New Dion Fortune Novel

OMG, it’s good. At least I think so. I couldn’t put it down. Twin Eagles Publishing has released their second V.M. Steele novel, The Scarred Wrists. V.M. Steele is another of Dion Fortune’s pen names. She published four novels as Steele. The books were looked down upon at the time, rejected as trivial and commonplace.

Richard Brzustowicz found himself drawn in when he went to the British Library during a research trip and read them. He writes about this experience in his Foreword. This novel was published in the same year as Fortune’s occult novel The Winged Bull, 1935, and Brzustowicz explores how similar themes are present—a young, vital woman meets a man suffering ill health both mentally and physically and brings both of them new life by their interactions. One has magical content, the other doesn’t, or at least not overtly.

Julian Pharmakos, who has named himself after the Greek scapegoat, must have a red head for a secretary (so he can pass her off as his sister) and hires young, innocent Patricia Stone. But Pat, or Coppernob as she is affectionately nicknamed, is an illegitimate child raised by the resentful husband of her mother who is also his wife, and has had to fight every day for a place in the family that dislikes her. Pat’s father kicks her out of the house when she disobeys him and marches off to her new job the next morning. Pharmakos takes her in, not as a lover, but to protect her.

It turns out he’s a recent convict, now working as a private detective with ties to Scotland Yard and many police chiefs in the area. If you suspect shades of Sherlock, you’re right. Pharmakos has made his home in a dilapidated warehouse, leaving the exterior in its disrespectful condition, but fixing one floor for his exquisitely decorated open-floor home. Fortune anticipates 21st century design here. Having spent so much time in solitary confinement, his nerves can’t stand anything close to walls or prison bars. There’s another floor to fix for Pat. The relationship develops from there.

Fortune’s experience and knowledge as a psychologist is very much in evidence in this novel. She reveals why Pharmakos is in such bad shape, showing an understanding of what is basically PTSD, and demonstrates how it should be treated. One can see why many in the 1930s would have rejected this novel as below Fortune since she was from an upper crust family. The novel deals with the criminal class, and paints such a vivid, realistic picture of the types to be found in this world, one wonders where Fortune got this expertise. It must have been from her practice as a psychologist.

Like her other occult novels, the energetics that play between this young, practical and down-to-earth woman and this artistic, highly sensitive, emotional man result in a transformation of them both. The dynamics of magic are at play, but not obviously so. Another similarity in many of the novels is the mix of classes. Pat is from a solid, middle-class family, but it turns out Pharmakos is an aristocrat. And not just any aristocrat. The family has given the heir the same first name for over 1,000 years. He’s a de Claire, a background he rejects until the very end. The ever-practical Pat thinks that if there is a coronet to be worn, well, she might as well wear it.

This somewhat mitigates the race and class consciousness of the time on display in the book. The novel also suffers from what we writers like to call the “narrative knot,” where the story is downloaded in big chunks at times. Pharmakos nervous breakdowns got to be a bit much at times, but none of that really slowed me down. I enjoyed every minute of it. You probably will, too.

Buy The Scarred Wrists here.

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New Book on Arthurian History and Legend

John and Caitlin Matthews have come out with an excellent resource for all you Arthurian fans. The Complete King Arthur:  Many Faces, One Hero is just that—complete. It takes us from a thorough investigation of all the historical figures who could have been our Arthur straight through to contemporary reworkings of the story in books, films, opera, paintings, and song.

The Complete King Arthur: Many Faces, One Hero by [Matthews, John, Matthews, Caitlín]

Just where did this larger-than-life story come from? Oddly enough, one contender is the Arthur of Rome, Lucius Artorius Castus, a soldier sent to the north to defend the empire. The troops he oversaw fought on horses carrying long spears under a dragon banner. The book then explores both battle leaders and kings who lived a bit after Lucius, many of whom may have inspired the legend. Then there is the warrior, Arthur of the battles, who probably originated from the Book of Taliesin. The Matthews explore the battles of the 5th and 6th centuries, looking at Geoffrey of Monmouth’s list as well, trying to piece actual history together with his rather loose telling of the story.

Next the Matthews jump into what I find more compelling, the Arthur of myth, exploring the oldest tellings of the tales. They show how Arthur became a symbol of the sovereignty and unity of Britain (which is more Wales than England during these times), then show how Arthur grew from a rather brutal warrior of the Dark Ages into a medieval king. Many British monarchs created ancestral bloodlines that directly connected them to King Arthur, a bit tricky since we can’t really say for sure who he was. Several had Arthurian stories enacted for their courts, allowing the lords and ladies to dress as these characters. Even as late as the 19th century, Queen Victoria had William Dyce painted her robing room with Arthurian frescos. Arthur represented ideal governance, fairness, emphasizing equality, helping those in need, rescuing damsels in distress, and searching for the Holy Grail—that enduring symbol of enlightenment.


The Matthews trace how the Grail became associated with the Arthurian legend. Also how Merlin, who was not much present in the early tellings, became a central figure along with Lancelot, another late-comer. Some eras emphasize the supposed indiscretions of Guinevere and Lancelot, while others the quests and adventures. The Matthews point out that each age molds the story to reflect their own ideals and problems.

The book finishes up with a thorough examination of those who have told the tale of Camelot through the ages, starting with Taliesin and Geoffrey of Monmouth, to Chretien de Troyes, to Mallory, Tennyson, T.H. White, Mary Stewart and up to the late 20th century and early 21st with writers such as Marion Zimmer Bradley and on into writers whom I haven’t read yet, but am eager to dive into.

If you’re a fan of Arthur and all things related to this story, you’ll find something of interest in this book.

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Metaphysical Writer Alan Richardson

I know many of you like metaphysical and visionary fiction. In case you haven’t read him yet, here’s another writer for you:  Alan Richardson. Richardson has published many books, both fiction and even more nonfiction.

I’ve just finished his latest novel, The Lightbearer, a tale of the ending of World War II and the Piscean Age, replete with modern figures who bear curious resemblances to mythical figures. Michael Horsett’s plane crashes, but his parachute catches him in a tree—hanging upside down with one leg crossed over another. Remind you of the Hanged Man? Plus his last name breaks down to Hor (Horus) and Sett (Set)—a combination of two Egyptian Gods. And a group of women recognize him as such. They have deep tantric plans for him—much to his delight. At first. You can play a game with this novel finding all the Tarot characters or pathways on the Tree of Life. Or just enjoy it. The novel is written in his characteristic witty, slightly irreverent, occasionally violent or shocking, but always revelatory style.

The bio I find most often for him is this one from Llewellyn’s website:  “Alan Richardson was born in Northumberland, England, in 1951, and has been writing on the topic of magic for many years.  He does not belong to any occult group or society, does not take pupils, and does not give lectures on any kind of initiation.  He insists on holding down a full-time job in the real world like any other mortal.  That, after all, is part and parcel of the real magical path.  He is married with four children and lives very happily in a small village in the southwest of England.”

I’ve also read On Winsley Hill, the story of Rosie, a visionary who sees into the past and into the nature of standing stones and other sites. An American archaeologist finds her and uses her talents, awakening the Goddess who engages in a somewhat debased, but still effective reenactment of the old rites at the end of the novel.

Then there’s The Fat Git, a modern day slacker Merlin whose job is, as always, to protect the  lands. But Vivienne distracts him while Mr. Vortig brings earthmovers in to demolish the sacred circle and build a monument to capitalism. Will Elaine and Yvonne wake him in time?

There are other novels that I haven’t read yet, but look forward to exploring, plus he’s written biographies of Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley, Christine Hartley and William G. Gray along with books on magic. His Inner Guide to Egypt will intrigue many of you if you’re prepared to do a little meditation.

There’s an interesting interview with him from Skylight Press. Here’s his Amazon page for those who want to explore more.


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On a Personal Note

Week before last, I had a stem cell treatment for my hip. I’d been struggling for a few years with arthritis, trying many alternative treatments that helped, but the blasted thing just kept getting worse. Since I love to travel, I knew I’d have to do something more serious sooner or later. Last summer, I got a chance to go to Peru, so I broke down and had a steroid injection just so I could climb all those magnificent sites. And I did it! But steroids don’t last and they’re toxic, so I started researching both hip replacement and stem cell treatment. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can differentiate and divide, creating new tissue.

I’ve always been a fan of natural medicine. It’s my first go-to. For me, allopathic medicine has its place—especially for serious accidents and as a last resort—but often there are better options.

I got to know more quite a bit about natural medicine in my life. After graduate school, I worked at Bastyr University in Seattle part time. For those who don’t know, Bastyr is one of only a few schools for naturopaths in the US. When I worked there, the headquarters was in an old elementary school, but now they have a 51-acre campus.

My partner all during the 80’s and into the 90’s was a naturopath, Ruth Adele, who now practices in Colorado Springs. She and I became professionals together, me a professor and she a doctor, and I watched her become one of the best naturopaths I know.

The problem with stem cells is the same problem with much natural medicine—health insurance doesn’t cover it. Insurance is covering more and more natural procedures and eventually, I think the two fields will come together, but this might not happen in my life time. Hip replacements are covered and everyone I talked to said they’re pretty easy these days and recovery time not so bad. But when I stared at that artificial hip in the doctor’s office, something in me just couldn’t quite say yes.

So I saved some money from an extra gig and finally did it. And I am really glad I did! I’m healing well, my pain is way down, and I’m very hopeful I’ll be traveling pain-free soon.

We have several options here in Colorado for stem cell treatment, but the Centeno-Schultz Clinic has been doing research on stem cells and treatments for fifteen years now. People travel from all over to come to it. That’s who I went to. They have a clinic here in Broomfield and one in the Cayman Islands where they can do the best treatment of growing your stem cells so you have gobs of them and reinjecting them at a later date. The US doesn’t allow this now, but it’s done in all over Europe and Asia. You can travel there to have it done, too. But that was a bit out of my price range, so I went for same-day reinjection. I instructed my bones to grow a bunch of stem cells and my doctor said I had the best harvest that day. So visualization and meditation, plus a really skilled doctor did the trick.

This clinic does two PRP injections, one before and one after, to really bring the best healing to the area. That’s Platelet Rich Plasma, a concentration from you own blood of the prime healing factors in the body. Those little suckers really go to work. The stem cells (pictured here) are harvested from your own body as well (iliac crest for you technical folks) and reinjected in between those two PRP shots. Yes, I was a pin cushion, but surprisingly the injections are not as painful as I’d anticipated. The stem cell harvesting was a breeze, but they give you just a little chemical help.

So now I’m growing a new hip. Part of one at least. I still have to be careful with the new tissue, but it will grow stronger and stronger. I’m glad I made this decision.

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Angkor Wat ~ The Power of Place

Angkor Wat has always called to me. I saw that picture of the temple with the huge tree roots growing down through it and something woke in me. It was like the place whispered a promise—come and see what you discover. And now I get to go in December of this year.

Not only that, I get to lead meditations at the sites for those interested. That’s one of my favorite things to do at an ancient site—open up our inner vision and see what we see. We’ll ask the spiritual guardian, the Genius Loci, to come to us, to allow us access to the higher realms of this place of power, to guard us as we walk these spiritual paths. We’ll look to see the past, the future, and the ways our own soul is connected to this place of power.

Stephen Mehler had this kind of experience with the Sphinx when he was a boy of eight. In a National Geographic magazine, he came across a picture of her and she spoke to him. Now he’s gone to Egypt twenty-one times, written books, and is working on a documentary. This was his life’s work.

I’ve been pulled by the Arthurian stories in a similar way, which led me to the Western Mystery schools and those places of power, the Tor especially. That place talks to me in the same way the Sphinx talks to Stephen. Also Avebury and Stonehenge. I haven’t been to all the sacred sites of the British Isles yet.

Of course, sometimes places of power sneak up on you. When I first met Stephen, I had to admit that I’d never been particularly interested in Egypt. He thought nothing would come of our relationship because of that, but as it turned out, he took me to Egypt with him and the Sphinx devoured me the first night I was there. I saw her cone head sticking up out of the lake bed she’s in and said, “She’s smaller than I thought.” She answered back, “Just wait until I get a hold of you.” And then I met Sekhmet in Karnack! What a life changing experience. I gave that vision to Anne Le Clair in Under the Stone Paw.

These ancient places often mark an especially powerful and sacred spot on the land. We humans go there to raise our consciousness. We go over the years, the centuries. This builds more and more spiritual energy. The places become like a wellspring. They often hold secrets from ancient civilizations. Sensitive people can see that civilization sometimes.

Not everyone resonates to the same sites. The Serapeum at Sakkara completely blew my mind. I saw the spiritual guardians of each box and the worlds they opened up to. As I was walking out with about an eight-foot tall astral guardian walking beside me, another member of the tour walked up and said, “You’ve seen one box, you’ve seen them all.” I laughed. There was nothing wrong with either of us. This just wasn’t her power place. It was mine—and other people’s as well. But Sekhmet got to her—to this I can attest.

The Khemit School of Ancient Mysticism is sponsoring the tour, December 4-11th. Here’s a link if you’re interested.

Where are you power places? Where do you want to go?

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Dion Fortune Writing as V.M. Steele

A while back, I wrote about Dion Fortune’s novels for the Visionary Fiction Alliance.* At the end of that three-part blog, I said that she had written other novels under another pseudonym and that I would let you all know if I discovered them.

Paul Blakey of Twin Eagles Publishing has done just that and brought out the first of her four “romantic thrillers,” The Yellow Shadow. He promises the next three are on their way: The Scarred Wrists, Beloved of Ishmael, and Hunters of Humans.

Dion Fortune is a woman of several names. Dion Fortune is her magical name created this name from her family motto Deo Non Fortuna, ‘God not luck’. She was born Violet Mary Firth and writes these novels as V.M. Steele. The short introduction to the novel says this “combines the names Violet and Mary with Steele (as a node to the source of the family’s fortune).”

The Yellow Shadow is the story of a young woman, Stella Morris, whose father has died and who now will go to live with relatives in China. Used to conversation with her father’s older academic friends, she brings this same frankness to her conversation with a man traveling on the same ship she is on whom she assumes to be an older man. But at the end of this conversation, he reveals himself to be Chinese—just slightly older than she is.

Stella pushes aside British prejudices and forms a friendship with him, but at first he snubs her on the boat, much to her chagrin. Later, though, he rescues her from her loud and hot room, sets her up in a suite, and proceeds to befriend her in the evenings (properly, of course). He cautions her that their friendship must remain secret, it would seem because of this prejudice. But there is a bit more to it. This mysterious man is quite rich and a well-known business man. He doesn’t want to ruin her reputation or his own.

Once set up with her vacuous family in China, Stella gets to know Mr. Li through a series of happy accidents when her family realizes she speaks Chinese. They have not deigned to learn the language after living in the country a good number of years. They send her to bargain with an antique dealer. Because she knows Chinese manners as well as the language, having been taught by Mr. Li, she wins his admiration and gradually gains her independence from her rude and shallow family, finally finding a way to pursue her romance with Mr. Li.

Richard Brzustowicz has written an Afterword in which he gives some excellent historical background and discusses the similarity between this female character and the ones in The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic, who bring their magnetism to enliven a man who has been enervated by society, restoring him to his vitality. He points out that even the character’s name has magical implications: “Just as the Virgin Mary is associated with the sea (and the name Stella Morris is clearly reminiscent of one of the titles of the Virgin Mary, ‘Stella Maris’, Star of the sea) so is Kuan Yin” (198).

You’ll most likely enjoy this novel. You might bump your nose up against some of the frank language about race which seems dated now, but do remember that in The Magical Battle of Britain, Fortune argues that the new age coming after WWII will blast down the prejudices of the old, effete leadership of Britain and predicts an egalitarian global society for the Age of Aquarius. This novel shows some blasting away of those racial and class barriers.

Click to order a copy of The Yellow Shadow. Paul says the $10 price is a special offer, due to rise once we arrive at the summer solstice (and the release of her next book, The Scarred Wrists). I can’t wait to read the next one. Twin Eagles Publishing will use the proceeds from this novel to pay the cost of the British Library copying the others that are in their collection.

*If you want to read more about her novels, my blogs on her visionary fiction can be found at the Visionary Fiction Alliance website here:  The first was on her better known novels Moon Magic and The Sea Priestess. The second considered The Secrets of Dr. Taverner, and the third her lesser known novels The Demon Lover, The Winged Bull, and The Goat Foot God.

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Visionary Fiction Writer Peggy Payne

Please welcome Visionary Fiction writer Peggy Payne.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m fascinated by the supernatural and, in that category, I include both the occult, the esoteric, and the major religions. I’m curious about things invisible; I want to see them!

I grew up in a beach town, Wilmington, North Carolina, and feel that water has some essence of the great mysteries, of the sublime.

I now live beside a farm pond that’s three-quarters of a mile through woods from a large lake.  I kayak occasionally and garden a lot.

I’m married to a psychologist Bob Dick, who has a special interest in clinical hypnosis.

The basic facts of my career are these: I’ve been a freelance writer since 1972, after graduating from Duke and working a couple of years for a newspaper. I’ve been a TV news reporter, a travel writer, an ad copy writer.  I’m author of the novels Cobalt Blue (which received an IPPY for Visionary Fiction);  Sister India, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Revelation, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.I’m co-author of  The Healing Power of Doing Good. My work has appeared in magazines including More, Travel & Leisure, Ms. Magazine, Family Circle, Cosmopolitan, Publishers Weekly, etc., and in most of the major American newspapers.

I never planned to write fiction; it came upon me as a calling.

In addition to my writing, I provide manuscript feedback and career consulting for other writers.

How did you become interested in Visionary Fiction?        Click pictures to order

I’m relieved someone came up with the term Visionary Fiction. And I wish it were more widely known and used.  I was always interested in “what’s on the other side” and in reading fiction. As a writer, I initially intended to write nonfiction.  But then I was seized by the need to write a novel.  What has emerged is stories that almost always include spiritual experience, the supernatural, and very often the convergence of sex and the spiritual. Again, these changes of course never felt like choices, more like the way a tree grows particular limbs, simply an unfolding.

Tell us about your latest project.

Cobalt Blue is my latest book. It’s about an artist, a 38 year-old woman in Pinehurst, North Carolina, who has a dramatic and confusing spiritual experience that first tips her into compulsive sexual behavior. I’m as shocked as anyone that I wrote this. I could describe the story in another way: it’s about a woman who wanted to break out of the narrow boundaries of herself.

If your book were chocolate, what kind would it be?   

If Cobalt Blue were chocolate, it would be radioactive chocolate.

Does this book fit into a series?

This novel is not part of a series. It’s one of a string of novels that, in widely diverse situations and people, explore spiritual experience. (My first novel, Revelation, is about a highly intellectual minister in Chapel Hill who starts hearing God talking to him out loud. He had never believed in this sort of thing.)

How did you prepare to write about the book’s specific area or field of study?

I simply started writing. I didn’t realize where the story was going. I did some reading along the way as questions developed.  After many drafts of Cobalt Blue, I said to myself one night as I was sitting on the porch watching the rain: it’s kundalini that the book’s about. I didn’t even know what the word meant.  I had overheard it at a party. I looked it up and discovered that “kundalini rising” did indeed describe the character’s crisis and transformation.

How does this book fit into your real-life interests?  


What’s next for you? 

I’m pretty far along on novel about a 15 year-old girl with an astral boyfriend. And I’ve done a fair amount of work on a biography/memoir of a 20th century woman artist who became an activist and leader in spite of the fact that she dressed in medieval clothes, was led by Athena, and conversed regularly with King Arthur.


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