Saturday, June 5, 2010

Furniture of a Golden Dawn lodge

One of the constants in a Golden Dawn lodge is the furniture. We have two pillars, a Throne for the Hierophant, and a central altar. In addition, there are smaller side altars. In theory, we also have a raised dais where the Hierophant's Throne sits. Additionally, we have the Banners of the East and West. The dais and the Banners I am classifying furniture because you have to work around them; you cannot walk though them.

(Now, someone will point out that the other officers have seats also. But I am generally going to ignore them in this post. After all, a folding chair can take the place of those stations. By tradition, the Hierophant has the best seat in the house---in theory, the Co-Chiefs has to settle for a folding chair if only one good chair [throne] is available.)

Now, one of the habits that Golden Dawn picked up from the other Orders are speeches describing the symbolism of the furniture. According to esoteric tradition, someplace in the world of forms, there is an image of the ideal Hierophant Throne. It is probably not avocado green; it probably also does not need to be periodically vaccuumed because the cats think that it is the best (most comfortable) sleeping spot in the room.

The Ciceros in one of their books describe a design for Thrones for the officers. Symbolically, I can see where they are coming from, but it looks so uncomfortable that I just don't see it happening in the lodge that I work in. My idea of a proper Throne comes right out of Freemasonry, and even that is uncomfortable; but at least I do not have to worry about falling off of it or straining my back.

Now as I said, esoteric tradition claims that the form and symbolism of any piece of lodge furniture comes from the world of forms. I believe that this is false. I believe the reason why we end up with descriptions of the ideal  furniture is merely because someone needed an esoteric idea to explain why certain pieces of furniture were the way they are in the lodge room. If we did not throw a blanket over that chair, I am sure some member would come up with an explaination of why it has to be that particular shade of green (maybe it is the flashing color of the actual color that the Throne is upposed to be).

I am a happy little cynic, ain't I?

Now in ritual, the furniture ends up taking an aspect of the Visible Stations. For instance, the Throne of the Hierophant takes on related symbolism of the Hierophant. And many of the pieces of furniture do not move, they are constantly there. As since, they becomes ritual constants. Hence the Throne of the Hierophant becomes a goal that we are constantly moving towards. And it is always in the East because that is where the Light dawns, or is the greatest (depending on what layer you are looking at).

This is slightly false. The real reason that the Hierophant's Throne never moves from the East is simply that it is too heavy to move. This is especially true if it is actually the same one used for Masonic meetings; the Master of the Lodge's chair tends to require three people to move it. And if it is actually on a dais...well, you get the idea.

Look at the furniture that is moved around in a Golden Dawn lodge and the furniture that is not. It is a clean line; the only pieces of furniture that get moved are the ones that are easily moved quickly (the Banners, and to a lesser extent, the Pillars).

The non-movable pieces of furniture end up becoming "Landmarks." They end being the solid parts of various diagrams and energy patterns. For instance, let's say we have a diagram where one side is light and one side is dark. Odds are the light side is going to end up being on the same side of the room as either the Hierophant's Throne or the Pillar of Mercy. There are times this is not true; but if you poke at the other layers, you generally discover a good reason for the difference. There is also an up and down orientation to the diagrams---East is generally "up" and West is generally "down."

Ideally, an initiate's private working space should be modeled on the lodge room. For instance, one should have a double cubical altar and two pillars in the room where you do your private rituals.

Now, there are some that give me a hard time because I mix Wicca with Golden Dawn. It is impossible for me not to do so, for I have two pillars in my working space. The only way I would not see Pillars in Wicca is if I resigned from Wicca and adapted another religion (ain't going to happen) or I removed the Pillars from my ritual room (again, not going to happen).

But the curious thing that I have noticed is that Wiccan rituals have an underlying flow of energy beneath them, one that matches the furniture that I am used to in Golden Dawn lodges. Now sommeone will be sure to jump to the conclusion that it is my furniture causing this. There is just one slight problem with that conclusion---I felt the same energy patterns in Wiccan rituals before becoming a member of Golden Dawn.

Doing Wiccan rituals in a Golden Dawn room merely has allowed me to see something that is invisible. Wiccans use different explanations for why the energy curves the way it does, but the flow is the same. Either there is a Golden Dawn element to the Wiccan rituals (Gerald Gardner lifted a lot of stuff during the creation of the Gardnerian rituals), or there is a common energetic background to both systems. So when I talk about Golden Dawn and Wicca being related systems, I am not bending either system to the other; I am merely observing what is going on.

And it brings me to the punchline of this post: What are you missing when you do ritual in a room without the proper furniture in place? What is invisible that you cannot see (or feel) because you do not have the proper furniture indicating where the Landmarks are?


Peregrin said...

Hi Morgan,

thanks for this interesting post. Just briefly: you can tell those giving you a hard time re Wiccan religion and GD esoteric practice at the same time to boil their heads.

Of course, as you write: "there is a common energetic background to both systems." Both are western traditions and Wicca drew heavily from the extant traditions at the time Gardner was (re)creating it. This was obvious to me within ten minutes of reading my first Shadows and should be obvious to anyone. As Ronald Hutton writes:

"In an important sense, modern pagan witchcraft was to be the last (or at least the latest) outgrowth from the tradition which had begun with the Mason's Word. In virtually every respect it was to embody and perpetuate the characterisitcs of the tradition; in one, that of gender, it was to overturn them completely."

That should be 'nuff said. :)

Sincerus Renatus... said...

Doesn't Gardner claim in his 'Witchcraft Today' that Freemasonry stems from Wicca? I have that book in my shelf. Perhaps I will take the time too look that reference up.

In Licht, Leben und Liebe

Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

Unfortunately, Gerald claimed a lot of things that have proven to be untrue. The links go from Solomonic, Co-Masonry, Golden Dawn into Wicca, not the other way around.

Of course, my opinion does not count. After all, I am training to be a literature/history scholar. I must be misreading the evidence, and taking for true the words of scholars who are out to tar and feather Wicca. As we all know, Gerald had no reason to lie.

Níall MacShiúrtáin said...

Hi Morgan,

What I'm currently wondering is whether or not the fact that the East remains a focus point of the initiating force for both Traditional Wicca and Golden Dawn ceremonialism? Mentally we tend to still assume that the flow follows East - South - West - North albeit the attributions of the directions varies from group to group. Perhaps the initiating force for Wicca still finds sympathetic resonance from Golden Dawn?

In answer to your question, "What are you missing when you do ritual in a room without the proper furniture in place? What is invisible that you cannot see (or feel) because you do not have the proper furniture indicating where the Landmarks are?" I would say that perhaps some experimentation is needed to fully explore the floor energies in the Wiccan Tradition?

In the Irish Tradition ceremonialism doesn't feature in the exact same way but I tend to keep my Craft Altar facing East but separate from my personal G.'.D.'. Altar and Pillars.