Magical Materialism: The Role of Costume in the Rituals of The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn and E. Nesbit’s The Enchanted Castle, Brynne Laska
The dominance of scientific rationalism and the authority of organised religion in the Victorian era set the preconditions for dissent as the nineteenth century drew to its close. Matters of the fantastic and supernatural were discussed in both literature and in occult groups that imagined realities beyond the physical and known. For writers of fiction and worshippers of the occult, material objects such as costumes could be used as a device to remove restrictions on acceptable belief and experience. The Enchanted Castle, a novel written by E. Nesbit, children’s author and initiate of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, proposes that the physical world hides another, magical dimension in which costume allows the open-minded to explore. Likewise, the Golden Dawn used costume in its rituals to conjure and control esoteric forces, as analysis of a portrait of one of its founders attests to.