Swamp Witch

I’ grew up In New Orleans, In tbe swamps and Is safe to say that I’m a Swamp Witch.
I know what you’re thinking, what in the name of Gaia is a Swamp Witch? Well, it is actually fairly self-explanatory. A Swamp Witch is a witch who feels the most at home when working with the energies of swamps, bogs, and marshes. Now, most people have a very clear image in their head about what a swamp looks like – a dark wetland with deep, murky water, eerie trees, mysterious noises and eyes that seem to follow you no matter where you go in the swamp. While that is an apt description if we are setting the scene for a horror movie, it is not what Swamp Witches are all about.

Swamp Witches work with the energies of animals like frogs and toads, dragonflies, mosquitoes, alligators, and other such creatures. They work with plants like cattails, lily and lotus, ferns, cypress trees, moss and more. Swamp Witches blend the elements of water and earth seamlessly in their workings making sure that they are grounded in what they do while still allowing themselves to go with the flow.

Being a Swamp Witch opens you up to many different energies as well. Not only do you have the energies of the creatures and plants of the water, but you also have earth and even air. Birds and insects remind us to be free and allow ourselves to go through the necessary metamorphosys that will transform us into our best selves. The creatures of the water, like the frog and the crocodile, are about fertility, abundance, wisdom and playfulness. These animals remind us that learning experiences are all around us if we just open our eyes, as well as not letting our sense of wonder fall to the wayside as we grow up and move through our everyday lives.

The creatures of the earth, like the muskrat, are all about adaptability and learning to overcome challenges. Swamp witches are very adaptable within their magical workings. A Swamp witch can work with pretty much anything they can get their hands on. Cattails, moss, mud, a picture of a dragonfly – a Swamp witch can work some pretty powerful magic with just those items.

Now in terms of what kind of magic Swamp Witches work, it is really up to the individual witch. If you are more comfortable with Conjure type work than go for it. If sigils and High Magick type work is more your speed that’s fine, too. The only requirement to being a Swamp Witch is that you feel at home when using the elements of the swamp.

Whenever I am going to be doing work in which I invoke the powers of the swamp, I wear as much green, blue and brown as possible. I really like to wear jewelry that has stones or images that are reminiscent of swampy energy – my peridot frog earrings work exceedingly well when doing swamp based magic – I also like to wear flowing clothes because the flowiness reminds me of the water in a swamp.

Let’s talk about what an altar for a swamp witch might look like. If you have a backyard in which you can have a water feature, like a fountain or small pond with a waterfall, that’s awesome. With this, you can plant some lotus flowers and lily pads and allow some moss to grow on the rocks around it. If this is not an option for you, like you live in an apartment or you just don’t have the space in the yard, an indoor altar will work just fine.

An indoor altar does not need to be extravagant, if all you have available to you is a shelf, that is fine. All that is really needed is some water, a few candles, and some items that remind you of the swamp. If music and sound resonate with you, get one of those little frog shaped guiros and keep it on the altar as your way of setting sacred space. If you have a chance to go to an actual swamp, maybe you can take a little bit of the native moss home, carefully and respectfully of course. As with any type of magic, your altar space is personal and should be set up however you like it, so don’t be afraid to experiment with it.

The last thing I would like to say is this: the only requirements for being a Swamp Witch are the following.

Feel at home with the energies of the swamp, regardless of where you are from.
Working with the energies of the swamp in your magic.
Being respectful of the animals and plants of the swamp when privileged enough to be around such beings.

New Witches Guide

Becoming a witch is a personal journey and occasionally a solitary one, despite what you may hear other witches saying there is no one way to go about becoming one. It is however important to learn what you can at your own pace, take what you need and discard what you are not ready for at this time, believe in yourself make your own goals walk your own path and enjoy the journey.

Choosing your path as a witch can be very confusing as there are so many types of witchcraft out there, so where do you start? Witchcraft in its simplicity can be broken down into three parts either religious or non religious, ceremonial or non ceremonial coven or solitary. Most that are new to the craft feel safer and more comfortable to start off as a solitary witch, from here and over time just follow your heart and do what feels right for you and you alone. Do not be afraid if your thoughts stray towards the darker side of the craft this is normal for a natural witch, it means that you have already begun to understand the natural order of balance and that you cannot achieve balance by learning just one side of something.

Slavic Witch

To be a Slavic witch, one possess the ability to astral travel and fall easily in and out of trance states. Furthermore, Slavic witches observe three major taboos during ritual; nudity, silence, and not looking back after the working’s conclusion. These correspond to the three Slavic principles (Prav, Jav and Nav) and the three forces (Um, Život and Rod). First the witch must approach her/his gods and helping spirits in truth (Prav). Therefore (s)he sheds all her clothing exposing all that (s)he is, with only her Um, or soul to guide her. The second taboo, silence, is observed because the witch must quiet the noise of Jav in order to “push” her Život, or astral body, into the otherworld. Finally, the witch worked her magic by altering or shifting the threads of fate, and since most of her helping spirits lived in the underworld of Nav, her journeys there were not without inherent dangers. A ritual, if performed poorly, could cross or unweave the witch’s Rod, or ancestral karma, putting her life or livelihood in danger. So (s)he takes precautions and never looks back following ritual so as to clearly sever the line of communication between the worlds.

Rosaleen Norton: The Life and Art of Australia’s Infamous Witch

Rosaleen Norton was an Australian artist and occultist who gained notoriety in the 1950s for her controversial and provocative artwork. Born in 1917 in Dunedin, New Zealand, Norton moved to Sydney, Australia with her family when she was a child. She showed a talent for art from a young age and attended the East Sydney Technical College to study painting.

Norton’s interest in the occult began when she was a teenager and she soon became involved in various esoteric groups and practices. Her artwork drew heavily on her occult beliefs and often featured themes of sexuality, mythology, and the supernatural. Her work was considered shocking and obscene by many at the time and she was even charged with obscenity in 1955, although the charges were eventually dropped. Despite the controversy surrounding her work, Norton continued to create art until her death in 1979.


Early Life

Rosaleen Norton was born on October 2, 1917, in Dunedin, New Zealand. She was the youngest of two children born to a conservative family. Her father was a former soldier and a house painter, while her mother was a homemaker. Norton had a difficult childhood, as her family was poor, and her parents were strict and religious. She was often punished for her unconventional behavior and her interest in the occult.

Artistic Career

Norton moved to Sydney, Australia, in 1949, where she started her artistic career. She became known for her controversial paintings and drawings, which often depicted occult and erotic themes. Her art was heavily influenced by her interest in the occult and her experiences with astral projection and spiritualism.

Norton’s work gained a following in the 1950s and 1960s, and she exhibited her art in various galleries in Australia and overseas. However, her work was often met with controversy and censorship, as it was considered immoral and obscene by many.

Controversy and Persecution

Norton’s interest in the occult and her unconventional lifestyle made her a target of the authorities. She was accused of practicing black magic and was investigated by the police for her alleged involvement in a satanic cult. Norton was also persecuted for her sexuality, as she was bisexual and had relationships with both men and women.

In 1955, Norton was charged with obscenity for her paintings and drawings, and her work was seized by the police. She was later acquitted of the charges, but her reputation was tarnished, and her art was banned in many parts of Australia.

Norton continued to create art and practice the occult until her death in 1979. Despite the controversy and persecution she faced, she remains a significant figure in the Australian art world and a symbol of freedom of expression and individuality.

Beliefs and Practices

Thelema and Aleister Crowley

Rosaleen Norton was heavily influenced by the teachings of Aleister Crowley and his philosophy of Thelema. Thelema is a spiritual philosophy that emphasizes individualism and the importance of finding one’s own true will. Norton was drawn to the idea of personal freedom and self-discovery, which is reflected in her artwork and occult practices.

Crowley’s influence can be seen in Norton’s use of ritual magic and her belief in the power of the occult to transform reality. She often incorporated symbols and imagery from Thelemic rituals into her artwork, such as the Eye of Horus and the pentagram.

Sexual Liberation and Feminism

Norton was also a strong advocate for sexual liberation and feminist ideals. She believed that women should have the freedom to express their sexuality without shame or judgment. This belief is reflected in her artwork, which often featured erotic and sensual imagery.

Norton’s feminist beliefs were also reflected in her personal life. She lived openly as a bisexual woman at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Australia. She was a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and was involved in several protests and demonstrations.

Occult Practices

Norton’s occult practices were heavily influenced by her interest in Thelema and Crowley’s teachings. She believed in the power of ritual magic to transform reality and often conducted elaborate ceremonies in her home.

Norton also had a deep interest in the supernatural and paranormal. She claimed to have had several encounters with spirits and entities, which she often depicted in her artwork. She was also interested in astrology and believed that the movements of the planets and stars could influence human behavior.

Overall, Norton’s beliefs and practices were a reflection of her desire for personal freedom and self-expression. She saw the occult as a means of exploring the unknown and unlocking hidden truths about the world and herself.


Malin Matsdotter: Who Was She and Why Was She Important?

Malin Matsdotter was a woman who lived in Sweden during the 17th century. She is known for her involvement in a high-profile court case that attracted attention throughout the country. The case centred around accusations of witchcraft, with Matsdotter being one of several women accused of practicing black magic and consorting with the devil.

Matsdotter’s trial was a significant event in Swedish history, as it highlighted the widespread belief in witchcraft and the harsh punishments that were often meted out to those accused of this crime. The trial also reflected the gender inequalities of the time, with women being particularly vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft due to their perceived association with the devil and their supposed lack of moral fortitude. Despite these challenges, Matsdotter was able to defend herself against the accusations and ultimately avoid conviction. Her story is a fascinating insight into the social and cultural context of 17th century Sweden, as well as the enduring legacy of witchcraft in European history.

Early Life


Malin Matsdotter was born in 1626 in the small village of Västerås, Sweden. She was the youngest of four siblings and grew up in a modest household. Her father, Mats, was a blacksmith, and her mother, Anna, was a homemaker. Malin’s childhood was typical of the time, with most of her days spent helping her mother with household chores and playing with her siblings.


Malin’s family was close-knit, and they relied on each other for support. Her father was a hard-working man who took great pride in his work as a blacksmith. Malin’s mother was a kind and gentle woman who taught her children the importance of compassion and empathy. Malin’s older siblings, Erik, Anna, and Lars, were all involved in the family business and helped their father with his work.

Despite the family’s modest means, Malin’s parents made sure that their children received an education. Malin attended school in Västerås, where she learned to read and write. She was a bright student and showed a keen interest in history and literature. Malin’s love of learning would stay with her throughout her life, and she would later become known for her intelligence and wit.

In summary, Malin Matsdotter was born into a loving and hard-working family in Västerås, Sweden. Her childhood was typical of the time, with most of her days spent helping her mother with household chores and playing with her siblings. Despite the family’s modest means, Malin received an education and showed a keen interest in learning.

Marriage and Family


Malin Matsdotter married the farmer Per Nilsson in 1672. The couple lived in the village of Kvidinge, in the province of Skåne, Sweden. The marriage was arranged by Malin’s father, who was a wealthy farmer and landowner.


Malin and Per had six children together. Their first child, a son named Nils, was born in 1673. They had two more sons, Lars and Anders, born in 1675 and 1677, respectively. Malin gave birth to a daughter, Kerstin, in 1679. Two more daughters, Ingrid and Anna, were born in 1681 and 1683.

The family lived a simple life, working on their farm and raising their children. Malin was known for her skills in cooking and sewing, and she often made clothes for her family and neighbours. Per was a hardworking farmer, and the family was able to live comfortably.

Malin’s children grew up to have families of their own, and her descendants still live in the Skåne region of Sweden today.

The Witch of Endor: Biblical Account and Historical Context

The Witch of Endor is a biblical figure from the Old Testament. She is mentioned in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 28, and is known for her role in summoning the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel for King Saul. The story of the Witch of Endor has been a topic of debate and interpretation among scholars and theologians for centuries.

According to the biblical account, King Saul was facing a battle with the Philistines and was afraid of the outcome. He sought guidance from God but received no response. In desperation, he sought out the Witch of Endor to summon Samuel’s spirit, hoping to receive advice and guidance from the deceased prophet. The Witch of Endor was able to summon Samuel’s spirit, who foretold Saul’s defeat and death in the upcoming battle.

The story of the Witch of Endor has been interpreted in various ways throughout history. Some view her as a sorceress who practiced witchcraft and communed with evil spirits, while others see her as a medium who had the ability to communicate with the dead. Regardless of the interpretation, the story of the Witch of Endor remains a fascinating and mysterious tale that continues to captivate readers and scholars alike.

The Witch of Endor in the Bible

The Story of Saul and the Witch of Endor

The Witch of Endor is a character from the Old Testament of the Bible. She appears in 1 Samuel 28:3-25, which tells the story of King Saul’s visit to her. Saul was facing a battle against the Philistines and was afraid of losing. He sought guidance from God, but received no answer. Desperate, he turned to the Witch of Endor, who was known for her ability to communicate with the dead.

The Witch of Endor summoned the spirit of the prophet Samuel, who had died some time earlier. Samuel’s spirit told Saul that he and his sons would die in battle the next day. The next day, Saul’s sons were killed and he was severely wounded. Saul later took his own life.

Interpretations and Symbolism

The story of the Witch of Endor has been interpreted in different ways. Some see it as evidence of the reality of witchcraft and the ability to communicate with the dead. Others see it as a warning against seeking supernatural guidance outside of God’s will.

The story has also been interpreted as a symbol of Saul’s spiritual downfall. Saul had disobeyed God and lost his favour, leading to his eventual downfall and death. The summoning of Samuel’s spirit may represent Saul’s attempt to regain God’s favour, but ultimately failing.

Overall, the story of the Witch of Endor is a cautionary tale about the dangers of seeking supernatural guidance outside of God’s will. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of obedience to God’s commands.

The Witch of Endor in Literature and Culture

Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The Witch of Endor is a character in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. In Act IV, Scene I, Macbeth seeks out the witches to learn his fate. The Witch of Endor is the third witch who appears to him. She is described as an old and ugly woman who has the ability to summon spirits.

Shakespeare’s portrayal of the Witch of Endor is consistent with the biblical account. She is depicted as a powerful figure who can communicate with the dead and has the ability to predict the future. Her role in the play is significant as she foretells Macbeth’s downfall.

Other Literary Works

The Witch of Endor has been featured in other literary works as well. In John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, she is depicted as a demon who is summoned by Satan to help him in his war against God.

The Witch of Endor also appears in the novel The Witch of Endor by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In this novel, she is portrayed as a sympathetic character who is caught between her loyalty to King Saul and her desire to help David.

In Popular Culture

The Witch of Endor has also made appearances in popular culture. In the television series Supernatural, the Witch of Endor is portrayed as a powerful witch who is able to resurrect the dead.

In the video game Diablo II, the Witch of Endor is a boss character who is encountered in the Act III quest “The Blackened Temple.” She is depicted as a powerful sorceress who has the ability to summon demons.

Overall, the Witch of Endor has had a significant impact on literature and popular culture. Her character has been portrayed in various ways, but her ability to communicate with the dead and predict the future remains a constant theme.

Robert Cochrane Witch: The Life and Legacy of a Pivotal Figure in Modern Witchcraft

Robert Cochrane was a significant figure in the revival of witchcraft in Britain during the 1950s and 60s. He was born in 1931 and grew up in London. Cochrane was a practitioner of traditional witchcraft, which he believed was rooted in pre-Christian beliefs and practices. He founded the Clan of Tubal Cain, a coven that focused on the worship of the Horned God and the Mother Goddess.

Cochrane’s teachings were influenced by his experiences in the military and his interest in folklore and mythology. He believed that witchcraft was a way of connecting with the natural world and the spirits that inhabit it. Cochrane emphasised the importance of personal experience and intuition in witchcraft, and he encouraged his followers to develop their own magical practices and rituals.

Despite his influence on the modern witchcraft movement, Cochrane’s life and teachings remain shrouded in mystery. He died in 1966, and many of his writings and teachings were lost or destroyed. Nevertheless, his legacy lives on in the Clan of Tubal Cain and in the wider witchcraft community, where his ideas and practices continue to inspire and inform modern witches.

Early Life of Robert Cochrane

Robert Cochrane was born on January 26, 1931, in West London, England. His birth name was Roy Bowers, but he later changed it to Robert Cochrane. Not much is known about his childhood, but it is believed that he was raised in a working-class family.

Cochrane left school at the age of 14 and began working as an apprentice in a metal foundry. He later became a toolmaker and worked in various factories throughout his life. However, he always had an interest in the occult and witchcraft, which he pursued in his free time.

In the 1950s, Cochrane joined a coven led by a woman named “Old Dorothy.” It was through this coven that he was introduced to traditional witchcraft, which would later become the foundation of his own practice.

Cochrane’s early experiences with witchcraft were heavily influenced by his time in the coven. He learned about the importance of the seasons, the cycles of the moon, and the use of herbs and other natural materials in magical practices.

Despite his interest in witchcraft, Cochrane remained relatively unknown until the 1960s when he began to gain a following. He founded his own coven, the Clan of Tubal Cain, which was based on traditional witchcraft practices. The coven was named after Tubal Cain, a biblical figure who was associated with metalworking and craftsmanship.

Overall, Cochrane’s early life was marked by a fascination with the occult and a desire to learn more about traditional witchcraft. His experiences in the metalworking industry also influenced his beliefs and practices, which were heavily focused on the use of natural materials and the importance of craftsmanship.

Patricia Crowther: A Brief Biography

Patricia Crowther is a well-known name in the world of Wicca and witchcraft. She is a British author and practitioner of the craft who has been active since the 1960s. Crowther is widely recognised as one of the most prominent and influential Wiccans of her generation.

Crowther was born in Sheffield, England, in 1927. She began practicing witchcraft in the late 1950s and became a member of the Sheffield Coven, which was led by Arnold Crowther. In the 1960s, she became a High Priestess and began teaching the craft to others. Crowther is the author of several books on witchcraft, including “Witch Blood!” and “Lid off the Cauldron”. She has also been featured in numerous documentaries and television programmes about witchcraft and Wicca.

Early Life and Career

Childhood and Education

Patricia Crowther, born in Sheffield in 1927, grew up in a working-class family. She had a keen interest in nature and the occult from a young age. Crowther was an avid reader and was particularly interested in books on witchcraft and magic. She attended a local grammar school, where she excelled in her studies, especially in literature and history.

First Steps in Witchcraft

Crowther’s interest in witchcraft deepened when she moved to London in the 1950s. She joined a group of like-minded individuals who were interested in exploring the occult. This group included prominent figures such as Gerald Gardner, who is widely regarded as the founder of modern Wicca.

Crowther became Gardner’s student and was initiated into his coven in 1960. She quickly rose through the ranks and became one of Gardner’s most trusted associates. Crowther’s dedication and knowledge of witchcraft led to her being appointed as the high priestess of her own coven in Sheffield.

Crowther’s coven was one of the first to be established outside of London, and it quickly gained a reputation for its innovative and inclusive approach to witchcraft. Crowther was a strong advocate for the empowerment of women and was instrumental in promoting the role of the high priestess in modern Wicca.

Overall, Crowther’s early life and career were marked by a deep interest in the occult and a commitment to exploring the mysteries of witchcraft. Her contributions to the development of modern Wicca have been significant, and her legacy continues to inspire and influence practitioners of witchcraft today.

Gardnerian Tradition

Patricia Crowther is a prominent figure in the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca, which was founded by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. As one of the early members of the tradition, Crowther played a significant role in its development and dissemination.

Initiation into the Craft

Crowther was initiated into the Gardnerian tradition in the early 1960s, after meeting Gardner through a mutual friend. She quickly became involved in the coven and was eventually appointed as High Priestess of the Sheffield coven, which was one of the first Gardnerian covens in England.

High Priestess of Sheffield Coven

As High Priestess of the Sheffield coven, Crowther was responsible for leading rituals and teaching new members about the tradition. She also helped to establish new Gardnerian covens throughout the UK and played a key role in spreading the teachings of the tradition to a wider audience.

Publishing and Writing

Crowther is also known for her contributions to the literature on Wicca and the Gardnerian tradition. She has written several books on the subject, including “Witch Blood!” and “Lid off the Cauldron”. In addition, she has contributed articles to various publications and has given talks and workshops on the Gardnerian tradition.

Overall, Patricia Crowther’s contributions to the Gardnerian tradition have been significant, both in terms of her role as a High Priestess and her contributions to the literature on Wicca. Her work has helped to shape the tradition and has been instrumental in its growth and development over the years.

Clutterbuck, Old Dorothy (1880–1951)

The high priestess of a coven of hereditary Witches in the New Forest of England, who initiated Gerald Gardner into Witchcraft in 1939. Little was known about Clutterbuck for many years, prompting some outside observers to speculate that she had never existed at all but was fabricated by Gardner. In 1980 Doreen Valiente, English high priestess and an early initiate to Gardner’s coven, undertook a search of records to prove that Old Dorothy Clutterbuck had indeed lived and died. Clutterbuck was born January 19, 1880, in Bengal, to Thomas St. Quintin Clutterbuck, a captain (later major) in the Indian Local Forces, and Ellen Anne Clutterbuck. The Clutterbucks had been married in Bengal in 1877 at the ages of 38 and 20, respectively. Virtually nothing is known about Clutterbuck’s early years. At some point, she went to live in England, where she enjoyed an affluent life. Gardner said he became acquainted with her through the Fellowship of Crotona, a group that opened “The First Rosicrucian Theatre in England” in 1938 in the New Forest region, and performed plays with occult themes. Some of the members of the Fellowship revealed themselves to Gardner as Witches. In 1939, just after the start of World War II, Gardner said Clutterbuck initiated him in her home. She was considered “a lady of note in the district” and had a large house and a pearl necklace valued at 5,000 pounds, which she liked to wear often. Clutterbuck died in 1951, leaving a considerable estate of more than 60,000 pounds. Valiente began her search near Samhain (All Hallow’s Eve), 1980. On the actual night of Samhain, Valiente said that she and three other Witches met in a wood in southern England and called upon Clutterbuck’s spirit to show a sign that she wished Valiente to succeed in her search. An answer interpreted as affirmative came when the lantern at the south quarter of the magic circle suddenly tipped over and broke its glass. Valiente also heard the deceased Gardner calling her name. It took Valiente two years to trace the documents proving the existence of Clutterbuck. More recently, doubt has been cast on Clutterbuck’s alleged role in Witchcraft. Scholar Ronald Hutton researched Clutterbuck’s life and background and found no proof that she was or wasn’t a Witch. Her diaries and the details of her life point to a woman who was a conservative Christian, a scion of society, and active in supporting local charities. She was married to a Tory, Rupert Fordham, a retired landowner. Her diaries, full of poetry and art, make no references to the Craft in either word or image. She had no obvious relationship with Gardner and was not associated with the Rosicrucian theatre. The argument can be made that Clutterbuck was following the convention of the time to be careful and secret about her Craft involvement. But if this were the case, she led an amazingly complex double life that fooled both her family and her neighbors and risked exposure that would have caused a monumental scandal. She is remembered by others as being a sweet, kind, compassionate woman who had no marked intellectual pursuits. Gardner claimed that his initiation took place at Clutterbuck’s home. This, too, is improbable, given Clutterbuck’s social standing and visibility. Hutton says that Gardner may have used Clutterbuck as a blind to protect his real high priestess, a woman known only as Dafo. Gardner had promised Dafo that he would never reveal her identity. Clutterbuck, who died before Gardner went public as a Witch, may have provided a convenient means for him to keep the promise

CROWLEY, ALEISTER: An Opinion from Doreen Valiente

Aleister Crowley earns a place in witchcraft, not because he was a witch, but because he was not !

This, of course, does not stop Crowley’s name being dragged into every Sunday newspaper’s latest “Exposure of Witchcraft and Black Magic” (they seldom know the difference).

But perhaps if a brief sketch of Crowley’s life is given here, it may help to a better understanding of what this very remarkable man really stood for.

Crowley was a pagan, a poet, a mountaineer, a magician and a prophet.

He was also a world traveller and an all too daring explorer of the dangerous inner world of hallucinatory drugs.

But the magic he practised-or ‘ Magick’ as he preferred to call it-was the Qabalistic magic taught by the Order of the Golden Dawn, the famous occult brotherhood which claimed descent from the original Rosicrucians.

In Crowley’s eyes at any rate, it was very definitely white ‘Magick’ ; and it was not witchcraft of any description.

As a matter of fact, Crowley was rather afraid of witchcraft, judging from some of the references to it in his works.

This was probably because he recognized the strong feminine influence in witchcraft, and Crowley distrusted and professed to despise women.

There was a pronounced homosexual bias in his nature and his deepest and most significant relationships were with men.

As a poet, Crowley has never yet received the recognition he deserves. Like Oscar Wilde, his love of shocking the smug bourgeoisie rebounded upon him, to rob his work of the praise it merited.

Today, however, in more broad-minded times, more and more of Crowley’s books are being reprinted and made available, so that people can appreciate his strange genius for themselves, instead of only being able to read shocked (and usually inaccurate) accounts of how ‘wicked’ he was.

For such a flamboyant character, Crowley had a surprising home background. He was the son of two devout members of the Plymouth Brethren sect, a wealthy brewer called Edward Crowley and his wife Emily.

They lived at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, in the utmost Victorian respectability; and there Aleister Crowley was born, on 1 2th October 1 875.

Perhaps they were rather too devout and respectable. Their talented little son was stifled and suffered in an atmosphere of narrow-minded creedalism ; and when he rebelled, his mother told him that he was as bad as the Great Beast in the Book of Revelations!

This seems to have stuck in Crowley’s mind; because when he became a man he took the title of the Great Beast-even to the extent of having it printed on his visiting cards.

His whole life was a revolt against his parents and everything they stood for. They must have made him very unhappy-no doubt with the best of intentions.

Crowley inherited a substantial fortune from his father. He went to Trinity College, Cambridge; and having utterly rejected his parents’ religion, he became interested in the occult.

Eventually, he joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which numbered many distinguished people among its initiates.

He also travelled extensively in the East, learning Eastern systems of Yoga and occultism.

The leader of the Golden Dawn was another remarkable personality,S. L. MacGregor Mathers; and he and Crowley ended by quarrelling bitterly.

Crowley thereafter went his own way and founded his own order, the Argentinum Astrum or Silver Star, abbreviated to A.A.

Crowley had married Rose Kelly, the sister of Sir Gerald Kelly, the artist. While on holiday in Egypt with his young wife, Crowley took part with her in magical rituals, as a result of which he received what he considered to be a message from the gods who rule the destiny of this planet.

This message was dictated to him by what he called “preterhuman intelligence”.

He wrote down three chapters of a manuscript, which he named Liber Legis, the Book of the Law.

From the Book of the Law Crowley took his famous dictum: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, Love under Will”.

Upon this manuscript, Crowley based all of his subsequent life and teachings. Liber Legis is an extraordinary document.

However much it may be argued that it actually emanated from Crowley’s subconscious mind, nevertheless it is undeniable that this book contained prophecies, both about Crowley’s own personal life and about world events, which have been fulfilled.

Crowley received the Book of the Law in April 1 904. The world was then in the palmy days of the British Empire, the lower classes knew their place, and all was peace, prosperity and croquet on the lawn. The Book of the Law proclaimed that all this was going to dissolve into war and chaos, out of which a new Aeon was to arise.

The orthodox religions of the world would become discredited; the accepted moral codes would be despised. A new order of things had begun. It was the Equinox of the Gods.

The new Aeon would be called the Aeon of Horus because it was going to be an Aeon of youth. Horus is the Egyptian god who was the child of Isis and Osiris.

The law set forth in Liber Legis would be the guiding light of the new Aeon, and Crowley was to proclaim it. Crowley has often been called a charlatan, but he undoubtedly devoted the rest of his life to play out his role of the Logos of the Aeon of Horus. He believed in what he was doing; and no amount of personal misfortune, loss, or the alienation of his friends and those dear to him, would turn him from his path.

Crowley was a figure of fate; he has made his mark upon the world, and particularly the world of the occult.

The press denounced him as “The Wickedest Man in the World”, because of what they alleged went on in his notorious ‘Abbey of Thelema’ which he established at Cefalu in Sicily.

It is now known that a good deal of the allegations made was false. However, Mussolini, who was then ruler of Italy, expelled him from Sicily, and he returned to Britain. Here he became involved in a famous and sensational libel case.

He sued Nina Hamnett, the sculptress, alleging that in her book of reminiscences, Laughing Torso (Constable and Co., London, 1932), she had libelled him by saying that he practised black magic.

The case was heard in April 1 934 before Mr. Justice Swift. The other side was able to produce such extraordinary evidence of Crowley’s bizarre life and scandalous writings, that the judge was horrified.

Of course, Crowley lost the case, amid a new furore of press publicity, and was forced into bankruptcy.

A number of disciples, however, remained loyal to him and helped him in his declining years.

He ended his stormy life quietly in retirement at Hastings, in Sussex; unrepentant and unbowed. He died peacefully in his bed on 1 st December 1947.

His remains were cremated at Brighton, and the ashes sent to his disciples in America. To the horror and indignation of Brighton councillors, Crowley’s “Hymn to Pan” had been proclaimed from the pulpit of the crematorium chapel, with other extracts from his writings, instead of the usual religious service.

The worst charge that can be levelled against Crowley concerns the effect that he had upon some of his close associates.

There were cases of mental collapse, alcoholism, broken lives and suicide among his devotees.

His ‘Magick’ was strong and dangerous stuff. But he meant it to be white Magick ; and although it was paganism, it was not witchcraft.

An excellent biography of Aleister Crowley is The Great Beast by John Symonds (Riders, London, 1951 and St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1972).

A shorter, but also very enlightening book about him, is Aleister Crowley by Charles Richard Cammell (New English Library, London, 1 969, and by Hill and Wang, New York, 1970).

Still more recently, Dr Francis Israel Regardie, who at one time was Crowley’s personal secretary, has written The Eye in the Triangle; An Interpretation of Aleister Crowley (Llewellyn, U.S.A., 1 970).

Alex Sanders. A Magic Childhood

Left to himself, Alex might have ended his foray into witchcraft there and then, but family circumstances forced him into contact with his grandmother almost daily and before long he found himself becoming interested and then totally absorbed in the secret teachings.

A quick learner-he had been able to read at the age of three-he was never fully extended by his school work and had no difficulty maintaining his place at the top of the class.

After school, when he had finished peeling potatoes and running errands for his mother, he would ask to go to Grans for his lessons in Welsh. Hannah was sadly out of practice herself and was glad that her son was so keen to speak a second language.

Alex did in fact have Welsh lessons-but only for half an hour.

After that, the witch regalia was brought out and the boy was taught the meaning of each item.

The runic symbols dating back thousands of years when prophets cast sticks into the air and, from the pattern they made in landing, foretold the future.

the inscriptions on the witches’ dagger-the kneeling man, the kneeling woman, the bare breasts touching, the arrow speeding through the wheel of life down into the pointed blade, ready to strike at its owner’s bidding.

The miniature whip, a harmless substitute for the earlier weapon with which members were scourged, sometimes to the point of death.

and the glistening crystal, which fascinated him most of all.

He learned by heart the meaningless chants in a long-dead language, and at the end of the lesson, he would take a small brass bowl of water and darken it with ink.

He squatted on the floor by the light of the fire, the bowl before him.

At first, he could see only the flickering reflection of the coals, but Gran urged him to have patience. ‘It. will come,’ she said confidently.

And it did.

One day, long after he had given up hope of ever seeing anything, the reflections seemed to mist over.

When they cleared, his mother was looking up at him from the ink.

She was lying on a bed, and beside her leg, splashed with blood, was a newborn baby, its umbilical cord uncut.

Three months later Hannah Sanders gave birth to her fourth child, Patricia.

Visions did not always confine themselves to the bowl.

Alex was playing in the schoolyard one day when another boy suddenly appeared to him to have a double image, as out of focus, and the fainter image revealed the boy’s left leg in plaster.

‘You’re going to break your leg,’ Alex exclaimed.

The boy, who was bigger than Alex, didn’t take kindly to this and promptly thumped him.

Several weeks later he fell off a swing-s-and broke his left leg.

After that Alex was careful to hold his tongue when his friends appeared in his visions.

Once, for instance, a ‘picture’ appeared in his mind of a schoolmate’s mother being taken to hospital in an ambulance, but there was little he could do to warn her.

Not long after she had to have an appendix operation.

On another occasion, he saw a White-haired man whom he had never met.

Weeks later he and two friends, Alan and David, raided a local soft-drinks factory.

They climbed up a back wall, crawled across a steeply pitched roof and dropped into the inner yard where the crates were piled ready for delivery.

The three boys each grabbed a bottle and made it off the way they had come.

Once in the street, David told Alex to go back and fetch another bottle.

But Alex was less careful this time.

He missed his footing on the roof and crashed through a glass skylight, gashing his leg.

With difficulty, he got back onto the roof and as far as the top of the wall but then he began to feel faint.

Two young men were passing and Alex called to them for help.

That was all he remembered until he woke up to find the white-haired man of his vision bending over him.

He was a. doctor and he was stitching the cut.

Alex’s ‘growing belief in witchcraft, reinforced by ‘each experience of clairvoyance, did not conflict with his regular attendance at Sunday School.

His gran had explained that there was only one God but that he was known by many names.

It was easy, too, to accept that the Virgin Mary was the moon goddess in disguise.

Alex’s childhood heroes took on new aspects when Gran re-told their stories.

There was Robin Hood, previously just the leader of the merry men, but now revealed in his real role as a witch who used his powers to direct money where it was most needed, and to escape his pursuers.

There was also Joan of Arc, who was really the Witch Queen of France and unashamedly declared it by her dress in an age when witches were the only females who would wear men’s clothing.

The terror Alex had felt when he first heard of her death in the flames was allayed when he learned that condemned witches were usually helped by their companions at liberty.

If drugs like dwale or foxglove could not be smuggled into the gaol, then witches in the crowd around the pyre would use their powers to hypnotize the victim and deaden her pain when the flames reached her.

Love potions, good-luck charms-s-Gran’s remedies were all absorbed by the enchanted child.

He hardly ever saw a blade of grass in his world of concrete, but he learned how to recognize wild thyme, rosemary, and pimpernel from the book in which his grandmother had pressed leaves, ferns and flowers during. her youth in the foothills of Snowdon.

As a girl, she had belonged to a coven of four witches who were ardent chapel-goers-in Bethesda anyone who missed a service without good reason was ostracized by the other residents.

At night the coven used to climb part-way up the mountain to a small lake reputed to have belonged to witches since the Middle Ages.

Stepping-stones led to the small island in the center which was the circle where they performed their rituals, and in the inky black waters they studied the moon’s reflections and conjured up the future.

When he was nine, Alex was allowed to take part in his first full-moon ceremony.

Gran had no difficulty in persuading his mother to part with him for the night, for she was delighted with the progress he had made in Welsh and grateful to her mother for having taught him.

As the moon rose, Gran opened the kitchen curtains and let its light flood the kitchen.

She had banked up the fire with small coal to deaden its glow and now she led Alex into the center of the circle.

The air was heavy with incense burning in four bowls placed at intervals around the perimeter.

She handed him his own athame and told him she was going to consecrate it.

The boy had to lie flat on his back, the dagger on his bare chest, then she lowered herself onto him, muttering incantations he had never heard before.

He felt peculiar, his bare body pressed close to hers, but she was deadly serious and already he firmly believed in her magic.

When they rose, she led him outside into the yard where she told him to raise his athame to the moon and repeat the words of the ritual.

It was his first ‘calling down the moon’ ceremony.

Although magic, witchcraft and the ever-increasing affinity he formed with his grandmother filled most of his childhood, Alex was usually able to lead an entirely separate life at home.

He was very close to his sister Joan, two years his junior, but though he often longed to tell her his secrets, there was scarcely ever the time or privacy required.

At one stage he was getting up at five o’clock every other morning to take a pillowcase to the local bakery where a new bread-slicing machine was having teething troubles.

The first half-dozen loaves of the day were deformed and Alex could buy them for threepence.

Boyish rivalry sometimes stretched the promises he had made to his grandmother.

When a classmate boasted of a Spanish rapier his father had bought, Alex could not resist mentioning his grandmother’s swords.

‘Go on, you’re a liar!’ jeered his classmate.

Alex was too small and thin to fight, so he marched his friend to Gran’s house, told him to keep quiet, and led him into the empty kitchen.

He knew how to operate the double-lock on the chest.

As he was turning the key, Gran came in. She had been in the front room and had seen them coming up the street.

She fetched him a clout across his head that made his ears ring

‘You’re never to bring boys in here again, do you hear?’

Alex nodded silently, and when his companion had gone, Gran made him promise never to open the chest again without her permission.

Alex did not forget, but not long afterward his school was performing a play and one of the props needed was a ceremonial sword.

Alex immediately told the master in charge, who was his favorite, that he had just the thing.

‘It’s gold and it has huge rubies in it, I’ll bring it in,’ he volunteered.

Gran was horrified and told him that he certainly could not borrow it.

Even though it was only gilded and the ‘rubies’ were colored glass, it was a consecrated piece of regalia and not to be handled by non-witches.

Chastened, Alex went to school the next day and explained the matter to the master.

‘I’m a witch, you see, and nonwitches aren’t allowed to use such weapons.’

The master threw back his head and roared with laughter and Alex could never really like him again.

Now that he had an athame of his own he began to take part in the rituals within the circle which Gran performed to cure the sickness of neighbors who had petitioned her.

Then he embarked on the next step of his training.

He started to make his own copy of The Book of Shadows, the witchcraft manual containing basic chants, recipes and instructions for various magic rites.

Almost unaltered over the years, the book. had been copied by every witch in his or her own handwriting so that if arrested in the era of persecution, one could not implicate another.

Carefully Alex copied every word of his grandmother’s tattered volume into an exercise book, and promised her that when she died he would destroy her copy and keep only his own.

This was a major development in Alex’s training as a witch, and with it came new powers.

Instead of gazing into a bowl of ink, he was now allowed to use his grandmother’s crystal.

Don’t clutch it-you’ll mist it over,’ she scolded, the first time he tried.

‘Sit in a relaxed position and half-close your eyes.

Now, tell me what you see.’

Alex gazed in shock and amazement.

There were aeroplanes falling out of the sky and crashing into houses.

The side wall of one house had been tom away, exposing a cross-section of tilting floors.

Flames were licking at buildings; people with terror-stricken faces were running wildly through the streets, carrying their screaming children.

Five years later, in 1940, he would gaze again at the identical scene.

He now had his own witch-name, Verbius, and he called his grandmother by hers, Medea.

Sometimes he used it when his brother and sisters were there and he had to pretend it was a nickname.

He reveled in Gran’s favoritism; he loved his mother, even his father, but Gran was someone very special.

‘What would have happened,’ he once asked her, ‘if I had not interrupted your ritual that day? Would you have let me go on as anon-witch?’

She did not know; for her, Alex’s unscheduled appearance that day had been the work of fate.

None of her own three daughters had ever discovered her secret; even her own mother had not known, although she herself had been a witch’s daughter.

Gran was certainly proud of her pupil, for he had mastered the rituals, he knew how to draw the magic circle, how to call down the power to work for him, how to conjure up spirit children he could play with.

Gran understood all this of old and smiled indulgently, but she impressed him with the need for utter integrity.

She warned him that if he abused the power, used it for selfish ends, to the harm of others, it would destroy him.

For Alex at this point, it was all somewhat exasperating. He dreamed of riches, even of gaining a few extra inches: to make him as big as other boys his age.

His rapidly developing gift of clairvoyance was not always welcome.

Hours before his mother and father had a. quarrel he would hear the words. they were going to use against each other.

Near to tears, he would bury his head in the pillow and wait impatiently, the sooner the quarrel began, the sooner it would be over.

His grandmother wasted no sympathy on him and told him to think of the good he could do.

Without letting her neighbors know she was a witch, she worked to cure their ailments, both physical and mental.

‘If I can help others, why can’t I help myself?’ Alex once asked her.

He was referred to his Book of Shadows and told to attend to the basic rules-ask, never command,  be grateful for what you get even though it is not exactly what you want.

Now as it happened, Alex for once knew exactly what he wanted.

He worked out a series of incantations and dreamed of a pair of magnificent brown boots.

Three days later, on his way to school, he saw a splendid second-hand bicycle on sale for fifteen shillings.

However, he didn’t have one shilling, let alone fifteen, and his mother, who regarded debt as only one step removed from theft, refused to try to borrow the money.

The next day he was told of a newsagent looking for a delivery boy.

Alex got his mother’s permission to proposition him: he, the employer, should buy the bicycle and for the next thirty weeks keep sixpence out of Alex’s one-and sixpence-a-week wage to pay for it.

Alex would save up his remaining pay for the brown boots.

Sure enough, before three weeks were out, he saw in a pawnbroker’s shop the very boots he had dreamed of-priced at three shillings!

A by-product of his new job was that it absolved him from the punishment meted out by his father, who was fond of making an errant child stand upright at the table for two or three hours at a time.

The offense might be as small as making noise while Father was listening to a symphony concert on the radio.

Now that Alex was a wage-earner, his mother demanded that he be spared such treatment.

When Alex was eleven he won a scholarship to William Hulmes Grammar School, but it never crossed his mind to use magic to make his parents accept the award.

Already there was a fifth child in the family and much as Alex longed to be a doctor, taking up a place at grammar school was out of the question, even for a witch.

His father was now working in a floor-tile business, but they had had to leave the house in Chorlton and were renting a large old house in Old Trafford, No. 23 Virgil Street.

Times were hard. Alex himself was going through a bleak period-all his visions spoke of sorrow and loneliness, there was no one he could turn to.

When he asked his grandmother to interpret them she refused.

It was his future; no one else could read it for him.

Margaret Murray (1863 – 1963) Part Two

Murray, seeing parallels with her Egyptology work, started digging through documents, and in 1917 she published “Organizations of Witches in Great Britain” in the Folklore Journal.

That dry-sounding paper became her book, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, and kickstarted a vein of research that would fundamentally change the face of witchcraft as we know it.

At that time, scholarly writing on witches in Western Europe was close to zero, and two schools of thought existed.

Either witches did exist, regardless of whether they could cast spells or not, and they were Satan-worshipping, baby-eating, broom-riding villains, or the women convicted of witchcraft were all innocent victims of public hysteria who made confessions under threat of torture.

Murray, seeing room for a middle ground, proposed a witch-cult theory that occupied the wide schism between those polar opposite perceptions.

But her methodologies were, by others,considered faulty.

“Many people were and still are ready to criticize Margaret Murray’s work. This is, As well as criticizing  Gerald’s credulity for being taken in by her, and citing his desire for her findings to be true as his blind spot.

There was no written evidence to suggest that witchcraft was an organized religious movement, and no writings that tie witchcraft to the idea of a sabbath meeting.

Even the origins of the word ‘coven’ could be considered suspect (Murray thought it specifically referred to a witch—it probably came from the word ‘covent’ and referred to any kind of meeting, not just a supernatural one).

She could only find one testimony that stated covens should be made up of 13 members, from a Scottish witch-trial testimony.

Murray was unconcerned by the idea that the confessions and trial documents that formed the basis of her theory could have been made under threat of torture.

She posited that torture was illegal at that time, so it obviously never happened—a stance that is hopelessly naive by contemporary standards. However, no research existed to contradict her.

She was an expert by default.

By the 1990s, new historical evidence and diverse scholarship in pagan studies meant that her work was almost entirely discredited.

Writing in 2004 for The Pomegranate, an academic journal of pagan studies, Catherine Noble notes, “When her work fell from favor, however, it was not gently phased out as obsolete but ridiculed and denounced as a travesty of the study of history, an abuse of evidence coupled with academic ignorance of her subject.

” Though she lived to be 100, Margaret Murray faded into obscurity soon after her death in 1963.

All that remains of her legacy are two busts in University College London.

Regardless of their opinions on Murray, most Wiccans would concede that her work may not have been accurate, but it did facilitate the popularity and legitimacy of their belief system.

The Witch-Cult of Western Europe had a catalyzing effect.

It brought witches—real witches, not devil-worshippers or victims of circumstance—into the public realm.

Like some Christians, who read the Bible as a creation myth and not as historical fact, many Wiccans now embrace the spirit of Murray’s findings, not the fallacy.

Doctor John (19th century)

Famous American witch doctor, Doctor John (also called Bayou John and Jean Montaigne) was a free black man who owned slaves in antebellum New Orleans.

A huge man, Doctor John claimed he was a prince in his homeland of Senegal, sent into slavery by the Spaniards and taken to Cuba.

There he became an excellent cook and convinced his master to grant his freedom.

Next he worked as a sailor, returning to Senegal, where he no longer felt at home.

Returning to sea, he ended up in New Orleans, where he found work as a cotton roller on the docks.

He noticed he had the “power,” and his bosses made him overseer.

Doctor John’s fame spread, and he found he could get money for his tricks and services.

He built a house on Bayou Road and bought female slaves. He married some of them, performing his own ceremonies, eventually boasting 15 wives and more than 50 children.

New Orleanians stared at him in public, for he rode in a carriage with horses as fine as any white man.

When Doctor John rode horseback alone, he wore a gaudy Spanish costume.

Later he affected an austere black costume with a white, frilly shirt and grew a beard.

Leaving the Voodoo meetings to the administration of the queens, Doctor John specialized in fortune-telling, healing, and making gris-gris.

His house was filled with snakes, lizards, toads, scorpions and human skulls stolen from graveyards.

Blacks and whites came to him for advice, love potions, and the placing or lifting of curses.

Others followed his commands out of fear of Doctor John’s secret knowledge.

Most of his wisdom did not come from the spirits, however, but from a huge network of black servants placed all over town.

He either bought or took information from them, thereby giving him an advantage when thickly veiled white girls came to him desiring to know if their lovers were faithful.

One of Doctor John’s specialties was the starting or stopping of poltergeist phenomena, the usual showers of rocks and stones on the victim’s home.

Policemen stood baffled as the rocks rained down, apparently from nowhere.

Naturally, Doctor John could stop such harassment, for a fee. One case reports that the slaves of Samuel Wilson paid $62 to stop a shower of rocks, but Wilson took Doctor John to court to retrieve the $62.

A few days later, the rock showers began again. Unable to read or write, Doctor John supposedly amassed a fortune, even burying $150,000 on his property, according to local stories.

He never forgot his poorer neighbors, however, dispensing food to anyone who needed it. But by the end of his life, his poor business sense caused his financial demise.

He didn’t trust banks, convinced that once he gave a bank his money he would never see it again.

His investments turned sour, and his wives and children were continually leaving with part of his assets. Others cheated him outright. Finally, Doctor John employed a young black to teach him to read and write, and he spent long hours learning to sign his name.

One day, a con artist had him sign his name at the bottom of a long paper, and Doctor John lost all his Bayou Road property.

Doctor John tried to regain his prestige, but younger people—principally his protégée, Marie Laveau, then her daughter of the same name—had taken over the voodoo business.

At age 80, he was forced to move in with children from his white wife, though he despised mulattoes.

New Orleanians gossiped that Doctor John was “fixed,” or the victim of spells greater than his. He died in August 1885 at age 82, four years after the death of the first Marie Laveau.

Alex Sanders- The Haunted Hill

In 1939 David was born, the sixth and last of Alex’s brothers and sisters, and soon afterward war broke out.

Alex, with most of the other children in Manchester, was evacuated to the country to escape air raids.

It was a wrench leaving his parents, and his sisters and brothers, who were sent to separate foster homes, but most of all he hated leaving his grandmother.

‘Remember your vows,’ she told him sternly. ‘Keep your mouth shut and your honor clean. And don’t be afraid.’ She tried to comfort the white-faced boy.

‘You’ll have a good time in the country; there’s a lovely home waiting for you, and luxury like you’ve never seen before.’

The children were farmed out willy-nilly to families that had spare bedrooms, some in cottages, others in mansions.

Alex was given board in the luxurious home of a cotton-mill owner in Great Harwood, in the heart of the Lancashire witch country, famous in the sixteenth century for witchhunts and executions.

Uncle Louie was a man in his middle forties, the father of a baby daughter, Gillian.

His Queen Anne house stood on the foothills of Pendle Hill and it was a palace house that filled the eyes of Alex.

Tea was served on a silver service by maids, suits of armor stood in niches in the entrance hall, and, best of all his bedroom overlooked the slopes of Pendle Hill.

Uncle Louie warmed to the solemn little boy and took him on walks all over the hills, teaching him the wood-lore of the countryside.

Auntie Alice was not so amiable; daughter of a miner, she had worked hard to come up in the world and she found nothing engaging about this boy from the city who reminded her of her own beginnings.

She looked after his physical needs but the antipathy was mutual and Alex steered clear of her.

Before long he was enrolled in the Boy Scout troop led by his foster uncle.

In the fields and woods, Alex saw for the first time living examples of the plants in his grandmother’s book.

They were happy days, for Uncle Louie was delighted with his small disciple.

One autumn day Alex was taken on a picnic to the top of Pendle Hill, a local beauty spot.

Although it was sunny, he shivered as he stood on the bare hillside.

Emanations of previous ages chilled him to the bone; the breeze moaned in his heart and he longed to be alone that he might try to understand its meaning.

Uncle Louie knew none of this.

‘Look at the view, lad.’ He pointed out the misty expanse of Lancashire round there.

‘Folks say that witches used to come up here and worship heathen gods, but some folks say anything.’

One by one the long-dead witches flickered across Alex’s consciousness, indistinct, but with the symbols of their witch hood clearly defined: the horns-sign of the fertility cult the broomsticks, the raised athames,

He knew he would never be satisfied until he had conjured them up in a circle to hear what they had to tell him.

Unable to practice his witchcraft properly, for Gran had explained time and time again that only a third-grade witch could work in a circle, and then With at least one companion, Alex had to observe the full-moon rites at his bedroom window.

His athame had been left at his grandmother’s, but he went through the motions, wishing himself back in Manchester in spite of the affection he felt for Uncle Louie.

It came as a shock. when the latter told him one morning that he was to be confirmed, but when he protested his objections were overruled.

‘I’ve written to your parents,’ Uncle Louie said. ‘Your mother told me you were baptized into the Church of England.

She’ll be glad if you’re confirmed.’

The ceremony took place in St Hubert’s Church at Great Harwood and Alex prayed throughout it, apologizing to Jesus Christ and assuring Him that no blasphemy was intended.

He did not need to placate his witch god, feeling sure that he would understand.

Afterward, he put the whole episode behind him and roamed the countryside testing his witch knowledge.

He found the wild herbs used for potions in the very places described in witch-records; ‘beside fast running water’, ‘beneath the mossy side of stones’, ‘where two streams meet.

He would have much to tell his grandmother.

The months he spent with his Uncle Louie were among the happiest of his childhood, free as they were from the problems of poverty, but he badly wanted to visit his grandmother.

The matter resolved itself in June 1940 when his parents sent word for him to come home.

He was just fourteen and his schooldays were over; it was time to go to work.

Back home in Manchester, this time in Cornbrook Street, Old Trafford, where his mother had moved so that she could take in boarders, Alex found a job with a carpenter.

This left him free to spend every evening with his grandmother.

She made him study harder than ever.

‘I’ve so much to teach you.

We mustn’t waste time,’ she told him.

Alex was puzzled; time was the one thing he had plenty of.

‘What’s the hurry? I’m not going away again.’

She looked at him and shook her head; time enough later for him to know the reasons.

Now she must press on with his training.

When they were not working together within the magic circle, she would tell him all the tales that had been passed from witch to witch through the ages.

The true religion, she explained, was the love of life and the love of the giver of life.

Man must love woman, woman man, and both must love the god that made them.

The main tenet of the cult was the belief in fertility.

This was something with which Alex, as one of a large family was all too familiar, and he regarded it as a mixed blessing.

Now he heard that in olden times, people without children were as nothing.

It was the offspring that gave them a stake in the future.

He learned of the first fertility rites held by white witches on May eve and November eve when, after honoring their god, they feasted, drank, and made love.

The last was never performed communally, for that was considered obscene and a perversion of the witch law.

Nevertheless, white witches were reviled for their ‘orgies’ just as hysterically as black witches.

There was so much for Alex to learn, and all of it by heart, that he sometimes protested.

He was still growing and, with the continuous air raids, was getting very little sleep at night.

In addition, his father was drinking heavily and the domestic tension was beginning to get Alex down.

Once he asked if he could have a break from his apprenticeship.

‘I am a witch already, so why do I need to know so much more?’

His grandmother explained that he was still only a first-grade witch and totally unprepared to handle the power he would develop in the second or third grade.

Furthermore, he would not be able to initiate another witch until he himself had reached the higher grade.

Alex seized the opportunity to question his grandmother on the one subject she always avoided, living witches.

Once again she refused to be drawn.

‘What you don’t know, can’t hurt,’ was her reply and Alex had to hide his frustration until another day.

At about this time other images began appearing in the crystal.

An especially terrifying one was of a man’s arm being dragged through a giant wringing machine.

Another portrayed the death of someone Alex loved.

‘What do they mean?’ he asked, but his grandmother could not tell him.

‘You must interpret your own visions,’ she explained, ‘I can only teach you to raise them.

But they never lie, even though you may not always interpret the time factor correctly.’

‘But who is going to die?’ he persisted. ‘And why can’t we make a circle and work to keep them alive?’

At this, the old lady put away her mending and looked at him sternly.

‘We have the powers of vision and of bringing spirits to help us, but never imagine that we have the power of God.

Witchcraft is based on natural laws so that everyone must die when their time comes.

With that, we cannot interfere.

That December another of Alex’s early visions was fulfilled.

The air raid came soon after dark and before long it was obvious that this was no ordinary attack.

Wave after wave of bombers droned over the city, dropping both incendiary and high-explosive bombs.

For hour after hour, there was no respite.

Huddled in the cellar with his parents, and with his brothers and sisters who had come home for Christmas, Alex
worried about his grandmother.

Could she be the loved one who would die, and would this be the night of her death?

Bombs were landing all around and bits of plaster kept showering down on them as the foundations of the house shook.

About midnight he asked to go upstairs to get something to eat.

He ran to the top of the house to look out, and there he saw the scene that had haunted his childhood, that had appeared in his grandmother’s crystal the very first time he used it.

Illuminated by the glare of a thousand fires, the jagged edge of a bombed house cut across the skyline, and in front of it, a small group of people was being shepherded to safety by an air-raid warden.

Children were crying; one had a makeshift bandage around her head.

Then from above came the whistling of a. stick of falling bombs: the terrified group cringed in unison and was dispersed amongst the rubble.

Alex returned to the cellar, shaken by the truth of his prophecy but relieved that he had been a witness, not a victim. Looking into the future began to lose its charm, for the vision had been more frightening than reality. Nevertheless, he persisted in trying to see whose death was foretold. The three people he loved most were his grandmother, his mother, and his sister Joan; if only he could have assured himself It was
none of them he would have rested easy.

His grandmother survived the Blitz, but the carpenter for whom he worked had his premises destroyed and Alex had to find another job.

He was engaged by a firm of manufacturing chemists-and now another vision came true.

After working in the laboratories for a while, he was transferred to the plant making adhesive plaster.

There, dominating the workshop, was the gigantic calendar that had appeared like a wringing machine in the crystal.

Alex dreaded approaching it, convinced that it was his own arm he had seen mangled, but it was his job to stand behind it guiding the material.

Day after frightening day he took up his position until, at last, he heard the expected screams.

He ran round to the front of the machine in time to see his companion’s arm being fed between the rollers.

By this time Alex had begun to be interested in girls.

His grandmother, noticing this development, decided he was ready for the second-and third-grade initiations.

She had already taught him at length about sex, self-control, and the ways witches have of harnessing impulses so that the sex force can be used positively towards creating power.

‘Implosion’ was the term she used, the antithesis of masturbation.

On the night of the initiation ceremony, she laid out a new robe she had made for Alex.

They both bathed themselves before entering the circle.

By the light of two candles on the altar-a draught-board table on which the regalia was arranged -she lay down on the floor and drew the boy to her until their bare bodies touched.

Then they were united.

There were no gestures of affection or passion/ it was strictly a ritual.

Alex did not feel the slightest .repugnance at losing his virginity to a woman of seventy-four.

Afterward, she opened a bottle of wine.

In his new robes, Alex poured a libation to the moon goddess and drank to his future as a witch.

Before many months had passed Mary Bibby died.

Her daughter went to dispose of her possessions and was mildly surprised at the odd collection of antiques she found in the old chest.

Alex begged to have them as mementos and his mother agreed.

Aware of the boy’s desolation at his grandmother’s death, she hoped the sword, the crystal, the brass bowls, and the censer would comfort him.

However, she refused to let him keep the iron cauldron, or coal scuttle as she called it.

There was nothing else to suggest that Gran had been a witch.

Alex had burnt her Book of Shadows immediately after her death and had chopped up her broomstick which had been carved with phallic symbols.

So much of his life had been spent studying witchcraft with his grandmother that Alex was now at a loose end.

When he tried to work magic to bring her back if only for a moment, he met with total failure.

There were few occasions for him to be alone, for he shared a bedroom with his three brothers and there was usually one of them trailing after him.

Even his clairvoyance deserted him, and he began to think that it had never really existed but had been projected on him by his grandmother.

Had it all been made up, all she had told him about witchcraft and supernatural powers?

He read and reread his Book of Shadows and decided that no uneducated woman could have written such prose nor expressed such philosophy.

As he recovered from his initial grief he began to accept that he was helpless until such times as he could find another witch to work with if there were any still alive.

Alone he dared not conjure up spirits or call down the power from the moon, knowing that witch law proscribes individual work.

Little use to reason that his gran had been doing just that when he had first discovered her as a witch.

Alex was very young still, and very unsure of himself, All he could do .was watch and wait until someone gave the sign that he would surely recognize.

Margaret Murray (1863 – 1963) Part One

Margaret Murray was noted Egyptologist, archaeologist, anthropologist, folklorist, and first-wave feminist, she is now best-known for a series of books on witchcraft that profoundly shaped the modern Wicca faith.

Today, her work by some has been thoroughly debunked and disproved.

So how did Margaret Murray go from being the world’s foremost authority on witchcraft to a footnote in its history, and why doesn’t anyone talk about her work anymore?

Murray believed that witchcraft did exist, and that it was an organized religion—a fertility cult that worshipped a horned god.

In 1921, she expanded on the witch-cult theory in her book, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe .

Based almost entirely on witch trial documents from the 16th and 17th century, Murray’s hypothesis was that witchcraft pre-dated Christianity and was eventually absorbed into it, the horned god becoming an avatar for Satan.

Murray was the first to use the word ‘coven’ to mean a gathering of witches; she insisted that covens met in groups of 13, writing in detail about ‘sabbaths,’ specific witches’ meetings that involved elaborate rituals (including group sex and the occasional blood sacrifice).

This was, at the time, revolutionary information.

The book was met with widespread acclaim and some incredulity.

In 1929, she wrote the Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for ‘witchcraft’, which stayed in print in one version or another for 40 years.

For years, she was considered the only authoritative voice on the subject.

Aldous Huxley was a fan.

Despite being a non-believer who only wanted to write about witchcraft to strip away its supernatural reputation, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe would become a cornerstone of a newly-emergent religion when it was picked in up by founding father Gerald Gardner and built on in his 1954 book, Witchcraft Today.

Gardner took Murray’s witch-cult theory and used it as a framework on which to hang his other influences— Aleister Crowley’s writings, his own personal occult experiences, Freemasonry—to formulate a contemporary pagan religion.

We now know it as Wicca.

Murray was born in 1863 in Calcutta, India, into a middle class family of British heritage.

India was then a British colony, and career prospects for women like her were few:

Volunteer, charity or mission work. Her mother, also named Margaret, had served as a missionary before she was married, traveling the country by herself in a period when it was unusual to do so. This would be a formative influence on Murray.

When she was seven, she and her sister were sent to England to stay with her uncle John, who was a vicar.

He believed that women were naturally inferior and should be morally and physically spotless.

John Murray’s views were pretty normal for Victorian England, and he thought it was a good idea to quote Bible verse supporting that at his prepubescent niece.

In her memoirs, Murray called her uncle a ‘Dominant Male,’ which was probably her own polite shorthand for ‘Rampaging Sexist’.

Her uncle did influence her profoundly in one aspect, though. He introduced her to archaeology.

Despite no formal education, and after returning to Calcutta and working as a nurse for several years, Murray decided, in her 30s, to pursue her childhood passion.

With her mother’s encouragement, she moved to London and started studying egyptology under pioneering archaeologist Flinders Petrie. Her ascent was steep—in 1898 she became the first female lecturer in archaeology in the United Kingdom.

She took part in several archaeological digs in Egypt and published multiple papers and books on the subject.

Sheppard notes that Murray unwrapped a mummy in front of an audience of over 500 people in 1908—again, the first women to do so.

Murray was successful and well-respected by her peers.

She was a member of Emmeline Pankhurst’s WSPU, and marched to secure women’s right to vote.

And then World War One happened.

In 1914, Murray and her colleagues were unable to return to Egypt to continue their archaeological digs.

Murray volunteered as a nurse for the war effort, but became sick and was sent to recuperate in a small town in Somerset—Glastonbury.

Glastonbury was the legendary home of King Arthur’s Holy Grail, and a nexus point for folk tales of the occult.

Hohman, John George (d. ca. 1845)

Hohman, John George.

The most famous braucher in the powwowing tradition of folk magic, spells, hexes and healing.

John George Hohman was a German immigrant to America and the author of the widely circulated magical text The Long Lost Friend.

Little is known about Hohman’s life.

In 1802, he and his wife, Anna Catherine, and son, Philip (some sources say Caspar), left Hamburg for Philadelphia, arriving on October the Twelfth.

They had no money and sold themselves as indentured servants. Hohman and his wife were split apart.

His wife and son went to Burlington County, New Jersey, and Hohman went to Springfield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Hohman lived and worked in a German immigrant community.

In his spare time, he made and sold decorated birth certificates and baptismal certificates, a popular custom among the immigrants.

In three-and-a-half years, he earned enough money to buy freedom for himself and his family.

The family’s home is not known, for Hohman could not afford to purchase land.

In 1810, they evidently lived in the Easton area near the Hexenkopf. Hohman was by then writing books, ballads, hymns, poems and songs, which he published.

By 1815, the Hohmans lived in Reading. Anna Catherine died there in 1832 at age sixty.

Hohman is believed to have died on April 26th, 1845, at age 67 after a “lingering illness.”

Hohman gained a wide reputation for his healing ability.

In 1818 he published a folk medicine book, The Field and House Pharmacy Guide, with remedies for humans and animals.

This book contained no magic. In 1820, he published the book that made him famous, The Long Lost Friend, a faith-healing text of magical charms and spells that became the bible of powwowing.

More than 150 editions have been printed.

The book was translated into English in eighteen fifty.

There is no evidence that Hohman ever used the term “powwowing” to describe his magical arts.

But among the brauchers, power doctors and powowers, his text was golden, an essential tool for success.

Even hex doctors worked black magic with it.

Mere ownership conferred power.

The belief spread that no one could practice without their own personal copy of The Long Lost Friend.

The influential Saylor Family of folk doctors placed great importance on it.

Hohman and The Long Lost Friend gained celebrity status in the early 20th century when a murder was committed over possession of a copy.

John Blymire, of York County, Pennsylvania, believed himself to be cursed and was told he had to take possession of the offending witch’s copy of The Long Lost Friend in order to be cured.

Blymire killed the man when he would not give up the book.

The story was written in a book Hex (1970) by Arthur H. Lewis.

In 1988, a film based on the story was made in Hollywood starring Donald Sutherland.

It was originally titled The Long Lost Friend, but just prior to release the title was changed to The Apprentice to Murder.

A German version, The Night of the Demons, was produced.

The Long Lost Friend continued to be used until well into the 20th century and still enjoys an audience in present times.

Alex Sanders – Calling Down the Spirits

When Alex was seventeen he met a girl who was a keen spiritualist.

Learning of his interest in the occult she invited him to a meeting.

He was curious to see if it had anything in common with witchcraft and went along with her.

During the evening a medium in a trance singled him out.

‘I see horns on your head,’ she murmured.

There was a ripple of laughter; horns could mean he was a cuckold.

But Alex knew them as
the symbol of witchcraft and was impressed by such perception.

He went along to every meeting at the spiritualist church and before long he was being trained as a medium.

At heart, he felt he was cheating, for while they talked of going into a trance, he was working witchcraft.

But what did it matter, he asked himself? The end product was the same, a  glimpse into the future, and he was not disobeying the
witch law by working alone.

Without telling his companions he was using powers taught him by his grandmother, he began healing.

There was a woman who suffered from fibrositis in her back, a man whose face was disfigured with a twitch and in all about a dozen cases of ailments.

It was nothing to Alex; with his gran, he had practiced the same cures in aid of her neighbors almost ten years ago.

But to his spiritualist friends, this was magic indeed.

Word spread and the little church was inundated with appeals for cures.

Glad to be able to use his gifts, Alex spent nearly every night laying his hands on troubled bodies.

There was nothing in it for him save the glow of satisfaction, the happiness in being needed, but those who were cured showed their gratitude to the church.

Money poured in,  the building was redecorated and refurnished, the congregation increased to an unprecedented size.

It was interesting work and the praise he reaped was gratifying, yet spiritualism to Alex was but a pale imitation of witchcraft.

Disturbing the dead was too close to necromancy, to which witches object, and he disliked keeping secret the source of his powers.

Witchcraft was infinitely more satisfying because each member actively participated,  there was no passive audience as in spiritualism.

Alex’s newfound popularity turned his head, however, and he began to boast that he could have any girl he wanted.

One of his colleagues in the laboratory was a quiet girl, tall-at five-foot-seven, the same height as Alex and more refined than the others.

Doreen and he became lovers.

He was twenty-one, she nineteen, when they married and moved into a small two-up-and-two-down house in Vale Street, Hulme.

Almost from the start he felt trapped.

What had happened to the rosy dreams he had had?

Here he was in a 6 shilling a week house with no hot water and, most frightening of all, there was a baby on the way.

He redoubled his efforts to find another witch with whom he could work magic if only to influence his opportunities for promotion.

Doreen had, no idea that she had married a witch, and as he lay beside her at night, frustrated and resentful, tantalizing glimpses of the
future flickered before his eyes.

He could see parties, himself in evening dress (although he had never worn it), fifty or a hundred guests greeting him as their host.

There was a ballroom, his own , and once again the death of someone he loved, in swift succession the pictures flashed by.

Lying awake long into the night, he tried to reason how he, a low-paid, poorly educated analytical chemist, living in a near-slum could ever come to afford such lavish parties.

He shied away at the thought of another death.

His father was now a permanent invalid, but the death in his vision seemed to be that of a woman.

Alex Sanders’s activities in the spiritualist church kept him busy, and he was happy enough at work.

Whilst at work he compared modern formulae for patent medicines with age-old recipes of witchcraft-sometimes to the former’s disadvantage.

However, Alex was unaware at first that his marriage was beginning to break up.

Doreen leaned heavily on her mother, who disliked Alex, and neither little Paul nor, later, baby Janice did anything to cement the marriage.

Paul was three when his sister was born in the room upstairs, and the first thing Alex noticed when he went up to see the newly born baby was her right foot.

It was twisted back to front.

The midwife sent for the doctor and he brought a specialist.

The baby was taken to the hospital for an immediate examination and returned two or three hours later.

Nothing could be done until the child was thirteen or fourteen.

Alex rebelled, he had to help his baby even if it meant breaking the witch law by working alone.

After Janice had been fed, he carried her downstairs and sat her on his lap before the fire.

He prayed to his god for advice and help. ‘Warm some olive oil and rub it into the joint’, was the message that sprang to his mind.

Accordingly, he fetched some oil and poured it into a saucer.

He dipped his fingers into it and began to touch the baby’s crooked foot.

As he did so, he felt impelled to twist the joint and, although he was alarmed, he followed his instincts.

The child did not wake as the foot responded to the manipulation, and he sponged off the oil before returning her to her cradle.

He did not tell his wife how the child had been cured but let her and the doctor believe it had been spontaneous.

The friction between husband and wife increased.

One day when Alex returned from work he found that she had taken the children and most of the furniture and had left him for good.

Until now he had neither smoked nor had he drunk.

As well as this, he had always handed over his pay packet unopened.

He had considered himself a model husband, not realizing that his own immaturity had been one of the causes of the separation.

He was twenty-six and he believed he had finished with women.

Soon afterward fire destroyed his place of employment.

For the second time in his life and, out of work, he became utterly despondent.

His sister Joan spent all her free time with him, cooking his meals and trying to cure his depression.

One evening she helped him to paint the kitchen, urging that a change of colour would help to cheer him up.

Together they worked through the night, not finishing until the early hours of the morning.

‘Do you know what day it is?’ Joan asked, when at last they put away their brushes.

‘ It’s Shrove Tuesday. Let’s have the first pancakes in the world.’

Companionably they sat by the fire, eating pancakes.

Suddenly Alex could keep his secret no longer. ‘Do you know that I’m a witch?’

‘Don’t be daft,’ Joan replied.

‘But I am,’ he insisted, and went on to tell her of his childhood initiation and the magic he had worked with Gran.

She laughed at him, thinking he was making it up as he went along.

‘If you can work magic and conjure up spirits as you claim, prove it. Goon,’ she dared.

‘Bring one of your demons here now.

Obediently he unsheathed his black-hilted knife, which was no longer kept hidden as it had been when his wife was at home.

Discomfited by his earnest manner, Joan had second thoughts.

‘The joke’s over, Alex, I didn’t mean to tease you.’

But Alex ignored her.

He commanded a demon to visit them, someone they both knew.

Hardly had the incantation ended when there was a loud knocking on the front door.

Horrified, Joan begged him not to answer it.

Seconds later the knocking was repeated, this time on the back door that led directly off the kitchen where they were sitting.

She crept behind him as he opened the door.

The visitor was an actor, a friend of their family.

‘I wonder if you’d help me out,’ he said. ‘My mates have let me down and I’ve nowhere to stay for the night. Could you put me up?’

Alex was about to let him in but his sister was almost in tears.

‘You can’t stay here,’ shesaid. ‘You’ve no business knocking on people’s doors at three o’clock in the morning.’

Offended, the friend went away leaving Alex to comfort his sister.

‘I don’t know if his visit was a coincidence,’ she said hysterically, ‘but I don’t like it. You must not play about with spells ever again. You must stop all that, do you hear?’

‘Stop it?’ exclaimed Alex. ‘I’m only just beginning.’

Bitterly he gave a long recital of the self-denial he had practiced over the years.

And what good had it done him?

No job, no wife, no money.

‘I’ve finished with stupidity now. I’m going to think of myself for a change.

From now on I’m going to use the powers I can muster to work for me.

I’m going to have all the things I’ve never had. Wealth, luxury, leisure, and so on.

‘But you just said you must not ask for these things,’ interrupted Joan.

‘I’m not going to ask for them, I’m going to demand them.

All right, so the powers may turn against me in the end.

Well, let them.

I’ll enjoy the present and to hell with the future.

I’ll make damned sure of the present first.

All the while he was talking he was walking about the room collecting incense burners, swords, a white-hilted knife to match his athame, and a dish of water which he placed on the black antique dresser that his grandmother had left him.

It had served her and her grandmother before her as a witches high altar and now it served Alex.

By the light of candles, he described a magic circle with his sword, excluding Jan.

When she made as if to speak he told her to keep quiet or get out.

The air became heavy with incense as he worked the spells and recited the words that would lead him from white witchcraft to black.

By all the powers I command the demons to bring me wealth, riches, power.

Joan sobbed quietly, not understanding all that was going on but realizing that her beloved brother was bargaining for his soul with the devil and that, in the end, someone would have to pay.

Duncan, Helen (1898–1956)

Duncan, Helen (1898–1956) British Spiritualist whose conviction on flimsy charges of witchcraft led to the repeal of Britain’s Witchcraft Act of 1736, thus clearing the way for the public practice of Witchcraft.

Helen Duncan, a Scotswoman, was renowned for her natural mediumistic abilities by the 1920s. During the 1930s and 1940s, she travelled around Britain giving seances.

Audience members said she could produce materializations in which luminous ectoplasm would appear to emanate from her mouth and take on the form of the dead.

Like other mediums of her day, Duncan was investigated by authorities. In 1933, she was convicted of fraud over the materialization of a dead child.

She was accused of manipulating a woman’s vest in order to produce the appearance of ectoplasm.

Duncan continued to practice mediumship. After the start of World War II, she had a steady business of the bereaved seeking to contact their dead loved ones.

Duncan caught the attention of authorities again in 1941 when she allegedly conjured up a dead sailor at a seance in Portsmouth.

She said that his hatband bore the name HMS Barham. The battleship Barham had been sunk off Malta—but not even family members knew about the disaster because the Admiralty had decided to keep it secret in the interests of morale.

Upset by the revelation from Duncan, people demanded an explanation from the Admiralty, which complicated matters by stalling for three months before making an official announcement.

As a result, authorities monitored Duncan for the next two years. With the approach of the D-Day invasion by Allied troops, it was feared that she might clairvoyantly “see” the planned landing sites in Normandy and make them public in advance.

Under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, Duncan was charged with witchcraft for pretending to conjure the dead.

At her seven-day trial at the Old Bailey in 1944, more than 40 witnesses testified as to their belief in her powers.

The Crown argued that she was a fraud and “an unmitigated
humbug who could only be regarded as a pest to a certain of section of society.”

Duncan was convicted and sentenced to nine months in Holloway prison. She declared as she was led to the cells, “Why should I suffer like this? I have never heard so many lies in my life.”

Her words echoed those of countless accused witches in Britain, Europe and America who
in earlier times had gone to jail or to their executions under false accusations.

Her case became a cause célèbre, attracting the attention of Winston Churchill, who was interested in Spiritualism. Churchill was so angered by the trial that he wrote to the Home Secretary, “Let me have a report on why the 1735 Witchcraft Act was used in a modern court of justice.

What was the cost to the state of a trial in which the Recorder was kept so busy with all this obsolete tomfoolery?” In 1951 Parliament repealed the 1735 Witchcraft Act, making Duncan the last person in Britain to be convicted and jailed for the crime of witchcraft.

After the war Duncan resumed her mediumship. In November 1956, police raided a seance she was conducting at a private house in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire.

Duncan reportedly was shocked out of a trance, which her supporters claimed led to her death five weeks later.

But she was also overweight and diabetic and had a history of heart trouble.

In 1998, the 100th anniversary of Duncan’s birth, a campaign was launched to clear her name and have her pardoned. However, the Criminal Cases Review Commission examined the case but decided against referring it back to the Appeal Court. Spiritualists planned formal petitions.

Alex Sanders – The Young Initiate

There was nothing about the day to suggest it would change the course of his life and influence him until the day he died. It was grey and cheerless, like many other days in Manchester, and Alex was an undersized seven-year-old passing through mean back streets on his way from St George’s Primary School in Hulme to the home of his grandmother.

The Sanders family had recently moved to a semi-detached house-No.2 Stratton Road, Chorlton-a great improvement over the old Victorian house near the central goods yard in Manchester, where mother, father, and three children had had to make do in one room. But living in a better-class district had its drawbacks. The rent was high and Mrs Sanders had taken a charming job to eke out her husband’s wage.

Small-barely five-foot-and wiry, Hannah Sanders was determined to raise her children above their environment. When first married ten years previously she and her husband had been comfortably off. He had been a musician and for five years or so she traveled with him. When their first child Alex was born, he too made the tour of the music halls and theatres. Soon, however, Harold Sanders became increasingly addicted to alcohol, and during an engagement in Argyllshire, he appeared on the stage drunk. He was instantly dismissed. His reputation preceded him never again to work in the theatre. He became a hod-carrier and the family rented the terraced house in Grape Street, Manchester, until they had saved enough to move to Chorlton.

Now it was one long struggle to keep heads above water. Harold took private pupils for lessons on the comet and sometimes worked for prize brass or silver bands at week-ends. But frequently he took refuge in drink, distressing his wife and terrifying his children.

Hannah reassured them about their father’s ‘illness. She regaled them with stories of their paternal great-grandfather who had been captain of a tea clipper. (She never mentioned that he had been captured by Chinese pirates and buried alive.) She cleaned for a tailor in Chorlton who had a son the same size as Alex, and once every six months she agreed to forgo her wages of 3S. 6d. a week in return for a parcel of clothes outgrown by the tailor’s son. The family lived on bread and dripping those weeks, but Alex was warmly shod and well dressed for another half-year.

His Grandma Bibby had moved from her birthplace, Bethesda in North Wales, to be near her daughter. Widowed for many years, she was now sixty-six and had dark hair which, she boasted, she could sit on. As a girl, she had been in service with Lord Penrhyn and had learned to be an excellent cook. Alex enjoyed visiting her for that reason, but she was still very much a stranger, having moved to the district only
months before.

On this particular day Alex was tired and, hungry, and feeling a little sorry for himself. Why could his mother not be like other mothers and be at home waiting for him? He resented being sent to Gran’s to ask if she would give him his tea. Usually, his mother finished work soon after three, but today she was working late.

No. 46 Wilton Road was a terraced family house with an alley separating it from its neighbor at ground level. Instead of ringing the front door bell, Alex went round to the back to surprise Prince the collie, who lived in the yard and was always ready for a rough-and-tumble. Today the yard door was open and the dog. was not there. Gran always preferred people, even relatives, to knock, but the small boy forgot
this and walked right in through the back door.

The sight that met his eyes in the kitchen dumbfounded him. An old, Woman, with wrinkled belly and match-stick thighs stood in the center of the room surrounded by a cloth circle on which curious objects had been placed. Only when she spoke did he recognize his grandmother.

‘What are you doing here?’ she snapped. ‘Who sent you?’

Unable to tear his eyes away, the boy stammered his mother’s message.

‘I’ll give you your tea, all right,’ his grandmother said grimly. ‘But first, come over here.’

‘Take off your clothes,’ she commanded, and when he hesitated after removing his coat and shoes, added, ‘All of them-s-every last stitch.

Teeth chattering with fright, he peeled off his vest and pants and stood there like a lamb about to be slaughtered. The old lady bent down and picked up a small sickle-shaped knife from the edge of the circle surrounding her.

I’m going to make sure that you never tell another living soul what you have seen this day,’ she whispered. ‘If you so much as breathe one word of it, I’ll kill you.’

‘I won’t, Gran, honest I won’t,’ cried the boy, cowering before her.

‘Bend over,’ she said and forced his shoulders towards his knees. There was a searing pain and the boy felt blood trickle down from his scrotum.

‘You can stand up now.’ She let go of him and dried the blood from the knife. ‘You’re one of us now, and all the power of heaven and earth will strike you if you break your promise”.

“Don’t look so scared, lad,”

she realized suddenly that he was white and shaking.

‘you’ll live to thank me for this. I’ll teach you things you never heard of, how to make magic and see the future.’

Instead of being comforted, Alex was even more terrified.

‘You’re not a … witch?’ he whispered, remembering fairy tales about old hags who could turn children into toads.

‘Of course I’m a witch, and so are you now.’

She handed him his clothes and, while they both dressed, told him how, through the ages, witches had been feared, slandered and burnt at the stake. She spoke of the power of healing learned by the witches, and of the stupendous ignorance of non-believers who preferred to suffer rather than be cured by a witch.

‘You, too, maybe persecuted,’ she warned, ‘which is why you must work in secret, as I have done ever since my grandmother taught the magic to me as a child.’

She sat him in her best armchair beside the black lead grate while she cleared away the circle with its strange designs and started making the tea. Alex looked cautiously around the large well-furnished kitchen. Over the mantelpiece was draped a red chenille cloth fringed with tiny bobbles and there were others on the deal Welsh dresser and the tea table. Now that the circle had been removed together with the brass bowls and other strange objects, there was nothing to show that this was not an ordinary kitchen-nothing except the small knife that had cut him and a pair of swords on the dresser.

Gran followed his gaze and went to put the weapons in the bottom cupboard of a chest on the far side of the room. As she opened its door, she demonstrated the elaborate double-lock.

‘It’s a fine piece of furniture,’ she said. ‘My grandfather used to drive the stagecoach from Bangor to London and he had this strong chest specially made to house the silver he had collected.’

Alex knelt beside her as she took from the cupboard a crystal ball and a black-hilted knife.

‘This is my athame,’ she said, showing him the knife.

‘When you are old enough to be a fully-fledged witch, you shall have one too.’

Alex was not sure that he wanted one; he preferred the crystal which reflected the black and red tiles on the floor and the cheerful glow from the fire. But his grandmother would not let him hold it for more than a minute.

‘You’ll make it cloudy,’ she told him. ‘Later I’ll teach you how to use it, but you’ve had enough for one day. Now come and get
your tea.’

It would be years before he discovered that he was the last of a line of witches dating back to the fifteenth century; that the initiation from which he was still smarting was a pale replica of those once carried out in Sparta when males were emasculated so as to become priests of the moon goddess.

Ages would pass before he tried turning his powers to evil to gain himself a fortune before his misuse of them lost him the person he loved. This was 1933 and Alex Sanders was just a bewildered child who believed he and his grandmother were the last two witches left unburnt.

Biddy Early (1798–1874)

Irish seer and healer often described as a witch.

Most of what is known about Biddy Early has been collected from oral tradition, and many of the stories about her have numerous variations.

Nonetheless, Biddy seemed to have possessed real powers, and many people from all over Ireland and even England came to her for cures.

She was widely believed to be “of the fairies.”

She was born Biddy O’Connor.

Her birthplace is accepted as Faha, but Carrowroe is also given.

She was of a farming family, small in stature and described as good-looking throughout her life.

When she was 16 or 17 years of age, Biddy left her home to work as a serving girl in either Feakle or Ayle.

She entered into her first marriage in 1817 to Pat Malley, who later died.

She married Tom Flannery in the 1840s, and they had one son, also named Tom.

Biddy’s powers were credited to a mysterious dark bottle that had been given to her either by her husband Tom after his death or by the fairies, via her son prior to his own death.

She was instructed that by looking into the bottle with one eye and keeping the other eye open, she would be able to see what ailed people and view the future.

In exchange for this ability, she was never to charge money for her services, or she would lose the powers.

She could accept gifts, however, but was to give away whatever was leftover from her own needs.

She was not to allow others to look into the bottle, or else they would either die or go mad.

One of the first stories about Biddy concerns a mean-tempered landlord who set about to evict her and others from their homes.

Biddy agreed to go, but told the landlord he would never leave his home.

A fire subsequently broke out in the landlord’s home and he perished in it.

After the landlord disaster, Biddy moved to Kilbarron.

At this point in her life, she already was in possession of the mysterious bottle.

A man offered to move her possessions in exchange for a look inside the bottle.

Biddy agreed. He did, and went mad.

Biddy lived the rest of her life in Kilbarron.

Her various husbands were tenant farmers; some allegedly died of drink.

She spooked people who came to visit her by announcing their names, the purpose of their visit, and their specific ailment or problem before they ever said a word.

She was sought out for three primary reasons: to cure human ailments, to cure animal ailments (farm animals often meant the difference between starvation and comfort for a family), and to relieve fairy molestations.

In terms of the last reason, people would be made ill or otherwise troubled by the fairies for inadvertently disturbing their invisible forts, paths, or nighttime play areas.

Biddy could see these and prescribe remedial action.

Sometimes, she said, she would receive a terrible “grueling” from the fairies for her help to humans.

Biddy could also know when someone had been made ill by an unhappy ghost or evil spirit or by another witch.

After healing, people also sought out Biddy for fortunetelling or the answers to mysteries, such as who committed a crime and where something was lost.

She often made up potions for people from her own well water.

These were given with complex instructions which had to be followed precisely in order for a cure to happen.

Medicines could not be used for any other purpose, or disaster would strike.

Some of her cures resemble the miraculous healings of Jesus and saints of various religions, such as instantly curing cripples.

Biddy accepted mostly food and whiskey for her services, although some reports tell of her asking for a “shilling for the bottle.”

Otherwise, she had no set fees of any sort.

Sometimes she would ask for whatever a person had a surplus of, such as butter or bacon.

Sometimes she required penance of people in order to be healed, or a demonstration of their sincere desire for healing.

Occasionally, she sent people away without help.

In these cases, their problems were beyond her powers, or they had angered the fairies too much for a reprieve, she said.

Biddy did not keep a cat, but did have a dog (named either Spot or Fedel) that acted as a familiar.

She would tie messages in a sock around the dog’s neck and send him out to people, reputedly controlling him via her bottle.

The Catholic clergy felt threatened by a peasant woman who was credited with having greater powers than they.

Although village priests scorned her and told people not to pay her any heed, most people—either out of awe or fear—respected her and valued her over more traditional doctors.

She was counted on by her neighbors as a “good Christian” who always shared whatever she had and who did not misuse her powers.

Nonetheless, the church labeled her a wicked witch whose powers came from the Devil.

Although they denounced her from their pulpits, they were not above dressing up as ordinary people and consulting her themselves when in need.

She apparently didn’t hold grudges against them, even curing one priest of cancer.

In 1865, she was charged with witchcraft and appeared in court in Ennis.

Apparently, she was not convicted, for there is no record of her being jailed.

Biddy was married four times.

The last was in 1869, when she was more than 70 years of age.

A young man named either O’Brien or Meaney from Limerick came to her to be cured.

She asked him if he would marry her if he did.

He agreed, she did and they wed.

In April of 1874, Biddy became seriously ill and asked a friend to see to it that she received the rites of the church and was properly buried.

She apparently was living alone—it is not known what happened to her fourth husband—and was too poor to pay for her own burial.

The friend, Pat Loughnane, agreed.

She died during the night of April the twentysecond.

Lore has it that a mysterious ball of fire went out the front door of the house at her passing.

She was buried in Feakle churchyard in an unmarked grave.

As for her bottle, Biddy reportedly gave it to the priest who administered last rites, telling him he would now possess the same powers.

He threw it into Kilbarron Lake.

People went diving in an effort to recover it, but found scores of bottles and could not determine which one had been hers.