William Butler Yeats and the Golden Dawn

“A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, our stitching and unstinting has been naught. “-  Yeats

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! “- Yeats

Born with both his Ascendant and Moon in  Aquarius, it is little wonder that William Butler Yeats grew up with both a love for words and a desire to transform  Irish theater and poetry.

As a child he’d been attracted to ghost tales and  fairy myths which led him into the esoteric works of Swedenborg, Blake, and Jacob Boehme.  At the age of twenty-two, while living in London, he became acquainted with Madame Blavatsky, author of The Secret Doctrine, and founder off the Theosophical Society.  While enchanted with the ideas she brought forth, he was disillusioned by the society’s resistance to attempting magic, and quickly withdrew his membership.

In 1889, he met Maud Gonne, a fiery Irish revolutionary worker and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.   While disturbed by her belief that the means justified the end, he was so otherwise taken by her  that  he declared, “If she she said the world was flat…I would be proud to be of her party.”

Soon thereafter, she introduced him to Moina Bergson Mathers and MacGregor Mathers, the celibate husband and wife who worked together as Priest and Priestess of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  Yeats not only valued their intellectual pursuits, but their willingness to put what they learned to practical use.  He said that after attending their rituals, he “formed plans for deeds of all kinds”.  Whereas after attending Theosophical meetings, he “had no desire but for more thought, more discussion.”   Furthermore, he discovered that the concentration needed for lengthy rituals and prayers influenced his writings, “making it more sensuous and more vivid.”

On March 7, 1890 he became an initiate of the Golden Dawn, assuming the magical name, Demon Est Deus Inversus.  Which, although literally meaning, “The Devil is in the inverse of God”, might have been in reference to his personal daimon.

I DREAMED that one had died in a strange place
Near no accustomed hand,
And they had nailed the boards above her face,
The peasants of that land,
Wondering to lay her in that solitude,
And raised above her mound
A cross they had made out of two bits of wood,
And planted cypress round;
And left her to the indifferent stars above
Until I carved these words:
i{She was more beautiful than thy first love,}
i{But now lies under boards.}

-poem written by Yeats for Maud after dreaming of her death


THAT crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea.’

-poem by Yeats

*article source and for further reading:  Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses by Mary K. Greer


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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s always kind of surprised me some of the people who were attracted to the GD and various magical orders.

  2. It’s nice to read that there are some people whom like to know about GD.

  3. Hi DD,

    It definitely attracted a diverse and interesting lot. 🙂

  4. Hi Luis,

    Thank you for stopping over at my blog. 🙂

    The GD is a fascinating subject.

  5. Loved the poem about Maud. I actually understood it on the first read. Always a plus with me.

    You should do an entry on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It sounds like interesting group. Did they ever cross the pond to America or was it strictly a European movement?

    Great post.

  6. Hi there, what a FABULOUS post. A fan of Yeats and now I know why I connect I have an Aquarius Ascendant and Uranus conjunct my Leo Sun. He gives me goosebumps.I have not been in the land of blog for a while and I missed reading your posts gypsyscarlett. What a lovely return to see Maud’s poem. Thank you! I have attached this link because you are a gypsy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c4E26ZuWIQ 🙂

  7. Hi Lyra,

    Thank you so very much! Really glad you liked the post. As far as I’m aware, they did have a chapter in New York. Perhaps in other places in the States, as well. I do plan on writing more on the subject after more reading on them. 🙂

  8. Hi Kateri!

    Thank you!

    It’s great to hear from you. Love your emotional/astrological affinity to Keats. And thank you so much for the link. That video is truly beautiful. 🙂

  9. GypsyScarlett,

    Look forward to reading more.

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