Order of the Shining Helmet of Athena: Musings on the Order by Caroline Wise

Musings on the Order of the Shining Helmet of Athena

by Caroline Wise

Olivia was talking about the concept of the Order of the Helmet way back in 1989. I remember sitting in the drawing room that she and Derry shared, lit by only one dim lamp, which added atmosphere! We sat by a portable fire fed by peat bricks, which would be thrown in by Olivia during these captivating discussions, which made me jump! In those days, The Order of the Helmet was a concept, existing on the ethereal plane, but Olivia was very serious about it and very keen to earth it. She wanted the FOI to have a channel for the arts, for the goddess current to be recognised in the serious arts from the past, present and future.

Olivia saw the Goddess Athena with her plumed helmet as the matron of the Order she wanted to start. She mentioned solid esoteric tradition – The humanist paganism of The Italian Renaissance, and also Shakespeare. Shake Spear, she saw as a pun, representing Athena with her spear, and she felt the Protestant Elizabethan initiates in the School of Night gave this name to the represent a noble group who wrote the plays.

None of these ideas were new to me, or unique to Olivia, but I resisted as I am very much of the school that says Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare and I didn’t like the elitism that suggests only ‘nobles’ could produce anything of value. I misunderstood completely! The Goddess as a force in the arts was appealing though.

Olivia said that the Classical traditions, and her beloved goddesses of Egypt and Greece, and the Renaissance interpretation of the Classical World, blending the ancient world with the arts and wisdom schools of Florence, were her main inspiration. Shakespeare inspired her too, as is evident in her novel Miranda Speaks. She saw the FOI Priesthood very much as a revival of the priesthood of the Classical World, hence the term Lyceum for teaching group.

Olivia had a vision of the golden helmet of Athena, and came to see the possibility of this new Order of the Shining Helmet of Athena as a way to earth the goddesses of the High Arts in the FOI. Athena placed it all fully in the current of the Divine Feminine, with this far-seeing and clear headed goddess as the protectress warrior; She felt, if there was a need for swords and spears, which she and Derry did not like, it must be as protective symbols in magical work. She saw connections with Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, said to be based on Queen Elizabeth I’s court astrologer and magician, Dr. John Dee. Dee, she said, was vital in the communication of the Western Mystery Tradition to future students. Olivia spoke of The School of Night and Sir Walter Raleigh, along with the poet Spencer, who saw the Goddess in Elizabeth, as those who were carrying the goddess current forward via their secret Order of Athena of the Helmet. Olivia felt the Goddess movement needed solid and scholarly arts connections to give it strong roots, a golden vine to entwine with the hedonistic, ritual, and nature religion aspects of the Goddess Revival. This vine idea she earthed by having a vine once belonging to Anne Boleyn, from Hampton Court, in the conservatory in her home. She saw this thread drawing in the 17th century magical masons and Rosicrucian’s, and the 19th century occult revivalists like Yeats, and goddess revivalists like Graves. She was weaving her own life experience into it, and her ancestors. She said her father, who was a Mason and an architect, was interested in the mysteries of the Spheres and divine proportion. Another ancestor discovered the spiral nature of galaxies. Olivia really did manifest the spiral pattern, as all aspects of her life seem to spiral together. We saw that in some of her editorials, something would seed in her. Incidents from childhood had stayed with her and re-surfaced in a sacred interpretation.

Olivia Robertson never let the idea of this order go, it was very important to her, and I admit it did not ‘get it’ and I was not supportive or interested, except for the promoting the arts bit. The plans and words she left have formed themselves into a beautiful mantle by those more sensitive to it than I was, and now I see the wider context and something very beautiful has manifested. Like everything in this Fellowship, it is for all, for members to draw on their own ancestors and wisdom streams in appreciation of the Goddess in the Arts.

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