The year following the end of the horrific First World War marked a pivotal time in the development of British Occultism. In 1919, Violet Mary Firth was initiated into the London A.·.O Lodge of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
It was at this point in her life that she made an important connection, for participating in the young Soror D.N.F.’s initiation was a certain Maiya Curtis Webb. Maiya’s magical motto at the time was, “Ex Fide Fortis,” essentially meaning, “Of Strong Faith,” and she is understood to have also become Violet’s superviser after her initiation. The two worked the Mysteries together on and off over the subsequent two and a half decades. Further biographical details from my earlier researches can be found here.
At the time, as is still customary in many magical groups nowadays, Violet was required to choose a Mystery Name by which she would be known to her fellow Brethren and also to the Inner Planes. Making a relatively unoriginal choice, she adopted the old Firth family’s crest motto of “Deo Non Fortuna.” I rather suspect that at the time she had no inkling whatsoever as to how, over the subsequent two and a half decades, she would come to be widely known as Dion Fortune, leaving a lasting legacy that still burns brightly as a beacon in the 21st Century.
In an earlier blog, I expressed a degree of frustration that, despite extensive research, so little appeared to be publically available about Dion Fortune’s important mentor. We seem to have plenty of great material to inform and inspire from Dion Fortune’s pen, but nothing whatsoever in the public domain from Maiya Curtis Webb, who was clearly a huge influence on her student. I was, therefore, delighted to be contacted via email recently by Alan Pert, author of the wonderful Red Cactus: the Life of Anna Kingsford. Alan very kindly signposted me to one of two surviving pieces of Maiya’s published writing. A few days later I uncovered a second piece, a short story by Maiya, which had also been published. This blog post is about the former. Part Two, following shortly, will deal with the latter. Until now I had wrongly assumed, like many others, that Maiya was a totally private person. Private to a degree, but not so much as to feel she couldn't publish a fictional occult story with her full name, or, a magical zodiacal treatise with her initials, in a journal with Trans-Atlantic distribution.
During 1917 and 1918, Maiya had been working on developing 12 original zodiacal rubrics. In 1919, the year of Violet Firth’s initiation into the A.·.O, Maiya submitted these for publication to Harry Strutton, the editor of The Occult Review. Fortunately, for posterity, Strutton liked them and agreed to publish them in Volume XXX of the Review.
It is an inspiring collection of writing which almost certainly will resonate with people working within the Inner Light tradition. I think the pieces would be great for individual meditation or even, with some adaptation, as a 12-month ritual cycle exploration of the Zodiacal Signs. They are really quite special and I wouldn't be surprised if they were mediumistically received by Maiya, rather than being consciously crafted pieces. They have that peculiar air to them!
I hope you enjoy exploring them.
March 23, I9I8
ARIES am I, the primal fire and life; the first manifestation and source of life. I am fire, I run through all living creatures. I come to all and take the form of many strange vessels, but to all I give life, the shape decides the mode of my expression.
I fire all passions and am on all planes.
Beware of giving me full play, for I will burn and destroy you. Control me and I purify.
I am all first causes.
Now I have full sway and am welcomed on Earth. Mars, my son, I have breathed forth to work his will. He burns and destroys, but do not obey him blindly.
When allowed to work in pure bodies I am life force, but who of you are pure and without egotism? That is what clogs my channels.
In time to come I will breathe into man the Air Fire which has naught to do with blood, or Fire of dross that destroys.
I quicken all in Nature. I am the birth of the divine spark.
I come as a lion, sweeping the old order of the Earth and its fruits away.
I am Life, Love, Radiance, Great Sounds, Gold, and the life of all metals.
Let me play in you as I will, and I will give you gladness and Life. Resist me and I am War and Blood. Follow my laws and I am all that is good and pure.
The great ones of the Earth are full of me, and if their souls are pure I can take them to high places, and when I withdraw from them I bring back to the Great Source an added lustre. But should they have proved unworthy then naught but dross is for me, and that I cannot take, but leave on earth to be redeemed by man with much sadness and sorrow, and then there are sounds of dirges and the voices of mourners. The joyful songs are stilled. Those only are sung when I return with fire revived. Passion of creation of all things - not only as you know it but the Great Creative Life Force of the Cosmos when stars come into being and Suns are born.
I can give life to things inanimate, provided their creator can let me flow through his fingers.
First of the Fire signs I am man's highest body; as my sister Cancer is controller and mother of the Fluid body.
So much have you to learn of us, and so little have you thought of us as Beings. Forms you have given us and not Life.
Ah, how little have you invited us to work for you or to be your friends. Now to you here we come with much love and many things to show and teach you.
I as the most violent and vital of the Lords of Heaven do hurt your bodies, for I do not understand their composition, but I take you (when I have destroyed those inferior forms) with a delicate fiery breath to the Great Lake of Golden Light that is in the Great Space beyond all Things.
I am an ever moving mist.
April 23, 1918
I Taurus speak. Great Mother of the Earth, from me comes all life. I am fertile. On my breast feed the flocks and herds, and from me come all living things. Great love of nature and humans, creative and possessive, for my love is personal and maternal. Isis, the horned Goddess holding the full moon, for in fulness I come.
Love, Love of mother for son, wife for husband, maternal, -enduring.
Understanding all youth-ready to stand aside and watch, or to take part in the younger life. My love is more than the love of the mother, for it is possessive and sacrificing, for sacrifice is giving life, sometimes in the physical, sometimes in the higher planes, but always giving forth.
Beauty, I create and give, for that also is birth. Beauty in Art - I am all that creates - Venus in her roundness and curves, colour and softness of touch.
My flame burns softly and steadily, no ardour or real fire have I. That I leave to my spouse, Aries, for he is my husband and lover. From us come all the signs, they are our children. So old are we that none know us, we have been forgotten by mortals, and even the Gods have but dim memories of us, as you on Earth have of your first parents.
Sweet scents, all softness and richness of texture, these are my clothes.
My head crowned with jewels but not the jewels of the courtesan, but of the loved one. My hair is unbound and flowing, my hands and feet are bare, for I must touch the earth with tender feet and in my hands take the little ones to soothe their grief or share their joy.
My eyes are shining stars that reflect the light of the moon, for in my eyes looks my lover and there is the first birth of the soul. My lips are tender with kisses and my breath is as the South wind that bears comfort to the Earth.
No symbol have I, but Love in all its forms-for am I not.
May 21, 1918
I am Gemini. I come to you of Earth with hands outstretched giving my dual gifts of Intellect and Wisdom. All my gifts are dual, for that is what I am. Two complete in one-the divine hermaphrodite. Yet to you who are a woman I come as a man, and to a man I am as a woman.
The wind blows through my hair, and my entrance has two great pillars and on one of them is blood. Pass through my door and Mercury, my servant and friend, will greet you and take you by the hand and show you many curious things. To some he shows terrible and secret violent sins, and to others blossoms and thoughts of pure delight; and again, to others he shows glittering jewels, and some will take them away under their cloaks, and Mercury will tum away to hide a smile, for he knows the jewels will lose their light away from my house.
My house has two great turrets and in one are many wise works produced by men's brains, and in the other secret signs and symbols, and there I keep the staff, cap and wings I give my messenger. From the first turret I give him the token of the place I send him to, and the work he is to bring to men to turn into form; and from the second turret he takes a symbol which unlocks the door of the man's heart that he brings the message to.
I am restless and I move from room to room shutting and opening my doors and secret places, for I look for truth and will find it.
I care not greatly for outward forms, it is the contents I value. I mount the stairs with ever quickening steps, for I tarry not by the way, for I wish to breathe the finer airs that blow on the roof tops.
My house is in the stars and is of golden light. It is delicate and spiral so that the wind should blow through it, bringing tidings from my brothers and sisters, and Mercury is ever passing in and out through the many entrances and delicate spiral columns. Those are my symbols and the clasped hands of love and friendship.
June 2I, I9I8
Cancer comes like the waves of the sea, ever rolling, the great cosmic waters that feed the Milky Way. I am-the great mother, for I embrace all children, especially those who have no mother of their own. I am rhythm and order, washing each thing into its appointed place. All things I rule with rhythm and orderliness; in this the moon lends her aid, and by this law can the greater ones find their entrance through my human focus.
I am indomitable, for I hold on to that which I wish to have and will not be denied. My dwelling is the great sea, and it rocks ever to and fro. Silence is my sentinel, and fast she holds my door, so that only in the ebb flow of my great tides can those of you who are ready enter and there receive my crown, which is a star on your forehead which will lighten some dark places.
Some will receive the dark star and some the light; neither are good or evil but are both of great cosmic value. Remember, I hold fast only to let go when my purpose is complete, for in that way I do not part with my sons and daughters, for they return to me when I have renounced them-that is true motherhood.
My symbols are the waves ever ebbing and flowing, and there is sadness in those waves and yet a great joy.
July 24, 1918
I am the great throbbing heart, in me is the vital spark, the Godhead; for in me the germs and seeds begin to pulsate, and take an internal motion of their own volition.
I am fire and love and creation, and I walk like a king, for all bow before my gaze. A king in very deed am I, for I subdue the most exalted who bend before my throne.
My kingdom is the world, and to men I give my greatest gift to use or misuse. My gift is creation from the heart; how few use it or even know of it. Those who can use it give life to forms inanimate and can inspire with life sullen and dull minds.
Over the heads of the crowds I look, for I see a distant star – that is my creation which I follow, for it has escaped from me and I desire to hold it in my hand. The child of my heart, I command it to return.
In the great spaces I wander a hunter and the hunted, my heart pulsating to all nature, for I am in all and all is of me. A spear is in my hand to slay the unfaithful, and my justice is swift -not revenge, but justice is my pleasure. Deep in the ruby mines I am found captive in their hearts, for once they saw me, and when I am once seen I am never released, for I am the glowing and flaming heart.
Red gold is mine armour, the molten gold of the sun, for he covers me as a mantle. I kiss all lovely glowing things to give them their release; birth or death, you may call it what you will, they are equal in value.
On the altar of the world I have been sacrificed, let not my fire escape again, for it inflames all who eat of it, for it is only when I give that it heals and creates and makes all new; take it from my torn body and it makes men mad. Had you listened to my pleading, you in your turn would not have been sacrificed. But a life for a life is the law, and one will pay for the other.
My symbol is the velvet paw that shades the ever glowing pulsing Heart!
August 24, 19l8
I am Virgo the Immaculate Virgin, from me is the Virgin Birth, for in my time comes the corn to fruit, who is the flesh of the world.
"My flesh ye eat." These words were those of my son who entered the world, who is the world, and till he came the world had no form, nor knew the divine fire of the Father, or of the great Mother, Istar, who is more than Isis.
I am pure and cold and free from passion of the Earth, for I have not the fire of the flame to bring to form, but the blue flame of the higher gods which burns not nor destroys.
I gather the heat of Leo and pour it on the Earth; from my mirror I reflect it, sending it here and there as I wish, but I do not let it touch me.
My robes are blue and stars are on them. One great star have I, and in that star I gather my children to teach and instruct them in many arts to help the Earth, for my children are workers for the world and feed and tend it.
I look ever upwards, for no spouse have I nor one that is in the Zodiac. My spouse is far away and only at times do I hear the sound of his voice, as of a voice whose note is like the full sound of a diamond; for do you not know that these precious people loved by the hierarchies have voices and call to us. His voice is the purest and is rare, for his Lord is in a distant space, and only a little part of him can reach the Earth, for should he call with a full sound he would shatter and destroy. Enough of him, he is a mystery not to be lightly spoken of.
Your tall lilies are of me, from whose hearts drop gold and dew. - Look how their waven leaves turn back, for they give all they have and withhold nothing. Truly they are the symbol of my loved ones who come to me on their perfume. It is on their perfume that the souls of the dead arise. Therefore, they are the flowers for the dead: Through the sweet scent of the flowers are many messages taken and received. Blue and white are mine, in the blue of the heavens I stand, and white are the souls who pass through me to the stars.
These are my symbols.
September 24, 1918
I am Libra, and I come with outstretched hands holding the scales, for I am the turning point of the Zodiac and direct the flow of the inner and outer life, Equality and Beauty, so Venus dwells with me. I am neither male nor female, and so her love for me is most perfect, for it is undisturbed by the mystery of sex.
Beauty is mine and the quiet of life returning to the centre, for I have a secret chamber and through it must pass all life flows, and they who listen at the door can hear many secret things, for there the Gods meet and direct all to their places. Both under and upper mingle as one, to wait till the spring directs their rising.
Listen to your own hearts, your inner chambers, and find justice and love, for thus will you make all new in the going forth. Great storms shake the earth and cleanse it from the toils of summer, and the heat recedes before it to keep the inner chambers warm, while the lesson of the Earth's day is being learnt.
My sons and daughters are fair and gentle and love their home and hidden places. No wanderers are they, for their thoughts turn towards the centre and quiet places where they can be with their Beloved. To make the shrine perfect to contain their treasure is their desire, and should the loved one depart then they droop and often die, for they are hardly complete as others are, alone.
These are the gifts that are given to them: LOVE, MERCY, DUTY.
They lay on the altar a cup of sacrifice and it contains the wine of Life and Healing. Lay your hands on the Altar and drink of this cup, for it contains the life flows, and should you desire will give you of the water or wine to refresh and sustain you through the days that are dark, but that are lit by much inward light, the sun of the dark night that is brighter than all other Lights.
Mighty am I, and the Earth shakes with my tread. Deep into the Earth I bend, drinking of all its waters. There are dregs in the cup, but the wine is Divine, and the exaltation is of the Greater Gods. Then to the skies, the further skies, I am raised, and wing my way as an Eagle, though I have aforetime crawled as a serpent. Deep as a well are the emotions of my nature, high as the heavens are the aspirations thereof.
Light and darkness go together, and none can say which is the greatest. Judge not by your earth values, for who can say what secrets the darkness covers.
From the stagnant waters of the forest pool life comes for there is birth.
In the dark recesses of the Earth springs the life of the fruit and flowers.
Mighty am I, for I am secret and strong, cutting my way, ruthless, for I see my distant goal. Tender, when I have seen the light; harsh, when my eyes are veiled; violent, when angered; loving to her who completes me.
Roses red are mine, grasp me not unawares, my dagger will pierce. Gather me and I crown your head with perfume and beauty that is pain.
I give to the world Love, and they translate it in Passion.
I am the tenderest light, the flame in the lover's eyes that burns not but is LIFE.
November 21, 1917
From Saggitary I come shooting my arrows into your mind. The higher mind, not that of your physical body. Do not flinch from my darts, they will not hurt you if you receive them. Swiftly I go, looking behind me, leading you on to follow. Up the valley we run, leaving a trail behind us, never again can you dwell in your tents. The free airs will be your home, no more the dead who are alive will see you. To a free life I bring you, that you may live and create in the higher planes. My arrows are falling on the Earth, pick them up and use them again, they are born from me and are me. I give you my best, never before have I given so much to the world. My arrows pierce the aura of the Earth, and those in it, so that the spirit of the Great Logos can pour into the wounds thus caused. You are pierced and will be made whole again. The Hunter-I find you out, and those I find ready I pierce to fill again. Receive during my time all I send. I have much to give. Jupiter my Lieutenant is with you, attend to his words, they will burn you like fire, but fire that purifies.
I will come again, you cannot bear me long.
December 23, 1917
I am Capricorn, a builder of temples. I build so that the spirit can be contained and held. Inside my temples there is darkness and silence; but those that enter bring their own light. Sometimes I am full of light, sometimes I am dim and dark, but ever my great arches and pillars ascend to the skies.
I am trees and all columns, all in nature that encloses for worship. Caves in the mountains and under the seas, for there also I dwell with those of my people, for I am of two worlds and can live in both elements.
I have been pictured with legs and a tail. I can climb and I swim.
Pale colours I love, and dim, these are for quiet meditation.
I am stone and hardness.
Evil I can contain as well as good.
I am for worship and quietness.
Should strife arise in my temples then the walls echo the voices and my ornaments are shaken.
A gateway is my entrance and there Saturn stands in his dark robe, veiled so that none shall see his face, for his face is too bright for mortal eye, and so many say he is evil, but he is a great one among the gods, for his sickle cuts the soul from the body.
Resist, and pain and anguish is felt; embrace him and you are free, for great love has he for all humanity.
Come to my temple and pray in silence, darkness and solitude. Lean your head on the cold stone and you will receive life and wisdom.
January 20, 1918
I am the spirit of Aquarius. For many months my pitcher has been raised to catch the divine wine that comes from the Great Logos. Now it is full to overflowing and I pour it on the world. Great streams flow to all, wine of life and healing. Three messengers I send Saturn, he of the shining face; Venus, she who brings love and joy to all; and the greatest of all, Lord Uranus, destroyer, separator, avenger, unifier, who breaks to make whole again, wounds to heal, separates to unite. He comes like a rainbow full of glory. Bend to his sword, bow your heads before him. He is beautiful, for he destroys all of Earth. His consort Neptune is delicate love; Love of the Gods, not understood by men. She is pale and of great beauty, and her eyes are the eyes of a little child who knows of all mysteries and understands only love and beauty, for they are the greatest of all. Together they stand at the gate of the new age, veiled, for their glory is of the greater Cosmos. Messengers are they from a Cosmos yet unknown to you, and their beauty is not the greatest of that Cosmos.
No temple have I, or ties or bondage. I am man; and I receive the wine of life and wisdom. Turn your faces upwards and receive all I give, for this wine is golden and has virtue unknown. Make yourselves pure to receive this in mind, body and soul, for I come in all planes. It is the water of Life. Those who can receive and hold it can never be bound again by Death or Birth. They will have found their beloved, and being united will do complete and perfect work, for that is the purpose of Aquarius to be the two in one, male and female, being as gods no more to wander alone.
I as the man come to all below me, uniting all elements and people with my divine draught. In my time I bring again to you the Christ and with him the children of other worlds, those whom in time he has also visited, people of the Hierarchies of Heaven, too numerous to name. A starry heaven is above me, no tent over my head. I am freer than the wind that blows on the mountain tops, or sighs in the trees, for they are bound by their tides. Completed man will need to sorrow no longer, for with the second coming the cross is laid down. An upright flame, a pillar of fire, is my symbol.
February 19, 1918
Pisces is here. I am the feet of the Great Body. I tread the heights of the mountains with naked feet, through which all sensations come, sending the forces upward, but it is long before they reach the Great Brain, therefore you get many stations in the way and often get lost.
Give yourself to Jupiter and Venus, love, justice and truth will lead you. Let your hand hold his (Editor's Note: In the original article the symbol for Jupiter is inserted here) firmly, and he will guard you from the lures of the stopping places. Look in the eyes of Venus, she will lead you till you are able to meet the radiance of Neptune, who will take you further on the way. You cannot touch her hand, for she is in a rarer body, but you can follow her by scent and the sound of music. At times her veil will float across your path, and that, in times of stress, you may touch and be refreshed. But beware of turning aside when once you have chosen her for your Beloved, for her servants will lie in watch for you and will slay you or beat you with rods, and you will be lost in the herbs that grow in the gardens, the sweet and bitter perfume will overpower you and your soul will be lost.
I am the sea, and in my sea are pearls, but deep have you to dive to get them, for they are guarded by my Great Ones, who give not their treasures to any but the brave, for my sea has waves and many dangers. Set your barque on my surface, and see that you ha.ve a compass, and learn the power of the winds, for they will blow you every way-restless, changing, knowing that above the dancing feet there is a great power directing their
path, but so far is it above, that at times the message is lost through the many messengers.
I am death for birth the last stage and the first, the last as the Zodiacal man is complete, the first in the upward journey. I am all things unknown, therefore I keep them in secret places, and bound are the fishes by their greater laws. The broken circle is the perfect man shattered to give the seeds of the pomegranate to the Earth.
That is my Symbol - a Fruit.