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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > The Sea Priestess Search

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Book Review:
The Sea Priestess

Author: Dion Fortune
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 1935, 2003
List: US$14.95
ISBN: 1578632900
Price & More Info: Click Here

I have two confessions to make to start this review - First, as is obvious from the copyright data cited above, this is not a new book; Second, this is not the first time I have read this book (although it has been more than 20 years, so it might as well have been)

Dion Fortune wrote in a time when things were very different; a time between wars; a time when esoteric matters were held closely and not discussed in public. The proliferation of texts on magical matters could not have been imagined. Secret societies were just that - secret. Their activities were not even hinted at beyond the membership.

The nonfiction that she wrote was, to describe it politely, barely informative. Things were hinted at, but no examples of actual works were given, it wasn't considered proper to put that information before the public. Her fiction works contained the examples of practical working, safely "hidden" in the guise of a novel. Her book The Mystical Qabalah dovetails nicely with the information in this book. It provides the theory, while The Sea Priestess provides rituals to apply that theoretical information.

Of course, as a psychologist, she had to be most circumspent. It would do her professional reputation no good if she appeared too involved in unorthodox beliefs. Still, her profession gave her an understanding of the human mind and allowed her to cloak many of her teachings in ways which would be acceptable to the public. She did the precaution of writing under a nom-de-plume (besides, Dion Fortune sounds more appealing to my ears than Violet Firth).

Her descriptions are vivid. If you allow her words to seep into you, you can see, hear, and smell what she is describing. However, I have to warn you that if you are looking for a novel full of "magical warfare," dueling magicians, and lots of Hollywood-style special effects, you are going to be disappointed. This book was written as a teaching novel. It is "Occult Fiction," but has no hint of an "action novel" about it. It is not a thriller in any sense of the word. It was not designed to appeal to the masses, but to a select audience instead. There is no violence; there are no mysteries; no action sequences. It is, by modern standards, very tame. No sexual innuendo covering furtive gropings. So why read it?

There are a number of good reasons to read this book. First of all, it was written before the modern occult revival, so it draws from older sources. Secondly, the author was a competent magician in her own right. Thirdly, as a psychologist, she had a real feel for what makes humankind tick. Finally, it contains very clear accounts of rituals which many practitioners today would be well advised to perform - it might help out the world situation.

If, like me, you read this book many years ago, it may be time to pick it up once again and rediscover forgotten truths. It amazed me how much more I got from this latest reading of this novel.

If you have never read it before, you might be surprised at the amount of information contained in this book. Some of that information has made its way into some of the "traditional" teachings given to Wiccan students today (often without any acknowledgement of the source of said information, I might add).

It is well worth the cost, as are any other books by this author. I recommend that you add this book to your library, or at least to your list of books to borrow and read. I must warn you, however, that if you loan it out, you may need to get another copy. They tend to disappear.

Reviewed by Mike Gleason

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