Dion Fortune is the magical name of Violet Mary Firth, a British occultist and author whose books still influence modern Witchcraft and neo-Paganism. A prominent occultist of her time, Fortune was an adept in ceremonial magic, and was perhaps one of the first occult authors to approach magic and hermetic concepts from the psychology of Jung and Freud. For some Witches and Neo-pagan her fictional works are considered more important than her nonfiction, because they are filled with Pagan themes and rituals.
Fortune was born into a family of Christian Scientists. In her teens she begun exhibiting mediumistic abilities. During her early twenties she worked as a law analyst at the Medico-Psychological Clinic in London. Her interest in exploring the human psyche led to her being psychologically attacked. This occurred in 1911, when she was 20. She worked in a school helping the principal who took a great dislike toward her. When going to tell the woman that she was leaving her job, the principal subjected Fortune to vindictiveness, telling her she lacked self-confidence and was incompetent. Later Fortune said the woman also had conveyed this psychic attack through yoga techniques and hypnotism which left her a “mental and physical wreck” for three years.
This type of psychological violation resulted in her initial study of Freudian and Jungian psychology. At first she preferred Jung over Freud, but as she continued her study Fortune concluded that neither psychiatrist adequately addressed the subtleties and complexities of the mind. Thus, for her, the answers lay in occultism.
Fortune joined the Alpha and Omega Lodge of Stella Matutina, in 1919, an outer order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and studied under J. W. Brodie-Innes. She had classes with the wife of S. L. McGregor-Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn, which again left her feeling psychic attacked.She felt Stella Matutina in 1929 and left to found her own order, the Community (later Fraternity) of the Inner Light. At first the order was part of the Golden Dawn, but later separated from it.
Following this Fortune worked as a psychiatrist which brought her in contact with other psychic attack victims. Being a prolific writer she poured her knowledge into both novels and nonfiction works. She derived her pen name from the magic motto which she adopted when joining Stella Matutina, “Deo Non Fortuna,” (“by God, not chance”), which became shortened to Dion Fortune. Her works are classics and continue to be popular.
During the time when she lived in Glastonbury Fortune became deeply interested in the Arthurian legends and magical-mystical lore which is centered there. She wrote of Glastonbury in Avalon of the Heart.
As a result of her experience with psychic attack Fortune concluded that hostile psychic energy can emanate both deliberately and unwittingly from certain people and that one can mentally fend off such energy. Her work Psychic Self-Defense (1930) is still regarded as the best guide to detection and defense against psychic attack.
The work, The Mystical Qabbalah (1936), perhaps her most famous book, contains her discussion of the Western esoteric tradition and how the Qabbalah (see Kabbalah) is used by modern 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 influenced by the mind.
Fortune’s 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. She published Machinery of the Mind (1922), under her given name.
However, it was her novels that greatly captivated the attention of the modern Pagans and Witches. Particularly The Goat-Foot God ((1936), which concern the powers of Pan, a Horned God, and offers a wealth of details concerning leys; The Sea-Priestess (1938) which concerns the powers of Isis, the moon goddess, and has been employed by modern Witches for inspiration in creating rituals and invocations. Her other novels are The Secrets of Dr. Taverner (1926) about an adapt that runs a nursing home; The Demon Lover (1927); and The Winged Bull (1936).
Fortune married a Dr. Evans. She died in 1946.
The Fraternity of the Inner Light continues to be based in London, but 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, nor was she involved with any coven; and the Society is not connected with Witchcraft in anyway. A.G.H.