No organization has had a greater impact on Western Ceremonial Magic than that of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a magical fraternity founded in London in 1888 by a group of Qabalists, Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and Theosophists. Standard Golden Dawn rituals and exercises, such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar Exercise, have been virtually co-opted by numerous other magical fraternities, Wiccan circles, and even New Age groups.
The Golden Dawn is not a religion, although religious imagery and spiritual concepts play an important role in its work. Our Order was designed by its founders to be a Hermetic Society of men and women—a fraternity of magicians and occultists—dedicated to the philosophical, spiritual, and psychic evolution of humanity. It is also a school and a repository of esoteric knowledge, where students diligently learn the principles of occult science and the various elements of Western philosophy and practical magic before proceeding to actual magical work.
Tolerance for all religious beliefs is stressed, and symbolism used within the Golden Dawn come from a variety of religious sources. Today, people from many diverse religious paths consider themselves practicing Golden Dawn magicians, including Neopagans, Christians, Jews, Gnostics, and others.
Students of the Golden Dawn acquire esoteric knowledge through a series of initiatory rites—each grade attained leading to ever more rigorous areas of magical study and philosophy. Initiates commit a complex symbol system of correspondences to memory. Persistence and determination in these studies eventually lead motivated students to become dedicated practitioners of the magical arts taught by the Order.
The Golden Dawn system of magic is designed to teach its students both abstract esoteric concepts as well as the more practical applications of ceremonial magic. Egyptian, Judeo-Christian, Greek, Gnostic, Neo-Platonic, Rosicrucian, and Masonic elements can all be found within the teachings of the Golden Dawn. The curriculum includes the study of Qabalah, astrology, divination, inner alchemy, Egyptian magic, skrying, and Enochian magic.