Sunday, 29 April 2012

Dion Fortune and Maiya Tranchell Hayes

Two key shadowy figures skirt fleetingly and mysteriously around the history of the Society of the Inner Light. The level of influence the two had on the Society’s development is unlikely to ever come fully into the light of day. However, there have been some chinks in the curtains over the past few years which have let enough light through to enable us to have a clearer picture of both characters. I shall take a look at the first and perhaps most influential of these figures before moving on to the Hibernian Adept in my next blog entry.

The industrious Alan Richardson has written a little about Maiya Tranchell Hayes, the first of these initiates, in his 2009 book “Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune – the Logos and the Shakti of the Age” (Llewellyn Worldwide).  Alan suggests that Maiya may have been the inspiration for the main heroine in Dion Fortune's classic novel, "The Sea Priestess," based around Brean Down pictured below.  The first photograph taken on a trip there some twenty years ago shows the view of the sea from the walk out to the fort. The second photograph shows the ruins of the old fort looking out to the sea. Gareth Knight is another writer who has briefly touched upon this individual’s influence in “Dion Fortune and the Inner Light” (Thoth Publications).

Maiya's given name at birth was Mabel Gertrude Beauchamp. The daughter of a solicitor, Robert Henry Beauchamp, and Gertrude Jane Beauchamp, she was born in Dublin on the 12th of February 1876. Mabel's paternal grandfather was an Edward Melling Beauchamp who had been born in Dublin in 1812. It is unclear what his career was. However, her maternal grandfather was none other than the Honourable Justice Edmund Bradshaw Hayes. Edmund was a top notch lawyer and writer. A picture of his gravestone is shown below.

Mabel was one of three daughters and one son born into the family - Edward, Hilda and Ethel. Edward and Hilda both died within a year of birth. However, Mabel's sister, Ethel, married career military man George Johnston Stoney Lt. Col. Archer in 1899 and lived thereafter in the spa town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. They had four children.

Mabel's first marriage to doctor Dr John Curtis Webb, the son of a Commander in the Royal Navy, took place on the 30th June 1898 in St Stephen's Church, Dublin. She wore a white satin dress with a long skirt of Limerick lace and a veil over orange blossoms. The veil was fastened with three diamond stars, while she wore a diamond and sapphire bracelet and a diamond and pearl pendant.

John had been born on the 29th October 1868 in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales. At the time of the marriage he was living at 7 Drayton Terrace on the Old Brompton Road in London, while she lived at 25 Fitzwilliam Square, London. Both of their fathers attended the wedding as witnesses.

For at least some of the time she seems to have lived a charmed life in her London Alpha et Omega days in London with as many as 5 servants at times. A photograph of one of her many book ownership plates is shown here. Husband John was well regarded in the London medical circuit and while practising also published some work such as"Electro-therapy; its rationale and indications." However, her first marriage to John finished on the grounds of his alleged infidelity in 1927. 

At some stage John moved to Clarendon Villas in the fashionable and well-heeled Pittville Gates area of Cheltenham Spa. He continued to practice as a Radiologist at Cheltenham General Hospital, dying on the 23rd of May 23 1949, aged 80 years. Mabel is known to have remained associated with the Cotswolds, perhaps because her sister Ethel lived there on the Old Bath Road. Mabel is mentioned in one of the local newspapers on 25th June 1937 as being one of the exhibitors at the Cotswold Art Club's Sixth Annual Exhibition. Sculpture exhibited by her is referred to as being "high in artistic merit", while she herself is referred to as being a "very talented artist". Her sister Ethel was also well known locally for her artistic endeavours.

In 1928, not long after their divorce, she re-married. This time her marriage was to another doctor, the psychiatrist Dr Edmund Duncan Tranchell Hayes (pictured below).

Born on the 31st of January 1891 in Clanwilliam, Cape Town, South Africa, Edmund qualified as a doctor at Trinity College, Dublin. From 1910 to 1919 he served with the R.A.M.C. and became medical officer for the 1st Battalion, the Northamptionshire Regiment in 1917. Later, after the Great War, he practised in a number of places including Croydon Mental Health Hospital in 1920 and Berrywood, Northamptonshire some 6 years later. Mabel and Edmund spent much of their time travelling to places as diverse and far afield as South Africa, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

Francis Israel Regardie writes that he recalls visiting the Tranchell Hayes on occasions in the 1930s in Worcester. Regardie claims he was taught the hypnosis skills he used later in his practice by Edmund on these visits.

Edmund died prematurely at the age of 49, on the 8th of February 1940, in Berrywood, Northamptonshire, where he had worked his way up through the medical hierarchy to be the Medical Superintendent. An old photograph of the hospital is shown below.

From an anecdotal story told to me some years ago, Edmund was thought to have worked occasionally at Powick Asylum, a Mental Health Institution between Malvern Spa and Edward Elgar's cathedral city of Worcester.  Powick, pictured below, was one of the first, if not the first UK hospital to treat mental health patients with LSD in the 1960s. The hospital has recently been turned into a relatively expensive housing development for professionals - accountants, GPs and business managers! Regrettably I have not been able to find any substantiating evidence to support the story that Edmund occasionally worked in Powick, but it would certainly fit in with Regardie's recollections.


After her second husband died, Tranchell Hayes lived in 27a Kensington Square, West London, in the 1940s before she died in December 1948. It is interesting to note that details of her last will and testament were published on the 13th September 1949 in the Gloucestershire Echo, Cheltenham Spa's daily newspaper. A copy of the print is shown below. Readers may be particularly interested to know that in it she said, "To Charles Richard Cammell ... my book by John Dee and Nostradamus and Theomagia by John Hayden." Now Charles Cammell was the publisher of Light Magazine, a leading Spiritualist journal of the day. Notably he was also a friend of Dion Fortune's, having attended a number of her inner lodge workings  at 3QT circa 1941/2. 

Maiya had previously re-emerged in Fortune’s life in the early 1940s, if not earlier, possibly the late 1930s.  Attending lodge meetings of the Fraternity anonymously, she would enter the temple fully robed up, with her face fully veiled before the other brethren arrived, departing only after they had left. On these occasions she typically sat on the Eastern dais - the place of regeneration and "the morning world of divine inspiration".

It is from the nexus of Tranchell Hayes’ work with Fortune and "Chris" W.K.Creasy in the early 1940’s that the Inner Light’s Arthurian workings appear to have solidified, later to be given a guarded public airing in Knight’s “The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend” (Aquarian Press and shortly to be re-released by Skylight Press). Some would, not unreasonably, argue that this early work and the later development by Margaret Lumley Brown and other unsung initiates were largely responsible for the Arthurian blossoming of the 1980s and beyond.  

There are very few records of or about Tranchell Hayes currently available in the public domain. No photographs exist of her in the public domain. However, due to the forethought and somewhat obsessive collecting nature of a certain landed gentleman from outside Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, I have been fortunate enough to be left a copy of her 1st and 2nd Degree Cromlech Temple documentation which includes a number of instruction papers and rituals on the following:

-          Order of the Ritual for the Initiation by Five
-          Instruction paper on the Divine Names of the 1st grade initiation
-          Order of the Ritual for the Lodge of Instruction
-          The Mystery of the Soul's Path
-          The Circle Ritual and various appendices
-          A Beltane ritual
-          The Office of Benediction
-          Ritual Advancement from the 1st to 2nd grade
-          On association of the First Five
-          Paper concerning Initiation
-          Notes concerning the 2nd Grade
-          Notes on the constitution and role of the Order
-          Notes on the Ritual of Initiation
-          The Second Grade and supplementaries
-          Teachings and practices relating to the aura

The 3rd Degree, which allegedly deals with themes of Avalon and Glastonbury is not included. I'm not sure whether this is because she wasn't ever initiated as a 3rd Degree within the Cromlech Temple or whether it was held back for some other purpose. Some of the material is truly inspired and beautiful. Other pieces of it are hard-going, clunky and occasionally verbose.

Very interestingly, and, as Alan Richardson points out, like something that could have come out of a scene from The Sea Priestess, in 1966 a box of Tranchell Hayes’ Golden Dawn regalia was mysteriously found washed up on the Sussex shoreline at the beach between Selsey Bill and Bracklesham Bay. Amongst other things it contained quarter banners, embroidered stoles and headresses. It is believed that the box had been buried in a cliff-side garden which subsequently subsided into the sea, only to be washed up later for all and sundry to see. The matter was reported in the media. A photograph taken of the finds from The Telegraph is shown below. Somewhat misleadingly, the article was entitled, "Witch's Box Found on Beach". I often wonder what Maiya would have thought of that!

It is not known what happened to Maiya's Golden Dawn regalia after this. One suggestion was that it ended up at least temporarily in the possession of Doreen Valiente, the well-known Wiccan who died in 1999, before it was passed to others. I have no evidence to support this suggestion. 

Photographs of Maiya plus a number of her personal letters to well-known occult personalities of the time remain jealously hoarded in private possession in a manner which Tolkien's Smaug would be content with.  Some of these include to members of the Crowley's AA such as Jane Wolfe. Perhaps more will become available about this intriguing lady as the years continue to pass and we enter a more open Aquarian Age? I truly hope so!

Postcript - Halloween 2015

Readers may be also be interested in a later post including some of Maiya's inspired writing on the Signs of the Zodiac -


  1. Any way you will be making available some of her "inspired and beautiful" writings in the future? :-)

  2. Dear Celtic Fire, I've been trying to discover how to get in touch with you. I'm doing some research on DF. You can find me over on the FB page about her. Thank you for your inspiring and thoughtful writing, have loved every word - and now I know why I loved Catweazle so much as a kid too! :)


The Springtime of Dion Fortune

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