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Rosaleen Norton

Norton with her pet cat
Born 2 October 1917
Dunedin, New Zealand
Died 5 December 1979
Sydney, Australia
Residence Sydney
Nationality Australian
Occupation Witch; Artist
Relatives Roie's only surviving relative is her niece Cecily
Rosaleen Norton plaque, Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross

Rosaleen Miriam Norton (2 October 1917 – 5 December 1979) was an Australian artist, occultist, and witch sometimes referred to as "the witch of Kings Cross".



Rosaleen Norton was born in Dunedin, New Zealand but moved with her family to Sydney, Australia in June 1925. From an early age she felt a close connection with the occult, beginning to experiment with self hypnosis in 1940.

Artist and witch

By 1951 she had become locally well–known. Roie (as she was known) flourished in the atmosphere of inner Sydney around Kings Cross, the bohemian, centre of Sydney, where her murals adorned cafés such as the Kashmir and Apollyon. Galleries briskly traded in her popular and provocative works.

In early August 1951 the police raided an exhibition of her work and seized four of her pictures. She was prosecuted, with the Crown prosecution alleging that such works could 'deprave and corrupt the morals of those who saw them', and the police alleged that they were inspired by works of mediaeval demonology. The charges against her were dismissed, and 4 pounds 4 shillings costs were awarded against the Police Department.

In 1952 a beautifully produced leather bound, limited edition book of her paintings with poems from her close friend and colleague, Gavin Greenlees, was published by Walter Glover. Glover was subsequently found guilty of publishing an obscene publication, certain pages had to be blacked out, and the book was made subject to a Customs ban. Newspapers trumpeted that it was the "most blatant example of obscenity yet published in Australia." Copies of the book sent to New York were confiscated and burnt by the U.S. Customs Department.

As a result of her notoriety, she soon became a favourite with the tabloid press which began referring to her as the "Witch of Kings Cross." Dark stories of witchcraft, "black masses," sexual magical rites, and satanism began to regularly appear in Australian newspapers and magazines, and "Roie Norton" soon became a household name.

Eugene Goossens

The famous composer and conductor Sir Eugene Goossens was the ABC director of music, conductor of the Sydney Symphony, and head of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music. He was also a close friend and associate of Roie and Gavin. In March 1956, he was stopped at Sydney airport at Mascot and accused of importing prohibited imports, including pornographic photos and ceremonial masks and other paraphernalia for use in their rituals. Owing to the public scandal, Goosens lost his jobs and was forced to return to England, where he died in 1962.

In 1957, Walter Glover was declared bankrupt and the copyrights to the artwork which had been assigned to him were taken over by the Official Receiver in Bankruptcy. The copyrights to Roie's artworks were finally returned to him in 1981. He managed to republish the book without difficulties in the more liberal atmosphere of 1982.

In 1984, Walter Glover followed this up with a limited edition called the Supplement to the Art of Rosaleen Norton, a collection of tastefully mounted colour photographs of 48 more of her works. So, in spite of the censors and the prudishness of the Australian public in the 1940s to the 1970s, Norton's unusual artworks are now available to the public, uncensored.

Throughout the 1960s Roie was notorious as the head an active coven in Kings Cross, and was regularly featured in the popular press. Friends who knew her at this period remember her with fondness, and invariably refer to how kind and gentle she really was, quite the opposite of the demon so beloved of the Press.

Inquiry into occult practices

In 1974, the Rt. Rev. Marcus Loane, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, set up a Commission of Inquiry into occult practices. This was, reportedly, only the second such inquiry held in a Protestant country since the Middle Ages. The Commission reported, amongst other sensational claims, that occultism and Satanism were the "most sinister" of modern "crazes" and that, "occultism may provide pornography with a religious base to work from". They even recommended that legislation be passed to prohibit ouija boards, tarot cards, and the like. This report spurred the popular press to ever more dramatic headlines but, in the years after the initial furore died down, Roie continued to live a quieter, more private life.


She died in 1979 from colon cancer at the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Hospice for the Dying, in Sydney, still worshiping Pan; a pagan until her death. Shortly before she died she is reported as saying: "I came into the world bravely; I'll go out bravely." A plaque dedicated to her has since been installed in Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross.


  • The Art of Rosaleen Norton with poems by Gavin Greenlees. Walter Glover, Sydney. 1952. 2nd edition: Walter Glover, Bondi Beach. 1982. ISBN 0-9593077-0-2.
  • Supplement to: The Art of Rosaleen Norton (1982 Edition) with poems by Gavin Greenlees. Walter Glover, Bondi Beach, N.S.W. 1984. ISBN 0-9593077-1-0.
  • Pan's Daughter: The Strange World of Rosaleen Norton. Nevill Drury. Collins Australia. 1988. ISBN 0-7322-0000-8.
  • Three Macabre Tales (US: Typographeum Press, 1996). Three rare Lovecraftian stories originally published by Norton in the periodical Smith's Weekly.
  • Thorn in the Flesh: A Grim-Memoire (US: The Teitan Press, 2009). ISBN 978-0-933429-16-1

External links

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