Book Reviews
The Winged Bull: Dion Fortune
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on The Winged Bull: Dion Fortune
The Winged Bull: Dion Fortune

Picture this: London, some years after WW1, in the grip of a pea-souper such as we haven’t seen for goodness knows how long. Ted Murchison, ex-army officer, down on his luck, unemployed, disillusioned with God, finds himself communing wordlessly with the great winged bull in the British Museum. Outside again, the fog as thick as ever, Murchison first cries aloud in his imagination to the winged bull. Then: ‘Murchison stood alone in the fog-bound darkness of the forecourt of the British Museum and cried aloud, “Evoe, Iacchus! Io Pan, Pan! Io Pan!” And echo answered “Io Pan!” But a voice that was not an echo also answered, “Who is this that invokes the Great God Pan?”‘

One of my favourite first chapters of all time! The voice belongs to Brangwyn, an occultist and magician, who coincidentally just happens to be Murchison’s old and much-loved CO. He enlists Murchison’s help in freeing his sister from a damaging occult attachment, and sets him on a course that will either be the making or the death of him.

The novel and writing feel quite dated now; these were the days before political correctness was thought of ( it was first published in 1936), but if you can cope with that aspect, which seems to touch on so many parts of the life between these covers, especially the roles designated to male and female, the book is revealing and informative. Ideas we now attribute to Graham Handcock and others are mentioned here, and there are many fascinating glimpses into Dion Fortune’s teachings and magickal practice.

I did find the constant on/off tension between Murchison and Brangwyn’s sister Ursula ( the name Ursula Brangwyn must have been deliberately chosen by Fortune to parallel the ideas of D.H. Lawrence in Women In Love; ie the right of a woman to choose her mate), slightly annoying at times, and – for me at least – stretched a little too far. Murchison often seems too sulky and untouchable, even though we’re allowed to see events through his eyes and know his reasons, and the sleazy characters who are out to get their hands on Ursula for the purposes of performing a Black Mass resemble caricatures. But there are some interesting insights to be gained – The Winged Bull is well worth a read, and one of the first pagan fiction classics.

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