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The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune

The Sea Priestess

by Dion Fortune

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340732,303 (3.99)7
  1. 00
    Descent into Hell by Charles Williams (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: It could probably be said without too much distortion, that The Sea Priestess is to Fortune's Hermetic outlook what Descent into Hell is to Williams' Christian spiritual reflection.

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This 1938 'novel of the occult' by the well-known psychic Dion Fortune (born Violet Firth), was initially self-published, which, I have to admit, gave me some serious doubts about its quality - but after reading it, I would have to say that her difficulty in finding a publisher was probably indeed due to its subject matter, not her ability as a literary stylist (the book has stayed in print, posthumously, until the present day.)
This however, is not to say that a modern reader will find any of the events in this book particularly racy or shocking - standards have certainly changed over time.

The story deals with Wilfred, a young man in a strait-laced small British town, who feels oppressed by his family, his job, his sickly constitution, and his situation in general. But when his position as an estate agent (realtor) leads him to meet a beautiful and mysterious woman of uncertain age, he not only falls in love, but is led to a spiritual awakening, as the woman who calls herself Morgan Le Fay recreates the spiritual rites of Atlantis, communing with the moon and the sea and bringing Wilfred to the realization that life has more to offer than he knew.

This book reminded me a bit of Aleister Crowley's 'Moonchild,' (1929) although it's a bit less 'flashy' as far as its occult elements - but it has the same element of showing social non-conformists against a background of a restrictive society. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
The Sea Priestess is probably the chief of Dion Fortune's novels. It furnishes occult instruction from one of the most significant authors on ceremonial magic from the first half of the twentieth century, in the context of story about a Mary Sue named "Morgan Le Fay," the reincarnation of a priestess of Atlantis. But that sort of synopsis really doesn't do justice to what is actually a tremendously entertaining book.

Nor would the original readers have been likely to identify Fortune with Morgan. For one thing, Violet Firth's pen name "Dion" left her gender uncertain. As she writes amusingly in her foreword, "It has often been said of me that I am no lady, and I have myself had to tell the secretary of a well-known club which craved my membership that I am no gentleman." Also, the book is written in the first person from the perspective of Wlifred Maxwell, an asthmatic "mother's boy" in early middle age, a fairly prosperous estate agent, enmeshed in a terminally staid English bourgeois culture. Wilfred's voice was so distinctive, so unaffectedly droll, and engaging, that it was the highlight of the book for me, and a reader without other knowledge of the author would surely conclude that if there were a character with autobiographical traits, it was Wilfred.

There are a couple of fine pieces of ceremony in this story, but it is more focused on the visionary aspects of magical practice, as well as their effects on artistic creativity and interaction with libidinal expression. I have read other reviewers take the book to task for an overlong denouement, but when the essential plot of the book is viewed as a magical operation, it would hardly do to give any briefer treatment to what is, at least from Wilfred's perspective, the real result of the work.

I didn't expect to enjoy this book half as much as I actually did, and I think it makes an admirable sort of pagan alternative to the occult novels of Charles Williams. In fact, it could probably be said without too much distortion, that The Sea Priestess is to Fortune's Hermetic outlook what Descent into Hell is to Williams' Christian spiritual reflection.
3 vote paradoxosalpha | Sep 26, 2015 |
See the full review here-- http://diamondlovestoread.blogspot.com/2013/04/rihanna-music-video-review-of-sea...

Review: I loved this book. After thinking of my feelings of this beautiful novel I kept having trouble in a way I hadn't before. This novel causes a lot of introspection and it's very spiritual and New Age. I had to continually remind myself it was written in the 1930s. So if I were to write a review about how this book made me feel and what it did to me-- I'd be revealing the most intimate aspects of my soul. And well, I love you all but I'm just not comfortable with that. Suffice it to say that I found the ideas presented as nothing short of amazing. I am in love with Dion's hero, Wilfred Maxwell. She mentions in her introduction that she wrote him with flaws because her characters are more real that way. I loved him with his flaws, his temper and funny way of dealing with things endeared me to him quite a bit. He was magnetic. His love for the sea priestess, Morgan Le Fay was so heartbreaking and enchanting. She reminded me of myself a bit. Their dynamic and relationship can be summed up in a song that has been playing in my mind ever since I finished the book. It perfectly matches what their relationship is and I just find it actually jives really well with the book in general. Now I have never simply played a song and the lyrics for a review before, but it seems like a cool idea and it's my blog so I can do these fun things. I'm so glad I picked this book up at the library bookstore. Ill forever cherish it and read it again. If you want a book that is provides insight about spirituality and the duality dynamic between male and female, and speaks of goddesses-- while all the while establishing the origins of what we call New Age now..read this book. 5/5 stars. A new favorite.

Music video-- Rihanna's Stay feat. Mikky Ekko
Here's the link it's not letting me embed the video--- http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=plpp&v=JF8BRvqGCNs

Oh, and you know what's super crazy? This song Stay, resonated so much with me and the meaning of this book. Then I looked at the cover image on iTunes for her album, and see a magnificent photo of Rihanna showing the Goddess Isis under her breast. I was like HOLY CRAP no way! Coincidence? I don't know. Then again who has a tat of Isis, and sings a song that corresponds with a book based on the Goddess Isis and her embodiment in all women? One major point the book made was that as a woman if we channel the connection we have to ALL women, well...that's where the magic happens. Seems like this could be more than a coincidence. I swear I didn't know she had the tattoo when I linked the book to this song. I'm not too into rihanna before this. I like her, now I love her. Here are some pics of the amazing tattoo. 

( )
1 vote Diamond.Dee. | Jul 3, 2015 |
Fortune was a good writer, and I enjoyed this book, despite its getting bogged down periodically by overlong expositions of esoteric philosophy. When that happens, she loses her characters and their stories somewhat; when she gets back on track she is dead on.

This is not a complaint against the philosophy, just the tendency to try to make a book both a novel and a treatise. The good writing, and good story, however, outweigh this flaw, and when she gets going, Fortune is really something. ( )
1 vote thesmellofbooks | Nov 22, 2012 |
Originally written (and self-published) in 1938, this novel is filled with wonder and wisdom. Wilfred Maxwell as a character is a superb representation of human nature at its most paradoxical. From his on-going battle with his narrow minded, domineering sister, to his passion for the mysterious Vivien Le Fay Morgan and his tenderness for the young Molly, Wilfred’s spiritual growth is as fascinating as his sly wit is hilarious.

The style of the novel is a free-flowing and deep as the sea itself. When one remembers that it was written in the early part of the 20th century, it’s all the more remarkable for the forward- thinking philosophies and topics it touches on. And yet the wisdom contained in those philosophies are as ancient as ocean from which all life emerged.

The first 70% of the story swept me along with vivid imagery, excellent characterisation and profound ideas which are often lacking in today’s stories.

There was a section near the end of the story – where the occult rites were described in a lecturing tone, rather than a story telling one – where my interest waned, but in the last 10% of the novel, dealing with the aftermath of Wilfred & Molly’s experience with the mysterious Priest of the Moon, the pace picked up again.

The strength of this novel lies in Fortune’s compassionate understanding and insight into human nature. Her esoteric knowledge adds depth and imagination to a most unusual and interesting read. ( )
1 vote JudyCroome | Nov 2, 2011 |
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The Sea Priestess is the highly acclaimed novel in which Dion Fortune introduces her most powerful fictional character, Vivien Le Fay Morgan- a practicing initiate of the Hermetic Path. Vivien has the ability to transform herself into magical images, and here she becomes Morgan Le Fay, sea priestess of Atlantis and foster daughter to Merlin! Desperately in love with Vivien, Wilfred Maxwell works by her side at an isolated seaside retreat, investigating these occult mysteries. They soon find themselves inextricably drawn to an ancient cult through which they learn the esoteric significance of the magnetic ebb and flow of the moontides.
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