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Saturday 6 October 2012

Book review: Madeline Montalban The Magus of St Giles by Julia Philips

Madeline Montalban (8 January 1910–11 January 1982) was a fascinating character in the field of 20th century magic. Stories swarmed around her until the real Madeline disappeared leaving only the stories. Writing a biography about her, as Julia Philips has done is nearly impossible, even her close friends had difficulty getting past the stories that surrounded her.
In 1998 David Goddard told me one such story about how he and Maxine Saunders met Montalban to discuss her legendary Angel Magic course. He said he had never met her before and it was a late at night meeting. He believed that she was a woman in her late 40s. They sat up talking until dawn and when the sun came into the room he suddenly realised that she must have been about 80 and he believed that she must have been casting a glamour.
Philips' book then is a collection of stories about her told through the people that knew her and there are a lot of them. In her life it is hard to find a notable occultist who was not connected to Madaline at some point. Phillips has done a good job tracking down and interviewing her students and friends and this manages to give us a good picture about the sort of person she was.
From my perspective I was interested in Madeline's connection to the Order of the Golden Dawn. Madeline formed a magic order called the Order of the Morning Star and I had worked with some of that material. There were elements of it which could be seen as being inspired by the Golden Dawn.  When I met him, the French occultist Nicolas Tereshenko told me that he was a member of Madeline Montalban's Order of the Morning Star and he said that this had links to the Golden Dawn. On a web site connected to him it claimed that he had the grade of Adeptus Maximus in her order.
I was also aware that my former teacher David Goddard had been teaching material based around the Order of the Morning Star which he described as a system of Angel Magic which pre-dated John Dee was was more reliable because “it did not come through a tainted scryer like Edward Kelly.” He also claimed he was one of the few in an ancient line of Angelic initiators who had the right to teach it.
Phillips shows that Montalban was a different sort of magician from those who were following the Golden Dawn line. Indeed she looked upon them with contempt. Her magic system, which was self created and based on her researches at the British Library, was deliberately less dramatic and simple. It was also based on her own story of Lucifer the Light Bringer. Instead of a dramatic ritual she would use an altar, talismans, tarot cards and a clearly written intention translated into a magical script. This would then be activated by working with a planetary angel on the correct day.
All this was placed in a series of 42 lessons which were a correspondence course. Promising students were sometimes given extra training but the Order of the Morning Star was the same course of Angel Magic which David had talked about. There were no initiations, no grades, it was exactly the magical path that Montalban wanted. It was certainly not connected to the Golden Dawn or any method of Angelic initiations.
To clarify this I contacted the author who told me that there was was no link she could find between Madeline and the GD.
“She was scathing about GD-style lineage and initiations so I can't imagine she would ever have any real connection to any GD group. Going along as an invited guest is another matter - she would totally do that and then ridicule it all later!” Phillips wrote.
Madeline Montalban 
All I can think of is that Nicolas Tereshenko thought the Order of the Morning Star was an English translation for the Stella Matutina. However it would be difficult how he could claim a high grade in an order that despised grades and certainly did not have an Adeptus Maximus grade.
The book also looks at Montalban's influence on Wicca. The Angel Magic system found its way into the teachings of Maxine Saunders where it was treated with a reverential awe. It is one of the few times I saw a senior Alexandrian witch throw his toys out of the pram was when he discovered that I had some parts of the course and I was not an initiated witch.
But Montalban also had a close connection with Wicca's founder Gerald Gardner and was probably his ghost writer for High Magic's Aid. As a journalist, writing regularly for Prediction Magazine on Tarot and Astrology,  she was well equipped to adapt the book from his notes. Later in her life she did not seem to hold him in much regard.
Like the “Old Sod” which was a biography about Bill Gray which I reviewed earlier, this book has to tackle the fact that its subject had a reputation for being difficult. Montalban appears to have thrown temper tantrums just because she was bored and also tended to embellish her stories.  She could also be manipulative of her students.  In the case of her stories it was because she often wanted to make a point, but sometimes it was just for the joy of telling it. Julia Phillips deals with all this in the polite way of someone who admires her subject -- calling her "mercurial". But this attitude appears to be backed up by Montalban's students, such as Leo Vinci, who feel the same way.
For the reader there is a message. Madeline's path made her the Avatar for the self initiate. Not only did she managed to prove that such a path was possible, she convinced a lot of people that it was a better way. But Madeline was different from many modern occultists. Her self initiation system was harder than many would bother with and was built on countless hours of study and thought. However it is the way of magic that if one person manages to do it, and built their own system, then it should be possible for others.
The book is well worth it.  My only problem with it is that it is a little short and I would have liked to have seen more stories of Madeline's magic in action. 
There are not many copies of Magus of St Giles available. The print run is limited to 400 signed copies which are available from AtlantisBookshop  in the UK. Given that the shop's owner Geraldine Beskin is quoted in the book, and the shop was one of Madeline's haunts it is probably the most appropriate place to buy it. I bought it online from them. I am told that Weiser Antiquarian in the US has a few copies too.


  1. Hi Nick, posted a fully reply to yours on Pat Z's forum. One small comment repeated here regarding grades in Madeline Montalban OMS, which I believe that Phillips is misappropriating. From what I was told members of the Inner Circle were certainly awarded all sorts of grades and titles. For Phillips to say "All I can think of is that Nicolas Tereshenko thought the Order of the Morning Star was an English translation for the Stella Matutina." proves Phillips complete lack of understanding of the OMS system and how grades/initiations were provided in the OMS (I.e in a light hearted and fun way without much of the ceremonial prop). Not having read the book, I wonder whether or not Montalban's work with Kenneth Grant is included. I agree with you that a book on the OMS would be of public interest, however I do not believe that Phillips is the correct person to do this. An idea for you perhaps, well members of the original Order are still alive.

  2. Good review of an interesting book and agree that it is definitely a little short. I would love to see a follow up as I find Madeleine, St Giles and 20th century esoteric London fascinating as I am sure do a great many people.

  3. The issuing of grades by Montalban appears to come down to the fact Tereschenko said there were and Montalban's other students say they were not. From what I can gather Tereschenko is a lone voice in this. If Lenny can produce the names of sources (that say differently) other then Tersechenko (and possibly Ruggio), then please do so as it would be a great help, as I am a firm believer in following the evidence. Lenny appears thoroughly convinced that Tereschenko is correct and surely that would not be based just on what one man, Tereschenko, and what he said. I'd love to clear this up and the ball is in your court Lenny.

  4. @Pat hi Pat. What i understand is that: (A) there was an Outer and Inner Circle Order. This is a two tier system, beyond cups of tea. It is irrational to assume that the function of an Inner Circle was only for cups of tea and chats. Logically an Inner Circle means novices and adepts, i.e group workings.

    To add to Tereschenko OMS grade comment:

    1. Leo Vinci told me he was initiated High Priest of the OMS.
    2. Douglas Stark told me that grades were given out in a non-formal manner.
    3. Nigel Jackson (the famous UK occult author) has implied to grade system, based upon the Inner Circle.


    4. I think Michael Howard, but are not certain.. i.e Brother Aslan
    5. According to what I understand from my information from Dr Robert Word, Bourke also acquired adeptus grade in the OMS.

    There are more names for you Pat. I think that instead of anyone making comments that seem to be designed to undermine or negate Tereschenko claim, or to take this side or that side, the logical and right thing is to find out why the inconsistenty. If I am mistaken about there being adepts in the OMS, then it is not in negation of what i have heard, just what I have misunderstood.

    And that Pat requires an explanation, not the he said, she said infantile arguementive BS which gets no one anywhere.

    My personal opinion, is that given the lenght of duration of the OMS that changes in membership and activities of any group do not remain cast in stone.

    The ONLY way to find out truth, is to have a complete list of Inner Circle membership, from the foundation of the OMS until its closure. And if that is not possible, then the next best thing, is to have all the years of OMS Inner Circle duration covered with some membership. Otherwise we just get a scatter approach with large blanks in its history. Good research looks across the generations, and does not miss out large periods of history. And good research also explains why contridictions. Only then will we have a truthful and more correct knowledge of the workings of the Inner Circle, and what any grades were when given.

    Additionally to say that the OMS did not produce adepts, kind of disrespects Montalban IMO as it kind of implies that Montalban was a failure as a teacher.

    Like you Pat, I am also a firm believer in following the evidence. That is complete evidence, not piece-meal selective bits and pieces.


  5. Hi Lenny
    Inner Circle in this case does not mean grades or anything like it. Madaline was a vocal opponent of such things. She also used to take the piss out of people who used them. It is a bit like saying.... "Nick Farrell hates Apple publicly... but uses Apple gear at home."
    I have had it pretty much confirmed that "inner circle" was more like "friends" (which is how the term is also used). They were people who finished the course and remained close to Madeline and saw her reasonably often.
    From what I have picked up from the others in her circle, is that Madaline was very much a 21st century solo magician and what she taught was ungraded solo magic. No structure just doing stuff.
    The difficulty from a research point of view is that your comments go against what some of these other people have told others (and in one case me). It might be that you are seeing things from a GD symbolic language (where grades mean something different). The OMS seems to have a different language from us.

    Pat Arthy describes one of Madaline's "Inner Circle" meetings in the book:
    "When we arrived at Madaline's flat several people were already there. Madaline pointed to the coffee table and said we needed to consecrate this talisman, so lets get started. Madaline did not bother erecting sacred space or calling on inner guardians. She thought that the best way was to attune to the angels using symbols... If the talisman had been made in accordance to Madaline's instructions it would be attuned to the proper angelic current..."
    So in other words an inner circle meeting was coffee... stick talisman on the table... attune to the symbols on the talisman and the angel and it would work. If you have seen the Angelic course this will be completely familiar to you. The only difference is that she would charge it with people watching who would assist.
    There is no room for a grade structure and logic would suggest that there was none.

  6. I met Nick Tereschenko twice. Once was with Bob Gilbert for the day and the other was at the Golden Dawn Conference. I wrote to him a number of times. I liked him (felt he was a little naive) and was going to publish his book on Tarot (he had an interesting extra card system for the secret paths using the drowned giant). Sadly the book publishing company went under when my partner bottled on me . I sent it back to him (along with my edited version) in the hope he could get it published somewhere else but sadly the book was never published.
    Nick also claimed that Tamara Boukon had given him and Pascal AO lineage. Pascal's website claimed that Tamara had given him the instruction to set up an AO temple in France.
    In fact Tamara had no AO lineage at all and started her order using cut down material from Regardie. Much additional material was gained by Tamara writing to regardie and her own enochian contacts.
    For some years Nick and Pascal also claimed on their website that they had lineage from the Stella Matutina via Whare Ra given to them by Laura Jennings. Laura told me that she had indeed met with Nick and Pascal and they asked her for the lineage from Whare Ra and she said no. It is possible that they did not understand that she had said no, but for what ever reason they said she had given it to them. This claim has since been removed from the Net.
    My point is that Nick wanted lineage and legitimacy for what he was doing. Ironically he picked the worst two people to claim it from Madaline was anti-lineage and Tamara did not have it and believed you got that from doing the work and making your own contacts. Both were "self taught" magicians.
    I do not know if Tamara or Madaline *said* they had given him lineage or not. If they had it would have been a joke (both were completely like that) and Nick would have certainly believed them (I mentioned he was naive and often did not pick up when english speaking people were joking), but I think it also he wanted to really believe that he would have a connection to the Golden Dawn because someone connected to it said he was. He just never found anyone who really was.
    Both Madaline and Tamara were significant 20th century occultists, and I for one have considerable respect for both. I would have been happy to have been taught by either. Nick was lucky.

    1. Hi Nick

      To start with Nick Tereschenko. I don't think Nick claimed AO lineage through Tamara Boukon. My understanding is, is that Tamara Boukon had permissions to set up a temple from Monia Mathers. And that Tamara give permissions and supported to Terseschenko to re-open the Paris temple. But that is another discussion.

      Re the OMS Inner Circle:

      - You and I both agree that Inner Circle was for persons whom had completed the correspondence course.
      - You and I both agree the OMS did not have a formal grade structure, especially in the GD sense.

      So where do we disagree.. (please correct me if I am mistaken)

      -You & I disagree about the OMS having grades, and you do for good reason
      -You & I disagree about titles being used in the OMS.
      -You & I disagree that the Inner Circle was for adepts of the OMS

      To approach the last first. Nick, we both agree that the Inner Cirlce was for persons whom completed that correspondence course. I cannot see how you can even claim remotely that the Inner Circle wasn't for
      adepts of the OMS. Whatever they did there in the Inner Circle, or whether a gathering of friends (and that is another discussion) logic dicates by very its existence you have students and adepts. This is confirmed by the entry restriction (I.e completing the training). Only persons whom had completed the correspondence course were allowed entry. Thus the inescapable conclusion is that there was at least a two step grade structure in the OMS.

      The second thing we disagree with "You & I disagree about titles being used in the OMS."

      Obviously Nick Tereschenko claimed an adept title. Bourke as well if that source is to be believed. Leo Vinci said to me that he was initiated as a High Priest of the OMS.

      So you have 'initiated' and 'High Priest' a title. Assuming that Leo Vinci was one of the first members of the OMS we have a fixed point in time (very early days OMS) where at least that was done.

      Alfred Douglas claimed that all sorts of titles were given out in meetings. Though I cannot recall the exact context of this, I think it was him stressing that titles meant nothing in the OMS. And I didn't understand properly how the OMS worked. So we have another fixed point ending in 1967.

      You have someone telling you that there were no grades in the OMS, which seems silly given that the restiction of entry into the Inner Circle. And others say there were no grade system. Nick, have you done a time map of their membership to place these testimonies in context?

      Finally, "You & I disagree about the OMS having grades, and you do for good reason." Nick your conclusion about lack a formal grade structure
      is completely reasonable. Especially given what you have been told. I see where you are coming from and yeah I understand.

      My issue about this is that Nigel Jackson made it very clear to me that Montalban's Angelic Magics worked a system of 22 grades & degrees; as well as having an Inner Circle for adepts only of the Order.

      You stated that "The difficulty from a research point of view is that your comments go against what some of these other people have told others." eoq.

      I am not making these thing up, but merely repeating what I have heard from others. Granted I am someone confused at the contridictions.

      If you can explain to me:

      - how members of the Inner Circle were not Adepts of the OMS even though it was imperative they complete the magical training of the correspondence course.

      - Why Leo Vinci claimed to be an initiated High Priest of the OMS?

      - Why ALfred Douglas mentioned titles.

      AND especially explain to me how the 22 degree system of Montalban OMS is not actually a grade system, it would help a lot to clear things up in my mind.


    2. In Prediction May 1956, Montalban makes a minor mention of grades, using the Tarot as a base for the twenty-two degree, 0-0 being the neophyte, 0-1 the next grade represented by the Magician. I mentioned Montalban's 22 grade system last year.

  7. The first time I had heard of Madaline Montalban was earlier this year when we chose to call our Order "Universal Order of the Morning Star", and we did some internet searches to see how many other people had, or were, using names with "Morning Star" in the title. Madaline Montalban's Order came up with a Wikipedia article. I had no idea a book was coming out, until now. It seemed from the article that her Morning Star was no longer active, so we didn't concern ourselves. That said, I was curious to learn a bit more about what system she was operating. Now thanks to these posts, I know a little more about it. In our case, we did choose the name because (among other things) it was English for Stella Matutina, but it seems Madaline Montalban's group is whole different ball game. This is not a criticism, but just an observation - Judging by the un-structured and informal format it took, it is surprising that it was described as an "Order" rather than a "Society" as such as it did not, from what Nick is saying, have the formal structure of an Order. For me an Order means just that - an *ordered* structure and Grade system. Interesting though!

  8. occult sources are always full of surprises...

  9. occult sources are always full of surprises...

  10. When ever there is disagreement, it is always best to look at the actual written materials.

    In further support of my belief that the OMS had a grade system:
    Within the OMS lessons themelves,

    Passing of the Rivers Lesson five Montalban states:
    'Students taking this course are now grade 0-2.....”

    Montalban then goes on to explain her 22 grade system (each having 22 steps) in a little bit of detail. She states that not many go so far, but most will obtain the grade of “Adeptus Miniums”

    I find the usage of the term Adeptus Miniums of particular interest because (a) not only does it prove the existence of grades within the OMS (as I have previously stated but denied by Julia Philipps) but also proves
    (b) the claim of Nicolas Tereshenko that there were actually grades in the OMS.

    So Nicolas Tereshenko claim to the grade Adeptus Maximus becomes much more credible.

    Looking through a few other lessons I have, I see that in the First Book of Magic & Spells (and also in the Second Book ) grades are again mentioned and of course to the Angelic powers, which I also mentioned in my earlier post.
    As said in an earlier post the OMS was around for a long time, and various changes to its operations are in not doubt inevitable.

    However one cannot deny the existence of a grade system within the OMS because grades are clearly mentioned within Montalban's lessons.

    I thank Auntie Tarot for pointing me on the right track to find evidence.

  11. Hi Lenny.... hardly a grade system though... more of a way of numbering the lessons. It does explain why Nicolas thought he was a Adeptus Maximus. Nicolas loved titles and would seize on something like that. It does not tie with what other members have told me and does not explain why Madaline hated the Golden Dawn and especially its grade system, and titles. So why did she only give a grade and title to one person. You need to find a few others who claim they have grades, because none of Madeline's inner circle did. Also important is that Madeline gave her entire course to Maxine Saunders and David Goddard and yet failed to give them anything more than the title of Angelic Initiators.

    1. Hi Nick.

      What I see as the numbering system is this. I.e 0-[1-22] to 21-[1-22]
      and that the grades / titles are a separate thing, being the result of the completing the work of the number system above.

      I have no doubt that the testimony of those persons have told you. I suspect the contradiction has to do with time period of OMS operation.
      So when the term Inner Cirlce is used, we do need to know what time

      If I lived in the UK, perhaps I could find out more. But research into an Order that existed from the mid 40' to the 80's from the bottom of the world is very difficult as you know However in the event I do find out more, I will let you know.

      From what I have heard, Madeline also disliked Wicca, Gardner, Crowley as well. So I wouldn't take any attitude re the Golden Dawn too personally ;-)

      As far as I am aware, she also gave grades to Bourke, Leo Vinci. I would like to hear what Michael Howard (and perhaps even
      Tony Willis and Nigel Jackson) have to say on this subject. As
      I suspect they may know one or two things.

      At what lesson series within the course is the title Angelic Initiators

      The truth is out there.. :-)