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

FORTUNE, DION (1891-1946)

Dion Fortune           The Craft Name of Violet Mary Penry-Evans, nee Firth, British occultist and author whose books continue to have an impact on modem Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism.

Born into a wealthy Sheffield steelmaking family of Christian Scientists, she first displayed mediumistic abilities in her teen years &nsp; At about the age of twenty she attended a commercial school in Weston-super-Mare, a period of her life that ended in near nervous breakdown after a distressing incident in which she disagreed with the autocratic director of the school.

Fortune later worked as a law analyst at the Medico-Psychological Clinic in London.   Her interest in exploring the human Psyche resulted from an unpleasant episode in 1911, when, at age 29, she went to work in a school for a principal who took a great personal dislike to her.

When Fortune went to see the woman to announce she was leaving her job, she was subjected to invective that she had no self-confidence and was incompetent.   Fortune said later that the principal also conveyed this by Psychic attack, using yogic techniques and hypnotism that left Fortune a "mental and physical wreck" for three years.

As a result, she studied psychology, delving into the works of both Freud and Jung and iIn the period before the 1914-18 war she wrote minor books on the Psycho-Ananlysis under the name Violet M Firth.   She preferred the ideas of Jung but eventually concluded that neither Freud nor Jung adequately addressed the subtleties and complexities of the mind.   The answers, Fortune felt, lay in occultism.

In about 1917 she came under the influence of an occult Adept named Moriarty who had connections with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

In 1919, having first developed an interest in Helena Blavatsky's Theosophical Society, she was Initiated into the Weston-super-Mare branch of the reconstituted Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, by that time known as Alpha et Omega.

In 1920 she moved to London and moved to a lodge of the rival Stella Matutina offshoot of Golden Dawn, which was headed by the wife of S. L. MacGregor-Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn, Moina Mathers, and studied under J. W. Brodie-Innes. .

After Moriarty died in 1921 she founded, with some of the members, a small lodge of the Theosophical Society which was intended as a recruiting ground for Alpha et Omega.

However, in 1927, after increasing disillusionment with what was left of Golden Dawn and several clashes with Moina, which she again felt were forms of Psychic attack, she broke ranks with Stella Matutina and went on, with her group, and founded her own order, the Community (later Fraternity) of the Inner Light.   This was intended to bridge the gulf between Pagan and Christian doctrines, and was firmly rooted in the Western Tradition.   It was based at Glastonbury in Somerset and, subsequently, in London.

Fortune worked at various times as a psychiatrist, which brought her into contact with other cases of Psychic attack.   She was a prolific writer, pouring her occult knowl-edge into both novels and nonfiction.   Her pen name was derived from the magical motto she adopted upon joining the Stella Matutina, "Deo Non Fortuna," (''by God, not chance"), which became shortened to Dion Fortune.

Considered one of the leading Psychics and occultists of her time, Fortune was perhaps one of the first occult writers to approach Magick and Hermetic concepts from the psychology of Jung and Freud (see HERMETICA).

Some modern Witches and Neo-Pagans consider her fiction more important than her non-fiction, for her novels contain Pagan themes and are a rich source for rituals.

Her books are considered classics and continue to enjoy wide readership.   For a time she lived in Glastonbury and became deeply interested in the Arthurian legends and magical and mystical lore centred there.   She wrote about Glastonbury in Avalon of the Heart.

Fortune used her experiences with Psychic attack to conclude that hostile Psychic energy can emanate both deliberately and unwittingly from certain people and that one can mentally fend off such energy.   Her book Psychic Self-Defense (1930) remains the best guide to detection and defence against Psychic attack.

She wrote stories, essays and a treatise called The Cosmic Doctrine which has often been compared with Mme Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine.

Throughout Dion Fortune's work there is a curious contradiction between her many flights of fancy and the sober approach to Magick she ceaselessly advocates.   That this paradox was something inherent in Miss Fortune's own temperament is borne out by her tendency to condemn sexual emancipation while professing to be a disciple of Freud.     Her book An Esoteric View of Sex and Marriage was unintentionally quite hilarious.

Despite these faults, Miss Fortune's lucid prose is all but considered compulsory reading for all serious would-be ritual magicians.

Perhaps her most famous book is The Mystical Qabbalah (1936), in which she discusses the Western Esoteric tradition and how the Qabbalah (see also KABBALAH) is used by modem students of the Mysteries.   The true nature of the gods, she said, is that of magical images shaped out of the astral plane by mankind's thought, and is influenced by the mind.

Her other major nonfiction works include Sane Occultism (1929); The Training and Work of an Initiate (1930); Through the Gates of Death (1932); Applied Magic; Aspects of Occultism; and Spiritualism in the Light of Occult Science.   Machinery of the Mind (1922) was published under her given name.

But it is her novels that have captured the most interest among modem Witches and Pagans.   In particular, The Goat-Foot God (1936) concerns the powers of Pan, a Horned God, and offers a wealth of details on Leys; The Sea-Priestess (1938) concerns the powers of Isis, the moon Goddess, and has been used by modem witches as an Inspiration for creating rituals and invocations, and has been hailed as one of the finest works of fiction on the subject of Magick.

Her other novels are The Secrets of Dr. Taverner (1926), about an adept who runs an occult nursing home; The Demon Lover (1927); and The Winged Bull (1936).   All are published by the Aquarian Press in London

She married a doctor who became involved in Magick, Thomas Penry Evans, in 1927, but separated from him in about 1937 and was divorced in 1945, six months before her death in January 1946 from myeloid leukaemia.   She was buried in Glastonbury.

The Fraternity of the Inner Light remains based in London and now is known as The Society of the Inner Light.   It offers techniques in the Western Esoteric tradition.  The Society stresses that Fortune was not a Witch and was not involved with any Coven, and that the Society was not connected with Witchcraft in any way.


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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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