Australia is well known for their disproportionate share of A-List celebrities: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Chris Hemsworth, Margot Robbie to name a few. So it is too on the Celebrity BNP (Big Name Pagan) list: I could name some characters such as Rosaleen Norton, Vali Meyers, Wendy Rule, and of course, Fiona Horne. Is there something in the water here, to produce so many intriguing figures to represent our pagan community, whether we ‘elect’ them or not?
Most Aussie witches who were witching in the late 90s or early 2000s will remember the impact her book Witch: A Personal Journey made, and for some people like myself it was one of our first introductions to pagan spirituality. I had battered copies of nearly all of her books; the second title, A Magical Year I purchased from a library second-hand, and I remember finding in the back of the book a shopping list that read: ‘olive oil, parsley, incense, flowy skirt’. It was in that moment I felt an odd link to a fellow wannabe witchling. We were all united as Fiona connected us to something so very 90s: Girls Just Wanna Be Wiccans. It was the era of The Craft and Charmed, of Gwen Stefani belting out that she was Just a Girl. It felt like anything was possible. With enough ‘flowy skirts’, butterfly hairclips and the badass, witchy cool that Fiona Horne was peddling, we too could make magick happen. And we did.
Known as a television personality in Australia for her rock-chick glamour combined with the mystery and intrigue of casting love spells, Fiona Horne was featured in the classic Aussie witchy magazines Witchcraft and Spellcraft, posed for Playboy editorials and photographed with witchy paraphernalia such as her famous white pentagram jumpsuit, wielding intriguing knives or pet snakes. When other books on witchcraft and Wicca often felt dry and instructional, her books were edgy, accessible, biographical and fun.
Later, I decided I had outgrown Fiona Horne (perhaps I was influenced by “pagan web nerds” as Fiona calls them), I moved titles such as 7 Days to a Magickal New You on as I trimmed my witchy library of anything too beginner, too fluffy (I now really regret that particular cull.) The pagan sphere online had decided that Fiona Horne was to be dumped in the fluffy bunny category – pages were dedicated to her brand of witchcraft on websites like Why Wiccans Suck and Wicca: For the Rest of Us. A few semantic inaccuracies, a sprinkle of celebrity name dropping, and crime of crimes, claiming to be an atheist witch (now perfectly acceptable) cemented her place. Horne is no longer atheist, and while the celeb name dropping is still there (and perhaps more cringey than before), the history in The Naked Witch is purely her own.
Reading The Naked Witch we realise Fiona Horne has changed and grown, just like her readers. From her troubled childhood and teen years right through to her rollercoaster life fronting a rock band and moving to Hollywood to become the ‘World’s Favourite Witch’, she writes of battling with her personal demons and barely scraping to make ends meet. The stories she tells reveal suitably shocking revelations that you’d expect out of a celeb autobiography such as a brief affair with Tom Jones, but what is poignant about The Naked Witch is her raw honesty about her desperation to be loved and accepted. It is sad, in hindsight, to consider how much criticism she often received, a victim of classic Tall Poppy Syndrome perhaps. If you’re looking for more details about witchcraft, whether her own brand or anything in general – you won’t find it here, as her spirituality feels like a footnote to a larger narrative as she deals with failed relationships and the journey to self acceptance. She writes of enlightenment achieved via AA meetings and Vipassana retreats rather than calling the quarters on Hollywood hilltops under a full moon. Equally fascinating and heartbreaking, I devoured it from cover to cover just as I did when I read her first books over a decade ago. This time, I wasn’t looking for helpful advice on how to become a witchier version of myself. I simply enjoyed learning about how this flawed, beautiful human made her way through the world, tripping up along the way, and learning to be authentic and to find gratitude and peace within herself. Everything 90s is cool again, and I suspect this isn’t the last we have heard from The Naked Witch.