City News

Rediscovering a hidden figure of Sydney: The Witch of King’s Cross

Rosaleen Norton works on one of her famous occult sketches. Photo: via WRSP

By RACHEL CLARK

Witchcraft and the bohemian alternative lifestyle have grown in popularity in recent years, especially on social media. Online wicca and bohemian influencers have turned the lifestyle into a fashion statement, one that is widely celebrated rather than feared.

But in Sydney, there is one woman who started it all – the Witch of King Cross.

Post-war Sydney between the 1940’s to the 50’s was a vibrant city stuck between the old and the new. King Cross had a growing bohemian culture which manifested one of the most colourful figures of all time – Rosaleen Norton.

She was an artist, witch and driving force within this new lifestyle. 

An overall controversial character, some could say she was born to be a witch from an early age showing signs of her abilities including visions and a witch’s mark on her left knee.

Her teachings and ideology were heavily influenced by the writings of English occultist Aleister Crowley. Being a practitioner of Neopaganism witchcraft she developed her own form of trance and sex magic.

With her core worshipping based around gods from the ancient world. Such as Hecate, Lilith, Isis and at the centre the Greek god Pan. All of which were the driving inspiration for her artworks.

Rosaleen was a woman who lived free of society’s expectations and challenged the ideals of Christianity. She was often scrutinised by the tabloids and criminalised by police facing charges over her artwork. Including, the involvement of a court case with a famous devotee Sir Eugene Goosens in 1956. 

Breaking gender boundaries

Never identifying as a feminist, Norton continuously defied cultural norms. She occasionally dressed in men’s clothing, predominantly pictured wearing all black and even wore a pointed hat in photographs. 

Rosaleen would eventually retire from public appearance in the 1970’s and died from colon cancer at the Sacred Heart Hospice for the Dying, in Darlinghurst in 1979.

Remaining a witch until her dying age she was truly one of the original founders of modern witches based in Sydney. Nearly, forgotten to the distant memories of Kings Cross past and merely a footnote in history.

Luckily her extraordinary life has been rediscovered once more by film maker Sonia Bible. Through limited footage of her rare interviews, the articles of her life and last chance interviews of those who once knew her. The Witch of Kings Cross is now gaining the legacy she deserves

A woman who’d be revered in today’s world is now being remembered as a ground-breaking bohemian woman, who challenged the norms and helped push Australia into the freedoms of the sexual revolution.

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