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 Mathers.
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 Dawnlike
organization, the Builders of the Adytum.
Moina Mathers passed away in London on July 25, 1928.
Sources
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

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