The Magical Battle of Britain
By Sable Aradia
A Puzzling Question of History
It’s a strange footnote of history. Something happened in World War II that doesn’t really make any sense, and nobody really seems to give a lot of thought as to why it happened outside of military academies.
Germany never invaded Britain.
It seems crazy, considering the scope of the German war machine, and considering that Britain was the primary foe who stood in the way of the nightmare of Capitalism and Fascism that was the National Socialist Party. It can be reasonably argued that without Britain to oppose them, world domination would have been within Hitler’s grasp. I would not be writing this because my grandmother would have been gassed when Hitler’s minions got to Canada.
What stopped them? The general consensus among military historians seems to be that in order for an invasion to be successful, Germany would have had to gain air superiority in the English channel; a goal that was denied them by the determined and beleaguered pilots of the RAF who fought the Germans to a standstill in the Battle of Britain.
But it’s not that simple. Further examination of the situation reveals that Hitler made two significant strategic mistakes. The first is that he chose to focus his Air Force on the Blitz as opposed to the Battle of Britain, and the second is that fear of the Royal Navy kept the Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine commanders at home.
Says J. Gunnar Grey, author of the WWII military analysis Deal with the Devil:
But during wartime analyses, it became obvious to both sides that the Kriegsmarine never commanded sufficient numbers of surface ships nor U-boats to clear the Home Fleet from the English Channel. Worse, the LST hadn’t been invented yet, so the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (general staff) faced the dilemma of how to transport their 9th and 16th Armies across the Channel from occupied France. Sure, they could airlift infantry, but what about tanks and artillery? It was the Panzer Corps that made the Wehrmacht so mighty, and any attempt to conquer Britain without them was practical idiocy.
The attempted solution? Rhine river barges, flat-bottomed and clumsy. Of the 1,200 barges assembled for training exercises, only a quarter were self-powered. The rest had to be towed. None carried serious weaponry. All of them floundered in any sea rougher than State 2. Note that a destroyer’s wake qualified as State 4, meaning all the Home Fleet had to do was drive past the German invasion flotilla to swamp or sink a hefty percentage. And how many of the soldiers who survived to reach the shore wouldn’t be seasick?
These barges weren’t equipped with cranes. So when (if) a barge reached the English shoreline, how were the soldiers supposed to unload the tanks? The serious suggestion was, fire the cannon and blow out the end of the barge. So, um, how was the second wave supposed to cross?
The invasion plan, Operation Sealion, stank. No other word for it. When reality sank in, OKW shuffled it off into a file cabinet and pretended it didn’t exist. Hitler turned his gunsights on Russia, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Thus the much-dreaded Operation Sea Lion, which was the German invasion plan, sank, and Germany contented itself with a slow policy of strangulation and trade embargo. Which brought suffering to England, it’s true; but it also bought England enough time that Japan finally dragged the United States into the war effort; the fronts were reinforced and new supplies were brought; and D-Day was the end result.
Some have postulated that if Germany had persisted in engaging the RAF pilots, eventually the British would have simply become exhausted. It’s a historically-recognized fact that the RAF recruited pilots vigorously from the Allied or neutral nations because of the rate of attrition (which is military jargon for “the amount of people getting slaughtered”). Countless Commonwealth pilots took up the task, some even before their nations officially went to war, and they would wash the blood off the recovered Spitfires to put someone else in the seat. They can’t have kept it up forever. But they did keep it up for long enough.
I’m fascinated by this period of history, and I am inspired by the “rugged determination” that history’s narrative gives us for these brave pilots. Maybe the narrative is even true, and not just wartime propaganda.
But what’s more interesting is the “want of a shoe” going on here. If the RAF had kept it up for a few days less; if less pilots from outside of Britain had volunteered; if Hitler had figured out a way to transport tanks (how much effort would it have taken the highly-industrialized Germans to put cranes on the boats?); if the Luftwaffe had persisted against the RAF. . .
History is a series of “what ifs,” and sometimes those branching paths depend upon a single moment of choice.
The Nature of Magick
Magick-workers know that magick is all about influencing probabilities. Magick can’t make fireballs fly out of your fingers. What it does is to influence situations which have yet to be fixed in stone so that they are more likely to manifest in a way that you consider favourable to your purpose. It works by the principle of chaos theory; slight alterations of direction can have huge consequences. String theory tells us that every decision that is made takes us into one possible reality out of several options. Magick aims the rocket that will take us there.
Whether or not this happens because we are actually exerting our Wills to change reality, or whether this happens because magick focuses intent and makes us more likely to be make some targeted decisions than others, isn’t relevant. The effect is relevant. It’s the moment of choice that matters.
Magick and Complex Systems
Magick becomes especially challenging when dealing with complex systems. This is why money magick rarely works. As Kadmus pointed out in his article “Capitalist Leveling and the Problem of Pagan Values,” money is already a magical concept by definition; most of our species has agreed collectively that we will use a rough unit of measure to represent a perceived value in order to facilitate exchange. Aside from the many (quite reasonable) arguments that this system is flawed on its face, what it means is that absolutely everybody in the world who is trying to utilize money is exerting their magickal wills on the economy by definition! So you’re not trying to “tap” a system slightly in one direction or another; you’re fighting for supremacy in a piranha- filled cesspool.
Coins give us a tangible connection to value, but bills are less useful for this, and the credits clicking away from your chip card are even less tangible still; all of which is part of the design. It’s hard to connect to that sort of energy. So maybe we should be applying a different approach.
A Magician’s Call to Arms
Immediately following Britain’s declaration of war in 1939, Dion Fortune began a series of regular letters to members of her magical order, the Fraternity of the Inner Light, who were unable to hold meetings due to wartime travel restrictions. With enemy planes rumbling overhead, she organised a series of visualisations to formulate “seed ideas in the group mind of the race”, archetypal visions to invoke angelic protection and uphold British morale under fire. “The war has to be fought and won on the physical plane,” she wrote, “before physical manifestation can be given to the archetypal ideals. What was sown will grow and bear seed.” As the war developed, this was consolidated with further work for the renewal of national and international accord. For the first time the Fraternity’s doors were opened to anyone who wanted to join in and learn the previously secret methods of esoteric mind-working. With unswerving optimism she guided her fraternity through the dark days of the London Blitz, continuing her weekly letters even when the bombs came through her own roof.
– from the introduction to The Magical Battle of Britain, from the letters of Dion Fortune, edited by Gareth Knight
Dion Fortune organized an extraordinary act of magick to stop the Nazis from touching British soil. She engaged the aid of several prominent magicians of the time, including Aleister Crowley, Dennis Wheatley, and James Bond’s creator, writer and British Intelligence operative Ian Fleming. She invoked the ancient spirits pledged to Britain’s protection, including King Arthur, Merlin, St. Michael and St. George. And according to some reports, the night that Operation Sea Lion was due to launch, a cabal of magicians gathered in the New Forest and possibly, it is said, at the cliffs of Dover, to perform a ritual to stop the Nazi invasion, including Aleister Crowley and one Gerald Gardner, among others. It’s said that the magicians of that cabal paid a very high price; most of them suffered from chronic health problems thereafter; two locals who may have been part of the New Forest Coven contracted pneumonia and died that year; and Crowley was dead within two years of the war’s end.
But it worked.
The British resolve under fire was iron-clad. They never lost faith that they could win the war, no matter how badly the odds seemed stacked against them.
The Nazi fear of the British Navy so overwhelmed them on the eve of the invasion that they changed their minds and stayed home.
Was Dion Fortune’s vast “thought experiment” the reason? And if so, was it the British belief in the war propaganda that, obviously, was being spread by intelligence operatives who were also occultists — or was it something more?
From Bedknobs & Broomsticks (Walt Disney Pictures)
A Method to Their Madness
Let us meditate upon angelic Presences, red-robed and armed, patrolling the length and breadth of our land. Visualise a map of Great Britain, and picture these great Presences moving as a vast shadowy form along the coasts, and backwards and forwards from north to south and east to west, keeping watch and ward so that nothing alien can move unobserved.
– from The Magical Battle of Britain by Dion Fortune
Dion Fortune’s magickal act worked on several sound magickal theories:
- She believed that trained ritualists could combine their efforts to influence the collective Will of the British people, not any one individual.
- She utilized easily-recognizable culturally-based spirits and egregors whose meaning would be intuitively understood by thousands of people.
- She drew upon spirits and egregors already associated with the purpose for which they’d been called.
- She created simple acts of magick that could be easily imitated, and contributed to, by a wide range of individuals in disparate geographical locations.
- She was doing a Working in a cause that thousands of people were passionate about.
It seems to me that any act of magick intended to influence the actions of such a large group of people would do well to keep these principles in mind. Trying to get a large group of people to do something complicated is challenging. Trying to get them to do something simple that they feel strongly about is much easier.
Dion Fortune believed that there were “dark forces” allied in opposition to Britain. There were persistent rumours of links between the Nazis and the occult even in the midst of the Second World War, and according to Fortune’s book, one of the reasons why there were so many links between occultists and British Intelligence is so that misinformation about astrological prophecies predicting doom for the Third Reich could be intelligently distributed to Hitler’s own occultists. There’s been much speculation; but again, little proof. What’s clear is that Fortune and her compatriots felt that there were sorcerers Working against them, which was one of the reasons they invoked angelic presences.
Even if you don’t believe in supernatural forces, it’s clear that Fortune’s project was faced with the formidable opposition of the Nazi propaganda machine. And it’s clear that this machine, at least in Britain, was defeated.
A New Magicians’ Call to Arms
Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.
There’s a new magical battle to fight. Unfortunately, this is a civil war, and the enemy is not as clearly defined as it was for the British in the Second World War. Nor can we visualize an angelic host spreading over the countryside and tossing out invaders, because they are not invaders; they are already here. As with the Nazis, there are persistent rumours of their sorcery. And this time, they have achieved world domination in a way that would make even the most pessimistic of dystopian science fiction writers from twenty years ago shudder. They own our oil, our information, our money, and even the seeds that grow our food. So how do we defeat them?
- As trained ritualists, we combine our efforts to influence the collective Will of the People, not any one individual.
- We utilize easily-recognizable culturally-based spirits and egregors whose meaning would be intuitively understood by thousands of people.
- We draw upon spirits and egregors already associated with the purpose for which we call them.
- We create simple acts of magick that can be easily imitated, and contributed to, by a wide range of individuals in disparate geographical locations.
- We convince people that they should care about, our cause; thus, when others join us in this Working, it will be for a goal that many of people (perhaps thousands) are passionate about.
Many gods and entities have been stirring in our community. Perhaps They hear our need for liberation, or perhaps we are simply more attuned to what They represent in our hour of need. The Morrigan has heard our cries to assert our sovereignty; Odin, Loki, and Hermes have answered our call to remove barriers and untangle bureaucracies; Thor has come to stand up for the people; the Lwa have come to release the slaves; Tyr has heard our cries for justice; Athena has heard our clamour for good government and democracy; Aradia has come to liberate the oppressed. And if needed, the gods of the wild and of chaos stand at the ready to sow the seeds of change.
There are other egregors we could be calling upon. Perhaps we should call upon the gods of the harvest to take back our crops. Perhaps we should ask the scholar deities to loose the chains on information. Perhaps we should ask the gods of commerce to put the economy back into the hands of the People.
Perhaps we can seek the aid of Robin Hood, who robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Perhaps we can ask Paul Bunyan or John Henry to fight for the working class. Perhaps we can ask Lady Liberty to stand fast against those who would take our liberty from us; perhaps we can ask Mother Canada to cry out against the suffering of Her children.
Work with the gods and spirits Who have answered the call in our hour of need. Make offering and acts of devotion. If you can hear Their voices, be Their loudspeakers.
Convince people to shake off the Glamour of “keeping up with the Jonses.” Point out the truth of the poisoned apples. Above all, wake your friends and your loved ones from this horrific fairy-tale sleep of Apathy, before the briars grow so thick that we can never be released from its curse.
Can magick save the world? Once, it saved my husband’s life. Once, it may have saved a country. So why not?
Magicians, to arms!
From Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Brothers)
Witch, Priestess, writer, musician,
singer/songwriter, teacher, healer