Isabelle M. Pagan

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1911 edition

Isabelle M. Pagan was a Scottish Theosophist, writer, astrologer, and lecturer who wrote well-regarded texts on Astrology and the arts.

Personal life

Isabelle Mary Pagan was born on December 12, 1867 in Dairsie, a parish near Cupar, Scotland. SOmetimes her name is given as Isabella. Her parents were a prosperous banker and writer, George Hair Pagan, and his wife Janet (Jessie) Osborne. Isabelle had five younger sisters.[1][2] George died in 1881, the year his youngest daughter was born. For a time the six daughters lived in Edinburgh with Osborne relatives.[3] By 1918, Mrs. Jessie Pagan was living with Isabelle and her sisters Jeanie and Georgie at 22 Newbattle Terrace, Edinburgh. At that point Isabelle was employed as a lecturer, Jean as a civil servant, and Georgie as a masseuse. Isabella remained at that address with her sisters for the rest of her life.[4]

Miss Pagan died on July 2, 1960 at St. Andrews, Scotland and was cremated in Edinburgh.[5]

Theosophical Society involvement

Isabelle Pagan was admitted as a member of the Theosophical Society in Lausanne, Switzerland on October 28, 1902, along with her sister Jeanie Eleanor Pagan.[6] This was around the same time that Theosophical Society founder Henry Steel Olcott was visiting Switzerland, according to Clara Codd, and it is possible that the Pagan sisters heard him speak. After returning to Scotland, they transferred their memberships to the Edinburgh Lodge.

In 1908, the Edinburgh Lodge produced a play:

Perhaps the most original undertaking of the year was due to the Edinburgh Lodge, which in February gave a public dramatic performance of Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Peer Gynt has never yet been put upon the professional stage in Britain, and it is, therefore, specially gratifying to note that the ambitious effort met not only with artistic but also financial success, and that great public interest was aroused in Edinburgh. Miss Pagan's pamphlet, Has "Peer Gynt" a Key? proved of much value in presenting a theosophical interpretation of the meaning of the play.[7]

In 1910 the Orpheus Lodge was chartered in Edinburgh.[8] The lodge had the arts as its chief focus, presenting theatrical productions and organizing the Orpheus Publishing House. Miss Pagan served as president. She served as a director and playwright, adapting works by Charles Dickens and translating the plays of Henrik Ibsen.[9]

Miss Pagan lectured internationally on Theosophy as it related to astrology and the arts. In 1910 she, Josephine Ransom, Rudolf Steiner, and other eminent Theosophists spoke at the Brussels Exhibition arranged by Jean Delville.[10] In 1919, she lectured at the newly formed Theosophical Society in Ireland, visiting Cork and Bangor.[11]

She wrote for Theosophical periodicals and issued her astrological books exclusively through Theosophical publishers. An American reviewer wrote of her book Racial Cleavage; or the Seven Ages of Man:

This is one of the most delightfully written and valuable works along Theosophical lines that has appeared for sometime. It presents a Theosophical view of mankind – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. A guide to the understanding of our brother man and his racial and class distinctions the world over.[12]

Astrological work

Little is known about how Miss Pagan developed an interest in Astrology or whether she worked professionally casting horoscopes, but she lectured and wrote on the subject. Isabelle and her sister, Elizabeth H. C. Pagan, both wrote articles for Modern Astrology. It seems likely that they were well acquainted with their contemporary Theosophist-astrologer Alan Leo, editor of that magazine.

Her book From Pioneer to Poet, published in 1911, is still regarded as a valuable and innovative contribution to astrology. In what seems to have been a clairvoyant perception, she assigned Pluto as the ruler of Scorpio – before the 1930 discovery of the planet Pluto. She also assigned Vulcan as the ruler of Virgo and Earth as the ruler of Taurus. This book is often cited as the antecedent to Linda Goodman's Sun Signs (1968), the first best-selling astrology book.

Miss Pagan wrote in a postscript to the volume:

"How (this book) came to be written at all is something of a puzzle – unless it is true, as certain clairvoyants have asserted, that in a previous incarnation in ancient Egypt, as a student and teacher of Astrology, I prepared myself for the task. Certainly, as far as actual astrological study goes, I have no preparation this time.

After a cursory glance at one or two manuals and a little talk with a sister who took it up as a summer hobby, I went straight into detailed examination of horoscopes, and within a very few weeks had made up my mind to try to classify the various types without delay. At first I worked literally day and night; sometimes awaking two of three times from sleep to write down another pair of precious analytical adjectives, or make a correction on the paper that lay beside me.

Yet, certain astrologers who worked at the subject for years, assured me, even in those first weeks, that my conclusions were correct. Gradually, as the subject unfolded itself before me, the delight and interest grew, threatening to crowd out all other interests until it arrived at the point when, instead of excluding, it embraced them all."

Writing

Miss Pagan was described as an excellent and engaging writer. She was active in the Edinburgh Branch of Scottish Society for Speaking of Verse, a poetry group founded in 1924.

Periodicals

The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 27 articles by or about Isabelle Pagan and 2 articles using the name Isabella Pagan. She also wrote articles for Modern Astrology, as did her sister, Elizabeth H. C. Pagan, and articles appeared in other publications:

  • "The Horoscope and the Houses" in Astrologer's Annual for 1908, edited by Alan Leo.
  • "Notes on Racial Rythm" Theosophy in Scotland. November 1915.
  • "Passion Play at Oberammergau" Theosophy in Scotland. September 1910.
  • “The Dramatic Element in Dickens” The Living Age Seventh Series Vol XXVIII No. 3194 (September 23, 1905), 791-795.

Books and pamphlets on astrology

She wrote several books and pamphlets about Theosophy and Astrology.

  • Astrological Key to Character; the Twelve Zodiacal Types. London, Theosophical Pub. House 1907. 46 pages.
  • An Astrological Key to Character Birthday Book. 1914. London: Theosophical Pub. House, 1973. Pamphlet. 70 pages.
  • Astrological Summary and Analysis. London, 1911.
  • Has Peer Gynt a Key? London, 1908. Pamphlet. A Theosophical perspective of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt.
  • From Pioneer to Poet or the Twelve Great Gates: an Expansion of the Signs of the Zodiac Analysed. London: Theosophical Pub. Society, 1911. A second edition was published in 1926, and a third in 1930.
  • The Palace of the King: Rhymed Lessons in Astrology. Edinburgh: Theosophical Book Shop, 1918. Available at Goodle Books and Hathitrust.
  • Racial Cleavage; or the Seven Ages of Man. London: Theosophical Pub. House, 1937.
  • Signs of the Zodiac Analysed. First published before 1911, when an expanded version came out as From Pioneer to Poet. Sixth edition published in London: Theosophical Pub. House, 1978. Available at Open Library.

Books and pamphlets on literary subjects

  • A Defence of Bacon -- and Others. London: Theosophical Society in England, 1926. First published in Theosophical Review, new series vol. II no.8 (August 1926).
  • The Mythological Background of Wagners Ring of the Nibelung. London: Theosophical Pub. Society, 1900s. Pamphlet. 16 pages.

Plays

  • Mr. Boffin's Secretary: a Comedy in Four Acts. London: J.M. Dent, 1902. Adapted from Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.
  • Emperor and Galilean. Part I: Julian's Apostasy. Presented July 25, 1924 in Edinburgh.[13]
  • The Fantasy of Peer Gynt: Being Selections from the Dramatic Poem "Peer Gynt". London: The Theosophical Publishing Society, 1909. Henrik Ibsen work translated into English.
  • The Gentleman in the Next House: a Farcical Comedy in Three Scenes. London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1900. Available from Hathitrust, US access only. Adapted from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens by Isabelle Pagan, H. W. Vrooman, and Martha Landis.
  • Mr. Pecksniff's Pupil: a Comedy in Five Acts. London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1904. Available at Hathitrust and Google Books/ Adapted from The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.
  • Sunset in Stratford. ca. 1935. Manuscript in Folger Shakespeare Library. Shakespeare is one of the characters in this play.
  • Town and Todgers: a Sketch. London, 1904. Adapted from Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.
  • The Villain of the Piece: a Comedietta. London, 1904.

Other resources

Notes

  1. Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950.
  2. 1881 Scotland Census.
  3. 1891 Scotland Census.
  4. Edinburgh, Scotland, Electoral Registers, 1832-1966. See 1918 for occupations.
  5. UK, Burial and Cremation Index, 1576-2014.
  6. Theosophical Society General Membership Register, 1875-1942 at http://tsmembers.org/. See book 1, entries 22355-22356 (website file: 2B/64).
  7. The Theosophist 20 (December, 1908), 84.
  8. "A Brief History of the Theosophical Society in Scotland" in Theosophical Society in Scotland website.
  9. "Emperor and Galilean. Part I: Julian's Apostasy" summary at IbsenStage website.
  10. Annie Besant "On the Watch-Tower" The Theosophist 32.2 (November 1910).
  11. Beatrice Ensor, "Theosophy in Ireland" The Messenger 7.1 (June 1919), 27.
  12. Advertisement The American Theosophist 26.10 (October 1938), 242. Derived from a book review by W. G. Greenleaf in May 1938.
  13. Edinburgh Evening News, 22, 24 and 26 July 1924; The Scotsman, 25 and 26 July 1924.