Black and white photograph of Betty May sitting.
Betty May photographed by Angus Basil. Part of an image that appeared in Tiger Woman. Source: Ashley Basil (CC BY 2.0).

Betty May was a British singer, dancer, and model who was a well known character to patrons of the Fitzroy Tavern and the cluster of pubs around Charlotte Street during the neighbourhood’s bohemian heyday in the 1920s and 1930s.

May, along with Aleister Crowley and Frieda, Lady Harris, is the subject of a new book which combines biography with astrology.

Author Andrea J Miles sent us a copy of the book and it was lovely to read a hand-written note to draw our attention to the many Fitzrovia connections in the chapters on Betty May.

In the first part Miles sets the scene by recalling May’s life as a “dancer, model and singer, clairvoyant and witch” and her public life in interwar Fitzrovia and its many pubs and clubs.

The second part delves into the challenging job of unravelling fact from fiction, researching her birth and humble early life in London’s East End as Bessie Golding, her four marriages and other relationships, and her disappearance from public life to her death in 1980 in Kent.

Miles’ research — using archive material, official records and interviews — contradicts many parts of May’s own version of events as told in her autobiography Tiger Woman: My Story.

In a final chapter she looks at May’s life from an astrological perspective. Miles’ previous book is a collection of biographies and birth charts of famous occultists and witches.

This book provides new insights into the life and character of this extraordinary artistic woman, and pieces together the parts that are missing from already published works.

Aleister Crowley, Frieda, Lady Harris & Betty May: Their Art, Magic & Astrology. By Andrea J Miles, it is published as a paperback by Green Magic and available from Treadwells Bookshop, 33 Store Street, and The Atlantis Bookshop, 49a Museum Street. An e-book is also available.