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Saturday 15 August 2009

Robes and the Golden Dawn

Doing all the preliminary work for setting up new temple I have been giving some thought to thinks like cloaks and tabards for the officers. For the last decade, like many groups, we have used tabards in leiu of cloaks. These are cooler than cloaks and less likely to make a mess when you walk around. I consulted the ritual however and it specifically talks about the middle pillar officers wearing robes... black, white and red. The advanced documents show drawings of cloaks.
Robes would be better than tabards or cloaks so why were these used?
The problem with modern perceptions of the GD is the belief that they operated much like we do. People wore robes and then a cloak over the top. However it occurred to me that Victorian women would not be allowed to strip down to just a robe and wear it in front of men even with a cloak over the top. This would like wearing your underwear in a ritual and throwing a cloak over the top. To the victorian middle classes a woman in her underwear was naked!
But you could not wear a robe over a victorian dress (see the picture)
What if instead of wearing robes the GD wore their every day clothes with a cloak over the top? This would be very masonic and in keeping with the tradition and the times.
The weak point in my argument is the question about what the non officers wore. The ritual refers to a black 'gown'. The meaning of word gown during this period was two different things. There was a the idea of what we would call 'a dress' and there was also the concept of what the Victorian judges would have worn -- a black shapeless over garment (which could have evolved into the Tau robe but certainly would have looked a lot different.)
Frankly I would not want modern street clothes in a ritual and would favour robes as a modern evolution.
If modern groups were to obey the ritual literally then officers would just wear an appropriately coloured robe with a cross sewn on the breast. These days we dont have a problem with robes so we should abandon the cloaks and tabards completely.


  1. Nice post.

    I'm assuming you mean that instead of using the coloured tabards you would use coloured robes (red robe for Hierophant, etc.). I guess these would replace the black Tau robes. However, what about the Hiereus? If they wear a black robe instead of a black tabard, what is to distinguish them from the lesser officers, who will be wearing their black tau robes?


  2. They would still have the crosses on their right side... of course they would not wear sashes but that is a modern GD conceit... and they would have their lamens.... just like the dad, the stol and the Kerux. The heg would be all in white, the heirophant all in red.

  3. Oh yes, I forgot about the crosses. That would distinguish them.

    I was never fond of people wearing their sashes when holding office. The way I look at is that you're no longer "Jim" (who is, for example 2=8) when holding the office of, for example, the Keryx, and thus wearing a sash would interfere with that. When given the opportunity I take off my sash for such.


  4. I would assume that tabards came into popularity with the practicalities though. I mean given that temples can at times start small a tabard would be easier made than a full robe with associated cross. Do either of you see any issue with tabards instead of robes?

    And isn't it possible for the Tabard to go over the sash? I'd have considered that symbolic that "Jim" (who is 2=8) dons the tabard over his sash while in office. Speaking completely in terms of symbols once "Jim" enters the Temple isn't he Frater "Jim" and in magickal persona which would include his 2=8 grading (whether he wears a sash or not)

  5. Tabards are recent it was just cloaks before that. They are fine in my view just too hot for Rome!
    It is my view that officers do not wear sashes because:
    1. They get in the way
    2. The officer might be a 2=9 but the job is a 4=7 (or higher).
    3. I hate the idea of badges anyway which smacks of the ego centric nonsense of masonry. You can tell how much real magic a person does by the amount of jewellry they insist on wearing. The more they wear, the less they are a magician.

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  7. Nick: Yes, I imagine tabards are not very comfortable in a warm country. I suppose a stole could be employed?

    Abhainn: In addition to Nick's response, when "Jim" enters temple he is "Frater ABC", a 2=9. When he takes on the office of Hiereus (4=7), however, he is Frater Hiereus, not Frater ABC. At least, that's how I look at it. The Hierophant, for example, is not the Frater or Soror you have a chat with before and after, but something else entirely (partly due to the god-forms).

    Also, while the tabard may cover most of a sash, that only applies to the Middle Pillar officers. The Keryx, Stolistes, Dadouchos, and Sentinel do not wear tabards, and thus the sashes would be much more visible. I think they serve as a distraction from the symbolism of the Officer in question. Instead of a Neophyte seeing the sash of a 2=9, they should be seeing the regalia of the Officer (robe, lamen, etc.)


  8. There are a lot of good points made here, but I think for the origin of the Golden Dawn’s use of robes and regalia, one should look much farther back than the Victorian era. The vestments, I have found, seem to have come to us from the Mystery Schools of antiquity, via their heir -- Catholicism. Fifteen centuries ago Emperor Theodosius II banished Mystery Schools from the Roman Empire. What happened to the initiates of those schools? They migrated to Catholicism, bringing with them their traditions, ceremonies and regalia, greatly influencing the subsequent development of Catholic ceremony. Even during medieval and renaissance times, those of a Magick persuasion found in Catholicism striking similarities of antiquities past, as well as protection they needed to pursue their interests. One who might be called the Father of Hermeticism, Marsilio Ficino was a Priest, as was Pico della Mirandola the Christian Cabalist. Agrippa’s teacher, Trithemius, was a monastic Abbot, and Priest. Christian Rosenkreutz, as legend tells, was a monastic, and probably a Priest. In modern times, there are countless Anglican, Old Catholic, and Liberal Catholic Deacons, Priests and Bishops who are or have been members of R.R. et A.C. and G.D. groups.

    To get to the point -- in a duly constituted temple, the Hierophant will be a 2nd Order member, at least a 5=6, whose traditional vesting is quite similar to that of a catholic priest. A catholic priest’s vestment will be an Alb (white robe) worn over his street clothes, a Stole worn crossed over his breast (like crossed sashes of 2nd Order members), and a Cincture about the waist (some 2nd Order members wore waist sashes when performing ritual). For Rituals other than Mass, the Priest would were a Cope (Cloak or Mantle) adorned with crosses or other religious motifs. Do you see the similarity? A Deacon would wear the Alb (white robe) with a Stole on his left shoulder crossing in front and back to his right (just like a First Order baldric), and if assisting at Mass, he would wear a Tunic (Tabard) over the Alb and Stole. Again, striking similarities!

    Governing bodies as well as tradition dictates how a Priest vests, just like there is and should be for all G.D. temples. In fact, it is the duty of the Stolistes, who is in charge of all regalia as well as purifications, to see that all members are properly attired (robe, baldrics, etc), including Officers, and to escort out any who are not properly “clothed for labor.”

    I suspect what drove the G.D. and latter organizations to use Copes (Cloaks) instead of colored robes, was economics. A Cope of moderate length can fit anyone regardless of size, whereas if you were to employ colored robes, you would need several in different sizes. Copes aren’t any harder to make than Tabards, and need not be of such a length as to be cumbersome. Some modern temples have opted to have them waist length, or even shorter like a Bishop’s Cape. They can be lined or unlined. When lined, some will line them with satin or silk in a complementary color. I am, of course, referring to the officers on the floor. The three chiefs on the dais traditionally have full length Copes made to fit.

    Apart from Sashes depicting one’s grade, it must be remembered that they also symbolize other things, like the temple pillars on a microcosmic level, of the currents of energy flowing through the aura, just as similar currents flow through the temple. Also, they represent a Yoke, our commitment to pursue the Occult Sciences, and it might be a good practice to follow the example of a Liberal Catholic Priest who says when donning his stole: “O Thou Who hast said, ‘My yoke is sweet and my burden light,’ grant that I may bear Thy blessing to all the world.”

    In LVX,