DICTIONARY - O


Home Page    |    Flags    |    Logos & Emblems    |    Other Symbols
Mythological Deities    |    Shopping    |    Useful Links    |    Contact Us
0-9 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Obelisk An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or ‘pyramidion’ at its apex -- it is a symbol of the Egyptian sun god Ra and during the brief religious reformation of Akhenaten was said to be a petrified ray of the sun disk.  It was also thought that Ra existed within the structure.

Obelisks were originally called 'tekhenu' by the ancient Egyptians who built them and placed them in pairs at the entrance of temples.  The Greeks who saw them used the Greek term 'obeliskos' to describe them -- this word passed into Latin and ultimately English.

Ancient obelisks are monolithic; that is, they consist of a single stone, whereas most modern obelisks are made of several stones, and some, like the Washington Monument, are buildings.

Rome is probably the obelisk capital of the world.  The most well-known is the 25 metres tall obelisk at Saint Peter's Square in the city.  It had stood since AD 37 on its site on the wall of the Circus of Nero, flanking St Peter's Basilica.




Oculists See High Enlightened Oculist Order.



Odd Fellows Odd Fellows, or Oddfellows, is an international fraternity consisting of lodges first documented in 1730 CE in London.  The first known lodge was called Loyal Aristarcus Lodge No. 9, suggesting there were earlier ones in the 18th century.  Notwithstanding, convivial meetings were held "in much revelry and, often as not, the calling of the Watch to restore order."  Names of several British pubs today suggest past Odd Fellows affiliations.  In the mid-18th century, following the Jacobite risings, the fraternity split into the rivalling Order of Patriotic Oddfellows in southern England, favouring William III of England, and the Ancient Order of Oddfellows in northern England and Scotland, favouring the House of Stuart.

Since 1799 the fraternity has remained religiously and politically independent.  George IV of the United Kingdom, admitted in 1780, was the first documented of many Odd Fellows to also attend freemasonry, although the societies remain mutually independent.  In 1810, further instigations led to the establishment of the Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity in England.  Odd Fellows spread overseas, including formally chartering the fraternity in the United States in 1819.  In 1842, due to British authorities intervening in the customs and ceremonies of British Odd Fellows and in light of post-colonial American sovereignty, the American Odd Fellows became independent as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows under British-American Thomas Wildey (1782 - 1861), soon constituting the largest sovereign grand lodge.  Likewise, by the mid-19th century, the Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity become the largest and richest fraternal organisation in the United Kingdom.

To this day, beyond recreational activities, Odd Fellows promote philanthropy, the ethic of reciprocity and charity, albeit with some grand lodges implying Judeo-Christian affiliation.  Still largest, the American-seated Independent Order of Odd Fellows enrols some 600,000 members divided in approximately 10,000 lodges in 30 countries, inter-fraternally recognised by the second largest, the British-seated Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity.  In total, members of all international branches combined are estimated in the millions worldwide




Odin Brotherhood The Odin Brotherhood is the name of an alleged group that practices the modern Pagan religion of Heathenry.  The group first came to attention when Mark Mirabello published a book discussing the group and its beliefs, The Odin Brotherhood, in 1992 CE.  According to Mirabello's account, the Brotherhood alleges to be the direct survival of an ancient pre-Christian belief system.  Mirabello's book has been mentioned in several publications on religions or secret societies, and the Odin Brotherhood is listed in the eighth edition of J. Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions.  Other scholars and many in the Heathen community have expressed scepticism as to the Brotherhood's existence.

Mark Mirabello, a professor of history at Shawnee State University, claimed he encountered the Odin Brotherhood while earning a PhD in history at Glasgow University.  His book on the Odin Brotherhood, originally published in 1992, and now in its sixth edition, describes the eponymous group.  The scholar of religion Graham Harvey subsequently stated that although he had received 'enigmatic letters' from individuals claiming to be members of the group, he had been 'unable to check the veracity of Mirabello's claims'.  Harvey noted that no other Heathens he communicated with "has any knowledge of the group beyond reading the book.  Most doubt its existence".  This was true even of one Heathen who was named as a contact in one of the 'Brotherhood' letters.  Similarly, in the Cultic Studies Review, Thomas Coghlan, a forensic psychologist with the New York Police, stated of Mirabello's book: "at first read it appears specious."

Stephen E Adkins writes that "British Odinists claim that there has been a secret Odinist movement, the Odin Brotherhood, since 1421.  Membership of the Odin Brotherhood has always remained small, but undoubtedly, some adherents made it to the American colonies and the United States.  See also Valknut.




Odin's Cross See Solar Cross.



Odin's Horn The Triple Horn of Odin is a stylised emblem of the Norse god Odin.  The symbol comprises three interlocked drinking horns, and is commonly worn or displayed as a sign of commitment to the modern Asatru faith.

The horns figure significantly in mythological stories of Odin and are recalled in traditional Norse toasting rituals.  Most stories involve the god's quest for the Odhroerir, a magical mead brewed from the blood of the wise god Kvasir.  As to be expected the tales vary, but typically Odin uses his wits and magic to procure the brew over three days; the three horns reflect the three draughts of the magical mead.




Ogham The Celtic Ogham alphabet dates from the fourth century CE.  The alphabet is named for Ogmos, the Celtic god of knowledge and communication, who was associated with the Gaulish god Ogmios, and the Greek Hermes.

The ogham alphabet has twenty letters, each named for a different tree sacred to the Celtic Druids.  Each letter is made up of one to five straight or angled lines incised on a straight base line.  Because of the number of letters, and the number of lines that make up each letter, some scholars have theorised that the ogham may have originated as a system of hand signs.

Examples of Ogham writing have been found all over the British Isles, and even as far away as Spain and Portugal.  All surviving examples exist as stone carvings, usually on tombstones and road markers.  Although it is commonly used by modern Druids and other Neo-Pagans as a divination system, there is no real relationship between modern and historical divination systems.  When used as a divination tool, the letters are usually notched into straight twigs and used much like runes.




Ogou / Ogoun See Veves.



Oil of Abramelin In magic, a magical weapon is any instrument used to bring about intentional change.  In practice, magical weapons are usually specific, consecrated items used within ceremonial ritual.  There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes or does not constitute a magical weapon -- if a magician considers it to be a weapon, then a weapon it is.

However, there does exist a set of magical weapons with particular uses and symbolic meanings.  Some such common weapons/tools include the Dagger/Sword, Wand/Baton, Cup/Chalice, Paten/Pentacle/Disc, Holy Oil, Lamp and Bell.

Oil of Abramelin is a ceremonial, magical oil used for just this purpose, i.e. a Holy Oil.  It is blended according to the recipe found in SL Mathers' translation of The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, consisting of one-part myrrh, two-parts cinnamon, a half-part galangal (a root with a hot ginger/pepper taste used primarily as a seasoning in Thai cooking), and half the total weight of the best olive oil.




Om (Aum) Om is a sacred sound and a spiritual icon in Hindu religion. It is also a mantra in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.  It is part of the iconography found in ancient and mediaeval era manuscripts, temples, monasteries and spiritual retreats in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.  The symbol has a spiritual meaning in all Indian Dharmas, but the meaning and connotations of Om vary between the diverse schools within and across the various traditions.

In Hinduism, Om is one of the most important spiritual symbols, referring to Atman (soul, self within) and Brahman (ultimate reality, entirety of the universe, truth, divine, supreme spirit, cosmic principles, knowledge).  The syllable is often found at the beginning and the end of chapters in the Vedas, the Upanishads, and other Hindu texts.  It is a sacred spiritual incantation made before and during the recitation of spiritual texts, during puja and private prayers, in ceremonies of rites of passages (sanskara) such as weddings, and sometimes during meditative and spiritual activities such as Yoga.  In Tibetan Buddhism, probably the most famous use of Om is in the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.




Omamori Omamori (Japanese, ‘blessed protector’) are the ubiquitous amulets one receives in exchange for a donation to one of Japan’s Shinto or Buddhist temples.  Omamori are usually small, folded paper or fabric packets, ritually consecrated in the temple, and typically made with the name of the originating temple on the front and a charm on the back for prosperity, health, travel, or a multitude of other purposes.  Some omamori can be quite complex, or made of fancier materials such as wood, bone, or metals.

Amulets do not expire, but it is common practice to replace them, usually once a year.  Old omamori are usually returned to the temple to be burned.




Omphalos An omphalos is a religious stone artefact, or baetylus.  In Ancient Greek, the word means 'navel'. Among the Ancient Greeks, it was a widespread belief that Delphi was the centre of the world.  According to the myths regarding the founding of the Delphic Oracle, Zeus, in his attempt to locate the centre of the earth, Zeus launched two eagles from the two ends of the world, and the eagles, starting simultaneously and flying at equal speed, crossed their paths above the area of Delphi, and so was the place where he placed the stone.  Omphalos is also the name of the stone given to Cronus.

In the ancient world of the Mediterranean, the omphalos was not only an object of Hellenic religious symbolism and world centrality; it was also considered an object of power.  Its symbolic references included the uterus, the phallus, and a cup of red wine representing royal blood lines.  Omphalos Syndrome refers to the belief that a place of geopolitical power and currency is the most important place in the world.




Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn (OSOGD) The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn (OSOGD) is an esoteric community of magical practitioners, many of whom come from Pagan backgrounds.  It is an initiatory teaching Order that draws upon the knowledge, experience, practices and spirit of the system of magical training and attainment developed by the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

The OSOGD was founded by Sam Webster in 2002 CE and based on the principles of the open-source software movement.  The organisation grew out of a series of workshops on ceremonial magic held by Webster in 2001.  According to Webster:

"The Open Source Order is founded on the principle that true spirituality is omnipresent and access to it cannot be owned or controlled by any group or individual.  Sufficiently skilled practitioners can and do modify the practices to serve specific purposes or to take advantage of the century-plus development in the craft to improve their effect."

According to The Manifesto of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, the Order has undertaken to revise the teachings of the original Victorian era Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn system to work more effectively in the 21st century.  This redaction of the original rituals has taken on the aspect of a number of principles, listed in the Manifesto as Open Source Magick, New Aeon, Freedom of Information, Thelema, Duty, Universalism, and Form and Function.

In temple work, the OSOGD uses Egyptian, Enochian and Thelemic god-forms in preference to the Judeo-Christian Archangels typical of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  According to the Manifesto, OSOGD teaches 'a progressively tiered system of spiritual development designed to invoke the Higher or Divine Genius latent in every human being'.




Ophite Cultus Sathanas See Our Lady of Endor Coven.



Opus Dei Opus Dei, originally known as 'The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei' is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church which teaches that everyone is called to holiness and that life is a path to sanctity.  Opus Dei is Latin for ‘Work of God’; which explains why the organisation is often referred to by its members (lay people, with secular priests under the governance of a prelate elected by specific members and appointed by the Pope) and supporters as the ‘Work’.

Opus Dei was founded in Spain in 1928 CE by the Catholic priest -- now a saint -- Josemaría Escrivá (1902 - 1975 CE) and was given the Catholic Church’s approval in 1950 by Pope Pius XII (1876 - 1958).

Approximately 70% of Opus Dei members live in private homes and lead traditional Catholic family lives with normal careers, while the other 30% are celibate, the majority of whom live in Opus Dei centres.  Other than personal charity and social work, Opus Dei members organise training in Catholic spirituality applied to daily life, and members are involved in running universities, schools, publishing houses and hospitals, along with technical and agricultural training centres.




Orange Order The Loyal Orange Institution, more commonly known as the Orange Order, is a Protestant fraternal order based primarily in Northern Ireland.  However, it also has lodges in the Republic of Ireland, a Grand Orange Lodge in the Scottish Lowlands and other lodges throughout the Commonwealth, the United States and Togo.  The Order was founded in County Armagh in 1795, during a period of Protestant–Catholic sectarian conflict, as a Masonic-style fraternity sworn to maintain the Protestant Ascendancy.  It is headed by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, which was established in 1798.  Its name is a tribute to the Dutch-born Protestant king William of Orange, the Dutch prince who became King of England, Scotland, and Ireland after defeating the army of Catholic king James II in the Williamite/Jacobite War (1688 - 1691).  Its members wear orange sashes and are referred to as Orangemen.

The Orange Order is a conservative British unionist organisation with links to Ulster loyalism.  It sees itself as defending Protestant civil and religious liberties, whilst critics accuse the Order of being sectarian, triumphalist, and supremacist.  As a strict Protestant society, it does not accept non-Protestants as members unless they convert and adhere to the principles of Orangeism, nor does it accept Protestants married to Catholics.

The order is now best known for its annual marches, the biggest of which are held on or around 12 July (The Twelfth).  The Orange Institution commemorates the civil and religious privileges conferred on Protestants by William of Orange.  In particular, the Institution remembers the victories of William III and his forces in Ireland in the early 1690s, especially the Battle of the Boyne.  Although most Orange marches are without incident, some through mainly Catholic and Irish nationalist neighbourhoods are controversial and have often led to violence.




Orans Gesture The orans gesture is an ancient mode of prayer common to many ancient religions.  It is performed standing, elbows bent or at the side, with arms uplifted and palms upward -- a gesture of supplication or pleading.

The orans position was widely used in early Christian prayer, but was gradually replaced by the submissive gesture in the laity, although it has been in continual use by priests of the Roman Catholic faith during the celebration of the Mass and other priestly offices.  It has been in continual use by both clergy and laity in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The gesture is also gaining new popularity in many charismatic evangelical churches, where it is considered more joyful and uplifting.




Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (OBOD) The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids or OBOD is a Neo-Druidic organisation based in England, but created in part on the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards -- ovates are members of an order of Welsh bards recognised at an Eisteddfod.  It has grown to become a dynamic druid organisation, with members in all parts of the world.  OBOD was founded in 1964 as a split from the Ancient Order of Druids with Ross Nichols (1902 - 1975) as its leader.

In 1988, more than a decade after Nichols' passing, Philip Carr-Gomm (born 1952) was asked to lead the Order.  Other notable members also hold somewhat senior positions in the order, often with the title of ‘Honorary Bard’, a good example of this being ‘Damh the Bard’ who is mostly involved in the UK groves and running the podcast.

The concept of the three roles of bards, ovates and druids originates from the writings of the ancient Greek historian and geographer Strabo (64 or 63 BCE – c. 24 CE), who in his Geographica stated that amongst the Gauls, there were three types of honoured figures: the poets and singers known as bardoi, the diviners and specialists in the natural world known as o'vateis, and those who studied ‘moral philosophy’, the druidai. Strabo's accuracy has been called into question here, as he was not well acquainted with Gaul and was likely relying on earlier sources whose accuracy is also disputed.

See also Arwen.




Order of Liberation The Order of Liberation is a French Order which was awarded to heroes of the Liberation of France during World War II.  It is a very high honour, second only after the Legion of Honour.  Very few people, military units and communes were ever awarded it; and only for their deeds during World War II.  A different order, the 'Resistance Medal', was created and awarded for lesser but still distinguished deeds by members of the Resistance.

The Order of Liberation was established by General de Gaulle in order n° 7, signed in Brazzaville on 16 November 1940 CE.  The object of the Order was to 'reward people, of the military or civilian communities, who will have distinguished themselves in the task of liberating France and her Empire'.  There were no restrictions as to age, sex, rank, origin or nationality; nor any regarding the nature of the deeds, other than their exceptional quality.

The Order has a single rank, the title of Companion of the Liberation.  General de Gaulle, founder of the Order, was the only Grand Master of the Order which was usually bestowed by the traditional French military ceremony of 'prise d'armes'.  The recipient was summoned forward by rank and name, and given the insignia while being commended thus: "We acknowledge you as our companion for the Liberation of France, in honour and by Victory".

The last awards to French citizens, units and communes were made on 23 January 1946 -- awards to foreign nationals were made until 1960.




Order of Nine Angles The Order of Nine Angles (ONA) is a supposedly secretive Satanist organisation which has been mentioned in books detailing Satanist and extreme right-wing groups.  The ONA was originally founded in England in the 1960s CE with the merger of three Neopagan temples called Camlad, The Noctulians, and Temple of the Sun, which rose to public note during the 1980s and 1990s.  Since then it has 'gone back to being totally underground, having completed its mission to spread its work'.

It is alleged that David Myatt (born 1950) took over the order and began writing its now publicly available teachings.  Many writers claim that Anton Long wrote those tracts, and that David Myatt, who was involved with the neo-Nazi movement in England and now also known as Abdul-Aziz ibn Myatt, is a pseudonym of Anton Long.

The ONA claims that Satanism is a highly individualised quest that aims to create self-excellence and wisdom by undertaking challenges which allow a person to transcend his physical and mental limits.  It is meant to involve the arduous achievement of self-mastery and 'Nietzschean self-overcoming', with an emphasis on individual growth through practical acts of risk, prowess and endurance.  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 - 1900) was a German philosopher whose writings included criticisms of religion and morality.

Rites of passage are often connected to promotion in grade level, and include spending three months living rough in a forest, deprived of any human contact, and the assumption of arduous occupations to develop personality and leadership ability.  This is intended to aid in the evolution of the individual: "this new individual will be fierce, free, exult in exploration and discovery and possess an essentially Pagan attitude to life. This, in turn, will lead to the transformation of society into a higher, refined civilisation."

The ONA's writings condone and encourage human sacrifice as a means of eliminating the weak.  Anton Long describes it as, "a contribution to improving the human stock, removing the worthless, the weak, the diseased (in terms of character)."  This 'culling' serves not just a Darwinian purpose, but is also connected to the promotion of a new Aeon: "The change that is necessary means that there must be a culling, or many cullings, which remove the worthless and those detrimental to further evolution.  Thus, true Satanism requires venturing into the realm of the forbidden and illegal, in order to make contact with the sphere of acausal, sinister forces of the cosmos."

Probably because of the ONA's highly radical stance, there is open animosity between the ONA and what could be described as 'mainstream' Satanists such as the Church of Satan.  The ONA publicly disavows any connection with the Church of Satan, viewing it with contempt and claiming the Satanic Bible to be a 'watered-down philosophy', and shuns the religious type of approach evident in groups such as the Temple of Set which denounced the ONA in the early 1980s for its avowal of human sacrifice.

The ONA now has associates, and groups, in the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Russia.




Order of the Bath The Most Honourable Order of the Bath was established as a military order by Letters Patent of George I on 18 May 1725 CE, when the Dean of Westminster was made Dean of the Order in perpetuity and King Henry VII's Chapel designated as the Chapel of the Order.  However, the Order was a revival of an older custom going back to mediaeval times when part of the ceremony of knighthood included a ritual bath symbolic of spiritual purification and a vigil the night before receiving the honour.  There is an account of this ceremony in the reign of Henry IV in 1399 and it was kept up until the time of Charles II, after which it fell into disuse.

The Order was enlarged in 1815 and three classes of knights were formed: Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander and Companions.  A small number of distinguished civilians were also admitted at this time and in 1847 a civil division of Knights Commander and Companions was added.

As a result of the increased numbers after 1812, due in part to the Napoleonic wars, no installations took place in the chapel until 1913 when George V revived the service and the erection of stall-plates, banners and crests was begun again.  The older stall plates were moved down under the seats on the upper rows at this time.  Forty six new Knights were installed at the 1913 service.  The banner (size 6 feet by 6 feet), crest and mantling of each GCB (Knight Grand Cross) hang above his stall until his death when they are returned to his family, but a copper stall-plate enamelled with his coat of arms remains as a permanent record.  A green laurel wreath is hung above the seat for a short while after the death.  As there are only 34 stalls available knights may wait many years before a stall becomes vacant (for example Lord Mountbatten had to wait 17 years).

Ladies were admitted to the Order in 1971 with Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester being the first Dame Grand Cross.  HRH The Prince of Wales is the current Great Master of the Order and he and the Sovereign occupy stalls at the west end of the chapel at an installation.

From the reign of James I, a special badge with three crowns was appropriated to the Knights of the Bath and is probably an allusion to the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, as is the motto Tria Juncta in Uno (three joined in one).

Famous holders of the Order have included Nelson, Wellington, Earl Haig, Lord Kitchener, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Lord Dowding, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley Norris.




Order of the Dragon See Societas Draconistrarum.



Order of the Eastern Star The Order of the Eastern Star was established in 1850 CE by lawyer and educator Rob Morris, a noted Freemason.  It was adopted and approved as an appendant body of the Masonic Fraternity in 1873.  Although the order is based on teachings from the Bible, it is open to people of all religious beliefs.  It has approximately 10,000 chapters in twenty countries and in the region of 500,000 members under its General Grand Chapter.

Members of the Order of the Eastern Star must be aged 18 and older; men must be Master Masons while women must have specific relationships with Masons.  Originally, a woman would have to be the daughter, widow, wife, sister, or mother of a master Mason, but the Order now allows other relatives.  It also allows Job's Daughters, Rainbow Girls, Members of the Organisation of Triangles (NY only) and members of the Constellation of Junior Stars (NY only) to become members when of age.

The General Grand Chapter headquarters, the International Temple, is located in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood of Washington, D.C., in the Perry Belmont Mansion.  The Order has a charitable foundation and from 1986 - 2001 contributed $513,147 to Alzheimer's disease research, juvenile diabetes research, and juvenile asthma research.  It also provides bursaries to students of theology and religious music, as well as other scholarships that differ by jurisdiction.




Order of the Garter The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by King Edward III (1312 - 1377) in 1348 CE and is regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry (although in precedence it is inferior to the Victoria Cross and George Cross) in England and the United Kingdom.  It is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.

Appointments to the Order are made at the Sovereign's sole discretion, although membership is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 members, or Companions.  The Order also includes supernumerary knights and ladies (e.g., members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs).  New appointments to the Order of the Garter are always announced on St George's Day (23 April), as Saint George is the Order's patron saint.




Order of the Golden & Rosy Cross The Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross (Orden des Gold und Rosenkreutz) was a German Rosicrucian organisation founded in the 1750s CE by Freemason and Alchemist Hermann Fichtuld (c. 1700 - 1777).  Candidates were expected to be Master Masons in good standing, with alchemy being a central study for members.  Much of the hierarchical structure for this order was used by Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) and from there, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (G.D.).

Although the fraternity was founded in the 1750s, it is uncertain as to when it actually came into existence.  Many documents and books mention it from the 18th century.  For instance, Frater UD1 believes that in 1710, the idea for the order was born with the publication of Sigmund Richter's (using the name Sincerus Renatus) 'The perfect and true preparation of the Philosophers Stone according to the secret of the Brotherhoods of the Golden and Rosy Cross'.  By the 1770s, the order had centres in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Regensburg, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Poland, Hungary, and Russia.

The most influential member of the Order was Prince Frederick-William, a future King of Prussia, but the order was to slowly decline after his death.

1 Ralph Tegtmeier (born November 1, 1952), also known as Frater VD and Frater UD, a German occultist, a long-time member of the Fraternitas Saturni, and co-founder of the Illuminates of Thanateros.




Order of the Red Eagle The Order of the Red Eagle (German: Roter Adlerorden) was an order of chivalry of the Kingdom of Prussia.  It was awarded to both military personnel and civilians, to recognise valour in combat, excellence in military leadership, long and faithful service to the kingdom, or other achievements.  As with most German (and most other European) orders, the Order of the Red Eagle could only be awarded to commissioned officers or civilians of approximately equivalent status.  However, there was a medal of the order, which could be awarded to non-commissioned officers and enlisted men, lower ranking civil servants and other civilians.

The predecessor to the Order of the Red Eagle was founded in November 1705, by the Margrave Georg Wilhelm of Brandenburg-Bayreuth as the Ordre de la Sincerité.  This soon fell into disuse but was revived in 1712 in Brandenburg-Bayreuth and again in 1734 in Brandenburg-Ansbach, where it first received the name of "Order of the Brandenburg Red Eagle".  The statutes were changed in 1777 and the order named therein as the "Order of the Red Eagle".  The order was conferred in one class, limited to fifty knights.

The Kingdom of Prussia absorbed both Brandenburg-Bayreuth and Brandenburg-Ansbach in January 1792, and on 12 June 1792, King Frederick William II again revived the order as a Prussian royal order.




Order of the Thistle The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland.  The current version of the Order was founded in 1687 CE by King James VII of Scotland (James II of England and Ireland) who asserted that he was reviving an earlier Order.  The Order consists of the Sovereign and sixteen Knights and Ladies, as well as certain "extra" knights (members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs).  The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; he or she is not advised by the Government, as occurs with most other Orders.

The Order's primary emblem is the thistle, the national flower of Scotland.  The motto is 'Nemo me impune lacessit' (Latin for "No one provokes me with impunity").  The same motto appears on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom for use in Scotland and some pound coins, and is also the motto of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Scots Guards, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.  The patron saint of the Order is St Andrew.

Most British orders of chivalry cover the whole of the United Kingdom, but the three most exalted ones each pertain to one constituent country only.  The Order of the Thistle, which pertains to Scotland, is the second-most senior in precedence.  Its equivalent in England, The Most Noble Order of the Garter, is the oldest documented order of chivalry in the United Kingdom, dating to the middle fourteenth century.  In 1783 an Irish equivalent, The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick, was founded, but has now fallen dormant.




Order of the Trapezoid (Church of Satan) The Order of the Trapezoid is a chivalric Order of Knighthood dedicated to the Prince of Darkness and protection of the Black Flame.

From the early 1950's, Anton LaVey explored some of these ideas, eventually gaining a reputation as a powerful black magician and San Francisco character.  Others who felt aligned with his philosophy gravitated to him, gathering in his notorious Victorian "Black House."  In accordance with LaVey's explorations of demonic geometry, they took to wearing an odd-shaped black and red medallion adorned with a bat-winged demon and formed a group called the Order of the Trapezoid, which later evolved into the governing body of the Church of Satan.  Those who attended LaVey's soirees always comprised an array of professions and pursuits: "the Baroness" Carin de Plessen -- who grew up in the Royal Palace of Denmark, Dr Cecil Nixon -- magician and eccentric extraordinaire, underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, as well as artists, attorneys, doctors, writers, and law enforcement officers.  City Assessor Russell Wolden might share the room with Donald Werby, one of San Francisco's most influential property owners; anthropologist Michael Harner with writer Shana Alexander.  A ship's purser might be seated next to a deep-sea diver, a dildo manufacturer next to a plastic surgeon.  A famous tattoo artist, the grandson of a U.S. president, the owner of one of the world's largest collections of Fabergé artefacts -- all attended LaVey's get-togethers.  The field of fantasy and science fiction personages alone yielded the likes of Anthony Boucher, August Derleth, Robert Barbour Johnson, Reginald Bretnor, Emil Petaja, Stuart Palmer, Clark Ashton Smith, Forrest J. Ackerman, Fritz Leiber Jr., to name a few, into LaVey's circle of magical compatriots.

LaVey wanted to establish something new, not strict doctrines awash with attitudes of blind faith and worship, but something which would smash all concepts of anything that had come before, something to break apart the ignorance and hypocrisy fostered by the Christian churches.  Something, too, that could free people to apply the black magic he and his Magic Circle were using.  Anton became convinced he was learning methods to harness the dark forces which cause "a change in situations or events in accordance with one's will which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable," as LaVey defines magic.  What is the Order of the Trapezoid?  Click on the image to the left to enlarge it.

Anton expanded and refined his formulas for the Magic Circle rituals and began achieving precise results -- professional advances, unexpected rewards, monetary gain, sexual or romantic satisfaction, the elimination of certain enemies -- it was apparent to everyone involved that Anton had indeed tapped into that mysterious Dark Force in Nature.

There was the magic -- and there was a workable philosophy to go along with it.  It was a down-to-earth, rational, bedrock philosophy that emphasised the carnal, lustful, natural instincts of man, without imposing guilt for manufactured sins.  To break apart the crust of stupidity and irrationality fostered over the past 2000 years, LaVey knew it was necessary to blast its very foundations.  His ideas could not be presented as just a "philosophy" -- that would be too easy to pass off or overlook.  LaVey would blasphemously form a religion and, even more, he would call his new organisation a church, consecrated not in the name of God but in the name of Satan.  There had always been a Satanic underground, centuries old, but there had never been an organised Satanic religion, practicing openly.  LaVey decided it was high time there was.




Order of Thelemic Knights (OTK) The Order of Thelemic Knights (OTK), founded in 1999 CE, is both a Gnostic and Thelemic organisation.  It serves the Thelemic community and the greater society of mankind.  Known for its members charitable deeds, the Order also serves individuals in the Gnostic Thelemic community through The Gnostic Thelemic Church of Alexandria.  The OTK is a modern fraternal organisation whose aim is to enable its members to reach the ideal balance between soldiering and religion by leading them to the life of the Spiritual Warrior.  They lead by requiring each member to adhere to an honourable and chivalric code of conduct.  These disciplines carry within them a power of immense potential.  As a result, the fraternity is truly fashioned after the New Aeon.

Members of the OTK are invited to join into the system and participate in the mysteries of the Order through initiation.  A careful screening process identifies their potential for making meaningful contributions to society.  Particularly relevant is the Order's ethical value system.  Reflected in The Eleven Virtues of Thelemic Knighthood, these virtues have an esoteric meaning in addition to their common meaning; these meanings are known to its initiated members.  They encourage members to develop these virtues and also recognise them in others regardless of race, creed, religion, gender, or sexuality.




Ordo Astrum Sophiae Founded in 2002 CE, the Astrum Sophiae (House of the Winged Serpent) is a fully contacted initiatory Order dedicated to continuing and fostering the Ogdoadic Tradition of the Western Mysteries, and thus providing a vehicle for the advancement of its members in an ambience of living Alchemy.  It is a private esoteric society and is thus not affiliated to any other organisation, whether esoteric, religious or political -- membership is by invitation only, and those members must proceed through the traditional grade structure.

It is a Hermetic and magical Order which derives its Charter of Succession and initiatory lineage from the Ordo Aurum Solis (Order of the Gold of the Sun), founded in London in 1897 by George Stanton and Charles Kingold.  As a chartered and contacted Order, by authority of the Grand Master, it is empowered to transmit the First, Second and Third Hall initiations and to revise or authorise new rites that function within the contexts of our Tradition.

The Astrum Sophiae is a non-commercial magical Order in which no individual is allowed to make any profit by virtue of being a member or leader.  The Order does not charge dues or fees for membership, but Commanderies or Citadels may exact modest dues on a local level if deemed appropriate.

See also Ordo Aurum Solis.




Ordo Aurum Solis Ordo Aurum Solis (Order of the Gold of the Sun) is a Hermetic and Theurgic order founded in England in 1897 CE by George Stanton and Charles Kingold as a vehicle of the Ogdoadic Tradition, itself an important element of the Western Mystery Tradition.

Ordo Aurum Solis is best known through the published works of two of its past Grand Masters, Vivian Godfrey and Leon Barcynski.  Better known by their pseudonyms, Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips, this husband and wife team together authored many books (some reappearing in newer editions) that cover different aspects of magical practice, such as the Llewellyn Practical Guide to Astral Projection and Llewellyn Practical Guide to Creative Visualisation, as well as their seminal work outlining the philosophy and practices of Ordo Aurum Solis.

Despite some similarities to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (G.D.), some of its descendants, various Thelemic orders, and other groups stemming from the Rosicrucian revival of the 19th century, Ordo Aurum Solis represents a distinct and unique system of magical philosophy and practice based on the Ogdoadic Tradition




Ordo Draconis et Atri Adamantis See Dragon Rouge.



Ordo Equester Sethiana See Knights of Seth.



Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) translates into 'Order of the Temple of the East', or the 'Order of Oriental Templars'.  It is an international fraternal and religious organisation, and was the first such organisation to accept the Law of Thelema, expressed as 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law'.  Thelemites believe this Law was established when Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947) received the Book of the Law in Cairo in 1904 CE.

Its central rite, which is in the public domain, is called Liber XV, or the Gnostic Mass.  The O.T.O. includes the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica or Gnostic Catholic Church, the ecclesiastical arm of the Order, and claims to have in excess of 3000 members scattered throughout 58 countries, with approximately 50% of these being in the USA.

Initiates graduate through a degree system, similar to that of Freemasonry.  There are 13 numbered degrees and 12 un-numbered.  These are further divided into three grades or 'triads': the Hermit, the Lover, and the Man of Earth.  Admittance to each degree involves an initiation and the swearing of an oath similar to those used in Freemasonry.  The ultimate goal of initiation is to instruct the individual by allegory and symbol in the profound mysteries of Nature, and thereby to assist each to discover his or her own true Identity.

O.T.O. was described by Crowley as 'the first of the great Old Aeon orders to accept The Book of the Law'.  The O.T.O. originally begged, stole and borrowed its material from European and irregular U.S. Masonic organisations.  However, while some Masonic symbolism and language is still in use, their context is no longer that of Freemasonry, but of Thelema and its tenets.  The Order offers esoteric instruction by means of dramatic ritual, guidance in a system of illuminated ethics, and fellowship amongst its aspirants to the Great Work -- realising the divine in the human.

The O.T.O. has two distinct areas of ritual activity: firstly, initiation into the Mysteries; and secondly, the celebration of Liber XV.  It organises lectures, classes, social events, theatrical productions and artistic exhibitions.  It also publishes books and journals as well as providing instruction in Hermetic science, Yoga, and magic.




Ordre Reaux Croix (ORC) Many magical societies can trace their origin back to Freemasonry, but Martinism was one of the most prominent to break away from it.  Ordre Reaux Croix (ORC) is a Martinist order established on the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Elus-Cohens2 of Martinez de Pasqually (1727 - 1774), in 2002.  The ORC is an international Order with its Grand Lodge in Norway and jurisdictions in Sweden, United States, Canada, Argentina, Spain, Greece, and England.  It combines the various schools and customs of Martinism into one order and organises their philosophies into three separate paths to spiritual enlightenment: the first is the Voie Cardiaque (Way of the Heart), which focuses on inner meditation and symbolic interpretation; the second is the Chevaliers Bienfaisantes de la Cite Sainte (the knightly arm of the order which focuses on enlightenment through selfless actions and chivalrous heraldry), the third is Elus Coen (the heirs of the original magic practiced by Pasqually, who dedicate themselves to learning spells that summon astral beings and bind demonic influences).

The teachings of the Order have their origin in the early esoteric Christianity, Hermeticism, Alchemy and western mysticism.  It does not adhere to any exclusive religious confession, but insists on an absolute respect for all of humanity, and an individual quest for the sacred; the light of Truth that shines behind all religions.

2 The Elus-Cohens were founded by Martinez de Pasqually, who was Saint-Martin's teacher.  The original Elus-Cohens ceased to exist sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century, but it was revived in the 20th century by Robert Ambelain (1907 - 1997), and lives on today in various Martinist Orders, including the branch re-instigated by Ambelain himself.




Ormgudinna Stone Ormgudinna (Lady of the Beasts) Stone.  The Mistress of Animals, to which she is sometimes referred, is a 4th century CE stone carving of an unknown Norse goddess.  She usually appears with serpents in each hand, which possibly links her to the ancient Babylonian goddess Ishtar, or to the Cretan bee goddess.

She is probably a creatrix as she is posed in a birthing position with a Triskele (a complex ancient Celtic symbol) above her head.  It comprises the three animals emblematic of the Celtic domains of existence: the boar, representing the Earth; the snake, an emblem of Water; the bird, representing the sky.




Orphic Egg The Orphic Egg within the Ancient Greek Orphic tradition is the Cosmic Egg from which hatched the primordial hermaphroditic deity Phanes who in turn created the other gods.  The egg is often depicted with a serpent wound around it.

Phanes (variously equated also with Zeus, Pan, Metis, Eros, Erikepaios and Bromius) is the golden-winged primordial being who was hatched from the shining cosmic egg that was the source of the universe.  Called 'Protogonos' (First-Born) and Eros (Love) -- being the seed of gods and men -- Phanes means 'Manifestor' or 'Revealer', and is related to the Greek words 'light' and 'to shine forth' as well as the Latin 'Lucifer'.




Oshe Shango Oshe Shango refers to a double-headed axe that is the divine weapon of Shango, a Yorubian god of thunder, patron saint of twins and giver of children.

Shango was the third Alaafin or king of the ancient Oyo empire.  He was a powerful ruler and his reign brought prosperity to the kingdom, but he had a volatile temper and was fascinated with mystical powers.  Shango inadvertently created lightning that destroyed his capital, killing a number of his subjects along with many of his own wives and children.  He left the kingdom in repentance and later committed suicide.  Oyo experienced destructive thunderstorms after his death, and these were believed to represent Shango’s wrath.  Thereafter, he was proclaimed as an Orisha (spirit) and a priesthood was established for worshipping him.

Oshe Shango became one of the prominent ritual objects used for honouring Shango.  It is carried as a staff or dance wand by his followers during special processions, annual festivals, and other public worship activities.  The staff represents the deity’s violent and unpredictable power that is personified through dance.  An entranced devotee dancing to staccato drum beats waves the Oshe Shango in threatening gestures and then abruptly, in a quiet and calm motion, draws it to himself.

In its basic form, the Oshe Shango is a shaft featuring a female figure (and sometimes a child).  Projecting from its head is a double club/axe with blades shaped like thunderstones to represent the thunderbolts that Shango hurled at those who offend him.  However, designs of the Oshe Shango may vary due to the unlimited iconography and widespread dispersion of Shango worship, and also because of the artist’s creative prerogative.  It can range from non-figurative sculptures with undecorated axes to shafts with intricate figurative configurations and uniquely styled double axes.




Osiris Osiris is an Egyptian god, identified as the god of the afterlife, the Underworld, and the dead, but more appropriately as the god of transition, resurrection, and regeneration.  He was classically depicted as a green-skinned deity with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with a large ostrich feather at either side, and holding a symbolic Crook & Flail.

At times, Osiris was thought to be the oldest son of Geb, though other sources state his father is the Sun god Ra and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son.  As ruler of the dead, Osiris was sometimes called the 'King of the Living' -- ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead 'the living ones'.

Osiris was the brother of Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus the Elder, and father of Horus the Younger.  Osiris is first attested in the middle of the 5th dynasty of Egypt, although it is likely that he was worshipped much earlier; the Khenti-Amentiu epithet dates to at least the first dynasty.  Osiris was considered to be not only a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife, but also the Underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the River Nile.

He was described as the 'Lord of love', 'He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful' and the 'Lord of Silence'.  The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death -- as Osiris rose from the dead they would, in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of magic.

When the Ritual Magician Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947 CE) received the Book of the Law from Aiwass in Cairo in 1904, it brought the 'Aeon of Osiris' to an end and ushered in the 'Aeon of Horus'.




Our Lady of Endor Coven Our Lady of Endor Coven, also known as Ophite Cultus Sathanas, was a Satanic cult claimed to have been founded in 1948 CE by Herbert Arthur Sloane (1905 - 1975) in Cleveland, Ohio, though some argue that it was not conceived of until 1968, after Sloane's contact with the Church of Satan.  The group was heavily influenced by gnosticism. (especially that found in the contemporary book by Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion), and worshipped Sathanas, their name for Satan (Cultus Sathanas is a Latin version of Cult of Satan).  Sathanas (or Satan), was defined in gnostic terms, as the 'Serpent in the Garden of Eden' who revealed the knowledge of the true God to Eve.  That it called itself "Ophite" is a reference to the ancient gnostic sect of the Ophites, who were said to worship the serpent.

The "Lady of Endor" is a reference to the Witch of Endor, a biblical witch who was able to summon spirits of the dead.  Sloane's Coven was first publicly documented in the middle of 1968, when British occult writer Richard Cavendish said that he had received a letter from a Satanist "lodge" in Toledo, Ohio and a 1967 interview with Sloane with a Toledo newspaper about his occult and fortune telling business made no mention of it.  While current scholars of Satanism point out that there is no substantial evidence showing the existence of Our Lady of Endor Coven prior to 1966, some also point out that it is likely that his group did have roots prior to that time:

It seems probable the group was in existence before 1966, although no traces of it in literature prior to that date have been found.  Sloane himself suggested that he was already operating in the 1940s, but given the many parallels with Wicca. the group displayed, it is more likely its date of origin must be located sometime after 1953, the year Gerald Gardner's neopagan cult of witchcraft came into the open.

The society believed that Satan himself was actually god, and that the Christian god is actually evil.  They believed that Satan had been tricked by the Christian god and must be supported by humans so that he can escape from hell.  They claimed that Satan was the original god worshiped by any humans and that he commands an army of witches here on earth.  Apparently, the witches aren't evil -- they just want to spread the message of Satan.




Ouroboros Ouroboros is a Greek word which means tail swallower.  The ouroboros is usually depicted in the form of a snake or serpent, circular in shape, swallowing its own tail.  It originated in Egypt as a symbol of the Sun, representing the travels of the Sun disc, while in Gnosticism it was related to the solar god Abraxas, and signified eternity and the soul of the world.

The snake often depicts a symbol of resurrection as it appears to be continually reborn when shedding its skin.  In Alchemy, it represents the spirit of Mercury -- the substance that permeates all matter -- and symbolises continuous renewal and rebirth, the cycle of life and death, and the harmony of all opposites.

A double Ouroboros (two creatures swallowing one another) in alchemy signifies volatility.  Spiritually, it indicates the balance of the upper and lower natures.  See also Jormungandr.




Owl An emblem of sagacity, the owl had sinister symbolism in some ancient cultures, particularly China, where its predatory night flights and staring eyes and eerie cry linked it to death and occult powers.  Similarly, among the Kikuyu of Kenya, it was believed that owls were harbingers of death.  If one saw an owl or heard its hoot, someone was going to die.  In general, owls are viewed as harbingers of bad luck, ill health, or death, a belief that is widespread even today.

However, in Mongolia the owl is regarded as a benign omen.  For example, the great warlord Genghis Khan (c. 1162 - 1227) was supposedly hiding from enemies in a small coppice.  An owl roosted in the tree above him, which caused his pursuers to think no man could be hidden there.  In modern Japan, owls are regarded as lucky and are carried in the form of a talisman or charm.

The modern West generally associates owls with wisdom, a link which goes back at least as far as ancient Greece, where Athens, noted for art and scholarship, and Athena, Athens' patron goddess and the goddess of wisdom, had the owl as one of her symbols.  Coins featuring Athena have been found showing an owl on the reverse.  Marija Gimbutas (1921 - 1994) traces veneration of the owl as a goddess, among other birds, to the culture of Old Europe, long pre-dating Indo-European cultures.




Return to top of page.


© signsandsymbols.co.uk