Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
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Olivia Melian Durdin-Robertson was a respected author,
novelist, writer and artist who together with her brother the Rev. Lawrence
Alexander Durdin-Robertson (21st
Baron of Strathloch) and his wife Pamela Mary (nee Barclay) co-founded
and established the renowned “Fellowship of Isis” on the 21st
March 1976. Since then the
Fellowship of Isis has grown into an international spiritual organization
devoted to promoting awareness of the Goddess as the feminine aspect of God and
today has thousands of members worldwide.
Olivia Durdin-Robertson was born on Friday 13th
April 1917 at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, England.
She was the second eldest of three children borne to Manning Durdin-Robertson
(1887-1945) and his wife Nora
Kathleen (nee Parsons, 1892-1965).
Her father was a respected architect
and town planner and the author of “Everyday Architecture”, “Foundations
of Architecture” and “Approach to Architecture” (the last
co-authored with his wife Nora, who also wrote “Thrifty Salmon Fishing”).
Her elder sister Barbara
Helen Pryor (nee Durdin-Robertson) was born on
the 01st Sept 1913, and her younger brother Lawrence Alexander
Durdin-Robertson was born on the 06th May 1920).
At the time of Olivia’s birth the family lived in Reigate,
Surrey, England, before moving back to their ancestral home “Clonegal
Castle” (also known as Huntington Castle) in County Carlow, Ireland, which had
been inherited by her father from her grandmother Helen Alexandrina Melian
Durdin in 1925. Being well
connected within the literary community, the family soon formed close
relationships with many of Irelands leading authors and poets, including William
Butler Yeats (1865-1939) and George William Russell
(1867-1935, the mystic writer better known as AE).
Indeed after the death of Yeats on the 28th January 1939, her father designed his
tombstone baring the now famous inscription:
‘Cast a cold eye / On life, on death. / Horseman; pass by!’
William Butler Yeats’ and his gravestone with the famous epitaph
Another literary family connection of note is Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves (1895 – 1985), a cousin related through her grandmother, and the author of the best selling classic book “The White Goddess”. However, there seems to have been little social contact between them.
Olivia’s early education was taken at Heathfield School
in Ascot, Berkshire, England, an independent Catholic boarding school for girls,
and from 1938 she continued her education at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art
in Pimlico, London. In 1940 during
World War II, she briefly joined a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) serving as a
nurse in Bedfordshire. VAD’s were
part of a voluntary organisation founded by the Red Cross in 1909 to provide
unqualified basic nursing services to hospitals within the UK, thus relieving
qualified nurses to work overseas and on ships during the course of a war.
Returning to Ireland before the war ended, Olivia completed
her education at the University Collage Dublin in 1942, and as a graduate in the
study of European Art History was awarded a Purser-Griffith Travelling
Scholarship for distinction. In the
following four years she worked for the Dublin Corporation Playgrounds
Department where she theorised that many of the games played by children were
based on ancient mysteries. After
further research she wrote about her findings in her first book “St.
Malachy’s Court” (1946), leading her into a career as a writer and
As well as writing, Olivia was an accomplished Artist and
illustrated all her own books. She had two public art exhibitions, the
first in 1938 at the age of 21 years, and the second in 1956 after the release
of her last book. Her publishers
included Random House and Jonathan Cape; for which she received good reviews in
the London Times Literary Supplement and the Chicago National Herald.
Her second book “Field of the Stranger” (1948) won the London
Book Society Choice Award. This was followed by “The Golden Eye” (1949), “Miranda
Speaks” (1950) and “It’s an Old Irish Custom” (1954).
Her last book of that period was “The Dublin Phoenix” (1956)
which sold-out on it’s first print-run.
Olivia taken in 1956 and used on the dust jacket of one of her novels.
In 1960 Olivia moved back to Clonegal Castle and the family
ancestral home. After the death of
their father in 1945 the Castle had passed down to her brother Lawrence, which
he shared with his wife Pamela. Later Lawrence also had the ancestral family title reinstated
and became the 21st Baron of Ruadh or Baron Robertson of Strathloch, which was
registered and re-issued in 1979 by the Chief Herald of Ireland.
By the early 1960’s when she returned home, both Olivia
and Lawrence, who by then was a Priest of the Anglican Church of Ireland (he had
been ordained in 1948), independent of each other, they each begun to
conceptualise the feminine aspects of God as a woman.
To explore this concept further in 1963 Olivia, Lawrence and his wife
Pamela founded the “Centre for Meditation and Study” at Clonegal
Castle, about which Olivia later wrote:
“In 1963 we got together and
started the Clonegal Castle Centre for Meditation and Study.
We just had a few heads of Orders come and stay, and shared ideas.
From 1964 I became involved with very deep occult work, studied at the
College of Psychic Studies, and did a Spiritualist course at the SAGB (Spiritualist
Association of Great Britain), which I loved.
I joined with everyone - the Druids (Philip Ross Nichols visited in 1970. Nichols was a teacher, poet, artist, author and naturist who
founded The Order of Bards, Ovates
& Druids (OBOD) in 1964), the Alice Bailey people (Alice Ann
Bailey was a writer and theosophist in what she termed “Ageless Wisdom”),
and the Steiner people (Rudolf Steiner was a Austrian literary scholar,
philosopher, theosophist and social reformer. He founded
the ‘spiritual science’ movement called Anthroposophy, and created the first
Waldorf School based on his own educational system that has since been adopted
worldwide). I enjoyed all of
them and thought that it would go on forever.”
After much research, discussion and meditation, Olivia,
Lawrence and his wife Pamela came to the realisation that the feminine aspect of
Goddess spirituality needed to be addressed and brought into equality with the
masculine aspects of God worship as a natural balance of polarities.
Between them they decided that the Egyptian Goddess “Isis” best
represented the mother of all Goddesses, and by the 1970’s both Olivia and
Lawrence began writing about her. They
then created an underground temple dedicated to Isis in what used to be the
In 1972 convinced by his research and his new spiritual
convictions, Lawrence resigned as a Priest in the Anglican Church of Ireland to
take up a new vocation as a Priest of Isis.
This led to the formation of the “Fellowship of Isis” and its formal
dedication at the Spring Vernal Equinox of 1976.
Lawrence as the main theologian among the three founders also introduced
the need and importance for the creation of a ritual liturgy to be used by the
Fellowship, and impressed that need upon his sister, Olivia, for which she
dedicated the rest of her life to writing.
In 1975 she had already written her spiritual autobiography “The
Call of Isis” and followed it with “Isis of Fellowship”, which
is a detailed account of how the FOI was founded.
When asked about forming the Fellowship of Isis, Olivia
later explained in an interview with BBC
Radio 5 on the 21st June 1992: “It was a direct spiritual experience, as with my
brother, that I had a direct spiritual vocation to do this from God – the
feminine aspect of God, God who is also feminine - to emphasize this because the
world is threatened by destruction through pollution, through misuse of nature,
often through stupidity and greed. We’re
destroying the planet and the Divine Plan appears to be to emphasize the
feminine – charity, kindness, care for nature, nurturing, and motherhood –
all that side. Not to get rid of
the male aspect, but to balance male aggression and materialism.
And this linear, logical, mental though – always analysis, analysis.
We’re more for healing and synthesis.”
Such was his belief in his new vocation as a Priest of
Isis, for the perpetuity of the temple they had dedicated to her in the dungeons
of the Castle, in 1981 Lawrence made over by “Deed of Gift” the temple to
the care and control of the FOI, which today consists of twenty-six shrines set
in a winding pattern throughout the cellars.
They include a nave, a high altar and a chapel of Brighid located near an
underground Neolithic Well known as “Brighid's Well”, which is famed for
it’s healing properties. There
are also twelve shrines dedicated to the twelve signs of the Zodiac as well as
five small chapels devoted to the Elements - Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit.
Olivia with her brother Lawrence
Over the ensuing years and perhaps because it was dedicated
to the pagan Goddess Isis, many people seem to think that the FOI is strictly a
Pagan organization. This however is not necessarily so, as Olivia stated during an interview in 2002 in
which she explains that the FOI is
a multi-faith, multi-racial, and multi-cultural organization, and despite
worshipping Pagan deities it does not consider itself to be a Neopagan faith,
more that it is a religious plural organisation: “I would like to correct an inaccuracy in the
definition of the Fellowship of Isis as a Pagan organization.
We are happy to have 1000's of Pagans among our members in so many
countries. But we also have
Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Spiritualists and Hindus as members.
All love and follow the religion of Isis of 10,000 Names.”
Since the founding and dedication of the FOI in 1976,
Olivia travelled constantly promoting Goddess spirituality and appeared at
numerous Isian conventions and festivals all around the world. In 1993 at the age of 90, she was a delegate at the
Centennial Session of the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago, where
together with Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, USA, the FOI had been chosen to represent the
growing worldwide Goddess movement. While
there she was one of eighteen world religious leaders (only two women) to
address the opening plenary, and later commented that breakfasting with His
Holiness the Dalai Lama was one of the high points of her life.
Today the Fellowship of Isis is one of the world’s
largest Goddess spirituality groups with hundreds of Iseums (centres) and
Lyceums (teaching groups) spread around the world supporting thousands of
members. Many people also gather at
Clonegal Castle each year for the four annual festivals, one is held each season
and involves intensive meditation sessions followed by refreshments in a nearby
Olivia never married and at the age of 96 following a short
illness, she sadly passed away on 14th November 2013 at the Wexford
General Hospital in County Carlow, Ireland, surrounded by members of her family.
May she rest in peace.
After the death of Olivia the last of the three co-founders
of the FOI (her brother’s wife Pamela passed away in 1987, and Lawrence
himself passed away on the 04th August 1994),
the custodianship and legacy
of the FOI passed into the trusted care of three Foundation Unions known as
“The FOI Foundation Union Triad.” These
consist of the Archpriesthood Union, the ArchDruid Union and the Grand Commander
Archpriesthood Union was founded by Olivia in January 1999 and consists of 32
members of the FOI Priesthood (sixteen ArchPriestesses and sixteen ArchPriests).
The ArchDruid Union was founded in October, 2009 and consists of 32
ArchDruids and ArchDruidesses of the Druid Clan of Dana, while the Grand
Commander Union (also founded in 2009) consists of 32 Grand Knight Commanders
and Grand Dame Commanders of the Noble Order of Tara.
Together these three unions now act as Custodians of the Fellowship of
created a series of advisory boards to act as consultancies to the three main
Unions. These are made up of
ArchPriesthood Union members and include: The
Star of Isis-AU (created in 2003), the Circle of Brigid (Ireland, 2004), the
Circle of Isis (USA, UK, Germany, 2004.) the Circle of Pelagia (USA, 2006), the
Nemeton of Dana (for the Druid Clan of Dana, 2006), the Round Table of Tara (for
the Noble Order of Tara, 2006) and the Star of Elen (United Kingdom, USA and
St. Malachy's Court, 1946
Field of the Stranger, 1948
The Golden Eye, (1949)
Miranda Speaks, (1950)
It’s an Old Irish Custom, (1954)
The Dublin Phoenix, (1956)
The Call of Isis, (1975)
Isis of Fellowship: How the Fellowship of Isis was Founded, (2002)
Priestesses and Priests: of the Fellowship of Isis, (2013)
Olivia: Priestess of Isis, a film of her life was
released on DVD in 2011.
Magick TV has also done several interviews with Olivia, which can be seen at http://www.witchschool.com/page/magicktv-main
First published on the 31st May 2016 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Stones - History, Myths and Lore
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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