Making Magic Modern: Nineteenth-Century Adaptations


  • Alison Butler University of Bristol



Golden Dawn, Nineteenth-century Paganism, cabalistic magic


At the end of the nineteenth century, in the midst of the intellectual battle between science and religion, a curious group emerged in Victorian Britain. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was unusual in that it was established to further the learning and practical techniques of ritual magic. In response to a growing interest in the esoteric and the occult, the Order opened its first temple in London in 1888. By drawing upon aspects of traditional Western magic and reformulating a Renaissance synthesis of cabalistic magic, the Golden Dawn brought together several systems of thought and technique resulting in a unique blend that is still practised by thousands of men and women worldwide. In its adaptation of traditional Western magic, the Order succeeded in creating a popular and suitable system of magic for the modern world. In identifying these changes and analysing their origins in late nineteenth-century magic as well as their relevancy for modern practitioners, the secret to the success of Golden Dawn magic, as well as the unique contribution made by the Order to the history of Western magic, will be established.

Author Biography

Alison Butler, University of Bristol

Alison Butler is a fellow of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Centre of Canada and the Rothermere Foundation. She completed her PhD at the University of Bristol on the intellectual origins of Victorian ritual magic and has published articles and presented papers in this area and on the history of Western magic.


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How to Cite

Butler, A. (2007). Making Magic Modern: Nineteenth-Century Adaptations. Pomegranate, 6(2), 212–230.