Friday, April 8, 2011

Dion Fortune - Godmother of Pagan Movement and Pivotal Author?

When I attended the Weiser panel at the last Pantheacon on topic of “Dion Fortune and the Demon Lover,” I expected more than a panel of authors talking about the latest reprint of one of Fortunes earliest fictional works. I wanted someone to talk about Dion Fortune herself. I felt that the most important thing that wasn’t mentioned was a brief biographical introduction to who Dion Fortune was and how her writings have powerfully shaped occultism, ceremonial magick and even modern paganism and witchcraft. Instead, the authors on the panel valiantly talked up the book and spoke in glowing terms about Dion Fortune, but strangely, no one really knew that much about her.

While some may regard Aleister Crowley as the truly great magician and propagator of modern paganism and magick, Dion Fortune was the other great occultist in the Western Mystery tradition. (However, rumors that Dion Fortune and Crowley met or had some kind of contact are very likely just urban myths.) In fact, one could say that Dion Fortune’s influence in pagan and Wiccan circles is probably greater and more lasting than Aleister Crowley’s. However, unlike the Great Beast, little is known about Dion Fortune’s past, and her early biographical history is vague and generally speculative. Many modern pagans consider Dion Fortune to be one of their inspired intellectual forebears, and this could be believable if one read only her pagan fictional stories. Yet Dion Fortune was a very complex individual who held different beliefs and perspectives at different points of her life and in her occult career.

I think that it’s very important to write something about Dion Fortune so that pagans, Wiccans and other interested occultists will know more about her and the legacy that she bequeathed to us living in the 21st century. To believe that Dion Fortune was an early promoter of modern paganism is not only very superficial, but actually misrepresents who she really was as well as confuse and needlessly obfuscate her full legacy. For this reason, I would like to write a brief article that does what the panel failed to do - define who Dion Fortune was and to articulate her great contribution to western occultism. Hopefully, in accomplishing this task, my readers will have a better understanding and appreciation of this amazing and pioneering woman.

To aid me in this quest, I have consulted two books, one was written by Alan Richardson, entitled “Dancers to the Gods,” and the other was his written introduction to the lost lectures by Colonel C. R. F. Seymore, entitled “The Forgotten Mage.” In both of these works, Alan Richardson sites the influential sources who stimulated and impacted Dion Fortune, causing her teachings, for a time, to be imbued with a nascent paganism and an emphasis on ceremonial magick, which later on was suppressed. Little of that current can now be supposedly detected in the organization that she founded, the “Society of Inner Light,’ whose main purview is a form of mystical and esoteric Christianity. However, there was also a quasi pagan, Christian and magickal offshoot, nurtured by W. E. Butler and Gareth Knight, and then passed on to Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki. That branch (Servants of the Light) is still very much alive and viable, even though it is not (as far I know) an accepted part of the parent organization founded by Fortune.

Dion Fortune was born Violet Mary Firth on December 6, 1890, at Bryn y Bia in Llandudne, Wales. Her early history is quite vague and indeterminate, and like many on the path of the mage, it would seem that Dion Fortune wanted it that way. She had relatives in Yorkshire (possibly the Harrisons), and from them later took the magickal model of “Deo, Non Fortuna” (From God, not from chance), which became her occult name Dion Fortune. This motto, perhaps in many ways, encapsulates who and what Dion Fortune was as an occultist.

One notorious incident that occurred to Dion Fortune when she was 20 years old was that she had a complete nervous breakdown. This breakdown also caused her to have health problems that very likely haunted her for the rest of her life. Some have pointed to this incident as a means to question the legitimacy of Dion Fortune’s gifts and what she later produced, saying that it indicates a person who had a weak mind or a predisposition to psychological disorders. This opinion couldn’t be further from the truth. Dion Fortune was a very strong willed, dominating and almost masculine-like woman. While the exact historical occurrences about her breakdown are obscure at best, it would seem that it was precipitated by an outside influence. Dion Fortune obliquely claimed that she was attacked and mentally accosted by a cruel and manipulative superior where she worked, the warden of a women’s educational institute. It was through periodic and constant mental abuse at the hands of her boss that she experienced a complete mental breakdown, which also egregiously affected her health.

However, as a credit to Dion Fortune’s strength and resilience, she managed to recover and in fact, during the war (WWI), functioned as the highest paid lay psychoanalyst at the clinic where she worked. Dion Fortune also claimed that the woman who brutally abused her had occult training and knowledge from her long tenure in India. One might also assume that Fortune sought out such knowledge as a form of self defense against any future attack. Whatever the truth of the matter, experiencing such a traumatic fall from grace helped Dion Fortune to master herself and taught her to help others who were so afflicted.

Biographical traces of these early incidences of Dion Fortune’s life can be found in the books “Pyschic Self Defence” and the “Secrets of Dr. Taverner.” In fact, many of the people that Dion Fortune knew and the places that she frequented found their way into her books, particularly the fictional works. This is not uncommon, since often writers will draw upon their own experiences to give a literary work greater believability and continuity.

Like many great occultists, Dion Fortune didn’t develop her occult perspectives and beliefs in a vacuum. There were several individuals who had a remarkable impact on Dion Fortune, and who helped her to forge the beliefs and the system of occultism that she espoused. They could be said to have been the remarkable men behind the great woman. It is to these individuals that we might seek as the source of Dion Fortune’s occultism, her attachment to the pagan mysteries and ceremonial magick. Since without the influence of these important men and their passions, she might never have discovered her great gifts or produced cutting edge occult works. It is my belief that Dion Fortune’s genius was her ability to distill and refine the raw passion, belief and powers of others for the benefit of all. She obviously had mediumistic abilities, and was also a gifted mediator.

Her first great teacher was a man named Theodore William Clark Moriarty, a doctor of philosophy. He was a possible source for the fictional character of Dr. Taverner, since he did perform some occult based cures, not only on Dion Fortune herself, but also on individuals who were associated with her. It was Dr. Moriarty who inculcated Dion Fortune into a variety of occult disciplines, melding Masonic philosophy, occult metaphysics, theosophy and a distinct kind of Gnostic and occult Christianity together into a unique perspective. Moriarty assembled an informal occult group, called the “Science, Arts and Crafts Society,” which first met in a house and cottage complex in Eversley, and later moved to Hertfordshire. The group was posthumously referred to by Dion Fortune as the occult college that she had attended, although it was much less formal than that. Still, the topics that were taught, both in the inner and outer courts, were rigorous and thoroughly engaging. Later on, after Moriary’s untimely death (1923), Dion Fortune would write a book that completely captured, distilled and refined her mentor’s teachings and beliefs in the work “The Cosmic Doctrine,” despite the fact (as far as I know) that there was no actual mention or posthumous citation given to the man who had made that project possible. Dr. Moriarty and Dion Fortune may have shared the same spiritual contacts, or he may have given them over to her at some point. It is likely that he continued to have an impact on her even after his death, since Dion Fortune would obliquely refer to him as one of her continuing inspirations, and apparently seemed to be able to channel him after he had died.

It is also at this time that Dion Fortune had a brief engagement with a faction of the Golden Dawn known as the Stella Matutina, where she met Moina Mathers. One can easily appreciate how much influence the Golden Dawn and its teachings had on Dion Fortune. Considering her later writings, it’s obvious that she deeply absorbed everything that was given to her. How far she went into the grades can only be surmised, but she was asked to leave after only a few years, and the likely catalyst was the publishing of the book “Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage,” which purportedly alluded to practices of sexual alchemy as likely taught in the inner order of the Golden Dawn (A & O).

Because of her unauthorized revelation of inner order secrets, Dion Fortune was dismissed from that organization. Prior to breaking with the Golden Dawn, Dion Fortune was given permission to form a group that would act as an outer court to draw more members into the temple. Later on, after the breakup, that group continued to use Golden Dawn materials and even its initiations as its own. Like the Golden Dawn, it was formed into an outer organization, and an inner court of adepts. Supposedly some of this material found its way into a kind of correspondence course, which attracted a number of like minded students to Dion Fortune. Later in the 1930's, the initiation rites and ceremonies were changed and rewritten to be more unique, and the process of revisionism, which had started with such good intentions, continued until they were omitted altogether.

One person that she had met and befriended during her short tenure with the Golden Dawn was Israel Regardie, who would, later in the 1930's, publish the entire corpus of that order. Supposedly, she had attended one of Regardie’s initiations, and thereafter, had a friendly relationship with him. Regardie sought a brief home within the organization that Dion Fortune founded in the mid twenties, since both them had incurred a similar sort of oath-breaking offence. However, we are today in the debt of both of these individuals for publishing the material that they did, despite the risks to themselves incurred through their literary indiscretions. This would not be last time that Dion Fortune would risk herself and her supposed integrity by revealing oath bound material to the general public.

Dion Fortune’s first group, the one that acted for a time as the outer court of the Golden Dawn order, was called the “Christian Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society,” which demonstrates the various sources that she drew from and amalgamated into her teachings. She had also at this time mysteriously acquired a powerful spiritual connection with the first of her inner plane connections, and that was with the occult persona of Melchizadek. It is possible that this historical and mythic person, who had become something of an occult egregore for many esoteric Christians, was being channeled by her. This entity may have also been the contact that had inspired and guided her teacher, Dr. Moriarty, but Dion Fortune mentions this contact and elaborates on it in greater detail in her later book, “Training and Work of an Initiate” (1930). So it would seem that a form of esoteric and occult Christianity was being merged with various teachings and beliefs espoused in theosophical circles, and these were the foundation of Dion Fortune’s public lectures. Yet the Golden Dawn teachings and initiations, and the deeper occult instruction from Dr. Moriarty, represented the core of her inner teachings, which she only shared with her inner order members.

What were some of the core beliefs that Dion Fortune subscribed to at this stage of her occult development? Well, first of all, she believed emphatically in reincarnation, and felt that her various friends and close associates were all individuals who populated her past lives. She also believed in Atlantis and felt that it had, in the remote past, seeded the occult beliefs and teachings of the west, and from Atlantis, that wisdom had traveled to Egypt, Greece and the British isles. She believed that ancient Britain was a major recipient of those teachings and it stood at the cross-roads of a potent resurgence of that wisdom. Mystical Christianity was her first love, and it was these teachings and beliefs that she returned to during the final years of her life. But there were other things stirring inside her that had not yet been given expression, which were also a part of Fortune’s beliefs and practices. Certainly, her knowledge of ceremonial magick and the Qabalah was not at all wasted, and it’s likely that she continued her studies and practices within that discipline as well, sharing and practicing them with the more advanced students of her organization. One could even say that the Golden Dawn continued for a while within the Fraternity of Inner Light.
While Melchizadek was credited with being Dion Fortune’s most important inner plane contact, she had also developed a belief that she was under the influence of a trinity of spiritual guides. This belief was promulgated in the book The Cosmic Doctrine, but may have also been a part of Moriarty’s teachings as well. Needless to say, to understand the dynamics of Dion Fortune from an inner spiritual and occult perspective, we need to examine the nature of that trinity. This is because it not only represented powerful inner plane contacts that inspired her spiritual path and its direction, it also became characterized by living people as well.

This trinity can be summed up by the concepts of Power, Wisdom and Love. (I am very much indebted to Richardson for revealing this important factor in Dion Forune’s occult practices and beliefs.) Power was attributed to the inner plane contact with an Egyptian personage named Kha’m uast, who was the son of Ramses II, the High Priest of Ptah and the keeper of the occult and esoteric knowledge. Wisdom, or knowledge, was oddly attributed to a Greek personage named Cleomenes (Kleomenes III, 260 -219 BCE), a Spartan King who rebelled against Macedonia and briefly consolidated the Peloponnese. He was defeated and fled to Alexandria, where he supposedly became a philosopher before he committed suicide after a failed uprising. Love was attributed to the Lord of Eldon (John Scott, 1751 - 1838), who was the charismatic diplomat, minister and guide behind the thrones of George III and IV. These three spiritual personages became the prime movers in the early organization that Dion Fortune formed in the mid 1920's, although they were replaced by other personages in the last years of Fortune’s life.

Wisdom, or knowledge, and Power were two points of the triangle that Dion Fortune felt quite comfortable in representing herself. However, it is the point of love that Dion could never emulate, showing an intrinsic weakness or flaw in her character. This is because Dion Fortune was a very strong and masculine sort of woman, and once she had become confident and resolved in her beliefs and practices, she was a formidable and powerful individual, dominating any group in which she took part.

Although she wrote a great deal about spiritual love and the occult aspects of sexuality, Dion Fortune was not a woman who could easily surrender or submit herself to the supposed feminine role of the lover. Her relationships with men were always unequivocally on her own terms, and she tended to engage with men who readily submitted to her will. Her one and only marriage, with Thomas Penry Evans (1927), was more likely a union of minds and souls, and less one of the body, since they remained childless and were separated after only a decade of marriage.

Something that no one seems to have remarked upon is that Dion Fortune wrote her first fictional occult novel ‘The Demon Lover” around a year before she married Dr. Thomas Evans. That first work was not at all one of her best, and in fact it declares a theme that is very much unlike Fortune; that the heroine’s innocent love is the greatest power for catharsis and transformation. It basically says that a woman should be steadfast in her love in order to redeem and transform the beast-like qualities of her man (and his moribund order), assisting him to become closer to God. Observing the coincidence of these two events, one wonders where Fortune picked up on that theme, since it is the opposite of the themes that she expresses in her later fictional works. Did Dion Fortune get married to somehow absolve or redeem Dr. Thomas Evans, or was it that Evans sought to redeem her? It might have also given her the ability to express why she had gone against the Golden Dawn to share an important inner truth with the public. We will probably never know.

However, when Dr. Thomas Evans joined her group ( a few years before they married), he began to assume the role of the point of power within the triangle. It was also he that gently pushed the group to engage with the more ancient pagan mysteries, whose archaic landmarks were to be found throughout Britain. It’s little wonder that the inner group name for Dr. Evans was Merlin, shortened to Merl by those who knew him well. It was said that Merl was far better at developing and writing magickal rituals than Fortune herself, but she tended to play the High Priestess, channeling the spiritual forces and intelligences thus invoked, and maintaining her preeminent authority position throughout. Still, no one can doubt the powerful impact and pull that Merl had on the group, bringing out Dion Fortune’s latent paganism and fostering a new and daring magickal path. 

The point of love in the triangle was taken by a man named Thomas Loveday, who assumed the leadership of the outer court of the organization, which was called the “Guild of the Master Jesus.” The Guild was a Christian esoteric devotional group that acted as a holding group for those who were less capable of handling the inner order teachings, but later on it likely had much more influence. At this time (1928), the group changed its name and also its focus, becoming the “Community of Inner Light,” which was the early variation of the now famous “Fraternity of Inner Light,” which it later became known. However, the point of love, as associated with mystical Christianity, would oddly and eventually dominate the organization after Dion Fortune passed away.

Throughout the 1930's, the group thrived and produced, in my opinion, some it’s greatest works. It had gathered together a group of practical ceremonial magicians who had at least a sympathy if not an outright interest in a revival of paganism as an integral part of the Western Mystery tradition. It was during this time that the best of the pagan inspired fictional work was penned by Dion Fortune, and the group would meet at the Chalice Orchard, in Glastonbury, a place where it seemed that a wonderful synthesis had once existed between the old pagan mysteries and the mysteries of Christianity. Dion Fortune assumed her role as the flamboyant priestess, keeper and dispenser of the mysteries, even though others behind the scenes greatly aided her efforts.

Yet in 1935, Dion Fortune and her group, appeared to reach an apex that, depending on one’s orientation and beliefs, either began a marked change or slow decline. That mile stone was the publication of the book “Mystical Qabalah,” a masterpiece whose publication Dion Fortune admitted to her close associates as having broken previous oaths of secrecy and threatened her existing inner plane contacts. That change in perspective was probably at first more latent than actual, but it marked the beginning of the end, even though the best work was yet to be written. As Richardson said it in his book, “Dancing with the Gods,” it would seem that Dion Fortune had run the full spectrum of the pagan revival as far as she could take it, and was beginning to tire of it.

“The alternative thesis is this: from 1935 onwards, disenchanted with the direction of the lodge, disenchanted with [her husband] Merl, and seeking to become truer to her own essentially Christian self, she deliberately began to relinquish the pagan side of her magic, deliberately withdrawing the links with these two entities [associated with Power and Wisdom]. She might have ossified had she not.” (“Dancing with the Gods,” p. 52)

My own opinion is that this change of heart and mind didn’t occur until toward the end of the decade, just before the war started in the autumn of 1939. However, despite these changes, she continued to work a kind of pagan based ceremonial magick, engaging Charles Seymore in this work (as a replacement for the Power association) when she had broken up with Dr. Thomas Evans. If there was any threshold where things were irreparably changed, it was when the war broke out with Germany in the autumn of the last year of the decade. Still, Richardson is probably correct that these changes had been likely formulating for years.

From 1935 until the beginning of the war, Dion Fortune’s public writings were completely fictional, and these novels are considered some of the best that have been written in that genre. Such books included the Winged Bull, Goat Foot God, Sea Priestess and Moon Magic. There was rumored to have been a fifth book planned for that series entitled Sun Magic, but it never materialized, and nothing has ever been found to indicate that it had ever been anything but a vain hope or an urban myth. The rest of Dion Fortune’s writings consisted of numerous articles for the Fraternity’s confidential magazine, which was published and distributed only to members. Her novels were mostly about sex magick, although risque for the time, they are quite tame by today’s standards. A possible source for these ideas (as I previously indicated) were the proposed teachings of the inner order of the Golden Dawn, but that is just speculation. They could have also been based on her years of experience as an occult teacher and a psychoanalyst. Richardson gives the basic theme that can be tied to all of these books, saying:

“In these books we can see a range of castrated, ineffectual men achieving superb consumations on magical levels when they yield to the inherent (if sometimes unconscious) superiority of the woman.”  (“Dancing with the Gods,” p. 53)

A single woman character that appears in both the Sea Priestess and Moon Magic was Vivien Le Fay Morgan, who without a doubt was a prototype for Dion Fortune herself. It’s interesting to note that Richardson, in his introduction to Seymore’s lost lectures, reveals a diary entry where Charles Seymore complains of having had enough of the magickal rites of Isis (p. 13). It is likely that Fortune used his ritual and occult knowledge to assist her in performing such rites, which she later distilled into her book. That Moon Magic appears to be based on an initiatory theme, guided with a deep understanding of the kind of magick that was involved in a revitalized worship of the ancient Egyptian moon goddess, makes it some of the best fictional writing of all time. The invocations that are used in the book are lyrical and ring true. They are also quite powerful, having been used as the lyrics for musical incantations and actual magickal work in recent years.
Yet this eventful time, where adept magicians practiced ceremonial magick and performed rites of the pagan mysteries, was to be short lived. When the war started, it dispersed many of the various adepts who had promoted this work to different parts of the country or the world, and the group was never able to get together again in the same manner. Still, the characters, places and activities alluded to in these four works of fiction had a basis of truth, representing individuals and events that had actually occurred in some manner.

During the war, the headquarters for the Fraternity was bombed (1940?), and then later, Dion Fortune became ill and began her swift decline, dying in January 8, 1946 of Leukemia. Although Dion Fortune had moved to a new location, the demise of the old meeting place represented a complete change of the underlying spiritual and occult perspective. A devoted member of the Fraternity, named W. K. Creasy, stepped in to become Fortune’s closest associate, along with a cadre of devoted women followers “who felt that she could do no wrong,” and the magickal and heavy occult perspectives were loosened, so that the new organization represented a more tame sort of mystical Christianity. Merl was gone, and Colonel Seymore had suddenly died in 1943, and other members of the magician adepts had left or found different paths. The organization was renamed to the Society of Inner Light, and began a process of continual mutation over the years - it still exists today.

One itinerant magician from the old Fraternity was William Ernest Butler, generally known by the pen name of “W. E. Butler,” who wrote some important works of his own on ceremonial magick. He was joined in this endeavor by another later member of the Fraternity whose magickal name was Gareth Knight (a.k.a. Dr. Basil Wilby). The two of them formed the Helios foundation, which published books on ceremonial magick, Qabalah and produced a Qabalistic correspondence course. Later, the name was changed to the Servants of the Light (1977), and after Butler retired, Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki (a past member of the Society of Inner Light) was named director of studies. Butler died shortly after that transfer of authority (1978), and Dolores has continued the tradition of instructing occultists in the Qabalah and ceremonial magick that Dion Fortune had originally taught. Gareth Knight has most recently begun republishing some of the voluminous occult articles that Dion Fortune wrote for the Fraternity’s magazine during the 1930's, with written introductions to each article, thus bringing out more of Fortune’s writings about ceremonial magick, Qabalah and other occult topics.

Despite the efforts of these individuals to preserve and continue disseminating Dion Fortune’s occult legacy, it would seem that her long departure has, to some extent, dimmed the spiritual lights that she sought to maintain. For some, the dream had ended and the source of the mysteries had all but dried up, yet for many others, the heritage of Dion Fortune’s writings helped to give birth to a whole new generation of seekers, who through the inspiration of her last four books, have successfully sought to bring the pagan mysteries back to life. I believe that they have fared very well in this endeavor, much to the glory of the men behind Dion Fortune, such as Dr. Thomas Evans and Charles Seymore. I am sure that they would have found the modern pagan and wiccan movements to be very much akin to their own spiritual and magickal perspectives.

Finally, I would like to say that I, too, have been personally touched by Dion Fortune’s writings. I was thrilled by both the Sea Priestess and Moon Magic, which I first read so many years ago, and I found the invocations in the latter book to be completely useful in my own work. I also read Psychic Self Defense and the Mystical Qabalah several times. Yet I wish that if only the rituals and the pagan lore that were once a part of the Fraternity of Inner Light were still available, and perhaps they are, in some unpublished store of diaries, typed notes, manuscripts and mimeographs. What a treasure that would be! But until such a cache becomes published, we will still have Dion Fortune’s invaluable books - both fiction and non-fiction. You can find a list of her books here.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. @ Frater Barrabbas

    Thank you for yet another excellent article. One small but important correction, however. Dion Fortune was never a member of the Stella Matutiina. She was a member of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega until her conflict with Moina Mathers.

  2. 1/2
    Care Frater, Thank you for this interesting article. I agree there is often little detailed examination of DF within the pagan community. I would like to point out a few things. There are several important books which if studied would give a different viewpoint and also correct some of the mistakes you reproduce here.

    Firstly, Richardson’s later and better, “Priestess”. The main author on DF is Gareth Knight who had access to all the SIL archives to produce the definitive “Dion Fortune and the Inner Light” as well as many others.

    Gareth shows clearly that Dion worked a path that integrated hermetic, mystical and nature approaches into one. At different times this path presented different outer faces, hence the more “pagan” or “Christian” work people refer to. At all times though, it was actually one. I have summarised this on MOTO here:

    If I may point out common errors you reproduce.

    Crowley and Fortune did have some contact and some correspondence survives. See Richardson’s “Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune: The Logos of the Aeon and the Shakti of the Age” as well as Knight’s works.

    Magic WAS rejected in the SIL from mid 60s til the mid 90s or so, when it has since returned with the help of Gareth Knight and others.

    Dion met Moina Mathers upon the latter’s return to England in the AO, not the Stella Matutina, which was a schism by Felikin.

    Dion showed to Moina that, not being of the grade where the sexual secrets where discussed, she could not have broken an oath (she received her information from inner sources). Moina eventually dismissed Dion because certain ‘symbols had not appeared in her aura’, a charge which Dion pointed out was completely unanswerable.

    Dion was in contact with Israel Regardie before he had received any GD initiations.

    Regardie was never a member of the FIL, but was on friendly terms with Dion and had some correspondence for a while, until he lambasted her principle mentor Maiya Tranchell Hayes.

    You write, “Her one and only marriage, with Thomas Penry Evans (1927), was more likely a union of minds and souls, and less one of the body, since they remained childless and were separated after only a decade of marriage.” Plenty of sexually fulfilling relationships do not produce children and last less than a decade. There is no evidence to show the sexual dimension was not fully explored and sacralised in this relationship. Again, I refer you to the works of Gareth Knight.

    The rumours that the Guild of the Master Jesus was a holding group for the less esoterically capable have been amply refuted by Gareth Knight. Again, the three fold way presented a number of outer faces; some simply gravitated to one face over another.

  3. Despite what Richardson wrote in Dancers to the Gods, records show that ‘pagan’ aspects of the Three Fold way were being worked by Dion all the way up until her death. Her last great work, uncompleted before her death, the Arthurian formula, shows this.

    The journal of the FIL, ‘The Inner Light’ had a limited audience outside her Fraternity and was not confidential. Hence much of her ‘writing between the lines’ within that journal.

    Finally, I and many others would not say that Dion’s long departure has “to some extent, dimmed the spiritual lights that she sought to maintain.” Her works are constantly in print. There is an annual conference dedicated to exploring her work and legacy. A whole raft of groups and magicians, some worldwide, draw on and expand her work and current, including the SOL, the Arthurian Group, the Gareth Knight Group, the Company of the Inner Abbey, Gareth Knight, Wendy Berg, Mike Harris and Naomi Ozaniec. Her continued inner plane presence continued to inspire and teach many after her death, for example much of W.G. Gray’s work arose out of his inner plane contact with her. This is even before we start examining her influence in pagan circles. Because of all this, I like many others affirm the title of one of Gareth Knight’s articles, “Dion Fortune Lives, OK!” :)

    Thanks again for the article.

  4. At the 2009 Dion Fortune Seminar Ronald Hutton discussed Fortune's influence on Wicca -- or rather, her lack of influence. He claimed that the Wiccan belief that humans reincarnate, and "have an ability to do so at the same moment as those whom we have loved most in the present life", is an unprecedented new idea, and one quite foreign to Fortune's thinking: "Nothing like it is found in Fortune's work, but then it is not prominent in that of any other previous writer: it is one of Gardner's own, distinctive, contributions to religious thought."
    Yet this is a key theme in The Demon Lover, The Sea Priestess, and at least one of the Dr. Tavener short stories: the theme of lovers who are reunited repeatedly in successive lives.

    Hutton also discusses Wicca's pairing of "the Great Goddess of the cosmos with the horned god [...] reflected in the relationship between priestess and priest", and he says "Dion Fortune never envisaged a theology like this. She certainly celebrated the same god and goddess, as I have emphasised, but consecutively. In the mid 1930s she applauded Pan, as the divine masculine, and then went on in the late 1930s to replace him at the centre of her fictional cosmos with the Goddess, personified as Isis. The two figures therefore exist in her writing, but not as a working partnership: but then, as said, the Wiccan conception of divinity is unique."

    But during the climactic ending of The Sea Priestess, a priestess and a priest are preparing for sexual union. She has 'become' Isis Unveiled, the cosmic Great Mother, and she evokes the God into her priest with the words "Come unto me, Great Pan, come unto me!" The priest's assumption of this godform resolves the key tension of the novel, the male protagonist's struggle to find an appropriate outlet for his romantic and sexual urges, and his finding of the perfect partnership. (I wonder, was this fictional partnership somehow inspired by her real-life magical and sexual partnership with Dr. Evans/"Merl"?)

    Together, Hutton views these two theological positions (group reincarnation and a goddess-god pairing) as "special, and definitive piece[s] of Wiccan originality" that distinguish Wicca from Fortune's brand of mysticism.

    His other arguments against Wicca having been influenced by Fortune's writings are: 1) Gardner was unlikely to have come across Fortune's books prior to the 1950s (come on, how big was the London occult scene in those days?!); and 2) none of Fortune's lovely invocations from her novels are in the Book of Shadows (which I consider to be a weak argument).

    It seems it's not only at Pantheacon that supposed experts can show ignorance regarding Fortune's superb writings and her magical work and philosophy. She deserves a better and more accurate recognition for what she has bequeathed to us. Thank-you for being part of this process.

  5. I realise on reflection that I may seem to imply that these points of Wiccan theology do not predate Dion Fortune's books. This is possible, but I would need much better evidence to be convinced; especially since there is increasingly good evidence to support the view that Gardner substantially inherited, rather than invented, the precepts of Wicca. These theological features could have got into the tradition any number of ways. Far from being unique to Wicca, they also predate Fortune. Group reincarnation, for instance, is a very old and very common belief in cultures that believe more broadly in reincarnation.

    It might even be worth posing a similar question the other way round: if Dr. Evans was the key force in promoting the pagan mysteries in Fortune's group, could he also have originated the ideas of god-goddess pairing and group reincarnation? And if so, where did he get them from? Did he formulate them himself, perhaps through comparative religious inquiry, or did he pick them up from some other variety of occultism that he had been exposed to? Such questions are full of speculation, of course, but they go to show that there are many ways to skin a cat.

    Whatever the truth, Dion Fortune has given us a literature that many Wiccans have adopted as our own, so beautifully does it accord with our beliefs and our mode of working. She does not need to have founded these beliefs for us to treasure her.

  6. Thanks everyone for your comment. This article was my first attempt at putting my thoughts together about Dion Fortune, who I do consider very important to modern pagans, witches and ritual and ceremonial magicians. However, there were indeed a number of errors in the article, which I will be correcting and putting out some additional thoughts in that regards. I guess that's what I get for using too few sources, and relying too much on the opinions of Richardson.

    Anyway, there will be a supplemental article issued some time in the future.