Monday, September 21, 2009

Imagination & Visionaries Part Six

The police found Norton guilty of exhibiting obscene pictures at the Kashmir Cafe in 1957 and, after numerous appeals, a number of her paintings were destroyed in 1960 by the authorities. This action among others made Rosaleen Norton by far the most persecuted artist and intellectual in Australian society. A large part of this was due to Norton having the courage to be so outspoken about her sexual, religious and aesthetic preferences. However, the continual legal wrangling and lurid gossip finally took their toll on both Norton and Greenlees. Norton retreated from the public eye in the 1960s and Greenlees was institutionalized because of mental health problems brought on by the never ending harassment.

In 1974, the Rt. Rev. Marcus Loane, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney set up a Commission of Inquiry into occult practices. This was reportedly only the second such inquiry held in a Protestant country since the Middle Ages. The Commisssion reported, amongst other sensational claims, that occultism and Satanism were the "most sinister" of modern "crazes" and that "occultism may provide pornography with a religious base to work from." They even recommended that legislation be passed to prohibit ouija boards, tarot cards and similar devices or instruments of the occult. This report spurred the popular press to even more dramatic headlines.

However, Rosaleen Norton continued to live a quieter and more private life. She also remained defiant and courageous to the very end, and continued to work on her art and magickal practices until cancer took her on 5 December 1979. She died at the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Hospice in Sydney still worshipping Pan. Shortly before she died she is reported to have said, "I came into the world bravely; I'll go out bravely."

This last section will be about just a few things about Norton's religious beliefs and a final quote from the major source for this article. Pan was the major god that Rosaleen worshiped. Pan was the Greek god of shepherds and flocks, of hunting, mountain wilds, and rustic music. Pan was also associated with fertility and theatrical criticism and his season is spring. His name originates from the word paein meaning "to pasture," and he is a companion of the nymphs. Rosaleen Norton's religious beliefs were syncretic. Even though Pan was the major deity in her belief system, she also held such gods as Jupiter, Hecate, Neptune and Baphomet in high regard. In Norton's belief system Pan was celebrated for his creative (generative) powers. Her first magical ritual was "in honour of the horned god, whose pipes are a symbol of magic and mystery, and whose horns and hooves stand for natural energies and fleetfooted freedom; And this rite was also my oath of allegiance and my confirmation as a witch."

Norton believed these gods to have their own reality and not simply as representations of psychological forces to be acted upon. They appeared to the magician when they chose to do so-NOT at the whim of the magician. Norton's readings in the occult included the works of Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and Eliphas Levi. In her autobiographical articles, Norton remarked that the "onset of adolescence often awakens the religious urge as well as the sexual urge, and this was so with me." It is not known whether Norton practiced Aleister Crowley's system of sexual magick. He did have the most comprehensive and explicit guide to the relationships between sexual practice and magical ritual. Norton "practiced what she preached" and her belief system was fully integrated into her daily life. She wrote: "As for 'Do I feel frightened of the things I see?' No! Never! Most of them are as familiar a part of my world as the teapot is. And as necessary to me."

Jack Sargeant is the author of "The Witch of Kings Cross" which appeared in Fortean Times August 2007 issue #224 which is the source of most of the information of this small series along with wikipedia. Jack Sargeant asks at the end of his fantastic article about Rosaleen Norton and her fascinating (and many times very difficult) life: "What seems remarkable now is the apparent lack of support Norton received during her trials, even when the state took it upon itself to destroy her artwork. There was no outcry from museums or artists, suggesting that the country's artistic and intellectual communities were either paralyzed by cowardice or simply indifferent to Norton's fate. Such a lack of action remains shocking to this day." The art shown is more of Rosaleen Norton's work.

Rosaleen Norton Link

Gavin Greenlees Link

Sir Eugene Aynsley Goossens Link
Greek god Pan Link


X. Dell said...

It's interesting that her art frightened them all that much. Even more curious, the type of puritanical investigations against her work continued up until the 1970s.

Devin said...

I also thought that a bit interesting as to how late her troubles kept happening-I wondered if Australia then was as deeply conservative as "our" south? the crusades against her almost seemed Biblical at times! I think she seems like an enormously fascinating person-and I would never have heard about her unless it was the Fortean Times. If I ever find much more material about her I will try to do more articles-thanks so very much for stopping by Xdell-and I hope you are having a beautiful week!!

Justin Russell said...

Excellent set of articles Dev, and yet another person of an intriguing nature you've introduced me to. Norton's artwork seems reminiscent of William Blake in some of the pieces you included in this series. Phantasmagoric sexuality of a fearsome aspect....

I think that as regards this subject matter the work of Julian Jaynes is a suggestion from me to you, since I've been put onto various authors through you. Also the work of Michael Persinger (who I've only just come across) is another avenue of research.

Happy hunting Dev and thanks for these posts!

Devin said...

Justin-as always I cant tell you how much I enjoy it when you stop by and either give very intelligent commentary or great links or both!! I intend (forgot last time i was on) to visit your blog -the last post that i saw of yours (i was offline yesterday) really rang a bell with me!! I think before i start the next series here (and even when I do the next series) i am going to go for a bit more quality instead of quantity-I do have a post for today as long as connection holds but maybe i will just do that and leave it at the top of the page as I would like to get as much feedback as i can on it-best to you as always and thanks again for comments links and everything-will definitely chat soon!!

Alex Robinson said...

Hiya Devin
You do find interesting people & I would never know about them without you!
How very sad is this struggle just to be & live who you are.
Twas interesting (for me) that she came from NZ.

I hope you are very well & enjoying balmy breezes :)

Devin said...

Lots of creativity it would seem that generate from your fair nation alex!!! thanks so much for stopping by-just got done with my latest post and am ready to "rest" for a few days -but man look how i effed up the spacing hahaha:-) love ya and hope to chat soon!!