The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Mathers, Moina (February 28, 1865—July 25, 1928)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame
Moina Mathers was a High Priestess, occultist, and a founding member of the Golden Dawn. Born Mina Bergson in Geneva, Switzerland, she was the fourth of seven children. One brother would become the renowned French philosopher Henri Bergson.
The family on her father’s side were reputedly Kabalah scholars, although as Kabalah was traditionally not taught to women (at least not publicly), it’s unknown whether Mina learned any of this tradition at home.
The family moved incessantly across Europe as her father attempted to support his family via a musical career. Eventually they settled in London where Mina, an accomplished artist, attended the Slade School of Art where she became good friends with Anne Horniman, a tea heiress, who later would become the main financial supporter of the Golden Dawn.
In November 1887, Mina was sketching in the Egyptian hall of the British Museum when she met Samuel MacGregor Mathers. Although her parents disapproved, they were married on June 16, 1890 in the library of the Horniman Museum. Mina changed her name to the more Celtic Moina so as to give it a more “Highland ring” in keeping with Mathers’ predilections. Her motto was Vestiga Nulla Retrorsum, “I never retrace my steps.”
Moina referred to Mathers as her teacher, husband, and friend. They agreed from the outset of their relationship to abstain from sexual intercourse although exactly why is unknown. They were extremely devoted to each other. Moina had an excellent command of Hebrew and there is some speculation that she actually did much of the Hebrew translation credited to Mathers. Certainly it is safe to say that she contributed to his work, although always without official credit. She was also clairvoyant and served as a medium.
In 1892, the Mathers moved to Paris where they lived in abject poverty. In 1894, they established the Ahathoor Temple there. Moina adored Mathers and allowed him the limelight but she worked alongside him until he died.
Her magical and metaphysical contributions are often overlooked in favor of the scandals with which she was involved. Dion Fortune, with whom Moina feuded, claimed that Moina had subjected Fortune to psychic attack and was responsible for the magical murder of Fortune’s friend Netta Fornario, although Moina had died eighteen months before Fornario.
After MacGregor Mathers’ death, Moina returned to London in 1919 where she directed the Alpha et Omega Lodge for nine years. She was in desperate financial straits in London. Her health began to fail. Eventually she stopped eating although, as with her abstention from sex, exactly why is unknown. She died at St Mary Abbott’s Hospital on July 25, 1928.
Further Reading: Rare information about Moina Mathers and the other women so crucial to the development of the Golden Dawn is found in Mary K. Greer’s Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses (Park Street Press, 1995).