Williamson, Cecil (September 18, 1909—1996) - Witchcraft Hall of Fame

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Williamson, Cecil (September 18, 1909—1996)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame

Cecil Williamson was a life-long student of witchcraft and the founder of the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle, Cornwall.

He was born in Paignton, Devon. His father was a naval officer; he and Cecil’s mother traveled extensively. Cecil was sent to boarding schools and spent holidays with various relatives.

At age 7, Williamson was bullied mercilessly at school by another boy, to the point where Williamson would hide in hedgerows to escape him. One day, he met an elderly woman who taught him to cast a spell to rid himself of his tormentor. It worked; the other boy suffered an accident and left off tormenting Williamson. Not long after, he discovered a bunch of drunken men attempting to strip the same old lady of her clothing. The boy made a fuss and the men explained she was a witch and they were looking for her “devil’s tit.” Cecil, although still a young child, attempted to protect her. The ruckus attracted his uncle’s attention and the men retreated. The woman later began teaching Cecil magic.

Williamson’s grandmother, who lived in France, was a well-known astrologer. Through her he met Aleister Crowley, Margaret Murray, and the vampirologist Montague Summers. His parents lived for a time in the New Forest where Cecil met many witches including Gardner’s Dorothy Clutterbuck. He began researching witchcraft in 1930 and continued to do so for the rest of his life.

During World War II, Williamson worked for MI6, the British intelligence service. As an occultist, he researched Nazi involvement with the occult.

Margaret Murray introduced Williamson to Gerald Gardner in 1947. In 1949, Williamson opened the Witchcraft Research Centre in the old Witches’ Mill in Castletown, Isle of Man. He had originally wished to house his collection in Stratford-on-Avon and had been offered a building, but local disapproval of a museum devoted to witchcraft was so intense that he went to the Isle of Man instead.

Gardner joined Williamson and became (temporarily) the museum’s “official witch.” He stayed with Williamson for three moths before a financial dispute caused him to purchase his own cottage near the museum. The two had a falling out but when Williamson decided to return to England, Gardner purchased the building from him (although not the collection). Williamson tried various places to house his collection until arriving in Boscastle, Cornwall, where the Museum of Witchcraft remains.