We celebrate the birthday (or one of them) of one of the biggest movers and shakers of the world of Magick, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. He was born on either January 8 or 11, 1854, in England, and over the course of his very dynamic life, he was (among other things): a polyglot, familiar with French, Latin, Hebrew, Greek,and Gaelic; a Vegetarian, possibly Vegan (my Man!); an Anti-Vivisectionist (Huzzah!); an author, translator, Freemason, and of course, Adept Magician.
He is probably best known as the person who really made the Golden Dawn into the incredible Order we have come to marvel over.
The basis of the Order is written in manuscript form, in a cipher, and is cleverly known as the “Cipher Manuscript.” Not only written in a difficult system of symbols, the rituals and teachings therein were rather skeletal.
Once Mathers got a hold of them, they become epic rituals of Initiation, that combined Kabbalah, Astrology, Alchemy, Geomancy, Tarot, Eastern Esotericism, Ancient Egyptian Themes, to name a few.
Beautifully, the Golden Dawn was open to female membership, and Mathers’ wife, Moina was a very involved member; and the creator of the most popular Tarot deck in the world, Pamela Colman-Smith, was a future member. The Magical and Tarot teachings and practices of the Golden Dawn form much of what modern magicians practice, whether they know it or not.
Mathers and Moina moved to Paris, established a Lodge called Ahathoor (an Egyptian Mother and Love Goddess), and while living there also revived the worship of the Egyptian Goddess Isis, with public, theatrical Rituals.
In January of 1900, Mathers initiated Aleister Crowley to the Grade of Adeptus Minor. By then, the original Golden Dawn was suffering from very un-adeptlike infighting, and neither of them remained as members much longer.
Crowley published much of the Golden Dawn ritual material in his Equinox series, and Mathers took him to court back in England in attempt to block publication. Crowley won, and the press was very harsh on the elder Magician. He was also involved in another quite scandalous case wherein two swindlers, named Horos, while on trial, dragged his name back through the mud.
The Tarot teachings of the Golden Dawn were revealed in both the Equinox, and in the symbols of the Tarot deck by Pamela Colman-Smith. So the practice of Golden Dawn Magick was in the public eye, and for those interested in Inner Alchemy, the world was a more magical place.
The Order he helped build split into several factions spread across the globe, and in the late 30s, the Golden Dawn rituals and teachings, in somewhat altered, yet very complete form, were published by Israel Regardie, and thus made even more available to those willing to do the Great Work.
To get a real feel for these rituals (short of being Initiated into an existing Golden Dawn Order) their rhythm and power, I suggest recording yourself reading them. You can listen to them in order, to understand the upward development of an Initiate’s being, through the spheres on the Tree of Life.
But these books wouldn’t be published for two decades after his death, which was on either November 5 or 20, 1918.
I am a great admirer of Mathers’ work, particularly the Golden Dawn material. It is beautiful, of great depth, and a constant teacher. His translated works are also of great interest, as Gerald Gardner, the Father of Wicca, borrowed quite liberally from the Lesser Key of Solomon. In fact, Inner Circle Sanctuary still uses the consecrations of Water and Salt that Gardner took from this book, and adapted for Pagan use. Watch these consecrations here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF-a85vb-H4
The Book of Abramelin the Mage was also translated by Mathers, and is referenced by Thelemites (practitioners of the Law of Thelema, as taught by Aleister Crowley) as well as Occultists of almost every stripe. The goal of this very long (six months in Mathers’ translation) period of Ritual Work, is none other than the Knowledge and Conversation of one’s Holy Guardian Angel. Some people say this is an actual entity separate from the practitioner, while others relate it to the Higher Self. It is worth reading, and evaluating- do you have the dedication to accomplish it?
Which brings me to my final thought- would there be Thelema (and all the glorious people, organizations, and societal evolution that came with it) without Samuel Liddell Mathers? Similarly, would there be Wicca as we all know and love it, without the man.
Thankfully, we have these things, and I propose much is due to Mathers. Here’s to the memory of you, S.R.M.D.
Inner Circle Sanctuary
Inner Circle Sanctuary is a school for traditional style Wicca and holds eight sabbat festivals every year.