Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Horniman Museum and the Forest Hill Visions

New Year’s Day was spent walking the dog in Horniman gardens and then a quick visit to the café and museum. I haven’t been for a couple of years, it really is a fantastic place. The new aquarium is excellent, worth a trip to just to see the Moon Jellyfish floating in blue light. I am also a big fan of the collection of musical instruments from round the world, and I am looking forward to Utsavam, an exhibition of music and dance from India which runs there from 9th February with a programme of free events throughout the year.

The Horniman Museum was founded by the 19th century tea merchant Frederick Horniman, whose house stood in the grounds of the present building. Through his daughter Annie Horniman, it also also played a role in the unfolding of 19th century occultism.

Annie Horniman was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and it was through her that one of the Order's founders, the colourful Samuel MacGregor Mathers, was introduced to her father and appointed by him to help curate his growing collection. Mathers and his wife Moina Bergson were housed at Stent Lodge on his estate in Forest Hill in the late 1880s. The house was used 'to host metaphysical salons and evenings of psychic experimentation', attended by the Irish poet WB Yeats among others (Yeats was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1888). Moina's vivid Forest Hill Visions were interpreted by her husband as past-life experiences.

Annie Horniman also helped found the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester.

Source: Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses: Maud Gonne, Moina Bergson Mathers, Annie Horniman, Florence Farr by Mary K. Greer

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