The Sea Priestess

Mar 17th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Book Reviews, Books

The Sea Priestess is the title of a highly acclaimed novel, self published in 1938 by Dion Fortune. The protagonist of the story is a mild mannered gentleman and lonely bachelor, Wilfred, who meets Vivien, a veiled priestess who presents herself as a wealthy heiress in search of a seaside property. Wilfred becomes instantly enchanted by the mysterious Vivien, and offers to help her construct a Sea Temple to reenact the occult arts of Atlantis on the coast of England.  The pair soon find themselves inextricably drawn in to a pagan religion through which they learn the esoteric significance of the moon phases and the magnificent power of the sea.

Wilfred comes to know Vivien as a Sea Priestess from the lost isle of Atlantis. She also appears to be a reincarnation of Morgan Le Fay, of Arthurian legend. Morgan was first written of in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini. Her name is likely derived from Old Welsh or Old Breton Morgen, meaning “Sea-born”. In Vita Merlini, Morgan is described as the chief of nine magical queen sisters who dwell on the isle of Avalon. Geoffrey might have been inspired by the 1st-century Roman cartographer Pomponius Mela, who described an oracle at the Île de Sein off the coast of Brittany and its nine virgin priestesses believed by the Gauls to have the powers of curing disease and performing various other marvelous magic, such as controlling the sea through incantations, foretelling future, and changing themselves into any animal.

Avalon’s ruling Queen Morgan has been substantially linked with the goddess Modron, a figure derived from the continental Dea Matrona and featured with some frequency in medieval Welsh literature. The Gaulish theonym Mātr-on-ā signifies “great mother.” The oldest written record of Avalon is from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, 1136 CE. It is known as “the island of apples” because it produces enough fruit to sustain the inhabitants without need of agriculture. The nine sisters who rule the island bestow peace and happiness to all their loyal subjects. Medieval geographers tried to pinpoint the location of this island as somewhere in the Mediterranean, or among the Canary Islands. Despite their efforts, a physical location could not be found.

Norse mythology also speaks of a sacred island, accessed by crossing the rainbow as a bridge. Apples are symbols of eternal youth in Norse mythology, doled out by the goddess Idun. The Norse gods have access to these apples, and thereby never age.

In Greek mythology, the Blessed Isles are winterless earthly paradise islands reserved for those who had become pure through successive incarnations. Pliny the Elder said that the isles “abound in fruit and birds of every kind”. Procopius names one of the islands Brittia and says that “They imagine that the souls of the dead are transported to that island. On the coast of the continent … fishers and farmers, whose duty it is to ferry the souls over. This duty they take in turn.”

In Irish mythology, Mag Mell is a paradise island populated by gods and goddesses, and occasionally visited by some adventurous mortals. It was visited by various Irish heroes and monks forming the basis of the Adventure Myth or “echtrae” of Early Irish Literature. This faerie realm is a place where sickness and death do not exist. It is a place of eternal youth and beauty, pictured as a green and fertile island in perpetual summer. It may be accessed by travelling across the sea, or underground through the Sídhe mounds. It was believed that one hundred Earthly years passed as a day in Faerieland.

The divine ruler of this enchanted realm is known as the Faerie Queen. In Irish folklore she was called Oona, Oonagh, Una, or Uonaidh. In Northern England and Lowland Scotland she was called the Queen of Elphame. Shakespeare called her Titania, and Spenser called her Gloriana. Arthurian texts name her Morgen, Morgaine, Morganna, Morgant, Morgue, or Morgan Le Fay.

Dion Fortune wrote of Morgan Le Fay as a seemingly mortal woman in The Sea Priestess. In this work of fiction, Fortune recounts her own spiritual experiences, having vivid flashbacks of past life memories since early childhood. She received esoteric teachings from spiritual beings known as Ascended Masters, which she passed on through  her occult society, the Fraternity of the Inner Light.

Fortune was confident that the end of World War II would mark the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. She planned on bringing together all of Europe’s occultists to pool their knowledge, and possibly unite occult groups with the Spiritualist movement. She corresponded with the infamous ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley, praising him as “a genuine adept” despite the many differences between their respective occult philosophies. Through trance mediumship, Fortune channeled messages from an entity known as “the Shemesh of the Aquarian Age”, who presented the Arthurian myths as memories that had been passed down from Atlantis, having been brought to Britain by Atlantean settlers after the cataclysm that destroyed their island. Fortune understood that Atlantis lived on as the otherworldly isle of Avalon. Taking up residence in Glastonbury, she confirmed the Tor as an earthly gateway to Avalon.

Since then, a Goddess Temple has been established in Glastonbury to fascilitate training for priestesses of Avalon. The Goddess is seen in the form of nine sisters who stand in a circle to represent the ever turning wheel of Earth’s seasons and the elements at work. In her Oceanic form she is known as Domnu, Lady of the Deep.

“And then there came to me a vision of the sea as the source of all things, I saw her lay down the sedimentary rocks and withdraw and leave them land; I saw the slow process of the lichens and the weather that broke down the rocks into soil; I saw the sea rise and take them again as primordial slime; and in that slime arose the first life. And I saw life come ashore from the slime and grow feet and wings. Then I knew why Morgan worshipped the sea, for it is the first of created things, and nearer to the primordial than anything else.” p.186 of The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune.

It is to this ancient priesteshood which several seekers are drawn today. They are remembering their ancient role, and prepare the way for a return to the Old Religion in the New Age. This is the path of the Sea Priestess.

By the Sea ~ Annika Vatten ©

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