(Trigger warning)

Until 1950, it was illegal in the United Kingdom to print nonfiction books on witchcraft or related occult subject matter. So when theosophy, transcendentalism and spiritualism became popular, those who wished to convey knowledge to the seeking public embedded them in fiction. Gerald Gardner’s book High Magic’s Aid was one such allegory. Dion Fortune wrote a series of fictional allegories including the much-praised the Sea Priestess. The Sacred Rite of Magical Love is another such allegory. Like the works of Gardner and Fortune, it brings to light the sexual link between man and woman as a source of magical energy, and perhaps Naglowska’s take on it is the most disturbing of the three. Sadly I must strongly advise those who have suffered violent trauma that the following synopsis could be triggering.

This allegory tells the tale of mystical love. A woman forms a relationship with a divine entity; it becomes so powerful that she feels no desire for mortal men. A mortal man feels not so much desire for her as entitlement to her, and she is raped. After her rape, the divine entity guides her to bring the man to him, and from there he is spiritually transformed into a worthy husband and mystical partner for her.

The book studies the accepted attitudes about “male typical” and “female typical” energy; de Naglowska challenges with her story, even as she upholds certain conceptions about men’s and women’s natural inclinations that time has long since disproven. It’s extraordinarily difficult to set aside what 20th and 21st century research into rape pathology has revealed; de Naglowska is just plain wrong in some of her suppositions, but the underlying tale of how it should be between sexual and spiritual partners is compelling enough in its own right.

While much of de Naglowska’s work does not fit at all with modern spiritual conceptions, this book does seed certain concepts that allow for some flexibility in gender roles in modern magical practices. This may be another curio to collect, but it also merits academic, particularly sociological, study.

~ review by Diana Rajchel

Author: Maria de Naglowska
Inner Traditions, 2012
pp. 117, $16.95