Farr, Florence (1860–1917)
Florence Farr, actress, author, and leading member of the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn(HOGD), was born on
July 7, 1860, at Bickley, Kent, England. Her father, a physician
specializing in hygiene, had worked closely with Florence
Nightingale, and named his youngest daughter after her. In
her 13th year she was sent to Cheltenham Ladies’ College in
Gloucestershire. In 1877 she entered Queen’s College, the first
institution of higher learning for women in England. She left
in 1880 without completing her course of study. She would try
teaching, but soon left it for an acting career. In 1884 she married
actor Edward Emery, though they would be separated in
1889 and finally divorced in 1895.
Farr was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1890. She progressed
quickly and two years later was named Praemonstrator.
She demonstrated her accomplishments in her first books, A
Short Enquiry into the Hermetic Art (1894) and Egyptian Magic
(1896). Within the order she met Annie Horniman, a well-todo
member who financed her movement into producing dramas.
During 1894 she produced a series of successful plays in
London including one by George Bernard Shaw, with whom
she was having an affair. In 1899, she was the general manager
for the production of The Countess Cathleen, a drama written by
fellow order member William Butler Yeats.
In 1896 she began the Sphere group, a magical working
group that included the Inner Order adepts. The following
year Samuel L. MacGregor Mathers, the international leader
of the order, named her the order’s ‘‘Chief in Anglia.’’ Among
her duties that year would be the initiation of a young magician
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Farr, Florence
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named Aleister Crowley. However, her leadership also meant
that she would be in the center of the storm that hit the order
in 1900 when many of the British members protested the autocratic
authority that Mathers was attempting to exercise from
his office in Paris. The controversy led to Mathers’ expulsion
and to the emergence of Farr as the Moderator of the IsisUrania
Temple in London. A short time later, however, a second
controversy arose as members began to question the activity
of Farr’s Sphere group.
Farr tired of the constant bickering and in 1902 resigned
from the HOGD and continued her involvement in occult matters
through the Theosophical Society. However, for the next
decade she would concentrate her time on her career in the
theater. She also authored a number of books and articles.
In 1912 Farr retired from the stage and accepted the invitation
to move to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as the principal of the
first girls’ school to operate among the minority Hindu Tamil
population. She worked at the school until weakened by the
breast cancer from which she died in April 29, 1917.
Sources
Farr, Florence. The Dancing Faun. London Elkin Mathews
and John Lane, 1894.
———. Egyptian Magic Occult Mysteries in Ancient Egypt by S.
S.S.D.D. 1896. Reprint, Wellingborough, UK Aquarian Press,
1982.
———. Modern Woman Her Intentions. London Frank Palmer,
1910.
———. The Music of Speech. London Elkin Mathews, 1909.
———. The Way of Wisdom Being an Investigation of the Meanings
of the Letters of the Hebrew Alphabet Considered as a Remnant
of Chaldean Wisdom. London J. M. Watkins, 1900.
Greer, Mary K. Women of the Golden Dawn Rebels and Priestesses.
Rochester, Vt. Park Street Books, 1995.
King, Francis. Ritual Magic in England. London Neville
Spearman, 1970.