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The Battle of Blythe Road

It's the 13th of June, Happy Birthday William Butler Yeats.

In honour of the great man's 159th birthday I though it might be interesting to re-visit the box of Golden Dawn documents which came into my possession a few years back, and see if there is anything Yeatsian that I haven't already blogged about.

And what do you know? There is a fascinating printed document which relates to one of the most infamous clashes in Golden Dawn History: the so-called "Battle of Blythe Road", when, as is frequently asserted, W. B. Yeats kicked Aleister Crowley down the stairs at no. 36 Blythe Road, in an area of London known as "Olympia". There was nothing Olympian about the clash of these two magicians though, contrary to popular legend - no fisticuffs, no kicking, no hurling of magical thunderbolts.

The dry factual account of the episode was written up and printed by Yeats for circulation to the Adepts (i.e., the Second Order) of the London temple Isis Urania, though it still makes for an amusing read. But first a bit of background: Crowley had been initiated into the Golden Dawn, originally in London, but claimed to have been intitiated later into the Second Order in Paris by Mathers himself. Around this time he, perhaps wisely, had little to do with the London members, as his reputation would hardly have endeared him to many.

A blog post isn't long enough to fully discuss the internal issues in the Golden Dawn which led up to this. But the short version is that MacGregor Mathers was basically "sacked" as leader of the Golden Dawn in England, and sent his representative, one Aleister Crowley (Frater Perdurabo), to London to commandeer the temple's headquarters and meeting rooms in Blythe Road. This he did, with the assistance of Soror Donorum Dei Dispensatio Fidelis (Elaine Simpson). He then sent out messages to all the senior Adepts of the temple summoning them to Blythe Road to individual interview, where they were to be shown a statement pledging allegiance to Mathers and which they were expected to sign.

According to Yeats "On the day appointed for these interviews, the said Perdurabo arrived at the Second Order rooms. He was dressed in Highland dress, a black mask over his face, a plaid thrown over this head and shoulders, and enormous gold or gilt cross on his breast, and a dagger at this side. All this melodramatic nonsense was of course designed in the hope that it would cause members to sign a pledge of allegiance to D.D.C.F. (Mathers). He was, however, stopped by the landlord, and compelled to leave by the Fratres H.E.S. (Edmund Hunter) and D.E.D.I. (Yeats) assisted by a policeman. Perdurabo being unable to interview the members, who declined to be frightened by his mask and the rest of his childish make-up, caused a circular to be printed, still not disclosing his identity with "Envoy", and containing the following statement: "It should be mentioned that the story of the masked man is altogether untrue". In a further, and futile attempt to disguise his identity, Crowley sent a telegram to Frater M. W. Th. (Marcus Worsley Blackden) asking him to keep secret the identity of the "Envoy".

So it was Edmund Hunter, along with Yeats, who resolved matters by the non-magical method of invoking the law relating to the tenancy of the rooms. The locks were changed (yet again) and peace descended on Isis Urania for at least a short while.

For all you Golden Dawn completists - here is a scan of the original document sent out to all the Second Order Adepts of Isis Urania, which led to a complete restructuring of the temple and its Constitution.



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