themselves as nominally Christian, in the sense they were *culturally* Christian (belonging to the CoE was pretty much bestowed at birth in those days) but Christian theology was clearly not their passion. They were Neo-Romantics. Mathers and Westcott could have framed the Cipher rituals in Christian mythology, but they didn’t, they chose Pagan Egypt as the model.

    Which brings us to another false rumor: that the Hall of Double Truth, as described in the Ani Papyrus, is the foundation of the 0=0 Hall. That was an invention of Mathers and Westcott. The Ciphers don’t mention any godforms by name at all. The Officers are described as archetypes, not “gods” of any pantheon. Yeats was creating a version of the 0=0 using the Irish Heroes (I don’t think he ever finished it though.) One could devise 0=0 Halls using any number of pantheons. One could devise a 0=0 based on Alice-in-Wonderland, Star Wars or Sailor Moon, for that matter. This is the beauty of the 0=0 – it’s a broad framework which can fit many interpretations.

  7. Oh, here’s another one:

    The early Order never called themselves “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.” That was another Regardie invention.

    They were the “Order of the Golden Dawn” or later the “Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn.”

  8. Gardner had AO documents which he got from Doreen Valentine. He was not a member of the order (neither was she). She picked them up from a person whose partner had been in the AO and died in the 1950s. It is fair to say they probably influenced her more than him but he borrowed them and used them. She never got them back

  9. Interesting facto concerning the link between Gardner and Doreen Valiente. Many people have already remarked on the possible links to many of Gardner’s earlier rituals to OTO and a series of letters exchanged between Gardner and Crowley.

    One of the interesting things I find is that generally speaking concerning the LRP and it’s various renditions is that most people attempting to provide an evolutionary track are doing so from the mindset of a scholar. This means we look for documents and tangible proof. I would have issue with this because it’s not how groups grow. They tend to be more organic than that. For instance Wicca’s use of the LBRP could be simply to do with many Wiccan “scholars” researching and finding references and attempting to work out their import into their system. It may not have come from documents but from oral teachings from those in the know or from published material on ceremonialism.

    Also Bram’s Dracula and vampires could go out in daylight it just wasn’t their natural time. The issue was in crossing water so before air travel needed to be carried in Transylvanian soil.

  10. Interesting you bring up Dracula and air travel. In the original play that was adapted from the novel in the 1920s (which led to Lugosi’s fame and his subsequent casting in the film) the story was updated to “the present” and it was mentioned by Van Helsing that Dracula was able to finally escape from Transylvania because of air travel – he could cross the distance from his castle to London “in a single night!”

  11. Calling Mathers a “drooling looney” does not make him one, his maniacal behavior makes him one. Journalism is not yellow when it’s accurate. You’re right David, it’s just your opinion 🙂

  12. Ok, here is one of my favorites:

    “The 0=0 makes use of pagan Egyptian gods.”

    Not true! The Z Documents assign Coptic names to these godforms, not ancient Khemetic names. (For example, the Hiereus invokes Hoor, not Heru!) These Coptic names arise from the Egyptian period after Alexander the Great invaded and put an end to the ancient Khemetic dynasties. The magick and mystery that had pervaded the land went underground, and became the basis for later mystery cults such as the Coptic Gnostics. (See the Greek Magical Papyri.)

    The Coptic Gnostics (and the proto-gnostics who preceded them) drew much from ancient Egypt, but mixed it liberally with Judaism, the early stirrings of Hermeticism and early Christianity as well. Many of the old Egyptian Gods were revived as “the older forms” of figures like Christ (Osiris) and his Archangels.

    It was this Coptic-Gnostic panetheon the Golden Dawn was drawing from. Thus the “Egyptian Gods” seen throughout the 0=0 are in fact Coptic Archangels. They are closer to being Gnostic than pagan Egyptian.

  13. Hi Aaron
    It seems to more likely (and I am sure I read it somewhere) that they used the Coptic form as that made it easier to get the pronunciation of the the Egyptian God names (more) correct – Coptic being the closest language to the ancient Egyptian that we know how to pronounce. If the Egyptian Gods were considered by the Golden Dawn founders as merely Coptic Archangels, then why are they referred to it in the Z1 document (where they first introduced) literally as “Gods” and “Goddess”?… and they are also spelled (in the Z1) not always as their Coptic form, but often in their standard Graeco-Egyptian form, eg “Isis” and “Osiris”, etc. Anyway, even aside from this, if these God-forms/Archangels were “Gnostic” and “Coptic” it would only be yet more evidence to show how much the Gnostics/Coptics drew their ideas from the ancient “pagan” Egyptians. “Pagan” is an relevant term, by the way; for the ancient Egyptians, the later coptic and gnostic religions would be seen as pagan – that is: outside the normal system of established religious worship.

    in LVX,
    Soror SD

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