Rockpool Publishing

The Witch of Kings Cross.

WITH her dramatically arched eyebrows and vivid paintings on satanic themes, Rosaleen Norton shocked ’50s and ’60s Australia.

The ‘Witch of Kings Cross’ became notorious for her bizarre appearance and occult beliefs, and was condemned for making “obscene” works of art.

She was expelled from a Church of England girls’ school in NSW for corrupting the other girls and began busking, holding exhibitions and painting pagan murals on the streets, until her adventurous sex life scandalised society.

“Nowadays, she would be considered a prodigy,” Lucy Cavendish, a Sydney witch who has written a book featuring the outlandish artist, told

“She was an incredible artist and a gifted painter, but her subject matter wasn’t considered appropriate.

“I’ve been fascinated with Rosaleen for years. This unique look was a precursor to goth. Maybe she cultivated it for a reason, she didn’t want to be seen as pretty, but powerful.”

‘Roie’, as she was known, held pagan gatherings at her Kings Cross home, which was quickly raided by the police. She was charged with obscenity and became an infamous figure in the press.
Rosaleen Norton, the ‘Witch of Kings Cross’, was condemned for her Satanic artworks and bizarre appearance.

Rosaleen Norton, the ‘Witch of Kings Cross’, was condemned for her Satanic artworks and bizarre appearance.Source:News Corp Australia

Rosaleen, who appears in Ms Cavendish’s book Witches and Wizards alongside the most influential occult personalities of all time, was from then on doomed to be persecuted just like magical figures throughout history.

Her artworks were removed from exhibitions, and her books confiscated when they reached customs overseas.

Roie struck up a relationship with Eugene Goossens, a world-famous British conductor and composer who was friends with Noel Coward. At 54, he moved to Australia to take over the newly formed Sydney Symphony Orchestra and became close to Roie, attending secret rituals at her apartment.

A journalist from the UK ensured the couple’s downfall by infiltrating Roie’s coven and finding intimate letters between the pair.

Sir Goossens was stopped at customs and found with incense, erotic art and sex toys. He was deported and fined, humiliated in the eyes of the world. Roie was accused of destroying him.

She died penniless in 1979, but Lucy believes the Witch of Kings Cross paved the way for the outsiders and alternative figures who are so important in bringing change to the world.

Ms Cavendish, who owns broomsticks with different energies, casts spells for healing, but would never curse anyone or force them to fall in love.

“She was a very brave human,” she says of Rosaleen. “Her work was challenging, but so are classical paintings. She’s not just a heroine for counterculture but for anyone who marches to the beat of their own drum.

“She was never dependent, she lived an unconventional life and she was intensely intelligent. She’s an absolute inspiration for anyone doing it tough.”
The occultist features in Sydney witch Lucy’s book on the pagans who changed our world.

The occultist features in Sydney witch Lucy’s book on the pagans who changed our world.Source:Supplied

Rosaleen, the subject of an upcoming documentary, was a predecessor to tens of thousands of witches and wizards now living in Australia, says Ms Cavendish.

The author aims to regain respect for pagan men and women through history up to today, looking at stories from King Arthur’s Merlin to a five-year-old girl shackled until she had a mental breakdown after the Salem witch trials.

“People like Aleister Crowley purposely set out to live as witches or wizards,” said Ms Cavendish. “We only hear the more outrageous tales, not that he introduced yoga to the West or was a devoted mountain climber, only the demonic side.”

Crowley had a huge influence on rock and pop music, inspiring David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and even Jay-Z. Ms Cavendish says during the ‘60s rock stars became “the new witches”, performing “acts of worship” on stage.

She credits pagans as pushing forward gay and transgender rights, with many arrested for homosexuality, but she says there are still more hurdles to break through.

“There are always people who push the boundaries a little further,” she said. “We’re still working through how different it’s OK to be.

“They encourage us to live our lives in more courageous ways, they have a bigger purpose. We need people like this.”

Order Witches and Wizards by Lucy Cavendish at Rockpool Publishing.

This BLOG was extracted in full from NEWS.COM.AU


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Emma Reynolds, – 10 February, 2016