Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Witch of Kings Cross

ROSALEEN NORTON (1917-1979) artist, occultist and witch was born on October 2, 1917. Rosaleen Norton first attracted controversy when she was expelled from the Church of England Girls' School, Chatswood, at the age of 14 for producing 'depraved' drawings of vampires, ghouls and werewolves thought likely to corrupt the other girls. In August 1949 she exhibited a series of pagan, sexually explicit drawings at the Rowden White Library, University of Melbourne. Police raided the exhibition, which included such works as Lucifer, Witches' Sabbath and Individuation, and Norton was charged with obscenity. The charges were dismissed after she provided the court with detailed explanations of her occult symbolism. Known as 'The Witch of Kings Cross', she openly proclaimed her dedication to occult beliefs and the 'Great God Pan'. She was falsely accused by the tabloid press of holding Black Masses replete with animal sacrifice. Despite the fact that at the time, witchcraft was still illegal in the area (the British Witchcraft Act of 1735 had been repealed in England in 1951, but would only be repealed in 1971), Norton openly declared herself to be a Witch. On the basis of a series of confiscated photographs of simulated ceremonial rituals, she was charged in 1956 with 'engaging in unnatural sexual acts'. The tabloid attention surrounding Norton had intensified in the late 1950s, whilst tourists were actually coming to the area in search of her. She tried to explain her beliefs to interviewers, emphasising her faith in pantheism.

Her work was influenced by British vorticism and has been linked stylistically to that of Norman Lindsay, for whom she occasionally modelled and her contemporary Austin Osman Spare. Norton derived much of her imagery from a type of psychic exploration based on self-hypnosis and from what in occult circles has been described as 'wanderings on the astral planes'. Aside from her paintings, she made charms and did spell casting for people to supplement her income. According to her biographer, Nevill Drury, "Norton's esoteric beliefs, cosmology and visionary art are all closely intertwined and reflect her unique approach to the magical universe."