Author: Dion Fortune
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 1935, 2003
Price & More Info: Click Here
I have two confessions to make to start this review - First, as is obvious
from the copyright data cited above, this is not a new book; Second, this is
not the first time I have read this book (although it has been more than 20
years, so it might as well have been)
Dion Fortune wrote in a time when things were very different; a time between
wars; a time when esoteric matters were held closely and not discussed in
public. The proliferation of texts on magical matters could not have been
imagined. Secret societies were just that - secret. Their activities were
not even hinted at beyond the membership.
The nonfiction that she wrote was, to describe it politely, barely
informative. Things were hinted at, but no examples of actual works were
given, it wasn't considered proper to put that information before the
public. Her fiction works contained the examples of practical working,
safely "hidden" in the guise of a novel. Her book The Mystical Qabalah
dovetails nicely with the information in this book. It provides the theory,
while The Sea Priestess provides rituals to apply that theoretical
Of course, as a psychologist, she had to be most circumspent. It would do
her professional reputation no good if she appeared too involved in
unorthodox beliefs. Still, her profession gave her an understanding of the
human mind and allowed her to cloak many of her teachings in ways which
would be acceptable to the public. She did the precaution of writing under
a nom-de-plume (besides, Dion Fortune sounds more appealing to my ears than
Her descriptions are vivid. If you allow her words to seep into you, you
can see, hear, and smell what she is describing. However, I have to warn
you that if you are looking for a novel full of "magical warfare," dueling
magicians, and lots of Hollywood-style special effects, you are going to be
disappointed. This book was written as a teaching novel. It is "Occult
Fiction," but has no hint of an "action novel" about it. It is not a
thriller in any sense of the word. It was not designed to appeal to the
masses, but to a select audience instead. There is no violence; there are
no mysteries; no action sequences. It is, by modern standards, very tame.
No sexual innuendo covering furtive gropings. So why read it?
There are a number of good reasons to read this book. First of all, it was
written before the modern occult revival, so it draws from older sources.
Secondly, the author was a competent magician in her own right. Thirdly, as
a psychologist, she had a real feel for what makes humankind tick. Finally,
it contains very clear accounts of rituals which many practitioners today
would be well advised to perform - it might help out the world situation.
If, like me, you read this book many years ago, it may be time to pick it up
once again and rediscover forgotten truths. It amazed me how much more I
got from this latest reading of this novel.
If you have never read it before, you might be surprised at the amount of
information contained in this book. Some of that information has made its
way into some of the "traditional" teachings given to Wiccan students today
(often without any acknowledgement of the source of said information, I
It is well worth the cost, as are any other books by this author. I
recommend that you add this book to your library, or at least to your list
of books to borrow and read. I must warn you, however, that if you loan it
out, you may need to get another copy. They tend to disappear.
Reviewed by Mike Gleason