Marcus Worsley Blackden (known as ‘Worsley’ not Marcus) was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London on 27 August 1896.  Irene Augusta Lloyd was initiated as part of the same ritual, but I don’t think the two of them knew each other beforehand.  Although he had little occult experience, Worsley Blackden worked his way quickly through the study needed to be eligible for the GD’s inner 2nd Order, and was initiated into that on 6 November 1897.  He played a prominent role in the turbulent period 1900-1903, and then joined one of the two daughter orders that were founded in 1903.


BEFORE I GET STARTED and in case you haven’t seen the first file in this sequence: a huge ‘thank you’ to MWB’s great-grand-daughter Nadine, of Ontario, Canada, for all the photos of paintings and family documents that she sent me.  There would have been much less of this ‘life by dates’ without them!


There are plenty of sources for some of the events in Worsley Blackden’s life, so I’ve decided to do a ‘life-by-dates’ set of three files; in which he’ll appear as ‘MWB’.  This is the second  file: Egypt and the GD.  The first is: Youth and Background; the last is After the GD; and standing rather outside the sequence, two items from Blackden’s work on the Book of the Dead: chapter 62, and The Hymn to Osiris.




Comment by Sally Davis before we start, on transliterations of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.  MWB was working in Egypt before the modern standard for transliteration was agreed.  So in contemporary sources the place I’m going to type as ‘Hatnub’ has quite a few other transliterations, for example as ‘Hat-nub’ and ‘Hetnub’.


General information on the personalities of 1890s archaeology in ancient Egypt:

Who was Who in Egyptology London: Egypt Exploration Society 1972 compilers Warren R Dawson and Eric P Uphill.   MWB on p29; George Willoughby Fraser p109; Percy Edward Newberry on p216.  Also, of course, entries for Howard Carter, Flinders Petrie and others.


?LATE 1880s 

By this time if no earlier: MWB was well-acquainted with Egyptian hieroglyphs, both reading and writing them.  He’d also read a great deal on ancient Egypt - travellers’ tales, accounts of archaeological finds etc.

Comment from Sally Davis on the source for this: I don’t actually have a source as such, I’ve just gained that impression from his work on ancient Egyptian texts. 



MWB was working as a volunteer for the Egypt Exploration Fund (not yet calling itself the Egypt Exploration Society) at Beni-Hasan, 170 miles south of Cairo.  He had offered to help the expedition members in their task of colouring in tracings of wall paintings, but soon became involved in other tasks.  The EEF’s surveyor George Willoughby Fraser stayed on at the site until June 1891 but everyone else seems to have left several months before; including MWB I would suppose.

Comments by Sally Davis.  The site called Beni Hasan was a set of 11th and 12th dynasty rock-cut tombs, on the eastern side of the Nile.  The EEF’s work there was part of its Archaeological Survey of Egypt project.  Winter was the digging season in Egypt so the EEF’s two-man survey team arrived in November 1891 and set up home in one of the tombs. MWB seems to have been acquainted already with Percy Newberry, the survey team’s leader.  MWB appeared at Beni Hasan some weeks after the survey work began, as an independent traveller.  As a trained artist his offer to help out was very welcome, both to those doing the survey and to their bosses in London.  Newberry might also have welcomed a third person to the team as he and George Willoughby Fraser were very different types and didn’t really get on.  The task facing the survey team was enormous: the tombs were being robbed and left open to the elements and 12000 square feet of wall-paintings needed recording before they disintegrated.  His main task was to take the tracings already done by Percy Newberry as his template, and colour them in, trying to use colours and shades as close to the original colours as he could.  But he helped out in other ways as well: he designed a set of pulleys to help lift a fallen column upright; and a hoist to speed the removal of 40 tons of debris from two shafts which led down to the tomb of Khnumhotep.  Despite the trouble they had reaching Khnumhotep’s tomb, the EEF’s men still found that tomb-robbers had got there first.


Times Monday 23 February 1891 p13 Amelia Edwards’ report to the EEF’s 4th ordinary general meeting held in London. 

Times Thursday 18 June 1891 p12 The Royal Society - Ladies’ Conversazione.

Egypt Exploration Fund Special Extra Report: The Season’s Work at Ahnas and Beni Hasan.   This volume covers work done in 1890-91 and contains an introduction by Amelia Edwards and reports by Édouard Naville on Ahnas (also spelled Hanes or Henassieh); and by Percy Newberry and George Willoughby Fraser on Beni Hasan.  Published 1891 London: Gilbert and Rivington Ltd for the EEF.

Archaeological Survey of Egypt.  Beni Hasan Part 1.  As volume one of the EEF’s Archaeological Survey of Egypt, series editor: F L Griffith BA FSA.  Authors Percy Newberry with plans and measurements by George Willoughby Fraser.  Published 1893 London: Gilbert and Rivington Ltd for the EEF.

That MWB and Newberry had met before 1891; and more on Beni Hasan:

Howard Carter: the Path to Tutankhamun by T G H James. Kegan Paul International 1992: pp12, pp15-28.


17 JUNE 1891

The Egypt Exploration Fund took some wall space at a Royal Society evening event at Burlington House; and showed some of MWB’s coloured copies of wall paintings from Beni Hasan.  There were also some wall paintings from the tombs of Ameni and Khnumhotep on display. 

Times Thursday 18 June 1891 p12 The Royal Society - Ladies’ Conversazione.  The guest list as reproduced in the Times only covered the great and good, unfortunately, so it’s not clear whether MWB actually went to the soirée.



MWB was in Egypt again, doing another session with the EEF as a volunteer.  This time he was at El Bersheh, a site of middle-kingdom tombs.  As well as doing copying and colouring work he also acted as George Willoughby Fraser’s assistant surveyor.

Comment by Sally Davis: perhaps this time MWB was taken on as a volunteer by prior arrangement rather than just turning up.  Percy Newberry and George Willoughby Fraser were working together again at El Bersheh; but this time they had with them Howard Carter, just starting out on his career.  With Carter doing most of the work tracing and copying the wall-paintings, MWB and George Willoughby Fraser worked together to survey the whole valley; unlike Beni Hasan where the tombs were all in a line like a street of houses, the tombs at El Bersheh were scattered over a wide area. 


For the survey at El Bersheh: Archaeological Survey of Egypt: El Bersheh.  Part I: The Tomb of Tehuti-Hetep by Percy E Newberry; with a plan and measurements of the tomb by G Willoughby Fraser FSA.  London: Special Publication of the Egypt Exploration Fund 1895.   Based on Newberry’s records and his reports to the EEF Council. The frontispiece of this volume is MWB’s copy of part of a frieze from El Bersheh Tomb 2, the tomb of Tehutihetep.  It shows a young woman holding a lotus flower.  MWB’s copies of wall-paintings also appear in later volumes on El Bersheh.

Archaeological Survey of Egypt: El Bersheh.  Part II series editor F L Griffith, BA FSA.  Authors: F L Griffith and Percy E Newberry with plan and measurements of the tombs by George Willoughby Fraser FSA.  London: special publication of the EEF 1895.  This volume contains most of the reproductions of the wall-paintings but only Plate V was coloured by MWB.  Most of the reproductions were coloured by Percy Newberry and by another, later, volunteer, Rosalind Paget.  For MWB’s surveying work at El Bersheh: Willoughby Fraser’s report: p55.



MWB, Percy Newberry and George Willoughby Fraser spent the Christmas holiday as guests of Robert Hanbury Brown, an Irrigation Inspector working for the Egyptian government.


Howard Carter: the Path to Tutankhamun by T G H James. Kegan Paul International 1992: pp12-15-28. 

More on Major Brown, Royal Engineers:

The Knights of England p393 Major RHB was knighted in the list issued 6 December 1902, as Inspector-General of Irrigation for Lower Egypt.

At LG 25 June 1926 p4161 list issued und Trustee Act 1925 includes Robert Hanbury Brown of Newlands, Crawley Down Sussex WHO’D DIED on 4 May 1926 CHECK WHO WAS WHO.  THIS WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL YOU GET BACK TO LONDON

Some publications by RHB:

The Fayum and Lake Moeris London: Edward Stanford 1892.

The Land of Goshen and the Exodus London: Edward Stanford 1899.

Irrigation: its Principles and Practice as a Branch of Engineering London: A Constable and Co 1907.


28 DECEMBER 1891

Percy Newberry, MWB and George Willoughby Fraser made a short trip to what they had been told was a tomb but turned out to be the alabaster quarries at Hatnub.  The quarries had supplied the alabaster for the rulers who had been buried at El Bersheh but Newberry decided that they didn’t really have time to investigate them further at the moment.  This annoyed MWB and Willoughby Fraser who sent a report on their discovery to London for publication.


Times Monday 3 October 1892 p14 The Alabaster Quarries of Ha-Nub: letter from MWB and G Willoughby Fraser.

Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology volume 16 November 1893-December 1894 published 1894 by the Society.  In the full volume pp78-82 an article that had originally appeared in issue number 19, that of the 9 January 1894: G Willoughby Fraser FSA: Hat-Nub. 

Howard Carter: the Path to Tutankhamun by T G H James. Kegan Paul International 1992: pp12-15-28 though James seems to imply that only MWB and Willoughby Fraser went to Hatnub; that Newberry wasn’t with them, having had a surfeit of their company over Christmas.



The work at El Bersheh was finished and Percy Newberry returned to England to begin the follow-up work.  MWB and George Willoughby Fraser went back to Hatnub and started to survey and record the inscriptions that they found there. 

Sources: G Willoughby Fraser in Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 1894: 78-82.

Comment by Sally Davis: MWB and Willoughby Fraser’s work at Hatnub was their own idea, and they seem to have financed it themselves (that is to say, MWB probably came up with the money); it wasn’t an official part of the EEF’s survey work. 


23 JANUARY 1892

MWB and Willoughby Fraser’s account of the discovery of the quarries at Hatnub was published in London.

Howard Carter: the Path to Tutankhamun by T G H James. Kegan Paul International 1992: pp12, pp15-28.  The account appeared in the magazine The Academy issue of 23 January 1892.



MWB returned to Beni Hasan to finish off the work he had been doing there; but he became ill in February, and had to stop.

Source for the dates and what MWB did on his return to Beni Hasan:

Archaeological Survey of Egypt.  Beni Hasan Part 1.  As volume one of the EEF’s Archaeological Survey of Egypt, series editor: F L Griffith BA FSA.  Beni Hasan Part 1 by Percy Newberry with plans and measurements by George Willoughby Fraser.  Published London 1893.  Printed for the EEF by Gilbert and Rivington Ltd of London.  


Comment by Sally Davis: it’s easy to get ill in hot climates, of course, but even contemporary sources suggested that MWB’s illness was the result of the bad feeling that now existed between him and senior EEF employees (mainly Newberry but also Flinders Petrie and others) over the expedition to Hatnub made by MWB and George Willoughby Fraser.  They had made it without Newberry’s consent and had used time which he wanted Willoughby Fraser to spend concentrating on writing up El Bersheh - Newberry had a deadline of November 1892 to meet, by which time all the work on El Bersheh had to be finished.  Later in 1892 the artist Percy Buckman was sent by the EEF to finish the tracing and copying work MWB had not been able to; Percy Buckman’s sister Katherine Julia later joined the GD.  It had been mooted within the the EEF that MWB might be offered more training with Newberry at Beni Hasan and Flinders Petrie at Tell al Amarna during the 1891/1892 digging season, with a view to employing him as an archaeologist.  Newberry was also considering publishing a book of MWB’s watercolour copies of wall paintings.  But MWB’s behaviour over the quarries at Hatnub changed people’s minds.  MWB never worked for the EEF again, even as a volunteer; George Willoughby Fraser ceased to be an EEF employee; and when Percy Newberry left the EEF in 1894, the difficulties he’d had with the two men were thought to be one of his reasons for seeking another employer.  The EEF trained Howard Carter instead.

Sources for the bad feeling about the behaviour of MWB and George Willoughby Fraser, all of which are using the EES’s own records amongst others: 

Saluki: The Desert Hound and the English Travelers who brought it to the West.  By Brian P Duggan with foreword by Terence Clark.  Jefferson North Carolina: McFarland 2009: p55.  

Flinders Petrie: A Life in Archaeology by Margaret S Drower.  University of Wisconsin Press 1st edition 1985; this is from the 2nd edition, published 1995: p171, pp186-193. 

Howard Carter: the Path to Tutankhamun by T G H James. Kegan Paul International 1992: pp12-15-28. 



MWB remained in Egypt for at least part of the year.  He and George Willoughby Fraser made two more expeditions to Hatnub, surveying the quarries, compiling a map and tracing and copying the many inscriptions (in ancient Egyptian hieratic script) that they found there.

Sources: G Willoughby Fraser Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 1894: 78-82; and Times Monday 3 October 1892 p14.

Comment from Sally Davis: there was no water supply at Hatnub so each night a camel had to be sent to bring back a day’s supply.  However, the results were worth the difficult conditions: MWB and Willoughby Fraser found a second quarry, evidence of several rockfalls, and remains of the houses and tools used by the masons.  From the graffiti they identified several kings previously unknown to archaeologists; and they were able to work out that the quarries had been in use from the time of the 4th ancient Egyptian dynasty to about the 12th.



MWB and George Willoughby Fraser, finishing off their work at Hatnub, sent a short account of what they had found there to the Times newspaper.

Source: Times Monday 3 October 1892 p14 The Alabaster Quarries of Ha-Nub: letter from MWB and J Willoughby Fraser; written 15 September [1892] at Dahobyah Strange Hathor, Manfalűt.

Comment by Sally Davis: I think the letter was by way of preparation for the publication of the graffiti they had copied at Hatnub:

Collection of Hieratic Graffiti from the Alabaster Quarry of Hat-nub (sic) situated near Tell el Amarna.  “For Private Circulation Only”; there’s no indication of how many copies were printed.   No date of publication appears in the volume but the British Library catalogue dates it as 1892.  Just noting that T G H James thought the publication was a poor-quality one, particularly in not having an introduction: see Howard Carter: the Path to Tutankhamun by T G H James. Kegan Paul International 1992: p27.


3 OCTOBER 1892

Times published MWB and G Willoughby Fraser’s letter.

BY 1894

MWB was back in England - at least, I think his two paintings dated 1894 were done in England.  Never exhibited to my knowledge, they were two portraits, meant to be a set.  They’re both now owned by MWB’s great-grand-daughter. Both dated “1894" and initialled “WB”.  One of the two was a self-portrait. 

Source: the portraits, photographed 2014 by MWB’s great-grand-daughter.

Comment by Sally Davis: In his self-portrait MWB showed himself wearing a light brown suit, sitting in a chair against a dark background.  MWB has a neat beard; both it and his hair are grey, making him look older than you’d expect a man who was 30 to look.  Perhaps this was the effect of a couple of years in north Africa. MWB’s great-grand-daughter is sure the companion portrait is of Hilda Franklyn, MWB’s wife-to-be.  However, I would question this: Hilda (born 1885) was only 9 at the time it was painted.  The subject is clearly a woman in her twenties or thirties, sitting reading in what looks like a nice conservatory.  It’s more likely to be Hilda’s mother Lottie Franklyn, née Alves Jones; or maybe his sister Ada Mary (then aged 22).  Either that or MWB is looking to a future in which he and an adult Hilda will be companion pieces; that might also explain how old MWB looks in his self-portrait - that’s how he will look when Hilda is an adult.



MWB bought a copy of Collectanea Hermetica volume 6 - The Chaldaean Oracles of Zoroaster.

Source: the book, now in the Freemasons’ Library, with MWB’s name in pencil on it and annotations to some pages, also assumed to be by him.  Publication details: Collectanea Hermetica Volume 6: The Chaldaean Oracles attributed to Zoroaster. Series editor: Sapere Aude.  Introduction by LO.  Translated and with a preface by William Wynn Westcott.  Published 1895 London: Theosophical Publishing Society.  And Madras: office of The Theosophist, Adyar. 

Comments by Sally Davis: there’s nothing remarkable in MWB buying a book, of course, and this book was not so far from his interests as you might think - the introduction argued that the Oracles should be studied with the Kabbalah, Egyptian theology and the tarot (which was also thought to have Egyptian origins) in mind.  However, probably unbeknown to him at this stage, MWB was making first contact with the GD.  The Collectanea Hermetica series, though available to the public, was a GD project: William Wynn Westcott as Sapere Aude was the series’ editor and the contributors were GD members, the contributor in this case being Levavi Oculos - Percy William Bullock.

See wikipedia for more on the Chaldaean Oracles which are now thought to be not ancient Persian as Westcott assumed, but Hellenistic, probably from 2nd century AD.


17 FEBRUARY 1896

Several years after he had gone off in a huff (his own account) or become persona non grata (account of the GD’s SRIA members) a ballot of members allowed A E Waite back into the GD’s Isis-Urania Temple.

Source for the readmittance: Freemasons’ Library GD collection GD 2/3/1/9: the certificate which readmitted him.

Comment by Sally Davis.  There was an on-off friendship between A E Waite and Robert Palmer-Thomas during the 1890s and early 1900s.  It was Palmer-Thomas whose enthusiasm for what was going on in the GD persuaded Waite to ask to be taken on again.  During his second-time-round membership Waite despised William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers just as much as he had done after his original initiation in 1891.  But he did stay a member for rather longer this second time; and got to know MWB well.

Source for AEW’s side of it: 

Shadows of Life and Thought: A Retrospective Review in the Form of Memoirs by Arthur Edward Waite.  London: Selwyn & Blount of Paternoster House EC4 1938 pp159-160.


LATE 1896

Florence Farr’s treatise on Egyptian Magic was published. 


Collectanea Hermetica volume VIII, which contains the article Egyptian Magic by SSDD (shorthand form of Sapientia Sapienti Dono Data - GD motto of Florence Farr).  Series editor William Wynn Westcott as Sapere Aude. London: Theosophical Publishing Society 1896. 

Comment by Sally Davis: there’s no direct evidence that MWB owned a copy of Florence Farr’s treatise but I find it hard to believe he would not want to have a copy, once he’d found out about it.  It’s just possible, I suppose, that MWB joined the GD in time to have been able to contribute some input to Florence Farr’s work - but that’s just speculation on my part.


27 AUGUST 1896

MWB was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, at its Isis-Urania temple in London.

Source: R A Gilbert’s The Golden Dawn Companion p156.

Comment by Sally Davis: MWB may have had friends in the GD in 1895-96 - though they weren’t supposed to let on about it to non-members - but he could equally easily have contacted Westcott or Bullock via Collectanea Hermetica’s publisher, and been drawn in to the GD that way. 


MWB’s motto is an interesting one: Ma Wahanu Thesi, which I’ve never seen translated.  I very cautiously suggest that it’s MWB’s transliteration of some Egyptian hieroglyphs.


MWB will have been particularly sought-after as a possible initiate: although many members of the GD were interested in the religions and magic of ancient Egypt, hardly any members had actually been to the country to see its famous sites or had been able to master ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and hieratic script.  Once he was a member, MWB would have gained access to the GD’s own literature on ancient Egyptian magic, much of which circulated amongst the members in manuscript; including Florence Farr’s The Book of the Concourse of the Forces which contained watercolour drawings of Egyptian gods.

Source for the book: Freemasons’ Library GD collection GD 2/1/8: The Book of the Concourse of the Forces; with date 12 October 1893.


A more mundane comment: in 1896 MWB’s address for post from the GD was 16a Oxford Square, Paddington but he didn’t do more than stay there occasionally, it wasn’t his home but his father’s.  Marcus Seton Blackden seems to have moved into the house in preparation for his second marriage to Mary Elizabeth Cotter in 1884.  They were living there with their daughter and son, and MWB’s full-sister Ada Mary.



MWB was initiated into the GD’s inner, 2nd Order - until you had achieved this second initiation, you were not allowed to do any practical magic.

Source: RAG Companion p156.

Comment by Sally Davis: from original initiation to 2nd Order initiation within 15 months was rare in the GD for a number of good reasons.  MWB had an advantage over most new initiates when it came to doing the study-work and exams quickly - he knew a lot about Egyptian magic and symbolism already; and he didn’t have to go to work or run a household and family.  Nevertheless, the speed at which he gained that level of proficiency in the western occult tradition is impressive.



MWB spent much of the year living in East Anglia, in Norwich and at Oulton Broad in Suffolk.  He joined the Norfolk and Norwich Art Circle and exhibited with them. 


MWB joined the Sphere Group, a sub-group within the GD led by Florence Farr.


R A Gilbert’s The Golden Dawn Companion

Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn (full details in the Sources section below) pp250-51; quoting a later account of the Group, written by one of its members, Robert William Felkin: The Group As I Knew It.

For the Sphere Group’s purpose:

A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert.  Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint.  1987.  Chapter 12 p113.

Cauda Pavonis volumes 11-16 1992: article on the Sphere Group by Sharon E Cogdill pp7-12.  Cauda Pavonis was the newsletter/journal of the Hermetic Text Society, published by the Department of English, Washington State University at Pullman, beginning in 1982 though I’m not sure when publication ceased.  Some at least of its volumes can be seen at

Comments by Sally Davis: information on the Sphere Group isn’t all that easy to find - it was an informal group which didn’t really keep records.  However, Sharon Cogdill was able to say that Florence Farr had originally founded the group to teach Egyptian symbolism and invocation, and it seems to have developed and matured from there.  Felkin listed its human members: himself; Ada Waters; Cecilia Macrae; Helen Rand; Florence Kennedy; Florence Farr’s sister Henrietta Paget; Robert Palmer Thomas (of whom more later); Edmund Hunter; Dorothea Hunter; Fanny Hunter; and MWB who must have known as much about the subject in terms of ancient Egypt as Florence Farr, but perhaps not as much about the way the ancient symbols might be used in a modern magical order.  An astral entity understood by the group’s members to be “an Egyptian figure” (to quote Felkin) appeared at the centre of the sphere during the ritual, which lasted about an hour.  The members of the group didn’t have to be in the same place to play their part in the ritual; but they did have meetings, which would have been an opportunity for MWB to get to know Robert Palmer-Thomas.  According to Felkin’s account, the group lasted from mid-1898 to 1901, when the astral entity announced that he (sic) would no longer be available to the group; so that it had to be reconstituted. 


Sources for East Anglia though unfortunately neither of the websites gives details of what works MWB exhibited in 1898.

Website, entry for MWB which has a lovely illustration, one of the copies MWB did at Beni Hasan - a bush full of birds, part of the larger fishing scene from Beni Hasan tomb 14, the tomb of Khnumhotep. 



22 JUNE 1899

MWB’s sister Ada Mary was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn.

Source: RAG The Golden Dawn Companion p160.

Though never as active a member as her brother, Ada Mary did do the work necessary to be admitted to the 2nd, inner order, on 22 November 1900.  She was not a member of either the Independent or Rectified Rite or Stella Matutina.



MWB copied out Samuel Liddell Mathers’ “Abridged Treatise on the Taro” (sic).  This was a set of instructions on how to use tarot cards for divination; and some tables of correspondences between particular tarot cards and symbols from the Kabbalah, colours, and the signs of the zodiac.

Source: the original 214-page volume, now in Freemasons’ Library GD collection and signed by MWB: call number GD 2/1/23.

Comment by Sally Davis: being handed a manuscript of magical instructions, for you to copy out, was the usual way of learning in the GD. 



Some of MWB’s work at Beni Hasan appeared in two small volumes on the site.


Beni Hasan 1900, 9 pages.  Contributors: Howard Carter, MWB, Percy Brown.  I take it this is not the same book as

Zoological and Other Details Volume 4 of Beni Hasan, Volume 7 of Memoir.  Published by the Archaeological Survey of Egypt.  9 pages.  1900.  Contributors: Howard Carter, MWB, Percy Brown, Percy Buckman, Percy Edward Newberry.



MWB was living at 6 Topsfield Parade Crouch End.

Sources: some of the documents I mention as sources for the trouble in the GD in spring 1900 have this as MWB’s address.


MWB was working on Egyptian compilation known as The Book of the Dead: the meaning of the Pillars which are often referred to in it.

Comment by Sally Davis: this was the beginning of a programme of translating and interpreting The Book of the Dead, which continued until around 1914.


Yeats’s Golden Dawn by George Mills Harper using GD papers kept by Yeats after he resigned, and now in the Yeats’ collection in Ireland.  London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1974.

The papers include The Scribe’s Account of the Executive Difficulty, prepared 26-27 February 1901 by Annie Horniman, to give her side of the events of a particularly rumbustuous meeting of the new GD Council; about which, more below.  Specific reference to MWB’s talk is on p61.  Annie H was infuriated because in order to allow him more time to prepare his talk, MWB was let off doing the “D exam”.  London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1974. 



MWB got caught up in the aftermath of a letter Samuel Liddell Mathers sent Florence Farr, in which he told her that the GD’s founding documents were faked. 

A summing-up of what happened, in date order: RAG The Golden Dawn Companion pp73-78.  See also Ellic Howe.



MWB agreed to join a committee set up by Florence Farr and Percy William Bullock to investigate whether Mathers’ allegations were true.  At some point before April 1900 he also agreed to take charge of the contents of the Isis-Urania temple, which included manuscripts as well as furniture and other paraphernalia used in rituals.

Comment by Sally Davis: Mathers swore Florence Farr to silence on the subject but after several days of worry she decided she really must tell other senior members of the GD.  Although he had not been a member as long as some others, Florence trusted MWB’s opinion and discretion enough to make him one of the few people she told. 

Source: Freemasons’ Library GD collection call number: GD 2/4/3/2.



As the investigation began, Mathers attempted by letter to reassert his authority over the GD members in London.


Threatening letters having failed, Mathers authorised a group led by Aleister Crowley to take possession of the 2nd Order’s rooms at 36 Blythe Road Hammersmith and restore his authority by making every 2nd Order member take a new oath of allegiance.  Crowley and his group failed to keep control of the Blythe Road rooms, partly because MWB did not give them the help Mathers and Crowley had expected from him.

A good source for the events in date order: RAG The Golden Dawn Companion pp73-78.

The source I usually use: Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: p220; p222  Howe had access to GD archives and also to a copy of Crowley’s Abra-Melin diary in which Crowley wrote up his view of what was going on (which is not necessarily to be relied on).

Comment by Sally Davis: not all 2nd Order members had a key to the rooms in Blythe Road.  MWB was one of those who did have a key and initially, Mathers hoped that MWB would hand it over to Crowley when asked.  But he didn’t; Crowley had to ask Dr Berridge instead.  Mathers had also told Crowley to ask MWB for a list of the 2nd Order’s current members.  But MWB didn’t hand that over either.


21 APRIL 1900

MWB went to the Mark Masons’ Hall in Covent Garden, which was rented by the GD for rituals and meetings involving all the members.  He took away various GD props and paraphernalia that were stored there, and hid them in a safe place.  He wrote a note to the investigating committee saying he wouldn’t allow anyone access to them until the situation with Mathers and Crowley had been resolved.


Freemasons’ Library GD collection call number: GD 2/4/3/28, MWB’s note to the other members of the investigating committee, dated 21 April 1900.

Comment by Sally Davis: as you can also see from his actions in Egypt, MWB was rather high-handed.  However, his quick action probably saved a lot of the GD’s property from falling into the hands of Mathers’ supporters in the GD.  It seems that the GD’s contemporary members never got their possessions back: the hoard passed into the keeping of MWB, and then Helen Rand, as senior members of the Independent and Rectified Rite (for more of this Order see the net file in this life-by-dates sequence) resurfacing in 1930 after Helen’s death.

Source: Yeats’s Golden Dawn by George Mills Harper using GD papers kept by Yeats after he resigned, and now in the Yeats’ collection in Ireland.  London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1974: p155.


21 APRIL 1900

The 2nd Order held a hastily-arranged meeting.  At this meeting, MWB was deemed no longer to be a member of the investigating committee.  Helen Rand replaced him.

Source: Freemasons’ Library GD collection call number: GD 2/4/3/26a, GD 2/4/3/35. 

Comment by Sally Davis: Not all the people who attended the meeting of 21 April 1900 are named; but MWB is not amongst the names that are listed.  I think he didn’t attend the meeting; perhaps if he had, there wouldn’t have been so much doubt about which side he was on.



MWB wrote to Samuel Liddell Mathers, asking why Mathers’ had refused to cooperate with the investigating committee; and exactly what Crowley’s involvement was. 

Source: Mathers’ reply, in the Freemasons’ Library GD collection, call number GD 2/4/3/31.

Comment by Sally Davis:

The letter MWB wrote has been lost, but in his reply Mathers did quote from it and it does seem that MWB had not been tactful in his approach.  He had written not in bewilderment, but in some anger at the way Mathers was behaving: “Am I to understand”, he’d said, “that there is never to be any truth and light let in upon the Order?”  However, he did warn Mathers that the GD members in London were seriously considering a future without him; and asked him what he should do about it.  Any criticism of his actions, however slight and politely phrased, always brought out the worst in Mathers and MWB received in reply a rant in which other GD members were called “swine” and “rebellious children” though he himself was only accused of acting with “more precipitation than discretion” and condemned for “the liberty of speech that you have dared to indulge”.


27 APRIL 1900

MWB received a telegram from Aleister Crowley asking him to keep secret the fact that he was acting as Mathers’ agent in London.

Comment by Sally Davis: MWB might have dropped out of the investigating committee, but he was not completely on Mathers’ side either: he handed over Crowley’s telegram to the investigating committee.  It was far too late for Crowley to be seeking anonymity: that he was the man who had acted for Mathers in attempting to seize the rooms at Blythe Road was widely known in the GD’s 2nd Order.

Source: Freemasons’ Library GD collection call number GD 2/4/3/33a-c, which is the telegram, one copy of it and the envelope it was delivered in.

19 APRIL 1900

Mathers and his supporters were expelled from the GD.

21 APRIL 1900

A new, post-Mathers, constitution and administrative/ritual hierarchy was formulated for the GD, in which MWB agreed to serve, as Adeptus Litteratus with responsibility for ceremonial.

Sources: RAG The Golden Dawn Companion pp77-78.

Ellic Howe The Magicians of the Golden Dawn p228.  There were seven adepti litterati, each with responsibility for teaching and advising on their particular area of expertise.

Collected Letters of W B Yeats Volume III 1901-94 pp32-33 lists the Council members.

Comment by Sally Davis: the other members of the Executive Council to run the GD from now on were Florence Farr; Dorothea and Edmund Hunter; Henrietta Paget; Helen Rand; and Robert Palmer-Thomas, all of whom were in the Sphere Group; so MWB was amongst friends.



If MWB had any doubts about whether to remain loyal to Mathers, these must have been eased by receiving SLM’s ranting letter from Paris, written on 26 April 1900.

Source: the letter, now in the Freemasons’ Library GD collection, call number GD 2/4/3/31.

Comment by Sally Davis: as with the telegram from Crowley; MWB felt enough loyalty to the GD in London to hand them the letter. 



MWB gave his talk to GD members on the meaning of the Pillars in the Book of the Dead.

Source: Yeats’s Golden Dawn by George Mills Harper using GD papers kept by Yeats after he resigned, and now in the Yeats’ collection in Ireland.  London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1974; p61.



The Egypt Society was founded, with MWB as its first president. 

Source for its founding though the founding date isn’t mentioned: Collected Letters of W B Yeats Volume III 1901-94 p121 note 7.

Comment by Sally Davis: there doesn’t seem to be much information on the Egypt Society and perhaps it didn’t last very long.  It may have only had one purpose: to get a play put on in public, whose subject was taken from ancient Egyptian myth.  I would suppose that MWB was elected its first president because he had been very active getting the Society off the ground.  It’s likely Florence Farr was active too - it was her play.


The Sphere Group was reconstituted with less Egyptian input: the figure at the centre of the sphere now being the Holy Grail.

Source: Robert Felkin’s account of the Sphere Group, quoted in Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn pp250-251 though it’s not clear from the account exactly which Sphere Group members moved on to the new group, and which dropped out.



GD Council members began to prepare for a Council meeting at which they would discuss a way of holding elections to the Council.  MWB sent a letter to the Council secretary (Scribe) Annie Horniman, putting forward 3 motions to be discussed at the meeting; one about alterations to the 5=6 ceremony; 2 others about how the voting in Council elections was to be counted and by whom.

Source: Yeats’s Golden Dawn by George Mills Harper using GD papers kept by Yeats after he resigned, and now in the Yeats’ collection in Ireland.  London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1974; p37, p41 and p229 et seq.

Comment by Sally Davis: after the meeting Annie Horniman was quite sure that MWB had been acting, not alone but as spokesman for a group of Council members who opposed the ideas she was proposing; I imagine she was right about that.


25 FEBRUARY 1901

MWB played a major role at the GD Council meeting - 2 hours of acrimonious debate over electoral procedure and the existence of cross-rank sub-groups, in which Annie Horniman and W B Yeats were opposed by the majority of the GD Council members.  MWB apparently acted as the main spokesman for the majority group, as the meeting fought its way through the agenda.


Yeats’s Golden Dawn by George Mills Harper using GD papers kept by Yeats after he resigned from the Order; now in the Yeats’ collection in Ireland.  London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1974.  Particularly the Appendix The Scribe’s Account of the Executive Difficulty, Annie Horniman’s take on what happened p229 et seq, in which she seems to be blaming MWB for all the uproar; but also pp37-45 and pp61-64.

Collected Letters of W B Yeats Volume III 1901-94 pp32-33. 

Ellic Howe The Magicians of the Golden Dawn pp247-251.


Comment by Sally Davis: the meeting went on so long that some of the 12 Council members who’d been there at the start had had to leave.  Although most of the debate was about how to carry out elections to the GD Council, the real point on which Annie Horniman and W B Yeats disagreed with everyone else at the meeting was the existence of sub-groups within the Order.  The Sphere Group and others like it, had broken the rule of magical orders that sub-groups within them could only consist of members at the same level of initiation - that is, the same level of learning and understanding.  The 12 who argued against Annie Horniman and W B Yeats had all been members of the Sphere Group - Annie Horniman was all too aware of that; but she didn’t understand how much the Sphere Group’s members had got, out of being members of it. The meeting ended with a vote 6:2 in favour of the continuation of the sub-groups; Annie Horniman’s ideas for the handling of Council elections were also voted out.  Annie Horniman and W B Yeats were the ‘2'; they both resigned from the GD on 27 February 1901.


FEBRUARY 1901-END 1902

Nearly all of the GD Council members who had attended the meeting of 25 February 1901 resigned from the GD; for a variety of reasons.  MWB and Helen Rand became de facto leaders of those who remained.

Source for the resignations: Yeats’s Golden Dawn by George Mills Harper using GD papers kept by Yeats after he resigned, and now in the Yeats’ collection in Ireland.  London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1974: p96.  Those who left included some of the GD’s most long-serving and respected members: Florence Farr and Henrietta Paget; and Dorothea and Edmund Hunter.


CENSUS DAY (April) 1901

MWB had moved into what might have been a Blackden family-owned house in London - 3 Wells Road Regent’s Park.  Ada Mary was keeping house for him there.

Sources: family papers; census 1901



MWB and A E Waite were initiated as freemasons at Runymede Lodge.  They were both recommended to the Lodge by the GD’s W F Kirby who was already a member.

Comment by Sally Davis: there’s much more about this in the next of the Blackden ‘life by dates’ files.


16 NOVEMBER 1901

The Egypt Society staged the play Beloved of Hathor, the Shrine of the Golden Hawk; written by Florence Farr and her friend Olivia Shakespear.

Comment by Sally Davis: the Egypt Society members hired the Victoria Hall, at 21 Archer Street Westbourne Grove, for their production of the play.  Olivia Shakespear was not in the GD.


Collected Letters of W B Yeats Vol III 1901-94 p121 note 7.

At you can see the full script of Beloved of Hathor, The Shrine of the Golden Hawk.  There’s an outline of the plot and an introduction about how it should be staged and what the characters in it should wear.

Website is a music hall and theatre history site which uses local sources. There’s a good section on the Victoria Hall, with photos.



The GD changed its name, and a new set of bye-laws was issued.

Comment by Sally Davis: with so many senior GD members resigning, it’s likely that MWB played an important role in getting these changes agreed.

Source I used (though there’s plenty of other information out there): Yeats’s Golden Dawn by George Mills Harper using GD papers kept by Yeats after he resigned, and now in the Yeats’ collection in Ireland.  London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1974; p96.


21 and 22 APRIL 1902

There were two more performances of  Beloved of Hathor, The Shrine of the Golden Hawk, and the text was published.


Freemasons’ Library call number SRIA 399: Text of Beloved of Hathor and The Shrine of the Golden Hawk, by Florence Farr and Olivia Shakespear.  Printed by Farncombe and Son.  A note on the upper flyleaf of the SRIA’s copy gives the dates in April 1902 that the play was performed.


BY AUTUMN 1902 probably long before this date

Sub-groups of the GD like the Sphere Group had ceased to function.


Ellic Howe The Magicians of the Golden Dawn p251.




BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.


Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert.  Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986.  Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914.  The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation.  All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.  Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01.  I have recently (July 2014) discovered that some records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived, though most have not; however those that have survived are not yet accessible to the public.


For the history of the GD during the 1890s I usually use Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923.  Published Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972.  Foreword by Gerald Yorke.  Howe is a historian of printing rather than of magic; he also makes no claims to be a magician himself, or even an occultist.  He has no axe to grind.


Family history: freebmd; (census and probate);; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families;; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.


Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.


Useful source for business and legal information: London Gazette and its Scottish counterpart Edinburgh Gazette.  Now easy to find (with the right search information) on the web.


Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.


Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources.  I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.




18 May 2015


Find the web pages of Roger Wright and Sally Davis, including my list of people initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn between 1888 and 1901, at:





30 March 2015


Find the web pages of Roger Wright and Sally Davis, including my list of people initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn between 1888 and 1901, at: