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Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers


S.L. MacGregor Mathers
Mathers dressed in the costume of the High Priest of Isis
image from Francis King, 1975, Magic - the Western Tradition, Art and Imagination series, Thames and Hudson, London

S.L. "MacGregor" Mathers was one of the most important, and certainly the most-misunderstood, occult figures of the late nineteenth century.  He was a major figure in the founding of the Order of the Golden Dawn, wrote its rituals and eventually became its head.  In an interesting parallel to Mme Blavatsky, who he met prior to the founding of the Golden Dawn, he claimed to have derived many of the teachings from a group of superhuman adepts, the Secret Chiefs.  He was an eccentric and brilliant scholar, unemployed and unemployable, the ideal person to be head of a magical order. His magical names were Deo Duce Comite Ferro ("With God as My Leader and the Sword as My Companion") and 'S Rioghail Mo Dhream (Gaelic for "Royal is My Race"), which reflect his authoritarian, military and Jacobite inclinations.  At the same time he was also a vegetarian, probably a vegan, and an anti-vivisectonist.  He campaigned for women's rights.  He married Mina, or Moina, Bergson, sister of Henri Bergson, the philosopher, whom Mathers attempted, unsuccessfully, to convert to a belief in magic.  From 1894 on, the couple lived in Paris, where they founded an Ahathoor Temple and celebrated 'Egyptian Masses' with much stately ceremonial in honour of the goddess Isis, whose religion he attempted to revive.

Mathers added "MacGregor" to his name in the belief that he was descended from the Scots clan, styled himself Comte de Glenstrae, and was imbued with Jacobite ardour for the restoration of the House of Stuart to the British throne. According to some of his contemporaries, he was the reincarnation of James IV, the wizard King of Scots.  He used to ride a bicycle through the Paris of the 1890s in full Highland dress.  Mathers's over-bearing ego were too much for the other members of the Golden Dawn and he was expelled in 1900.  He was the magical patron of Aleister Crowley, who, following the break with Golden Dawn members, he saw as his magical heir.  But the two men later quarrelled (after Crowley puplished tracts of Golden Dawn material in his own magazine, The Equinox), and even conducted an occult battle against each other.  A lot of the negative perception of Mathers is due to Crowley's ostentatious record of things.

There is no substance to Dion Fortune's allegation (since repeated by many others) that Mathers died of the influenza epidemic sweeping Europe just after the end of the Great War.

Mathers literary output involved translatiosn of several important occult texts.  These included an English translation of the Key of Solomon, the most famous of the grimoires ("Grammars") or textbooks of European ritual magic; part of Knorr von Rosenroth's Kabbalah Denodata as The Kabbalah Unveiled, together with notes and commentary, which was to become the seminal work for Western occult Kabbalistic studies; and a translation of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage, perhaps the most significant of all the ancient grimores.  But his greatest contribution lay in his central role in the establishment of an occult current of ceremonial magic - the Golden Dawn tradition - that has become the wellspring for all western occultism ever since.


printed references References and Links links on the Web

web pageAnon., Biography of Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers - - mirror -

web pageAnon - The Truth about S. L. MacGregor Mathers -

essay in encyclopaedia Richard Cavendish, 1974, "Samuel Liddel McGregor Mathers", p.140, in Richard Cavendish, ed., The Encyclopeadia of the Unexplained, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London

printed book Ithel Colquhoun, The Sword of Wisdom MacGregor Mathers & the Golden Dawn

on-line book chapter S. L. McGregor Mathers, Introduction to The Kabbalah Unveiled



Link to Amazon com The Goetia the Lesser Key of Solomon the King : Lemegeton, Book 1 Clavicula Salomonis Regis by S. L. MacGregor Mathers (Introduction and Translator),

Link to Amazon com The Greater Key of Solomon : Including a Clear and Precise Exposition of King Solomon's Secret Procedure, Its Mysteries and Magic Rites : Original Plates by S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers,

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page uploaded 8 March 2000