Mathers, Moina (1865-1928)
Mathers, Moina (1865-1928)
Moina Mathers, a leading member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD), was largely responsible for the rituals of this ground-breaking magical organization. Born on Feburary 28, 1865, as Mina Bergson, she was the daughter of Jewish parents and the sister of noted philosopher Henri Bergson. Her brother was a professor at the University of Paris, the winner of a Nobel Prize (1927), and president of the Society of Psychical Research. He authored the noted volume Creative Evolution, in which he articulated his theory of elan vital, or life urge, an idea integral to magical thought. The elan vital was analogous to the subtle energy that allowed magic to work.
Mina was born and grew up in London, though the family lived briefly in Paris (1868-73). She had an artistic bent and in 1880 enrolled at the Slade School of Art, an affiliated school of the University of London. She had a stellar career and was awarded several certificates of merit. Upon receiving a certificate of completion in 1886 she opened a studio in London. The following year, at the British Museum, she met Samuel L. MacGregor Mathers. He was, at the time, doing the initial research that would lead to the founding of the HOGD. The Isis-Urania Temple, the first center of the HOGD, was opened in 1888 and Mina became the first initiate, taking the magical name Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum.
The couple was married in 1890, at which time Mina changed her name to Moina. Shortly after their marriage, at a gathering of people interested in psychic matters, Moina's ability as a clairvoyant was discovered. She subsequently played a key role in the development of the order. In 1891, Mathers claimed that he had made contact with the Secret Chiefs, from whom he would be receiving the material to construct the higher grades of the order. As Mathers increased his magical activity, Moina served as his priestess. More importantly, she perfected her abilities to contact the inner magical planes through the process known as scrying. It was she as a scryer who contacted magical sources of information and channeled material that supplied both the rituals and teaching material for the order.
In 1892, the Matherses settled in Paris, where Samuel had access to the large number of manuscripts in the Parisian libraries. They lived a financially restricted life and apparently a celibate one, as Mathers had been instructed to remain sexually pure as he pursued his important magical work. Moina also aided her husband in high political work centered both on his belief that the world was soon to enter a period of massive war and his hope for the independence of Scotland from England. She remained loyal to him through the organizational disruptions that plagued the order in the late 1890s, and was rewarded by losing some of her closest friends who broke with Math-ers. Both were expelled from the HOGD when the largely British membership rebelled in 1900. Those members loyal to Mathers reorganized. Meanwhile in Paris, the Matherses formed the Isis Temple.
At the time of revolt of the British members, Mathers had selected a youthful Aleister Crowley as his agent. This alliance proved short-lived as Crowley broke with the Matherses in 1904. He would later publish HOGD material in his magazine, Equinox, leading Mathers to sue him. Following Mathers' death in 1918, Moina moved back to London where she founded and led the Alpha et Omega Lodge, though the days of its glory were already in the past. Never possessing a large membership, the HOGD ended its days in the 1920s splintered into various factions. Among Moina's notable actions as the leader of one faction was the expulsion of one of the order's American members, Paul Foster Case, who would later found a Golden Dawn-like organization, the Builders of the Adytum.
Moina Mathers passed away in London on July 25, 1928.
Colquhoun, Ithell. Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn. New York: Putnam, 1975.
Greer, Mary K. The Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses. Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press, 1995.
Howe, Ellic. The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order, 1887-1923. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1972, 1985.
King, Francis. Ritual Magic in England. London: Neville Spearman, 1970.