Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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'It Was Witch-Magic, Of Course'

 We've All Been Threading Needles Wrong This Whole Time | Mental Floss


Considering Dion Fortune's outsized impact on generations of modern witches and their magical practice, it's a little surprising that, throughout her oeuvre, she makes very few direct references to witches or their craft.

When she does, though, what she says is bang on.

In her 1956 novel Moon Magic, Rupert Malcom, the magical partner of the protagonist, über-adept, and DF-stand-in Lilith LeFay has gone willful-missing, and she wants him back.


Then an idea struck me, and I began to sew at Malcolm's robes. It was witch-magic, of course, but I did not see any reason to be ashamed of it (174).


I'm no Dion Fortune scholar (frankly, I find her non-fiction unreadable), but the distinction that she's drawing here seems pretty clear: the difference between “High” and “Low” Magic. The former works, on the astral, with symbols and psychic forces, the latter with actual (gasp) things on the physical plane, where Laws of Magic like Sympathy and Contagion pertain. It's the difference between mental magic and physical magic. It's the difference between Seeking Enlightenment and Cultural Transformation and (as poet T. S. Eliot once put it) “getting a cow out of bog.”

Witches screw. Magickians (“Who put the 'icky' in 'magickian'?” a playful friend of mine always used to ask) have “magickal” congress on the astral, joining essences. Fortune's novels are filled with characters working with sexual forces who never actually have sex. At the risk of being catty, I have to wonder just how much autobiography and compensatory justification we're seeing here for Fortune's failed marriage to the philandering Penry Evans.

(Fortune herself was well aware of this, of course. Her ultimate goal, as she says in the self-same novel, was to lift the burdens unjustly borne "in a world that has forgotten the holiness of the Great Horned One" (214). Now there's some Witch-think for you.)

In the end, of course, LeFay's witch-magic does its work, the wayward Malcom returns, and their joint magical congress continues. Well, witch-magic works, as even Lilith LeFay/Dion Fortune admits. At its best—talk about a joining of worlds—"low" witchery can be just as symbolic, psychic, and astral as “High” Magic.

We just get to have a lot more fun while we're doing it.




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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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