Norton, Rosaleen

Norton, Rosaleen (1917–1979) New Zealand pantheist and artist of the supernatural, whose eerie works of magical consciousness earned her the title of “the Witch of kings Cross.” Rosaleen Norton’s surrealistic Pagan work was greatly misunderstood by the public during her life and was subject to censorship.

Norton was born in 1917 in Dunedin, New Zealand, to a family with conventional religious beliefs. Her father was a captain in the merchant navy. By age three, Norton exhibited artistic talent and was drawing unusual pictures of animal-headed ghosts. At age five, she experienced an apparition of a shining dragon at her bedside.

Her family moved to Lindfield, Australia. Norton was expelled from secondary school in Sydney for her drawings of vampires, werewolves, ghosts and other supernatural beings; the headmistress stated that she had a “depraved nature.”

At age 15, she began selling occult short stories. She worked for a while as a cadet journalist and then an illustrator for Smith’s Weekly but found the work too limiting and left. She studied with artist rayna Hoff, then took her works to the streets to sell. She supported herself with various low-level jobs. She pursued a study of Magic, occultism, metaphysics and psychology.

Norton received her inspiration from what she said were real encounters with Pagan deities, especially those of ancient Greece and rome. They would appear to her in trance visions, but only if they so desired. In addition, to deities, Norton had encounters with Lucifer, bAphomet, Demons, astral entities and other beings, some of whom she drew as nude half-animal, half-human beings.

In 1949 Norton exhibited paintings at melbourne University. They shocked and offended many and were treated as obscenities.

In 1952 publisher Walter Glover of Sydney published The Art of Rosaleen Norton, a collection of her works accompanied by poems written by Gavin Greenlees, Norton’s lover. The book was attacked by critics as “blatant . . . obscenity,” and the Post master General threatened to prosecute Glover for an indecent publication. A magistrate fined the publisher five pounds plus costs for including in the book two illustrations deemed “offensive to public chastity and human decency.” The offending works were blacked out of subsequent copies.

Copies shipped to the United States were confiscated and burned by U.S. Customs. Glover had difficulty advertising the book. Serious financial problems developed, and in 1957, Glover declared bankruptcy.

In 1955 Norton’s reputation was further damaged by charges that she was “the black witch of kings Cross” and had participated in Satanic cult activities. The charges were made by a 19-year-old waitress who had been arrested on vagrancy charges and later admitted her accusations against Norton were based on hearsay. Norton attempted to make a public explanation of how PAn, one of her favored deities, was not Satan, but the episode nevertheless was played up sensationally in the press. A month after the arrest of the waitress, Norton and Greenlees were arrested in their basement tenement flat by the vice squad.

Norton and Greenlees endured nearly two years of protracted court hearings, which received a great deal of media attention. The two had been filmed in ceremonial garb performing a ceremonial ritual to Pan. It was alleged that they had engaged in an “unnatural sex act” and that the film supposedly was evidence of a kings Cross witch cult. There was testimony about the “lewd” and “lustful” nature of Norton’s work. Norton and Greenlees eventually were fined 25 pounds each for assisting in the production of obscene photographs.

After the conclusion of the court hearings, Norton retired from public view. She died in 1979. In 1981 Glover, back in business, received the copyright to Norton’s book from the Official receiver in Bankruptcy. He reissued it in 1982, to a more sympathetic audience.

Further Reading:

  • Drury, Neville. Pan’s Daughter. Sydney: Collins Australia, 1988.


The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca – written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.

You may be also interested in :

Veneficium Magic, Witchcraft and the Poison Path - Daniel A. Schulke
The Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Witchcraft and Dark Shamanism in Seventeenth-Century Scotland - Emma Wilby
Satanism and Witchcraft -  Jules Michelet
A Practical Guide to Witchcraft and Magick Spells - Cassandra Eason
The Wiccan Mysteries: Ancient Origins & Teachings - Raven Grimassi
Witchcraft: The Old Religion - Leo Louis Martello
The Hammer of Witches: A Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum - Christopher S. Mackay
An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present - Doreen Valiente
HausMagick: Transform Your Home with Witchcraft - Erica Feldmann
The Witch’s Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft – Lady Sable Aradia
Witchcraft in the Middle Ages – Jeffrey Burton Russell
By Land, Sky  Sea Three Realms of Shamanic Witchcraft - Gede Parma
A Witch's World of Magick: Expanding Your Practice with Techniques & Traditions from Diverse Cultures - Melanie Marquis
The Temple of High Witchcraft: Ceremonies, Spheres and The Witches' Qabalah - Christopher Penczak
Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft Without Breaking Your Budget - Deborah Blake
The Wonders of the Invisible World - Cotton Mather
Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks, and Covens –  Paul Huson
Traditional Witchcraft : A Cornish Book of Ways - Gemma Gary
The Way of the Hedge Witch : Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home - Arin Murphy-Hiscock
Buckland's Book of Saxon Witchcraft - Raymond Buckland
The Witches’ Book of the Dead – Christian Day
The Inner Temple of Witchcraft: Magick, Meditation and Psychic Development - Christopher Penczak
Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in Greek and Roman Worlds - Daniel Ogden
Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A Regional and Comparative Study, Second Edition -  Alan MacFarlane
Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Abridged Edition) - E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Eva Gillies
Witchcraft: A Concise Guide or Which Witch Is Which? - Isaac Bonewits
The Witchcraft Sourcebook - Brian P. Levack
Witchcraft and Demonology in Hungary and Transylvania - Gábor Klaniczay (Ed.), Éva Pócs (Ed.)
Witchery: Embrace the Witch Within -  Juliet Diaz
Helping Yourself with White Witchcraft - Al G. Manning