Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune

The Sea Priestess

by Dion Fortune

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
351831,129 (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.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 7 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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 |
This is a hard one to rate. There were times where I thought it was one of the most beautiful, amazing books I’d ever read. But there were other times where it dragged, notably the overlong denouement that was less enjoyable - and the rather dense writing is not helped by the formatting of this particular edition (published by Weiser) that has justified borders and tight single-spacing. The main character, Wilfred Maxwell, is stuck in the time period it was written (1930s) so some of his actions/attitudes prove problematic to a modern reader - weirdly, it is as the novel progresses that he gets harder to take.

Dion Fortune was a British occultist who’s writing and philosophies were influential in shaping modern Wicca. Her work has inspired Doreen Vailente and novelist Marion Zimmer Bradley. I had also heard, prior to reading this, that she used her novels as a way of giving examples for the occult practices/philosophies found in her other writing. So I found it interesting, first of all just for those aspects. But her writing is quite lovely on its own. Even if you don’t know the history, I believe there is a lot to be enjoyed in this novel.

First, the good: I found The Sea Priestess enchanting, with its gentle leisurely pace, depictions of the English coast and the stormy sea, the old fort being transformed into a temple and Wilfred and the enigmatic Morgran Le Fay’s curious relationship. Wilfred was a character I found very believable and easily relatable when we first meet him. Morgan Le Fay was distant and strange, but then she is supposed to be and that is all part of the fun.

Wilfred is a quiet man, trapped in a decent but boring job in a tiny English town where he supports his bitter and unpleasant sister and mother and has never really had the chance to have a life of his own. After developing asthma and having an out-of-body experience as a result of the attacks and medication he begins to cautiously explore some esoteric writings. He also gains a little space from his domineering family by relocating to an old set of stables and turning them into a cozy home for himself.

These small steps set him on the path to be ready for his meeting with Vivien Le Fay Morgan (later called Morgan Le Fay) a woman who should be ancient but appears beautiful and intensely mysterious. She enlists Wilfred to help her transform an old abandoned fort by the sea into a temple to the gods of the sea. Wilfred begins to experience visions, wherein a past life she was a priestess from Atlantis who journeyed to England to perform human scarifies to the sea to save Wilfred’s people and he was one of the sacrifices. She was also the Morgan Le Fay from Arthurian legend.

Unfortunately, Wilfred by the end of the novel is strangely unsympathetic. Although we modern readers can cheer him for standing up to his domineering relatives, it is much less comfortable for us when he, say, smacks his sister in the face. And although I liked that he used Morgan’s teachings to then in turn help Molly grow, there was something condescending and just . . . odd? in his feelings towards her. I really could have done without the long Wilfred/Molly denouement.

Some quotes:

”And I saw that man’s life is spun like a thread between irresistible forces that with a breath could destroy him, but that nevertheless, from them he draws his strength.

For there is in the earth a reservoir of elemental force, just as there is a fountain of life beyond the far stars, and from the violence of the sea the violence of man’s own nature draws its energy even as he draws breath from the air, for all things are but one thing at the last analysis and there is no part of us that is not of the gods.”

”Then I saw why there must be priestesses as well as priests; for there is a dynamism in a woman that fecundates the emotional nature of a man as surely as he fecundates her physical body; this was a thing forgotten by modern civilization which stereotypes and conventionalizes all things and forgets the Moon, Our Lady of Flux and Reflux.” (p. 136)

”It is women like Morgan Le Fay, who will not give themselves to any man completely, who are best-loved, not the women who give their all. Love is one of those things in which to travel hopefully is better than to arrive. (p.136)

”There is a curious power in silence when you think alike without word spoken and each knows the other’s thoughts. As long as nothing is said, the thing you are thinking remains in another dimension and is magical, but as soon as you speak it, you lose it. It is the old story of the jewels bought in the goblin market, which you must only look at by moonlight or you find them to be a handful of dead leaves.” (p.153) ( )
1 vote catfantastic | Aug 17, 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
The keeping of a diary is usually reckoned a vice in one's contemporaries though a virtue in one's ancestors.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
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.
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
16 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (3.99)
1 1
3 14
3.5 6
4 21
4.5 3
5 18

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 116,067,549 books! | Top bar: Always visible