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W. B. Yeats to Fiona Macleod

W. B. Yeats to Fiona Macleod, autograph letter signed, early January 1897
Originally on loan from the collection of William F. Halloran

Yeats’s fascination with the mysterious Fiona Macleod was multiplied by his excitement over her archer vision and the proof it provided of occult phenomena. He suggested Macleod submit a short “Celtic play” for production by the National Literary Society in Dublin or the Irish Literary Society in Dublin, believing such a Scot-Celtic production “might do more than anything else we can do to make the Irish, Scotch, & other celts recognize their solidarity.”

Yeats went on to detail his quest to formulate a uniquely Celtic occult society:

You know I am an occult student. Well I am trying to found some Celtic invocations on certain medieval invocations. I have traced the four talismans of the Tuatha De Danaan, the sword, the lance, the cauldron, & the stone, further than Nutt has done, & found them in medieval magic. I am working on the foundation & trying to go back, from the medieval magic, with which they became connected, to the old Celtic gods. I have seen a very learned & indeed powerful kabalist here on the subject & hope for the beginning of what might become a Celtic magic. I have made some practical use of them but not enough yet to know their value. My Shadowy Waters is magical & mystical beyond anything I have done.

Although Yeats would abandon the Irish rituals, Irish occult themes would become the underlying framework of much of his work. He also referred to the delayed publication of The Secret Rose, one of his more overtly occult works, from which several occult stories would be cut by publisher A. H. Bullen.