The Occult in Britain and Ireland

This section of the site deals with the practice of magic and alternative religions in Britain & Ireland in the past and present. You will find a short biography of some major characters in the magical history of the British & Irish Isles, and the history of groups that were influential to occult thought.

Perhaps the most influential occult group was The Golden Dawn, which flourished in the latter part of the 19th century. We will be examining some of its key members in the future.

Basically all the Occult means is hidden, but it is used to denote something that is not usually seen as part of ‘normal’ or expected human practice. It is mostly used to denote the practice of magic in all its various forms.

Thus Voodoo, witchcraft, shamanism, ceremonial magic, tarot cards, and alchemy can all be placed under the broad mantle of the Occult. As you can see the term is an inclusive one and although many of the categories share similar characteristics and possible in some cases the same root, they are all best outlined as completely separate subjects although similarities will be commented on as we explore them.

Today it is easy to look on the practices of our ancestors as superstitious nonsense, and while this may be true in some cases, many of the spirit forms and beings fit into archetypes rediscovered by modern psychology. It also brought meaning to the world and is probably an integral part of human existence (like art) judging by the small acts of superstition we all carry out to some extent in our enlightened age (lucky charms horoscopes etc).

At one time in the not too distant past magic was an every day part of life and the occult or hidden side of existence was taken for granted. To our ancestors the world was peopled with spirits, which fit into broad patterns of archetypes and energies found within the human psyche. Of course this is a modern view, the spirits were seen as real as living things, and the mediator (shaman- wise woman etc) was an integral part of a tribes existence. The belief of animism was also integral to tribal belief, animism is the understanding that all things in nature possess a spirit and presence of their own, so that rocks trees and the land were things to be learned from – as well as the ancestral spirits, who acted as guides for the future well-being of the tribe (although some beliefs about time were radically different to our own understanding).

It seems that man has an innate sense and need for spirituality, judging by the large proportion of the population who believe in god and follow one of the world’s major religions. This gives humans a sense of place and purpose but on the converse leads to religious intolerance, witch hunts (to use the term as an example) and even bloodshed. How much of this is due to territorial factors is open to debate.