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Rebels and Priestesses: Maud Gonne, Moina Bergson Mathers, Annie Horniman, Florence Farr.
These four remarkable women, core members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, left a lasting imprint on the politics, literature, and theater of 19th-century Europe. Less well-known than the famous men in their lives, including Yeats and Shaw, their stories are now told.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a society of magicians formed in 1888 that attracted men like William Butler Yeats and Aleister Crowley. Unknown to most is that four women-Maud Gonne, Moina Bergson Mathers, Annie Horniman, and Florence Farr-were actively and equally involved in the order. Greer (Tarot for Yourself, Newcastle Pub., 1984) explores alternately the stories of these strong, interesting women from their adulthood to their deaths. Her book is well researched and well written and has an excellent bibliography. However, constructing the narrative of intertwining biographies is confusing and unsatisfactory, and analyzing each womans horoscope will stretch the modern scholars credulity more than a little, however important astrology was to these women. Balancing the strengths and the weaknesses of this book, it is a dubious purchase for most libraries.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in London in 1888. One of several secret magical societies in existence at the time, the Golden Dawn was noted for the equality it offered women both in its internal hierarchy and when performing mystical ceremonies. While this magical order attracted several more famous followers, William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw among them, Greers purpose in writing this book is to highlight the lives of four female members. They are Florence Farr, actress; Annie Horniman, patron of the arts; Maud Gonne, aristocratic revolutionary; and Moina Bergson Mathers, artist. All managed to escape suffocating Victorian lifestyles and eventually formed the backbone of the Golden Dawn. In this massive book, Greer explores the many years of intensive study of occult and mystical traditions the women undertook and the personal triumphs and tragedies they experienced along the way. Packed with anecdotes about major literary figures of the time, this account provides a provocative picture of four strong and brilliant women who refused to be hindered by the dictates of Victorian society. However, while this book may prove intriguing as a historical or biographical work, its use of astrology and magic to draw conclusions or explain occurrences may prove distracting to some readers.
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