Book Reviews
The Sea Priestess: Dion Fortune
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on The Sea Priestess: Dion Fortune
The Sea Priestess: Dion Fortune

The Sea Priestess is the best known of Dion Fortune’s novels, said to combine a good story with magickal teachings. I came to it anticipating an interesting read, and on the whole wasn’t disappointed. The main character, Wilfred Maxwell, is pretty much physically and emotionally disabled, having asthma and being somewhat under the domination of his mother and sister. The drugs he’s given to alleviate the asthma cause strange visions and lead him to experiment with achieving these in a waking state. When the strange and fascinating Morgan Le Fay arrives in the small town on the south west coast of England he recognises the sea priestess he saw in one of these visions. Morgan Le Fay draws him to her for purposes of her own and brings about a change in Wilfred that will have far-reaching consequences, both for himself and, (it is implied), for mankind in general.

The mores of the era in which the book was written were quite different from ours; this is very noticeable in Wilfred’s attitudes, and as the book progresses this makes him less than likeable. At times he’s downright crass if not petulant, yet when he’s waxing lyrical about his visions and the sea he seems like a different man. I found parts of the long sections dealing with ritual and esoteric theory somewhat preachy teachy, and irritating too. And it seemed odd that Morgan would have chosen Wilfred for her purpose (whatever that was, unless altruistically to develop the positive masculine side of his nature), since he seemed lacking in sensitivity, but I guess that was all part of his emotional repression. Dion Fortune’s male main characters do tend to be odd – I noticed it with Ted Murchison inĀ The Winged Bull as well. There’s a forward by the author in which she goes to great pains to explain this away as part of the restrictions of first person narrative, and leaving some of the work to the reader, as well as liking characters who are flawed, yet my own instinct is that, as a woman, she’s not quite under the skin of the opposite sex. Still, who the heck is?

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