If you take the old Dover Road (now the A2) for about four miles south east of Canterbury and then turn down Frog Lane, a straight road with sheep grazing peacefully either side kept safe by iron wrought fencing, you will reach the tiny village of Bishopsbourne. It is hardly anything more than a row of houses, a pub called The Mermaid and a church dedicated to St. Mary. Walking through the lychgate of the church-yard, with its carved reminder: ‘Ye that would live fear not to die’ and turning right, you will see five unkempt and perhaps forgotten graves, squeezed together and pushed up against an old flint wall.
This middle grave is the last resting place of Arthur Edward Waite, writer, magician, mystic, poet and perhaps most famously the co-creator of the Rider Waite Smith tarot pack. The grave is small and undistinguished. It is overgrown with nettles and grasses; the inscriptions rubbed and fading.
A casual glance at the wording reveals nothing of Waite’s life or work, except perhaps for the short Latin inscription at the foot: EST UNA SOLA RES – there is only one thing. This refers to Waite’s belief that no matter what tradition, initiation or school of thought is followed they are all of one source and one ultimate truth.
His daughter, Sybil, had lived in a small cottage at Bishopsbourne, but in the last couple of years of his life they shared a house in Bridge, just over a mile to the north. It seems a quiet and hidden corner for such a prolific author; the village appears to be unaware of his presence and there are certainly no signs to his grave or notices about him or his work; as the author of The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts this is not entirely surprising. He did however spend much of his life writing about and practicing what can only be described as Christian Mysticism (though admittedly with a somewhat unorthodox approach), so maybe this could be more safely celebrated by the villagers. Perhaps they don’t like to make a fuss about such things – Joseph Conrad spent his last years in Bishopsbourne but there isn’t much about that either.
Walking past the church to the back of the church-yard you will find two benches, placed in memorium, to take advantage of the pastoral views. It really is a lovely spot and worth visiting if you get the chance.
For occult authors associated with the Golden Dawn and its descendant Orders, this is really one of only two graves that can be easily visited in England; the other is Dion Fortune’s in Glastonbury.
Dr. William Robert Woodman, one of the co-founders of the order, is buried in Willesden, London but he didn’t publish any books. Dr. William Wynn Westcott and S. L. MacGregor Mathers the other co-founders, died abroad. Westcott in Durban, South Africa, whose grave rather brilliantly states: ‘Supreme Magus of the Rosicrucians of England’ and Mathers in Paris, where his grave may (my emphasis) have recently been discovered as reported on a Golden Dawn blog.
Israel Regardie was laid to rest in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Los Angeles.
Fittingly, considering his somewhat chaotic life, Aleister Crowley’s last resting place is not definitely known. His ashes were given to Karl Germer, as instructed in the will, who took them to Hampton, New Jersey, where he and his wife might/might not have scattered/buried them in a wooden box at the foot of a tree in their grounds. In any case, when they moved, the ashes were unrecoverable and the location is now unrecorded.