Dion Fortune (1890 – 1946)
Behind the shadows of Gerald B. Gardner, lurks Dion Fortune. Unappreciated during her own time she was perhaps his lesser-known equal, working quietly behind the scenes she developed her own tradition and was unconcerned with the need for publicity. Dion was a respected psychiatrist, occultist and author who approached magic and hermetic concepts from the perspectives of Jung and Freud. She was a prolific occult writer of novels and non-fiction books, an adept in ceremonial magic and a pioneer psychiatrist on religious thought in occultism.
Dion was the daughter of a solicitor and born “Violet Mary Firth” on the 6th January 1890 in Bryn-y-Bia, Llandudno, Wales. She showed mediumistic abilities at an early age and was reputed to have had visions and dreams of “Atlantis” as early as four years old. Later she claimed to have been a priestess in a past life. She was a bright and intelligent child who wrote her first book at the age of 13, a book of poems entitled Violets in 1904.
Her family were fair to do Christian Scientists with a family motto that reads: “Deo, non Fortuna”, meaning “By God, not by chance”. In 1906 after the death of her grandfather, the family moved to London and lived on they’re inheritance. There she joined the local Theosophical Society and in 1908 had another poem published called Angels. In 1910 she started work at St Georges Secretarial College, while continuing her studies in psychology. She worked as an assistant to the college principal, a strong minded and domineering woman with a violent temper
After a number of clashes with the woman, Dion decided to leave. Reporting her intentions to leave, the woman subjected her to a diatribe of incompetence and lack of self-confidence, that she later suffered a near mental breakdown. She later attributed this to the principal, believing she had used “psychic attacks” to try and control her, a technique allegedly learned on visits to India.
As a result of these attacks and during the following three years it took to recover, Dion delved deeper into Psychology, focussing her studies on the theories of Freud and Jung. In 1913 she took up a position as a lay-psychoanalyst at the Medico-Psychological Clinic in London. There she concluded that neither Freud nor Jung adequately addressed the subtleties and complexities of the mind. There was something they had missed, and she felt the answers might lie in occultism.
Through the war years 1914-1918 Dion joined the “Women’s Land Army”, during which time she maintained her links with the “Theosophical Society”. Towards the end of the war she met with and worked with the head of the society “Theodore Moriarty”, an occultist and freemason. Moriarty encouraged her interest in the occult, and in 1919 after the war, she was initiated into the “Alpha and Omega Lodge of Stella Matutina”, an outer order of the hermetic “Order of the Golden Dawn” situated in London.
She studied under J.W.Brodie-Innes but came under conflict with Moina Mathers the wife of S.L. MacGregor-Mathers, one of the original founders of the Golden Dawn. Feeling symptoms of “psychic attack” similar to her past experience, she later quit and formed her own order “the Fraternity of the Inner Light”. Initially the order was part of the Golden Dawn, but based on esoteric Christianity. It later separated and distanced itself, removing all connections with witchcraft.
After the death of her friend and mentor Theodore Moriarty in 1923, Dion took over the Theosophical Society and renamed it the “Christian Mystic Lodge”. In 1924 she bought a property in Glastonbury called the Chalice Orchard. This she would use as a retreat from the pressures of work and living in the city. While visiting at Glastonbury, Dion became deeply interested in Arthurian legends and the magical-mystical folklore centred on the area. She later formed a pilgrim centre there known as the “Chalice Orchard Club”, which she dedicated to the “Mysteries of Isis”.
In 1937 she met and married a medical doctor “Thomas Penry Evans”. Due to his own occult interests, different from Dion’s, he became known as Merlin or Merle by many of her followers. They worked together magically as Priest and Priestess of her order, the “Fraternity of the Inner Light”, but argued constantly over their differences. In 1939 Evans left her for another lover and they divorced. Dion continued to head the order renaming it the “Society of the Inner Light”.
Later that same year she leased a property in West London known as “The Belfry”, and turned it into a temple for her followers. Like Glastonbury it was dedicated to the “Mysteries of Isis”. During the rest of her lifetime and indeed since she passed away, her societies continue to grow and attract new followers. Just after the Second World War, Dion contracted Leukaemia and in 1946 on the 8th January, she departed this world for the next.
Dion Fortune (her pen name) was a prolific writer. She derived her pen name from her family motto, “Deo, non Fortuna”, meaning “By God, not by chance” which she shortened to Dion Fortune. She writes of her many personal experiences as a practising occultist and psychiatrist, and pours out her knowledge of the occult in both fiction and non-fiction books, some of which have now reached classical status.Three of her non-fiction books were written using another pseudonym - V M Steele, which included: The Scarred Wrists (1935), Hunters Of Humans (1936) and Beloved Of Ishmael (1937).
Today the “Society of the Inner Light” is still practising and still based in London, but they maintain that Dion was not a witch, and was not involved in any coven? They stress that the present day society is not connected with witchcraft in any way. A sad tribute to a writer whose books did so much to influence, and continues to influence the thoughts of many practitioners in the Wicca/Witchcraft movement.