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Frequently Asked Questions
Before we get started:
The Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn is a magical order teaching a system of ceremonial magic descended partly from the Druid Revival of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and partly from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a nineteenth-century magical order. It is not a church or a religious organization; it does not offer ordination to the ministry; its teachings do not descend from those of the ancient Druids; and its symbolism and philosophy come primarily from Welsh rather than Irish sources.
(We've found that about sixty per cent of the questions our office volunteers field are based on misunderstandings of the points just made. If you've read the above and still want to know more about the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn, then read on!)
Who were the Druids?
Originally, the Druids were the priests, wizards and intellectuals of the ancient Celtic peoples of Ireland, Britain and Gaul (now called France). Very little is known for sure about what they did or taught—an awkward fact that has not stopped plenty of people from insisting on the absolute truth of one academic theory or another. After centuries of persecution by the Roman Empire, followed by Christianity, the last Druids went extinct in the 9th century.
What was the Golden Dawn?
Originally, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was the most prestigious and influential magical order of the late 19th century occult revival. Founded by W. Wynn Westcott and Samuel Mathers, two Freemasons with a passion for magic, it was a major cultural force in its time, but blew itself apart in political quarrels starting in 1900. After decades of further squabbling, the last original Golden Dawn lodges went extinct in the 1970s.
What about modern Druids?
Starting in the 18th century, people who were intrigued by what was known about the ancient Druids began to reinvent a magical spirituality of Nature along Druid lines. Drawing on Celtic lore, magical teachings from a variety of sources, and their own experiences, they created the modern Druid Revival movement. Some of the offshoots of that movement have been notably weird, but the movement as a whole represents a major tradition of nature spirituality in the modern Western world.
What about the modern Golden Dawn?
Starting in the 1970s, people who were intrigued by what was known about the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn began to work with the surviving papers and teachings of the Order. Drawing on an increasingly complete body of original documents, they created the modern Golden Dawn community. Some of the offshoots of that community have been notably weird, but the community as a whole represents a major tradition of occultism in the modern Western world.
Did the Golden Dawn and the Druids have anything to do with each other?
The ancient Druids went extinct long before the Golden Dawn was founded, but the Druid Revival was a going concern all through the history of the Order. After the Golden Dawn began to tear itself apart, a good fraction of the membership quit, and some of these refugees ended up in a variety of Druid orders and brought much of their Golden Dawn teachings with them. The result was the birth of hybrid orders such as the Ancient Order of Druid Hermetists and the Cabbalistic Order of Druids.
How well did the Golden Dawn and the Druid Revival traditions fit together?
Surprisingly well. Like every other magical order, the Golden Dawn combined a set of magical practices, a collection of interconnected symbolism, and a system of occult philosophy. What the Golden Dawn refugees who ended up in Druid Revival orders found is that the magical practices, with slight variations, could work equally well with a different collection of symbols and a different system of philosophy.
What happened to the Druid/Golden Dawn hybrid orders?
After the Second World War, a new generation decided that the old ceremonial orders were too square for them, and took up newly minted traditions such as Wicca instead. There are still a few Druid orders that contain Golden Dawn legacies, but nearly all of the hybrid orders went out of existence in the second half of the 20th century. As so often happens with defunct magical orders, most or all of their teachings, rituals, and traditions were lost when the last temples shut down and the last members died.
Where does the material in The Celtic Golden Dawn come from?
John Michael Greer, the author of The Celtic Golden Dawn, is a longtime student of the Golden Dawn tradition as well as Druidry. After detailed study of what little is known of the teachings and workings of the old hybrid orders, he reverse engineered a set of rituals, teachings, and meditations that are as close as possible to those a Druid/Golden Dawn hybrid order in the 1920s or 1930s would have used, blending a mixture of Golden Dawn magical techniques, Welsh Druid symbolism and philosophy, and occult lore drawn from a wide range of sources.
Shouldn’t a project like that limit itself to Celtic sources?
Not at all. The Golden Dawn tradition is syncretic—that is, it draws on teachings and traditions from many places and times, combining them into a synthesis the way a mosaic maker combines stones of many colors to make a single pattern. The Druid Revival also has a strong syncretic streak. Combine them, as the old hybrid orders did, and creative borrowing becomes the order of the day; to do anything else in a reverse-engineered hybrid order would be hopelessly inauthentic.
Why does the system in The Celtic Golden Dawn differ from the original Golden Dawn system?
An initiatory magical system isn’t simply a grab-bag of random materials. Each symbol, practice, and correspondence relates to all the others to produce a coherent and balanced structure—a mesocosm, to use a bit of technical language, that mediates between the macrocosm (the universe as a whole) and the microcosm (the individual human being). Fairly often symbols and practices have to be tweaked in a variety of ways to make the entire structure come into balance. The founders of the Golden Dawn made many such changes to the symbolism and practices they inherited, in order to make their system work well. The Celtic Golden Dawn does the same thing, adjusting certain symbolic patterns and practices to make its system a coherent whole.
But isn’t there one right way to do things in magic?
Not at all. In workings based on the Tree of Life, for example, there are many different ways to assign symbolism to the paths that connect the ten Spheres, and each of them works just about as well as the others do. For example, the Martinists have one way to assign the Tarot cards to the Tree of Life, the Golden Dawn has a different way, English occultist William Gray taught a system that differs from both, and so on; there’s been no shortage of squabbles about who has the “right” attributions, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and sincere and dedicated students of all three systems (and others as well) have achieved good results with all of them. In exactly the same manner, there are many different “right” ways to trace a pentagram, practice Pathworking, summon a spirit, or do any of the other things that magicians do.
Is the system in The Celtic Golden Dawn the only way to combine Druidry and the Golden Dawn?
Of course not. One of the reasons The Celtic Golden Dawn was written was to remind today’s Druids and Hermetic magicians that the sort of creativity that gave rise to the Druid Revival, the Golden Dawn, and their various hybrids is still a live option today. The original Druid Revival and the original Golden Dawn were both highly innovative movements that constantly adapted and changed what they were doing as they figured out what worked and what didn’t. It would be good to see more of that sort of creativity in the contemporary occult scene.
Doesn’t that mean that people can just do whatever they want and claim to be Druids or Golden Dawn adepts or whatever?
People have been doing exactly that since the beginning of recorded history, so it’s pretty much a moot point. The issue that gets forgotten far too often is that there’s a great deal of middle ground between mindlessly copying whatever was handed down from the past, on the one hand, and just making it all up as you go along, on the other. It’s in that middle ground that creativity flourishes best, in magic as in anything else; most of the great magical systems have come about because somebody combined traditions from the past with brand new insights and innovations.
Will there be sequels to The Celtic Golden Dawn?
They’re in the works. All the exercises, rituals, and other practices have to be developed and tested before each book can be written, though, so it’s not a fast process. Fortunately the work included in The Celtic Golden Dawn will give students plenty to do until the next volume comes out.
What is the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn?
It’s two different but related things. First, it’s the notional Druid/Golden Dawn hybrid order that John Michael Greer created as a framework for the teachings in The Celtic Golden Dawn. Second, it’s an association of people who practice the system of hybrid Druid/Golden Dawn magic and occultism taught in The Celtic Golden Dawn.
Is the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn connected to any other Druid order?
No. Some DOGD members are also members of other Druid orders, but that’s about it.
Is the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn connected to any other Golden Dawn group?
No again. The DOGD is on friendly terms with several other Golden Dawn temples and GD-related organizations, but has no formal or informal connection to any.
Do I have to belong to the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn to practice the system of Druidical magic taught in The Celtic Golden Dawn?
Not at all; that’s why the whole system was published in a book, with self-initiation rituals that anybody can do on their own. Membership in the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn is purely for those who want to share experiences with other practitioners of the system.
I’m already an initiate of a Druid order or a Golden Dawn temple. Can I join this order at my current rank in that one?
The system practiced by the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn is different enough from the teachings of other Druid orders, and also those of the original Golden Dawn, that you would have to go through the same process of training anyway to learn what we have to teach. For this reason, every person who joins the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn begins at the beginning, and must earn the grades of Ovate, Bard, and Druid in the same way as everyone else.
Why are the Druidical Order’s grades Ovate, Bard and Druid, in that order, and not Bard, Ovate and Druid?
Most 19th and early 20th century Druid orders with three degrees of initiation placed the Ovate Grade first, the Bardic Grade second, and the Druid Grade third. When Ross Nichols founded the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids in 1964, he reversed the order of the first two grades, because he wanted to put a greater focus on the poetic and musical dimensions of Druidry. He was well within his rights to do so in his own order, but the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn follows the older pattern.
How do members earn advancement through the grades of the Order?
By completing the studies and practices given in The Celtic Golden Dawn, taking the examination of each degree, and paying the required fees. Please contact the DOGD office via the contact page before taking the examination of each degree.
Are there local temples I can join?
They’re few and far between, because only an initiate of the Druid grade is qualified to receive a temple charter. If you want a local group, your best bet is to join the order, work through the curriculum, reach the Druid grade and start one.
Can nonmembers attend temple meetings?
No, and in fact, you have to be an Ovate grade initiate to attend any temple activities. The system of training and initiation taught in The Celtic Golden Dawn is for those who are willing to do serious individual magical work on their own; it’s not about throwing parties or treating magic as a spectator sport. If you’re looking for a group where you can sit on the sidelines and watch other people do solstice and equinox rituals, you need to look somewhere else.
Do you have an Inner Order?
That information is available only on a need-to-know basis, and until you’ve completed the course of study assigned to the three grades of Ovate, Bard, and Druid, and become a Druid Grade initiate, you don’t.
Can I do something like your system, but with a different cultural or spiritual focus?
Absolutely! That’s another reason why The Celtic Golden Dawn was written—to provide an example for people who want to combine Golden Dawn magical techniques with their own spiritual or cultural interests, whatever those happen to be. On the other hand, the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn is specifically for people who want to work with the system as given in The Celtic Golden Dawn, so if you want to do something different, you’ll have to write your own book, start your own organization and attract your own members.
What does the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn offer its members?
For the time being, participation in a members-only list which allows them to talk shop with other practitioners of the system and with John Michael Greer, the creator of the system; the opportunity to be certified as Ovates, Bards and Druids in the magical system presented in The Celtic Golden Dawn, after doing the necessary work and passing the appropriate examinations; and access to members-only private papers and rituals. As time permits, we have been providing members with an archive of additional instructional papers and rituals which will eventually become the basis for additional books following The Celtic Golden Dawn, but members get access to them first. In addition, members receive access to fellow members' original contributions to the work of the order. Eventually, when people begin qualifying for the Druid Grade, the DOGD will also issue charters for local temples.
Can I become a member of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn without paying a fee?
Sorry, but that’s not an option. Our membership fees—US$50.00 for a lifetime membership in the DOGD—are modest enough not to put a strain even on a very restricted budget, but running a website and an order does cost money, you know. In magic as in anything else, if you want to share in the benefits, you should expect to help cover the costs.
How do I apply for membership?
You’ll find all the details at the membership page of this website.