The Magical Cosmology of Rosaleen Norton

Authors

  • Nevill Stuart Drury Independent scholar

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/pome.v12i2.208

Keywords:

Paganism, Western magic, Occultism, Australia, Witchcraft

Abstract

This article explores the magical cosmology of the controversial Australian witch and trance artist Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979). Within the social context of post-World War Two Australia, Norton was unquestionably an unconventional figure at a time when the local population was approximately 80 per cent Christian. Norton claimed to be an initiated follower of the Great God Pan and also revered Hecate, Lilith and Lucifer. Norton claimed to encounter these mythic beings as experientially real on the ‘inner planes’ which she accessed while in a state of self-induced trance. Many of her most significant artworks were based on these magical encounters. Influenced by a range of visionary traditions, including Kundalini Yoga, Kabbalah, medieval Goetia and the Thelemic magick of Aleister Crowley, Norton embraced a magical perspective that would today be associated with the so-called ‘Left-Hand Path’, although this term was not one she used to describe her work or philosophy. Norton’s artistic career began in the 1940s, with publication of some of her earliest occult drawings, and reached a significant milestone in 1952 when the controversial volume The Art of Rosaleen Norton – co-authored with her lover, the poet Gavin Greenlees – was released in Sydney, immediately attracting a charge of obscenity. Norton rapidly acquired a media-led reputation as the wicked ‘Witch of Kings Cross’, was vilified by journalists during the 1950s and 1960s, and was branded by many as demonic. But Norton’s magical approach was not entirely ‘dark’. Her perception that the Great God Pan provided a source of universal vitality led her to revere Nature as innately sacred, and in many ways she can be regarded as a significant forerunner of those Wiccans and Goddess worshippers from a later generation who would similarly embrace the concept of sacred ecology and seek to ‘re-sacralize’ the Earth.

Author Biography

Nevill Stuart Drury, Independent scholar

Nevill Drury is an independent researcher whose specialist interests include contemporary Western magic, shamanism and visionary art. For many years he worked in the Australian book industry as an editor and art book publisher and in 2008 he received his PhD from the University of Newcastle for a dissertation on Rosaleen Norton and the Western esoteric tradition. His publications include The New Age: The History of a Movement (Thames & Hudson, 2004); The Dictionary of Magic (Watkins, 2005); Homage to Pan: the Life, Art and Sex Magic of Rosaleen Norton (Creation Oneiros, 2009) and most recently Stealing Fire from Heaven: the Rise of Modern Western Magic (Oxford University Press, 2011).

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Published

2011-06-05

How to Cite

Drury, N. S. (2011). The Magical Cosmology of Rosaleen Norton. Pomegranate, 12(2), 208–238. https://doi.org/10.1558/pome.v12i2.208

Section

Articles