Fellowship of Isis - The First Rituals

The First Rituals in the Temple of Dana and the Temple of Isis

The Temple of Dana, 1963 - 1995

Photo, above: Castle and Abbey ruins in spring © Johnny Merron. The Abbey, or Temple of Dana, was the scene of druidic rituals before the founding of the FOI.

Ross Nichols, founder of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), often visited Lawrence, Pamela and Olivia during the 1960's at Clonegal Castle. During this period he gave both Olivia and Lawrence Druidic initiations. Philip Carr-Gomm, the successor of Ross Nichols, also visited Olivia and Lawrence at Clonegal Castle during the late 1960’s through the 1970’s. 

Photo, above: Ross Nichols and Lady Olivia Robertson. Ross Nichols founded the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) in 1964.


In 1963, Olivia and Lawrence founded their own Druid grove, which they named the Grove of Eithne. They held druidic rituals in the ruins of the Old Abbey, sometimes with Ross Nichols. It was at this time that they began calling the Old Abbey, "The Temple of Dana." Lawrence and Olivia founded their own grove in 1963, but the formal founding of the Druid Clan of Dana of the Fellowship of Isis would not take place until 1992.

Although the FOI Co-founders knew and worked with many illustrious members of the esoteric community - they were formally aligned with none of them. They gladly hosted salons and ritual with their guests, and Olivia offered guided journeys, but the FOI Co-Founders were not members of the various groups and organizations of those who visited and worked with them at the castle. Lawrence and Olivia always maintained the FOI was separate and not to be viewed as a "branch" or "extension" of any other order. By contrast, there were those who founded other groups or organizations and did in fact join the FOI. Honoring the 20th Anniversary of the Founding of the Fellowship, which took place less than two years after Lawrence's passing, Olivia listed the names of individuals who were among the first members and helpful during the founding of the FOI in Isian News No. 80, Beltane, 1996. She wrote of the Druid influence:

"Druids were represented by a good friend, Colin Murray, of the Golden Section Order and its magnificent script. His wife Liz continues the Druid tradition and his work is not forgotten." (see FOI 20th Birthday for the complete list of names)

Within the ruins of the Old Abbey, or Temple of Dana, stands a dolmen altar and two marble vessels containing rain water. Nearby in a field is the ancient Bullawn Stone, used thousands of years ago for grinding corn. The depression in it holds rainwater which is still used for purposes of healing by local people.  The dolmen altar, Bullawn Stone, yew tree avenue and the well of Brighid located within the castle shrines were all incorporated into the druidic rituals. It is here, eight times during the year that rituals are celebrated to honor the traditional holy days of the wheel of the year.

Rites were performed at the Temple of Dana completely in the Gaelic tongue and a prayer in Gaelic invoking the Goddess Dana and the Tuatha de Danaan, asking them to protect the earth. 

The Temple of Dana was the site of two ordinations of priestesses into the Fellowship of Isis in the summer of 1976.  This double ordination ceremony for a Priestess of Dana and for a Priestess of Isis was the first ordination of FOI priesthood conducted in the Fellowship of Isis.  Lawrence Durdin-Robertson officiated as Priest and Lady Olivia Robertson officiated as Hierophant. More information and photos of the ceremony are presented below.

The Temple of Isis, 1970 - Present

The Chapel of the Well, featuring the Well of Brigid

Originally used as a chapel for the castle, the area which would become the Temple of Isis began it’s transformation into a series of shrines and a high altar dedicated to Isis in the early 1970’s. Lawrence Durdin-Robertson wrote that in 1970 ‘religious conviction’ led him to start his research and writing about the Goddess. By 1972 Lawrence had received Isian Priesthood. Both Lawrence and Olivia could claim right to the Isian Priesthood as descendants of Scota, the dark one, daughter of the Pharaoh Cincris, who came north from Egypt and gave her name to Scotland - Scota’s land. Scota and her Scythian husband Nels, had a son, Gaelglas, who was founder of the Gaelic race.

Prior to the writing of Olivia’s spiritual biography “The Call of Isis” which was published in 1975, a series of mystery dramas she had written were already being enacted within the precinct of the castle shrines. The parts were performed by colleagues, friends and family members. These mystery dramas were based on the guided journeys Olivia had offered both in London and at the seminars held at the castle in previous years. In “The Call of Isis” Olivia already refers to the collective shrines as the Temple of Isis, and mentions the Temple of the Zodiac, a temple on the astral plane, which she would subsequently feature in visualizations within later FOI rituals.

The Isis Wedding Rite, June 28, 1975

Photo, above: The Temple of Isis, Clonegal Castle. The Isis Wedding Rite, June, 1975.

This was the second wedding rite conducted by Lawrence officiating as Priest of Isis at the Temple of Isis at Clonegal Castle. The first one had been performed a short time previous for Bernard and Julia on the day of their registry wedding. Bernard often visited the castle and played his handmade dulcimer during temple rituals.

Photo of Isis Wedding Rite enactment in August, 1975

The June 28th ritual was the first enactment of the Isis Wedding Rite as it is presented in the FOI liturgy booklet. It was held in honor of the marriage of Swadesh Poorun and Melian Durdin-Robertson on the day of their registry wedding. This performance of the Isis Wedding Rite was attended by 30 guests at the castle with Lawrence officiating as Priest of Isis and Olivia as Hierophant.

On December 9, 1975 The Isis Wedding Rite was re-enacted and filmed for Telefis Eireann, “News-Round”, which aired on January 11, 1976, with Swadesh and Melian once again assuming the roles of groom and bride.  The Isis Wedding Rite was first published by Cesara Publications (Lawrence and Olivia's private press) in February of 1976.

The Founding of the Fellowship of Isis, Spring Equinox, 1976

The high altar and shrines of the Temple of Isis officially became the spiritual center of the Fellowship of Isis when the FOI was formally founded on the Spring Equinox in 1976. Attunements in these shrines are still offered daily, both morning and evening, for FOI members worldwide within the temple. They have been used for the enactment of many rituals, initiations, ordinations and consecrations over the years. The founding of both the Noble Order of Tara and the Druid Clan of Dana were celebrated before the High Altar of the FOI shrines at Clonegal Castle. The Chapel of the Well of Brighid was created in 1976, and water from the well has been used in Fellowship of Isis ceremonies since that time.

Interview with FOI Co-Founder Olivia Robertson:

The Founding of the Fellowship of Isis

The Isis Wedding Rite, June 24, 1976

On June 24, 1976, the traditional Midsummer’s Day, The Isis Wedding Rite was enacted for Michael Griffin and Kathy Brown at the Temple of Isis at Clonegal Castle with Lawrence officiating as Priest of Isis and Olivia as Hierophant for the Rite as before.  This was the first celebration of an FOI Liturgy ritual in the form in which it appears in an FOI liturgy booklet after the founding of the Fellowship of Isis.

The Ordination of Two Priestesses, Lughnasadh, August 1, 1976

Photo, left: First Priestess of Dana is ordained, Lughnasadh, August 1st, 1976.The Ordination of two Priestesses within the Fellowship of Isis, Kathy Brown as Priestess of Dana, and Marion Boland as Priestess of Isis was the first ceremony of ordination in the Fellowship of Isis priesthood conducted by Lawrence and Olivia as FOI co-founders. The ritual presented in the FOI Liturgy booklet is the same one used for these two ordinations.

Lady Olivia writes: "The participants in our double ordination involved birds, trees and flowers, as we held the ceremony in the ruined abbey, our Temple of Dana.  Open to the sky, its floor the earth, it was richly filled with summer flowering shrubs. It was a Rite in which a pony could put her piebald head over a stone wall, a Siamese cat could leap from a bush, without distracting but rather augmenting the presence of innate divinity."

In the introduction to the Ordination Rite is the following passage: "... what does the Priestess rule? Not men, nor races. She rules the striving elements of her own being, and through understanding the law of transmutations, creates harmony of mind, heart and body ... The candidate need not forswear any family ties or her usual work.  She keeps her own way of life. What she does do is to dedicate her life to the Divine Purpose. The Scribe, Keeper of Records, during the Ordination ceremony reads out her degrees, appointments and achievements. She offers all this to the divine service, and presents tokens of dedication on the altar ... the Hierophant declares the new Priestess to be daughter of the Goddess, and bids her to reflect her Mother's Glory ... She now has conscious enjoyment of day and night, summer and winter, sun and moon. She is whole."

Photo, right: First Priestess of Isis is ordained, Lughnasadh, August 1, 1976.Her photo graces the cover of the FOI booklet "Ordination of Priestesses and Priests".The Ordination Rite was first published by Cesara Publications (Lawrence and Olivia's private press) in February of 1977.

Rite of Rebirth, Samhain, October 31, 1976

The first enactment of the Rite of Rebirth involved the blessing of four month old Elinor Currey, daughter of Anna (Lawrence and Pamela Durdin-Robertson’s daughter) and Robert Currey.

Olivia writes: "Ritual most certainly affects the psyche of babies, and those who have just passed into the next sphere. A Rite provides a place of meeting where those on earth may direct consciousness to a more spiritual level; and those Spirits who draw near to children, and those who have passed on, may act as Guardian Angels. For in an earthly Ritual it is made easy for psychic vision to be blended with earthly awareness.  Such a Rite helps the newly born child to keep hold of heavenly friends, while also becoming aware of earthly relations.  The same applies to those who leave this earth for another. They naturally wish to hold on to earthly loves, while experiencing friendship with those who dwell in the new sphere in which they find themselves."

Photo, left: The First Enactment of the Rite of Rebirth. FOI Co-Founder Olivia Robertson as Ishtar, 1976Olivia writes: "Our Initiation Rite involved the blessing of Elinor Currey, the four month old child of Anna and Robert Currey.  Her mother acted as the Psychopompos, the child's Guide.  During the Rite the baby tried to eat the proffered grain and seized my golden priestly girdle and refused to give it up! The Rite took place in the Castle Undercroft, in which is the holy well dedicated to the Irish Goddess of Poetry, Healing and Springs Brighid ... On this occasion Lawrence Durdin-Robertson was Priest, I took the part of Hierophant and Ishtar ..."

"... all those taking part are recreating an ancient pattern that involves the human and elemental participants; those of the animal, bird, reptile and insect realms described in the Rite, and the Deities invoked. The Priest says to those assembled in the Temple: Those who participate in the Mysteries prepare themselves for the Great Awakening."

A short  time later, a second performance of this Rite, with Lucy Durdin-Robertson (daughter of Lawrence and Pamela Durdin-Robertson) as Initiate, was filmed for a wide television audience. An interview with the Robertsons was also conducted for the programme. It was syndicated for viewing in the United States, in Great Britain and other countries. It was televised as a half hour show for Telefis Eireann. 


Photo, right: Anna Currey holding her daughter, Elinor. This photo graced the cover of the original Rite of Rebirth booklet. The Rite of Rebirth was first published by Cesara Publications (Lawrence and Olivia's private press) in September of 1977.1981 - Present

In 1981 Lawrence Durdin-Robertson made over by Deed of Gift, the Temple of Isis of Clonegal Castle to the Fellowship of Isis, to be held by trustees in perpetuity. Seasonal rituals are held annually and still open for public attendance through prior arrangement. Private rituals, including ordinations, consecrations, dedication ceremonies and initiations are still held in the Temple of Isis at Clonegal Castle.

Photo, above: Rite of Rebirth in the Temple of Isis, 1976. Lucy Durdin-Robertson, Kathy Brown, Olivia Robertson and Lawrence Durdin-Robertson

More photos:

Photo, above: Olivia offering a prayer of healing on behalf of Pamela Scott, Priestess in the Fellowship who works tirelessly to help abandoned and ill-treated dogs.

Photo, above: FOI members enact the Mystery of Isis and Osiris. Photo © Johnny Merron.

Members of the Priesthood of the Fellowship of Isis, including Steve Wilson, Caroline Wise, Ingrid Fischer and Johnny Merron enact The Mystery of the Awakening of Osiris with Lawrence and Olivia near the balustraded portico entrance to the Temple of Isis at Clonegal Castle. Johnny is seen here lying prone as Osiris.  He had a time lapse on his camera, which enabled him to set it and have time to get in position before the photo was taken.

1993 - FOI co-founders Olivia Robertson and Lawrence Durdin-Robertson bestow ordination upon Ingrid Fischer, a Maga of the College of Isis, trained by Caroline Wise, Isis of the Thames Lyceum of London. (from "The Call of Isis" by Neptune Press) Photo © Karl Duncan and Johnny Merron.

Photo below, "The Homing of Children" -  a ritual at the Temple of Isis, Clonegal Castle, following an ancient Tibetan tradition where the young child chooses objects which may forecast their future. Olivia is pictured veiled, right. Photo © Karl Duncan and Johnny Merron.

A view of the entrance to the Temple of Isis at Clonegal Castle from the southern portion of the grounds.  Morgan Benedict, Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, Olivia Robertson, Karin Aziz, newly ordained, and Shasta Zaring. This photo was taken immediately after the ordination ceremony.

Below: First Photo, Olivia and Second Photo, Lawrence, with Druids of the Druid Clan of Dana at a ceremony before the High Altar in the Temple of Isis. Photos © Boyd Lees.

Johnny Merron, above, took this photo of himself with a time lapse function on his camera, walking in the Yew Avenue.

Sources for Information Provided on This Page:

By FOI Co-Founder Olivia Robertson:

The Call of Isis

  (Cesara Publications, 1975, 1990 and Neptune Press edition, 1993)

Introduction, Dea, Rites and Mysteries of the Goddess

  (Cesara Publications, 1979, 1988, Neptune Press edition, 1993)

Introduction, Part I & Introduction Part II, Gaea. Initiations of the Earth

  (Cesara Publications, 1991)

Introduction, The Isis Wedding Rite

  (Cesara Publications, 1976, 1983)

Introduction to Maya, Goddess Rites for Solo Use

  (Cesara Publications, 1994)

Preface and Introduction, Ordination of Priestesses and Priests

  (Cesara Publications, 1977, 1983)

Introduction, The Rite of Dana. Druid Initiation

  (Cesara Publications, 1992)

Introduction, Rite of Rebirth of the Fellowship of Isis

  (Cesara Publications, 1977, 1987, 1991)

Introduction, Sophia, Cosmic Consciousness of the Goddess

  (Cesara Publications, 1986)

Fellowship of Isis Handbook

  (Cesara Publications, 1992, 1995)

Isian News No. 80, Beltane, 1996

By FOI Co-Founder Lawrence Durdin-Robertson

The Cult of the Goddess

  (Cesara Publications, 1975)

Clonegal Castle (Guide to Clonegal Castle)

  (Cesara Publications, 1990)


Isis and Osiris, Jonathan Cott, Doubleday, New York, 1995 

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