Fellowship of Isis - Biographies of the Founders

Left to right: Olivia Robertson, Lawrence and Pamela Durdin-Robertson

Photo courtesy of Olivia Robertson.

Biographic information on the three Fellowship of Isis co-founders, Olivia Robertson, Lawrence Durdin-Robertson and Pamela Durdin-Robertson is offered below.

Olivia Robertson (1917-2013)

Olivia Melian Robertson was born on Friday, April 13th, 1917 at Paddington Hospital in London. She was the guiding force of the Fellowship of Isis since its inception. She began having significant psychic experiences as a young girl, after moving to the Durdin-Robertson ancestral family home, Clonegal Castle in County Carlow, Ireland in 1925. She studied at Heathfield School, Ascot, and later at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London. During her years of study she was awarded the Purser-Griffith Scholarship and received her Diploma as a graduate in the study of European Art History from the National University of Dublin. Olivia is also an accomplished pianist and has maintained a strong interest in the effects of music on the human psyche. Olivia Robertson answered a query some years ago from Arthur Freeheart about her favorite music: “I love all classical music but especially the ‘Hymn to Ptah’ in Aida, and the wonderful ‘Hymn to Isis and Osiris’ in Mozart’s  ‘Magic Flute.’ ”

During W.W.II Olivia served as a nurse in VAD, Voluntary Aid Detachment, for the Red Cross in Great Britain. After the war, she worked for the Corporation City Playgrounds in Dublin. It was while living and working in Dublin she realized that children’s games were in fact based on ancient mysteries. She investigated and wrote about the work of Sister Mary Kenny and the work of Estrid Dane. During this period, she had a career as a very successful novelist and artist. Her first exhibition of illustrations was held when she was only 21 years of age. Her books received extremely good reviews in the London Times Literary Supplement and the Chicago National Herald. One of them, "Field of the Stranger" was named Book Society Choice in London. Her last novel, "The Dublin Phoenix" was produced in 1956.

Although she did not acknowledge her own gifts of psychism until a later period, it was during this time that she began a search for others who could commune with deity. She began a journey of self discovery, which took her into investigations of various branches of Christianity, Theosophy, Hinduism, and Sufism. During her investigations, awareness of the Goddess developed, and she realized that the Goddess embodied the Divine Chalice, the Holy Grail. As a symbol of the Divine Feminine Principle, it began to have an transformative effect upon her life. It was not long after this that she began working closely with her brother Lawrence and sister-in-law Pamela, setting up a Meditation Society and doing local charitable work. Together, privately they continued their work with psychism, providing wonderful visions of the Goddess, which eventually led to the forming of the Fellowship of Isis.

A delegation of Fellowship of Isis members, headed by Olivia Durdin-Robertson, was invited to participate in the Second Parliament of the World’s Religions Centennial Session in August of 1993. This marked the first time that the religion of the Goddess was acknowledged as a world faith by prominent religious leaders. As one of only two women and sixteen men who were asked to give an address during the opening ceremonies, Olivia gave a blessing of Isis to the world.

Olivia was a member of The World Council of Religious Leaders, which works to bring religious resources together to support the common quest for peace. The formation of this group was part of the stated aims of the Millennium World Peace Summit. Although not part of the United Nations, The World Council of Religious Leaders supports the work of the United Nations.

Olivia traveled extensively in Europe and the USA for many years. She provided messages, rituals, and oracles that enriched the Goddess Community. Her liturgy for the Fellowship of Isis has been sold worldwide and seen many additional printings since the rites were first written. Olivia continued writing these liturgical rites, the last series of rituals is titled "Athena: Arcadian Awakening". She was very active as FOI co-founder, Global Adviser and Overseeing Consultant to the many branches of the Fellowship of Isis until the end of her life. Olivia passed peacefully into spirit sphere on November 14, 2013.

November 15, 2013: "Official announcement on behalf of the Fellowship of Isis from Cressida Pryor, Olivia's niece, Caroline Wise and Linda Iles of FOI Central website. Sad news for the Fellowship and the wider Goddess community in the world, Olivia died last night. It was peaceful and she had her family with her. Her family ask that their privacy is respected at this time. A really great and original figure has left us, Many blessings."

Lawrence Durdin-Robertson (1920-1994)

Born May 6, 1920, Lawrence Alexander Durdin-Robertson, MA (Dublin), Baron of Strathloch, was one of the three original founders of the Fellowship of Isis. It was to Lawrence that the truth and reality of the Goddess first manifested.

Lawrence Durdin-Robertson was a thoughtful, intelligent individual with a quiet social manner. His early studies included music, he played the piano and organ, and possessed a lovely singing voice which was considered fine enough to be described as 'operatic' and always in perfect pitch. After serving in the Irish Army and the Admiralty Research Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex, he studied at Wells Theological College, Somerset from 1946 - 1948. He was ordained in the Anglican Church in 1948. He served as Rector in the Church of England running two churches, both dedicated to St. Mary, one in southeastern Ireland, and one in the eastern area of England in the 1950’s; Aghold, Co. Wicklow (1951 - 1952) and East Bilney, Norfolk (1952 - 1957), respectively. He also held the ancestral family title, Baron of Ruadh or Baron Robertson of Strathloch, which is registered by the Chief Herald of Ireland.

Through his studies while serving as part of the clergy of the Anglican Church, his intuitive nature led Lawrence to see "God as the Mother" as well as the Father, to see the necessity of the Divine Feminine to balance the Divine Masculine. He felt that neglect of the Mother had an all important and horrific effect upon the world.

His sense of the need for the Divine Feminine grew and once Lawrence had learned to read the ancient text of the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, he found that the term for the creator god was not masculine, it was feminine, and it was not singular, it was plural. He experienced an influx of Goddess energy for the first time in 1966. His spiritual convictions led him to start writing about the Goddess as early as 1970, to receive the priesthood of Isis in 1972, and to help found the Fellowship of Isis in 1976. During his awakening to the reality of the Divine Feminine, Lawrence became a vegetarian and remained so during the rest of his life. In 1981 Lawrence made over, by Deed of Gift, a series of shrines dedicated to the Goddess which are situated in the lower level of Clonegal Castle, and collectively formed as a temple. Lawrence was the FOI co-founder who introduced the concept of the importance of ritual, and was instrumental in impressing this upon his sister, Olivia, which provided impetus for creating the FOI Liturgy.

Lawrence Durdin-Robertson left this earth August 4, 1994. His obituaries in mainstream newspapers dealt seriously with his life’s work promoting the Religion of the Goddess, acknowledging him as a major figure in the religious field. Members of the Fellowship of Isis and members of the Goddess Community in general recognize the valuable contributions he made as a scholar in the field of Goddess research, which was published by his private press at Clonegal Castle, Cesara Publications. His work took the form of reference materials carefully compiled into encyclopedic form using original quotations rather than his own interpretations of them. Many writers and researchers have found that his works form the basis of their private libraries. References to some of the more obscure deities are to be found in his works and difficult to locate elsewhere.

Pamela (Barclay) Durdin-Robertson (1923-1987)

Pamela Mary (Barclay) Durdin-Robertson was born on February 14, 1923. She was the only daughter of Major and Mrs. Maurice Edward Barclay of Brent Pelham Hall, Buntingford, Hertfordshire. Her family’s religious background was Quaker, she is descended from the famous Robert Barclay who wrote “An Apology for the True Christian Divinity” in the late seventeenth century. This work supports and defends the founding principles of the Quaker faith and is still in print.

Another famous relative was the prison reformer known as "The Angel of Newgate," Elizabeth Gurney Fry, whose mother Catherine, was a member of the Barclay family. Both of these distinguished Quakers wrote of spiritual experiences with the Inner Light. Elizabeth stated in her memoirs: "... suddenly my mind felt clothed with light, as with a garment ..."

The local area of her family home at Brent Pelham which dates to 1608, was associated with a legend about a dragon and dragon-slayer.  Although the local church, which is named St Mary's dates to the 14th century, it contains a black marble tomb slab dating to the 13th century which bears the name of a dragon-slayer named Piers Shonks accompanied by a date of 1086. According to a story in the Barclay family, during removal of an old staircase at the Hall many years ago, the carving of a dragon was discovered, which spanned the length of the entire wall. Presumably the staircase had been built in such a way as to cover it. The hall was built in 1608.

Pamela was the FOI co-founder who insisted upon the equality of all beings within the Fellowship of Isis. She was a mystic and an empath, whose sensitivities focused primarily on the powers of nature and animal spirits. Like her famous ancestor and her famous relative, she believed that an Inner Light was the guiding force of all life. She had mystical experiences with ‘plant spirits’ which some might call nature devas. As her attunement with nature grew, so did her rapport with plants, flowers and trees.

Today, it is common knowledge that plants respond to our thoughts, to colored light and to music. Pamela intuitively knew this before it was common knowledge, and she would occasionally communicate with nature spirits. However, the majority of her attunement was with the plants, flowers and trees themselves. She had a special sensitivity to wild flowers in particular. Olivia felt that Pamela could communicate with flowers so easily because she lived so much in the present moment, and because Pamela never questioned the reality or validity of her sensitivity, it was simply a natural part of her being, and of her everyday life. Of Pamela Durdin-Robertson it could truly be said: "Every flower was a word, a thought. The grass was speech; the trees were speech; the waters were speech; the winds were speech...and I listened with my whole being." (*)

Trees, flowers, people and animals are in reality a part of one’s self. When one operates on a psychic level, as Pamela did, harmony and the connectedness to all other forms of life is understood. Pamela, along with Lawrence felt the necessity of naming their Fellowship after a Goddess, and the launching of the Fellowship of Isis provided important impetus to the early Goddess movement. During her awakening to the reality of the Divine Feminine, Pamela became a vegetarian and remained so during the rest of her life.

Pamela is referred to as 'Valentine' in Olivia's spiritual autobiography "The Call of Isis," because of her Valentine's Day birthdate. Pamela was called "Poppy" by friends and "Bobby" by her family. Those who were privileged to know her have remarked on the sweet gentleness of her temperament. She was renowned for her love and care towards both human beings and animals. One of her most beloved animal companions was a pony which sometimes was hitched to a trap in which she used to ride through the village of Brent Pelham as a girl. Lawrence dedicated two of his books "The Goddesses of Chaldea, Syria and Egypt" and "The Goddesses of India, Tibet, China and Japan" specifically to her.

Lawrence and Pamela were married in 1948. When Lawrence and Pamela married, he was vicar at a local church.  One of her duties as vicar’s wife, was to oversee flowers for the church. Pamela loved nature and decided to use wild flowers from the nearby fields.They had three daughters, Melian, Anna and Lucy, and one son, David. After nearly forty years of marriage and a lifetime devoted to family and community service, Pamela Durdin-Robertson passed away on December 8, 1987.

Olivia had this to say of her sister-in-law: "Pamela was good and kind. People loved her. During her funeral procession, which included her coffin being carried in a carriage type hearse, pulled by black draped horses, people lined the streets to pay their respects, because they loved her. She gave money and helped to raise funds for charity. She freely gave to help others. She was naturally psychic and brought the concepts of equality of all members and communion with animals, plants and trees to the FOI."

(*) quote from "The Candle of Vision", A.E. (George Russell), MacMillan and Co., Ltd., London, 1918. Portrait of Pamela by Grace Studios, used by permission. Photo of Olivia Robertson by Kasey Conder. Book jacket portrait of Lawrence Durdin-Robertson from Juno Covella.

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