William Butler Yeats’s Golden Dawn Tools

The best benefit of working at a university is having access to its libraries. In doing research on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Tarot I discovered this wonderful book: Yeats, the Tarot, and the Golden Dawn by Kathleen Raine. It’s very difficult to find and expensive, but the library happened to have a copy. Yay library!


I had seen photos of Yeats’s drawing of The World card from his Golden Dawn notebook (I believe I first saw them on Mary Greer’s excellent blog) but I had never seen his actual handmade tools (known as magical or elemental weapons). Here they are, as reproduced from the book.

Yeats's Elemental Golden Dawn weapons

The above photo shows his Water Chalice (top left), Air Dagger and Lotus Wand (top right), Fire Wand (bottom left), and his consecrated sword and sheath (bottom right).

Here are two of his pentacles (which represent the element of Earth).

Yeats's Golden Dawn Earth PentaclesHis magical motto is painted on the pentacle: Demon est Deus Inversus (Latin for “the Devil is God inverted”).

More images to come from this book in a later post, including some from unpublished (at least at the time of the book’s publication in 1972) Golden Dawn notebooks.

(Also cross-posted on my Tarot blog.)

UPDATE: Noted Tarot scholar and author Mary K. Greer pointed me to the National Library of Ireland’s Interactive exhibit that showcases a lot more of Yeats’s Golden Dawn materials—in color! You’ll need Flash (ack!), and you need to maneuver click the “Interactive” button, then “The Hermetic Society [sic] of the Golden Dawn.” Feast your eyeballs.



Michael Hughes
Written by Michael Hughes

Michael M. Hughes is a writer and performer. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

3 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    January 08, 2016

    Hi Michael,

    Raine’s book is indeed hard to find, but worth acquiring for the rare images of items belonging to Irish members of the Golden Dawn, as well as material from Mathers and others.

    Interestingly, the dagger shown is not the same as the one displayed in the National Library of Ireland, which is much cruder. There is also the top of a Lotus Wand on display, with the shaft missing. So, it seems that either the NLI descriptions or Raine’s descriptions are wrong, with one of the versions potentially belonging to Yeats’ uncle George Pollexfen (also a member of the Golden Dawn in Ireland).

    As for the name of the Order, it was actually referred to by a number of monikers, including “Hermetic Society.” You can see the other variants here: http://mishkan-ha-echad.blogspot.ie/2015/07/the-names-of-order-of-golden-dawn.html

    It is simpler, and perhaps more accurate, to call it just “Order of the Golden Dawn,” though “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” will likely remain the most popular form employed today.

  2. Avatar
    February 01, 2016

    Frater Yechidah,

    Thanks you so much for the corrections.



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