No one occultist of the 20th century worked more vehemently in advocating a "Western" - and within that, "Northern" - path of esoteric spirituality than did the English ceremonial magician, Dion Fortune. She founded an esoteric school that still persists, but beyond that direct transmission, her ideas seeded themselves into modern Neopagan religion to the point that they seem completely indigenous, their origins invisible.
Certain of Fortune's key ideas, however, were not so much transmitted through her mystical writings and articles in The Occult Review of the 1920s, as they were passed on through a unique series of novels, one of which stands fifty years later as "the finest novel on real magic ever written," in the words of Alan Richardson, her most adept biographer1. Primary among these key ideas was her raising up of a lunar, feminine divine power - not that she was the first modern magician to do it, but by taking the two paths of ritual and literature she gave the power two ways to go.
The second idea was that of egalitarian magical working, something she came to late in her life (she lived from 1890-1946). This was a fairly radical idea in that all her associations with the Theosophical Society, the Order of the Golden Dawn, and her own Fraternity (later Society) of the Inner Light included the idea of hierarchies and grades, going back in her own self-proclaimed reincarnational history to lifetimes among the sacred priestly caste of legendary Atlantis.
Both of these ideas are found in the Anglo-American branches of modern Witchcraft, which first made its presence known in Great Britain in the early 1950s, having, I suspect, been developed and codified into its modern form during the later 1930s and 1940s. While a demonstrable personal connection between the modern witches and Dion Fortune cannot be proven - unless one had her entire mailing list circa 1939 in hand - I think a literary connection can be shown.
Her ideas about an earth-based Western tradition of esoteric, magical religion, which exalted the feminine principle, fit so neatly with the cosmology of those modern witches who came out of a similar esoteric British milieu, that the connection is unmistakable. The reason it has not been acknowledged until recently is that to do so would conflict with the frequent assertion that Witchcraft was the "Old Religion" brought forward unchanged in its essentials from centuries ago.
Unfortunately for that assertion, the historical records, such as they are, showed little evidence for secret goddess religion persisting until recent centuries in Northern Europe. The voluminous "witch trial" documents of England, Scotland, and France, which the archaeologist and folklorist Margaret Murray used to buttress her argument for the survival of a pre-Christian religion, do not mention goddess worship.
If one looks for other evidence of a goddess arriving in the mid-20th century, the other suspect typically is Robert Graves, whose widely influential book, The White Goddess, was written in 1944. Parallel and contemporary with Graves is Gertrude Rachel Levy's The Gate of Horn, which treats much of the same material Graves does, principally from the viewpoint of art history.2
The thesis of The White Goddess, which has been enormously influential among modern Pagan groups, is "that the language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-Goddess, or Muse,some of them dating from the Old Stone Age (Palaeolithic), and that this remains the language of true poetry." Graves believed that this language "was still taught...in the Witchcovens of medieval Western Europe."3
I do not contend that Graves and Levy supplied the dual male and female divinities of most modern Witchcraft covens. Their books were both first published in 1948, after Fortune's works had been in print for a decade or more. Before examining the influence of Fortune's works, however, I will summarise the "coming out" of the British covens.
In 1951 the British Parliament repealed the Witchcraft Act of 1735 - largely at the urging of Spiritualist churches, who objected to its prohibition of mediumship. This statutory change unexpectedly led to the emergence into public view of a religious tradition thought to be extinct: Witchcraft.4 These British witches defied definitions of the term common both in the vernacular and in anthropology textbooks. They were of both sexes, all ages, and were not isolated practitioners of maleficent magic; rather they claimed to be inheritors of the islands' pre-Christian religions. Their religion was duotheistic: they worshipped a male god, often called Cernnunos, Kernaya, or Herne; and a goddess, sometimes called Aradia or Tana. Of the two, sometimes seen as manifestations of a nonpersonal Godhead, the goddess had the greater importance, and her earthly representatives, the coven's priestess, had greater ritual authority.
Greatly condensed, this is a description of what came to be known as "Gardnerian Witchcraft," after Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), who retired from the British colonial customs service in Malaya in 1936, returned to England and - as he described - was initiated into what he himself thought was a dying religion in 1938.5 This was no overnight conversion: Gardner was fascinated for many years with magical religion and "practical mysticism". A recognised avocational archaeologist and anthropologist in Malaya, during a visit to England in the 1920s, he set out to investigate the claims of British Spiritualists, trance mediums and the like.
As he wrote: "I have been interested in magic and kindred subjects all my life and have made a collection of magical instruments and charms. These studies led me to spiritualist and other societies..."6
Gardner wrote three books on Witchcraft, one novel, and two nonfiction works. The novel was High Magic's Aid (1949), a stirring tale of late-medieval English coveners dodging secular and clerical foes with something of the feel of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe or Robert Louis Stevenson's The Black Arrow to it. Interestingly enough, the "witchcraft" portrayed in High Magic's Aid differs from what was later called "Gardnerian Witchcraft." In it the goddess is de-emphasised; the rituals are more in line with the post-Renaissance traditions of ceremonial magic.
Gardner's next two books, The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959) and Witchcraft Today (1954), are more definitive of the tradition. All three of the forenamed remain in print; an earlier novel, with the suggestive title A Goddess Arrives, is long out of print, and I have not been able to locate a copy. Gardner and his followers also produced a "book" that was, until the early 1970s, passed on as handcopied manuscripts: "The Book of Shadows." It is a collection of "laws" and suggestions for running a clandestine coven, performing rituals, resolving disputes between witches inside the group, and so forth. Although it appears to be written in perhaps the English of the 17th century, I have concluded that it was produced during and immediately after World War II. Its atmosphere of secrecy and underground organising is not a product of the witch-trial era, but of the early years of World War II when an invasion of southern England by the German Army appeared quite likely, and patriotic Britons were planning how they would organise a Resistance movement like those in France, Norway, and elsewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe.
The woman often assumed to have birthed the idea of a Pagan underground in Christian Western Europe was not Dion Fortune, but the Egyptologist Margaret Murray of University College, London. Professor Murray, better known as the time for her work with Sir Flinders Petrie in Egypt, began researching Pagan carryovers while convalescing from an illness in 1915. World War I had interrupted her work in Egypt, and she wrote in her autobiography, My First Hundred Years:7
"I chose Glastonbury [to convalesce in]. One cannot stay in Glastonbury without becoming interested in Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail. As soon as I got back to London I did a careful piece of research, which resulted in a paper on Egyptian elements in the Grail Romance...
Someone, I forget who, had once told me that the Witches obviously had a special form of religion, 'for they danced around a black goat.' As ancient religion is my pet subject this seemed to be in my line and during all the rest of the war I worked on Witches...I had started with the usual idea that the Witches were all old women suffering from illusions about the Devil and that their persecutors were wickedly prejudiced and perjured. I worked only from contemporary records, and when I suddenly realised that the so-called Devil was simply a disguised man I was startled, almost alarmed, by the way the recorded facts fell into place, and showed that the Witches were members of an old and primitive form of religion, and that the records had been made by members of a new and persecuting form."
Murray's researches into medieval and Renaissance witch-trial documents from Britain, Ireland, and the Continent (including those relating to Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais) led to her writing three books, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921), The God of the Witches (1931), and The Divine King in England (1954). In them she described her evidence for the survival of a pre-Christian religion centred on the Horned God of fertility (later labelled "The Devil" by Christian authorities) up until at least the 16th century in Britain.
As the late historian of religion Mircea Eliade wrote, "Murray's theory was criticised by archaeologists, historians and folklorists alike."8 Pointing out some parallels between medieval witchcraft and Indo-Tibetan magical religion, Eliade gives qualified approval to part of Murray's conclusions.
"As a matter of fact, almost everything in her construction was wrong except for one important assumption: that there existed a pre-Christian fertility cult and that specific survivals of this pagan cult were stigmatised during the Middle Ages as witchcraft...recent research seems to confirm at least some aspects of her thesis. The Italian historian Carlo Ginsburg has proved that a popular fertility cult, active in the province of Friule in the 16th and 17th centuries, was progressively modified under pressure of the Inquisition and ended by resembling the traditional notion of witchcraft. Moreover, recent investigations of Romanian popular culture have brought to light a number of pagan survivals which clearly indicate the existence of a fertility cult and of what may be called a "white magic," comparable to some aspects of Western medieval witchcraft."
One may thus argue that the existence of Murray's three works "paved the way for Gardner's reformation", as J. Gordon Melton of the Institute for the Study of American Religion put it.9 Gardner's "reformation" of whatever British witchcraft existed prior to his initiation into it had both theological and ritual aspects. The works he and his associates produced give a style of worship, a new set of ritual texts - and increasing emphasis on the goddess-aspect as the tradition grew - all of them pre-figured not in Murray's works but in Dion Fortune's.
In my experience, there is hardly a British, Irish or American witch of the revived, post-Gardnerian traditions who has not read something by Dion Fortune, and the same probably holds true in Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Until 1985, however, biographies of her were nonexistent, even while the American Books in Print reference volumes listed twenty of her books in that year's volume - not bad for someone considered at best an obscure genre writer by the literary establishment of fifty years ago and of today.
Neither her book on psychology, The Machinery of the Mind, written in the 1920s nor her works on occult philosophy, nor her five "occult" novels and volume of short stories received much critical notice when they came out. Such notice as was received was almost worse than none. A 1934 (London) Times Literary Supplement review of her book Avalon of the Heart begins, "The author tells us that she is the last of the Avalonians - of those who were drawn to Glastonbury as 'a centre of ever-renewed spiritual and artistic inspiration,' whatever that may mean."
And clearly the reviewer was not interested in finding out! Alan Richardson's 1985 work, Dancers to the Gods, while primarily about two members of Fortune's magical order, contained the first well-researched material on her life.10 He followed it with a full biography, Priestess, two years later, an affectionate and sensitive portrait of this woman whose spiritual trajectory has yet to reach the horizon.11 Charles Fielding's and Carr Collins's The Story of Dion Fortune contains more details of her and her associates' magical work, but is written in a wooden "true believer" style and marred by numerous editorial blunders.12
To summarise greatly, she was born Violet Mary Firth in 1890 in Wales, where her English father, together with his wife's relatives, operated a seaside hotel and health spa catering to a well-to-do clientele. When her grandfather's death led to a dissolving of the partnership, her father moved the family to London where he could live comfortably off his inheritance. Her spiritual quest as a young woman led her to Christian Science (which her mother adopted when it came to England), Freudian psychology, the "Eastern wisdom" of the Theosophical Society, the Qabalistic magic of the Order of the Golden Dawn,
8and study with an Anglo-Irish occultist, T.W.C. Moriarty, the model for "Dr Taverner" in her book of short stories, The Secrets of Dr Taverner. She would have liked to have studied Freemasonry, but could not, being a woman.
She studied psychology while in her twenties, before the outbreak of World War I, and practiced as a psychoanalyst for a time, the field not yet being closely controlled by the medical establishment. Fortune was probably the first writer on ceremonial magic and hermetic ideas to draw upon and acknowledge the work of Freud and later Jung. In her novel The Goat-Foot God, published in 1936 and dealing with the effects of both psychological repression and past lives, its central character, Hugh Paston, asks a friend,
"Are the Old Gods synonymous with the Devil?"
"Christians think they are.
"What do you think they are?"
"I think they're the same thing as the Freudian subconscious."13
After Moriarty's death she headed the Christian Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society. In 1927 she married Thomas Penry Evans, a Welsh doctor practising in London, nicknamed "Merlin" or "Merl" for his own magical interests. They were priest and priestess, but never father and mother. The marriage, magically productive but contentious in the mundane world, lasted until 1939 when Evans left her for another woman. Fortune continued to head their group, which became the Society of the Inner Light and maintained, for a time, both a large communal house in London and another establishment in Glastonbury. The Society continues to this day, but Dion Fortune herself died of leukemia in 1946.
Her penname derived from the motto she took as her magical name in the Golden Dawn, "Deo Non Fortuna", or roughly, "by God, not by Chance." Her involvement with the Golden Dawn lasted roughly from 1919 to about 1922, and while these were the sunset years of the Order, which had been founded in 1888, they set for her a significant pattern of what an esoteric order should be.
That Fortune also eventually was influenced by Jung is apparent in her work, although she was an occultist first and a Jungian second. Since her time there has been a great deal of discussion of the "gods and goddesses" by such neo-Jungians as James Hillman and Charlotte Downing. Surely Fortune's blending of
psychoanalytical ideas, Hermeticism, Qabalah, and Christian mysticism in the two orders she headed prefigures Hillman's question, "Can the atomism of our psychic paganism, that is, the individual symbol-formation now breaking out as the Christian cult fades, be contained by a psychology of self-integration that echoes its expiring Christian model?"14
I doubt that Dion Fortune would have answered as dogmatically as Hillman did, "The danger is that a true revival of paganism as religion is then possible, with all its accoutrements of popular soothsaying, quack priesthoods, astrological divination, extravagant practices, and the erosion of psychic differentiation through delusional enthusiasms."
Where she did agree with Jung is that Western methods are best for Western people. Jung wrote: "Instead of learning the spiritual techniques of the East by heart and imitating them...it would be far more to the point to find out whether there exists in the unconscious an introverted tendency similar to that which has been developed in spiritual principles in the East. We should then be in a position to build on our own ground with our own methods."15
Compare Fortune's chapter "Eastern Methods and Western Bodies" in Sane in which she stated:16
"The pagan faiths of the West developed the nature contacts. Modern Western occultism, rising from this basis, seems to be taking for its field the little-known powers of the mind. The Eastern tradition has a very highly developed metaphysics...Nevertheless, when it comes to the practical application of those principles and especially the processes of occult training and initiation, it is best for a man to follow the line of his own racial evolution...The reason for the inadvisability of an alien initiation does not lie in racial antagonism, nor in any failure to appreciate the beauty and profundity of the Eastern systems, but for the same reason that Eastern methods of agriculture are inapplicable to the West - because conditions are different."
It is clear from Fortune's novels that a "true", that is psychologically informed, Paganism, was indeed what she sought in the late 1920s and 1930s. Time after time she created plots that mixed the therapeutic and the magical, drawing characters who combined psychological acumen with non-ordinary wisdom. She defined her ideal mixture thus in Sane Occultism: A knowledge of [occult] philosophy can give a clue to the researches of the scientist and balance the ecstasies of the mystic; it may very well be that in the possibilities of ritual magic we shall find an invaluable therapeutic agent for use in certain forms of mental disease; psychoanalysis has demonstrated that these have no physiological cause, but it can seldom effect a cure."17
I see her as someone who shared a significant degree of philosophical accord with what would become "Neo-Pagan Witchcraft", but who in practice followed a different path. I have said her contribution to "the Craft" has not been sufficiently acknowledged; there is one exception. The works of two English Witches, Janet and Stewart Farrar, produced during the late 1970s and early 1980s, frequently refer their readers to Dion Fortune. In a recent instance, having laid out a ritual based on one in Fortune's novel The Sea Priestess and having received permission from the current leadership of the Society of the Inner Light to do so, they write:18
"In their letter of permission, the Society asked us to say 'that Dion Fortune was not a Witch and did not have any connection with a coven, and that this Society is not in any way associated with the Craft of Witches.' We accede to their request; and when this book is published, we shall send them a copy with our compliments, in the hope that it may give them second thoughts about whether Wiccan philosophy is as alien to that of Dion Fortune (whom witches hold in great respect) as they seem to imagine."
Despite the Society of the Inner Light's disavowal, a good circumstantial case can be made that Fortune's works, particularly her novels, could have influenced Gerald Gardner and his initiates. This insight was brought home to me while reading The Goat-Foot God, published two years before Gardner's initiation into the Craft. Its plot is typical of Fortune: a person down on his or her luck and near psychological collapse is rescued by a powerful magician or priestess and re-integrated socially and psychically.
Hugh Paston, quoted above, is a wealthy Londoner on the verge of a nervous breakdown following the death of his wife and his friend - revealed to be her lover - in a car wreck. Aimlessly walking the streets, Paston finds a used-book shop run by a scholarly occultist who becomes the catalyst of his psychological integration. This includes finishing some actions begun by a heretical medieval prior in an English monastery who may have been an earlier incarnation of Paston's or who otherwise overshadows him. What caught my attention was a remark given to the character of Jelkes, the bookseller, who in guiding Paston's reading on magic tells him, "Writers will put things into a novel that they daren't put in sober prose, where you have to dot the Is and cross the Ts.19
Fortune's literary output was divided between novels and "sober prose". Other "sober titles" included Practical Occultism in Daily Life, The Cosmic Doctrine, Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage and what is often considered to be her masterpiece, The Mystical Qabalah. Robert Galbreath, writing a bibliographic survey of modern occultism, defined her message as "spiritual occultism."20
"Spiritual occultists state that it is possible to acquire personal, empirical knowledge of that which can only be taken on faith in religion or demonstrated through deductive reasoning in philosophy. Further, this knowledge, arrived at in full consciousness through the use of spiritual disciplines, is said to reveal man's place in the spiritual plan of the universe and to reconcile the debilitating conflict between science and religion. The goal of occultism, therefore, is the complete spiritualisation of man and the cosmos, and the attainment of a condition of unity."
The novels, however, convey a parallel but somewhat different message. They do it using a different vocabulary, a more consciously Pagan vocabulary. While published statements of the Society of Inner Light proclaimed it "established on the enlightened and informed Christian ethic and morality," its founder's novels say repeatedly that Christianity has had its day and a new Renaissance is dawning. After his experience of inner integration Hugh Paston muses:21
"It is a curious fact that when men began to re-assemble the fragments of Greek culture - the peerless statues of the gods and the ageless wisdom of the sages - a Renaissance came to the civilisation that had sat in intellectual darkness since the days when the gods had withdrawn before the assaults of the Galileans. What is going to happen in our day, now that Freud has come along crying, "Great Pan is risen!" - ? Hugh wondered whether his own problems were not part of a universal problem, and his own awakening part of a much wider awakening? He wondered how far the realisation of an idea by one man, even if he spoke no word, might not inject that idea into the group-mind of the race and set it working like a ferment?
Likewise, in The Winged Bull, set not long after World War I, Colonel Brangwyn the magician tells his new student, one of his former junior officers:22
"It [Christianity] had its place, Murchison, it had its place. It sweetened life when paganism had become corrupt. We lack something if we haven't got it. But we also lack something if we get too much of it. It isn't true to life if we take it neat."
Later, during a ritual Brangwyn quotes Swinburne's poem "The Last Oracle" in praise of Paganism past - it was this aspect of Swinburne that G.K. Chesterton mockingly called "neo-Pagan" - making Murchison remember "that great pagan, Julian the Apostate, striving to make head against the set of the tide," and Murchison thinks to himself:23
"And the trouble with Christianity was that it was so darned lop-sided. Good, and jolly good, as far as it went, but you couldn't stretch it clean round the circle of experience because it just wouldn't go. What it was originally, nobody knew, save that it must have been something mighty potent. All we knew of it was what was left after those two crusty old bachelors, Paul and Augustine, had finished with it.
And then came the heresy hunters and gave it a final curry-combing, taking infinite pains to get rid of everything that it had inherited from older faiths. And they had been like the modern miller, who refines all the vitamins out of the bread and gives half the population rickets. That was what was the matter with civilisation, it had spiritual rickets because its spiritual food was too refined. Man can't get on without a dash of paganism, and for the most part, he doesn't try to."
The notion of injecting a key idea into the collective unconscious of Western humanity appears over and over in Fortune's novels. It is not surprising that the writer who had two favourite maxims - "A religion without a goddess is halfway to atheism" and "All the gods are one god and all the goddesses are one goddess and there is one initiator" - should repeatedly call for attention to be paid to the Great Goddess. In another of his soliloquies, Hugh Paston thinks, "Surely our of all her richness and abundance the Great Mother of us all could meet his need? Why do we forget the Mother in the worship of the Father? What particular virtue is there in virgin begetting?"
When the British witches went public in the early 1950s, the idea that Christianity had had its day and furthermore was not always the right path for Westerners was often heard. The major difference between their religion and that portrayed in the witch-trial documents Margaret Murray studied, however, was the reintroduction of worship of the Great Goddess. She was seen both as Queen of Heaven and Earth/Sea Mother, depending on the context. The best evidence for Fortune's influence here lies in the construction of the key "Gardnerian" ritual called "Drawing Down the Moon."25
In that ritual, developed and/or modified by Gardner and his contemporaries, the Goddess is invoked by the priest in the body of the priestess. It is expected that a type of divine inspiration will result. Drawing down the Moon is a key part of every Gardnerian ritual circle - and its elements and purpose are easily discernible in Fortune's novel The Sea Priestess, which she was forced by publishers' lack of interest to self-publish in 1938.26 Richardson, her biographer, calls it and its sequel, Moon Magic, "the only novels on magic ever written," considering the competition.
Although Gardner only hints at the workings of the ritual in his books, his successors, the Farrars, explain it more fully in Eight Sabbats for Witches.27 It comes after the drawing of the ritual circle - a conscious creating and marking of sacred space, defined by the cardinal directions and purified with the four magical elements, fire and air (incense), water and earth (salt). While the priestess stands before the altar (in a traditional Gardnerian circle she holds a wand and a lightweight scourge in her crossed arms, like a figure of Osiris), the priest kneels and blesses with a kiss her feet, knees, womb, breast and lips. Then a shift occurs, both in language and action. He ceases to address her as a woman and begins to address her as the Mother Goddess, beginning with the words,"I invoke thee and call upon thee, Mighty Mother of us all..."28
When the invocation is completed, the priestess is considered to be speaking as the Goddess, not as herself. She may go on to deliver a passage (authored by Doreen Valiente, whose role I deal with below) that is based partly on material collected during the 1890s in Italy by the American folklorist Charles Leland.29
I am the gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice; for behold, I am the Mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the earth."
She may, of course, speak spontaneously; Janet Farrar comments that "'she never knows how it will come out.' Sometimes the wording itself is completely altered, with a spontaneous flow she listens to with a detached part of her mind."30
Dion Fortune believed that a re-introduction of both ritual and psychological approaches to the Great Goddess would even the psychic balance between men and women, a theme carried on today by a number of feminist psychologists and writers, although with scant acknowledgment. She wished every marriage to take on an aspect of the hieros gamos (divine marriage), and it is there that a parallel with Witchcraft ritual lies, since many rituals turn on sexual polarity, both symbolically and literally. Fortune foreshadowed this in The Sea Priestess when she wrote:31
"In this sacrament the woman must take her ancient place as priestess of the rite, calling down lightning from heaven; the initiator, not the initiated...She had to become the priestess of the Goddess, and I [the male narrator], the kneeling worshipper, had to receive the sacrament at her hands...When the body of a woman is made an altar for the worship of the Goddess who is all beauty and magnetic life...then the Goddess enters the temple."
This is not just Fortune's description of the magical side of marriage, but a virtual schematic of the Drawing Down the Moon ceremony and its concluding Great Rite, as Gardner called ritual intercourse at its conclusion (something more frequently performed symbolically). As the Farrars state, "The Great Rite specifically declares that the body of the woman taking part is an altar, with her womb and generative organs as its sacred focus, and reveres it as such."32
I would suggest that when the Farrars openly built a new ritual upon the Sea Priestess, the "seashore ritual" mentioned earlier, which forms Chapter X of The Witches' Way, they were openly admitting a debt to Fortune which modern Witchcraft has always carried on its books. To recapitulate, the circumstantial case for Fortune's influence on the beginnings of modern Witchcraft fits the chronology. Gerald Gardner's initiation took place in 1939 in Hampshire. In the late 1940s he "received permission" to publish some things about Witchcraft in his novel High Magic's Aid, which appeared in 1949 and had little of the Goddess element in it. The Sea Priestess was written in the 1930s, but only available in a private edition at first, while its sequel, Moon Magic, was available in 1956.
The Great Goddess becomes more central in Gardner's works from the 1950s and is absolutely central to the Craft as it developed in that decade. She did not, however, appear in Margaret Murray's works on the alleged underground Paganism of the Middle Ages, which Murray wrote in the 1920s. There may, however, be echoes of a Goddess religion in Italy, based on Leland's research there in the mid-1800s. Leland provided another literary source for the Drawing Down the Moon ceremony.
The person who re-wrote that ceremony and gave Gardnerian- tradition ritual much of its form is now known to be Doreen Valiente, who wrote four books on the Craft as well. Her contributions to the texts are discussed at length in The Witches' Way. Although not the only one of Gardner's original coveners still living (i.e., after he moved away from the coven that initiated him, most of whose members were elderly in the 1930s), she has been the only one publicly involved in a critical re-evaluation of the tradition's beginnings.
Although Gardner and Fortune were contemporaries, she does not know if they ever met, she told me in a 1985 letter. She did, however, say that she is "very fond of Dion Fortune's books, especially her novels The Sea Priestess, The Goat-Foot God, and Moon Magic. It is notable that her [Fortune's] outlook became more pagan as she grew older." Whether this is a tacit admission that she drew upon Fortune's works, I cannot say. Witches are known for oblique statements, and Valiente walked a fine line between secrecy and disclosure.
Given England's size, its relatively interwoven cliques of occultists, and the small number of novelists dealing with Pagan themes, it is unlikely that Valiente and Gardner were not aware of Fortune's novels at the time they were giving their religion its present form. As we have seen, Gardner was himself engaged in a conscious search for magical learning in the 1920s and 1930s, and it was in the 1930s that Fortune's novels began appearing, while the chapters of SaneOccultism were published serially in The Occult Review , and influential British journal it is unlikely he would have overlooked.
Valiente, meanwhile, was initiated by Gardner as a priestess in 1953 and left his coven to form her own in 1957, the year after Moon Magic came out. With such a coincidence of subject matter, place and dates, it is difficult not to see Dion Fortune as a previously unadmitted but significant influence on the development of Gardnerian Witchcraft.
Today the Goddess revival seems to have its "applied" and "theoretical" wings, with the Neo-Pagans in the first category and various Jungians, writers on feminist spirituality and historians of religion in the second. With her combined psychological and magical training, Dion Fortune could be considered a foremother to each.
This site has received 11885603 hits since Aug 4, 2000
The entire content of all public pages in The Pagan Library (graphics, text and HTML) are free information, released under the terms of the GPL. All copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners, and no form of ownership or endorsement is implied.
Last modified: June 12 2016 13:08:33