Howbeit we know after a time there will now be a general reformation, both of divine and humane things, according to our desire and the expectation of others; for it is fitting, that before the rising of the Sun there should appear and break forth Aurora, or some clearness, or divine light in the sky.
— The Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis
We continue our journey through the mysterious halls of occult history, led by Thalia, holding in Her hand the Queen of the Garden, the rose.
From its beginning, the Rosicrucian Order consisted of a graded system (similar to The Order of Freemasons) in which members moved up in rank and gained access to more knowledge. There was never a fee for this initiatory work. Once a member was deemed able to understand the knowledge, they moved on to the next grade.
There were three main stages, or steps to their spiritual path (seen in the three steps below the Rosy Cross symbol). These were philosophy, Qabbala, and divine magic. In turn, there were three goals to the order – the abolition of monarchy and the institution of rule by a philosophical elect; the reformation of science, philosophy, and ethics; and the discovery of the Panacea – the remedy that would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. This was sought by all alchemists as they attempted to find the elixir of life and the philosopher’s stone, a mythical substance which would enable the transmutation of common metals into gold.
The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.) was a British Rosicrucian group that was founded in 1866. It is, to this day, an independent Rosicrucian body also open to Christian Freemasons. In 1891, William Westcott became its Supreme Magus. But just prior to that, in 1888, he and another S.R.I.A. member, Samuel L. Mathers, had also founded another society, designed to take the Rosicrucian/Masonic rites to an even deeper and more symbolic level.
This society was called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (referred to more commonly as The Golden Dawn) was a magical order of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that was arguably the single greatest influence on twentieth century Western occultism. Concepts of magic and ritual that have become core elements of many other traditions, including our modern Witchcraft, Neo Paganism and other forms of magical spirituality, are drawn from the Golden Dawn tradition.
While the original vision of Wescott had perhaps been primarily to deepen the hybridizing of Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism in England, one of the central changes that he insisted upon was the inclusion of women in the group. Also a member of the newly formed Theosophical Society, which was formed by the famous Madame Blavatsky, Wescott must be given credit for urging this powerful shift that opened the doorway for women’s equal participation with men in the workings of magic and ritual, without peril of death, for the first time in many centuries.
With Hermetic magic putting such tremendous emphasis on the divine harmony and alchemical blending of the masculine/active and the divine/receptive, not to mention the interweaving of the rose’s symbolism associating it with both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, it actually seems a bit surprising that women were not included before. Alas, such was the power of the culture’s misogyny.
Next week, I’ll conclude these ruminations about the symbolic rose in magical lore. Over the weekend, though, in conjunction with my workshop tomorrow in Raleigh, I’ll offer some actual Rose Magick for you.