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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > The Essential Golden Dawn Search

Book Review:
The Essential Golden Dawn: An Introduction to High Magic

Author: Chic and Sandra Cicero
Trade Paperback, 360 pages
Publisher: Llewellyn
Publication date: March 2003
ISBN: 0738703109
Price & More Info: Click Here


Chic and Sandra Cicero are arguably the best writers of readable material on the Western Magical Tradition since Israel Regardie. Their edited and annotated editions of Israel Regardie's works actually improve on the originals, something that requires a great deal of both knowledge and writing skill to accomplish. Yet the Golden Dawn and the Western Tradition in general are still very confusing to those new to the field. Most books written on the subject either don't explain the background material very well (if they try at all) or mix the background material in with practical material and are therefore aimed at those who have already decided that Hermeticism is the right path for them. With The Essential Golden Dawn: An Introduction to High Magic, the Ciceros have set out to remedy this lack with an easy to read book that clearly explains both the convoluted history of the Golden Dawn and the basics of Hermeticism.

As the introduction makes clear, the Ciceros intend to cover a lot of ground in a manner that someone with no knowledge whatsoever of the Golden Dawn or the Western Tradition can read and understand. They set out a list of what the reader should gain from reading this book. As this list serves as an excellent guide to the contents of The Essential Golden Dawn, I'm going to summarize it here:

  • An introduction to the history and principles of the Western Tradition.
  • A short, but accurate summary of the complex history of the various Golden Dawn Orders.
  • An introduction to the principles of magick as the Golden Dawn sees them.
  • A look at the structure of the Golden Dawn: its organization, grades, and degrees.
  • Information on basic Golden Dawn-style ritual work.
  • A survey of what the Golden Dawn teaches.
  • An examination of the Golden Dawn initiatory process.

This is a bold agenda, especially given their goal of making the material accessible to complete beginners. Fortunately, the authors are up to the task. They manage to write for beginners, imparting a huge amount of information in a readable and interesting manner without talking down to their readers. Part of the reason they are able to do this is that their book is a true overview. This book wasn't written to try to teach people the Golden Dawn's system, it was written to teach people about the Golden Dawn's system so they can decide if they wish to study the system. It does an excellent job of it.

I have to single out the second chapter of this book -- on the history of the Golden Dawn -- for special praise. The Golden Dawn's history is complex and convoluted, as much of it was driven by the personalities involved in the order. The authors present what appears to me to be an accurate version of the history of the order and they don't hide any of the many warts. They are clear about what is known to be fact, what is probably true, and what is speculation. Given the nonsense passed off as "history" in many books on magick and Neo-Pagan religion, this is a major plus for the book.

If you know very little about the Golden Dawn, but would like to learn more about it, The Essential Golden Dawn was written for you. Head to your favorite bookstore and buy a copy. You are unlikely to regret the purchase even if you decide after reading it that the Golden Dawn's system is not the right path for you. If you have other books on the Golden Dawn, think the system looks interesting, but often find yourself completely lost when you try to read them, you could also benefit from this book. This book would also be a nice read for Wiccans who want to understand where some of the ideas that were incorporated into Wicca came from.

Reviewed by Randall

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