The Elders

The Elders among the ‘Craft’

Dion Fortune – (1890 – 1946) Respected psychiatrist, occultist, and author who approached magick and hermetic concepts from the perspectives of Jung and Freud. She was a prolific occult writer of novels and non-fiction books, an adept in ceremonial magick, and a pioneer psychiatrist on religious thought in occultism. She was born Violet Mary Firth in Bryn-y-Bia, Llandudno, North Wales on 6th December 1890, the daughter of a solicitor. She showed mediumistic abilities at an early age reputedly having had visions and dreams of Atlantis as early as four years old. Later she claimed to have been a priestess there in a past life. She was a bright and intelligent child and wrote her first book, aged just 13, a book of poems entitled Violets in 1904. Her interest in occultism was sparked when she was working as a lay Freudian analyst around the time of the First World War. She was trained by a doctor named Moriarty who specialised in astro-etheric psychological conditions (and who later provided the inspiration for her series of short stories The Secrets of Doctor Taverner). Having found her ‘path’ in the Western Mystery Tradition she joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1919. Moving to London, she joined an offshoot branch of the Golden Dawn run by Moina Mathers, widow of MacGregor Mathers, one of the Golden Dawn’s founders. She began to write articles under the name of Dion Fortune (taken from her family motto Deo Non Fortuna, ‘God not luck’), which were later published in book form as The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage, Sane Occultism and Psychic Self-Defence, the first of her many occult textbooks. These articles enraged Moina Mathers, who felt that Dion Fortune was betraying the secrets of the Order. Dion Fortune became increasingly disillusioned with the Golden Dawn, and after Dr. Moriarty’s death in 1921 she set about founding her own esoteric order with a few of Moriarty’s students and a few members of the Theosophical Society in London. In 1924 her little group bought an old officers’ hut from the army and erected it at the foot of Glastonbury Tor in Somerset. This site, which they named Chalice Orchard, was the first headquarters of the Fraternity of the Inner Light (later re-named the Society of the Inner Light). Soon afterwards they also acquired a large old house – 3 Queensborough Terrace, London – which was big enough for certain members to live in as well as being an established magical lodge. Among those living there were Dion Fortune and her husband Dr. Penry Evans, although they divided their time between London and Glastonbury, and eventually divorced. The society soon became an initiatory school of high calibre. Working in trance mediumship, Dion Fortune made contacts with certain inner plane adepts, or Masters, whose influence on the Western Esoteric Tradition is still vital to this day. During the 1930s Dion Fortune wrote several esoteric novels which contain much practical detail which was considered too ‘secret’ at that time to be published in her articles or textbooks. She also pioneered Qabalah as a key to the Western Mystery Tradition, and her book The Mystical Qabalah is still one of the best texts available on the subject. Her other main work was The Cosmic Doctrine, which was received mediumistically and originally reserved for initiates only. Its text is abstract and difficult to follow, and is intended for meditation rather than as a straight textbook. During the Second World War she organised her own contribution to the war effort on a magical level – this project is now published as The Magical Battle of Britain. The Society of the Inner Light continued to operate its lodge at 3 Queensborough Terrace in the midst of the Blitz, and even when the house was damaged by bombs the disruption was minimal. In early January 1946 Dion Fortune returned from Glastonbury feeling tired and unwell and was admitted to Middlesex Hospital in London. The illness was leukaemia, and she died a few days later, aged 55. She is buried at Glastonbury. Her last novel, Moon Magic, was unfinished at her death; the last chapter was allegedly channelled by her through one of the society’s mediums. The Society of the Inner Light continued largely unchanged for many years after Dion Fortune’s death. In 1960 the headquarters moved to 38 Steele’s Road, London NW3 4RG. It continues today as an initiatory school and magical lodge with much the same principles as those in which it was originally founded.


Helena Petrovna Blavatsky – (1831-1891) Helena Petrovna Blavatsky also known as Madame Blavatsky was born at Ekaterinoslav, Russia. In order to gain converts to Theosophy, she felt obliged to appear to perform miracles. This she did with a large measure of success, but her methods were on several occasions detected as fraudulent. Nevertheless, her commanding personality secured for her a large following. An enigmatic personality, Blavatsky was raised in an atmosphere saturated with superstition and fantasy. She loved to surround herself with mystery as a child and claimed to her playmates that in the subterranean corridors of their old house at Saratow, where she used to wander about, she was never alone, but had companions and playmates whom she called her “hunchbacks.” Blavatsky was often discovered in a dark tower underneath the roof, where she put pigeons into a mesmeric sleep by stroking them. She was unruly, and as she grew older she often shocked her relatives by her masculine behavior. Once, riding astride a Cossack horse, she fell from the saddle and her foot became entangled in the stirrup. She claimed that she ought to have been killed outright were it not for the strange sustaining power she distinctly felt around her, which seemed to hold her up in defiance of gravitation. According to the records of her sister, Blavatsky showed frequent evidence of somnambulism as a child, speaking aloud and often walking in her sleep. She saw eyes glaring at her from inanimate objects or from phantasmal forms, from which she would run away screaming and frighten the entire household. In later years she claimed to have seen a phantom protector whose imposing appearance had dominated her imagination. Blavatsky’s powers of make-believe were remarkable. She possessed great natural musical talents, had a fearful temper, a passionate curiosity for the unknown and weird, and an intense craving for independence and action. At the age of 17, she was married to General Blavatsky, an old man from whom she escaped three months later. She then fled abroad and led a wild, wandering life for ten years all over the world, in search of mysteries. When she returned to Russia she possessed well-developed mediumistic gifts. Raps, whisperings, and other mysterious sounds were heard all over the house, objects moved about in obedience to her will, their weight decreased and increased as she wished, and winds swept through the apartment, extinguishing lamps and candles. She gave exhibitions of clairvoyance, discovered a murderer for the police, and narrowly escaped being charged as an accomplice. In 1860 Blavatsky became severely ill. A wound below the heart, which she received from a sword cut in magical practice in the East, opened again, causing her intense agony, convulsions, and trance. After Blavatsky recovered, her spontaneous physical phenomena disappeared, and she claimed that they only occurred after that time in obedience to her will. Blavatsky again went abroad and, disguised as a man, she fought under Garibaldi and was left for dead in the battle of Mentana. She fought back to life, had a miraculous escape at sea on a Greek vessel that was blown up and, in 1871 in Cairo, she founded the Societe Spirite. It was a dubious venture that soon expired amid cries of fraud and embezzlement, reflecting considerably on the reputation of the founder. Her closer ties with Spiritualism dated from her arrival in New York in July 1873. Blavatsky first worked as a dressmaker to obtain a living and, after her acquaintance with Col. Henry Steel Olcott at Chittenden, Vermont, in the house of the Eddy Brothers, she took up journalism, writing mostly on Spiritualism for magazines and translating Olcott’s articles into Russian. “For over 15 years have I fought my battle for the blessed truth,” she wrote in The Spiritual Scientist, published in Boston (December 3, 1874); “For the sake of Spiritualism I have left my house; an easy life amongst a civilized society, and have become a wanderer upon the face of this earth.’ Her second marital venture, which occurred during this period, ended in failure and escape. The starting point of her real career was the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875. It professed to expound the esoteric tradition of Buddhism and aimed at forming a universal brotherhood of man; studying and making known the ancient religions, philosophies, and sciences; investigating the laws of nature; and developing the divine powers latent in man. It was claimed to be directed by secret Mahatmas, or Masters of Wisdom. Olcott, who was elected president, was a tireless organizer and propagandist. His relationship to Blavatsky was that of pupil to teacher. He did the practical work and Blavatsky the literary work. Their joint efforts soon put the society on a prosperous footing and, at the end of 1878, a little party of four left, under their leadership, for Bombay. Soon after the theosophical movement gained added impetus from the publicity launched by A. P. Sinnett, editor of the Pioneer, who had embraced Buddhism in Ceylon. The publicity had its disadvantages as well. The attention of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was aroused by reports of the theosophic marvels, and Richard Hodgson was sent to Adyar, India, where the central headquarters of the theosophical movement was established, to investigate. The investigation had a disastrous effect for Blavatsky and dealt a nearly fatal blow to Theosophy. Hodgson reported that he found nothing but palpable fraud and extreme credulity on the part of the believers. The Coulombs, a couple who had joined Blavatsky in Bombay in 1880 and were her acquaintances from the time of the Cairo adventure, confessed to having manufactured, in conspiracy with Blavatsky, a large number of the theosophical miracles: they revealed the secret of the sliding panels of the shrine in the Occult Room through which, from Blavatsky’s bedroom, the “astral” Mahatma letters were deposited; disclosed impersonation of the Mahatmas by a dummy head and shoulders; declared that the Mahatma letters were written by Blavatsky in a disguised hand and that they were projected through cracks in the ceiling by means of spring contrivances; and they produced the correspondence between them and Blavatsky in proof of their self-confessed complicity. Hodgson’s investigations, which lasted for three months, entirely demolished the first private and confidential report of the SPR issued in December 1884, which was theoretically favorable to Blavatsky’s claims. Hodgson’s conclusions were published in the Proceedings of the SPR. The publication of the report, which followed the printing of the Coulomb letters in the Madras Christian Magazine, created an immense sensation. In response, Olcott, whose honesty was not impugned by the report, banished Blavatsky from Adyar. The proofs of her guilt were overwhelming, for the defense was built up with great difficulties. With the Theosophical Society thus discredited, recovery looked hopeless. Nevertheless, Annie Besant, who would become Blavatsky’s successor, and Sinnett valiantly took on the task. Hodgson answered and insisted on his conclusions. In the literature that subsequently grew up on the subject, V. S. Solovyoff claimed in A Modern Priestess of Isis (1895) that Blavatsky acknowledged her fraudulent practices to the author. Blavatsky’s Posthumous Memoirs (1896) was a most curious artifact of the time that was said to have been dictated by Blavatsky’s spirit. The text (which furnished strong, internal proofs of its apocryphal character) was obtained in independent typewriting on a Yost machine under the supervision of the spirit of its inventor, Mr. G. W. N. Yost. Blavatsky nevertheless succeeded in living down every attack during her lifetime, continued her work, gained many new adherents to Theosophy, and published a work, The Secret Doctrine, which was claimed to have been written in a supernormal condition. Whatever conclusions are reached about her complex character, it must be admitted that she was an extraordinarily gifted individual and it does seem probable that she indeed possessed psychic powers which, however, fell far short of the miraculous feats she constantly aimed at. Even Solovyoff admits some remarkable experiences, and though he furnished natural explanations for many of them, the assumption that withstands challenge is that she had, as plainly pointed out by Olcott himself, unusual hypnotic powers. Her famous feats of duplicating letters and other small objects are plainly ascribable to this source when common fraud does not cover the ground. She never troubled about test conditions. Most of her phenomena were produced under circumstances wide open to suspicion and strongly savoring of a conjuring performance. These included the finding of an extra cup and saucer at a picnic at Simla in 1880 in the Sinnett garden under the ground at a designated spot, the clairvoyant discovery of the lost brooch of Mrs. Hume in a flower bed, the astral dispatch of marked cigarettes to places she indicated, and the Mahatma scripts imposed over the text of private letters which the post had just delivered. There is no end of these and similar miracles, and the testimony of the truth is sometimes so surprising that one can conclude that imposture occasionally blended with genuine psychic performance. The general character of Blavatsky’s phenomena is of a different order from those of the Spiritualist medium. Her early physical phenomena subsided at a later age, although the power to cause raps remained. Once, in New York, Olcott claimed that he witnessed the materialization of a Mahatma from a mist rising from her shoulders. As a rule the Mahatmas were not supposed to depend upon Blavatsky’s organism for appearance, and controlled her body but seldom. Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine were claimed to have been produced under such control. Whereas there is a limit to the phenomena of every Spiritualistic medium, Blavatsky apparently knew none. From the materialization of grapes for the thirsty Col. Olcott in New York to the duplication of precious stones in India, or the creation of toys for children out of nothingness, she undertook almost any magical task and successfully performed it, to everyone’s amazement. The Hodgson Report left a deep shadow over Blavatsky’s final years. Besant’s conversion to Theosophy resulted after she had been requested by W. T. Stead to review The Secret Doctrine in 1889. Blavatsky suggested that she read the Hodgson Report before forming any firm conclusions, but Besant was not adversely affected and requested to be Blavatsky’s pupil. Thereafter Besant provided a secure refuge for the aging Theosophist at her own home in London. In her last years, Blavatsky became the center of a memorable group of talented individuals. Source:


Eliphas Levi – (1810-1875) Eliphas Levi is the pseudonym of Alphonse Louis Constant, a French occultist and author whose work greatly influenced many of the early revivalists of the 19th century. Interestingly Aleister Crowley was born the same year Levi died and later claimed to be his reincarnation. Constant was born in Paris on the 08th February 1810 and was the only son of a shoemaker. He was an intelligent young man and quick to learn but his father did not have the funds to privately educate him. Determined his son should have a decent education, he sent Constant to the seminary of Saint Nichols du Chardonnet and later to Saint Sulpice to be educated and trained as a priest. While he was there he became intrigued by a lesson received from his headmaster, who during the course of the lesson explained his belief that animal magnetism was a vital energy of the human body controlled by the “Devil”. This sparked his curiosity and surreptitiously he began to study all that he could find out about magic and the occult. Early in the 1830’s Constant became acquainted with an old couple called ‘Ganneau’ who practiced witchcraft. Ganneau believed himself a prophet and a reincarnation of Louis XVII, while he also believed his wife was the reincarnation of Marie Antoinette. Constant joined Ganneau and became one of his followers delving deeper into the mysteries of magic and the occult. Continuing to pursue his career in the church, he was ordained a deacon in December 1835, but did not become a priest. Constant wrote a number of minor religious works: Des Moeurs et des Doctrines du Rationalisme en France (Of the Moral Customs and Doctrines of Rationalism in France, in 1839), L’Evangile du Peuple (The Gospel of the People in 1840), La Mère de Dieu (The Mother of God in 1844) and Le Testament de la Liberté (The Testament of Liberty published in 1848), the same year Napoleon III in a revolutionary coup overthrew King Louis Philippe and became president of the Second Republic. Thrown out of the church and excommunicated due to his left-wing political views, Constant’s writings led on to him serving three short jail sentences. In 1846 when he was 36 years old, Constant met and married Noemie Cadiot who was 18 years his junior. Together they had one child but sadly it died in early childhood. After the loss of the child the marriage deteriorated, they separated in 1853 and their marriage was annulled in 1865. In the meantime, Constant was earning a meagre living writing as a journalist and by giving lessons in occult studies. He took on the pen name ‘Magus Eliphas Levi’, which he arrived at by translating his given names ‘Alphonse Louis’ into Hebrew. After his wife had left him, Levi made his first trip to England in May 1854, hoping to increase his fortunes by giving private lessons on occult subjects. So far Levi had not written anything on the subject, but his reputation as a leading French Magus had preceded him, he also came furnished with letters of introduction to some of London’s high society and England’s more prominent personages. One such was the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton 1803-1873 – the 1st Baron Lytton of Knebworth) and they formed a firm and lasting friendship. Bulwer-Lytton was regarded as a leading authority on magic and occultism in England, his interests extended to the study of clairvoyance, magic, astrology and mesmerism, he was also the president of a local Rosicrucian group seeking esoteric wisdom from psychic and spiritual enlightenment. It was Bulwer-Lytton who encouraged Levi to write a treatise on magic. As a result he later wrote: Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie in 1855. This was later translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite of the Golden Dawn as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual. It was during this trip to London in 1854 that Levi first tried necromancy. Unable to speak but a smattering of English, his ability to give lessons proved to be disappointing and he failed to make any money teaching. Instead and much to his dismay, he was expected to perform ‘miracles’ and give practical demonstrations of ceremonial magic. One titled lady, a friend of Bulwer-Lytton who claimed to be an adept, asked him to conjure the spirit of ‘Apollonius of Tyana’ a famous magician of ancient times. Levi confessed that he had never before attempted such a conjuration and until then had purposely avoided any such activity. However after much persuasion and due preparation he consented to make the attempt. During three week of preparation including dieting and fasting, Levi meditated on Apollonius and imagined conversations with him. The Ritual of Conjuration was performed in a specially prepared ‘Temple’ in which only he took part and consisted of 12 hours of incantations, after which the floor began to shake and a ghostly apparition appeared. Levi admitted to feeling extremely cold and frightened and when the apparition touched his ritual sword, his arm went suddenly numb. He dropped the sword and fainted. He claimed later that his sword arm was sore and numb for days after the incident. Levi was inclined to treat his experience as a subjective experiment, but observed that it had been sufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of magical ceremonies. He also condemned their use as dangerous on moral and health grounds outside the hands of an experienced adept. An account of the ceremony he performed can be found in Arthur Edward Waite’s translation of his work: Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual. Levi returned to Paris in August 1854, penniless and without a home. He was help and provided room and board by an old friend Adolphe Desbarolles. Desbarolles later achieved some prominence as the author of Les Mysteres de la Main, an important 19th century work on palmistry. While Levi’s trip to England had been less than financially rewarding, it did much to enhance his reputation. Back in France his exploits again preceded him, and soon he was attracting students to study the Cabala under his private tuition. In May 1861, Levi made another trip to England and so as not to repeat the conditions of his last trip, he brought with him one of his pupils Count Alexander Branicki with whom he was welcomed to stay with Baron Bulwer-Lytton at his estate in Knebworth. During this visit Levi met with Kenneth Mackenzie, a leading member of the S.R.I.A. (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia) and the author of the influential “Royal Masonic Encyclopedia”. Mackenzie had also been popularly theorized as the author and originator of the controversial “Cipher Manuscripts” upon which the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded. Later Mackenzie published an account of their meeting, in which Levi stated that he had studied the symbolism of Tarot cards for over 26 years. Levi never produced a complete treatise on Tarot cards, but his references to the cards throughout his writings, continued to fascinate, influence and inspire many generations of occultists after his death. After his trip to England in 1861, Levi published: La Clef des Grands Mystères (The Key to the Great Mysteries), a sequel to his earlier work. Other magical works followed and include: Fables et Symboles (Stories and Images) in 1862 and La Science des Esprits (The Science of Spirits) in 1865. He also wrote Le Grand Arcane, ou l’Occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled) in 1868, but published posthumously in 1898. Initially Levi’s writings and beliefs were thought to be highly imaginative for he believed in the existence of a universal “secret doctrine of magic” that had prevailed throughout history and was evident everywhere in the world. He also expanded on the theory of “Astral Light” based on his belief in animal magnetism. Until his death on the 31st May 1875, Levi continued to earn a comfortable living from his writings and giving occult lessons. Through a growing interest in Spiritualism and the popular rise of esoteric groups such as the S.R.I.A. (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia), the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, Levi’s writings soon gained a respectable following. Levi’s magic had a deep impact on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and greatly influenced such people as S.L. MacGregor Mathers who wrote most of the orders rituals, Arthur Edward Waite who adopted the Baphomet sigil as the death card in his Rider Waite Tarot Deck, and of course Aleister Crowley with his associations with ‘The Beast’. Eliphas Levi today is remembered as one of the key founders of the twentieth century revival of magic and contemporary witchcraft. Source:


Raymond Buckland – (1943 – ) “Father of American Wicca”. Author and Wiccan high priest who, with his wife, Rosemary Buckland, introduced Gardnerian Witchcraft into the United States. Buckland was born August 31, 1934, in London, England, where he attended high school. He served in the Royal Air Force, 1957-59, and earned a Ph.D. in anthropology at King’s College, Cambridge. When he was 12 years old, Buckland’s uncle loaned him a book on Spiritualism. A vivacious reader, in the 1950s he became familiar with the books of Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner on Witchcraft. Buckland contacted Gardner and established a relationship with him and his priestess Monique Wilson (Lady Olwen). Shortly before Gardner’s death in 1964, Buckland and his wife became Gardner’s first American initiates, and they assumed the religious names Robat and Lady Rowan. After they moved to the United States in 1962, they began the first Gardnerian coven (an assembly or band of usually 13 witches. Whenever Americans contacted Gardner and his followers in England, they were referred to the Bucklands, thus establishing the Gardnerian movement in the United States. They also opened a Witchcraft Museum on Long Island modeled on the museum Gardner had established on the Isle of Man. Buckland also authored a set of books on Wicca, including Ancient and Modern Witchcraft (1970) and Witchcraft from the Inside (1975). In the early 1970s Buckland divorced and began to disagree with some of the elements of the Gardnerian tradition. In 1973 he turned the leadership of the Gardnerian movement over to another couple, Lady Theos and Phoenix, and created a new non-secret form of Witchcraft that he called Seax (or Saxon) Wicca. He presented this new Witchcraft in a 1974 book, The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft. That same year he also married Joan Helen Taylor, who became his new high priest. Buckland then developed a correspondence course in Seax Wicca, which he offered through the 1970s. He also moved to Southern California where his approach to the craft evolved. He continued to write on a wide variety of magical and Witchcraft themes and his latest books include Practical Color Magick(1983), Complete Book of Witchcraft (1986), and the Secrets of Gypsy Fortunetelling (1988), which is of a series of books on gypsy occult practices. As of the mid-1990s, Buckland has written more than 20 books. One, a spoof on the books of James Church-ward, was called Mu Revealed and appeared under the Pseudonym Tony Earll (an anagram for “not really”). Buckland also wrote novels under the pseudonym Jessica Wells.


Old George Pickingill – (1816-1909) George Pickingill was a legend in his own time, a feared “Cunning Man” by local residents, a sought after Witch and Magician by those in occult circles. Born to Charles and Susannah Pickingill (nee Cudner) on the 26th May 1816, George was the eldest of nine children. They lived in a small Essex village called Hockley in East Anglia, from where he later he moved to the nearby village of Canewdon, were he remained until his death in 1909. “Old George” as he became known, was a hereditary witch and claimed he could trace his ancestry back to the time of “Julia Pickingill – The Witch of Brandon”, who lived in a village north of Thetford in Norfolk. Julia as legend would have it, was hired in 1071 to make magical chants for the troops of “Lord Harewood the Wake”, inspiring them into battle against the Normans. During the battle, Julia was seen standing in a wooden tower overlooking the two opposing armies where her chants could be heard across the battlefield. Her chants seemed to be working, but then the Normans set fire to the dry reeds around the tower and Julia died in the flames. Since that time each generation of the Pickingill family have served as Priests and Priestesses in the Old Religion. Old George like his father was a humble farm worker, yet all who knew him held him in awe. Many of the local village folk were afraid of him and his mysterious abilities, it was said he could set magical imps to work bring in the harvest and that they could clear a field in half an hour while he sat under a tree and smoked a pipe. He was not well liked in the village and even feared, it was said that he terrorized the villagers for money and beer threatening to blight their crops should they refuse him. Despite this he would charm their warts and dispense cures, and was sometimes called in to settle their disputes. In occult circles he was highly regarded, and was widely acknowledged as the worlds foremost authority on Witchcraft, Satanism and Black Magick. Overtime, many of the days leading Witches, Satanists, Rosicrucian’s, Ceremonial Magicians and other magically inclined people, came from all over England, Europe and the United States to consult with him. As his reputation grew, Old George became just as infamous as Aleister Crowley was in his time. He was also known to have encouraged Satanism, which horrified other Craft Elders who considered him a renegade and a disgrace to the craft. Over the course of his lifetime, Old George established a total of nine hereditary covens, situated in Norfolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Sussex and Hampshire. In many ways he was a zealot, for when he started a new coven; he insisted its leaders produce evidence that they came from hereditary witch lineage. Each coven that he formed worshiped the “Horned God” and used a basic set of rites, though he was constantly changing, embellishing and introducing new concepts as they developed. All rituals were conducted by women and involved ritual nudity and sexual inductions. The Pickingill’s including Old George were renowned for their allegiance to the Horned God and adopted many ancient Craft practices that were not observed in other parts of the country. The rites developed by the Pickingill tradition were a unique blend of French and Scandinavian craft practices. This was due in part by the influx of French and Flemish weavers into East Anglia, who introduced elements of the Cathar faith and the Old Religion as observed in France during the Middle Ages. Old George used a basic format for each of his covens, but he was always re-writing, revising and introducing new concepts into their rituals, therefore each of his nine covens though similar, none were exactly the same. Up until Old George’s time, many existing covens were based on oral tradition, their knowledge and rituals having been passed down from generation to generation, and instilled upon their members by repetition, memory and practice. This in part due to the secrecy imposed on witches during the “burning times”, inevitably led to some fragments of their traditions being lost over time. However, some hereditary covens kept a “coven rulebook” that contained a list of all the coven members and outlined the covens basic rites. For safekeeping, the book was always held by the coven’s secret “male” deputy (often referred to as the “Man in Black”), and only made available on special occasions at the Master’s bidding to add/delete names or transfer authority. No members, particularly woman, were ever permitted to read it. This may have been due to the opinion that a woman would reveal the location of the book if her children were tortured in front of her, whereas a man probably would not. As the fear of the “Witch-hunts” began to decline in the later half of the 18th century, Old George always willing to change, adapt and evolve took the idea of the coven rulebook and developed it, starting the tradition of keeping a “Book of Shadows” for the exclusive use of all coven members. The original Book of Shadows as compiled by Old George and modified over a period of his lifetime was then passed on to each of his nine covens, a legacy that lives on today. Many think Aleister Crowley passed on the details of one of Old George’s Book of Shadows to Gerald Gardner who adopted the same into his own tradition. The concept of keeping an individual “Book of Shadows” in your own handwriting, evidently originated from Alex Sanders who founded the Alexandrian Tradition witchcraft. Aleister Crowley is reported to have been a member of one of Old George’s covens in or around 1899. He is thought to have obtained his Second Degree before being dismissed because of his contemptuous attitude toward women and his deplorable behaviour. Other pupils of note were two Master Masons by the names of “Hargrave Jennings” and “W.J. Hughan”. Both later become founder members of the “Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia”; from which the “Order of the Golden Dawn” would eventually emerge. Doreen Valiente in her book “Witchcraft for Tomorrow” alleges that Jennings consulted with Old George and conspired with him to concoct a cipher manuscript (Cipher MS), which led to the founding of the Golden Dawn. However such claims have since been discredited. Aside from his famous “Nine Covens”, there was a more sinister side to “Old George” for which he became notorious. Old George had an intense dislike for Christianity and local authority. He openly campaigned for the overthrow of the Christian Religion and the establishment in generally. Some claim he even collaborate with Satanists, because he believed that by promoting Satanism, he was helping to ensure the destruction of the Christian church. This brought him into conflict with other Craft Elders who strongly objected to his activities. Contrary to popular belief for many misinformed articles were sensationalized in the Press during those times. Witches do not believe in “devil-worship”, nor do they invoke Satan during ritual to carry out evil deeds. Satan and the Devil are by-products of Christianity and have nothing to do with the Old Religion. The Old Religion was being practiced well before Christianity came along. This in mind, the other Craft Elders had good cause for objecting to what “Old George” was advocating, preferring secrecy and discretion to the unwanted attention he was arousing. After Old George’s death in 1909 and some 30 years on, Gerald B. Gardner was initiated into one of his descendent covens in Hampshire. He and others began writing openly about Wicca and Witchcraft. Gardner met with Aleister Crowley shortly before his death and Crowley “allegedly” passed on what he could remember of the old Pickingill rituals, these Gardner “allegedly” incorporated into his own Book of Shadows. When in 1951 the old antiquated witchcraft laws were repealed, causing a resurgence of interest in the Old Religion. Many of the Craft Elders became concerned fearing that exposure of Old George’s satanic activities would distort and damage the newly evolving image of Wicca and Witchcraft. To protect against this, the Elders of the Hereditary Tradition in East Anglia conspired to discredit any claims made by Gardner and others concerning the survival of Hereditary Witches. This in part involved the eradication of many traces of “Old George” and his “Nine Covens” as was possible. Today as a result, the real importance of Old George’s contributions to the revival of present day witchcraft may never be determined. source:


Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly

Dr. John Dee – (1527 – 1608) John Dee was born in London on July 13, 1527. His father was a vintner and a man of high repute in the court of Henry VIII, with some affluence, allowing him to give his son a decent education. John Dee went to St. John’s College in Cambridge at the age of 15 in 1542, where he studied math and astronomy, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree two years later. After receiving his first degree, he travelled to Holland meeting with many scholars. When he returned to England, he brought with him the first astronomer’s staff of brass along with two brass gloves constructed by Gerard Mercator, a famous cartographer of that time. After his return he received a Master of the Arts degree but was soon forced to leave England after being accused of being a conjurer thanks to a machine he built. During his first sojourn away from England, he first went to Louvain, France then spent some time in Paris, giving lectures on Euclid’s Elements and the basics of Geometry at the Sorbonne. Dee was offered a permanent post there, but he declined the post to return to England where he had been recommended for the post of Rector of Severn-upon-Severn by Edward VI, the son of Henry VII. While performing the duties of Rector, with the assurance of a home and steady income, Dee exclusively devoted himself to astrological studies. However, upon the accession of Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary in 1553 he was accused of using enchantments against the queen’s life and imprisoned at Hampton Court. Such accusations of witchcraft and sorcery plagued Dee all his life, despite his many scientific achievements. Dee said in his translation of Euclid’s Elements in English that he was regarded as a companion of the helhounds (sic), a caller and a conjurer of wicked and damned spirits. In 1555 Dee was freed by an act of the Privy Council and he took his liberty. Dees fortunes began to rise upon the accession of Elizabeth I, due to the fact that Lord Morely, one of the queen’s favourites, asked Dee to pick a ‘propitious day’ for her coronation. Elizabeth met Dee and was so impressed with him that she had him give her lessons in astrology. Soon after, Dee again went to the Continent for several years, travelling throughout Europe. In 1571, Dee purchased a mansion at Mortlake on the Thames river where he began a collection of curious books and manuscripts and objects, most of which were later destroyed by mobs that thought Dee was familiar with the Devil and was confiscated by the Queen after 1583. The collection included 4000 rare books and 700 choice manuscripts, many of which are to be found in the British Museum. He also became well known as an astronomer, as well as an astrologer with many people coming to consult his advice. Dee practised astrology for his living, but he studied the Talmud, Rosicrucian theories and practised alchemy in hopes of finding the elixir of life and the Philosopher’s Stone. In 1581 Dee began to experiment with crystalomancy or crystal gazing, a mode of divination using a globe, a clear pool of water (the method that Nostradamus used to collect his quatrains) or any transparent object. According to his diary on May 25, 1581 Dee first saw spirits while crystal gazing, and during the following year, he saw a vision of the angel Uriel, who gave him a convex piece of crystal that would allow communication with the spirit world. After using the crystal many times, Dee discovered that he was only able to use the crystal by concentrating his entire mental faculties on the crystal. Dee found he was able to use it for such communications, but he could not write down what he would see during his visions. It became necessary for Dee to have an assistant write down what he saw and heard, and Dee found him in Edward Kelly. Edward Kelly – (1555 – 1608) Edward Kelly was born in 1555 in the county of Lancashire. Nothing is known about his early life, but after being convicted of counterfeiting, he was sentenced to the pillory at Lancaster where he lost his ears. Then he moved to Worcester, becoming an apothecary and an alchemist, gaining a reputation for being a sensualist. While Dee sought knowledge for knowledge’s sake, Kelly only was interested how it could make him rich. Kelly was famous for claiming to have discovered the Philosopher’s stone, and a deep knowledge of necromancy. Upon meeting Dee, Kelly looked into the convex crystal and nearly every time he did so, he seemed to have wondrous visions. Although Dee was very intelligent and learned, he was also too trusting. Kelly not only saw visions of angels, but also of devils whose task was to destroy the two men. Dee was so convinced of the truth of these visions that he transcribed them verbatim and they can be found in the book: A True and Faithful Relation of what passed between Dr. Dee and some Spirits. Now, Dee claimed to have finally found the elixir vitæ in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and with the elixir and the spirits, Dees fame spread throughout Europe attracting many curious visitors, including Albert Laski, a Polish nobleman. Laski invited the two men, along with their wives and children to return with him to Poland, so they all went. For several years after 1583 Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly lived in Trebona in Poland, the home town of Albert Laski, who sponsored their alchemical researches. In about a year, Laski’s fortune was spent, and the men began to travel about Poland and Bohemia, from city to city. These travels went on until 1587, when in Prague Dr. Dee’s health began to fail and when Kelly and Dee had a falling out because of Kelly’s new explorations of a book called The Necronomicon, that frightened both Dee and his family. Dee is said to have found a copy of the Necronomicon, given to him by the alchemist Jacob Eliezer known as the “Black Rabbi” (this book does exist and was the basis of Kelly and Dee’s Enochian magic, Crowley’s The Book of the Law and H.P Lovecraft’s Cthulthu Mythos). Shortly after that Dee returned to England along with his family. As for the final fate of Kelly, he continued to claim that he had the philosopher’s stone and the elixir vitæ as before, but not finding as much interest as before. Eventually he was arrested as a heretic and a sorcerer in Prague, and again in southern Germany. But, after the second imprisonment he attempted to escape from his prison, only managing to fall and brake two of his ribs and both legs. He died in 1593 due to his injuries. Dee returned to England, welcomed by Elizabeth and the court then went back to his home in Mortlake, continuing his search for the philosopher’s stone, that always had eluded him. His experiments yielded nothing except to impoverish Dee. Seeing his plight, Elizabeth gave him first the position of chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and then the wardenship of Manchester College that he held until 1603 when he finally retired to his home for good. While he was warden of Manchester College Dee translated his copy of the Necronomicon into English and was never printed. After Dee’s death the book went into the collection of Elias Ashmole then into the Bodleian Library in Oxford until it was stolen in 1934. Back at Mortlake for good, Dee was a fortune-teller which gave him the reputation of being a wizard. Dee petitioned James I in 1604 for protection against such accusation. Replying to them by saying ‘that none of all the great number of the very strange and frivolous fables or histories reported and told of him were true’. Dee died at the age of 81 in 1608, in extreme poverty. Dr. John Dee was one of the keenest minds of his time. He his credited for making the calculations that would enable England to use the Gregorian calendar, he championed the preservation and the collection of historic documents and he was very well known for being a great astronomer and mathematician. It could be said that Dr. Dee was the one of the first modern scientists, although he was also an alchemist, necromancer and crystal gazer.


Israel Regardie – (1907-1985) Francis Israel Regardie was an occultist, author and one time secretary to the legendary Aleister Crowley. As an adept of the now defunct secret order known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he became infamous among the occultists of his day for breaking his oath of secrecy and publishing the order’s complete rituals in his book “The Golden Dawn”. Today this book is a classic best seller and has been revised and re-issued several times. Overshadowed by his association with Crowley, much of his work has been left unappreciated by those outside of the realms of high magic and occultism. Regardie was born Francis Israel Regudy in London, England on the 17th November 1907. His parents were poor Jewish immigrants and during the course of WW1 when his older brother joined the army, his name was accidentally written down as “Regardie”. Rather than change it, it was then adopted as the family name. Later Regardie also dropped the use of Francis, preferring to be known simply as Israel Regardie. In August 1921 at the age of 13, his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Washington D.C. There Regardie was educated and studied art in schools in Washington and Philadelphia. A bright an intuitive scholar, even at that age, he became interested in the theosophical works of Madame Blavatsky, yoga, and Hindu philosophy. He would often be found at the Library of Congress conducting his own studies. Soon after he found a Hebrew tutor who taught him to read Hebrew, an ability that aided him enormously when he started his Qabalistic studies. On the 18th February 1926, Regardie applied for membership to the Washington College of the Societas Rosicruciana in America (S.R.I.A.). He was initiated into the Neophyte grade on 18th March 1926 and advanced to the Zelator grade on 2nd June 1927. It was during this time that Regardie became interested in occultism and having discovered a book by Aleister Crowley, was soon captivated by his activities and writings. Regardie wrote to Crowley in Paris and eventually received a reply. Soon after he was offered the job as his secretary in Paris. Regardie saw this as an opportunity to learn magic from a published authority, and in October 1928 he traveled to France and accepted the job. For the next three years Regardie tried to get Crowley to teach him the magical arts. However Crowley never offered and Regardie, a reserved and modest young man, did not pursue the matter. Instead he continued to study on his own, reading every book, article or manuscript that became available to him. As would happen with Crowley, fueled on by the British tabloids, his reputation got the better of him and the French authorities asked him to leave the country. Crowley returned to England and later married his second wife Maria Ferrari de Miramar in 1929. In an effort to repair Crowley’s damaged image, Regardie co-authored with P.R. Stephenson (another of Crowley’s associates), the book called “The Legend of Aleister Crowley “. It was published in 1930, by which time they were gradually drifting apart. Regardie continued with his occult studies and already established as a co-author, published the first of his own books A Garden of Pomegranates and The Tree of Life in 1932. The first contained his Qabalistic studies and was based on research and knowledge gleaned from various sources. The Tree of Life however was based on the teachings of the Golden Dawn, which had ceased to exist in 1903. When published it caused a lot of excitement among the occult elite and was considered one of the most complete and understandable texts on practical magic ever written. That same year 1932 he became secretary to Thomas Burke. Although the original Golden Dawn had ceased to exist, it continued to live on through its descendant orders, the Stella Matutina and the Alpha et Omega. As a result of The Tree of Life and with the encouragement and assistance of one of its members, Dion Fortune, Regardie was invited to join the Stella Matutina in 1933. However as had happened to the original order, there was much infighting among its leaders and the order was in an advanced state of decline. Regardie due to his extraordinary abilities made rapid progress through the grades, but considered the chiefs to be more concerned with attaining grandiose titles than with the practice of magic. He also concluded that the Order and its teachings would not survive much longer without some effort to place its teachings in the hands of a greater number of people, those who could appreciate them. After reaching the grade of Theoricus Adeptus Minor, he left the Order in December of 1934. That same year in 1934, Aleister Crowley became embroiled in a famous and sensational libel case in which he sued Nina Hamnett, a prominent sculptress. Losing the case he was forced into bankruptcy and could no longer afford to keep Regardie on as his secretary. As a result, and as would happen with many of Crowley’s friends and associates, they suffered a complete falling out. Regardie was deeply wounded by the break-up of their friendship, and was only able to pardon him in later years. Regardie throw himself into his work writing The Art of True Healing, and doing his groundwork for The Philosopher’s Stone. Regardie next turned his attention to psychology and psychotherapy, and began studying psychoanalysis with Dr. E. Clegg and Dr. J. L. Bendit in London. He also continued writing and in 1936 published My Rosicrucian Adventure followed by The Philosopher’s Stone, a book about alchemy from a Jungian perspective. At the time he didn’t believe in the validity of laboratory alchemy, (but later in the 1970’s while working with practical alchemists such as Frater Albertus of the Paracelsus Research Society, he changed his mind on the matter. Unfortunately one of his alchemical experiments went wrong and he seriously burned his lungs in the lab. He gave up the practice of alchemy and suffered from the effects of the accident until the end of his life). In 1937 breaking his oath of secrecy to the Stella Matutina, he published the bulk of the Golden Dawn’s rituals and teachings. Written in four volumes he called it simply The Golden Dawn. It caused a storm of protest at the time and some people openly criticized him for his actions, although many Adepts of the Order were secretly grateful to him. His reasons for doing so he explains in his book My Rosicrucian Adventure: “…it is essential that the whole system should be publicly exhibited so that it may not be lost to mankind, for it is the heritage of every man and woman and their spiritual birthright. My motives have been to prove without a doubt that no longer is the Order the ideal medium for the transmission of Magic, and that since there have already been several partial and irresponsible disclosures of the Order’s teachings, a more adequate presentation of that system is urgently called for. Only thus may the widespread misconceptions as to Magic be removed.” Later that year Regardie returned to the U.S. where he entered the Chiropractic College in New York City to study psychology. Studying psychotherapy under Dr. Nandor, his training encompassed Freudian, Jungian, and Reichian methods and techniques. A year later in 1938 he published The Middle Pillar, which gives a step-by-step account on how to perform the practical exercises of Golden Dawn’s ceremonial magic. In the same book he also compares these magical techniques to the methods and hypotheses of psychoanalysis. He sought to remove the synthetic walls that had been erected between magic and psychotherapy. After graduating in 1941, Regardie served in the U.S. Army till the end of WWII, during which time he explored Christian mysticism and wrote about his ideas in The Romance of Metaphysics published in 1946. After leaving the army he relocated to southern California and set up practice as a chiropractor and Reichian therapist. He taught psychiatry at the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic and contributed articles to various psychology magazines. He also wrote several more books including: The Art and Meaning of Magic, Roll Away the Stone, Twelve Steps to Spiritual Enlightenment, A Practical Guide to Geomantic Divination, How to Make and Use Talismans, and Foundations of Practical Magic. During the 1960’s an old acquaintance of Aleister Crowley moved into Los Angeles and made herself known to him. They met occasionally for he and Sybil Leek had much to reminisced about the great man. Through out his career, Regardie’s own achievements were often overshadowed by his association with Aleister Crowley, which often frustrated him, but his charitable nature and his ability to be forgiving toward his old friend was evident when he authored perhaps the most definitive biography on Crowley called The Eye in the Triangle. But he was also irritated when people linked him solely to Crowley’s teachings: “One of his pet hates was people associating him with Crowley’s brand of Thelemic Magic and the Book of the Law. I can still recall him thumping the table at dinner one night saying “Dammit, I’m a Golden Dawn man and not a Thelemite, and I wish people would realize it”, writes Pat Zalewski author of The Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn.” Regardie retired from his practice in 1981 and moved to Sedona, Arizona where he continued to write. His later books included Ceremonial Magic, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Relaxation, and The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. While retired he continued to give advice on health and magical matters until the end of his life. He died of a heart attack on the 10th March 1985 while having dinner with friends at one of his favorite restaurants. Although he is gone, his legacy remains in his written works, which continue to teach and inspire new generations of students. One of Regardie’s primary objectives throughout his career had been to preserve the teachings of the Golden Dawn, but he had also set himself another task. As an Adept of the Golden Dawn, he felt it was down to him to bring a valid branch of the initiatory lineage of the order to America. He waited patiently for four decades before he was able to achieve his goal. A couple in Georgia were inspired to build a Rosicrucian Vault, the powerful ritual chamber required to pass on the Adept Initiation. At the same time two magicians (one on the east coast of the United States and one on the west coast), unknown to each other or to the Georgia couple, came to be ready to receive that Initiation. Regardie was the connecting link between them and using his title and order motto A. M. A. G. he had the right to confer the Initiation in such a Vault. And so in one remarkable weekend, Regardie presided over two Initiations into the Inner Order, the first and the last that he ever performed, and with the following oath the Lamp of the Keryx was passed into American hands: “I further promise and swear that with the Divine Permission, I will from this day forward, apply myself to the Great Work, which is: to purify and exalt my Spiritual Nature so that with the Divine Aid I may at length attain to be more than human, and thus gradually raise and unite to my Higher and Divine Genius, and that in this event I will not abuse the great power entrusted to me.” Source:


Doreen Valiente – (1922-1999) Doreen Valiente, poetess and one of the founders of modern Wicca, was born on January 4, 1922, in London, England. During World War II (1939-45) she married a soldier who had been wounded fighting for the Free French and had been sent to England to recuperate from his wounds. Her rise out of obscurity began in 1952 when she was introduced to Gerald B. Gardner, who was in the process of creating a new Goddess-oriented religion that he called Witchcraft. Following her initiation into the Craft, she worked with Gardner to perfect the rituals he had assembled. Among her most important contributions was a poetic piece called “The Charge to the Goddess.” After four years with Gardner, she left to become the priestess of her own coven, and in 1962 authored her first book, a small volume describing the new Wicca religion. In 1964 she accepted a second Witchcraft initiation from Robert Cochrane. Valiente worked quietly through the 1960s but became an object of controversy in the 1970s as Wicca emerged as a popular counterculture religion and various researchers began to explore the literary origins of the Pagan rituals. This controversy grew in the 1980s after Gardner’s papers were sold to Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The papers indicated that Gardner had not inherited the Witchcraft rituals, but had created them with the assistance of various people, especially Valiente. Valiente began to emerge into her own in the 1970s when she wrote a set of popular books on Witchcraft, An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present (1973), Natural Magic (1975), and Witchcraft for Tomorrow (1978). Then, as the controversy on Gardner heated up, and speculations concerning her own role in the development of the Gardnerian rituals were rife, she published her account of the story confirming much of what had been said about the discontinuity of Gardner’s work with any folk survivals of the Craft from previous centuries. At the same time, she documented one of the major aspects of Gardner’s story, that he had been initiated into Witchcraft in 1939 by a woman named Dorothy Clutterbuck. Some had speculated that Clutterbuck had never existed. Valiente tracked her birth and death records and found a copy of her will. All of this material was included in her most important book, The Rebirth of Witchcraft (1989). Besides being a significant contribution to modern religious history, the book established her place in the creation of modern Wicca.


Alex Sanders – (1926 – 1988). Born Orrell Alexander Carter, was the founder of the Alexandrian tradition of Wicca. He was proclaimed by his followers as King of the Witches. Several contradictory accounts have been given of Sanders’ initiation into witchcraft, and even his own accounts are inconsistent. The most famous version is that given in his biography, King of the Witches, by June Johns: Alex had tuberculosis as a child and regularly visited his grandmother, Mary Bibby, in Wales for the fresh air. According to Sanders this was the beginning of his magical education: “One evening in 1933, when I was seven, I was sent round to my grandmother’s house for tea. For some reason I didn’t knock at the door as I went in, and was confronted by my grandmother, naked, with her grey hair hanging down to her waist, standing in a circle drawn on the kitchen floor.” Regaining her composure, she told Alex to step into the circle, take off his clothes, and put his head between his thighs. As he did so, she took a sickle-knife and nicked his scrotum, saying, “You are one of us now.” It was then that Alex realised she was a witch. His Grandmother was a hereditary witch, a descendant of the Welsh chieftain Owain Glyndŵr, the last man (according to Sanders) to have called himself “King of the Witches”; supposedly his grandmother let him copy her Book of Shadows when he was nine and taught him the rites and magic of Witches. He was taught clairvoyance first by scrying in inky water, then in his grandmother’s crystal. Alex claimed that following the Blitz, and a few months before her death at age 74, Mrs Bibby conferred upon him second- and third-grade initiations, involving ritual sex. Gardnerian High Priestess Patricia Crowther tells a different story. According to letters she claims she received from him in 1961, he did not then claim to be an initiate, but felt an affinity with the occult and had experienced second sight. In a 1962 interview Sanders claimed to have been initiated for a year, working in a coven led by a woman from Nottingham. This claim is corroborated by Maxine Sanders, Alex’s future wife and High Priestess. Maxine also maintains that although Alex was later initiated into Wicca, he was indeed taught a form of witchcraft by his grandmother when he was young. She describes Mrs Bibby as an austere lady, wise in folklore, who taught her grandson magic with his mother’s knowledge and permission; all of Alex’s brothers were also psychic, she says: “It wasn’t unusual to walk into the Sanders’ kitchen in broad daylight to find a full materialisation séance in progress. Mrs. Sanders would be carrying on with the chores regardless of the apparitions in attendance.” When Alex publicly revealed himself as a witch, however, Mrs. Sanders feigned shock and threatened a nervous breakdown. According to Maxine, Alex also worked for a while as a healer in Spiritualist Churches under the pseudonym Paul Dallas; a famous medium called Edwards discovered him and his brothers and wanted them to do a stage show, however they refused, believing their clairvoyance, healing and mediumship to be divine gifts not to be misused. Sanders’ first contact with Wicca was in the early 1960s, through correspondence and meetings with Patricia Crowther. In September 1962, he succeeded in convincing the Manchester Evening News to run a front-page article on Wicca. This publicity had several unfortunate side-effects for Sanders, including the loss of his job at the library and estrangement from the Crowthers, who considered him a troublesome upstart and refused to initiate him. He was eventually initiated by a priestess who had been a member of the Crowthers’ coven, and with whom Maxine Sanders later worked for several years. It was rumoured that Alex copied the Wiccan Book of Shadows in a Gardnerian’s garage while a party was going on in the house, however according to Maxine he copied his book from his initiator’s book in the normal manner. Soon afterwards, he joined a Gardnerian coven led by Pat Kopanski, which dissolved just over a year later. Sanders worked with several covens, including one led by a priestess called Sylvia. Eventually she and several others left the group amicably, leaving Alex to continue as High Priest. During this period the coven worked at Alex’s home at 24 Egerton Road North, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester. Sanders continued to attract media attention which brought him more followers. By 1965 he claimed 1,623 initiates in 100 covens, who apparently elected him to the title of King of the Witches. Among his alleged magical feats is the creation of a “spiritual baby,” who became one of his familiars. The birth is to have resulted from a sacred act of masturbation which occurred between Sanders and a male assistant.[citation needed] Shortly following its creation the spirit Michael disappeared to grow up, but reappeared later to take Sanders over in his channeling. Supposedly Michael forcibly made Sanders carry on at wild parties, insult people and otherwise act abominably.[citation needed] But as Michael matured he became a valuable spirit familiar in channeling and healing matters. Sanders channeled with another familiar too, Nick Demdike, who claimed to have been persecuted as a witch at the Lancaster Pendle witch trials of the 17th century, and although the name Demdike does appear in the trial records, there was no Nick Demdike. A 16th century warlock named Nicholas Demdike does however appear in the gothic novel The Lancashire Witches (1854) by William Harrison Ainsworth. Sanders apparently joined other esoteric and chivalric orders beginning in 1968, which numbered 16 in 1974, and possibly more before his death. These included the Knights Templars, the Order of Saint Michael, the Order of Saint George and the Ordine Della Luna (aka the Order of the Romaic Crescent).

Aleister Crowley – (1875-1947) Aleister Crowley was perhaps the most controversial and misunderstood personality to figure in the new era of modern day witchcraft. Known by the popular press of his time as “The Great Beast” and “The Wickedest Man in the World”, Crowley was a powerful magician, poet, prophet and famed occultist. He was also a one-time witch, though most of the elders of the craft would discredit him the title. Edward Alexander (Aleister) Crowley was born October 12, 1875 in Leamington Spa, England. His parents were members of the Plymouth Brethren, a strict fundamentalist Christian sect. As a result, Aleister grew up with a thorough biblical education and an equally thorough disdain of Christianity. He attended Trinity College at Cambridge University, leaving just before completing his degree. Shortly thereafter he was introduced to George Cecil Jones, who was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn was an occult society led by S.L. MacGregor Mathers which taught magick, qabalah, alchemy, tarot, astrology, and other hermetic subjects. It had many notable members (including A. E. Waite, Dion Fortune, and W. B. Yeats), and its influence on the development of modern western occultism was profound. Crowley was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1898, and proceeded to climb up rapidly through the grades. But in 1900 the order was shattered by schism, and Crowley left England to travel extensively throughout the East. There he learned and practiced the mental and physical disciplines of yoga, supplementing his knowledge of western-style ritual magick with the methods of Oriental mysticism. In 1903, Crowley married Rose Kelly, and they went to Egypt on their honeymoon. After returning to Cairo in early 1904, Rose (who until this point had shown no interest or familiarity with the occult) began entering trance states and insisting to her husband that the god Horus was trying to contact him. As a test, Crowley took Rose to the Boulak Museum and asked her to point out Horus to him. She passed several well-known images of the god and led Aleister straight to a painted wooden funerary stele from the 26th dynasty, depicting Horus receiving a sacrifice from the deceased, a priest named Ankh-f-n-khonsu. Crowley was especially impressed by the fact that this piece was numbered 666 by the museum, a number with which he had identified since childhood. The upshot was that he began to listen to Rose, and at her direction, on three successive days beginning April 8, 1904, he entered his chamber at noon and wrote down what he heard dictated from a shadowy presence behind him. The result was the three chapters of verse known as Liber AL vel Legis, or The Book of the Law. This book heralded the dawning of the new aeon of Horus, which would be governed by the Law of Thelema. “Thelema” is a Greek word meaning “will”, and the Law of Thelema is often stated as: “Do what thou wilt”. As the prophet of this new aeon, Crowley spent the rest of his life working to develop and establish Thelemic philosophy. In 1906 Crowley rejoined George Cecil Jones in England, where they set about the task of creating a magical order to continue where the Golden Dawn had left off. They called this order the A.’. A.’. (Astrum Argentium or Silver Star), and it became the primary vehicle for the transmission of Crowley’s mystical and magical training system based on the principles of Thelema. Then in 1910 Crowley was contacted by Theodore Reuss, the head of an organization based in Germany called the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). This group of high-ranking Freemasons claimed to have discovered the supreme secret of practical magick, which was taught in its highest degrees. Apparently Crowley agreed, becoming a member of O.T.O. and eventually taking over as head of the order when Reuss suffered a stroke in 1921. Crowley reformulated the rites of the O.T.O. to conform them to the Law of Thelema, and vested the organization with its main purpose of establishing Thelema in the world. The order also became independent of Freemasonry (although still based on the same patterns) and opened its membership to women and men who were not masons. Aleister Crowley died in Hastings, England on December 1, 1947. However, his legacy lives on in the Law of Thelema which he brought to mankind (along with dozens of books and writings on magick and other mystical subjects), and in the orders A.’. A.’. and O.T.O. which continue to advance the principles of Thelema to this day.


Gerald B. Gardner – (1884-1964) Pioneer of the modern witchcraft revival. Gardner was born at Blundell Sands near Liverpool, England, June 13, 1884. Beginning at age 16, he spent much of his life in the East, as a tea planter in Ceylon (1900-19), a rubber planter in Borneo and Malaya (1923), and a customs official in Malaya (1936). In the East he took the opportunity to study magic practices and even became an expert on the kris, a Malay ceremonial dagger, about which he wrote a definitive text. In Ceylon he also became a Mason. On his retirement from Malaya, Gardner and his wife settled in New Forest in Hampshire, England, where he associated with members of a theosophical group, the Crotona Fellowship of Rosicrucians. One of the members supposedly had belonged to a secret witch coven and introduced Gardner to witchcraft. In fact, it appears that Gardner set out to construct a new popular occult religion, drawing upon all the things he had learned in the East. Elements of this new religion were first published in 1949 in a novel, High Magic’s Aid, issued under a pseudonym, Scire. Then in 1951 the last of the archaic anti-witchcraft laws (which had in this century been used primarily to attack Spiritualists) were removed from British law. Three years later Gardner completed his most important book, Witchcraft Today. By this time he had created a working coven, but he presented his new religion as the faith of an old witchcraft group that was dying out. The book was a means of contacting people who wanted to be members of the witchcraft faith. It was followed by Meaning of Witchcraft (1959). Throughout the 1950s the practice of witchcraft spread in England. Gardner opened a witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man and made himself available to the press and to prospective new witches. In 1962, shortly before Gardner’s death, the Americans Rosemary and Raymond Bucklad traveled to his home and were initiated as priestess and priest and returned to found the Gardnerian movement in the United States. Gardner died at sea on February 12, 1964. After his death the contents of the museum were sold to Ripley’s Believe It or Not and were subsequently disbursed to various Ripley’s museums and sold to private collectors. Gardner’s form of witchcraft was based on a polytheism centered on the Great Mother Goddess and her consort, the Horned God. In the coven, the basic organizational and worshiping group of the movement, the two deities are symbolized by the priestess and priest. The priestess has clear dominance, and the lineage of authority is passed through her. The ritual is in three degrees, Gardner having assembled ritual elements from a variety of sources. Much of the third degree is taken from the writings of Aleister Crowley. As Gardner’s movement spread, a number of variations developed, first by former members Alexander Sanders and Sybil Leek, and in the United States by various self-described “traditionalists.” In North America upward of fifty thousand people have been attracted to the Gardnerian or Neopagan Wiccan movement.


Margaret Alice Murray – (1863–1963) British archaeologist and Egyptologist whose writings on witchcraft played a prominent part in the modern witchcraft revival. She was born in Calcutta, India, July 13, 1863. She later moved to England and entered University College, London (1894) where she was subsequently a Fellow of University College (D.Lit., F.S.A. (Scot.), F.R.A.I.), and by 1899 became a junior lecturer on Egyptology. She retired in 1935. She participated in excavations in Egypt (1902-4), Malta (1921-24), Hertfordshire, England (1925), Minorca (1930-31), Petra (1937), and Tell Ajjul, South Palestine (1938). During her long career, which included a tenure as president of the Folklore Society, London (1953-55), she published a number of valuable works on archaeology, but is better remembered for her controversial books on witchcraft. In The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921), Murray proposed the idea that witchcraft was a pre-Christian religion in its own right, rather than a heretical deviation from established Christianity. The book had a great influence on Gerald B. Gardner (1884-1964), pioneer of the modern witchcraft revival. Murray in turn contributed an introduction to Gardner’s book Witchcraft Today (1954). She also wrote two other books on witchcraft: The God of the Witches (1931) and The Divine King in England (1954).


Charles Godfrey Leland – (1824 – 1903) Folklorist and Author whose 19th Century field studies in Italy revealed the existence of a surviving Witch Cult from ancient times. He wrote and had published several classic texts, such as Aradia; Gospel of the Witches, and Etruscan Roman Remains (both published by 1899.) Leland’s writings on Italian Witchcraft bear many striking similar elements to the writings on Gardnerian Wicca written by Gerald Gardner over one half a century later. Many people today think of Gerald Gardner as the founder of modern Wicca/Witchcraft. Gardner’s books on Witchcraft published in the mid-twentieth century brought about a growing interest in the Old Religion of pre-Christian Europe. However, over half a century earlier a man named Charles Godfrey Leland wrote on many of the same topics later popularized by Gerald Gardner. For example, the theme of witches meeting at the time of the full moon, being nude, calling their ways The Old Religion, celebrating with ritual cakes and wine, and worshipping a god and goddess all appear in Leland’s writings on Italian Witchcraft circa 1896.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s