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4.2 out of 5 stars
Sea Priestess
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 1998
When estate agent Wilfred Maxwell is recovering from severe asthma his mind opens up to new psychic currents .Then he meets the ageless Vivien Le Fay Morgan and helps her turn an old fort by the sea into a temple.Vivien is a Priestess of Isis from an ancient Moon cult.She initiates Wilfred on the inner planes in her magical rituals.She teaches him the esoteric significance of the magnetic ebb and flow of the moontides.After Vivien mysteriously disappears Wilfred marries the homely Molly.Because "All women are Isis", Molly is able to learn the rituals and perform them with Wilfred.The mystic power of the sea is evoked in this novel and pervades the whole story. Some regard this as not only Dion Fortune's best novel, but the best occult novel ever written.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2010
Dion Fortune wrote what is often considered to be one of the best introductions to Hermetic Qabalah, 'The Mystical Qabalah'. Excellent though it is, it presents only half the picture - something Fortune herself was keen to point out. The key to understanding that book is found instead in her fiction writing. 'The Sea Priestess' is one such novel. It presents the keys to understanding the 9th Sephirah of the Qabalah, Yesod.

The book is often sited as an influence on modern paganism and especially, modern Witchcraft - and you can see why. The lead character of Morgan Le Faye makes for an alluring role model. However, hermetic and alchemical teachings are very often presented as stories or symbols because they are meant to set your mind in motion - they aren't meant to be taken literally, as concrete reality. The real lessons in this book are alluded to through the relationship between Wilfred and Morgan, but it's the later relationship between Wilfred and Molly that really delivers the goods.

So we have two levels to this book. 1. It's a good, easy to read piece of new age fiction. Yes, the language is a bit dated now (it was written in the 1930's after all) but none the less entertaining for it, and the story jogs along at a good pace. All told, not a bad read. 2. It's a cleverly presented initiation into the mysteries of one of the spheres of the Qabalah, and in a world of 'pop' magic and spirituality type books, fake guru's and 'positive thinking', that makes it invaluable to me. Just don't forget to get hold of 'The Mystical Qabalah' as well. And remember, you're not so much reading a book as receiving a lesson from the Inner Planes - if you can read between the lines.....
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2008
I had expected this book to be a bit on the `stuffy' side as it was written quite some time ago, but I was quite wrong. The book was recommended to me by a friend who is also interested in pagan/esoteric thinking. The story is told from the point of view of a chap called Wilfred Maxwell and how he meets with a mysterious woman, whose name changes throughout the book from Vivienne Le Fay Morgan to Morgan Le Fay - a reference to King Arthur's witchy sister - and then to just Morgan.

I found the book to be an easy read apart from when it launches into the`mystical' rituals. Then the going becomes a bit harder, but mainly, I think, because the ritualistic descriptions seem to be just random esoteric words thrown together until you're not sure what's happening. I really do think that when people try to describe ritual workings they over complicate it. The reader is left thinking either `wow, pagan beliefs really are mysterious!' or `that made no sense whatsoever,' which doesn't do much for paganism. Who wants to study something they can't make head nor tail of?

Parts of the book did make me laugh - Dion Fortune had a great sense of humour - and other parts, where she describes how marriage should not be a sticky plaster to cover up the `sins' of sex are a breath of fresh air. She really was a radical thinker of her time who was unwilling to be constrained by common social beliefs. The over-complicating of ritual is the only thing that spoilt this book for me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2008
The Sea priestess is one of my most favourite of Dion Fortunes 'novels'. For those able to read between the lines and familiar with Dion Fortunes work, these are more than 'novels'..there are many occult treasures to be gleaned should the prospective treasure hunter look in the right places. I have bought copies of the Sea Priestess for those who have expressed an interest in the occult path, it charts a beautiful map and dance between the masculine and the feminine and how they can work together on many levels. For those who enjoy the Sea Priestess, i also would highly recommend 'Moon Magic' the sequel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2014
Dion Fortune was a woman of substance; a truly radical thinker of her time and deeply spiritual. The novels are unusual in they they are purpose built 'how to's' to make her occult non fiction more accessible. As such the plots are thin but Fortune made no apology for that and so the fact that, as novels, her writings were strange and in some ways underdeveloped, is more understood. However the mysticism that Fortune reveals more than makes up for it and she does reveal much to those that would see. In that way I think her work is really beautiful because it acts like a mirror- beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. In this book we are introduced to Miss Vivien Le Fay Morgan, later to appear as Lilith La Fey Morgan in Fortunes's even more beautiful sequel, 'Moon Magic'. Miss Morgan leads a life solely devoted to the cause of her work and as such has no attachments for herself, no friends, no partner, no children. Now that is a pretty radical thought to begin with. Her magic is much stronger that way and she 'interacts' with Wilfrid in a symbiotic way to further both their lives. He is in love with her and she remains distant from him, but by the time she leaves, she has influenced a young girl they both know to become enough like herself that Wilfrid marries her and is happy. In this way she resembles the 'Mary Poppins' type character that was in turn itself inspired by Sufism- she comes in and fixes things and then leaves, but, unlike Mary Poppins, this lady uses her magic to further herself by those interactions as well. This kind of non attachment philosophy is prevalent in Eastern doctrines and Jedi teachings- also pretty radical. If we are to study the life of Miss Morgan as a woman walking the path of Isis, we begin to get an idea of just how exotic a bird that might be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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.

(This review is for the Kindle edition)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2014
This is a book that I wish I had bought as a real book instead of the Kindle version as it's actually way too good for just the Kindle. I have read this twice now since I bought it and it's become one of my absolute favourite books of all time. I see other reviewers think the style of writing to be old fashioned and stuffy but I love old stories from that era anyway and like the way it's written a lot. I'm definitely not any kind of occult expert but I personally found this book to be deeply magical and I think it's the kind of book that reveals more of itself each time you go back to it. I don't actually think it matters if you know anything about the magical side of things. Anybody could read this story and enjoy it as it is. It's just a really beautiful story that makes me want to go and live in a house by the sea, spending the summer evenings dancing around fires built with juniper wood beneath the stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2009
This book took me back into the ancient occult world awakening things inside me that I did not know was there. I really really loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2014
Well not much happens for the first third of the book, which is a bit of a drag, but then things start to get interesting, and all the action is in the last third of the book. It is a beautiful story with some poignant truths. Trust me, it's worth reading through the slow start to get to the good bits.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 September 2010
This book is awesome and a must for anyone who loves Marion Zimmer Bradley's mist of avalon!
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