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Chas. S. Clifton is the copyright holder of this article. His website is at https://
This article originally appeared in GNOSIS #9, Fall 1988. GNOSIS can be found at https://
- sacred texts editor.

                                     A GODDESS ARRIVES

                                THE NOVELS OF DION FORTUNE 
                                  AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF 
                                   GARDNERIAN WITCHCRAFT
                                    by CHAS S. CLIFTON
          No one occultist of the 20th century worked more vehemently in ad-
          vocating 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 biog-
          rapher1. 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 archaeol-
          ogist and folklorist Margaret Murray used to buttress her argument for
          the survival of a pre-Christian religion, do not mention goddess


          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 poe-
          try." Graves believed that this language "was still 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

          THE RE-EMERGENCE OF BRITISH WITCHCRAFT                                 
          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 wor-
          shipped 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 conver-
          sion: 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 "witch-


          craft" 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 Witch-
          craft 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 organ-
          ising 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 under-
          ground 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 Glaston-
          bury 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

          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 dis-
          guised 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 docu-
          ments 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-Chris-
          tian 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 In-
          stitute for the Study of American Religion put it.9  Gardner's "reform-
          ation" 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.

                                   A PRACTICAL OCCULTIST
          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, Aust-
          ralia, 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 establish-
          ment 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

          And clearly the reviewer was not interested in finding out! Alan Ri-
          chardson's 1985 work, Dancers to the Gods, while primarily about two
          members of Fortune's magical order, contained the first well-res-
          earched 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 edi-
          torial 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

          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 Downin-
          g. 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

                 I doubt that Dion Fortune would have answered as dogmatically as H-
          illman 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 enthus-

          Where she did agree with Jung is that Western methods are best for
          Western people. Jung wrote: "Instead of learning the spiritual tec-
          hniques 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 proc-
          esses of occult training and initiation, it is best for a man to foll-
          ow the line of his own racial evolution.... The reason for the in-
          advisability 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

          It is clear from Fortune's novels that a "true", that is psychologic-
          ally informed, Paganism, was indeed what she sought in the late 1920s
          and 1930s. Time after time she created plots that mixed the t-
          herapeutic and the magical, drawing characters who combined psycho-
          logical 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 circumsta-
          ntial 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-inte-
          grated 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 incl-
          udes 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, the-
          refore, 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 with-
          drawn 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 awakeni-
          ng? 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

                 "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-si-
          ded. 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 th-
          ose two crusty old bachelors, Paul and Augustine, had finished with

          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 popul-
          ation 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?"

                                   DRAWING DOWN THE MOON

          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 Mar-
          garet 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 inf-


          luence 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 contempo-
          raries, the Goddess is invoked by the priest in the body of the
          priestess. It is expected that a type of divine inspiration will res-
          ult. Drawing down the Moon is a key part of every Gardnerian ritual c-
          ircle - and its elements and purpose are easily discernible in Fort-
          une's novel The Sea Priestess, which she was forced by publishers'
          lack of interest to self-publish in 1938.26  Richardson, her biographe-
          r, 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 boo-
          ks, his successors, the Farrars, explain it more fully in Eight Sabb-
          ats for Witches.27  It comes after the drawing of the ritual circle - a
          conscious creating and marking of sacred space, defined by the cardi-
          nal 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 bey-
          ond 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 ps-
          ychological 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 acknowled-
          gment. She wished every marriage to take on an aspect of the hieros
          gamos (divine marriage), and it is there that a parallel with Witch-
          craft 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 marri-
          age, 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 for-
          ms 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 Gardn-
          er'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 It-
          aly, based on Leland's research there in the mid-1800s. Leland pr-
          ovided 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 h-
          ave seen, Gardner was himself engaged in a conscious search for ma-
          gical learning in the 1920s and 1930s, and it was in the 1930s that F-
          ortune'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 "theor-
          etical" 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.

          1.   Alan Richardson, Priestess: The Life and Magic of Dion Fortune.
               (Wellingborough, Northants: The Aquarian Press, 1987), p.37.

          2.   G. Rachel Levy, The Gate of Horn: A Study of Religions Concep-
               tions of the Stone Age and Their Influence upon European Thought.
               (London: Faber and Faber, 1948).

          3.   Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A historical grammar of poetic
               myth. (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1966), p.12.

          4.   Raymond Buckland, Witchcraft from the Inside. (St Paul, MN:
               Llewellyn Publications, 1971), p.55. The law was a successor to
               the Witchcraft Act of King James I, passed in 1604 and repealed
               in 1736.

          5.   J.L. Bracelin, Gerald Gardner: Witch. (London: Octagon Press

          6.   Gerald B. Gardner, Witchcraft Today. (London: Rider & Co., 1954),

          7.   Margaret Murray, My First Hundred Years. (London: William Kimber,
               1963), p.104. The title was no exaggeration; she was born in 18-

          8.   Mircea Eliade, Occultism, Witchcraft and Cultural Fashions: Essa-
               ys in Comparative Religions. (Chicago: University of Chicago Pre-
               ss, 1976), p.56

          9.   J. Gordon Melton, Magic, Witchcraft and Paganism in America: A
               Bibliography. (New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1982), p.105

          10.  Alan Richardson, Dancers to the Gods. (Wellingborough, Northants:
               The Aquarian Press, 1985).

          11.  ------, Priestess: The Life and Magic of Dion Fortune. (-
               Wellingborough, Northants: The Aquarian Press, 1987).

          12.  Charles Fielding and Carr Collins, The Story of Dion Fortune. (-
               Dallas, Texas: Star and Cross Publication, 1985).

          13.  Dion Fortune, The Goat-Foot God. (London: The Aquarian Press,
               1971), p.89


          14.  James Hillman, "Psychology: Monotheistic or Polytheistic."
               Appendix to David L. Miller, The New Polytheism. (Dallas, Texas:
               Spring Publications Inc., 1981), p.125

          15.  C.G. Jung, "Yoga and the West". In The Collected Works of C.G.
               Jung. (London: Pantheon, 1958), Vol XI, p.534.

          16.  Dion Fortune, Sane Occultism. (Wellingborough, Northants: The
               Aquarian Press, 1967), pp.161-2.

          17.  Ibid. pp. 25-6.

          18.  Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches' Way. (London: Robert Hale,
               1984), pp. 95-6.

          19.  Goat-Foot God, p. 89.

          20.  Robert Galbreath, "The History of Modern Occultism: A Biblio-
               graphic Survey." Journal of Popular Culture, V:3 (Winter 1971),
               p. 728/100

          21.  Goat-Foot God, pp. 352-3

          22.  Dion Fortune, The Winged Bull: A Romance of Modern Magic. (Lo-
               ndon: Williams and Norgate Ltd., 1935), p. 169. It is no coin-
               cidence that the leading female character was named Ursula Bra-
               ngwyn,a name used by D.H. Lawrence for a character in Women in
               Love; Fortune was trying to re-state "the sex problem" on a "h-
               igher plane" than Lawrence had.

          23.  Ibid. pp. 154-6.

          24.  Goat-Foot God, p. 349.

          25.  A term that deliberately or otherwise echoes Plato's description
               in the Georgias of "the Thessalian witches who drawn down the
               moon from heaven."

          26.  Dion Fortune, The Sea Priestess. (London: Wynham Publications Lt-
               d., 1976).

          27.  Janet and Stewart Farrar, Eight Sabbats for Witches: and Rites
               for Birth, Marriage and Death. (London: Robert Hale, 1981), p.

          28.  The exact terminology may vary from coven to coven; the Farrar's
               give Gardner's favourite.

          29.  Charles Godfrey Leland, Aradia: or the Gospel of the Witches. (L-
               ondon: David Nutt, 1899). Leland may indeed have found some
               fragments of a goddess religion. Gardner and Valiente expurgated
               parts of it, such as the invocation of the Goddess as a poisoner
               of great lords in their castles, and other homely arts.

          30.  The Witches' Way, p.68.

          31.  The Sea Priestess, pp. 160-1.

          32.  Eight Sabbats for Witches, p.49.


Next: Temples, Covens, & Groves - Oh My! (Khaled Q.)