Last night me and Cerri watched a newly-released film about the Australian Occult artist Rosaleen Norton called The Witch of Kings Cross. I’d seen a link for the film shared on social media and it looked very good.
And it was.
I’ve been a practising Pagan now for over 30 years yet somehow I had never heard of this amazing Occult artist! Maybe it was because we might tend to focus on magical pioneers from our own countries or maybe, as Cerri suggested last night, it was because she was a woman from the 1940s, and we all know how sidelined Pamela Coleman Smith had been until fairly recently. Either way, I feel somewhat conflicted that such an amazing artist seems to have gone under my radar for so long.
The film is narrated in the first person from written notes made by Rosleen herself and her life-story is a rollercoaster ride, with the kind of predudice you might expect, being a female Occult artist in conservative Australia during the 1940s and 50s.
She was briefly a model for the artist Norman Lindsay, who inspired the film Sirens. This was a name I did know having visited his home near Sydney a few years back, and the comparison between Lindsay and Norton is one I suppose is easy to make. But Norton’s art is much more visceral than Lindsay’s. Some could well be disturbed by some of the images she created, but there was a line in the film that suggested her art revealed the darker side of humanity, a side that is there within everyone, and those who felt threatened or uncomfortable with her art may well be people who haven’t yet acknowledged the existence of their own Shadow.
Personally, my entrance to the Pagan path was through the work of Crowley, the Golden Dawn, and Ceremonial Magic. I’ve also always loved those old woodcuts of the Witches Sabbat, and have walked the Path with Old Horny since I first stepped into the Pagan Forest, so I spent most of the film in utter rapture at the art she created.
Symbolism is at the heart of magic, and art that creates an emotion, whatever that may be, is magic in action. Like the song that moves you to tears of joy or sadness, good magical art is evidence of the power of magic, and Rosaleen’s art most certainly instils emotion in the viewer.
If you are like me and have never heard of Rosaleen, or even if you have, this film is well worth watching. It was £5.49 to both rent and buy through Apple, and it’s also on Amazon to buy or rent.