WITCHES AND THE CONE OF POWER
Cone of power
In Neo-pagan witchcraft this is a field of psychic energy or power produced in unison by a coven or group of witches. Sometimes the phenomenon is referred to as raising the power. Other Neo-pagans believe in the phenomenon too.
Witches usually join hands, frequently within the magic circle, while dancing around and chanting to raise the power. The process also employs visualization. The circle is the bottom of the cone. the witches or persons within the circle produce the power which rises to the apex of the cone which extends into infinity. When this psychic power peaks in intensity it is released through the apex to accomplish a goal such as to heal or cast a spell.
It is considered that the psychic energy produced within the cone of power is similar to the power of prayer raised within prayer meetings. Witches who have greatly developed this ability sometimes see the cone of power as a luminous, pulsating cloud flooded with changing colors, or as a silvery-blue light.
The cone of power has been associated with the circle, the symbol of the sun, unity, eternity, rebirth and the triangle. The triangle has been associated with the elements and pyramids which represents the higher spiritual desires of all things. Three is the number of the triangle, which also is an important number in witchcraft, representing the triple Goddess, and in Christianity the Trinity.
Believed incidents of cones of power have been recorded in history. In parts of ancient Syria,the cone was a symbol of Astrate. The cone has been symbolized by tall, conical hats worn by magicians and witches.
Witches have claimed victories against hostile forces with the use of cones of power. In 1588 the helped to defeat the Spanish Armada (See: Sea Witches), and in the 1700 they raised power against Napoleon.
In 1940 there was much fear the Hitler would invade England which resulted in producing "Operation Cone of Power" on Lammas Day, August 1. Hundreds of witches from covens throughout southern England gathered skyclad in New Forest to send Hitler and his generals telepathic thoughts to stay out of England. The German armies never invaded the country. Whether or not the witches' messages were beneficial is not certain.
But, thirty-one years later in 1971, on Lammas Day, California witches gathered together to perform a similar ceremony to end the war in Vietnam.
For centuries stories of sea witches have predominately enhanced British folklore. The tradition, and legends, of Sea Witches surrounds experiences of seafarers and beachcombers as well as others in the sea faring trade. These legends with the aid of imagination, and frequently superstition, have produced tales of phantoms, or ghosts of the dead allegedly possessing supernatural powers that control the fate of seafarers on the waves.
However, the tradition of the Sea Witch still exists. Sea Witches focus on Moon lore, the tides, and weather magicks. From these elements came the Witch tradition of women who could raise wind and cause storms, which even 200 years ago could send them to the stake.
Currently the path of the Sea Witch is one chosen by few Pagans. The Sea Witch works with the chaotic forces of nature. Many term chaos evil, especially those enthralled with the powers of light. Here the Sea Witch differs, she or he recognizes that chaos, if evil at all, is a necessary evil because the chaotic climatic elements are part of the environment of the sea. Thus, the Sea Witch does not just use "white magick" and/or "black magick," but "gray magick" because the person deals with all elements at her/his disposal when maintaining a balance between light and dark powers. Not many ordinary persons can manage such a feat, which is why most Sea Witches are solitary, working alone and by themselves.
Sea magick pertains to magick performed involving the element of Water, usually performed by the seashore; however, in modern times, depending on the location of the Witch, substitutes such as a lake, river, pond, or bath tub can be used. Even placing a bowl of salt water on an altar with the proper intention will suffice. The magick is usually sea related. Although several types of magick may be performed, the most common is weather magick since precipitation is water related. Such activity stems from old traditions when sea witches were called upon to control the weather to insure seafarers safe voyages. Related to Sea Magick is Moon Magick since the Moon controls the tides of the sea.
According to legends witches were believed to be able to control the wind. One method was with the use of three knots tied into a rope, or sometimes into a handkerchief. When the three knots were tied in the proper magical way, the wind was bound up in them. Witches gave, or sometimes sold, these magic knots to sailors to help them experience safe voyages . The release of one knot brought a gentle, southwesterly wind; two knots, a strong north wind; and three knots, a tempest. In the folklore of the Shetland Islands and Scandinavia, some fishermen were said to have commanded the wind this way. The belief in controlling the wind by tying it goes back to the legends of ancient Greece; Odysseus received a bag of wind from Aeolus to help him on his journey.
In other legends the activities of witches and sorcerers have been confused, which is a common practice even today. For example, Sir Francis Drake is said to have sold his soul to the Devil in order to become a skilled seaman and admiral. The Devil allegedly sent Drake sea witches, who raised a storm that helped him to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588. The battle occurred near Devil's point, overlooking Davonport, which, by some, is still considered haunted by witches.
In summary, Sea Witch magick strives to achieve a balance between light and dark powers; the Witch does not focus more on one than the other. The reason for this is that the Sea Witch realizes such a balance is maintained throughout the continuum of life, even in oneself, just as it is in the environment of the sea. She/he experiences emotional depression and optimism at times, neither are harmful for short durations and both help establish personal emotional stability. When understanding this the Witch, or person, is more complete and better able to deal with life's situations.
Sir Francis Drake
Posted by: Occult World in Famous Witches April 14, 2014
Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596) English navigator, who, in legend, is reputed to have been a wizard. Sir Francis Drake supposedly remains in eternal slumber, ready to spring once again to life whenever Britain is in danger.
Few historical figures in Britain have accumulated so many legends as has Drake. Drake, a native of Devon, was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, between 1570 and 1580, in his ship the Golden Hind. He fought Spanish vessels and settlements, and navigated the Strait of Magellan.
He pillaged North and South America and returned to Queen Elizabeth I in 1580 with great treasures. For his deeds, he was knighted. In 1588, King Philip II of Spain launched the Spanish Armada to invade England. The 130 ships, bearing some 30,000 men, were delayed by storms. When they met the English fleet, of which Drake was an admiral, they were severely battered and scattered.
The Armada fled north, sailing around Scotland and Ireland, where it was buffeted by more storms; it finally returned to Spain, with only half of its original force. It was said among the Spaniards that Drake possessed a magic mirror that enabled him to see ships in all parts of the world. According to legend, Drake sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for prowess at sea. In concert with Devon witches, he cast spells that raised the storms against the Spanish Armada.
The ghosts of those witches are said to still haunt Devil’s Point, the headland overlooking the entrance to Devonport. The Devil was so pleased with Drake that he built him a house at Buckland Abbey in only three days. Drake also reputedly used his magical skill to give Plymouth a new water supply: he said a spell over a Dartmoor spring and commanded the water to follow him to Plymouth.
Still another legend tells of how Drake sat whittling one day on the cliff of Plymouth Hoe. Each wood chip that fell into the water sprang into a fully armed ship. Drake fell in love with Elizabeth Sydenham, a noblewoman. Her family refused to allow her to marry a commoner. Drake retreated to sea. Elizabeth waited, then grew weary and became betrothed to another man.
At their wedding, according to legend, a huge cannonball fell at the feet of Elizabeth—fired from Drake’s cannon from across the world. She cancelled the wedding. In 1585, she and Drake were married. The “cannonball” is identified as a footballsized meteorite now kept at Coombe Sydenham House. Despite his legendary magical powers, Drake eventually was defeated by the Spanish in the West Indies in 1595.
In 1596, he died aboard his ship off Puerto Bello, Panama. As he lay dying, he ordered his drum, which he had taken around the world with him, to be sent back to his home, Buckland Abbey in Devon. He said that if anyone beat on the drum when his beloved England was in danger, he would return and lead his country to victory.
In this, Drake joins other legendary national heroes such as King Arthur and Wild Edric, who will return from the dead to defend their country. The story about Drake’s drum has varied. It has been said to beat of its own accord whenever the country is threatened. It reportedly was heard in the West Country in 1914 at the start of World War I, and it was said to have beaten again when the German fleet officially surrendered in 1919.
In the latter instance, a single drum beat was heard aboard British ships as they closed around the Germans’ ships. A search was made, but no unauthorized drummer was found.
Sailors were convinced it was the sound of Drake’s drum, celebrating the victory. The drum also was reported to have been heard at the start of World War II. Drake also appears in folklore as the leader of the Wild Hunt, a spectral night train in pursuit of lost souls.
Taken from : The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits By Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
Various accounts of legends from around the Shetland Islands, Scotland
No 1. - There were many witch stories in Shetland because at one time nearly every district had a witch. Some of them did a great deal of good. One story from Papa [Stour] was of a witch who saved the island. A warship was anchored off Papa with its guns out, planning to attack, but a boy swam ashore and warned the people of the danger.
The witch agreed to help the people in exchange for a certain cut from the big ox when it was killed. She went to the only house on the island with a staircase. She climbed the first step and the wind got up. She went up the second and it grew stronger. With each step she climbed, the wind grew higher and by the time she was at the top of the staircase, it was blowing a hurricane. The ship was wrecked on a reef and the crew all lost. The people killed the ox and gave her the meat she had asked for.
No 2 - A Spanish Armada ship came to shelter in the mouth of Housa Voe on Papa Stour. An English boy escaped ashore and he told the people that the Spaniards were going to take the island the next day, and the crew were scouring their guns. The people were in a terrible state and summoned a witch, who offered to help in exchange for the second piece of the ox on Foula Skerry.
She warned the people to secure their skeos [huts]. She went to the hall [the only two-storey building on the isle] and as she mounted the steps the wind
grew until it was a raging hurricane. The galleon went onto Stakkabaa and was wrecked.
No 3 - A woman who was said to be a witch lived on Papa Stour. One day an unmarked boat put into Housa Voe and the people were afraid. A boy swam ashore and told some men on the beach that the ship was a Spaniard and they were planning to take the island by storm.
The witch agreed to help if she could get the sticking piece of the best ox on Fogla Skerry. The sticking piece was the best piece of the throat, where the knife was stuck in. She told them to haul up their boats, as the weather was about to change. She made for the only two-storey house on the isle, the Haa of Kirkhouse. It was flat calm until she put her foot on the first step, then there was a pirr [breath] of wind. It rose as she went up the stairs till it was blowing a hurricane. When she came back down, the wind fell entirely away. The ship was lying in bruck [wreckage] on the stacks at Housa Voe.
No 4 - Dòideag was a famous legendary witch from the Isle of Mull in Scotland. She was said to have been responsible for the demise of the Spanish Armada, although most prefer to blame natural causes.
According to another version, she was one of "Na Dòideagan" (the Doideags), who were connected with Maclean of Duart, and sank a Spanish armada ship off Tobermory, Isle of Mull. There is still some confusion over what ship this was, some say it was the Almirante di Florencia, one of the treasure ships also known as the Florencia or the Florida. Others claim it was the vessel San Juan De Sicilia with plenty of troops but very little treasure on board.
Was Hitler defeated by witchcraft?
It is July 1940. Hitler stands poised to unleash “Operation Sea Lion.” Winston Churchill promises to “fight them on the beaches.” Captain Mainwaring and his wheezy comrades nervously patrol the White Cliffs of Dover. The Battle of Britain is about to begin….. And an obscure band of elderly occultists are also secretly determined to “do their bit” in defending these islands.
On Lammas Eve, 31st July 1940, 56-year old Gerald Gardner gathers his coven in a New Forest clearing, naked – “skyclad” in Wicca parlance – to invoke the “Cone of Power” against Adolf Hitler.
The Cone - a beam of psychic energy aimed at the mind of the Führer - has been called upon twice before – to thwart the Spanish Armada in 1588, and to deter Napoleon in 1807. The incantation? “You cannot come! You cannot cross the sea!”
Gerald Brosseau Gardner was born on Friday the 13th of June, 1884, at “The Glen”, The Serpentine, Blundellsands into a wealthy background. The family business, Joseph Gardner & Sons, was the world’s oldest and largest importer of hardwood. His antecedents included Mayors of Liverpool, an Admiral and a Peer.
Gardner claimed his grandmother was a witch, and another ancestor was burned at the stake in 1610. His father was certainly an odd man, taken to stripping off all his clothes in public during rainstorms.
Gerald’s upbringing was unusual; a sickly, asthmatic boy, his parents packed him off with his Irish nurse, Josephine “Com” McCombie to travel the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Canary Islands for 9 years. He gained no formal education, but developed a fascination with archaeology. When his nurse married a man in Ceylon, she brought Gerald with her. There, he worked on a tea plantation and lived the life of an exile, settling for periods in Borneo, Singapore and Malaya. He was employed by the British government in the Far East as a rubber plantation inspector and customs officer. In 1923 Gardner was appointed Government-Inspector of opium-dens in Malaya.
During this time Gardner was confirmed into several occult orders, including the Rosicrucian Fellowship of Crotona, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Circle of the Universal Bond. He also claimed an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Singapore.
He retired and returned to England in 1936.
Gardner became convinced that he was reincarnated, and had lived a previous life on Cyprus in 1450 BC. These beliefs were woven into a novel, A Goddess Arrives, published in 1939. It was around this time that Gardner was initiated into the New Forest coven, by a hereditary witch named “Old Dorothy” Clutterbuck.
Gardner had long been fixated with nudism, arguing that clothes would impede the transfer of magical power. On the “Cone of Power” ritual, Gardner later wrote: “Mighty forces were used of which I may not speak”; and he claimed that two members of the coven had died from their exertions, with the life-force being drained from their bodies. These were considered to be human sacrifices, ensuring the success of the ritual. And, as we know, Hitler never came….
In 1947 Gardner visited the notorious Aleister Crowley on his death-bed, to be ordained into Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis, whose core belief is “Do what thou wilt shall be the Whole of the Law.”
Gardner was introduced in the Minerval IV th Degree, in his priestly name of Scire, Prince of Jerusalem, Companion of the Holy Arch of Enoch.
Witchcraft was still a criminal offence in Britain under the 1735 Witchcraft Act, and Gardner was unable to put into print the details of his practices. He got around this by publishing High Magick’s Aid, a novel, in 1949.
With the repeal of the Witchcraft Acts in 1951 Gardner was free to launch the Wicca religion on the world. His 1954 book, Witchcraft Today, in which Gardner spoke openly of his worship of “The Horned God” and “The Moon Goddess”, caused a sensation. Gardner was also author of the secret Wiccan ‘bible’, known as the Book of Shadows.
In 1953 Gardner set-up the world’s-first Museum of Magic and Witchcraft at The Witches’ Mill, Castletown, on the Isle of Man. He believed that fairies were really a persecuted race of pygmy-witches and that The Royal Family was also descended from a long line of witches.
By now, Gardner was internationally recognised as the “Father of modern Witchcraft”, and “Britain’s Chief Witch”, responsible for reviving Witchcraft in the Western world.
In 1960 Gardner was invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party, in honour of his work in the colonial civil service.
Gerald Gardner died suddenly on 12th February 1964 aged 79, on board a ship, SS Scottish Prince, while returning from the Lebanon. The following day he was buried on the Tunisian shore, with only a ships officer present.
Today, Wicca is the world’s fastest-growing religion, claiming 1 million adherents in at least 66 countries. It has recently been legally-recognised by the United States military.
Dorothy Clutterbuck is perhaps the most elusive and secretive of the witches to have figured in the rise of the modern era of witchcraft. She is also perhaps the most intriguing. Old Dorothy as she was affectionately known, was the witch who initiated Gerald B. Gardner into the Old Religion during September 1939. She was then the head of an old time witches coven, the last remains of a coven directly descendant from one of the famed “Nine Covens” founded by Old George Pickingill.
So little was known about Old Dorothy that for many years skeptics and historians had believed that Gardner, through a figment of his imagination had invented her solely to justify his belief that there was still in existence practicing witches of the Old Religion. In 1980 Doreen Valiente a great friend and colleague of Gardner’s, set out to disprove these allegations. After two years of research she succeeded, and was able to prove through birth and death records that Old Dorothy was indeed a real person.
Through ecclesiastical records held at India House, London. Doreen was able to establish Dorothy’s parents, and to find a record of Dorothy’s birth. It began in India were one Capt. Thomas St Quintin Clutterbuck, aged 38, was married to Ellen Anne Morgan, aged 20, at Lahore, India, in 1877. Three years later they had a child and Dorothy was born, in India, in Bengal on the 19th January 1880. She was later baptized in the church of St Paul’s, Umbala, on the 21st February 1880.
Her father must have been a man of means to hold a commission in the Colonial Forces, most officers of that time where. At the time of Dorothy’s birth he was still a Captain, and serving with the 14th Sikhs Regiment, Indian Local Forces. Later that same year he was promoted to Major and from Dorothy’s death certificate, we know he reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. From this we can surmise that Dorothy was brought up with all the privileges and prestige that go along with wealth and position.
Nothing further is known of Dorothy until 1933. Doreen through the aid of a Reference Librarian at the Bournemouth County Library was able to locate her as living at “Mill House”, Lymington Road, Highcliffe. Highcliffe being in the Borough of Christchurch. Curiously though, listed at the same address was a Rupert Fordham? Further research using the Register of Electors at the Christchurch Town Hall, revealed that Miss Clutterbuck became Mrs. Fordham in the 1937/38 list.
This prompt’s me to speculate about the intervening years between 1933 and 1937? Who was Rupert Fordham? Why was he listed at the same address some four years before they married? Was he a lodger, or were they living in sin? The later seems a little unlikely given the strict moral and social standards prevalent in those times. At the time Dorothy was a wealthy and respected member of the community. She would also have been 53 years old in 1933, and 57 when they married, but then? Perhaps we shall never know?
Through her researches, Doreen was able to corroborated most of Gardner’s claims of the events leading up to his initiation. She had collated records showing that Gardner and his wife Donna lived in the same area of Highcliffe, as did Dorothy. His official biography, (Gerald Gardner: Witch. – By Jack Bracelin, The Octagon Press, London. 1960.), states that the initiation took place in Old Dorothy’s home “a big house in the neighborhood”, Dorothy’s “Mill House”, was also a big house in the neighborhood!
Doreen also obtained press cuttings proving the existence of the “Rosicrucian Theatre”. This was situated in Somerford a village near to Christchurch, and had opened in June 1938. A Mrs. Mabel Besant-Scott also lived nearby and had been associated with it. In Gerald Gardner’s account, it was a Mrs. Mabel Besant-Scott who first introduced him to Dorothy.
In his biography Gardner also describes Dorothy as, “A lady of note in the district/county, and very well to do. She invariable wore a pearl necklace, worth some £5,000 at that time”. Doreen had been able to trace a copy of Dorothy’s will, the gross value of her estate after her death had been well over £60,000, a small fortune in 1951. It also stated that she owned some valuable pearls. She was certainly “well to do”!
Dorothy’s death certificate stated that: “Dorothy St Quintin Fordham died at Highcliffe in the registration district of Christchurch on the 12 January 1951, the primary cause of death being “cerebral thrombosis”, a stroke”. It also described her as “Spinster of independent means, daughter of Thomas St Quintin Clutterbuck, Lieutenant Colonel, Indian Army (deceased).
The existence of Old Dorothy having been proven, thanks to the diligence of Doreen Valiente. The skeptics and historians now changed their tune, claiming she had not been a practicing witch. After her death and upon an examination of her personal effects, no evidence could be found to indicate her involvement in witchcraft.
Once again Doreen Valiente steps in to refute these claims. During her research she had come across an old pamphlet entitled “The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft: “The story of Famous Witches” Mill at Castletown, Isle of Man. This was a guidebook of the famous museum, written and published by Gerald Gardner during his tenure as its director. Describing one of the exhibits, it states: “Case No. 1. – A large number of objects belonging to a witch, who had died in 1951, lent by her relatives who wish to remain anonymous”. Had these objects once belonged to Old Dorothy, who had also died in 1951? While its not proof positive, I find it hard to disbelieve.
We can surmise from the time era and from many of Gardner’s writings, that Old Dorothy was a witch of the old school, and to her secrecy was paramount. During her time witchcraft was still illegal and disclosure of its practice fraught with difficulty and danger. Indeed it was she who restricted Gardner from going public. Not until near her end, did she relent with misgivings, and allow him to write about the craft, but then only in fictional form (High Magic’s Aid – published in 1949.). In death it would seem her secrecy still prevailed, and she had all traces of her witchcraft past removed.
Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft, Castletown, Isle of Man
Even if only for a brief period, the Isle of Man could itself could boast a position as the focal point of British witchcraft. Many of the leading figures in witchcraft were attracted to the disused mill on the outskirts of Castletown where they came to meet, learn and practice with one of the leading figures in the modern witchcraft tradition, or Wicca, Gerald Gardner. Despite being one of the most (in)famous individuals in post-war Britain, Gardner has been largely been forgotten in the Isle of Man. More memorable was Gardner’s other legacy, The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft.
The mastermind behind the project was Cecil Williamson, a former assistant film producer. Williamson, with his keen interest in witchcraft and the occult, had been employed by the British Government to investigate occult practices in Nazi Germany. After the war Williamson went on to open a folklore museum in Stratford-on-Avon, although this was a short lived enterprise with increasing local opposition leading to its closure in 1947. The following year (1948) Williamson bought the dilapidated Witches’ Mill in Castletown (Isle of Man) where, with the support of the local authorities who welcomed the prospect of another tourist attraction, he created the Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft which opened in 1951. Keen to give the venture an air of authenticity Williamson’s associate Gerald Gardner, who was fast becoming one of the most recognisable public faces of modern witchcraft and actively involved in its revival of the tradition, became ‘resident witch’ and ‘master of magic’. More than this both had amassed large collections of witchcraft paraphernalia which formed the backbone of the exhibits; Gardner had an assortment of swords and edged weapons, whilst Williamson had assembled a collection of talismans and amulets. For Williamson the
activities at the museum came under three headings: the exhibition of objects to the public relating to witchcraft and folklore, a visitor's restaurant, and a membership scheme. Interested visitors were invited to become members of the Folklore Center and in return for their subscriptions they received a journal with views about the museum, articles written by members and non-members, and answers to correspondence queries. In addition the member had access to the museum's library , were encouraged to collect and donate objects for display, and could join a study group to discuss the practical aspects of magic
It is easy to see how tensions between the two developed. Williamson’s interest was purely antiquarian being “primarily interested in the history and ongoing practices of folk magic”, with only passing interest in contemporary practices, for him the museum was an attraction that funded the collection of material for the archive. In contrast Gardner’s focus was more on the revival of the tradition, his philosophy manifest in Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959), with the ‘museum’ acting as hub for this resurgent religion and a place where he could recruit new members. With these opposing objectives the situation became untenable and when, in 1954, Williamson could not pay back a loan, Gardner offered to buy the museum from him. Gardner‘s guidebook, produced in the aftermath of the change in ownership, clearly outlines the new agenda contending that the museum “shows how witchcraft, instead of being extinct, or merely legendary, is in fact still a living religion”.
Gardner used the opportunity to ‘rebrand’ the attraction renaming it The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft, simultaneously ‘creating’ a history that embedded the museum within a local tradition and actively promoting a tradition that the ruined mill had been used by local witches for many years prior to the foundation of the museum. Like his vision of modern witchcraft, which he proposed could be traced in an unbroken tradition from the European prehistory Gardner recognised that a deeply entrenched historiography gave credence to the museum. Gardner had himself based this historiography on contemporary academic research, particularly the work of Margaret Murray, an action intended to give veracity to the tradition. He proposed that witchcraft was also deeply embedded in the local tradition, contending that “from time immemorial the people of the Isle of Man have been believers in fairies and witches”. An emphasis was placed on the infamous Manx ‘witch’, Margaret Ine Quane, burned at the stake at Castletown in 1617, who also featured in his Meaning of Witchcraft (1959). Gardner also drew upon the work of local folklorists W. W. Gill and David Craine to substantiate his claims, both of whom had interpreted folk tradition and magic as evidence of witchcraft. For Gardner this tenuous evidence substantiated his claims for a deeply embedded witchcraft tradition. More tangible proof of a native Manx witchcraft tradition came from the “large collection of Manx bygones” within the collection. How ‘real’ the connection these objects had with the island was debateable; letters written by Gardner at the time of the reopening certainly attest that a certain degree of fabrication was involved. Certainly such practices were attested in the revival of witchcraft generally.
There seems, almost certainly, to have been an air of commercial exploitation evident within the museums often hackneyed and stereotyped vision of the witch. Reconstructions included “a ‘medieval sorcerer’s temple for the working of art magic’ based on one that might have been used by the Elizabethan astrologer and magician Dr. John Dee”, a replica of a Golden Dawn temple and a witches cottage. With a restaurant called the ‘Witches Kitchen’ serving a ‘witches brew’, a mock ‘wishing well’ and a shop selling postcards of nude witches. As Hutton observes, the museum was “set up to exploit Man’s booming tourist Trade”; its success was attested by visitor numbers reaching 18,000 in its first year.
No doubt aware of the theatrics at the museum Gardner used his own residence at 77 Malew Street as the meeting place for his ‘real’ witchcraft rituals. Here,
the top floor was converted into a temple, complete with incense burners, antique lamps, an old oak table as an altar, and a magical circle on the floor. It was in this converted room that meetings of the Isle of Man Coven were held in the 1950s and initiations took place.
One of Gardner’s main aims in opening the museum was to use it as an innocuous introduction to the tradition, but it also attracted like-minded individuals; as Gardner contended “my Directorship of the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft… brings me a great deal of correspondence from all parts of the world”. Gardner had been a member of a coven (the New Forest Coven) for many years, but following disputes over the negative publicity that he attracted his influence became much reduced and he lost interest in the group. The museum, as it always had, continued to be a magnet for those interested in witchcraft with Gardner using this popularity to initiate new members and create new covens in his loft temple in Malew Street. Initiates included Dorien Valiente, Patricia Crowther, Monique Wilson, Eleanor Bone and others who went on to play important roles in the fledgling Wiccan tradition. While vague references exist to a ‘Manx Coven’, which functioned under the leadership of Gardner and Monique Wilson, little evidence now survives suggesting it was either driven underground or broke up.
The museum continued to function until Gardner’s death in 1964 when ownership passed to Monique Wilson, one of his initiates and a High Priestess. Wilson kept the museum as a going concern until 1973 when she sold the collection to Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and the collection was shipped to San Francisco where it was put on display in several of locations before it was broken up. The museum buildings and Gardner’s cottage in Malew Street were sold.
Below is the first version of the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft pamphlet which was written by Gerald Butler for, and along with Williamson's input.
The Witches Mill, Castletown, I.o.M.
The cover of the pamphlet is drawn by Gerald Gardner. The original is a large pen and ink poster on hard board archived in the James’ Toronto Collection of Gardner’s papers, purchased from the Ripley Museum sale in 1987. Postcards were also made of this image and sold in the gift shop along with various other trinkets for the tourists.
THE FAMOUS WITCHES MILL
AT CASTLETOWN, ISLE OF MAN
by G. B. GARDNER
Published for C. C. Wilson
The Witches Mill, Castletown Isle of Man
LThe Castletown Press, Arbory Street, Castletown
CLICK ON THE PAMPHLET PICTURES TO ENLARGE.
The Manx ‘witch' Margaret Ine Quane
The museum and Gardner placed an emphasis on the Infamous Manx 'witch' Margaret Ine Quane, burned at the stake at Castletown in 1617, who also featured in his Meaning of Witchcraft (1959). Gardner also drew upon the work of local folklorists W. W. Gill and David Craine to substantiate his claims, both of whom had interpreted folk tradition and magic as evidence of witchcraft. A memorial to Margaret Ine Quane was painted and designed by Gerald Gardner and displayed in the museum. There was also a makeshift plaque for many years that rested on the Candlestick in Castletown, outside the George Pub. It memorialized the passing of Margaret Ine Quaneand though it disappeared in the 1980s, it has again resurfaced.
Plaque for 'witch' is back in town square
A plaque commemorating a very dark episode in the Island's history has been reinstated on the Smelt Monument in Castletown.
The plaque is in memory of Margaret Ine Quane, who was accused of practicing witchcraft and burnt at the stake with her son, John Cubon, in the square.
Several members of the Isle of Man History Society noticed the plaque relating to the deaths was missing and editor of the society's journal, Priscilla Lewthwaite, wrote to the local authority requesting it be reinstated. An article about the incident, written by Hampton Creer, is in the May issue of the journal.
There are scant records about the trial of Margaret in 1617, who faced charges of Practices Tending toward Sorcery and Witchcraft, wrote Mr Creer.
She was an unmarried woman from Kirk German. Her son was a miller.
Mr Creer wrote the mill was somewhere on the Neb River, near the Raggat. 'Whatever took place would very likely have happened at that mill – mills often feature in witchcraft trials,' he said.
They faced a 'spiritual' trial, before church authorities, probably at Bishop's Court, and were found guilty. They were allowed to go home, provided a surety of 10 was paid.
After this, they were seized and jailed. At the trial they were both condemned to death by being burned alive.
Mr Creer wrote: 'I get the feeling the authorities gave way to public demands for his (John's) inclusion in the whole matter; it appears he was only present at the General Gaol.'
Speculation about the reason behind the dreadful punishment include she was blamed for a harvest failure (the theory of the 1930s historian David Craine). But Mr Creer thinks something more sinister was involved.
Mother and son were pronounced guilty of witchcraft and sorcery. An appeal against this was unsuccessful. They were imprisoned in Castle Rushen. On or around December 10, 1617, wearing long white gowns and caps, the prisoners were bound and taken by cart to Peel – where it was market day – probably via the Sloc Road.
In the market they were exhibited as a warning to others who practiced witchcraft and sorcery.
After several hours, they were taken back to Castletown by cart and at the bottom of the Sloc a procession formed and there were readings of the scriptures and prayers.
In Castletown square, they were bound to the poles in the tinder dry fuel.
The coroner of Genfaba lit the fire. Margaret's screams are said to have been heard in Ballasalla.
The Manx people were horrified by what happened and were affected by it for many years after.
'The Ecclesiastical authorities announced that such a spectacle must never be seen on the Island again – and it never was,' wrote Mr Creer.
Almost 100 years later, in February 1717, Jony Lewney (or Jinny the Witch, remembered in the Hop tu Naa song) was condemned at a trial for more offences than Margaret, but her punishment was to stand at each parish church door and plead forgiveness.
Last Tuesday, Castletown commissioner Colin Leather suggested the town's regeneration committee should perhaps look at a commemorative plaque in the context of an initiative to erect new signs around the town.
But after the meeting, Manx National Heritage new director Edmund Southworth met the local authority said the original plaque should be reinstated – which it was, last Thursday.
Here is another version of events
The case concerned Margrett Inequane and her son. Again, to quote Craine, were are told that the precise nature of the charges brought against them is not recorded. However, G.B. Gardner says she had been caught trying to work a fertility rite to get good crops. Whatever the nature of the offence, all we do know, as a matter of fact, is that after being found guilty in the ecclesiastical court by a jury of six drawn from the parishes affected by their alleged practices they were, according to law, handed over to the temporal power by the Bishop’s chief executive officer, the General Sumner.
In 1617 mother and son appeared before the Deemsters and a Jury of Twelve selected out of several sheadings. When they had deliberated on their verdict, and after having received the advice of the Chapter Quest men, the foreman of the Jury was asked by the Deemster, according to the ancient custom,
“Vod y fer-carree soie?” -- “May the Chancel-man sit?”
“Cha vod” --“He may not,” was the reply. This Jury like their fellow Jurors in the Ecclesiastical Court, had found the accused guilty. As a consequence, the Bishop or Chancel-man, who occupied a place among the judges, left the Court to avoid being involved in the shedding of blood.
After the departure of the Bishop sentence was pronounced:- ‘That she be brought by the Coroner of Glen Faba to the place of execution, there to be burned till life depart from her body.’ A similar fate befell Margrett’s son,who with his mother, died at the stake erected near the Market Cross at Castletown.
The burnings of 1617 mark the last time, in the Isle of Man, when the extreme penalty was exacted for sorcery. Craine claims that for this we may thank the Manx Ecclesiastical Courts and the moderation of the average Manx juryman, rather than the Islander’s liberation from superstition! Craine considers that the average Manxman had as profound a belief in the sinister possibilities of witchcraft as any Calvinist of his time elsewhere in the British Isles, but he hated extremes and the legalised shedding of blood.
The Llewellyn Journal
A Meeting with Gerald Gardner
This article was written by Linda Raedisch
In the early days of working on Night of the Witches (book), a friend of mine, close to eighty years in age (We’ll call her "P") asked what it was going to be about. "Walpurgis Night," I told her, point-blank. I had told anyone else who asked that it was simply a book about witches, since "Walpurgis" gets you funny looks in most company. But, I figured this particular friend could handle it, and I was right.
Not only had P heard of Walpurgis Night, she had been to Germany’s Harz mountain region—ground zero for Walpurgis Night—on a school trip shortly before the outbreak of World War II. She had found the place creepy for reasons that had nothing to do with witches. Would I be writing about witches, she wanted to know. Yes, a lot, I assured her. She then remarked: "I once had tea with a witch."
I must say that I could not have been more surprised had she told me she’d danced with the Prince of Wales. Outside the context of Harry Potter, we had never before spoken of witches.
"He was very pleasant," P went on. "He was very, very old and he had a lot of white hair. I had tea with him in his house, which was also very old and very dark."
"Where?" I knew she’d spent time in Tennessee, so I was guessing the encounter had taken place in some woodsy holler. But P surprised me again.
In England," she said. "Well, actually it was on the Isle of Man."
Wait a minute. Hadn’t I skip-read something about someone like that in Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft?
"What was his name?"
"Oh, I don’t remember," P confessed. "It was such a long time ago. He’d written a book that I’d found interesting at the time. I was going to be in England that summer, so I wrote him a letter, and he wrote back and invited me to visit him. He had a museum. . ."
Oh, this was all too much! I rifled through Rosemary’s Encyclopedia until I found him, looking very, very old and very white of hair.
"Yes, that’s him!" P smiled as if I had shown her the photo of a long-lost friend. I’m afraid I’m making her sound a little flaky here, which she patently is not. But there are a handful of subjects that bring out P’s inner child. England is one and witchcraft, as it turns out, is another.
"But that’s Gerald Gardner!" I informed her.
"Is it? I didn’t remember his name."
"P! You had tea with the Father of Modern Witchcraft!"
"Well, he was very nice."
Happily, P still had her first American edition of Gardner’s Witchcraft Today. The next time we met, she had the book in hand, as well as the two letters Gardner had sent her, a yellow newspaper clipping, and her autographed copy of a little booklet entitled, The Story of the Famous Witches Mill at Castletown, Isle of Man.
I have to admit I didn’t spend much time on this little treasure trove. I gave the letters a cursory read, wincing at the typos (though one can hardly call "excentrick" a typo) and flipped through the booklet, wondering whose idea it had been to surround Ye Olde Lucky Wishing Well with giant fake toadstools. I gave Witchcraft Today just enough of a look to know it wasn’t really relevant to my research. My book was about the witch of folk and fairytale, more like the pointy-hatted old dame riding atop the Witches Mill sign than "today’s" Witch.
In fact, I had decided to make a conscious effort to avoid Modern Witch writings for the time being because I didn’t want them to cloud my own vision of what a witch was. I wanted to bring something new to the scene, for Wiccans and non-Wiccans alike, by bringing something old. I wanted to write in my own voice—that is, the voice of one who stood wholly outside Wiccan tradition. Or so I thought.
I come from a long line of rationalists, but because they were working-class rationalists, they never thought to call themselves that. I reacted to my non-churchgoing upbringing by lusting after the trappings of religion: candles, incense, challah, habits. As a child, I entertained visions of becoming a nun (mostly because I wanted a hat like Sister Bertrille’s) but these did not survive puberty. When my middle school French teacher, on whose every word I hung, criticized the social studies department for educating us only about the Big Religions, my ears perked up. Why, he lamented, couldn’t they teach us about animism? Animism? What was that?
I gave up coveting the Big Religions. I learned that there were people in the world who believed that rocks, combs, and lamps had souls. Imagine my excitement when I found out that my own ancestors had once had a piece of this animist pie.
I finally fetched up as a heathen, in the sense that my aunt recently used the word when I inquired if my cousin and his wife had had their son baptized in the same church where I had attended their wedding. "No, he’s a heathen," she’d replied cheerfully.
The nice thing about being a heathen is that you can pretty much do, read, write whatever you want. So, after I’d completed Night of the Witches, I decided to release myself from my earlier vow and take a closer look at Modern Witchcraft. It made sense that Witches might want to read about witches, and I wanted to educate myself about my potential audience. To this end, I turned to Ronald Hutton’s The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, supplemented by A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans by Jeffrey B. Russell and Brooks Alexander, as well as the neglected entries in Rosemary’s aforementioned Encyclopedia.
As I read, it gradually dawned on me that, though I had made a point of not reading Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, old G. B. G. had nevertheless guided my hand. I’m not talking about ghostly intervention; what I mean to say is that while mainstream culture continues to look askance at Wicca, it has nevertheless absorbed much of its mythology. I had taken for granted that the concepts of coven and sabbat, of a Horned God and a Triple Goddess, were widely held ones, and they are. But they were not so before Gardner came along. He did not originate these concepts—we mustn’t forget Margaret Murray and Robert Graves—but he did articulate and package them in such a way that Western culture eventually found highly appealing even while opposing them.
Margaret Murray herself wrote the introduction to 1954’s Witchcraft Today. By that time, her own book, The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921), had long been out of print. It was the energetic and press-loving Gardner who got the stone that was Modern Witchcraft really rolling. He got it rolling so fast, in fact, that I, non-Witch that I am, had unwittingly internalized its now moss-covered tenets.
Now that I could better put her visit into context, I wanted to have another look at P’s letters. It took place in the summer of 1961, three years before Gardner’s death and the same year that Gardner himself paid a visit to Robert Graves in Majorca. Gardner would have been rather frail by then, and he looks it in the photographs in the Witches Mill booklet.
Frail or not, he was still up to his usual tricks. In his first letter to P, postmarked 30 November, 1960, he states, “. . . having the Craft in my family, I managed to persuade them to let me write a little about it, from the inside.” (Gardner consistently used a lowercase “l” in place of a capital “I.” Though I’ve corrected this when quoting him, I leave his other errors intact.) In Witchcraft Today, his stance was that of an anthropologist, not a hereditary Witch. Had he forgotten his story or simply decided to change it?
There is humor, too, in his letter. Of the "Big Halloween festaval]" at St. Albans, he says, "The secret rendezvous is so secret, that if you want to get there, you ask a Policeman." Of his museum, he advises P, "Its closed in the winter, but if you ring Castletown 2248 they will always arrange to open it, and take you round."
With the November letter he had enclosed an article detailing the nuptials of Pat Dawson and Arnold Crowther. "PAT CAST HER SPELL ON ARNOLD: Now it’s black for the bride at witches wedding," wrote Trevor Reynolds in the Daily Herald, November 9, 1960. Gardner commented, "I enclose cutting, There were a large number of people at the wedding, and at the reception afterwards, including a number of reporters, what the latter say is nonsence, of course, but there is no disapproval."
It’s touching to think of the Father of Modern Witchcraft clipping newspaper articles and diligently pecking at his typewriter in reply to his American reader. "Just ask for a Taxi to take you to Castletown, Witches Mill, and all will be well," he advised P. "If I'm not at the Mill tell them to send for me & I'll be up in a few minutes."
Was P initiated into Gardner’s coven? No, though she admits that, at the time, she might have liked to be. Perhaps it just didn’t come up. She would have been in her mid-thirties at the time of her visit, several years younger than I am today. Had I been alive and writing fifty years ago, I too might have rung Castletown 2248 and arranged to have tea with "Dr." Gardner, as he styled himself. I would have brought with me a copy of Witchcraft Today and asked him to sign it, as it had slipped P’s mind to do back then. Then, with a flourish, I would have presented him with a copy of my own book, perhaps with the sly suggestion that he carry it in Ye Olde Gift Shoppe.
Or would I have? Certainly, by 1961 Gardnerian Witchcraft had grown legs, but they were probably not yet long enough to have so deeply influenced an American writer such as myself. Had I written Night of the Witches fifty years ago, chances are it would have been a completely different book. Even greater is the chance that I would not have thought to write it at all.
The History of The Museum of Witchcraft
The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle has the largest collection of witchcraft and Wiccan-related artifacts in the world. The museum currently also holds the Richell collection of witchcraft regalia that was loaned to the museum in 2000. Boscastle was hit by flash floods in August 2004, and though the Museum was severely affected it opened again at Easter 2005.
In 1951 Cecil Williamson opened the Museum of Witchcraft in Castledown in the Isle of Man. Cecil had previously tried to open in Stratford-on-Avon but was overpowered by bureaucracy; it was made clear to him that Stratford did not want anything to do with witchcraft.
Cecil was a West Country man, born in Paignton, Devon. His father was a military officer often posted abroad, and Cecil was looked after by a nanny and often sent to stay with relatives. Some holidays were spent with his uncle, the vicar of North Bovey in Devon. It was here that he had his first encounter with witchcraft. Cecil apparently intervened to stop some local thugs persecuting a local witch, who later befriended the young Williamson.
Cecil was later sent to an upmarket prep school in Norfolk and then to Malvern College. In an interview Cecil related how he had met a 'Wise Woman' who lived in the school grounds; she taught him some simple yet effective spell craft that he used against a school bully. Williamson's magical education continued in Rhodesia where he went to grow tobacco. It was here that he realised that the principles of village witchcraft are universal - the African witchdoctors were using similar techniques to English wayside witches.
In 1930 Williamson returned to Britain where his study of the occult was now becoming known. He was meeting and exchanging letters with the country's leading experts including Wallis Budge of the British Museum, anthropologist Margaret Murray, and historian Montague Summers. A few years later he was approached by MI6, to work as an undercover agent collecting data on the occult interests of leading personnel in Nazi Germany. Cecil's involvement with MI6 and the occult continued through World War II and his occult knowledge was apparently used to lure Rudolf Hess to fly to Scotland.
It was in 1946 that Williamson first met Gerald Gardner in London. Over the next few years they were to become friends and business partners but as so often happens, the relationship ended in fighting, mistrust and bitterness.
The Museum archives have a collection of letters from Gardner to Williamson that demonstrate the rise and fall of their relationship. In 1948 Williamson purchased the Witches' Mill in the Isle of Man and converting it into a Museum and restaurant.
The museum opened in 1951 and Gardner was employed as 'resident witch'. Gardner courted publicity and succeeded in persuading several newspaper journalists to cover witchcraft along with radio and television stations. This publicity coincided with the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951.
Williamson wanted the Museum to show the way of the 'Wayside Witch' and folk magic but knew that the public demanded sensational displays. Gerald did not approve of Cecil's displays and was not at all happy that Cecil removed a photograph of him from the exhibition.
Eventually Cecil decided to move his museum back to England and in 1954 he moved in his collection to Windsor. The Witches' Mill building was sold to Gardner who continued to run it as a museum of witchcraft.
Witchcraft and Royal Windsor were not good partners and Cecil was forced to move the collection to the beautiful Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
The Christian community of village was not pleased with the arrival of Williamson and his museum. Villagers held protests outside the museum and ranted about evil and Satanism. Cecil received death threats, fire bombs, and found dead cats hung from trees in the garden; eventually an arson attack burned out one wing of the museum. It was time to move yet again.
This time Cecil moved back to his beloved West Country and in 1961 the museum relocated to Boscastle where it has remained for over forty years.
Cecil ran the Museum until 1996 when at midnight on 31st October he sold it to the current owners.
Sadly, Cecil Williamson died 1996 aged 90. We hope that the museum will remain a lasting tribute to a remarkable man.
The museum now shows many of the Williamson's magical tools and equipment along with his private collection of magical artifacts.
Sunday Telegraph May 3rd 1964
I had a call last week from a public relations officer with a difference. Mrs Eleanor Bone, of Trinity Road, Tooting, matron of an old people’s home, and high priestess of a respectable London coven, who has taken over the role of P.R.O. (unpaid) for most of Britain’s witches.
Mrs. Bone, like any good “new broom” (sorry!) wants to start right by improving the public image of Britain’s witches.
“What I want people to know” said Mrs. Bone seating herself opposite me on the sofa next to the altar in her drawing-room coven, “is that witches are not the black-hearted monsters they’re made out to be in fairy stories.
“We have our black sheep – the black witches – just like any other group, but no decent coven tolerates black magic these days. White witches (the good ones) can serve a useful social purpose.
“Only recently we cured a case of dermatitis – after a doctor had tried, and failed. And we also managed to put things right for a woman who was having trouble from an eternal triangle.
“She came to us complaining that her husband had become a little too interested in his secretary – until the coven got together and the secretary developed a mysterious complaint which kept her off work long enough for her boss to come to his senses.”
It was all done by harmless white magic. High Priestess Mrs. Bone and a few fellow witches, and warlocks, got together, took off their clothes, and chanted and danced around the witches’ ring in her drawing room – this brings out the pent-up powers needed to put things right.
“Don’t think we have orgies, or anything like that,” insisted Mrs. Bone. “We take our clothes off to facilitate the release of these power-energies. Also, it’s symbolic of the democratic process within the craft. Whether a member’s a doctor or a secretary – they all feel equal.
“After we’ve performed our rites and ceremonies we sit around drinking tea or coffee. What could be more respectable?”
And what about those broomsticks and cauldrons?
“Window dressing” explained Mrs. Bone. “Broomsticks are traditional, but they don’t have any ‘magic’ properties. And as for cauldrons – they’re only used once or twice a year. I usually keep mine in the boot of the car.”
Mrs. Bone is a very frank person. So is her husband – a sheet metal worker. “So far”, he told me, “ I haven’t heard the call. When the coven’s in session, I take the telly in the bedroom – and let them get on with it.”
My days as a matron and my nights as a witch. by Mrs. Ray Bone
Published in Tit-bits magazine 06 June 1964.
By day she is Matron Bone, running an old folk’s home in a London suburb. At night she becomes Witch Bone, high-priestess of a coven, dedicated to the magic arts. In this interview with GLENDA BANKS she tells of her strange double life and asks you to judge: “ Am I fit to run an old folk’s home?”
It has all been a bit of a strain, keeping my private life separate from my professional one. But at last my secret is out and I don’t much care who knows. I’ve been a witch for 30 years – a matron for ten. And now everyone is talking about the witch who runs an old folk’s home. I feel I have some explaining to do…..
My flat, a fourpenny bus ride from the old folk’s home in Streatham, is in a house called The Towers. The cauldron inside my front door is no door-stop. It’s part of my other life.
I’m not only a witch, but one of Britain’s three high-priestesses. By day I dress for my job as matron in a tweed suit, thick lisle stockings and brogues. By night I dance naked with only a garter on my left thigh.
Let me tell you about my two lives…. At my old folk’s home I have nine patients under my wing. At my flat, where incense burns and ritual knives are laid out on an altar, 12 coven members follow me in worship.
This all might sound strange, but in fact my two lives run in perfect harmony. And there’s no need for anyone to worry about the old folks in my care. At the home I go by the medical book. The London County Council, who licensed my home, know about my other life – and it’s more than I dare to treat any patients with witchcraft’s own herbal remedies, spells and magic.
I’ll tell you about one or two of my patients – old folks who have passed on. One was an old dear from Monte Carlo. She was 84 and a chronic drug addict. She had been “hooked” on morphia for 40 years. I nursed her for six years. When she died, her family were so pleased with the way I had cared for her, they left me an envelope full of money. Another old lady died and left me everything she had in the world. One sweet old gentleman who died when he was 85 left me some antique silver which I use now when performing the “craft ceremonies”.
But one of my greatest treasures is an Egyptian ring about 2,000 years old. It was given to me by a dying patient.
But the living remember me with gratitude as well. More than one old dear has trusted me with absolute power of attorney in her business affairs.
One has property and I collect her rents… I don’t think her knowing that I am a witch will make much difference. All my old people trust me.
But I don’t bother them by holding my witchcraft meetings at the home. It would be much too noisy. I’ve often wondered what my neighbours at The Towers think of the bumps in the night. Well, I’ll tell them. It’s me moving the furniture about. My coven meets in the living-room. I take everything out of the room, clear of the magic circle on the carpet. And setting up the altar is not an easy task. I use a huge, old chest on which I lay my ritual knives. Sacrifice? Never. People confuse witches like me with Black Magic. They say the red wine and small cakes I administer to my kneeling coven are a travesty of the Holy Communion. Piffle! They are symbolic of the harvest and we are simply giving thanks to the gods for the grapes and the grain.
It is true that we are always naked in our rituals. But the reason is our search for purity. We don’t wear clothes because they bring foreign particles into our magic circle. Our magic circle is purified with salt water. It is a big ring drawn at the beginning of each ceremony. It is drawn symbolically with the witches’ sword – but I have painted mine on the carpet to save time.
Once the circle is made, the high-priestess – that’s me – sprinkles salt water all over it. You might call it our equivalent of Holy Water. When the circle has been purified in this way no member of the coven can enter it unless they are naked. For a speck of dust from our every day clothes might spoil our magic. Please don’t run away with the idea that we have a sexual orgy. My coven is made up of middle-aged men and women – the kind of people you see in any bus queue. There’s nothing sexy about us with our clothes off. We take it all very seriously and a prospective member of the “craft” is watched closely for three months before his or her nomination is put to the vote. That’s how choosy we are.
As high-priestess of the coven I’ve had my share of cranky letters. But I’ve a stock answer for those kind of crackpots – I write and tell them it’s a psychiatrist they need, not a witch.
I’m 52, old enough to know my own mind and the “craft” is my religion. But I don’t inflict it on the old folk who pay for a bed in my rest-home. There’s no hocus-pocus when they need spiritual help – I call in the priest or minister of their own denomination. But if they prefer to die in my arms I will comfort them as best I know how. The gossips can say what they like. They’ve even named my favourite seat in the local pub “witches’ corner.” But I defy anyone to find fault with the way I run my rest-home.
Am I fit to run an old folk’s home? You be the judge. Matron Bone or Witch Bone – take your choice. And if you have trouble sleeping tonight thinking about witchcraft, take a tip from Matron’s cauldron: Two teaspoons of honey in hot milk is a wonderful sedative … you’ll never hear the bumps in the night.
I am a Witch! The Saint Magazine May 1967
March 1, 1967 Eleanor Bone, Newspaper Article
Note: This article was published in the Saint Magazine of May 1967. It is quite significant in that it was written by Eleanor Bone herself, and not by a journalist. The magazine was edited by author Leslie Charteris and was a spin-off from the Saint book and television series.
I am a Witch !
Last month, I was telling how I had long been intrigued by the discovery that Witchcraft is by no means dead in Europe even today, and indeed seems to be enjoying quite a revival, and how as a preliminary to pursuing this subject I commissioned our favourite researcher W O G Lofts, to do us a background article, which I hope none of you missed. In the beginning, I planned to write the follow-up article myself, which would deal with the facts of present-day Witchcraft, as best I could discover them without reference to lurid and sensationalized newspaper stories but by finding myself a real live practising Witch and learning all I could as nearly as possible at first hand. But, as I said last month, when I did make contact with an avowed authentic Witch, my neat professional plan went (as they would say in the Craft) all widdershins.
Her name is Eleanor Bone.
She does not claim, as some publicity-seekers of her sorority have done from time to time, to be “Queen of the Witches” or “High Priestess of the Witches of England” – as she will shortly explain, such titles are strictly exaggerated, since all Covens are completely autonomous, and while members of one may visit with members of another, there is no central parliament or monolithic Authority.
But in the first hour of our first meeting, she talked with such easy confidence and astounding erudition that I very quickly realized that anything I tried to put together from the notes I had frantically started making would be only a hollow travesty of what she had to say. In answer to any question, facts poured out of her as if from an inexhaustible fount of knowledge, yet with the unaffected and unassuming ease of an off-duty doctor discoursing on the fundamentals of his specialty with someone assumed to be his intellectual equal though, in a different field. For me to have tried to write my second-hand version would have been as presumptuous (and superfluous) as if I had interviewed a highly articulate Einstein on the subject of Relativity, and insisted on writing my own article, with all its potential errors, long after I had discovered that his own conversation was much clearer and more informative than any essay I could have based on it.
I therefore ended eventually by asking Mrs Bone how she would like to write her own article. And this – shorn only of her modest apologies for any lack of professionalism in the writing – is the result.
You may be interested to know what a real witch is like to meet. This one is of entirely average and inconspicuous female stature, at a guess between 35 and 40. The only things about her which you might notice as being in the traditional witch pattern are her rather wild black hair and very piercing eyes: but I think you would only notice them after you had been told she was a witch and had started to search for outward symptoms, and could not honestly say that you would have found them at all remarkable if you had just happened to sit next to her on a bus. In mundane fact she owns and manages a rest home for old people, whom she affectionately calls her “babies”, officially registered with the local Council, which is not reputed to grant such licenses to operators suspected of being deficient in their marbles; she has a pleasantly conventional husband who takes no part in Witchcraft himself but is amiably tolerant of her activities.
She takes her religion (as you will find she thinks of it) seriously enough to have named her private home in the north of England Witchwood. And yet she is so far from being a crank that she has the sense of humour to send her personal letters in envelopes imprinted with the symbol we reproduce here, which is almost a facsimile of the old legendary Witch-image which in her earnest role she disclaims.
To some, this must be an incomprehensible paradox. To me, it is one of her strongest claims to respectful audience. For only very sane people can share a joke about themselves.
I am a witch!
This does not mean that I wear a pointed hat and fly around on a broomstick with a black cat on the pillion, nor do I perform miracles with a wave of my hand or a twitch of my nose, like the characters in one television show.
I know that this is the popular image of witches and that they are associated with evil in the minds of many people.
This was the picture created for us as children, when we listened to bed-time stories, most of which revolved around the theme of the good fairy who always succeeded in getting the better of the wicked witch. We read about the three Weird Sisters in ‘Macbeth’ with their portent of evil, ugly old harridans chanting weird incantations as they stirred the noxious brew in their cauldrons. Later we were taught about the witches of the Middle Ages who were burned at the stake for their wickedness and heresy.
Only a few years ago the majority of people did not believe that witches still existed in the twentieth century. Indeed, many people did not credit that they ever had existed outside of storybooks.
When the last Witchcraft Act was repealed in Britain in 1951, the absolute secrecy which up to then had been essential became of less importance, and it was not long before the general public became aware of covens of witches in their midst. At first people were horrified. Just as in the old days Christians were thrown to the lions, so, in this modern day and age, a more subtle form of persecution was throwing witches to the Press. And what lurid pictures were conjured up! Witchcraft was mixed up with Black Magic, with a suggestion of Black Masses and ‘bloody sacrifices’ thrown in for good measure – to say nothing of sex orgies – a really good entertainment to brighten up a dull Sunday afternoon.
I shall always remember one very charming young woman in her early twenties who came to see me. She told me she was very interested in Witchcraft and desirous of joining a Coven – BUT – she just couldn’t cut an animal’s throat! She really believed that this was part of the ritual and, unfortunately, many other people believe likewise.
From time to time over the last few years, accounts have appeared in the National Press of the desecration of Churches, the disturbance of graves, inverted crosses and other things of a similar nature. Each time this sort of thing crops up there is a suggestion of Witchcraft. It is so easy to blame the witches. My own opinion is that many of these happenings are perpetrated by bright young things who are a little bored with life and who have been reading too much Dennis Wheatley.
Of late, much has been written and said about witches and witchcraft. Writers, sceptics, modern ‘witchfinders’ – even the witches themselves have said their say. One gentleman made witchcraft sound like an American protection racket, whilst another suggested that it had been “garnered from dustbins of the world religions”. We have been painted very, very black and it has been suggested that we are all ‘insecure, frightened, unsuccessful, perverted people’. On the other hand we have been made to appear so ultra-white that we sound like an advertisement for the latest detergent.
Thus I read the article by W.G. Lofts with interest, hoping to find a new slant on an old subject.
However, he appears to have based his article on the suppositions of writers of the Middle Ages whose writings merely reflected the propaganda put about by the Church and State in their fanatical attempt to crush the Old Religion. If one delves into such works as ‘Calendar of State Papers Domestic’ 1584; ‘Complete History of Magick, Sorcery and Witchcraft’ 2 vols. London 1725; ‘Collections of rare and curious tracts relating to Witchcraft’ London. 1838; Confessions of Witches under Torture’ E. Goldsmid, Edinburgh 1886, and many more I could quote, the, of course, one expects to find this fanaticism. In any case of propaganda one cannot accept accusations at their face value. Incidents become exaggerated into events, knaves become heroes, and vice versa.
Inquisitors caused Joan of Arc to be burned as a witch. She may well have been one – in fact her nickname ‘La Poucelle’ – ‘The Maiden’, – makes this a strong possibility – but this was merely an excuse for her execution, the reason was purely political.
Mr Lofts tells us a good deal about the persecution of witches in the Middle Ages but he does not give a really satisfactory explanation as to why and when this persecution really began. He tends to pooh-pooh the idea that witchcraft had its origin in the Old Religion.
He also tends to confuse witchcraft with ritual magic – a quite common mistake many lay people tend to make. For example, when he mentions Dr. John Lamb.
Now Dr. Lamb was the personal physician to the Duke of Buckingham. He experimented in ritual magic and alchemy (as did Dr. John Dee in the 16th century, who was imprisoned by Queen Mary and later befriended by Queen Elizabeth I.) He was a magician, not a witch. He was stoned to death by a mob in 1640. King Charles I rode out personally to stop the riot. However, he arrived too late. He fined the City of London £600 for failing to punish the ringleaders. Surely a man on whose behalf the King himself intervened must have been held in esteem by the royal circle, and witches certainly did not rate highly enough for such attention.
As Mr Lofts points out, witch trials did indeed follow a pattern. They appear to have consisted of a number of leading questions which in the Courts today would never be allowed. After the accused people had been subjected to callous treatment and a good deal of brain-washing, it is not surprising that they should agree to anything suggested.
I think it is quite untrue to say that there are no records of big English Witch Trials to compare with the Salem Trials. The mass trial of twenty witches in 1612 was described in a chapbook entitled The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the County of Lancaster by Thomas Potts (London 1618), and the same Pendle Witches were immortalised by Harrison Ainsworth in his book The Lancashire Witches. They even inspired a first novel in 1951, Mist over Pendle, with which the author, Robert Neill, established his reputation.
The first really notable trial was that of the Chelmsford Witches in 1566. Then there were the trials of the St. Osyth Witches 1582 and the Warboy Witches in 1589. The trial of the Bury St. Edmunds Witches in 1662 was much documented and publicized and, in fact, it was this trial that influenced very strongly the conduct of the Salem trials.
I am quite sure it was never alleged that physical deformities were the characteristics of every witch. Many attractive women of all ages were tried. For example, Lady Alice Kyteler, the first Irish witch to be tried.
This trial was instigated by Bishop Ledrede of Ossory, a Franciscan trained in France. He undoubtedly learned of witch trials there and tried to introduce them to Ireland. Since Lady Kyteler was the wealthiest woman in Kilkenny, her wealth was probably the attraction, because conviction for heresy meant confiscation of estates. She defied the Bishop, who ex-communicated her. However, Lady Kyteler imprisoned the Bishop, and eventually the whole affair was settled with Lady Kyteler triumphant.
On present-day witchcraft Mr Lofts seems somewhat uncertain of himself; his information appears to have been gleaned from newspaper articles and then not always correctly.
For one thing the late Gerald Gardner did not state there ‘were enough witches to bring about world peace’. The exact words, used by a young British High Priestess in 1958 were these: – ‘WERE there enough white witches around, they could bring about world peace’.
Again, the Witches Mill at Castletown, Isle of Man, is not the only Museum of Magic and Witchcraft in the world. Until a few weeks ago there was one at Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire and there is another at Boscastle, near Tintagel.
I must say that a quotation of Edgar Allan Poe would not have been my way to close any article if I wished to convince people. Most people know very little of his serious works – I think he is far better known for his macabre writings which appear to have been inspired by a weird and morbid, though fascinating, imagination. Whilst his character was not as black as his first biographer, Rufus Griswold, pictured it, at the same time it was not very good. He died in an institution as the result of a drunken bout. I have always felt that he might well have been a schizophrenic and I think The Raven indicates this split personality, perhaps more than any other work. This particular quotation was taken from The Raven. In any case, quotations taken out of context prove nothing, even though a dramatic note is achieved.
What, then, is the truth about us living witches?
To find the origin of Witchcraft we must go back to pre-Christian times. The word witch is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word wicca meaning ‘wise one’. The witches were the priesthood of the Old Religion, which was a combination of the worship of the Sun and Moon, indeed, it embraced all facets of nature. In many old cults it was customary for the rites of the priesthood to be kept secret and this is one of the reasons for the secrecy which surrounds the rites of the witches even to this day.
It was to the witches that the ordinary people went when they needed advice. They were skilled in the art of ‘wort-cunning’ – this was the old name for herbal cures – and so they healed sick people and sick animals, and helped and advised in many ways. I always think they must have been very good psychologists, too.
In a pastoral community, the fertility of men, animals and crops, was of primary importance. The rites performed by the witches were to achieve these ends. They believed that if they wanted the Gods to help them, they must help the Gods. A very sound idea when you think about it; after all, we cannot expect to get anything out of life unless we put something into it. We must remember that these rites and sacrifices were not part of the philosophy – they were a form of sympathetic magic. As the priesthood grew stronger, so the number of rites increased. Is this not typical of priesthoods everywhere? So often the dogma, which is quite often absurd, becomes so important that the original teaching is almost hidden from view. This seems to happen in every religion; it adds to the importance of the priesthood and makes it indispensable.
It is in these rites that we find the origin of the broomstick story. The witches used to dance around the fields astride their broomsticks. They believed that the higher they could leap, the higher the crops would grow. As time went by, the story became exaggerated so that they were reputed to have flown through the air! In the same way, when they desired the fertility of animals they would dress themselves in skins and animal masks, and mimic the actions of the animal for whom they desired fertility – a form of sympathetic magic. This may well have been the origin of the superstition that witches could change themselves into animals at will.
The Old Religion was a simple one – simple beliefs for simple people. They observed a God and a Goddess; the God equated the Sun, the Goddess to the Moon or Earth Mother. These deities were known by many names in different parts of the world throughout the ages.
It is not until the Middle Ages that we begin to hear of the Coven consisting of twelve persons and a leader. This does not necessarily mean that they were non-existent, only that there is no record of them.
Idries Shah Sayed in his book The Sufi puts forward a theory that this was due to Saracenic influence. Whether we are in agreement with him or not I feel that this theory must be examined.
In the 9th century the Aniza school of mystics was founded by Abyu el Atcahia. After his death a group of this school migrated to Spain, which had been under Arab rule for over a century at that time. This Berber off-shoot was known as ‘the Two Horned’. They adopted as a symbol the Goat, cognate with the tribal name Anz, Aniza. A torch set between the horns symbolised the illumination from the intellect of the Aniza teacher.
Let us look at some of the similarities between these people and the witches.
Both use the term ‘Old Religion’ and ‘Ancient Tradition’.
The witches refer to their deities as ‘the Old Ones’ – the deity of the Sufi is ‘the Ancient One’. The black-handled knife of the witches is the athame – the ritual knife of the Sufi is the adh-hame. The word Sabbat could have been derived from the az-zabat – the ‘forceful occasion’. The patron saint of the Sufi is khidr – the Green One, whilst the Green Man has always been associated with the witches. Whilst these similarities do not constitute proof, at the same time they lend strength to the hypothesis. We know that the Goat became identified as the Devil in Spain, and at about that time the Devil in this country suddenly developed two horns and a tail.
The survival of the old pre-Christian religion could have been greatly strengthened by the importation of the Saracenic cult and therefore have caused fear and misgiving to the Church of the middle ages. The New Religion was still not old enough nor stabilised enough to feel completely secure.
As in days gone by one cult absorbed many of the beliefs and rituals of other cults, so had the Church absorbed many of the solar and lunar theogonies of the Old Religion. In the same way the old pagan Mother Goddess Bride was, for proselytising purposes, canonised as a Christian saint.
It must be remembered that in the early days Christianity was brought to England by foreigners. Augustine was an Italian and in the 7th century the Church here was organised by Theodore of Tarsus aided by Hadrian the Negro. For several hundred years the influx of pagans greatly outweighed the small number of immigrant Christians. When William the Conqueror defeated Harold, whilst he himself was a professing Christian, most of the population were pagan. Even the Priests often served both the Old Gods and the Christian God. In 1282 it is recorded that the Priest of Inverkeithing led the fertility dance round the churchyard, for which he was severely reprimanded by his Bishop.
In the 13th century Witchcraft was declared to be a sect and heretical, but it was not until the 14th century that the two religions really came to grips. The battle raged through the 16th and 17th centuries, the pagans fighting the gallant but losing fight. In this country the treatment meted out was considered to be more lenient than in some European countries, where thousands were consigned to the flames. Still they clung to their faith and suffered and died in agony rather than renounce their old Gods. If they were burnt, they believed they would become sacrificial victims, and in this way serve their gods in the struggle against evil, and also ensure fertility to the community. I think they can well command respect for their integrity of purpose.
Now, however hard a large majority of people try to stamp out something of which they do not approve, and especially something which they fear, there will always be a small group of faithful adherents who will cling firmly to their beliefs and instil them into others who wish to hear. So it has been with the Old Religion. Throughout the years the beliefs have been passed down, and many of the rituals too, so that today we can still hold our meetings and practise our rites as did our forefathers.
Religion is surely man-made, tailored to suit the particular environment at a particular time. Although as a child I was baptised into the Church and attended Church and Sunday school regularly, yet at an early age I realised that this religion was not for me. Being an only child I spent a great deal of my time reading. I enjoyed reading books about the Old Gods and Goddesses; the religion of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks; the Celts and the Norsemen and the Phoenicians. In all these religions I found the same pattern – the worship of a great Life Force. This appealed to me. Here, I felt, was something I understood, something in which I really could believe, it seemed almost familiar – maybe the echo of something I had known long ago. I felt nearer to the heart of everything out in the open spaces, in woodlands, on hilltops, by running water, than I had ever felt within the four walls of any church. As I grew older this feeling increased – unconsciously I was seeking people who felt as I did.
In the early years of the war I was living and working in Cumberland. I became friendly with a colleague of mine. She was a sympathetic and understanding person, and often at weekends we would go for long walks in the country. One afternoon we were sitting beside the river and I found myself telling her my thoughts and my beliefs. She was extremely interested and suggested that I meet some friends of hers whom she knew would be sympathetic to my ideas.
In due course I did meet them and became a regular visitor to their home. We did indeed have many things in common and it was not long before I realised that at last I had met people who shared my beliefs. I must explain that up to this time I would never have placed the tag of ‘witch’ upon myself. I merely looked upon myself as a pagan, a nature worshipper – I could never believe Great Pan was dead…
Then, one night Mary talked to me and said that she and her husband were now quite certain that I was ‘one of them’. She went to explain that they were members of a Coven of witches.. Witches! For a moment time seemed to stand still… and then – I knew that this was indeed the answer. The last elusive piece of the jigsaw puzzle had been fitted into its place and the picture was complete. I saw quite clearly in that moment that it was not the Devil whom the witches in the Middle Ages had worshipped; it was the old Horned God. Great Pan was not dead and never would be…
At their next Coven meeting I was initiated and taken into the Circle. I am bound by an oath of secrecy not to reveal the secrets of the Craft so I cannot tell you very much about the initiation. It is as vivid in my mind now as it was twenty-five years ago.
It was a clear moonlit night. A necklace was placed around my neck; I was bound with cords and blindfolded, then wrapped around in a coarse, woollen cloak and led through the garden to the woodland where they held their meetings on fine nights. I could feel the dew on my bare feet – I could smell the grass and the leaves and the flowers – all my senses seemed quickened. Suddenly we stopped, and the friendly hands that had been guiding me were no longer there. I was standing blindfolded, bound, helpless and alone – oh, so alone… It was an eerie sensation. I felt completely disorientated, almost panic-stricken. Where were the others? A twig crackled – only some small animal moving in the undergrowth, but quite startling to me. Somewhere a dog barked. The waiting time could only have been a few minutes but it seemed an age. Then, suddenly, the cloak was stripped from me and I shivered as I felt the cool night air on my body.
“Oh thou who standest on the threshold, between the pleasant world of men and the dread domains of the Lords of the Outer Spaces, hast thou the courage to make the assay? For I say unto thee verily, it were better to rush upon my blade and perish than mate the attempt with fear in thy heart.”
I felt the pressure of cold steel against my breast, my heart beat madly – I felt almost suffocated – and then – strong arms swept me into the Circle – and the initiation went on.
After I took my oath the blindfold was removed also the cords and I was welcomed by my fellow witches. Then I joined in the Meeting Dance, starting slowly and then working up to greater and still greater speed until my feet seemed scarcely to touch the ground, and the feeling of exhilaration was indescribable.
After it was all over I felt a great peace and I knew that I had come home at last.
I know that the fact that we do not wear clothes at our meetings has become quite a moral issue with our detractors. I would like to point out that nudity has nothing whatever to do with the morality or immorality of an individual. They can achieve immorality without removing one garment.
People sometimes ask me if I felt at all embarrassed by my first ritual nudity. I know that it is sometimes a little difficult when looking back over a number of years, to be completely clear about one’s reactions in certain situations, but I think I can quite honestly answer ‘NO’. In the Circle bodies seem to be of only secondary importance – the atmosphere is more of a spiritual one. This is not only my personal experience: I have heard other people proffer the same opinion, some of whom had felt beforehand that nudity would be an ordeal in itself.
Of recent years I have belonged to the Naturist movement as have some of my witch friends. However, not all witches find it attractive. I find it most relaxing – it is as if with the putting away of clothes, one also puts away the everyday worries and problems. This is purely psychological and possibly the same effect is not felt by everybody.
I receive many letters and meet many people who have an urge to become witches. Some of them are merely curious, others would obviously like to come in for ‘kicks’ – the latter, I feel sure, would be very disappointed if they did get in.
Some people we know instinctively are ‘right’ for us; even so, we do not bring them into the Circle immediately. We do not seek converts – people who really belong will find their way to us, just as I found my way.
Are people born witches? I find that requires a great deal of thought. I suppose they are. This does not necessarily mean that either their parents or their grandparents were witches; but in all probability, if they could go back far enough, they would find witch blood in their family. I think they are certainly born with a feeling about it all which develops strongly if it is given a chance. I must admit that I get highly suspicious when I receive letters which state: – “I am a witch, my grandmother was a witch, she initiated me when I was seven years of age.” If she did, then she wasn’t the ‘wise woman’ she should have been. Quite often, I’m afraid; such letters are written by either cranks or poseurs.
Unfortunately there are far too many of this sort, and I think perhaps it is this type to whom Mr Lofts refers when he mentions ‘publicity seekers’. Real witches do not seek publicity – they are sought.
During the last few years a new phrase has cropped up – ‘Queen of the Witches’ – ‘King of the Witches’. This tends to be very misleading as one claimant after another pops up making such sweeping statements. People wonder what is going on in the world of the witches. Well, I would like to make one thing quite clear – these people are only self-styled: there never has been and never will be a King or Queen of the Witches. I think these people may have read a book by the late Dr. Margaret Murray where she refers to the ‘Reine du Sabbat’ – ‘Queen of the Sabbat’ – which of course refers to the Maiden or High Priestess of the Coven who presides at the Sabbat.
Why do they do it? If it is to create an impression it usually defeats its object, as so often the impression created is not a good one and tends to present such an odd image of witchcraft to the public.
The reason that a woman leads a coven is, of course, quite obvious. It is because it was originally a Matriarchal cult, and at that time (the late Stone Age – before the institution of fatherhood and marriage) woman was not considered to be inferior to man.
Whilst I am exploding modern myths about witchcraft, I cannot pass over the ‘witch wedding’ story. Not very long ago I was a picture in a newspaper and read a description of a so-called ‘witch wedding’. Well, it was merely a version of the old Scottish and Romany ‘hand fasting’ with a little bit of extra mumbo-jumbo thrown in. The participants were reported to have declared that having gone through this ceremony they had no need of a civil wedding. As the female was under twenty-one and the man over twice her age there was a good deal of criticism.
Now as there is no such ceremony in witch rituals and it all sounded rather silly and nasty, I drove 175 miles for the purpose of tackling the alleged ‘witch’ responsible. Having run him to earth at last and made it quite clear what I thought about him, he decided that he couldn’t fool me. He admitted that he had just staged it to show ‘what a witch wedding would be like if there had been such a thing.’ At the same time I found out that whatever he was practising, it certainly was not genuine witchcraft. It was some weird mixture of cabalistic and Egyptian magic gleaned from books with a few inventions of his own. He showed me something he called a ‘witch ring’ (The number of witch rings I have been shown in my time! Most of them oddities either picked up for a few shillings in the Portobello Road or somewhere of that kind, or else made by somebody who is prepared to supply ‘ritual items’ at fantastic prices; a few have been quite valuable and attractive but possessing no occult properties whatsoever).
More recently still a young man who felt that he had been ‘let down’ by the Christian faith gave an interview to a journalist. He had prayed for his Mother to live and when she died he decided that God was no good and so he would become a Devil worshipper. Well, if it makes him any happier, that is up to him; but he didn’t leave it at that. He proceeded to state “In Witchcraft it is paying humble homage to Satan”. He also announced his plans to start a witch coven. Obviously he was a very mixed up young man, and personally I feel he is to be pitied, but it is people of this sort who bring the Craft into disrepute.
Another report in a paper was headed in large block capitals: WITCHCRAFT – COURT STORY OF COLOURED GIRL’S MAGIC SPELLS. It was an account of a murder case and mention was made of a person being put into a nut which was invisible and flew over rivers. Having forced myself to wade through this odd report I came to the conclusion that ‘NUTS‘ was the operative word!
I do believe that many people are pagans without actually being witches, just as many people are Christians without being priests, and these people can be of great value to the Craft. Not very long ago I was given a ceremony which appeared to have probably originated in the Middle Ages, for the purpose of bringing people into the Craft without actually bringing them into the Circle, so that they could attend a Meeting, witness it, and join in the feasting and Meeting Dance at the end. Whilst I have not yet used it, I am hoping that at some future date we shall be able to incorporate it in our rites.
Perhaps one of the attractions that the Craft holds for many people is that whilst it is a religion it is not hidebound and cluttered with dogma. Today our beliefs have taken a rather different complexion. Whilst we still observe the traditional God and Goddess in our rites, we do not look upon them as personalities. We believe them to be personifications of the masculine and feminine aspects of the great Life Source – positive and negative, if you will. We have no printed text-books telling us what we may do and what we may not do. Every Coven is autonomous, and whilst the fundamental principles are the same, rites can be very in different covens just as they did in days gone by.
In the Middle Ages, witches were instructed to keep a book in his or her ‘own hand of write’. In times of danger it was destroyed. This tradition is carried out to this day. This book is known as “The Book of Shadows”. In it we write the rituals we use on various occasions, chants, initiation rites, old herbal recipes, and the like; sometimes when we are engaged in research we come across fragments which we add to it.
At the time of the persecution the witches tended to dispense with their books and pass things on by word of mouth instead, as a safety measure. Unfortunately this meant that over a few hundred years certain things became altered, other things were lost, so that we are continually seeking for bits and pieces to add to our knowledge.
We hold thirteen meetings a year, once every lunar month, as near to the full moon as possible. We observe the four Great Sabbats – Beltane (May eve), Lammas (August Eve), Hallowe’en (November Eve), and Candlemas (February Eve), which have been celebrated since very early days. In those early days Hallowe’en was called Samhuin, which means ‘Summer End’ (in those days there were only two seasons – Winter and Summer). Candlemas was known as the feast of Feil-Bride in honour of the Goddess Brigid. She was the Goddess worshipped by the great tribe of the Brigante who occupied most of Northern England at that time.
We prefer to hold our Meetings in the open whenever possible – not always easy in this unreliable climate, I’m afraid. Our Midsummer Eve Meeting always takes place in the open. This is one of the Meetings at which we allow sympathisers to be present.
First of all the High Priestess forms the Circle with the athame – the black handled knife – then she invokes the Four Quarters to guard the Circle. A fire is lit in the centre of the Circle, and the Cauldron, filled with water and decorated with summer flowers, stands in the East. The witches stand around the circle whilst the High Priestess invokes the Sun. She then bids the witches: “Dance ye about the Cauldron of Cerridwen” (Cerridwen was an old Welsh name for the Earth Mother, and her Cauldron is taken to represent the Holy Grail of Immortality.) They dance around chanting, gradually gaining speed. Then, led by the High Priestess and the High Priest, they leap over the fire in couples. This is to stimulate the life giving forces of the Sun at the beginning of its downward course.
Every Meeting ends with a Cakes and Wine ceremony. Some people have suggested that this was a travesty of the Sacrament, but of course, this is quite incorrect. It is purely a rite of thanksgiving for the corn and the grapes that have ripened to give food and drink.
At every Meeting we do work for people. Sometimes healing, sometimes helping to sort out their domestic problems – people come to ask our help for all sorts of reasons. We do our best to help them. Of course, there are exceptions when we don’t, such as the lady who felt it would be nice and handy if we could dispose of her unwanted husband. I will say we have more successes than failures. If you are a sceptic you can call it ‘coincidence'; nevertheless, it happens, as many people can testify.
Again, different covens have different ways of working. We always found dancing and chanting very satisfactory. Occasionally we use wax images. Many people only think of wax images as something to stick pins in, to cause illness or death (It’s those ‘Old Black Magic’ books again!) so it will no doubt come as a surprise to know that a wax image can also be used for healing purposes. We make the image of pure beeswax, and then one person kneels in the centre of the Circle and massages the affected area, whilst the rest of the Coven dance round chanting.
We do not consider there is anything supernatural about our powers. The power springs from within us, from the will, from the mind and the spirit, and it can be joined to external symbols. The implements, words, symbols and spells are our working tools – but the mind is the most important of all.
There seems to be some misunderstanding that a witch cannot work alone. This is quite incorrect – of course a witch can work alone – some of us do it quite often.
Frequently people ask me the difference between White Magic and Black Magic. Magic is magic – it is neither white nor black. I will give you a very simple analogy. One person can take a carving knife and carve a joint to feed the family; another person takes the same knife and stabs somebody. It is not the knife which is good or bad, but the user. So it is with Magic. This force itself is neutral. There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. The mind of a man is a receiver and transmitter, and the personality of the user influences the transmission. It is correct then to speak of White witches and Black witches.
Black witches are the ones who work against people, their work is directed towards evil ends, whereas white witches work to help others and to do good. When white witches work in a circle they always move in a clockwise direction – deosil – the way of the sun. Black witches work in the opposite direction – widdershins, as it is called. White witches work when the moon is full or when it is waxing, black witches when it is waning. To sum it up quite simply – white witches work constructively – black witches destructively.
In these modern days people have grown more and more materialistic. They tend to rely too much on the teachings of science and to discard too hastily the thoughts and teachings of the ancients, which Eastern civilisations have known and accepted for thousands of years.
To know, to dare, to will and to be silent! This has been the code of the witches. There comes a time, however, when it is necessary to break that silence, when only by telling the world something about ourselves, our beliefs and aims, can we be accepted and left in peace to follow our faith in our own way. All we ask is that people shall respect our beliefs just as we respect the beliefs of others. Some people laugh about us and think; we are more than a little odd. This we do not mind in the least, because after all, nothing deserves to be held sacred that cannot withstand laughter.
Our Meetings are not solemn affairs held with grave faces. They are happy and gay and full of the joy of living. At the end we feel uplifted, exhilarated, contented.
It is twenty five years since I was accepted into the Craft. For the last four years I have been a High Priestess. I am sometimes asked what are the qualifications to become one.
I suppose an understanding of other people, to be able to help them with their problems, to inspire them with trust so that they can talk freely, knowing that their confidence will be respected. To be able to bring out the power in others and encourage them to use it in the right way. All these things come only from the experience of living and that is why High Priestesses are not young girls but women who have graduated from the University of Life.
This high office is a responsibility and a joy. We must not let it cloud our vision nor dim our passion. We must always be ready to pass it on to some more worthy member. This temporary ownership saves us from pride, for pride breeds jealousy, which is dangerous. There is a sense of achievement which is good, the sense of individual work well done, which is good.
While I hold my office I shall do my utmost, with joy, knowing that I have played my part, done my duty, performed the ritual as a link in the continuity of the Wise-Craft. For that is the true meaning of the word.