Where does magick come from?
This is one of the most frequent questions I receive about magick. There is no simple answer to this question. Every time a source is discovered, if you pull back a leaf you find another behind it. We could go back to ancient Europe or the Middle East and find sources there, but even they had their own sources. Certainly though, magick has been with us since the earliest prehistoric times and has evolved to the current state of the art.
While the history of magick is interesting, I am far more intrigued by what is going on today. What I've discovered is that virtually every magickal system around today is either directly or indirectly traceable to, or has similarities with, the teaching of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
For over a century, the leaders of the Golden Dawn have helped magick and spirituality to evolve. When the Golden Dawn was founded in England at the end of the nineteenth century, British culture was heavily influenced by the idea of syncretism. If you look in your dictionary, you'll see it describe syncretism as a blending of different systems. Although this could be any group of systems, it most commonly refers to ones which are philosophical or religious in nature. However, it's actually more than that. In England it assumed that all spiritual traditions were really only one tradition with differences based on culture. Many people and spiritual groups had the goal of finding that single original source. They did this by fusing things together.
It was from this environment that the members of the Golden Dawn were drawn. They had a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, including Kabbalah, Tarot, magick, Druidism, astrology, and alchemy. The members of the "GD" merged these into one system. As a result, the system was complex but usable. Time has shown that the system works.
Many people, including myself, think that with magick it is good to go back and learn the roots of your magickal system. Often, as things evolve, extra ideas and practices, which actually take away from a magickal system, are added. Since most magickal systems today are based on what was done by the Golden Dawn, it makes sense to learn what they did and how you can apply it to your own world of magick. Unfortunately, this is far easier said than done! Most of the books on the Golden Dawn are not very practical, not presented well, or just plain daunting due to their size.
Where to Begin Your Study
To make learning the Golden Dawn system easier, Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, senior adepts of the Order, have written a book called The Essential Golden Dawn. This is an ideal book to begin your study of the Golden Dawn, magick in general, and ceremonial magick in the style of Western Hermeticism in particular. It includes the history of the Golden Dawn, reveals the "laws of magick" (which assure that your rituals will work), and even has a section on ethics.
Of course, it also includes how to do some of the famous and basic rituals of the Golden Dawn. But it has something that no other book, so far, has really revealed. The Essential Golden Dawn explains the symbolism and techniques used in Golden Dawn rituals so you can incorporate them into your own path. You will be able to design and perform your own Golden Dawn-style rituals.
Several years ago, I got into a debate with a man over what was practiced by members of the Golden Dawn. He claimed they couldn't have done the things I said because it wasn't in Regardie's books. I smiled and pointed out that the people who were members of the Order were some of the best minds in the world of magick. They did far more than was in any book. They were taught how to apply the basics as taught in the Golden Dawn and improve upon them. The Essential Golden Dawn continues in the pattern of using the Golden Dawn system to expand upon what people have done in the past and not limit magickal practices to mere repetition of what has been done before.