ORDER OF THE MORNING STAR TIMELINE
1910 (January 8): Madeleine Montalban was born as Madeleine Sylvia Royals in Blackpool, Lancashire,
1930: Montalban moved to London.
1933: Montalban started writing for London Life.
1953: Montalban started writing for Prediction.
1956: The Order of the Morning Star was founded.
1961: Alfred Douglas became a student of Montalban.
1967: Michael Howard contacted Madeline Montalban.
1982: Madeline Montalban died of lung cancer at seventy-two years old.
1982: The rights to Montalban´s work was conferred to her daughter who gave the rights to continue the work of the Order of the Morning Star to Jo Sheridan and her husband Alfred Douglas.
2004: Michael Howard’s The Book of Fallen Angels was published.
2012: Jullia Phillips Madeleine Montalban, The Magus of St. Giles was published.
The Order of the Morning Star (OMS) was founded in 1956 by Madeline Montalban and Nicolas Heron who she had met in 1952. The Order was founded around their common interest in esotericism, astrology, and the angel Lucifer. Montalban was the driving force behind OMS and would also be its primary ideolog. When she later parted ways with Heron, there is no indication that he continued any activities connected to OMS.
Madeleine Montalban was born on January 8, 1910 in Blackpool, Lancashire, as Madeleine Sylvia Royals. She would later adopt several noms de plume (Dolores North, Madeline Alvarez,Madeline Montalban, and other names) that she used when publishing articles and pamphlets.
Based on what little is known about her childhood her parents do not seem to have had any interest in esoteric matters. According to Julia Phillips, if there was any form of spirituality present during her childhood it was Christianity (Phillips 2012:22). Montalban would later reinterpret central Biblical themes, often at odds with traditional forms of Christianity, and describe herself as a Pagan, but the Bible was central for her when growing up and would continue to play a central role for her. She would later claim that the Old Testament was a work of magic and the New Testament a work of mysticism (Howard 2016:55; Phillips 2012:26). Madeline moved in her early twenties to London, likely to pursue a career as a journalist. There are conflicting stories regarding Montalban´s move to London and her relationship with the London occult scene in the 1930´s. A rather fantastic story is that her father had sent her to London with a cheque to work for the well-known occult author Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), as her father was uncertain as to what to do with her (Phillips 2012:30). There is, however, no evidence that this story is true, and the likelihood that a person without any interest in the occult would send his daughter to live with Crowley is rather fantastic. Also, there are no mentions of Madeleine in Crowley’s diaries from the period. While the story that she was sent to work as Crowley’s secretary is amusing but mythological, there are some indications that she later got to know Crowley. Still, how close they where or how often they meet is debatable. Her stories regarding Crowley are based on later accounts to her friends and on a radio interview in the 1970´s. While the truth of these stories is open for debate, what is significant is how she would use Crowley as a contrast to present her own form of magical practice. Montalban considered Crowley to have failed to advance very far in his magical pursuits due to his lack of knowledge about astrology and the theatrical and bombastic rituals he put on to impress people. While this does not say much about Crowley´s system of Magick in itself, it does emphasize two aspects of Montalban’s teachings regarding magic. First, the importance of Astrology, which was central to everything she did, and second, her rejection of what she saw as the theatrical form of magic represented by occult orders like The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its offshoots (Phillips 2012:32).
Living in London Montalban started to work for London Life as their astrology columnist in 1933, writing under different pseudonyms. In 1939, she married a fireman, George Edward North, with whom she had a daughter. The marriage did not last, and he later left her. In 1947, she had become a regular contributor to London Life writing their Astrology column. According to Book of Lumiel, around 1944 she started to develop a deeper interest in Lucifer and started to search for more information about the angel, but none of this is found in her public writings at the time (Phillips 2012:112).
While the extent of her relationship with Crowley is debatable Montalban did become more and more a part of the occult scene in London in the 1940s. She would get to know people like Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), Kenneth (1924-2011) and Steffi Grant (1923-2019) and Michael Houghton, who had established Atlantic Bookshop in 1922. She would later help Gerald Gardner with his novel High Magic´s Aid that was published through Atlantis in 1949, or according to some accounts she basically wrote the whole novel based on Gardner’s notes (Phillips 2012:75-77). The novel was the first where Gardner presented his ideas about Witchcraft, although in a fictional form. While it seems that Montalban and Gardner did work with each other and continued to meet socially sometime in the middle of the 1960s, there was some fallout, but the reason is unclear. As Gardner died in 1964, Montalban´s increasingly negative view of him and Wicca could have begun after Gardner’s death (Phillips 2012:77). Her former student Michael Howard (1948-2015) would later write that “she exhibited a hostility to Gardner and Wicca that bordered on hatred” Howard 2004:10). When Howard, who had made contact with Montalban in 1967, was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca in 1969, it lead to a complete break with Montalban who saw this as “treachery” (Howard 2004:11; Phillips 2012:77). Despite her negative view on Wicca, she later got to know Alex and Maxime Sanders in the late 1960s, and the Sanders also incorporated aspects of her Angelic teachings in their work (Sanders 2008:237). Still Montalban was always clear that she was not a witch and her form of magic had nothing to do with Witchcraft. Through the later writings of Michael Howard her ideas have become incorporated into what can be defined as “Luciferian Witchcraft” (or “Luciferian Craft”), which was Howards original term (Howard 2004: 12, Gregorius 2013:244).
In 1953, she started working with the magazine Prediciton and would continue writing for them for the rest of her life. Most of her articles focused on astrology and her private beliefs are seldom evident in them.
In 1956, she founded the Order of the Morning Star with her partner Nicolas Heron. The Order was organized so that students could complete a correspondence course rather than the traditional Masonic forms of initiations found in the Golden Dawn, Society of Inner Light, or Ordo Templi Orientis, and there were no group rituals. While the majority of those interested would only do so through written instructions and work for themselves, a small number would later become private students of Montalban (Phillips 2012:97. In 1964, Montalban and Heron split up, but the OMS continued their workings.
Despite being a part of the occult community in London, there is no evidence that she ever entered a magical order or had any teachings from an outside source. There are descriptions, with varying reliability, of her working with other people, like Gardner and Grant, but she does not seem to have had any formal initiations. Instead, her knowledge was based on studying primary texts and, according to Howard, she seems to have started to get revelations from Lucifer in 1946 (Phillips 2012:85; Howard 2016:56).
Montalban died on January 11, 1982, and the rights to her work went to her daughter. After the funeral there was an agreement between her, Jo Sheridan, and Alfred Douglas that Sheridan and Douglas would continue offer the correspondence courses of OMS. Both Sheridan and Douglas had known Montalban in the 1960´s, and Douglas was one of the students living with her when she moved into her new flat on Grape Street in 1966 (Phillips 2012: 37).
Central for the continued interest in Montalban have been the writings of Michael Howard, [Image at right] who was a student of Montalban in the 1960´s. Despite the fact that their relationship ended due to his interest in Wicca, it has been through his efforts in The Cauldron, for which Howard was editor begween its founding in 1976 and his death, that an interest of Montalban has been kept alive. In the 1990s, he started to write articles under the nom de plume “Frater Ashtan” about Luciferianism (Howard 2004:13). While he kept his interest in Luciferianism a secret for almost thirty years, he would later become more open about it. In 2001, The Pillars of Tubal Cain was published, co-written with Nigel Jackson, and The Book of the Fallen Angels was published in 2004. [Image at right The latter gives a presentation of Montalban´s view of Lucifer and the esoteric tradition she created.
Montalban never published her esoteric teachings during her lifetime. While being a prolific writer, her public writings were mainly around astrology. Her only book, on the Tarot, was published after her death in 1983. To understand what was being taught in the OMS we must rely on recollections and interpretations from her students. The person who has written most extensively on Montalban is Michael Howard who was a student of hers in the 1960s. Howard integrates Montalban´s teachings with his own interpretation of Witchcraft and Luciferianism, but according to the current head of the OMS, Alfred Douglas, Howard’s presentation of Montalban is correct (Douglas, private correspondence, August 8, 2021).
Astrology plays a central role in the teachings of OMS, and Montalban argued that without a knowledge about astrology, magical workings were not possible. The organization also teaches that all people have their own special angels, and a central purpose of the workings within the OMS is to develop a relationship to these angels. How to approach and how to work with the angels are determined by an understanding of one’s personal birth chart. Astrology impacts everything within OMS, and like other esoteric orders there is a set of correspondences where different angels are also related to different zodiac signs and planets (Phillips 2012:98.
The most famous teaching of Montalban concerns her theology about Lucifer, or Lumiel as she preferred to label him (Howard 2016:56). Lumiel meant according to Montalban “The Light of God.” While many teachings found in OMS are based on the Bible, Montalban described herself as a Pagan and viewed Lumiel as based on a pre-Christian doctrine, referring to Chaldean religion as the origin (Phillips 2012:99; Howard 2004). Montalban was particularly found of the Chaldeans as she regarded their religious and magical systems to be based on astrology.
While Lumiel is a central figure in OMS teachings, he does not appear as a significant character until the twelfth course when the adept is given a copy of The Book of Lumiel that explains the history of Lumiel. Howard also refers to a manuscript called The Book of the Devil that has a similar narrative but is more focused on the figure Baphomet (Howard 2016:59). The Book of Lumiel is only twenty-one pages. Quoted from Phillips, it begins with a declaration that Montalban began her study on Lucifer in 1944. Based on Phillips and Howard, Lucifer is presented as a force for evolution of humanity, and the despair of Lucifer is connected to the ignorance of humanity. It is because of humanity´s ignorance that Lucifer is trapped, and the liberation of Lucifer is also the liberation of the human soul and its awakening.
The mythology presented in The Book of Lumiel is that the world was created by God, who is seen as ”dual natured, the perfection of male and female” (Howard 2004:27). God divides his power equally between himself and his female self, creating a division between Light and Intellect, and from this creating Lumiel, the first being. Further, out of this division comes the Ben Elohim, the sons, and daughters of God. These becomes the Archangels and are set to rule over the seven planets. The narrative that follows is a mixture of gnostic teachings mixed with Montalbans understanding of evolution, perhaps inspired by Helena Blavatsky. Life on Earth is guided to perfection by the angelic beings and above in Astral form are the “Ray People” that is the goal of humanities evolution. Rather than allowing evolution to take its course, Lumiel seeks to advance it by speeding it up. According to Howard:
According to the teachings of the OMS, Lucifer was frustrated at the slow evolution of the primitive human race, described as ´furless monkeys´, and therefore the angels ´mingled their vibrations´ with the ´daughters of earth´. Unfortunately humanity was not evolved enough to use the power they were given by this process and misused it leading to chaos and anarchy (Howard 2016:59).
This resulted in Lucifer being trapped in matter as a punishment and forced to reincarnate in the flesh throughout the ages to teach mankind the path to enlightenment and be the “Light of the World.” Montalban seems to have been influenced by Frazer, and the theory of the dying and resurrected god as he writes:
Not until mankind knew who and what I was should they know and understand, but my own sufferings, which must be physical, as the sufferings of mankind must be…these same sufferings and sacrifice should redeem mankind. I was a scapegoat, to be driven into the wilderness suffering shame and ignorance life after life, until that error that I had perpetrated had worked itself out by mankind becoming wise, and therefore wholly good, through experience (Motalban quoted in Howard 2004:123).
Even Christ was seen as an avatar of Lucifer in Montalbans teachings. The teachings of Montalban can be seen as a form of neo-Gnosticism where the spirit is trapped in matter and seeks liberation. The Garden of Eden is for example a place in the astral (Howard 2004:31). The image of Lucifer is based on the Bible and Book of Enoch but reinterpreted with Lucifer being a force for good that will in the end return to his former glory. Lucifer is not a Satanic figure, even if the mythology around him is a based on the fall of Lucifer and the rebel angels. The teaching of OMS can be seen as Luciferian but not Satanic. There is no conflict between God and Lucifer, rather Lucifer becomes, through his initial error, a guide for humanity. Howard compares Montalban´s views with those of Gurdjieff, in that she viewed most of humanity as being asleep.
Montalban was critical to what she saw as the theatrical form of ceremonial magic that she found in organizations like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The descriptions that exist of her performing rituals are often simple, using candles, tarot, and astrological timing. [Image at right] The rituals were based on the seven planets and correspondences between them and your own birth chart. The Seven planets and their ruling spirits, zodiac-sign and weekday are (Phillips 2012: 103):
Michael (Sun), Sunday, Leo
Gabriel (Moon), Monday, Cancer
Samael (Mars), Tuesday, Aries and Scorpio
Raphael (Mercury), Wednesday, Gemini and Virgo
Sachiel (Jupiter), Thursday, Sagittarius and Pisces
Anael (Venus), Friday, Taurus and Libra
Cassiel (Saturn), Saturday, Capricorn and Aquarius
The rituals are designed to be performed individually. The teachings of OMS are themselves secret and only open for members, but in their presentation they refer primarily to renaissance magic as a source of inspiration:
The basis of her system was Hermetic magic, as developed during the Italian Renaissance and practiced by Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Cornelius Agrippa and John Dee amongst others. Her sources included the Picatrix and Corpus Hermeticum, The Heptameron of Peter d’Abano, the Key of Solomon, the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, and Agrippa’s Occult Philosophy (OMS n.d.).
The rituals were designed to be performed mainly by the student themselves as part of their own understanding of magic. A central part of this is the use of and construction of talismans under the correct astrological timing. Initially a horoscope was cast for new students that revealed the students Sun and Moon angels. The first course was also called The Occult Secrets of the Moon (Phillips 2012: 96) indicating the focus on the moon.
While a more informal order, OMS is still divided into different degrees based on how advanced the student has become. When Montalban was alive, she took in students that she taught in person who would form an inner circle. Still, there are no clear degrees, and the system is based on a rejection of the type of degree-based orders that where common in the 1950´s (Phillips 2012:96-98).
The initial leadership for OMS was Montalban and Heron. When their relationship ended in 1964, she continued herself. After Montalban´s death in 1982, the copyright to her work was given to her daughter who contacted Jo Sheridan and Alfred Douglas to continue the work with OMS. The OMS has remained active under the leadership of Alfred Douglas.
A primary issue regarding the OMS has been its emphasis on Lucifer, which has led to associations with Satanism. Based on the writings of Michael Howard, it seems that there were some challenges within the British Pagan scene to come out as a Luciferian due to the possibility of being associated with Satanism. OMS has emphasized that it regards Lucifer as a positive figure and does not promote Satanism. Instead, OMS sees Lucifer as “the bringer of Light” who opens human consciousness to higher awareness (Douglas, personal communication, August 13, 2021).
As with many esoteric teachers, there have been questions about the biography of Montalban and to what degree her stories about her relationship to other occultists of the time are factual. This is the case, as noted previously, regarding how she got to know Aleister Crowley. Apart from stories told by herself, there are also stories from other sources that are questionable. Gerald Gardner seems to imply Montalban had a close connection to Lord Mountbatten that is difficult to prove, as is Gardner’s claim that she really worked as a psychic adviser and “personal clairvoyant” (Heselton 2000:301). Equally fanciful is the description of a ritual performed by Montalban with Gerald Gardner and Kenneth Grant that is found in Grant´s Nightside of Eden (Grant 1977:122-24; Phillips 2012:83). These types of issues are rather common with most biographies, and further research on OMS and Montalban will probably yield a greater understanding of these stories. Still, according to Julia Phillips, who has written the only biography about Montalban, when conducting interviews with those who knew her, a rather homogenic picture of her emerged, and most stories seem consistent and are verified by multiple sources (Phillips, private correspondence August 13, 2021).
Montalban and the OMS were very early examples of Luciferianism, even if her interpretation is far from most contemporary forms. While she herself rejected Witchcraft, through the writings of Michael Howard she has become a significant source of inspiration for modern Luciferian Witchcraft.
Image #1: Michael Howard.
Image #2: Cover of The Book of the Fallen Angels.
Image #3: Madeline Montalban from Man, Myth and Magic in the 1970s
Douglas, Alfred. 2021. Personal correspondence, August 13.
Grant, Kenneth. 1977. Nightside of Eden. London. Skoob Book Publishing.
Gregorius, Fredrik. 2013. “Luciferian Witchcraft: At the Crossroads between Paganism and Satanism.” Pp. 229-49 in The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, edited by Per Faxneld and Jesper Aa. Petersen. New York: Oxford University Press.
Heselton, Philip. 2003. Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration: An Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft. Somerset. Capall Bann Publishing
Heselton, Philip. 2000. Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival. Berks. Capall Bann Publishing.
Howard, Michael. 2016. ”Teachings of the Light: Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morgning Star.” Pp 55-65 in The Luminous Stone: Lucifer in Western Esotericism, edited by Michael Howard and Daniel A. Schulke. Richmond Vista: Three Hands Press.
Howard, Michael. 2004. The Book of Fallen Angels. Somerset: Capall Bann Publishing.
Hutton, Ronald. 1999. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
OMS. n.d. ”Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star.” Accessed from https://www.sheridandouglas.co.uk/oms/ on 15 August 2021.
Phillips, Julia. 2021. Personal correspondence, August 13.
Phillips, Julia. 2012. Madeline Montalban: The Magus of St Giles. London: Neptune Press
Phillips, Julia. 2009. ”Madeline Montalban, Elemental and Fallen Angels.” Pp 77-88 in Both Sides of Heaven: A collection of essays exploring the origins, history, nature and magical practices of Angels, Fallen Angels and Demons, edited by Sorita d´Este. London: Avalonia.
Sanders, Maxine. 2008. Firechild: The Life and Magic of Maxine Sanders. Oxford: Mandrake of Oxford.
Valiente, Doreen. 1989. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. London: Robert Hale.
19 August 2021