True to the maxim that beside every great man, there stands a great woman, Moina Mathers (1865 - 1928) was destined to become one of the greatest female occultists of the 19th Century. Moina Mathers was born as Mina Bergson, the daughter of Jewish parents and the sister of noted philosopher Henri Bergson.
During her lifetime she was considered to be an unconventional beauty. She had unruly, curly dark-brown hair, pretty blue eyes, and a softly dark complexion. She was recognized for her sweetness and charm by those who were closest to her, and, she was undoubtedly highly intelligent. She spoke with deep knowledge and conviction, and, she was fluent in French, German, and English.
At the Slade High School of Art she received a scholarship and four certificates for her outstanding achievements. She was amongst the first proponents of Abstract and Impressionist art. Perhaps her best known painting is the one of her mystical husband in his role as the 'Magus'. The most fateful event of her life came in 1887, at the British Museum, when she met S.L. MacGregor Mathers, together with whom she was destined to become the quintessential archetype of the High Priestess as he was the Magus.
When Isis-Urania Temple No. 3 opened in 1888, Mina became the first initiate of the fully manifest Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, taking the Latin motto of 'Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum' or "I never retrace my steps.” With her artistic talent and deep knowledge of ancient Egyptian symbolism, Mina developed the actual regalia and temple furnishings of the newly established Temple. She later likewise contibuted to the regalia and temple furnishings of the Hathoor Temple in Paris and for the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega. It was Mina who created the original designs for the Golden Dawn's Tarot and produced many of the original grade diagrams for the Golden Dawn’s rituals.
The couple married in 1890, at which time Mina changed her name to the more Celtic, Moina. Persistant but false rumors of a ‘celibate’ marriage between Moina and S.L. MacGregor Mathers have arisen merely due to a mistaken modern interpretation of a solitary statement made by Moina in a letter to Annie Horniman, in which Moina refers to their marriage as “pure” (which, of course, can equally refer to nothing more than marital fidelity). Although Moina Mathers never bore any physical children, the powerful arch of sexual polarity between her husband gave birth not only to the Golden Dawn, the R.R. et A.C., and the Alpha et Omega, but also to a spiritual impulse that eventually impacted nearly every aspect of modern occultism.
In 1891, Moina visited Paris with her husband where on July 30 he was initiated by representatives the same Continental European order of Hermetic alchemists who had initiated Kenneth MacKenzie, to whom Mathers henceforth referred to as the "Secret Chiefs." From these "Secret Chiefs," Mathers received the same Hermetic and Rosicrucian lineages transmitted earlier to MacKenzie by Count Apponyi, as well as an esoteric corpus and skeletal initiation rituals with which to create the Golden Dawn's Rosicrucian "Second Order," to be called the Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aurae Crucis (R.R. et A.C.). Immediately upon his having founded the R.R. et A.C., Moina Mathers and her husband moved to Paris to remain in contact with these "Secret Chiefs, where in 1894 they founded the Ahathoor Temple No. 7. While living in Paris, Mathers was given advanced teachings about spiritual sexuality from the “Secret Chiefs,” notably certain techniques of "Hermetic Inner Alchemy" and "Alchemical Magic," which were intended for eventual inclusion in the Golden Dawn's projected Third Order.
Although these practices comprise part of a secret oral tradition, Moina made several written references to them. For example, Dion Fortune eventually left the Alpha et Omega over a conflict provoked by Moina’s belief that Fortune had revealed Alpha et Omega secrets regarding spiritual sexuality in her wtirings. Moreonver, to Annie Horniman Moina wrote:
"Knowing as yet only something of the composition of the human being as a Theoricus Adept, you are really not in a position to form an opinion on these subjects . . . discussed as . . . human sexual connection. . . . So if one of these . . .come up you would have to refer the question to a member of a much higher grade than Theoricus Adept."
And to Paul Foster Case whe wrote:
“As I hear that the Sex Theory subject has been under discussion in Thoth Hermes Temple, I should like to say a few words to you on the subject. I regret that anything on the Sex question should have entered into the Temple at this stage for we only begin to touch on sex matters directly, in quite the higher Grades. In fact, we only give a rather complete explanation of this subject in that Grade where the Adept has proved to be so equilibrated and spiritualized that he is complete lord of his passional self. Believe me, this is not mere theory. I am not speaking to you from a merely theoretical point of view . . .”
In March of 1899, S.L. and Moina performed the “Rites of Isis” on the stage of the Theatre in Paris. In an interview about the Rites of Isis (published circa 1900) Moina wrote:
"How can we hope that the world will become purer and less material when one excludes from the Divine, which is the highest ideal, part of its nature which represents at one and the same time the faculty of receiving and giving - that is to say love itself and its highest form---love the symbol of universal sympathy? That is where the magical power of women is found."
In 1906, the Matherses founded the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega (also known simply as the Alpha et Omega or A.O.) as a superstructure for the Golden Dawn's projected entire 'three order' system, with the H.O.G.D as its first and the R.R. et A.C. as its second order. Following her husband’s death in 1918, Moina moved back to London from where she presided over the Alpha et Omega until her own death in 1928.