Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Pagan Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
(The Witch of Kings Cross)
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Rosaleen Norton was an Australian visionary artist, mystic and witch, daubed by the popular press of the time as “The Witch of Kings Cross”. At the peak of her artistic fame and just before the rise of contemporary witchcraft in the 1960’s, her work was little known outside the confines of Australia. As such her contribution to pagan art was in many ways diminished and overtaken by the likes of “Austin Osman Spare”. I hope here to bring her name back to the fore as one of the most outstanding originators of contemporary Pagan Art.
The Bacchanal - The Séance
Known as “Roie” to her friends and family, she was born during a thunderstorm in Dunedin, New Zealand, on the 02nd of October 1917. The youngest of three girls, she was brought up by Protestant parents. Albert her father worked as a merchant seaman with the New Zealand Steamship Company. In June 1925, the family moved to Sydney, Australia, settling in Lindfield on Sydney’s North Shore.
up as solitary child, instinctively feeling different she remained aloof from
other girls her age. Her favourite
time was the night, and from an early age began to experience strange
psycho/spiritual fantasies of mystical ghouls and spirits.
At school she had a passion for drawing, but the pictures she created
reflected her nighttime fantasies. The
drawings she produced soon got her into trouble, disturbing her classmates and
teachers alike. Later at the age of
14 while attending the Chatswood Girls Grammar School, the headmistress of the
school declared her drawings “a corrupting influence on other pupils”
and subsequently expelled her.
Roie next attended the East Sydney Technical College where she studied Art under the noted sculptor Raynor Hoff. While her main interest was in Art, she was encouraged by friends to develop her talent for writing, and had several macabre short stories published in the popular Australian newspaper, “Smith’s Weekly”. This led to her first job as an illustrator and reporter in training. However, her drawings were considered to risqué and unconventional for the papers readers, and she was forced to quit the job after just 8 months.
While out of regular employment Roie survived working part-time
in mundane jobs such as waiting tables and bartending.
She also did some modelling for Norman Lindsay, a fellow artist and close
friend whose early drawings, like her own, were considered both controversial
and notorious. She also began researching
psychology, magic and metaphysics, and studied in depth the writings of Carl
Jung and William James, as well as the works of famous occultists:
Eliphas Levi, Madam Blavatsky, Dion
Fortune and Aleister Crowley.
In 1935, Roie met and married Beresford Lionel Conroy, and together spent the next few years travelling around Australia’s East Coast. However, with the outbreak of war in 1939, they became separated. Little is known about Conroy except that he was the son of a Dr Lionel Bigoe Conroy, born in Crookwell, New South Wales in 1914. During the war he is thought to have spent two years as a Commando in the A.I.F. (2nd Australian Imperial Force 1939-1945) serving in Northern New Guinea. On his return from the war he divorced Roie, and remarried a Patricia Roberts with who he had three children. He later died in 1988.
By that time Roie had started drawing again and was contributing illustrations to a monthly journal called “Pertinent”. While working for Pertinent she also began experimenting with self-hypnosis, trance and automatic drawing. Through this she discovered new techniques to heighten her artistic perception by transferring her conscious attention “at will” to inner planes of awareness. These experiments she wrote later “produced a number of peculiar and unexpected results and culminated in a period of extra-sensory perception together with a prolonged series of symbolic visions”. She also met her magical and artistic partner, the poet Gavin Greenlees.
In 1949, Roie and Gavin, relocated to Melbourne where she held her first major Art exhibition at the Rowden-White Gallery in Melbourne University. Just two days after opening however, the police raided the exhibition and seized four of her paintings, one of which was a painting called “Black Magic” depicting a black panther copulating with a naked woman. The police later charged her with offences under their Public Obscenity Laws.
During the following court trial, the Crown prosecution claimed her paintings were pornographic, obscene and decadent, inspired by works of mediaeval demonology, and likely to “deprave and corrupt the morals of all those who saw them”. However all charges were dropped when various academics were called to defend her religious practice of Pantheism, which Roie described as the pagan worship of ancient Greek Gods. The police were ordered to pay all costs of the trial.
While the trial caused a public scandal in the
popular press and brought with it some notoriety, it did little to help sell her
painting or lead on to further exhibitions.
As a result she and Gavin returned to Sydney, and there took up residence
in a dingy basement flat at 179 Brougham Street.
This was located in the bohemian
centre of Kings Cross, a notorious stomping ground for Sydney’s
down-and-out artists, prostitutes and criminals. There because of her new status as a minor celebrity, Roie
soon became a well-known local character.
In 1951, Roie and Gavin were approached by a publisher named Wally Glover, who after seeing their work, decided to publish a limited edition of 500 leather-bound books entitled: “The Art Of Rosaleen Norton (with poems by Gavin Greenlees)” (1952). The book caused a huge out cry from literary critics who denounced it as “indecent”, thus attracting widespread media publicity. Such was the furore; copies of the book being exported for sale in New York were confiscated and burnt by US customs.
Wally Glover was later charged with producing an obscene publication. During the court proceeding two pictures in the book were ruled to be indecent because they showed pubic hair and phallic appendages. One of the pictures entitled “Fohat”, was deemed particularly offensive for it depicted a cheeky looking demon with a snake for a penis. Once again Roie was called back into court to defend her Art in terms of pagan archetypes based on ancient Greek Gods. Despite this, the magistrate fined Glover five pounds and ordered the two pictures removed from unsold copies of the book. The media publicity attracted more notoriety and even commissions for Roie, but poor Wally Glover was forced into bankruptcy.
Due to her renewed notoriety Roie became one of the most famous characters of Kings Cross. Her paintings soon adorned the walls of well-nown local cafés, such like the “Kashmir” and “Apollyon”, and visitors to Sydney began to seek her out. The press by now had added to her fame by labelling her “The Witch of Kings Cross”. It was rumoured that she was the leader of a witch “cult”, but in reality this was no more than a few friends gathering in her flat to talk about metaphysics and the occult, and occasionally experimenting with Pagan rituals.
Several outbreaks of scandal kept the legend of
“The Witch of Kings Cross” alive, and controversy was never far away.
In 1955 a man offering to sell alleged pornographic photos of Roie and
Gavin performing unnatural sexual acts approached the Sun newspaper.
These turned out to have been taken as a joke at one of Roie’s birthday
parties, but rumours spread and persisted that she was involved in satanic
rituals, black masses and magical
sexual rites. Such “would
be” stories regularly
appeared in Australian newspapers and magazines, and “Rosaleen Norton”
became a household name.
Another scandal hit the media pages in 1957, when perhaps under pressure from all the media attention and notoriety, Gavin Greenlees was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and institutionalised. Later while out on temporary release, he tried to kill Roie with a kitchen knife. His attack fortunately failed, and he was sent back to the sanatorium never to be heard from again.
that year another scandal erupted which rocked “polite” society
Eugène Goossens” a
famous English conductor/composer, who at the time was the resident conductor of
the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Director of Music for the ABC and Director of the
NSW State Conservatorium of
Music, was reported as being a close friend and intimate of Roie.
Apparently he had been a frequent visitor to her flat in Kings Cross
since 1952, where allegedly they
had an intense affair and took part in occult rituals.
On the 09th of March 1957 after a trip back to England, Goossens was stopped and searched by customs at Sydney’s Mascot airport and accused of smuggling. His luggage contained a number of banned books, pornographic photos and ritual masks for use in Roie’s rituals. Goosens was fined £100, the maximum at that time for a breach of the Customs Act. Due to the public scandal that followed Goosens was ostracized from Australia’s high society and forced to return to England in disgrace. He died on the 13th June 1962 at Hillingdon Hospital in Middlesex, England, and later buried in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery.
With the revival of Contemporary Witchcraft in the 1960’s, Roie dropped out of the public eye; her behaviour and life style no longer seemed so strange. She continued to support herself by selling painting and making magical trinkets for friends and tourists who still sought out “The Witch of Kings Cross”. In 1974, Roie’s name was again briefly made public when the “Rt. Rev. Marcus Loane”, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney set up a “Commission of Inquiry” into occult practices. Among his most sensational claims, was that occultism and a belief in satanism was the most sinister of modern craze’s. After the fuss died down, Roie became reclusive and shut herself away with her cats, music and literature.
By the late 1970’s, Roie’s health began to fail, and in 1979 she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She was admitted to the “Sacred Heart Hospice for the Dying” where on the 5th of December 1979, she passed away surrounded by nuns despite remaining “a Pagan” to the end.
Rosaleen Norton was a brilliant artist, but like so many famous people before her, she was a victim of ignorance and the prejudices of her times. She was a devotee of the Pagan god Pan, and during her life and trials maintained a sincere truth about her Art, religion and lifestyle. Her Art in the main represented supernatural imagery, which in today’s more liberal society has found renewed acceptance. In her own day, her paintings were regarded as bizarre, obscure and pornographic, and she was not accorded the recognition she deserved.
More recently her Art has been rediscovered and is finding a wide audience. In 1957, after the debacle concerning the publishing of “The Art Of Rosaleen Norton (with poems by Gavin Greenlees)”, when Wally Glover was declared bankrupt and all copyrights to Roie’s artwork were taken over by the Official Receiver in Bankruptcy, the copyrights were finally returned to him in 1981 and the book republish in 1982. In 1984, Wally followed this up with a new limited edition called the “Supplement to the Art of Rosaleen Norton”, a collection of tastefully mounted colour photographs of 48 more of her works. Roie’s often controversial Art is again available “uncensored” to the public, were recognition can justly be reinstated.
Art of Rosaleen Norton with poems by Gavin Greenlees.
Walter Glover, Sydney. 1952 (2nd edition: Walter Glover, Bondi Beach. 1982. ISBN
to: The Art of Rosaleen Norton (1982 Edition) with poems by Gavin Greenlees.
Walter Glover, Bondi Beach, N.S.W. 1984. ISBN 0-9593077-1-0.
Macabre Stories (US:
Typographeum Press, 1996; revised edition: US: The Teitan Press, 2010).
A limited edition of her early stories originally
written for Smith’s Weekly. The
2010 edition includes additional
material and reprints three of her satirical illustrations.
published on the 04 March 2007, updated
05th December 2009 © George Knowles
To be posted later
First published on the 04 March 2007, 18:22:06 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
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Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat / Rats / Unicorn
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Aidan A Kelly / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Hermann Löher / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Idries Shah / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean Bodin / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim - the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" / Lambert Daneau / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Rossell Hope Robbins / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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