The Life of Violet Mary Firth: Dion Fortune.
This timeline is based on the sources of Gareth Knight, Janine Chapman, Alan Richardson and Charles Fielding. The reader who wishes to study in further depth is referred to these sources. Some of the facts and dates given in the different works are a little contradictory and it is not possible to be definitive, as usually the source of the information is not clear. Here, a fairly pragmatic approach has been taken: this data has not been verified. Readers are invited to add to or correct this timeline if they have other information or drop us a line in the forum.
6th December 1890: Violet Mary Firth born in Llandudno, Wales to Arthur Firth and Sarah Jane (nee Smith).
1901: the family are recorded as living in Sheen House, East Sheen, Surrey.
Around 1903: The family move to Somerset, to Weston-super-Mare.
1906: The Girl’s Realm magazine recognizes her childhood poetry publications ‘Violets’ and ‘More Violets’. Her parents become converted to Christian Science.
1906: The family move to London following the death of her Grandfather.
1911: Violet is enrolled in Studley Horticultural College in Warwickshire. The Warden, Dr. Lillias Hamilton is thought to be the perpetrator of the Psychic Attack described in Psychic Self-defence. There is some conflicting evidence about these dates, attributed to Dion Fortune’s wish to preserve the identity of the perpetrator.
April 1913: Following this incident, she left Studley, and went home to recover.
June 1914: She enrolled as a student at the Medico-Psychological Clinic in Brunswick square and studied Psychoanalysis at the time it was becoming established. The training included a personal analysis. Although she did not complete the course, she gave a series of public lectures and supervised some of the other students.
During this time she attends a lecture at the Theosophical Society. This opens up dreams and past-life memories.
1916: She leaves Psychoanalysis, recognising its limitations and enrols in the Women’s Land Army on a farm near Bishop’s Stortford.
Around 1917 she meets Theodore Moriaty.
1919: She is initiated into the Alpha et Omega Temple of the Stella Matutina (originally the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) which was led by J.W. Brodie-Innes. She was introduced to the Order by Maiya Curtis-Webb (who later was Maiya Tranchall-Hayes.) Here she took her Mystery name Deo Non Fortuna (God, not Luck) which was the motto on the Firth coat of Arms and from which her pen-name arose.
1920: She is named as Junior Warden in a ritual of Theodore Moriaty’s.
1921: Experiments in trance mediumship are recorded, alongside Maiya Curtis-Webb. At some point in 1921 she begins to work with Frederick Bligh Bond; it is not clear when she first met him.
1922: Her parents resign from the Christian Science Church and move to Hertfordshire. Here they became neighbours of Kitty Tudor Pole, a close friend of Alice Buckton. Machinery of the Mind is published.
1922: She meets Charles Thomas Loveday in Chalice Well, Glastonbury. Around this time, the Fraternity of the Inner Light is born, possibly as an outer court to draw in new members to the Golden Dawn.
1922: They make contact with the three Masters: David Carstairs, Thomas Erskine and Socrates.
August 1923: Theodore Moriaty dies. Dion Fortune asks his followers to accept her as leader. This was declined by some, whilst others joined her and following this she forms her own ritual group.
End August 1924: The base at Queensborough Terrace London is established. During this year they acquire a plot of land in Glastonbury, at the foot of the Tor; here they built their hut. Around this time she renews her contact with the Theosophical Society.
1925: ‘The Psychology of the Servant Problem’ published. ‘The Soya bean- An Appeal to Humanitarians’ published.
1925: She meets W.E. Butler in Glastonbury.
1925. The communications that informed The Cosmic Doctrine were completed. It was not published until 1949.
1926: ‘The Secrets of Dr. Taverner’ published.
1927: ‘The Problem of Purity’ and ‘The Demon Lover’ published and she meets Christine Campbell Thomson.
1927: Moina MacGregor Mathers expels her from the Alpha et Omega Temple for ‘not having the right inner sigils in her aura’. Around this time, she resigns from the Theosophical Society.
7th April 1927: She married Dr. Thomas Penry-Evans. It is not recorded how they met but it is known that he had been a tenant at Queensborough Terrace since 1925. Charles Fielding puts forward the view that they met when Penry-Evans attended one of her lectures.
October 1927: the first copy of “The Inner Light Magazine” is published.
1928: ‘The Esoteric Orders and their Work’ published. ‘The Training and Work of an Initiate’ published. Series of lectures begins.
Winter Solstice 1928: The Fraternity of the Inner Light was ritually established.
1930: ‘Psychic Self-Defence,’ ‘Sane Occultism’ and ‘Mystical Meditations upon the Collects’ published. Around this time, they acquire the Belfry in London.
1931: ‘Spiritualism in the Light of Occult Science’ is published.
1932: ‘Through the Gates of Death’ is published.
1932: Corresponds with and meets Israel Regardie. Christine Campbell Thomson joins the Fraternity.
1933: Colonel Seymour is initiated as a Server.
1934: ‘Avalon of the Heart’ is published. W.K. Creasy joins the Fraternity.
1935: ‘The Mystical Qabalah’ ‘The Winged Bull’ ‘The Scarred Wrists’ and ‘Hunters of Humans’ published.
1936: ‘The Goat Foot God’ and ‘Beloved of Ishmael’ published.
December 1936: Her Mother dies.
1938: ‘The Sea Priestess’ published. Penry-Evans leaves for Spain.
1939: Outbreak of War and the beginning of the war meditations and letters.
1939-40: ‘The Circuit of Force’ published in the Inner Light Magazine.
1942: The weekly war letters end and she starts to look ahead to the post-war period.
1942: Some conversation with Aleister Crowley, the nature and extent of which has not been established.
1943: The new study course is launched.
30th July 1945: Divorce from Penry-Evans.
Autumn Equinox 1945: She gives her last trance address. After this she is too unwell.
6th January 1946: She dies aged 55, of leukaemia. She is buried in Glastonbury.
1949: ‘The Cosmic Doctrine’ published.
1956: ‘Moon Magic’ published.
What was she like?
Descriptions of a person can vary as much as the number of people you ask. Dion Fortune’s own writings are largely devoid of personal references as she was very well aware of the risks to the Occultist of the cult of personality and wished to discourage this. She did speak openly of the psychic attack which occurred in her youth in Psychic Self-defence for educational purposes but apart from this, she does not speak of herself. Charles Fielding comments: “To encapsulate within the narrow confines of a book anyone’s life, no matter how humdrum, is impossible, and the life of Dion Fortune was in no way simple or ordinary…we have known her by her works rather than by the details of her personal life.” It might be said that the work of the magician is to know oneself, and it is not intended that this self is the personality.
Her integrity, intelligence, pragmatism and capacity to reflect shine out in her written works.
Written and compiled by Psyche