exWitch Australia
Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology

BLAVATSKY, Helena Petrovna (1831-91)

Russian-born American mystic and co-founder of the Theosophical Society.

Shortly after her 18th birthday, Mme Blavatsky deserted her home in Russia and her husband of two months in order to travel.   Such travels are the classic beginning to many occult careers, but in her case they ranged farther and wider than most.   She is believed to have visited Canada, North America and Mexico before setting out for India.  Next she tried, unsuccessfully at first, to enter Tibet, eventually gaining access to that mysterious country in 1856.   Afterwards she returned to Russia whence she emerged to fight for Garibaldi at the Battle of Mentana.

She supposedly exhibited Psychic powers from an early age, and throughout her career claimed to perform feats of mediumship, Levitation, Telepathy and Clairvoyance.

She went to America in 1873, and in 1875, where she investigated the spiritualistic phenomena then in vogue, and with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (1830-1907) , founded the Theosophical Society in New York on November 17th, 1875 and later carried on her work in India.   Her Psychic powers were widely acclaimed and attracted many converts to Theosophy, including Annie Besant, whose home became the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in London.

In spite of a serious of scandals and a devastating report produced in 1885 by an investigator from the Society for Psychical Research, the Theosophists continued to grow in numbers.

When Mme Blavatsky, who had long been a sick woman, died in 1891 she had, it was estimated, some 100,000 disciples in countries all over the world.   Mme Blavatsky's death is commemorated by the Society on May 8th ('White Lotus Day').

The years following her death were turbulent ones for the Society, with many defections from its ranks.   These batterings have left it some-what hypersensitive to criticism, but there are signs that it is now becoming more robust and outward-looking.

Her writings include Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888).


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One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc
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