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The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Doctrines A candidate for admission into the Golden Dawn had to acknowledge his or her belief in the existence of a 'supreme being', but the old Pagan gods were very welcome. Indeed, the Golden Dawn formulae for uniting with the divine was essentially pagan, using pre-Christian practices and names of power which they found in Hebrew, Greek, Coptic, Egyptian, and Chaldean sources.
The Golden Dawn was ahead of its time in recognising the importance of the feminine aspect of the divine, and was founded to include both men and women on a basis of perfect equality.

History The Golden Dawn was founded by Dr. William Wynn Westcott, a London coroner and Rosicrucian, who in 1887 discovered fragments of rituals from an unknown German occult order. Westcott's and S. L. MacGregor Mathers fleshed out the fragments into full scale rituals, based largely on Freemasonry, and papers were then forged to give the Golden Dawn a history and authenticity, including a paper showing that Westcott had been given a charter to establish an independent lodge in England. It was on such dubious grounds that the Isis Urania Temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was established in London in 1888, with Westcott, Mathers and Dr. W. R. Woodman, Supreme Magus of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (see separate entry), as the three chiefs. An elaborate hierarchy was created consisting of ten grades or degrees, each corresponding to the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah (see separate entry). These grades were divided into three orders, the Outer, the Second and the Third. The secret society quickly caught on, and three hundred and fifteen initiations took place during its heyday (1888-1896).
By 1897, however, schisms were forming. Followers of Mathers left to form the Alpha and Omega Temple, and in 1903, others left to form a group with the name intact but with the emphasis on mysticism rather than magic. In 1905, a further break came with the founding of the Stella Matutina (Order of the Companions of the Rising Light in the Morning), and though in 1917 the Isis Urania Temple was revived as the Merlin Temple of the Stella Matutina, it went into decline in the 1940s after Israel Regardie, a former member, published its secret rituals.
The Golden Dawn, at its height, possessed the greatest known repository of Western magical knowledge, and was "the order that would virtually redefine the British occult world for the Twentieth Century" (Godwin 1994 p.223). The Order has been revived in recent years as The Oxford Golden Dawn Occult Society (OGDOS) in Britain and the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn in the USA. OGDOS aims to provide accurate information in order to promote wider understanding of the occult. Its main interests include ceremonial magic, witchcraft, kabbala, tantra, shamanism, and the Thelemic magic of Aleister Crowley.

Symbols These were many due to the variety of sources used to inspire rituals. However, the most important symbols are still used today in Wicca and Ceremonial Magic.

Adherents No figures available.

Main Centre
 None. Information can be obtained from the Oxford Golden Dawn Occult Society, PO Box 250, Oxford OX1 1AP (include SAE).