George Pickingill Junior had none of the reputed abilities of his infamous family. He was an illiterate farm labourer who cadged drinks from the credulous in return for information about the local witches. The Canewdon villagers avoided discussing or naming 'black' witches because they believed that careless words would attract evil to themselves or their families. Maple's informants may have resorted to subterfuge when asked about 'George Pickingill', and substituted the illiterate son for the feared father.
The so-called Nine Covens were founded over a period of many years. During the course of his long life, George Pickingill inducted nine women with Hereditary connections into his own version of witchcraft. Armed with Old George's Craft authority and rituals these women formed the nucleus of a Pickingill coven. Nothing in the Lugh corpus suggested that Pickingill exercised a supervisory role over the Nine covens.
George Pickingill was an itinerant horse dealer who accompanied his Rom kinsmen to Horse Fairs. He was renowned as a Gypsy sorcerer and met a number of his nine female leaders when travelling with the Rom. The Gypsies have always known the favoured haunts of the traditional witches. They had no trouble locating Pickingill covens. Mike Howard advised me in personal correspondence dated 27th March 1997 : "Your comments about the gypsies and Pickingill covens has reminded me of an encounter I had in 1976 with a Romany called George Wells who lived in South London. He claimed to know of Pickingill people on the Suffolk-Essex border at Brandon, and others still in the New Forest area." Mike was not impressed and gave little heed to Wells at the time. In hindsight this was a pity. It may have been possible to corroborate some of the claims in the Lugh material.
George Pickingill was apprenticed to a cunning man named Shewell, His education was completed by Rom sorcerers and the leaders of Old Style covens. His reputation preceded him and landowners and influential 'Rosicrucians' were impressed with Pickingill's magical prowess. He was granted access to the archives of several 'Cunning' Lodges. It was not long before Pickingill was exhibiting his gifts at Masonic Temples and private houses. He confined the bulk of his demonstrations to a country house in Hertfordshire.
John Symonds states in his biography of Crowley (P1 7 of the 1973 paperback edition) that Eliphas Levi visited Knebworth, the country house in Hertfordshire, where Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton conducted his magical club. It is certainly possible that Bulwer Lytton's home was 'The country house in Hertfordshire" mentioned in The Pickingill Papers. Many Masons and Rosicrucians are known to have observed the magical experiments at Knebworth.
Mike Howard asks (personal correspondence dated 27/3/1999): "Could this be the 'country house' where Moina Bergson saw Pickingill do his party tricks? Could it also be, I suggest, the 'country house in Hertfordshire', where in 1939 Moina Mathers' magical equipment was burnt in a bonfire in the grounds?7' (P358 Mary Greer. Women of the Golden Dawn, Park Street Press. USA 1995) Minna (Moina) Bergson married G.S.L MacGregor Mathers, one of three architects of the Golden Dawn rituals. The Magic Club at Knebworth deserves serious research. The claims that international magicians and occultists visited George Pickingill became more credible if this simply entailed travelling to Knebworth, or attending 'Rosicrucian' and Masonic Temples in London. Knebworth was central to London then as now. There was no public transport to Canewdon until after World War I.
Doreen Valiente examines the Pickingill material in Chapter Twelve of 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft.' She was virtually forced to do this after endorsing many claims from the Lugh corpus in 'Witchcraft for Tomorrow,' (Robert Hale, UK and St Martin's Press, USA 1978) Doreen argues that it "really strains one's credulity 'to believe that Minna Bergson (ie Moina Mathers) "became the 'pupil' of a rough old countryman who upheld the idea of sexual induction' as 'a hallmark of the Hereditary Craft' - that is, the passing-on of power by sexual union. Minna Bergson would have swooned." (P202/203) Nowhere in the Lugh text was it claimed or suggested that Moina Mathers was initiated into the Craft. This is Doreen's assumption and a problem of her own making! Minna Bergson (aka Moina Mathers) was a 'pupil' in the sense that she attended four or five of Pickingill's demonstrations at a country house in Hertfordshire.
Minna Bergson would have had a sound reason for attending any magical experiments at Knebworth : Bulwer-Lytton was experimenting with the so-called VRIL, the universal magical power which underlies the universe. Doreen has conveniently forgotten that Minna Bergson was the sister of Henri Bergson, the French philosopher who sought to bridge the gap between metaphysics and science. He received the Nobel prize for literature in 1927. Henri Bergson's major preoccupation was a life-giving force which, he believed, permeated the entire natural order. His concept of elan vital suggested that a creative principle in all organisms was responsible for evolution Bulwer-Lytton and his magicians were studying this force from the magical viewpoint. Hargrave Jennings and P.B Randolph were primarily concerned with its sex magic application. Jennings made a fuss of George Pickingill because he realised that the Old Style Craft held the secrets of sexual illuminism : man could experience his latent divinity by 'sexual' transformation. Cecil Williamson told an English newspaper some years ago that Gerald Gardner hired prostitutes from Kings Cross as 'altar fodder' for the Great Rite. The highest states of divine consciousness can be achieved without sex. It is the personal choice of the individual aspirant.
Doreen Valiente has tried to extricate herself with some dignity, and without too much loss of face, by dismissing George Pickingill in 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft' as "an unlettered farm labourer." This is a far cry from her claim in 'Witchcraft for Tomorrow' that Pickingill had collaborated in forging the mysterious cipher documents which had justified the foundation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Even Professor Baker had contented himself with the cautious claim that the Lugh material "implied that Pickingill and Hargrave Jennings were responsible for forging the cipher manuscripts that formed the basis for the Golden Dawn." Nowhere in the Lugh corpus was the forged Rogan MSS identified with the cipher manuscripts of the Golden Dawn.
Doreen states on P200 of 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft': "I knew that the origin of the cipher manuscripts upon which the elaborate rituals of the most important magical order of modern times were based had long been a matter of great speculation among occult students. I therefore flatly refused to believe that these had been 'collaborated' in by an unlettered farm labourer, The thing was just not possible, as anyone acquainted with the magical system in question will realise - unless, of course, George Pickingill was a self-taught genius." This opinion contrasts starkly with her earlier claims in 'Witchcraft for Tomorrow,' It was amusing to read the statement of a contributor to the 'Arcana' segment on the Internet, This gentleman argued that 'Lugh' must have claimed that George Pickingill forged the Golden Dawn cipher manuscripts - because Doreen Valiente repeated his statement in one of her books.
Both Doreen Valiente and her associate John Score, the editor of The Wiccan, had a vested interest in uncritically endorsing the Lugh material. Score thanked me profusely for 'legitimising' the Gardnerian tradition, Doreen jumped on the bandwagon and asked permission to include my claims in her next book. She gives her version of this request on P199 of 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft.'
The critics who were haranguing the beleaguered Wiccans soon vent their spleen on 'Lugh.' The apparent endorsement of Gardner's claims in the early Lugh articles confused many commentators. Leo Martello decided that Doreen Valiente was 'Lugh.' Even Aidan Kelly, the unsung Craft historian, believes that 'Lugh' was "purposely creating a phoney history in order to throw researchers off the trail." (P1 74 'Crafting the Art of Magic')
The initial euphoria soon subsided as the Gardnerian hierarchy realised that my Elders were not intent on vindicating Wiccan practices. It was never the intention of my informants to substantiate Gardner's claims. Despite their terse and confrontational style, they were trying to be fair and even-handed with the knowledge they wanted to impart. Gardner had trained with covens with traditional overtones! However, he did create his own version of witchcraft and tried to pass it off as the witch cult eulogised by Margaret Murray. We are not supposed to question how the God of the mediaeval Craft became the Goddess of Gardner's neo-pagan religion.
Crowley's influence on Gardner should not be minimised. In 1914 Aleister Crowley wrote to Frater Achad suggesting the formation of a new 'natural religion' dedicated to sun worship and the Great Mother Goddess. He envisaged rites at the full and new moon, seasonal festivals to celebrate the sun and moon, and monthly meetings to honour a lunar phase. Does this sound familiar? It is hardly surprising that Gardner should choose to implement Crowley's dream. Both men had been exposed to salient features of the Pickingill Nine ritual nudity at the full moon, scourging at induction rites for a nude neophyte, female leaders who conducted the circle, and an idealised Divine Woman who was worshipped as the GODDESS. This may be the reason why Gardner joined Druidic Orders, He was interested in solar observations, seasonal festivals, and the rites of Arianrhod and Cerridwen.
Doreen Valiente corresponded with Alan Greenfield in 1986, and raised an interesting point in one letter: "I have a remarkable little book by Jack Parsons called Magick, Gnosticism and The Witchcraft. It is unfortunately undated, but Parsons died in 1952. The section on witchcraft is particularly interesting because it looks forward to a revival of witchcraft as the Old Religion I find this very thought provoking. Did Parsons write this around the time that Crowley was getting together with Gardner and perhaps communicated with the California group to tell them about it?'
It is unfortunate that Doreen Valiente did not share these suspicions with her readers in 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft.' (Phoenix 1989) She has always tried to distance Gardner from Crowley. Doreen expunged most of Crowley's material from the Book of Shadows. 'Old Gerald' had padded his concocted rituals with Crowley's writings after he was chartered to establish an O.T.O Chapter. He looked forward to a New Religion for the New Aeon.
Doreen Valiente categorically denied in 'An A.B.C of Witchcraft Past and Present' that Crowley had ever been a witch. The publication of the Lugh articles may have prompted Doreen's memory; she recalled that Gardner had told her that Crowley was a witch in his youth.
Doreen's attempt to disassociate Wicca from Crowley's influence is highlighted by a rebuttal of a 'Lugh' claim. The problem here is one of semantics rather than fact. Doreen seized on a loosely-worded claim that Crowley "..dutifully copied the present Book of shadows," My Elders were not alluding to the 'present version' which reflects Valiente's creative genius. They were attempting to explain that when Crowley copied set rituals in his very own handwriting it was the first ever 'Gardnerian' ritual book. In short, it was the prototype of the Wiccan Book of Shadows.
Folk witches and rural cunning people have never relied on written rituals. They had collections of psalms, snatches of dog latin, 'barbarous words' from grimoires, and other ploys to impress the incredulous. Natural witchcraft is spontaneous. Traditional witches believed that remembering set passages interfered with their concentrated will. If, and when, a coven situation existed then meetings and inductions were conducted on an extempore basis. Both Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner did the Craft a great disservice by postulating an organised religion with a supposed coven structure. The insistence by Gardner and Sanders on a three-tiered hierarchical grouping with its emphasis on apostolic succession has enabled sex perverts and power junkies to exploit the gullible. The true spirit of witchcraft exudes joy and spontaneity. Witches should do whatever they feel like doing, provided they can live comfortably with themselves afterwards. Self-initiation was common in the Traditional Craft. It is arguably the best option today. Witches are called inwardly by the Old Gods. You are a witch if you dedicate your life to your faith. If other so-called witches have a problem with your lack of lineage, then it merely shows that their own initiation was a sham. The Lord and the Lady confer all 'initiations'; and reliance on human intervention to award 'degrees' merely boosts one's ego.
Doreen Valiente dismissed the claim that Crowley 'dutifully copied out the present Gardnerian Book of Shadows.' However, the reasons given for her rejection caused reverberations which she could never have envisaged. Doreen explained : "Crowley could not have copied out 'the present Gardnerian Book of Shadows' in 1946, because in its present form it did not exist in 1946. As I have already made clear (I hope), contributed quite a lot to the present Gardnerian 'Book of shadows'; and I had not even met Gerald in 1946.' (P202 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft' Phoenix, 1989)
Doreen's admission was a bombshell to those Wiccans who still clung to the outdated belief that the Gardnerian Book of shadows had been received whole cloth from the New Forest coven. Some 'Hereditary' and 'Celtic' covens were red-faced because Valiente's wording was incorporated into their supposedly traditional rituals. The Alexandrians were upset because it was now impossible to believe that Alex Sanders had received his Book of Shadows from his grandmother.
Despite Doreen's comments about the Pickingill material in 1989, the Gardnerian hierarchy and the Pagan Federation used the Lugh material when it suited their purpose. Wiccan Publications did not ask my permission when they published 'Old George Pickingill and the Roots of Modern Witchcraft' in 1982. They also published 'Medieval Witchcraft and the Freemasons' without my knowledge or permission. Raymond Buckland is supposed to have exploited the Lugh corpus by issuing his own booklet.
To add insult to injury, the following acknowledgment appears on page 111 of 'The Pickingill Papers'.' "The authors would like to thank Leonora James, editor of The Wiccan from 1979 to 1990, Wiccan Publications and the Pagan Federation for their cooperation in the publishing of this book." This was news to me. I had never previously heard of Leonora James or Wiccan Publications, My permission was not sought to approve this acknowledgment.
Leonora James states in her introduction to 'Lugh' (1982) 'We do know from a totally independent source that many of the features attributed in these articles to the medieval Craft in Scandinavia are true of present-day Norwegian witchcraft." (Cited (4) P110 'The Pickingill Papers')
Leonora James also researched the Pickingill family in the halcyon days when 'The Wiccan' and the Pagan Federation needed the Lugh material to shield Gardner and Wicca from mounting criticism. She established that George Pickingill was born at Hockley, the first child of Charles Pickingill and Susannah Cudner. He was baptized on the 26th May 1816. A man named George Pettingale was buried at Canewdon on the 14th April 1909. His age was recorded as 103. James suggests there could be some confusion here between 'Old George' and his elder son who was his namesake. Her research established that Pickingill, Pickingale, Pettingale and Pittengale were variants of the surname. She speculated that the daughter of the famous Essex wizard Cunning Murrell, Ann Pett, may have married into the Pickingills. ('Lugh', 1982)'
Mike Howard thinks that the George Pettingale buried in 1909 is the Essex wizard George Pickingill. He attributes the discrepancy to the sloppiness of rural records. ((3) P14/15 'The Pickingill Papers') I have reservations about this identification. Charles Lefebure claimed that 'Old George' died in 1906. My kinsmen have never searched the parish records. They were convinced that the Church would never bury George Pickingill in hallowed ground. The local clergy vilified him and had attempted to remove him from the district.
The strong possibility exists that George Pickingill, the famous Rom horse whisperer, is the 'George Pettingale' who was buried on the 14th April 1909. This George Pickingill was born on the 23rd December 1803 in either Suffolk or Norfolk. He would have been 105 in April 1909. This George Pickingill had retired to the Hundred of Dengie, which adjoins the Hundred of Rochford in which Canewdon is situated. Pickingill sons were named for English kings; George, William and Charles were the most common forenames. There is nothing improbable in having three George Pickingills living just a few miles apart. The churchwardens and the parishioners of St. Nicholas' church in Canewdon would never have permitted their vicar to bury the George Pickingill in their churchyard. This was the satanist who allegedly conducted sex orgies in their churchyard. It seems more plausible to suggest that the son, or the innocuous Rom horse-whisperer, is the George Pettingale buried at Canewdon. The recorded age of 103 suggests it could have been the ancient horse-whisperer rather than George Jnr. 'Pettingale' may have been substituted for Pickingill as a sop to the sensitivities of the parishioners and the other villagers.
It seems eminently feasible that 'Old George' Pickingill lies in an unmarked and unhallowed grave. However, his input into the pagan revival is his epitaph. I have less of a problem with the claim that "Pickingill collaborated with pseudo-Rosicrucians to compile the G.D rituals", than with the story about the forged Rogan manuscripts.
It is a great pity that my Brethren were bent on effect rather than fact. The allegation that 'Old George' had a specific input into the Golden Dawn rituals becomes less outrageous when their viewpoint is clarified.
Hargrave Jennings was not a founding member of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia However, he was soon asked to join this assembly of Master Masons who were interested in magic, the Cabbala, and the Classical Mysteries. Jennings inveigled Pickingill into drafting some instruction exercises in the Tree of Life, the Cabbala, geomancy, astrology and the tarot. These exercises were incorporated into training manuals which were intended for use. Unfortunately, the S.R.I.A members were Master Masons who enjoyed reading about and discussing the esoteric sciences, They were not prepared to undertake practical work. Three of the four founder-members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn had held high office in the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. The training manuals from the archives of the S.R.I.A were appropriated by the Golden Dawn, S.L MacGregor Mathers utilised much of the material in these manuals when he drafted most of the Golden Dawn rituals. The principal magical technique he borrowed from Pickingill was to have the magician reverse into the Tree of Life to expediate access to the Astral Plane. George Pickingill acquired this technique from his mentor Shewell, and also from the cunning Lodges. This link between the S.R.I.A and its Golden Dawn offshoot is the reason behind the incomprehensible claim : "It is no exaggeration to claim that Pickingill's machinations materially influenced the founding of the S.R.A (in 1865) and the GD in 1888." (P39 'The Pickingill Papers')
The allegation "that Pickingill's machinations materially influenced the founding of the S.R.A (in 1865) "caused me disquiet. Francis King stated that the S.R.I.A was founded in 1865. It is generally accepted that Jean Rogan did not die until 1866. This caused an insurmountable credibility problem. Hargrave Jennings and George Pickingill could not have colluded to amend papers from the estate of the deceased Rogan in 1865. (See P39/40 'The Pickingill Papers) However, there may yet be the usual element of truth in the more sensational claims of my Brethren. Recent research suggests that the inaugural meeting of the S.R.I.A was 1867.
Informed opinion maintains that the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia was founded by Robert Wentworth Little in 1865. He supposedly discovered some ancient manuscripts in Freemasons' Hall. This was a most fortuitous discovery. Some Master Masons with esoteric interests were anxious to form a Rosicrucian Lodge. Little's manuscripts bore a resemblance to a German Rosicrucian Order, The coterie of English Master Masons became the nucleus of the S.R.I.A after Kenneth McKenzie claimed he had been given permission by some hereditary Rosicrucians in Germany to form a Lodge in England. (It appears that there are hereditary Rosicrucians as well as hereditary witches.)
R.W Little now had 'German' Rosicrucian manuscripts and the supposed permission of German Rosicrucians to found an English Rosicrucian Society. The obvious parallel with the subsequent foundation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn may not be coincidental. My cynical Brethren were convinced that both the S.R.I.A and the Golden Dawn used forged documents to achieve a spurious lineage. The reliance on forged charters or manuscripts to authenticate magical orders was arguably more prevalent than is realised.
It is known that Little was initiated into a Scottish 'Rosicrucian' Lodge to provide a credible background for the S.R.I.A. Jennings arranged for a continental friend to purchase some supposedly authentic Rosicrucian manuscripts from the estate of the recently deceased Jean Rogan. Little, and other Master Masons with occult pretensions, sighted the bill of sale for the manuscripts from Rogan's estate. These documents were declared genuine. Jennings and Pickingill substituted several manuscripts which they had fabricated. Rogan was widely credited with owning a cache of authentic Rosicrucian manuscripts. He pioneered the extraordinary theory that Freemasonry had been invented by English Rosicrucians in the 17th century.
Nowhere in the Lugh corpus were the Rogan manuscripts identified with the 'Rosicrucian' documents so providentially unearthed by R.W Little in Freemasons' Hall. The English-based S.R.I.A rejected the authority of the Scottish parent Lodge. This may have had something to do with the supposed Rogan manuscripts and the alleged dispensation from German Rosicrucians. Everything depends on whether the inaugural meeting of the S.R.I.A actually occurred in 1867 or 1865. George Pickingill influenced both the S.R.I.A and the golden Dawn with his 'training manuals.' Jennings would influence P.B Randolph and thus the O.T.O. Both Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner would benefit from Pickingill's Craft expertise by joining sister covens of the Nine Covens.
It may be unfair to lambaste Gerald Gardner for the wholesale plundering of Masonic, Rosicrucian and Golden Dawn rituals. Craft commentators have ignored the obvious parallels between Wicca and The Great Brotherhood of God (G.B.G). Francis King claims that the G.B.G "was an independent magical order, led by Russell and teaching an odd variation of the systems used in the Golden Dawn and Crowley's O.T.O." (P160 'Modern Ritual Magic', Prism, 1989)
The G.B.G was founded by one of Crowley's disciples. It comprised three degrees and enjoined sex magic as the surest means of attaining to the knowledge of one's Holy Guardian Angel. Gardner appears to have borrowed the Wiccan god/ess arm positions directly from the G.B.G rituals. Sexual activity was mandatory at third degree level.
Gardner may have been familiar with the rituals of P.B Randolph's Rosicrucian Brotherhood. Crowley would have been aware of this magical order. The O.T.O drew much of its sex magic from this source. Randolph's magical Brotherhood comprised three degrees and combined sex magic with Rosicrucian and Masonic rites, It was said to be loosely based on the Eleusinian Mysteries.
'Old Gerald' Gardner was inordinately interested in the Graeco-Roman Mystery Schools. An entire chapter in 'Witchcraft Today' is devoted to the Greek Mysteries and their alleged influence on witchcraft. Gardner's visit to the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii is highlighted.
Doreen Valiente tries to link Wiccan practices with the Classical Mysteries (P129 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft') The caption on the top illustration reads "Drawing down the Moon. A sketch made by Gerald Gardner from a Greek vase, c 200 BC." Two nude women with drawn weapons are supposedly drawing down the moon. It is a pity that Gardner did not supply the provenance and present whereabouts of this vase. Gardner may have understood the classical concept of drawing down the moon, but he was too much of a Victorian gentleman to spell it out. All ancient races feared the lunar cycles in the female body : fertility and sterility. J.W Brodie-Innes, a prominent member of the Golden Dawn, contributed witchcraft articles in 'The Occult Review' in 1917. He claims :"The spells in vogue in Scotland or in England three hundred years ago, and of which we find perhaps only a few obscure traces existing today, may be much more clear and definite in Brittany or the Channel Islands. Others again still farther afield. When I was writing The Devil's Mistress I found in the Confession of Isabel Goudie distinct traces, but no more, of the 'moon paste.' But what it was, and how prepared, no testimony in this country gave the smallest clue. Hints in Hesiod, and other classical authors, showed that the formula was used in Thessaly, and Medieval Italians spoke of bringing the moon down from Heaven. Still they eluded me, till at last Iran it to earth in Morocco, as recorded in the notes of Emile Mauchamp and others, The key fitted exactly; not only Isobel Goudie but the Thessalian witches were justified by the experience of a modern scientific traveller." (P148 R.A Gilbert 'The Sorcerer and His Apprentice', Aquarian Press, 1983)
J.W Brodie-Innes (1848-1923) formulated theories which would be seized on by Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner. He writes: "I shall therefore for the most part confine myself to cases [of witchcraft] that I can personally vouch for, and of these the most interesting to the student are those which show the survival of forms current in the Middle Ages, or in remote classical times." (P143) Gardner did not have far to look when he decided to found a pagan religion which claimed an historical continuity with both the Classical Mysteries and the mediaeval witch cult. Gardner derived the Wiccan concept of Drawing down the Moon from traditional Craft: the Magister, who is the consort of the Goddess, calls down the Moon on the Lady; and the Lady, who is the Bride of the God, calls down the sun on the Magister.
Gardner appears to be all at sea when citing the murals from the villa of Mysteries at Pompeii. He wanted the public to believe that this was the source of scourging in the modern Craft. Doreen Valiente obligingly depicts several of these scenes on page 129 of 'The Rebirth of Witchcraft.' The caption reads "Scenes of the initiation ordeal and its joyous conclusion from the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii. From a guidebook, formerly the property of Gerald Gardner and now in the collection of the author." Two garbed females watch a winged goddess, who is stripped to the waist, scourge a partially clad female whose back and buttocks are exposed. There is not a male in sight! The neophyte is neither bound nor blindfolded! The next scene shows the neophyte apparently dancing joyously. She is completely nude except for a veil-like garment nonchalantly draped over one shoulder. The woman who appears to be divesting her of this last garment looks suspiciously like the woman who held her during the scourging.
Gerald Gardner set out to create a mystery school and needed classical precedents to bolster his claims. Crowley favoured this enterprise; his own interest in the Eleusinian Mysteries is well documented. Critics have correctly claimed that Crowley denigrated witchcraft and witches. However, C.R Cammell has provided a plausible explanation for Crowley's assisting Gardner with advice and relevant documents. Cammell says of his close friend Aleister: "Eleusis was the natural goal of Crowley's aspiring. In Orpheus he had foreshadowed the new religion of hope, love and beauty." (P72 'Aleister Crowley The Black Magician', N.E.L. 1969)
Wicca exudes freedom and joyous abandon. It is essentially a religion and a religious experience. This is why Wicca bears so little resemblance to the traditional forms of Witchcraft. Witches seek to manipulate Nature to achieve a material objective.
My Brethren were adamant that Gardner had a legitimate link with the vaunted New Forest coven. However, there is endless controversy as to the exact nature and background of his parent coven. Frederic Lamond, a prominent member of the Pagan Federation, claimed in 'Talking Stick': "Gardner himself told his biographer Jack Bracelin (J Bracelin : Gerald Gardner, Witch) that he had been initiated into the secret inner witchcraft core of the Crotona Fellowship, a Co-Mason lodge based in Christchurch, Hants..... his sponsor was a music teacher - Mrs Woodford-Grimes - whom my initiatrix and later HPS Dayonis met. The Crotona Fellowship's existence in Christchurch in The late 930's has been checked and confirmed by historians; whether an inner core tried to resurrect witchcraft rites is more difficult to prove, but according to Cecil Williamson most magical lodges of The time were trying out witchcraft techniques because of the popularity of Margaret Murray's theories."
Very little about The New Forest coven can be substantiated. The problem is that Gardner told different stories to different initiates when pressed for factual information. He claimed to have been initiated in Old Dorothy's home. When pestered for Old Dorothy's surname he claimed she was Dorothy Clutterbuck. Gardner told some initiates he had been initiated by Dafo (Mrs Edith Woodford-Grimes), who was the Maiden of 'New Forest.' In Lamond's account this lady sponsored Gardner into the Crotona Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. Dafo is The only tangible link between Wicca and The New Forest coven. Doreen Valiente was initiated by Gerald Gardner in Dafo's Christchurch home. It is a pity that we were not told whether other members of the New Forest coven attended Doreen's induction into 'Wica.' One could assume That only Dafo, Gardner and Doreen were present. This natural assumption raises distinct problems. Did 'New Forest' disband after Old Dorothy's death in 1951? Did Dafo and Gardner leave the coven after a dispute?
Dafo must have accepted nudity and scourging as Craft rituals when she attended Doreen's initiation. One assumes that Dafo acted as Gardner's High Priestess at Doreen's induction, Indeed, Gardner assured some of his initiates that Dafo had become the High Priestess of The New Forest coven. This begs The question: did Dafo's parent coven use nudity and scourging as Gardner claimed?
It is ludicrous to imagine That there was a 'secret inner witchcraft core' in any Co-Masonic lodge. A distinction should be made between the Crotona Fellowship of the Rosy Cross and any lodge established by Mabel Besant-Scott. The Crotona Fellowship was founded by Alexander Sullivan, It combined Rosicrucian fantasies with Freemasonry. In 1938 Sullivan and Mrs Mabel Besant-Scott founded The Rosicrucian Theatre in Christchurch. They produced plays which featured The druids and Pythagoras.
Gardner's story was That a group of Co-Masons had followed Mabel Besant-Scott to Hampshire in the 1930's, She was a leader in the Co-Masonic movement, a member of the Esoteric Section, and the daughter of Annie Besant, the Theosophical leader. We are asked to believe that middle-aged, middle-class Theosophists and Co-Masons danced naked in the woods, performed the Great Rite, and resurrected the witch cult in accordance with Margaret Murray's quaint theories. Most of the Co-Masons at The time were recruited from The Theosophical Society. The majority were members of the Esoteric Section. They had pledged their lives to the service of Blavatsky's Eastern Masters. Australian Theosophists and Co-Masons contributed funds to build an amphitheatre in Sydney so that the Elect could watch The Lord Maitreya walk across the water as He entered Sydney Heads. Their English counterparts awaited the New Millennium and The Advent of the Lord Maitreya. Do these delightfully ga-ga spiritual disciples appear to be likely witch material?
It is more likely that the New Forest coven was recruited from the Christchurch Theatre and the Crotona Fellowship of The Rosy Cross. Dafo and Gardner mat have been the only Co-Masons in the witch group. It requires a remarkable flight of imagination to visualise Theosophists and Co-Masons scourging nude neophytes.
My Brethren assured me that the rites of 'New Forest' incorporated ritual nudity, bound scourging, excerpts and practices derived from ceremonial magic, the dance-and-drop technique, thumb-pricking, the soaking and retention of The measure, dedicating the neophyte to a French God by pledging everything between The crown and the soles to HIS service, and some shamanic techniques. They confirmed that 'New Forest' was a curious mixing of local 'traditional' witches and a middle-class intelligentsia with magical pretensions.
The New Forest coven certainly emulated the practices outlined by Margaret Murray. There was The traditional Black Book of the devil's art. The witch took a new name. Blood was drawn. The so-called witches 'mark' would become 'signing' The witch with symbols peculiar to Wicca, Ointments were allegedly used. The method of dedicating the witch was supposedly traditional. An oath was extracted. The presentation of the witch to The quarters may have been inspired by The presentation of the candidate to the 'Devil.' (The Wiccan equivalent is clearly based on Masonic and Golden Dawn rituals.) The mandatory sexual induction is reflected in the Great Rite. The three admission rites mentioned by Murray have become The three degrees. The Wiccan meal perpetuates the concept of the witches' banquet. The Kiss of Shame has become the Five Fold Kiss. Witches were frequently consecrated to the Devil in a magic circle. The Devil's reading instructions to the assembled witches may be The basis for the Charge and The Legend. Margaret Murray believed that scourging was a feature of The Witch Cult.
Internal evidence suggests that my Brethren were right to classify 'New Forest' as a God-oriented coven. Margaret Murray was amenable to writing a foreword for Gardner's book because she, at least, recognised The traditional hallmarks of The Witch Cult. Gardner had access to several covens with traditional pretensions and a Cunning Lodge. The use of cords derives from the French Craft, via the Pickingill Nine. The Cathars, Templars and Waldensians also wore cords/girdles. The use of ceremonial magic could be partly traditional. Gardner's Cunning Lodge used quasi-Masonic rituals and symbolism, together with ceremonial magic.
Aidan Kelly could not believe that English traditional witches used Judaeo-Christian ceremonial magic. This merely illustrates how ill-prepared he was to discuss English witchcraft. Kelly also dismisses 'The Warning' which features in the Book of Shadows. He cannot believe that it is traditional. There is evidence, of a sort, in 'The Warlock's Book' compiled by Peter Haining. This evidence seems too good to be true.
The preface of Haining's book reads:"From The first page of a sixteenth-century Black Magic grimoire believed to have belonged to a Scottish warlock and now lodged in the British Museum. "Keep a book in thine own hand of write. Let brothers and sisters copy what they will but never let this book out of thy hands and never keep the writings of another, for if it be found in Their own hand of write they will be taken and tortured, Each should guard his own writings and destroy them whenever danger threaten. Learn as much as ye may by heart and when danger is past rewrite thy book. For This reason if any die, destroy their book if they have not been able to do so, for if it be found, 'tis clear proof against Them. "Ye may not be a warlock alone', so all their friends be in danger of the torture, so destroy everything unnecessary. If thy book be found on thee, 'tis clear proof against thee, thou mayst be tortured."
There is another lengthy paragraph which discloses a remarkable verbal identity with Gardner's text. Gardner needed this 'Warning' to explain the singular absence of a pre-existing copy of his Book of Shadows. Peter Haining would have us believe that the Black Book he postulates "was painstakingly preserved through several generations by hand-copying - and was compiled in such a way that, with a little basic instruction from another practitioner, even an illiterate witch could devise from its symbols and codes the secrets of Black Magic." He suggests that this supposed book "contained characters, circles, exorcisms, and conjurations." Grimoires were smuggled out of Church libraries after the fall of Constantinople and the suppression of the monasteries. Many Spell Books were compiled from these grimoires. Gerald Gardner had a selective grasp of history. Not only did he neglect to mention the shady ancestry of his Book of Shadows, but he denied That the Danes and Saxons had any witches of their own.
Julia Philipps mentioned at The 1991 Wiccan Conference Gardner's own derivation of Wicca:"As they (the Dane and Saxon invaders of England) had no witches of their own they had no special name for them; however, they made one up from 'wig' an idol, and 'laer', learning, 'Wiglaer' which they shortened into 'Wicca.'
"It is a curious fact That when the witches became English speaking they adopted their Saxon name, 'Wica.'
Julia was quoting from 'The Meaning of Witchcraft.' It is no wonder that modern witches have such an imperfect knowledge of Craft history. Gardner's extraordinary bias has led them up the garden path. Not only did he espouse Margaret Murray's concept of a centralised Fertility Religion, but he totally ignored the important contributions made by Saxon and Scandinavian witchcraft.
Julia's talk was a fair and well-balanced appraisal. However, there are some points I must address. Julia breached accepted Craft ethics by revealing my name to the Conference when she knew it was not in the public domain. Mike Howard, Doreen Valiente and John Score respected my anonymity. She Then claimed: "Mike Howard still has some of Liddell's material which he has never published, and I have yet to meet anyone within the British Craft who gives credence to Liddell's claims." The inference appears to be that Mike had refused to publish this material, Mike has since published most of this material. Indeed, Mike Howard made an overture to me which resulted in the publication of 'The Pickingill Papers.'
Julia Then cast doubts on the purported photograph of Old George Pickingill. She cited an article in Issue 31 of Insight magazine which claimed that the subject of the photograph was actually a station porter named Alf Cavill, Julia did concede: "A very respected Craft authority has told me that he believes the photo, which is in his possession, to be of Pickingill, but like so much to do with Craft history, there is no definitive answer to this one."
Mike is the 'Very respected Craft authority' who holds Pickingill's photograph. He received it from 'Granny' Garner when he visited Canewdon in 1977. Mrs Garner knew Old George Pickingill when she was a child. It seems feasible that it is a likeness of 'Old George.' The provenance is right, and it is difficult to see why 'Granny' Garner would have lied to Mike.
Julia then claimed: "The very idea of Pickingill, an illiterate farm labourer, coordinating and supervising nine covens across The breadth of the UK is staggering." (P7) I challenge Julia to show me where it states in The Lugh text that Pickingill coordinated and supervised the nine covens. This was Julia's own assumption!
Doubt was then cast on the claim That Alan Bennett and Aleister Crowley were Pickingill's pupils. Bennett was supposedly The pupil. Crowley was reported as visiting Pickingill on several occasions. Col. Lawrence has subsequently claimed that Lydia, his great-grandmother, met Crowley when she visited George Pickingill.
I wholeheartedly agree with Julia that none of the claims of my Brethren has been substantiated. However, I took umbrage when she stated: "and when pushed, he retreats into the time honoured favourite of, 'I can't reveal that - you're not an initiate,"' This glib remark is unworthy of Julia, and detracts from the overall tenor of her talk. At no time have I written or spoken the remarks that Julia attributed to me. She is obviously recalling the inane responses one hears from other English Wiccans. Mind you, This sort of nonsense is not unknown in Australia.
Two Australian Craft figures accepted the validity of many claims in the Lugh corpus. The late Simon Goodman always spoke of Wicca as the Pickingill Craft. Tim Ryan (aka Robin Fletcher) falsely claimed to be a Pickingill Magister. Neither Goodman nor Ryan was ever a Pickingill initiate.
An informant has sighted the BoS of Goodman's 'Sussex' tradition and states it is basically Alexandrian with Irish god names. She confirms that Goodman read copies of my articles in The Wiccan and decided to claim a Pickingill lineage. (Personal correspondence 5/3/1997)
The late Simon Goodman claimed that he was initiated into the Conventus Quercus coven, which was run in Perth by Paul Morley. This coven claimed that it originated from a parent group in The Etchingham area of Sussex. Morley had run a Mouni Sadhu group in New Zealand before settling in Perth. However, he had become an hereditary witch when he touted for students in Perth.
Goodman was also associated with an Alexandrian coven run by David Paltrige (Jesse). This group broke up in 1972. Goodman's partner in the Conventus Quercus was known variously as Faye Cubbon, Helen Cubbon, Helen Walker and Helena Bartlett. Goodman and his partner, who had as many names as the Goddess, ran their own coven until they separated in 1975. The Grand Council of Alexandrian Elders gave Simon Goodman a Charter to initiate others in Australia. Goodman always admitted that he had not been actually initiated as an Alexandrian. However, he had letters from Alex and Maxine which lent credibility to his claims. To his credit, Simon does not appear to have claimed that he was initiated into the Pickingill Craft. However, Tim Ryan (aka Robin Fletcher) had no such qualms.
Robin Fletcher claimed on page 9 of issue 3 of the Veneficia magazine, dated March 1989: "... we are currently preparing a course entitled : Inner Mysteries of Pickingill Craft." Some of Fletcher's dupes have given me copies of the supposed Pickingill rituals, The Pickingill covens have no written rituals! (None of the traditional covens use set written rituals.) The supposed Inner Pickingill meditation techniques originated in Fletcher's fertile imagination.
Fletcher assured his dupes that his druidic mentor Bev was really a Celtic fairy who was 500 years old. That's nothing. Bev and her entourage lived in Kew in Melbourne. Bev and Fabian assured startled pagans in Melbourne that the principal gateway to The Underworld was located on the Kew Golf course. And to Think that Julia Philipps described some of my claims as being from cloudcuckoo land.
'Rhiannon Ryall' was also taken in by Robin Fletcher, who had received a backdoor initiation from one of Simon Goodman's initiates. Fletcher was as keen on the Sussex Craft as any of Goodman's disciples. Ryall was obviously influenced by Fletcher when she wrote in 'Celtic Lore and Druidic Ritual,' that the Sussex Craft originated from a merging 'in very far off days' between the Wessex Craft (created by the druids) and the Tuatha De Danaan tradition from Ireland. This would certainly explain the Irish god names! She goes on to say: "There is the theory that Old George Pickingill was Sussex Craft, but as he died before the First World War, there is no way of discovering whether this is in fact correct," Oh yes There is! I will categorically state that Ryall's statement is unadulterated balderdash! She concludes: "I have been told by those more learned than myself that The British Alexandrian tradition of Witchcraft was set up so that the most promising, when they reached the so-called Third Degree, could then be taken into First Degree Sussex Craft..." That explains why Goodman's BoS was Alexandrian! Let me state unequivocally that neither Simon Goodman nor Robin Fletcher had any connection whatever with a Pickingill coven.