A History of Neo-Paganism and Druidry: 6 – Discuss the origins and practices of hermetic or ceremonial magic, and how they have influenced Neopaganism.

6 08 2017

Discuss the origins and practices of hermetic or ceremonial magic, and how they have influenced Neopaganism. (minimum 300 words)

Ceremonial Magic is sometimes called High Magic and is based on complex rituals. It is influenced by Hermetic Qabalah, Enochian Magic and Thelema, as well as various old magical grimoires and the term first appeared in 16th century books on renaissance magic. Much ceremonial magic can be traced back to the influence of Hermeticism, based on the writings of Hermes Trismegistus and his “three parts of wisdom” – alchemy, astrology and theurgy. Hermeticism is particularly influential in modern Hellenic neo-paganism, as well as being responsible for such phrases as “as above, so below” often used in Wicca.

Ceremonial Magic was popularised in the 19th and 20th centuries by the Order of the Golden Dawn, a UK based organisation founded in 1887, which studied the occult, in particular, theurgy and spiritual development. Its system of magic included Hermetic Qabalah, the four elements, astrology, tarot, geomancy, alchemy and astral travel. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn didn’t last very long but at its height had over 100 members, including the very famous ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley. It even spread to North America.

The Order of the Golden Dawn was also influenced by the writings of Eliphas Levi, who’s books and magical system led to the importance of Tarot in Western occult systems.

The Order of the Golden Dawn went on to influence some key figures in the history of Neopaganism, in particular Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner (and through them Wicca). Crowley is well known for his law of Thelema and his definition of Magick, still used by many Pagans today as the “science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will.” Some even claim that Gardner hired Crowley to write the Gardnerian rituals, however there is little evidence of this.

Hermeticism, and ceremonial magicians and systems such as the Order of the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley and Eliphas Levi have had a huge influence on the development of Wicca and other Neopagan organisations during the 20th century.



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Adler, Margot. Drawing down the moon witches, Druids, goddess-worshippers, and other pagans in America today. New York, N.Y: Penguin/Arkana, 2006. Print.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

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Hopman, Ellen Evert. “The Origins of the Henge of Keltria.” Web.

Meith, Vickie, and Howard Meith. “The Origins of the Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids.” Web.

Thuin, Dylan Ap. “The Origins of the Insular Order of Druids.” Web














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