The Magical Battle of Britain | Features | Fortean Times

Fundamentalists sometimes assure us that “There is War in Heaven.” Jesus and Lucifer are perpetually at each other’s throats, and the archangel Michael has his sword drawn at all times. Similar imagery can also be found in occultism, where motifs such as the ‘magical attack’ or the stereotypical figure of the ‘magical warrior’ are commonplace. Such martial symbols most often derive from purely personal conflicts – the products of egotism, paranoid imagination or persecution complexes. However, on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, this article looks at the ways in which magic was used in the wider conflict of World War II. Alongside the aerial battle being fought overhead during the summer and autumn of 1940, there was another battle being fought simultan­eously – a magical Battle of Britain.Let’s be clear – we’re talking here about ‘magic’ in the occult sense, rather than ‘magic’ as conjuring or illusionism, which has already been discussed in these pages see Gordon Rutter: “Magic goes to War”. War and Magic have long been regular bedfellows. The legendary King Arthur won his victories with his faithful sorcerer Merlin at his side and his magical sword Excalibur in his hand. On the early-modern stage, a British magician was set at combat with a German one in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. [1] Moving forward in time, and from myth and literature into history, in 1588 Queen Elizabeth I’s mathematician, court magician and spy, Doctor John Dee, is alleged to have conjured a massive gale to blow the retreating Spanish Armada into disarray. The threat of Napoleon’s invasion in 1807 is said to have been, at least in part, turned back by south coast British witches performing rituals to psychologically deter the French from thinking they could cross the sea in safety. World War I saw the appearance of the mystical motif of the Angels of Mons among other supernatural interventions see FT68:34–37; 170:30–38; 183:48–51; 210:32–40, and on an individual level many soldiers carried homemade folk-magical talismans to prevent injury or death. [2]

World War II was destined to be fought on many levels. Above and beyond the tried and tested methods of firing some kind of projectile at the enemy, it saw the use of disinformation and the manipulation of psychology reach new heights as a means of waging war. The astrologer Louis de Wohl 1903–1961 was employed by the British Intelligence services, whose staff also included Dennis Wheatley and Ian Fleming, to feed disinform­ation about astrological predict­ions regarding Hitler directly to the German high command; it has been argued that this is what led to Rudolph Hess’s bizarre flight to Britain in May 1941. See panel ‘Aleister Crowley and Operation Mistletoe’. [3]

The ‘black arts’ of spin, propaganda and disinformation might be one kind of magic, but British occultists were also involved in helping the war effort through even less traditional means.



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