“The Mystical Qabalah gives the theory, but the novels give the practice . . .
[T]hose who study The Mystical Qabalah with the help of the novels
get the keys of the Temple put into their hands.”
~ from Moon Magic, by Dion Fortune
I was browsing in the Theosophical bookstore tucked in a small street off Broadway in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood, just a block away from an apartment I inhabited in my twenties. Feeling nostalgic, I remembered the times I’d dropped into this very same bookstore years ago, on my way back and forth to work or to taste the free samples on the counter at Dilettante Chocolates, dashing in dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt amongst the more elegant diners. On this visit, over in the corner, I found the Dion Fortune section. I held up the two novels and her short story collection I knew already and showed them to my companion, recommending them to him. Reshelving them, I discovered, much to my delight, more novels! I never knew Fortune had written more fiction, but there they were: The Demon Lover, The Winged Bull, and The Goat Foot God. With delicious anticipation, I pulled them from the shelf, took them to the counter, and handed over my credit card. What a wonderful find.
I’m sure many of you already knew about these books, but I hadn’t realized she’d written more, so as soon as I got home, I dove in. I don’t remember the order I read them in, but The Demon Lover was her first novel. Innocent, but psychically sensitive Veronica is hired to be a secretary to a spiritual lodge by Lucas, a dark magician who begins to use her. Lucas puts Veronica in a trance and sends her out to spy for him. He attaches her to him by an ethereal silver chain. Once discovered by his Order, Lucas tries to do what would save himself, kill her, but finds he cannot. He has fallen for her, so he flees, taking Veronica with him to a country house. Found out at last, Lucas takes the punishment of death himself. But it turns out he’s not dead after all, but in a sort of half-life in which he feeds as a vampire of sorts on Veronica’s vital energy. At last the true mage arrives, always a high adept belonging to some secret lodge above the more ordinary ones. He is going to set the situation to rights, but he discovers in his investigations that things are more complicated than he thought. This is not Veronica and Lucas’s first incarnation together as lovers, nor their second. He must redeem the relationship.
The Lodge Lucas is a member of is definitely in need of help. They are a group of old, stiff men who have become stuck in their ways. Any magician who is stuck is not able to channel as much energy as he should. Introducing female energy is what is called for, and this Veronica provides. Fortune lived in a time when women were becoming part of occult lodges. The old, all-male groups were giving way to gender and energy-balanced groups. Fortune portrays this process in her novel, a process that is still on-going, by the way.
The protagonist in The Winged Bull is Ted Murchison, who served in the war and endured joblessness, and now doubts conventional religion. But this unlikely character has a vision of the Winged Bull in the British Museum. As this is occurring, he encounters his old commanding officer, Alick Brandwyn, who is of course a magical adept. Brandwyn employs Murchison as a sort of handyman, but really as a potential magical student. Brandwyn introduces Murchison to his ethereal sister Ursula. The two have share a charged polarity, which is promising for magic and romance, but Ursula has become embroiled with a dark magician, naturally, and stands in need of rescuing from her starring role in a black mass. You can imagine the rest. Once again we have the practical earthy man, full of common sense, the Winged Bull no less, mated with the ethereal, spiritual woman, a bit flighty, a lot spiritually talented.
I loved Brandwyn’s apartment in this one, just as I loved the bookstore in The Goat Foot God. In a disreputable neighborhood, he has purchased a building and renovated the floors. The furniture is the height of modernity in the 1930’s, low couches, colorful throws, and a hardwood floor. The furniture can be pushed back for dancing or ritual space. There is a stairway up to a roof garden offering a wonderful view and connection to nature in the city. Brandwyn has left the original windows and nailed down old lace on the panes to indicate what is inside is as decrepit as what is outside. It’s a delightful hideaway.
Finally we come to The Goat Foot God. Here the flighty, ethereal one is the man, who is in shock. His wife has been killed in a car accident, and in the car with her was her lover. Not only does Hugh Paston lose his wife, he loses his illusions all at once. Paston rambles through the streets of his neighborhood, “accidentally” wandering into an antiquarian bookstore. Because of his emotional state, he is near to the unseen forces and an open invitation for spiritual mischief.
Paston fastens on a book about the Eleusinian Mysteries and takes it into his head to evoke Pan. Jelkes is the shop keeper, of course an adept, who guides him along. Understanding Paston cannot be stopped, Jelkes undertakes his instruction. Paston has become fascinated by some books that might be dangerous to him, as Alex Sumner puts it in his article about Fortune’s fiction, Là-Bas and À Rebours by J K Huysmans; The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola; On the Mysteries by Iamblichus; and something that Fortune coyly refers to as “four tattered, dog-eared, paper-backed volumes on magic spelt with a K” (http://www.jwmt.org/v1n0/dfortune.html). That last can only be Crowley, who also bears some resemblance to the dark magician in The Winged Bull. Jelkes introduces Paston to Mona Wilton, an artist, so here we have a doubly flighty couple. Paston buys an old monastery he just “happens across” where he begins to find a place for his evocation of Pan. Of course, it can’t be that simple. He discovers hidden manuscripts, also about evoking Pan, and the story of a 15th-century prior who was walled up for—guess what? Doing rituals to evoke Pan. And guess who Paston turns out to be?
These novels are all full of wonderful teachings about spirituality, proper use of psychic abilities, and effective ritual work. You’re going to enjoy them as much as I did. If read along with her instructional books on magic and the Qabalah, you will then have the keys to the Temple in your hand. At least, that’s what Dion Fortune said.
P.S., I’ve heard Fortune wrote other more conventional novels under a different pen name. I intent to go searching for that reference, but if you know what they are, please do tell.
Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her paranormal mysteries. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver.
www.theresacrater.wordpress.com @theresacrater on Twitter