The Golden Dawn

The Golden Dawn

Occult Secret Society

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a secret society, attracting many of the most prominent artists and intellectuals of Britain and Ireland, for the purpose of studying and practicing ceremonial magic. The emphasis here is on “ceremonial”- based on the surviving rituals of the Golden Dawn, the members were at least as interested in performing elaborately choreographed rituals as they were in pursuing the spiritual/mystical work of the order.

Some of the members were originally Freemasons, and they brought with them the masonic emphasis on initiatory degrees. While the purpose of Golden Dawn membership was ostensibly the spiritual development of the members through participation in symbolic rituals and the study of occult skills such as astral travel, the members seem to have put a lot of emphasis on earning ever-higher degrees of initiation and giving themselves impressive-sounding titles and pseudonyms.


However, they also created some interesting and beautiful, things, such as the Rider-Waite tarot deck with its Kabbalistic symbolism. Like most secret societies, the Golden Dawn eventually broke down in factional infighting, although a handful of branch temples continued the tradition into the 1970s before it finally died out. Current Golden Dawn organizations use versions of the original structure and rituals, but have no direct connection to the original order.


The Golden Dawn also had a big influence on Wicca. Most of the ritual structure of this modern pagan religion derives from Golden Dawn occultism, and not from ancient pagan religion as many of its adherents believe.