Witchcraft Hall of Fame
Within these pages you will find a variety of witches, sorcerers, magicians, alchemists, and spiritual leaders. Some embrace the title “witch”; others would be appalled to be associated with witchcraft. Some are names you would expect to find here; others may be shocking in their inclusion.
Are the following portraits representative of the history of witchcraft? No.
There are a disproportionate number of men. The history of male magicians, particularly astrologers, alchemists, and High Ceremonial magicians is very well documented: their names, histories, and achievements are well known. Female practitioners, especially folk magicians, herbalists, and healers have typically labored in obscurity. Often their very names are unknown.
Witchcraft, along with its related arts, has largely been forbidden for the past two thousand years. The few who practiced relatively publicly tended to be male, well educated and either wealthy or under the protection of powerful and prominent people. The vast majority who practiced discreetly has no left record of their actions. Those who embrace a more theatrical vision of witchcraft (Aleister Crowley, for instance) have far more recognition than their peers who hewed to discretion (for example, Franz Bardon).
When Gerald Gardner published Witchcraft Today in 1954, he initiated a new phenomenon: the witch or practitioner as author and teacher. Since then, thousands of books have been published, delineating all facets of witchcraft, Wicca, the magical arts, and Neo-Paganism.
Now at the dawning of the twenty-first century, for the first time, many, particularly solitary practitioners, learn arts and traditions from books. This is history in the making; space precludes closer examination. The following list includes but a few of many prominent, influential authors:
Stephanie Rose Bird
Stewart and Janet Farrar
Wherever possible, accurate dates of birth and death are offered for the practitioners below; however in some cases this is just not possible. Births were not always recorded; some dates are problematic. Sometimes various dates are offered and sometimes no date can even be conjectured. Some alchemists may or may not be immortal, thus rendering possible dates of death irrelevant.
Abei no Seimei (c.921—1005 CE)
Abei no Seimei, renowned magician, exorcist, astrologer, and diviner of Japan’s Heian Era (c.794—1192 CE), is the subject of countless stories and legends. He is sometimes described as the Japanese Merlin although documented historical records for Abei no Seimei do exist, dating to 960. There is no doubt he existed. There are, however, as many tales of Abei no Seimei as there are of Merlin and these remain very popular in Japan.
His birth name was Hauraki Abei. His birthplace is generally acknowledged as Abeno-ku in Osaka, although different towns compete for the honor. He lived much of his life in Kyoto.
According to legend, Abei no Seimei was the son of a fox spirit (see ANIMALS: Foxes): his mother reputed to be a white fox rescued from hunters by Abei’s father. Abei’s extraordinary powers manifested in childhood: he could see spirits, converse with birds and visited a dragon’s palace. Abei no Seimei served six emperors. His specialty was lifting curses.
Abei no Seimei, is considered the ultimate master of Onmyo-Do, which literally means “the way of Onmyo.” (See DICTIONARY: Onmyoji.)
Demonstrating the difference in attitudes toward magicians in Japan and in contemporaneous Europe, after his death Abei no Seimei was considered a saint and divine soul. He still continues to help others at his shrines in Kyoto and Osaka. Two years after his death, the Japanese Emperor built the Seimei Jinjya shrine in his honor at Abeno-ku, Osaka. Every September an annual festival honors Abei no Seimei there.
Some Onmyoji (practitioners of Onmyo-Do) remain dedicated to Abei no Seimei’s teachings. Abei’s other shrine is the Seimei Shrine on Horikawa Avenue in Kyoto, where Onmyoji are available for consultations and exorcisms.
Onmyoji, directed by Yojiro Takita, was Japan’s box-office king in 2001. It recounts some of the adventures of Abei no Seimei, as does its follow-up, Onmyoji II (2004). Enough legends of Abei no Seimei exist to fill many more sequels.
Agrippa von Nettesheim, Henricus Cornelius (September 14, 1486—1535)
Cornelius Agrippa was the leading occultist of the sixteenth century and among the most influential magicians of all time. His influence is felt over High Ceremonial magic as it is over folk magic. His Three Books of Occult Philosophy is the cornerstone of Western occult tradition.
Agrippa was legendary in his own time and continues to be: many believe him to be the prototype for legends of Dr Faust. He lived at a time when it was deathly dangerous to be an occultist, and he spent most of his life just one step ahead of witch-hunters.
Henricus Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim was born of noble parentage in Cologne. His family, the von Nettesheims, had served the royal house of Austria for generations. However, in his writings Agrippa almost exclusively referred to himself only as “Cornelius Agrippa” and he is most commonly known that way today—or even as just plain Agrippa.
In 1499, he entered the University of Cologne where he read Plato and Plotinus. His interest in the occult manifested at an early age, perhaps inspired by Albertus Magnus, reputedly another master magician, whose work Agrippa studied and who is buried in Cologne. From the start, Agrippa was independently minded with an incorrigible thirst for knowledge.
He spent time in Italy studying Hermeticism and Kabalah with Jewish masters (and acknowledged them!) at a time when the Church suggested Kabalah was diabolical. He was among the founding fathers of Cabalah, the Christian variation of the Jewish mystical tradition.
Agrippa consorted and traveled with Romany. He studied with Abbot Trithemius of Sponheim with whom he shared an interest in contacting planetary spirits. Shortly after staying with Trithemius in c.1509, Agrippa composed his first book De Occulta Philosophia, though it would not be published for another 20 years.
In his early twenties, Agrippa was sent on a mission to France by Emperor Maximilian I. In Paris he fell in with a group of free-thinking dissident scholars who formed a secret society dedicated to world reform. Agrippa fought for a time with peasants dispossessed of their lands.
Agrippa became professor of Hebrew at the University of Dole, France. A Franciscan monk accused him of heresy (the first of many such accusations) and he quickly left town, beginning a life of wandering. Sometimes he won the patronage of aristocrats who supported him. Other times, he was jailed for debt or for insulting the powerful. He had a sharp tongue and offended many, as when he suggested that nunneries often served as private brothels and that houses of prostitution tended to be located suspiciously close to monasteries.
As a part-time lecturer at a Dutch university, Agrippa expounded on the superiority of the female sex and the wisdom of the Jewish Kabalah. He landed in trouble with Dutch clerics who once again sent him packing.
Agrippa went to London where he worked as an astrologer and taught Hebrew.
He went to Pavia where he lectured on Hermes Trismegistus. Once again, he fell foul of the clergy and had to leave town quickly.
He went to Metz where he was appointed Public Advocate.
Nicholas Savini, Dominican Inquisitor of the Faith at Metz, arrested a peasant girl whose mother had been condemned as a witch. Agrippa as Public Advocate protested that this was irregular procedure as heredity was insufficient evidence for accusation. Despite his efforts, Agrippa was unable to prevent the girl from being tortured; however he was able to secure her acquittal. The result of her acquittal was that those who had initially accused her of witchcraft were fined and Agrippa, in turn, was accused of being a witch.
He got out of town fast, fleeing home to Cologne where he found the Inquisition a little too uncomfortable. He left Cologne and went to Geneva, then to Chambrai, Fribourg, and Lyons supporting himself by practicing medicine. Although not technically a physician, he was extremely knowledgeable and apparently a very skilled healer. During various episodes of the plague, licensed physicians reputedly fled but Agrippa stayed, ministering to the ill, although his primary instruction for others on how to avoid and survive plague was to leave the area immediately. Practicing medicine was the skill that enabled Agrippa to support himself and his family for most of his life.
Agrippa developed a reputation as a sorcerer, magician, and alchemist. He allegedly dabbled in necromancy and divined via crystal balls and magic mirrors. He evolved into something of a bogeyman figure. Mothers would frighten children into obedience by warning that otherwise Agrippa would “get” them.
Margaret of Austria invited Agrippa to the Netherlands; in order to accept, he was obligated to obtain a passport. Upon seeing his request, the Duke of Vendôme tore it up rather than sign it, refusing to sign passports for conjurors.
Many legends sprang up about him. Agrippa was allegedly always accompanied by his big black poodle, Monsieur. Some said he was just crazy about his dog; some suggested Monsieur was his familiar; still others insisted the dog was a disguised demon. According to legend, following Agrippa’s death, the dog jumped into the Saône River and either died or disappeared. Other legends suggested that Agrippa could be in two places at once and that he paid for lodgings with money that later transformed into seashells after Agrippa had left town.
The most famous legend regarding Agrippa involves a visitor who persuaded Agrippa’s wife to let him enter his laboratory while the master was away from home. The visitor, the classic sorcerer’s apprentice, started playing with Agrippa’s books and tools and managed to conjure up a demon who demanded to know why he’d been summoned. The demon was in no mood for amateurs and when Agrippa returned, he discovered the young man dead. Fearing he’d be charged with murder, Agrippa himself summoned the murderous spirit and had the spirit temporarily revive the young man, who was then taken to the marketplace so that he would be witnessed walking around there. He collapsed and finally died for good there in the market.
Considering the era in which he lived, Agrippa himself displayed amazing tolerance for others’ spiritual beliefs, writing that “the rites and ceremonies of religion vary with different times and places and each religion has something good.” His personal motto was “Let no man who might belong to himself belong to another.”
De Occulta Philosophia was published in Antwerp in 1533, despite the Inquisition’s attempts to halt publication. De Occulta Philosophia suggests that the universe is a living being with a soul as well as a carnal body composed of four elements: air, earth, fire, and water. The knowledge of the elemental composition of an object reveals its powers (or, in the language of Agrippa’s time, its “virtues”).
Shortly after his death in Grenoble, a fourth volume was attributed to Agrippa. This book deals mainly with demons and is apparently partly derived from the Lemegeton (see BOOKS: Grimoires). Johann Weyer, Agrippa’s closest follower, denounced this book as a fraud and it is now generally acknowledged that Agrippa did not write that fourth book, or at least not all of it. (When the grimoire The Magus was published in 1801, its compiler and editor Francis Barrett was accused of plagiarizing the Fourth Book of Agrippa.)
Further Reading: Although English translations of Agrippa first appeared in 1651, his work was largely available only in fragments. Finally, in 2003, an eminently readable, clear, lucid translation of Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy was published under the Llewellyn Sourcebook Series, with translations by James Freake and edited and annotated by occult scholar Donald Tyson.
Albertus Magnus (c.1193— November 15, 1280)
Albertus Magnus, Count of Bollstädt, Dominican bishop, alchemist, astrologer, philosopher, scholar, saint, and alleged master magus was born in Lauingen, Swabia to a wealthy family. His date of birth is unknown; various birth years are suggested, as early as 1193 to as late as 1206. (Albertus Magnus indicates Albert the Great. He is also known as Albertus of Cologne.)
Albertus joined the Dominicans, which some perceive as lending him safety in an era when others who shared his reputation and activities were persecuted. He taught at various German universities and went to Paris in 1245 where he attained a great reputation as a scholar. He studied Arabic, Aristotelian, Jewish, and Neo-Platonic philosophy, as well as botany, medicine, and zoology. He was appointed Bishop of Ratisbon in 1260. In 1262, he taught at the University of Cologne, lecturing on Aristotle and Plato (Pagan philosophers, somewhat racy at the time).
Rumors of his magical activities may be why it took so long for him to be made a saint: canonized in 1932, the Vatican initially denied that Albertus had any interest in alchemy and suggested that alchemical treatises attributed to him were forgeries. However, since then, based on analysis of various manuscripts written in what is conclusively his hand, it is now generally acknowledged that he was at least an alchemist, if not also a master magician too.
Words of wisdom from Albertus Magnus include, “The alchemist must be silent and discreet. To no one should he reveal the results of his operations” and “Avoid all contact with princes and rulers.”
Albertus publicly asserted that he did not believe knowledge of magic was harmful. (This was an embarrassment to later writers.) He is acknowledged as the founder of what is now called “planetary magic.” Albertus considered astrology to be the basis for all divination and was a firm believer in the power of engraved gems, crafted to astrological specifications.
Five alchemical treatises and two grimoires (Le Grand Albert and Le Petit Albert) are attributed to him (see BOOKS: Grimoires). These were published in the sixteenth century and deal with alchemy, astrology, and the properties of minerals and plants.
Julius Caesar and Tacitus agreed that all the German tribes they encountered firmly believed in the prophetic powers of women. These prophetesses, the Alraunas, were considered sacred and sometimes divine. The most acclaimed were celebrities of their era; little is known of them, but some names still survive.
Ganna, the “Seer of Semnones,” went to Rome in 91 CE with King Masyas, where they were honored by the Emperor Domitian. (Her name may be related to the Old Germanic gandno, “magic.”)
Veleda sang the Germans into battle during Vespasian’s reign (69—79 CE). She lived near a shrine by the River Lippe and accurately prophesied Germanic victories. Her name, also spelled Weleda, may be related to the root word for “wisdom” and “witch” and may actually be a title. She is described as a member of the Bructeri tribe; after a military defeat, she was captured and taken to Rome in 78 CE, where she was treated with surprising respect, and was housed with the Vestal Virgins. Allegedly, during her tenure in Rome, she served as a translator and negotiator between the Romans and various Germanic tribes. She apparently died in Rome c.80.
Waluberg traveled to Egypt with Germanic troops in the second-century CE. (Walus is an Old German term for a magical staff.)
Bardon, Franz (December 1, 1909—July 10, 1958)
Franz Bardon, a highly influential author and occultist, was born near Opava, now in the Czech Republic, the oldest and only son of thirteen children. His father, Viktor Bardon, was a devout Christian mystic. Allegedly when Franz was 14, his father performed a ritual whereby the soul of a Hermetic adept entered Franz’s body.
Bardon is well known among magical adepts, although largely unknown to the general public. Partly this is a result of his nature: Bardon was a modest, private man. His four books, published in the 1950s, focus on magic rather than on the magician who wrote them.
Bardon’s books teach a complete magical system, described as deriving from Holy Egyptian Mysteries once reserved for the elite few, and taught by Christ to his disciples. All his books have been translated from their original German into English.
Bardon places emphasis on the tangible results of magic as well as on magical theory. Among the influences he cites are Alexandra David-Neel’s work on Tibetan magic and mysticism. Other powerful influences included traditional Jewish Kabalah and the works of Eliphas Levi. He did not cite Aleister Crowley as an influence although Bardon’s motto, “Love is the law but love under a strong will,” obviously compares with Crowley’s (see page 720).
During the 1920s and 1930s, Bardon worked as a stage magician in Germany, using the name Frabato, while pursuing his occult interests. Following the ascension to power of the Nazis in 1933, Masonic and occult organizations were closed and persecuted (although individual occultists were sometimes cultivated by the Third Reich).
According to Bardon’s legend, he was arrested sometime in late 1941 or early 1942 and tortured. When he and a compatriot demonstrated true occult ability, the compatriot was executed but Bardon was offered a position within the Third Reich, which he refused. After the war ended, he returned to what was then Czechoslovakia and worked as a mechanic, naturopath, and graphologist.
Bardon is a classic example of the archetypal “wounded healer.” He was allegedly able to heal cancer patients using his own botanical/alchemical formulas, although he had severe health problems of his own which he was unable to cure, including pancreatic disorders and periods of debilitating overweight.
He fell foul of local medical authorities who felt that he was usurping their positions and cutting in to their income. After his books were published in 1956 foreign visitors, especially from Germany, flocked to see him. He was arrested in Opava early in 1958, although exactly why is unclear. The following are among reasons offered:
Competing physicians accused Bardon of being a Western spy.
He was accused of illegal production of pharmaceuticals (his healing potions).
He was accused of failing to pay taxes on alcohol purchased for herbal extraction.
He was arrested specifically because he was an occultist; scientists wished to experiment on him to determine whether he, in fact, did have special powers.
Bardon, imprisoned in Brno on March 26, 1958, died in jail of unexplained causes. He is buried in Opava. His personal possessions, including many occult articles, were confiscated at his arrest and were never returned to his family.
Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna (August 12, 1831—May 8, 1891)
Author, visionary, occultist, philosopher, Helena Blavatsky was the founder of the Theosophical Movement and often described as the “Mother of the New Age.” Together with Henry Steel Olcott (August 2, 1832—February 17, 1907), she founded the Theosophical Society, responsible for introducing Eastern ideas of reincarnation and karma to Western occultism. She also played a crucial role in disseminating occult and spiritual concepts at the dawning of the twentieth century.
Popularly known as Madame Blavatsky or by her initials, HPB, Helena Petrovna von Hahn was born in Russia to a prominent and wealthy family. Her father was descended from German nobility; her mother, Helena Andreyevna, was a highly regarded novelist, unusual at a time when few women were published. She wrote under the pen name Zenaide R. and was called “the Russian George Sand.” Her grandmother was a Russian princess and noted botanist.
Little Helena spent much time with household servants who taught her Russian folkloric and magical traditions. She was fascinated by magic and ancient spiritual traditions from an early age. Voices spoke to her as a child including those of the stuffed, mounted animals in her grandfather’s private museum.
The countryside where they lived was allegedly shared with Rusalka (see FAIRIES: Nature-spirit Fairies: Rusalka). When not pleased with adult authority, little Helena would threaten to have the Rusalka tickle the offending adult to death.
A local fourteen-year-old boy once annoyed the four-year-old Helena as she was walking beside a riverbank with a nurse. She screamed that the Rusalka would get him so loudly that the boy ran away. He disappeared for several weeks until fishermen discovered his dead body. The official story was that he had been trapped in a whirlpool but local peasants believed that the Rusalka had followed through on Helena’s orders. Even at that early age, she was developing a reputation for magic power that never abated.
She married General Nikephore Blavatsky when she was seventeen; reports of his age range anywhere from 40 to 80; in any case he was much older than her. Three months later, she ran away for reasons unknown but subject to all sorts of speculation. She spent the next years traversing the globe: her activities between 1848 and 1858 are mysterious and fabled—she worked as a concert pianist in Serbia and a bareback rider in a Turkish circus. She worked as a lady’s companion and a spirit medium. In 1856, she was allegedly in India from whence she traveled to Tibet, among the first Europeans to do so. She may or may not have lived in Tibet for seven years.
She traveled back to Russia for a time, where she may or may not have had a son who died in young childhood. Many of her writings are contradictory as are reports allegedly told to other people. She cultivated an aura of mystery and, despite her superficial flamboyance, may have been an intensely private person.
Blavatsky may have fought with Garibaldi in Italy in 1867; she claimed to have been wounded by bullets and sabers. She may also have studied with Kabalists in Egypt and with Voodooists in New Orleans.
In 1873, Blavatsky boarded a boat for New York with just enough money to pay her passage. Arriving completely destitute, she moved into a residence for working women, laboring in a sweatshop sewing purses and pen wipers. Spiritualism was then very popular: Blavatsky had conducted séances in Russia and France and she began working as a spirit medium in the United States.
She was an unusual medium, commanding and summoning spirits rather than just channeling or receiving them. Her cast of characters included family members, two Russian servants, a Kurdish warrior and an Iranian merchant. Through Spiritualist circles, she met Henry Olcott, author, attorney, philosopher, and Freemason, on October 14, 1874. They became compatriots, allies and close friends.
On September 13, 1875, Blavatsky and Olcott formalized the Theosophical Society in her home at 302 West 47th Street in New York City. Olcott was President of the Society while Blavatsky was Corresponding Secretary.
Blavatsky’s home, birthplace of Theosophy, was dubbed The Lamasery. She held on-going salons there where adepts and occultists from all walks of life mingled, women as well as men, blacks, whites and Asians, Hindus, Jews and Christians.
Theosophy is a philosophical/spiritual organization dedicated to universal brotherhood and which emphasizes the study of ancient philosophies, religions, sciences, and spiritual traditions. The objectives of the Theosophical Society were:
To form a universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of caste, color, creed, gender, race or religion
To encourage study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science
To investigate unexplained laws of nature and mysterious powers latent in people
“Theosophy” indicates sacred science or divine wisdom, deriving from Theos (god) and Sophia (wisdom) and was founded on the theory that all religion emanates from identical roots of lost wisdom.
Blavatsky’s extremely influential twovolume work Isis Unveiled, published in 1877, is Theosophy’s manifesto, attempting to unify various strands of mystical philosophy into a cohesive, coherent spiritual world-view. It draws heavily on Egyptian Mysteries and Kabalah, however Blavatsky gave primacy to India in the diffusion of the original root religious system. She described the old Pagan deities as necessary personifications of natural forces, and Christ as merely one adept of that ancient “true” religion.
Controversially, Blavatsky did not give credit to human mentors or teachers but claimed that the information in Isis Unveiled was given to her by direct revelation from superior beings, the immortals who had first given the universal religion to Atlantis. She described these beings as the “Mahatmas,” the “Ascended Masters of the Hidden Brotherhood” or “The Great White Brotherhood of Masters.”
She defined these beings as those whose esoteric training and absolute purity have resulted in supernatural powers. They were literally immortal: the Masters inhabit bodies (material or semi-material) at will. The Masters communicate with each other telepathically, forming a link between humans and the ruling divine hierarchy. Home base for all Ascended Masters is a secluded Tibetan valley.
The Brotherhood of Masters includes all great spiritual leaders and occult teachers of the past including Abraham, Cagliostro, Confucius, Jesus, King Solomon, Lao Tzu, Mesmer, Moses, and Plato. The Brotherhood usually remains hidden from all but a very few because when they have attempted to transmit information to humanity through human agents, those agents were too often met by disbelief or worse: persecution by humans under the influence of malign powers called “The Dark Forces.” The crucifixion of Jesus is but the most obvious example of this persecution.
If talk of “Ascended Masters” and “The Dark Forces” reminds you of Star Wars, then you have some idea of how far Blavatsky’s ideas and influence has traveled, although she is rarely credited in mainstream sources, perhaps because of the aura of controversy that still surrounds her. Many theories of the lost lands of Atlantis and Lemuria are also based on Blavatsky’s writings.
According to Blavatsky, all history has a hidden esoteric meaning: history recounts the secret struggle between powers of light and dark. The Brotherhood works in secret to direct, preserve, and protect Earth’s destiny.
She claimed Isis Unveiled was written under the influence of spirits who held ancient books filed with Gnostic and Kabalistic instruction open before her while she smoked hashish and wrote down information as fast as she could.
Other information was channeled, while other pages, she claimed, simply appeared. She would leave an empty desk but would return to discover pages of the manuscript waiting for her, a writing technique that very many authors, including this one, would absolutely love to emulate if only they could.
Isis Unveiled was also written as a challenge to Darwinism, which she accused of narrowing the notion of science so that it applied only to the Material Universe, disregarding the existence of all else. She suggested Buddhism as a doctrine that could reconcile modern science and religion.
Isis Unveiled was a huge bestseller. Among those who claimed to be influenced by the work were Mohandas Gandhi and Thomas Edison. (One stated purpose of the early phonograph was to speak to the spirit world.) Others influenced by Blavatsky included philosophers Krishnamurti and Rudolf Steiner and artists Vasili Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. Among her personal students was W.B. Yeats, prior to his entry into the Golden Dawn (see DICTIONARY: Golden Dawn).
On December 17, 1878 Blavatsky and Olcott left New York to go live in the native quarter of Bombay, India. She continued to be dogged with controversy. She was accused of fraudulence; although never proven, she was never able to live down the stigma of the accusation. Others simply treated her as a joke.
Blavatsky evoked powerful reactions from people, both negative and positive. She was an independent, earthy, stubborn, frank-speaking, bohemian, rather authoritarian, Russian woman who had traveled the globe by herself, sans chaperone. She was not considered a “respectable woman.” She was accused of being a sexual libertine; a generation before Aleister Crowley, many perceived Blavatsky to be a “wicked woman.”
Her allegiance to India and the Himalayas as the ultimate home of spiritual truths also offended Western occultists, particularly those with a Christian orientation such as Dion Fortune (see page 732). Various Western mystical organizations, including those founded by Fortune and the Christian occultist Anna Kingsford (see page 744), were stimulated by a reaction against Blavatsky’s internationalist orientation with its emphasis on cultural diversity.
Blavatsky was a complex, contradictory person: although she was allegedly a powerful medium herself, she despised other mediums. She despised High Ritual Magic and Darwinism equally. She met MacGregor Mathers (see page 749) in Paris and was impressed with him but allegedly felt he was wasting his gifts with Ceremonial Magic.
Buckland, Raymond (August 31, 1934—)
Raymond Buckland is a prolific author, spiritual leader, authority on witchcraft, magic and the occult, and the person responsible for introducing Gardnerian Wicca to the United States.
Buckland describes his father as a “full-blood Romany” and a freelance writer who encouraged his son to write. At age twelve, Buckland was introduced to Spiritualism by a paternal uncle, beginning his life-long interest in all aspects of the occult.
In the late 1950s, having read Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today he began a correspondence with Gardner and later with Gardner’s High Priestess, Monique Wilson (Lady Olwen). When Buckland emigrated to the United States in February 1962, he became Gardner’s spokesman there. At the end of 1963, during a trip to Perth, Scotland, Buckland was initiated by Lady Olwen and was able to meet Gardner, shortly before Gardner died.
Inspired by Gerald Gardner’s witchcraft collection, Buckland amassed his own vast collection, which became the first Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in the United States. The collection remains in Buckland’s possession.
Buckland has been instrumental in introducing two more Wiccan traditions to the States:
Seax-Wica was founded by Buckland in 1973. Buckland, despite introducing Gardnerian Wicca to the US, became frustrated and disappointed by some of the evolutions of this tradition. Therefore he founded Seax-Wica, intended to be a more open, democratically organized branch of Wicca.
PectiWita is based on Pictish traditions of Scotland. It is a solitary witchcraft practice with strong emphasis on shamanic rather than ceremonial aspects of witchcraft. The emphasis is on folk magic, divination, and magical healing. The father of the PectiWita tradition is considered to be Highlander Aidan Breac (1897—1989), whose foremother was burned at the stake as a witch in 1661.
Buckland has also written screenplays, fiction and is an accomplished ragtime musician. He served as technical advisor for Orson Welles’ film, Necromancy.
Budapest, Z. (January 30, 1940—)
Magical practitioner, author, and founding mother of Dianic Wicca—an important, influential feminist witchcraft tradition—Z. Budapest was born Zsuzsanna Emese Moksay in Budapest. Her mother, Masika Szilagyi, was a ceramics artist and medium, palm reader, and psychic. Through her mother, Budapest derives from a long line of herbalist witches.
She left Hungary following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, eventually immigrating to the United States in 1959. In the US Budapest studied improvisational theater with the Second City theatrical school in Chicago for two years. When her marriage broke up in 1970, she moved to California.
In 1970, she discovered the Women’s Liberation Movement; she writes that she then became a “conscious woman.” She connected witchcraft with feminism: on the Winter Solstice of 1971, Budapest formed the Susan B. Anthony Coven in Los Angeles in honor of the suffragist leader. She opened a store “The Feminist Wicca” in the Venice area of Los Angeles, where she was arrested in 1975 by an undercover policewoman for violation of laws against “fortune telling for a fee.” Budapest was arrested for reading tarot cards. She was put on trial and lost; the law would be repealed nine years later.
Dianic Wicca or Wimmin’s Religion is a feminist religious and spiritual tradition. Women’s rights and rites are combined in celebration of the Goddess. Most covens are exclusively female. The focus is on female divinity, especially Diana, hence the name Dianic. Dianic Wicca may be considered similar in essence to women’s ancient mystery traditions such as that of Rome’s Bona Dea.
Also in 1975, Budapest self-published The Feminist Book of Light and Shadows, a collection of rituals and spells that became the basic text of Dianic Wicca; it was subsequently republished as The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting and Other Womanly Arts (Wingbow Press, 1980, revised 1989).
In the early 1980s, Budapest moved to Oakland, California, where she hosted a radio show serving the San Francisco Bay area and became director of the Women’s Spirituality Forum in Oakland, a nonprofit organization sponsoring a monthly lecture series about the Goddess, spirituality retreats, and annual spiral dances on Halloween.
Dr Buzzard is the name of a famous conjure man and root-worker from St Helena Island, near Beaufort, South Carolina. He performed physical healings as well as a wide variety of magical services.
Buzzards allegedly served as his familiars, hence his name. Clients traveling to the doctor’s home were allegedly rowed across the river by a pair of buzzards.
Dr Buzzard’s true identity is somewhat mysterious, perhaps because more than one conjurer may have operated under that name. This was for centuries not an uncommon metaphysical tradition, particularly during eras when magical practice was illegal or discouraged: if a name had power, people would use it, for a variety of reasons. At a time when there was little or no media, people frequently had few expectations as to someone’s appearance and so this was not a difficult practice.
Dr Buzzard’s prime specialty was court cases. Clients paid him to win their cases. He would dust the courtroom with magical powders and attend trial daily, sitting prominently in the courtroom, chewing on Court Case Root (Laos or galangal root, so-called because it reputedly provides courtroom success). He did not hide but was a highly visible presence wearing his trademark purple sunglasses that he never removed in public. The sheer intimidation factor of having him in the courtroom cannot be overlooked. (He also allegedly once made a buzzard fly around the courthouse.)
Dr Buzzard achieved financial success through root-working. He owned his home on St Helena Island, drove an expensive car, and financed the building of two churches.
There are references to Dr Buzzard in Harry Middleton Hyatt’s five-volume compilation of Hoodoo and Conjuration lore. J. Edward McTeer, High Sheriff of Beaufort County from 1926 until 1963, recounted his experiences with Dr Buzzard in two books, High Sheriff of the Low Country (1970) and Fifty Years as a Low Country Witch Doctor (1978) (McTeer was also a magical practitioner).
McTeer’s Dr Buzzard, who is generally acknowledged as the real one, is Stepney Robinson, a tall dark-skinned man who wore expensive black suits and purple sunglasses and whose father may have been an African-born conjurer. He was born in the latter half of the nineteenth century and died in 1947. His practice (and name) was inherited by a son-in-law, who died in 1997.
Cagliostro, Count Alessandro di (June 2, 1743—August 6, 1795)
Casanova was jealous of Cagliostro; Goethe loathed him. Pope Pius VI accused Cagliostro of threatening the very survival of the Roman Catholic Church. He inspired Johann Strauss’ operetta, Cagliostro in Vienna and served as the prototype for the character of the magician Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. He has inspired at least half a dozen films (so far), with Orson Welles playing him in Gregory Ratoff’s 1949 film Black Magic, based on a novel by Alexander Dumas.
Not bad for a poor boy from the slums of Palermo.
Alchemist, magician, charlatan, thug, philanthropist, Cagliostro embodies all the multifaceted contradictions of the Tarot card The Magician.
He was a mountebank in both the positive and negative senses of that word. A traveling magician, he picked up occult secrets wherever he wandered. His skills included alchemy, astrology, clairvoyance, and healing. He was a master of what today would be called aromatherapy. He was a practitioner of High Ritual Magic but was also adept at what some consider “low magic”—he concocted and sold love potions and was not averse to revenge magic.
He learned shamanic techniques whilst staying in the poor quarters of St Petersburg, where he did not get a warm reception from Catherine the Great (she wrote a lampoon of him). Instead he spent his time at marketplace crossroads among the poor whom he healed and fed at his own expense.
He could be very generous to the poor when so inclined. He ran soup kitchens, paid for out of his own pocket, when the concept of feeding the poor barely existed. He was also a pimp, thief, fraud, con artist, and illusionist.
Giuseppe Balsamo was born in Palermo, Sicily of Moorish-Sicilian ancestry. He was raised in Palermo’s old Arab quarter. His father was a jeweler who died bankrupt only a few months after Giuseppe’s birth. Giuseppe, his mother and older sister lived in a two-room apartment on a poor street in the poorest quarter of Palermo, the Albergheria, amongst Arab, Jewish, and Turkish immigrants.
As a boy, Giuseppe led a street gang, more than occasionally brawling with police, however he was educated, home-schooled by a private tutor until aged 10, after which he was enrolled for several years at a seminary for orphan children.
He also had private lessons from an art master, becoming an excellent copyist and draftsman. He could draw very well—well enough to reproduce maps, documents, and other people’s handwriting. He forged theater tickets and possibly legal documents.
Balsamo spent several years as a novice monk at the Monastery of the Fatabenefratelli healing order. At Fatabenefratelli, he learned basic rites of exorcism plus Hermetic traditions. Under Sicily’s two centuries of Moorish rule, the Catholic orders had become copyists and keepers of Arabic manuscripts including those devoted to alchemy and magic forbidden elsewhere. In the monastery, Balsamo learned the basics of alchemy, astrology, and gematria, Kabalah’s sacred numerology.
In 1764, Balsamo fled Sicily. For about a year, no documentation of his whereabouts exists. He may have visited Rhodes and become involved with a scam for an “alchemical procedure” turning hemp into silk. He may have gone to Egypt.
He used different names in different places and so is not easily traced. He next appears in Malta in 1765. Malta was the headquarters of the Knights of St John, competitors of the Templars. Balsamo sold elixirs and beauty creams before establishing a friendship with Grand Master Emanuel Pinto of the Order of the Knights of St John.
Grand Master Pinto was the longest-serving Grand Master (1741-1773). He set up a laboratory where Balsamo/Cagliostro worked as an alchemist, chemist, and pharmacist. The two men searched for the Philosopher’s Stone together.
In 1767, Cagliostro traveled to Naples, and then to Rome where he got work as a secretary for Cardinal Orsini but sold love potions on the side. In Rome, he met the love of his life, Lorenza Seraphina Feliciani, aged 14. Beautiful, blonde, and blue-eyed, she was the daughter of an illiterate brass worker from Trastevere. Lorenza and Cagliostro were married on April 20, 1768. He insisted she call herself by her more evocative middle name.
He loved her passionately, considering her his soul mate. However he allegedly sometimes beat her. When cash was short, he prostituted her in order to raise funds and used her beauty to attract and seduce wealthy patrons.
Cagliostro and Seraphina’s first appearance in history together occurred in 1769 when they met Casanova, a compulsive diarist, in a café. Casanova, a consummate conman himself, was peeved when he realized that Cagliostro had conned him instead: Cagliostro allegedly forged Casanova’s signature on a check.
Some, admiring Cagliostro’s grand metaphysical work but appalled by his criminal record reconcile his contradictions by insisting there were really two individuals, and that Giuseppe Balsamo of Sicily could not possibly be the adept Cagliostro of Paris.
Seraphina and Cagliostro traveled for years, sometimes wealthy, sometimes utterly impoverished. He studied genuine magic and occult traditions, supplementing his income with illusions and fraud as needed.
He used at least two noms de plumes consistently, switching between them as convenient: Count Cagliostro (the name, but not the title, borrowed from an uncle) and Colonel Pellegrini of the Brandenburg Army.
In July 1776, Giuseppe and Seraphina arrived in London for the second time where he described himself as an “occult scientist.” They rented a house at 4 Whitcomb Street in Leicester Square, complete with an alchemical laboratory, but wound up several times in the debtor’s section of both King’s Bench and Newgate jails.
Cagliostro became a Freemason in London, simultaneously initiated into the first three grades of Strict Observance Freemasonry. After these initiations, he discovered a treatise on the Egyptian origins of Freemasonry on a bookseller’s stall. According to this treatise, all contemporary Masonic rites were corrupt to varying degrees. Pure unadulterated Masonry was rooted in ancient Egypt amongst the pyramid builders; the founder of this ancient tradition an Egyptian high priest known as the Great Copt.
Cagliostro was inspired to establish what he called Egyptian Freemasonry lodges, initiating both men and women. (Admission of women is still controversial amongst some Freemasons.) Cagliostro as the Grand Master took the title the Grand Copt; Seraphina was Grand Mistress of the Order. Freemasonry was a secret organization; the flamboyant Cagliostro to some extent became its public face.
For his time, Cagliostro was a visionary man of tolerance, insisting that Egyptian Masonry be open to all sincere spiritual people including Jews and Muslims and supporting membership for women. The only requirements were belief in a Supreme Being and in the immortality of the soul. (On the other hand, he laid a public curse on 82-year-old Countess Constanze von Korff because she publicly called him a charlatan.)
He was a bit of a Robin Hood figure, scamming the rich but giving to the poor. He distributed remedies for free for those in financial need. Running free clinics for the poor may sound commendable today but at that time it landed Cagliostro in trouble with powerful local physicians who resented this competition. Perhaps inspired by his memories of himself as a poor boy in Palermo, he ran what were essentially soup kitchens for the urban poor.
He was controversial amongst Masons too and not only because of his insistence on women’s inclusion. Masons in Latvia were appalled to hear Cagliostro boast that he could concoct potions that would make women lust for men.
Cagliostro eventually became the rage in Paris where wild stories were told about him: not only could he transmute base metals into gold, silver, and diamonds, he could also double existing diamonds and precious gems so that they were twice their size and value.
It was rumored that he had personally spoken with Christ on the shores of Galilee
It was rumored that Cagliostro was the legendary Wandering Jew himself
It was rumored that he had entered into a conspiracy against Queen Marie Antoinette
Many who know nothing else about Cagliostro know his name because of his involvement in the notorious Affair of the Queen’s Necklace. In 1784, Cagliostro was a key figure and accused as a coconspirator of stealing a priceless diamond necklace under the forged signature of the queen as well as forging steamy love-letters signed in the queen’s name (and not addressed to the king).
Although Cagliostro was acquitted unconditionally, he was banished from Paris the day after acquittal. Ordered to leave France within three weeks, he went back to London on June 20, 1786.
Seraphina was tired of wandering and perhaps tired of her husband. She wished to return to Rome and persuaded Cagliostro to do so. Returning to Rome was like entering fire. The Inquisition hunted Freemasons like witches. Pope Clement XII had condemned Freemasonry in 1738; Catholics were forbidden from joining on pain of excommunication.
Once in Italy, Seraphina, who may have been unable to conceive of any other way of terminating their relationship, denounced Cagliostro to the Inquisition apparently in the hope of being free of her husband. Pope Pius VI personally issued the order to the Governor of Tome to seize Cagliostro and search his premises. Captured by the Inquisition on September 27, 1789, Cagliostro was taken to the prison of Sant’Angelo while Seraphina was escorted to the convent of Santa Apollonia “for her own protection.”
Seraphina, also a Freemason and magical adept, had long served as Cagliostro’s assistant. She was allegedly promised immunity in return for testimony against her husband. She apparently hoped to begin life anew in Italy among her family. However, to her bitter disappointment, Seraphina was confined for life in the Convent of Santa Apollonia where she died in 1794. For his part, Cagliostro allegedly never entirely believed his beloved Seraphina had turned him in.
Cagliostro endured 43 interrogations over 15 months, the Pope himself attending several of these interrogations. He was condemned to life imprisonment in the fortress of San Leo, described by Machiavelli as the strongest fortress in all of Europe.
He was a defiant prisoner, continually attempting to break free. Eventually he was chained in a tiny cell, forbidden to converse or communicate with anyone either in or out of jail—truly a terrible punishment for a man born under the sign of Gemini, the zodiac sign ruling communication.
He suffered two strokes in his cell, dying aged 52. Jailers were so suspicious of their prisoner that lighted rushes were held to Cagliostro’s bare feet to make sure he was really dead. As an unrepentant heretic, he was buried in an unmarked pit.
Crowley, Aleister (October 12, 1875—December 1, 1947)
Despite his notoriety, Aleister Crowley was a master magus wielding tremendous influence over contemporary spiritual and magical traditions. He was involved in all facets of magical practice with the exception of folk magic, which didn’t interest him (and perhaps would have forced him to work with female practitioners as equals). Briefly a member of the Golden Dawn, Crowley also worked with Gerald Gardner in the formational stages of Gardnerian Wicca.
In many ways he was not an admirable person; there are certainly many aspects of his personal life that are easily criticized (he was emotionally, financially, and physically abusive to women, he failed to support his children, he demonstrated cruelty to animals, he had Fascist leanings, and, despite his wealth, sponged off others—and that’s for starters), however, ironically, many in the magical community who condemn Crowley have been influenced by him. Few who condemn him (and few who laud him too!) have actually read his work, which is dense and intended for adepts or almost-adepts. He was extremely influential, a prolific author and, in many ways, a visionary occultist.
Edward Alexander Crowley was brought up a strict member of the ultra-conservative Plymouth Brethren, so conservative they perceived themselves as the only true Christians in existence. His father was a wealthy brewer and preacher for the Brethren. Crowley was taught that God was all-powerful and that sins of the flesh (sins in general!) would be punished in eternal hell-fire. His father died when Crowley was 11, leaving his son a large inheritance that would be his at maturity.
As a child, Crowley preached with his father but at the age of 12, he said, he went over “to Satan’s side.” In his early teens, his mother caught him masturbating and denounced him as “the Great Beast”—as in the one from the Book of Revelation. Crowley took great pride in being called the Beast and adopted the nickname as his identity, also identifying with the number 666.
Despite his reputation, he was not a Satanist or at least not by his standards. Satanism requires a certain interplay with Christianity: the devil is worshipped because he is the enemy of Christ. Satanic rites invert and desecrate Christian rituals.
Crowley wasn’t interested in Christianity or Satanism; his goal was the creation of a new spiritual tradition that would ultimately replace previous ones, making them irrelevant—although from the perspective of fundamentalist Christians that vision would certainly be considered diabolical.
Crowley developed his own theology based on personal communication with spirits. His motto, known as the Law of Thelema, was “Do what thou will shall be the whole of the law.” He published this law before Gerald Gardner published the Wiccan Rede, “An it harm none, do what you will.”
Crowley had great emotional investment in being considered “the wickedest man alive” as he was described. He reveled in his reputation and put great effort into enhancing it. He was a trickster and it can be difficult to determine what was authentic in his behavior, what was illusion, and what was meant to inflame.
He enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1895 reading moral science. When the trust fund from his father matured, he was no longer dependent on his family for financial support. A wealthy young man, he mingled with top society. During this period, he read and was very influenced by Arthur Waite’s The Book of Black Magic and Pacts. In Cambridge, he wrote poetry, much of it erotic or pornographic and took up mountaineering. He dropped out of university in 1898 and got in touch with the metaphysical organization, the Golden Dawn.
Crowley was initiated into the Golden Dawn on November 18, 1899 taking the magical name Frater Perdurabo (Latin for “I will endure”). He was not a diplomatic, charming person although he was allegedly very charismatic. He was not generally well liked. W.B. Yeats, another Golden Dawn member, described him as “an unspeakable mad person.” Crowley was either expelled from the Golden Dawn or quit after two years following bitter conflict with its leader MacGregor Mathers (see page 749).
Crowley bought Boleskin House, a manor located on the shores of Loch Ness, in 1900, and devoted the next six months to the techniques of The Sacred Magic of Abramelin. The house was rumored to have been built on the site of a church that had been razed to the ground with the congregation still within and already had a reputation as a haunted house where odd phenomenon occurred.
He married Rose Kelly, the sister of his friend the artist Sir Gerald Kelly, in 1903 and the two traveled widely together. During a visit to an Egyptian museum, Rose was drawn to an exhibit numbered 666 that depicted the Egyptian deities Hadit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Shortly after, she was possessed by a spirit who called itself Aiwass. Aiwass dictated The Book of the Law, the basis for Crowley’s new spiritual philosophies, to Crowley through Rose Kelly’s mouth over three days in April 1904.
Rose Kelly played the role Edward Kelley played for Dr Dee. She spoke while Crowley wrote. She is now largely considered to have been clairvoyant, however she had never previously had a similar psychic episode. Following her experiences in Egypt, her psychic experiences continued and she was Crowley’s first “high priestess” or “Scarlet Woman.”
While in Egypt, Rose discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter on July 28, 1904, named Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith. Crowley would eventually abandon them both. Nuit died of typhoid before she reached the age of two in a hospital in Rangoon. Crowley claimed the cause was an improperly sterilized bottle nipple for which he blamed Rose and her increasing alcoholism. A second daughter, Lola Zaza, survived. Crowley divorced Rose in 1909; she was eventually institutionalized, her brother assuming financial support for Lola.
In 1907, Crowley began the Order of the Silver Star (Argentinum Astrum; AA for short), heavily influenced by the Golden Dawn. In 1909, he founded the magazine Equinox in which, from 1909 to 1913, he published some of the Golden Dawn’s sworn secrets much to their displeasure. MacGregor Mathers went to court to stop him but to no avail.
Among Crowley’s primary magical influences were Abramelin, Madame Blavatsky, and Eliphas Levi. Crowley was born on the day Eliphas Levi died and claimed to be the reincarnation of Levi. He also claimed Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), Edward Kelley and Count Cagliostro as previous incarnations. He was influenced by Buddhism and Tantra and was among the first to combine Western and Eastern mystical traditions into a coherent magical system.
In 1912 Crowley visited Germany and met with Theodor Reuss, head of the ten-year-old Ordo Templi Orientis, heavily influenced by erotic magic and the teachings of magus Paschal Beverly Randolph (see page 760). Crowley was appointed the head of the British OTO, assuming the grandiose title “Supreme and Holy King of Ireland, Iona and all other Britons within the Sanctuary of the Gnosis” (see DICTIONARY: Ordo Templi Orientis). In 1913, Crowley spent time in Moscow promoting a dance troupe, The Ragged Ragtime Girls, who played violins and danced seductively in scanty clothing.
Crowley defined a magician as one with mastery of the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will. Magic was the science of self-understanding and the art of putting knowledge towards practical action.
In 1915 he moved to New York and spent the following years of World War I writing anti-British propaganda for the Germans; the British press would soon dub him “The Wickedest Man in the World.” He lived in New York until 1919. It is believed that Crowley met or corresponded with German author Hanns Heinz Ewers in New York at this time. (See CREATIVE ARTS: Film: Alraune.)
Crowley envisioned that his magical work required a female partner, the equivalent of a high priestess, whom he dubbed a “Scarlet Woman.” The concept derives from references in the Book of Revelation to the Whore of Babylon intended to denigrate the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna-Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven, whose traditions included sacred prostitution.
Crowley intended to return the Scarlet Woman to her former glory. He spent a tremendous amount of time searching for the right Scarlet Woman with whom he would conceive a “magickal child.” It’s believed the closest he came was with Leah Hirsig, whom he met in New York in 1919 and with whom he would have a long, passionate relationship.
In 1920, Crowley and Leah Hirsig moved to Cefalu in Sicily, purchasing an old farmhouse, which they named Thelema and which became the center of his new spiritual tradition. He would be accused of conducting orgies, animal sacrifices and all kinds of diabolical magic there, as well as luring others into drug abuse, addiction, and sexual perversions.
French author François Rabelais’ (1494—1553) fictional utopia the Abbey of Thelema inspired Crowley to create his own version in the early twentieth century. Thelema means “will” or “free will” in Greek and was the name Crowley gave his new religion. Thelema, said Crowley, would represent the New Age and would release humanity from its obsessions with fear and sin. Crowley claimed each individual was the center of their own world.
One of Crowley’s disciples, 23-year-old Raoul Loveday died at Thelema on February 11, 1923. Loveday’s wife, Betty May, who was not a disciple but who had accompanied her husband, fled back to England and sold her detailed, sordid story to the press. She accused Crowley of poisoning Loveday to death by making him drink cat’s blood. (According to the attending physician, the cause of death was enteric fever.)
In April 1923, Benito Mussolini had Crowley deported from Italy. He wandered through France, Germany, and North Africa. Scarlet Women came and went. He married Maria Ferrari de Miramar (born 1894) in Leipzig in 1929 so she could gain entry to England. Ferrari, born in Nicaragua of Italian and French ancestry, was described by Crowley as a Voodoo High Priestess although again whether this is true or Crowley’s attempt to be sensational is unknown. He would eventually abandon her too; she ended up destitute, institutionalized in the same facility as Rose Kelly. Crowley never divorced Maria for fear that she might be entitled, as a lawfully wedded wife, to some of his dwindling property.
In 1934, Crowley was declared bankrupt after losing a court case in which he sued an old friend, artist Nina Hamnett, for defamation for describing him as a “Black Magician” in her autobiography. Life became increasingly difficult as he battled a debilitating 25-year heroin addiction he was never able to shake.
In 1945, he moved into a boarding house in Hastings on the southern coast of England, where he corresponded with Gerald Gardner among others. Gardner visited Crowley during the last year of his life. Crowley presented Gardner a charter to start a branch of the OTO on the Isle of Man. (Gardner never used the charter but eventually placed it in his museum collection.)
How much Crowley contributed to the Gardnerian Book of Shadows remains subject to bitter debate. He was clearly an occultist and magician and not a Wiccan (Gardner said Crowley perceived Wicca as “too tame”). Many would prefer to think that he had little to do with it. He was, however, a prolific writer and some believe that he originally contributed a great deal to the Book of Shadows, although Doreen Valiente later removed and revised most of his contributions.
He was cremated four days after his death in December 1947 from a combination of myocardial degeneration and severe bronchitis.
Crowley wrote dozens of books including Gems from the Equinox, The General Principles of Astrology, Magick, Enochian World of Aleister Crowley: Enochian Sex Magick, Eight Lectures on Yoga, and The Diary of a Drug Fiend: Magick in Theory and Practice.
Crowley’s fame and notoriety only continues to grow although mainly for his reputation for “wickedness” not from knowledge of his accomplishments or philosophy. He has developed a bit of a rock star reputation, which no doubt he would have enjoyed: Crowley’s is among the faces on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
Cunningham, Scott (June 27, 1956—March 28, 1993)
Scott Cunningham was a prolific writer who authored over 15 books, some considered magical classics. He was a key individual in facilitating solitary Wiccan practice. His book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (1988) was controversial as some Wiccans felt (and feel) that only coven initiations and group ritual were valid.
Cunningham moved to San Diego, California in early childhood where, at the age of 15, he became fascinated by witchcraft. One evening he watched the film Burn, Witch, Burn! on television (see CREATIVE ARTS: Films). The following day at school, Cunningham met a fellow student, Dorothy Jones, who told him that she had been initiated as a witch two years earlier. Her craft name was Morgan. Cunningham described her as a “Moon Priestess”: she was to become Cunningham’s magical teacher and would initiate him into her Wiccan tradition.
Cunningham was fascinated by herbs and became an authority on them. His book A Witch’s Herbal was rejected by many publishers before its publication in 1982 under the title Magical Herbalism. It quickly became a favorite and was followed by many others.
He contracted cryptococcal meningitis in 1990 from which he never fully recovered. There were many more books he wished to write; those that he did include: Earth Power (1983), Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (1985), The Truth About Witchcraft (1987), Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem and Metal Magic (1987), The Magic of Incense, Oils and Brews (1989), The Magic in Food (1991), Living Wicca (1993), Spell Crafts (1993), Hawaiian Religion and Magic (published posthumously, 1994)
David-Neel, Alexandra (October 28, 1868—September 8, 1969)
Alexandra David-Neel was an adventurer, mystic, Spiritualist, anarchist, metaphysical adept, and scholar, and the first European woman to explore the then-forbidden Tibetan holy city of Lhasa. She lived in Tibet for 14 years, living among the shamans of Tibet and Sikkim, another Himalayan kingdom, which was annexed by India in 1975.
She was instrumental in preserving Tibet’s spiritual legacy. After leaving Tibet in 1924, she traveled, returning to France in 1946. She authored over 30 books including Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1932), Initiations and Initiates in Tibet (1931), and Love Magic and Black Magic: Scenes from Unknown Tibet (1938).
Louise Eugenie Alexandrine Marie David was born in Paris and showed early interest in metaphysical study. By the age of 18, she had joined Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, which led to an interest in Himalayan traditions. She traveled through India in 1890/91 stopping only when she ran out of funds. She married Phillippe Neel on August 4, 1904. Her husband was tolerant of her travels.
She returned to India in 1911 where she became a Tantric adept and was soon given an invitation to travel to the remote kingdom of Sikkim, where she visited Buddhist shrines, studied with shamans and learned to speak Tibetan. She studied shamanic arts of telepathy and attempted to master “tumo” breathing, the Tibetan art of generating body heat in freezing conditions.
For two years, she lived in a cave in Sikkim near the Tibetan border, with the Tibetan monk Aphur Yongden, who became her life-long friend and companion. (She eventually adopted him.) They were eventually expelled from Sikkim for several times crossing the Tibetan border, which was then forbidden.
After leaving the Himalayas, she continued to be a global traveler, first going to East Asia where, in Mongolia, she managed to create a “tulpa”—a phantom generated by intense mental focus and constant repetition of specific ritual over a period of months. She created a fat, phantom monk who was visible to others and who traveled with her. However, he gradually began to transform into a thin, sinister being who resisted her control. It took David-Neel six months to dissolve the tulpa, who clung desperately to his existence.
On February 21, 1924 David-Neel and Yongden, having returned to the Himalayas, abandoned all they owned and disguised as beggars sneaked over the Tibetan border, where they lived quietly for several years. David-Neel died in France aged 100, having just recently renewed her passport.
Dee, Dr John (July 13, 1527—March 26, 1609)
Dr John Dee, renowned as Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer was also an alchemist, magician, scholar, and author of 79 books, although only a few were published in his lifetime. Dee is one of the founders of Enochian Magic and considered a brilliant occultist, although in his lifetime, as with Cornelius Agrippa, he was always just one step ahead of the witch-trials.
John Dee was born in London of Welsh ancestry, the son of a servant at the court of Henry VIII. Dee entered Cambridge University aged 15 to study science and mathematics. Despite his youth he had already developed a reputation as an occultist. This reputation eventually reached the ears of university officials and Dee was asked to leave. He transferred to the University of Louvain where he met people who had known Agrippa in whose work he was very interested.
In 1551, at age 24, he returned to England where, in 1552, he met a magician called Jerome Cardan, who inspired him to begin conjuring spirits.
According to Dr Dee, the ideal day was sixteen hours dedicated to the study of the magical arts, two hours spent eating, and any time left spent sleeping.
Dee rendered an unknown but seemingly important service to the court of Edward VI for which he was granted an annuity of £100. This “service” has been the subject of speculation ever since. It is generally believed to be of a magical nature as the reason for the annuity was never made public. (Alternatively he is believed to have served as a spy.)
Following Edward’s death, Dee then worked for Edward’s sister, Mary, who had ascended the throne, telling her fortune daily and casting her horoscope. Dee also became friendly with
Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth who allegedly asked him to astrologically calculate Mary’s death. (Now of course, as a master astrologer, he would know which sister to bet on.) Mary found out and Dee was thrown in jail on charges of witchcraft, heresy, killing children via magic, and plotting to kill the queen also via magical means. According to Dee, Mary accused him of being “ a companion of hellhounds and a caller and conjurer of wicked and damned spirits.”
His relationship with Princess Elizabeth was investigated by the authorities and Dee was imprisoned from 1553 until 1555, when he was able to persuade Archbishop Bonner that he was orthodox in religious matters and set free. He was acquitted and released but was for ever identified as a sorcerer. His acquittal was perceived by many as proof of Dee’s magic power. The Archbishop was extremely conservative, even bigoted; Dee’s ability to persuade him of his innocence was perceived by some as evidence of witchcraft.
Mary died in 1558 and Elizabeth assumed the throne. Dee became her spiritual advisor, also advising her on medical matters. Allegedly he also served as her spy and informer, reporting what others said of her. He also worked as a cartographer and geographer and was a great friend of the Flemish cartographer Mercator (as in the Mercator Scale). Dee began an extensive collection of books on magic and the occult, which eventually numbered several thousand works.
Elizabeth trusted Dr Dee to choose the date for her coronation. He chose January 14, 1559 with Jupiter in Aquarius to signal universality and Mars in Scorpio for victory and endurance. Her long, glorious reign may be considered testimony to his astrological skill. Queen Elizabeth even visited him at his home in Mortlake.
Dee longed to communicate with angels and attempted to do so via scrying. His scrying tools included an Aztec obsidian mirror and a pink crystal, a gift from an angel. According to his diary, Dee saw spirits on May 25, 1581, however he had some difficulty and so began hiring professional scryers (crystal-gazers) to work with him—the first of which there is record is Barnabas Saul. In his diary entry of October 9, 1581, Dee wrote that Saul raised a spirit around midnight. Saul scryed for him through the rest of 1581.
Dee then met Edward Talbot, aka Edward Kelley or Kelly, beginning a pivotal collaboration. Dee and Kelley worked together for seven years: Kelley contacted the spirits while Dee recorded their communication. (See page 742, Kelley.)
In 1582, Kelley began to receive messages in a new angelic language called Enochian. The angels taught him the “language of Enoch,” which had been spoken by Adam while in Paradise. The language has a 21-letter alphabet with consistent grammar and syntax. Letters are related to elements, numbers, and planetary forces.
Although Queen Elizabeth was Dee’s ally, he had powerful enemies at court as well, and he was always under the threat of charges of sorcery. Bishop Jessel, preaching before the queen, suggested that her proximity to magicians was a threat to her majesty.
Dee, Kelley, their wives and families left England in 1583 and traveled with Prince Albert Laski to his estate in Poland where he had promised to set them up in an alchemical laboratory. In his absence, a mob sacked Dee’s house at Mortlake, stealing books and objects, when rumors spread that he was a witch.
Laski however didn’t have as much money as they’d hoped and Kelley, Dee and their respective families began a life of wandering throughout Central and Eastern Europe, always in search of wealthy patrons who would sponsor their alchemical experiments.
After leaving Laski they traveled to the court of Emperor Rudolph II in Prague. Rudolph, who was fascinated by the occult, reputedly maintained a staff of alchemists, diviners, and magicians but the Papal Nuncio sent him a message saying that the Pope didn’t approve of the presence of English heretics and magicians at his court. Kelley and Dee hit the road quickly, traveling to King Stephen of Poland’s court in Krakow. Once again, the reaction was not favorable.
Wandering magicians, completely broke, they continued to search for patrons through Central Europe giving demonstrations of their alchemical aptitude. Dee wanted to work with the spirits but Kelley wished to focus on alchemy. Allegedly he had had success in England and had even extracted the Philosopher’s Stone, but running an alchemical laboratory was expensive and he needed a patron.
Dee and Kelley sent Queen Elizabeth an ordinary metal warming pan from which they had cut a piece, which they transformed into gold and then stuck back in place. Was this real or legerdemain?
In 1586, Tsar Boris Godunov offered Dee £200 a year, a fabulous salary, to enter his service as an alchemist. Kelley wished to go but Dee was not enthusiastic about alchemy, perceiving that it was a dangerous trap in which they would be commanded and exploited by rulers.
In 1587, Kelley insisted on returning to his work as an alchemist. Dee attempted to replace Kelley with his son Arthur but with no success.
Two years later Dee resolved to return to England following six years abroad. Kelley stayed in Europe to continue his alchemical work. Upon his return to England Dee was immediately given an audience with Queen Elizabeth; she ordered that he be allowed to conduct alchemical and other experiments without hindrance. He complained of the pillaging of his home and was able to secure the return of some books and tools.
Within a year of his return, Dee felt obligated to publish a tract refuting allegations that he was a conjuror. In 1596, Dee was appointed warden of the Collegiate Chapter in Manchester, probably as a means of removing him from London, but he was unpopular because of his lack of Protestant orthodoxy and magical reputation. Only Elizabeth still favored him; when she died in 1603, his position became perilous. Witchcraft trials were becomingly increasingly common.
Dr Arthur Dee was an alchemist, too. In 1587, when Edward Kelley left his father’s employ, Arthur was delegated to take his place as seer, but with no success. Arthur went to Moscow where he had a successful career as a royal physician. While there, he wrote his treatise Arcana Arcanorum. He returned to England where he continued to work as a physician.
Dee petitioned Elizabeth’s successor James I to be cleared of slanderous accusations that he was an “invocator of devils.” He wanted James to publicly declare that Dee had never been a magician but rather a scholar, mathematician, and scientist. James declined but never persecuted him.
Dee retired to Mortlake in poverty and attempted to earn his living as an astrologer. He died of natural causes in 1608 and is buried at Mortlake. His book collection and some tools now belong to the British Museum.
Prospero, the magician in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is believed at least partially to be based on Dr Dee.
Dye, Aunt Caroline
Aunt Caroline Dye was a renowned African-American Hoodoo doctor from Newport, Arkansas. Her birth date is unknown: suggested dates are as early as 1810 and as late as 1855. She apparently died sometime between 1918 and 1944, depending upon one’s source. Part of the problem regarding her identity is the age-old tradition for practitioners to borrow (or pay tribute, depending how you look at it) other more successful practitioners’ names. Thus more than one person may have used the name Caroline Dye.
Caroline Dye was a healer, spiritualist, and root-worker who served a black and white clientele. References to her and descriptions of her work are found in Harry Middleton Hyatt’s fivevolume collection, Hoodoo-Conjuration-Witchcraft-Rootwork, compiled mainly between 1935 and 1939. She served as inspiration for various blues songs, most famously the 1929 recording by Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band Aunt
Caroline Dyer Blues. Endor, The Witch of
The biblical shaman popularly known as “the Witch of Endor” appears in the First Book of Samuel, 28:7-25. Although shamans appear elsewhere in the Bible—Saul, her royal client, himself has shamanic power—the Witch of Endor is the only biblical figure explicitly identified in English as a “witch.” She is often used as an example of biblical disapproval of witchcraft, however the text of the Bible itself is, at worst, neutral toward the Witch of Endor.
On ascending the throne, King Saul forbids witchcraft, divination, and shamanism on pain of death. However, when he later runs into scary political turmoil and other licit forms of divination, including his own dreams, fail him, Saul, apparently appreciating that forbidden professionals have merely gone underground, orders his minions to find him a female practitioner.
The minions bring Saul to a woman in Endor who performs necromantic rituals, bringing up the shade of the Prophet Samuel who talks with Saul and informs him that not only will he lose the next pivotal battle with the Philistines, by this time tomorrow Saul and his sons will be with Samuel. The woman of Endor comforts Saul and feeds him—hardly a “wicked witch.”
Whether or not the original text of the Old Testament actually called her a “witch” is subject to debate and subject to one’s definition of witchcraft. “Witch” is an English word; the Hebrew words originally used to identify her are Baalat ob, literally “Mistress of the Ob.” This term frustrated later translators as they were unable to translate “ob.” Different words in different languages are used to identify the profession of the conjuring woman from Endor.
The Septuagint (the original Greek translation of the Bible) translates it as engastrimuthos or “belly-speaker”
The first Latin translation was “Woman possessing an oracular spirit”
The King James English translation uses “witch”
More contemporary English translations of the Bible, aware of negative connotations associated with the word “witch” now frequently describe the woman of Endor as a “Mistress of a Talisman” or “Mistress of a Divining Spirit.”
So, what exactly is an ob? Unfortunately, no one is completely sure; Jewish shamanic traditions were almost entirely suppressed. Interpretations are elusive. It seems to have been some sort of container used in divination or necromancy, perhaps a bottle, jug, oil lamp, charm bag, wine or water-skin.
It is believed that the Baalat ob used some sort of ritual vessel, perhaps as a container for the familiar spirit with which one could contact other realms, maybe something like the gourds used to house oracular spirits in many African traditions.
Faust, Dr Johannes
Dr Faust was the most famous mage of the medieval era and the inspiration for countless artistic masterpieces; he has been immortalized in works by Marlowe, Goethe, Berlioz, Gounod, Thomas Mann, and Klaus Mann. (For information on his legend, see CREATIVE ARTS: Literature: Faust.)
Was there really a Faust or was the legend inspired by a fictionalized version of Cornelius Agrippa (see page 706)? Was Faust based on a real person? Possible candidates include:
Johann Fust (1400—1466), a printer
Georgius Sabellicu Faustus, a sixteenth-century German itinerant alchemist and fortune-teller
Johann Faust, an early sixteenth-century German theologian
It is also possible Dr Faust is a pseudonym for someone else, other than Agrippa. It was once a tradition for magicians to use each other’s names partly as tribute and partly, as witchcraft was illegal, because no one wished to reveal their own true name. In any case, someone named Faust (Latinized as Faustus) seems to have lived somewhere in what is now southwestern Germany in the early sixteenth century.
The earliest known evidence for Faust’s existence comes in a reference from the scholar Abbot Trithemius, who wrote a letter in 1507 saying that Faust, whom he described as a “blasphemer” and “charlatan,” had stayed with him the previous year. Trithemius wrote that Faust had held a teaching position in Kreuznach, which he was forced to resign because of allegations of lewd behavior with young male students. Evidence also comes from Protestant pastor Johann Gast, who preached a sermon about Faust’s powers after dining with him at Basel in 1548.
Johann Weyer, Agrippa’s disciple, also knew Faust and described him as a drunk who invented the story about his pact with Satan to add to his reputation.
Was there a Satanic pact? Faust himself allegedly said that, through ignorance, he failed to protect himself with correct magical ritual and symbols and was thus at the mercy of the spirit Asteroth, who manifested in the guise of a “gray monk.”
According to the Archives of the University of Heidelberg a student named Johannes Faust received a Baccalaureate on January 15, 1509 with a degree in Theology. He was placed first among his class of sixteen. He allegedly went on to lecture on Homer and mythology at the University of Erfurt, complete with a show-and-tell program realistic enough to terrify his students.
Faust became a prominent astrologer. On February 12, 1520 he allegedly was paid ten florins to cast a horoscope for prince bishop Georg III Schenk von Limburg. In 1525, Civic authorities in Wittenberg ordered Faust’s arrest. He fled to Ingolstadt, from which he was banished on June 17, 1528.
In 1530, Faust was allegedly in Prague where competitive astrologers at Emperor Rudolf’s court prevented him from gaining a permanent position. In 1532, he tried to settle in Nuremburg but, according to the city records, he was refused permission by the authorities on the grounds of being a necromancer and sodomite.
There are many legends regarding Faust:
He invited the Prince of Anhalt to dine with him at his castle, which had magically and suddenly materialized. As soon as the meal was over, the castle disappeared.
Faust allegedly conjured up Alexander the Great for Emperor Charles V who wished to speak with him.
Faust allegedly transported himself, while invisible, to the Vatican where he (still invisible) slapped the Pope across the face with a dead fish and stole his dinner.
Claiming to be Faust’s hometown is Knittlingen, approximately 30 miles northwest of Stuttgart, Germany on the edge of the Black Forest. A bronze statue of Faust has been erected near the City Hall. This Faust, ostensibly the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer, allegedly studied astrology, chemistry, magic, and medicine at the University of Krakow, a school with a reputation for educating sorcerers, followed by further studies at German universities. He lived on a bequest from a wealthy uncle rather than gifts of Satan. (See WITCHCRAZE!: Germany.)
Ficino, Marsilio (October 19, 1433—October 1, 1499)
Marsilio Ficino was a Renaissance magician, physician, and priest who developed a system of “natural magic” intended to draw down and utilize the natural powers of the cosmos, especially of the planets. The leading philosopher of the Italian Renaissance, Ficino, a physician’s son, was an authority on classical Greek and Latin. Cosimo de Medici sponsored Ficino to translate Greek manuscripts for him.
Ficino received a copy of an ancient collection of writings called the Hermetica and became convinced that the Hermetica was the source of Plato’s knowledge. Ficino believed it to be the work of Hermes Trismegistus, a contemporary of Moses, and implied that Moses might actually be Hermes Trismegistus. Ficino believed that Moses received the Kabalah on Mount Sinai alongside the Ten Commandments and that he was the custodian of secret wisdom as well as the giver of the law.
(Many modern scholars disagree, dating the Hermetic Collection to c.200 CE, after Plato’s time. Those occultists who ascribe the Hermetic to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus of course agree with Ficino.)
From the Hermetica, Ficino learned that all life, including human life, is connected with the seven visible planets. Images may be used to attract the influence of these planets. This became the basis for his system of magic. In his writings, Ficino emphasized that magic was fully compatible with orthodox Christianity. He claimed his system intended to utilize planetary forces (natural, impersonal powers), not summon demons.
Some historians (even in his own time) suspected that Ficino really believed that spiritual beings conveyed these planetary influences but that this was too dangerous for him to publicly admit. Because of written disclaimers and political connections, Ficino was never persecuted.
Ficino composed his masterwork, Three Books About Life, between 1482 and 1489, a comprehensive guide to the health of body and soul—a work of holistic medicine, essentially. He established a magical academy in Florence and served as private tutor for Cosimo de Medici’s grandson and heir, Lorenzo the Magnificent. Among those influenced by Ficino are Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus.
The artist Botticelli, also suspected of having Pagan sympathies, was among Ficino’s devotees. Some believe Botticelli’s famous painting Primavera was originally intended as a magical image designed to attract the spiritual influence of Venus.
Flamel, Nicholas (c.1330—?)
The French alchemist Nicholas Flamel allegedly found the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone, gaining immortality and wealth. Although some suggest he died in 1418, others claim to have met him long after and for all we know Flamel may be sitting in some café reading this description of himself even now.
Flamel labored as a scribe; one day while shopping at a bookstall, an unusual volume caught his eye and he purchased it for two florins. The gilded manuscript had 21 pages made from bark, not paper or parchment as was customary. It had a copper cover. Every seventh page lacked writing but was inscribed with, respectively:
A serpent swallowing rods
A serpent crucified on a cross
A vast, arid desert
Written on the first leaf in gilded letters was “Abraham the Jew, Prince, Priest, Levite, Astrologer and Philosopher to the Nation of the Jews Scattered by the Wrath of God in the Gaules [France], Salvation D.1,” followed by various curses and imprecations against those who, unauthorized, attempted to use the book. Many believe this manuscript to be an early reference to the system of Abramelin magic found in the grimoire Abramelin and so influential on the work of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley. (See BOOKS: Grimoires.)
Flamel believed the book to have been a confiscated magical text that had ended up on the bookstall; the bookseller offered no further information. According to the text, a full study of Kabalah was required for comprehension.
He recognized the work as an encoded alchemical text but was unable to decipher it. Flamel fell under the book’s spell and was obsessed with it, spending 21 years trying to crack its code to no avail. Finally his wife Perenelle suggested he go to Toledo to consult with the rabbis there. They spent two years in Toledo. When he returned he was able to transmute mercury into silver and gold.
There are two versions (at least!) of his life:
Flamel did not create the Elixir of Life but lived to be 116 years old, dying in 1417 and distributing his considerable wealth to various churches and hospitals. His will provided for the construction of 14 hospitals, 7 churches, and 3 chapels. His wealth and extreme longevity led to rumors of his alchemical career.
Flamel did discover the Philosopher’s Stone and, together with his beloved Perenelle, still walks the Earth. An eighteenth-century Turkish dervish, for one, described meeting Flamel in Uzbekistan.
Fortune, Dion (December 6, 1890—January 8, 1946)
Dion Fortune was an important British occultist and author whose works continue to influence modern Wicca, witchcraft and Neo-Paganism.
She was born Violet Mary Firth to a wealthy family in the steel business. She later adapted the family motto, “Deo, non Fortuna,” (“God, not fortune”) for her magical name. Her mother was a Christian Scientist and from an early age, Violet was exposed to mystical concepts. She also began experiencing visions as a child, including one of her past incarnation as a priestess in Atlantis.
She was briefly involved with Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society in London. She was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1919 but allegedly disliked mingling Eastern and British occult traditions. A staunch British nationalist with an intensely Western orientation, she reacted against Eastern influences in Theosophy. She turned instead to mystical Christianity and especially British mythology regarding King Arthur and the Holy Grail.
Fortune was a student of occultist Theodore Moriarty who taught that the Christ Principle was first propounded in Atlantis and manifested through Horus, Mithras, Quetzalcoatl, and Buddha as well as Jesus. Fortune was also influenced by Carl Jung’s ideas, especially his concept of the anima and animus. She studied both Freud and Jung, preferring Jung, but felt both lacked an adequate spiritual element.
Beginning in 1926, she published books on magical cosmology, Kabalah, practical magic and several novels with an occult theme. Fortune wrote before the repeal of the Witchcraft Act and it is thought that, for legal reasons, she obscured instructional material by writing it as fiction. Rituals in her novels have since been incorporated into modern Wiccan and Neo-Pagan rituals.
She left the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1927 to found the Fraternity of Inner Light. Fortune died of leukemia at the age of 56.
The Society of the Inner Light continues to teach Western Esoteric traditions. The Society emphasizes that they are not associated with witchcraft in any way and that Fortune was neither a witch nor a member of a coven.
More information on her novels is found in CREATIVE ARTS: Literature. Other books include Applied Magic (1922), Sane Occultism (1926), The Training and Work of an Initiate (1930), Psychic Self-Defence (1930), and The Mystical Qabbalah (1936).
Gardner, Gerald Brosseau (June 13, 1884—February 12, 1964)
Author and scholar Gerald Gardner is the founder of modern Wicca, sometimes called Gardnerian Wicca both to honor him and to distinguish his tradition from earlier, less formalized ones.
Gardner was born near Liverpool, England into a prosperous family of Scottish descent. His ancestors included Vice Admiral Alan Gardner, Commander in Chief of the Channel Fleet against Napoleon and Grizel Gairdner, burned as a witch in 1610 in Newburgh, Scotland.
Gardner spent much of his life as a globetrotter and despite severe asthma was an inveterate and hardy traveler. In his youth, he was influenced by the books of the Spiritualist Florence Marryat. He developed a firm belief in the immortality of the soul and began studying occult and spiritual practices of the many places he visited around the world, discovering correspondences between many of them.
Gardner went to work at age 16 on a Ceylon tea plantation. He spent time in the jungle with local tribespeople. In 1908, he went to Borneo where he spent time with the Dyak people. He continued on to Malaysia where he entered government service. In 1923, he served as inspector of rubber plantations and then later as a customs officer. He eventually made a fortune as a rubber planter in Malaya and also served for a time as an inspector of opium establishments.
Wherever he traveled, he studied local magical customs as well as anthropology and archeology. He was an authority on the art and lore of knives and accumulated a vast collection. His first book Keris and Other Malay Weapons (1936) is considered an authoritative text on the magical weapons of Malaya and Indonesia. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Singapore.
When he retired in January 1936 and returned to England, Gardner became involved with English witchcraft. He had originally wished to retire in Malaya but his English wife, whom he married in 1927, wished to return home. (Because of his asthma, Gardner still annually wintered outside England.)
The winter after his return, he visited Cyprus, Aphrodite’s holy island. While there, he had various spiritual experiences that resulted in his wish to establish a temple of Aphrodite. He purchased land that already included the ruins of a temple, but the local authorities disapproved and Gardner was forced to leave and return to England.
He retired to the New Forest region of Hampshire where he made contact with local occultists. He met people who were members of establish covens and who held secret sabbats in the New Forest. Gardner became a devotee and claimed to be initiated by “Old Dorothy” Clutterbuck in 1939.
In 1939, Gardner published his first novel, A Goddess Arrives, which focused on devotions to Aphrodite in 1450 CE.
Gardner, along with Dorothy Clutterbuck and Dion Fortune, was involved in “Operation Cone of Power” on Lammas Day, 1940. British witches coordinated massive major rituals against Germany’s threatened invasion of Britain.
In 1946, Gardner was introduced to Aleister Crowley by a mutual acquaintance, stage magician, puppet-master, occult scholar, and author Arnold Crowther. Their meeting is the crossroads where Ceremonial Magic met coven-based witchcraft. In the year before Crowley’s death, the two renewed the relationship.
Gardnerian Wicca is the oldest formal Wiccan tradition and is based on the teachings of Gerald Gardner. The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which he coauthored with High Priestess Doreen Valiente, is the standard text and liturgy for Gardnerian Wiccans. It was based on one belonging to the New Forest Coven he had joined but was heavily modified by him. He included contributions from Aleister Crowley, Charles Godfrey Leland, and Rudyard Kipling. Doreen Valiente edited and revised this Book of Shadows, contributing much of her own poetry.
Gardner started his own coven in Bricketts Wood, St Albans in 1947; they convened in a cottage on the grounds of a nudist colony where Gardner was a member. He moved to the Isle of Man one year later, first living with Cecil Williamson (see page 769) who had earlier established the Witchcraft Research Centre there.
The last law against witchcraft was repealed in Britain in 1951. Prior to the 1951 repeal of the Witchcraft Act of 1604, books advocating the practice of witchcraft could not be published in the United Kingdom. Gardner had initially sidestepped the law, as had others before him (notably Dion Fortune), by publishing High Magic’s Aid in 1949 as a novel or work of fiction. He was now free to publish Witchcraft Today in 1954—a factual work published under his own name. A companion volume, The Meaning of Witchcraft, was published in 1959. The books established Gardner as a spokesman for witchcraft and garnered him fame.
Gardner continued to travel, journeying to New Orleans to study Voodoo. He made two trips to West Africa, in 1951 and in 1952.
Gardner died at sea while returning to England on a cruise ship from Lebanon. He was taken ashore and buried in Tunis. He bequeathed his museum to his High Priestess Lady Olwen (Monique Wilson).
Hanussen, Erik Jan (June 2, 1889—March 25, 1933)
Prophet, clairvoyant, hypnotist, publisher, charlatan, and illusionist, Erik Jan Hanussen was, like Cagliostro, a conjurer in every sense of the word. Like Cagliostro he met a sad end; like Cagliostro, Hanussen was a celebrity. Once renowned, he is now largely forgotten, mainly because few wished to remember him: a Jewish man, sometimes described as the “Nazi Rasputin,” Hitler was allegedly among his clients before Hanussen’s fall from grace. Hanussen’s former Nazi clients wished to forget that they had been scammed, while Jews and many occultists resent his involvement with the early Nazis.
Herschmann-Chaim Steinschneider, the future Jan Erik Hanussen, was born in a Vienna jail cell. His unwed mother, Julie Cohen, from an Orthodox Jewish family, had eloped with an actor Siegfried Steinschneider. She was nine months’ pregnant when her enraged father had them arrested on phony charges of property theft.
It was standard practice for Austrian birth certificates to list the baby’s religion and so Julie’s son was classified as a “Hebrew male.” That document would be his eventual downfall.
He displayed powerful clairvoyant skills by age three. On his father’s side, he claimed descent from miracle-rabbis, celebrated for magical and healing skill. It is theorized that the name Steinschneider (“stone-cutter”) derives from the practice of crafting amulets with engraved stone blocks.
At age 14, he ran away to join the circus, spending his adolescence mastering tricks, legerdemain, and confidence scams. He worked in a lion-taming act and as a fire-eater, a knife thrower, and he sometimes did a fake strongman act, snapping cardboard chains.
At the time, a popular form of entertainment involved demonstration of psychic skills to assembled crowds. The alleged clairvoyant would stand before a packed lecture-hall and proceed to reveal information about the supposed strangers assembled there. Obviously it was a system highly conducive to fraud. The clairvoyant would have secret assistants planted in the audience. Hanussen achieved tremendous acclaim in this way, sometimes via illusion and tricks but not always.
Hanussen possessed authentic clairvoyant skills. Sometimes he went into trance and offered genuine, honest, and not always popular prophesies, shocking even himself with his skills. A cynical man, he had a hard time believing in his own skills; however they are documented by various psychic incidents. He was also clairsentient: able to obtain information about objects by touching them.
An accomplished tarot card reader and master hypnotist, Hanussen may have studied tricks and frauds but he also traveled through Egypt, the Middle East, Turkey, and Ethiopia, studying with genuine occult masters.
Harry was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army at the beginning of World War I. While conscripted he was offered the opportunity to present his telepathic act in Vienna on April 30, 1918. It was a golden opportunity but he knew he was unlikely to receive permission from his superiors, nor could he just openly perform without incurring severe punishment from the army. Therefore Harry Steinschneider disappeared off the face of the Earth; “Eric Jan Hanussen, Danish clairvoyant” was born in his place. The show was a success and Hanussen became a star.
Hanussen became a prominent occultist, consulted by law enforcement agencies in various sensational crimes. He appeared in a film and began a publishing empire, specializing in occult magazines. He became wealthy and famous, a fixture of Weimar Germany’s decadent nightlife. His parties were scandalous; he allegedly hypnotized people who, while entranced, performed in ways they would later prefer not to remember.
Among those in his social circle were authors Thomas Mann and Hanns Heinz Ewers, and actor Peter Lorre. Aleister Crowley and Franz Bardon also traveled in these circles; although there is no documentation, it’s likely they met.
On March 25, 1932, Hanussen predicted Hitler’s electoral victory and success in his publication. This brought him to the attention of Hitler and other Nazis who allegedly began consulting him. It also brought him attention from those who opposed the Nazis; by the fall of 1932, rumors of Hanussen’s ethnic origins were circulating—his past identity was an open secret. He made little pretense of being Danish and socialized with people from his past who knew him under many names.
In 1933, Hanussen leased a dilapidated mansion in Berlin; on February 26, 1933, the Palace of the Occult had its grand opening. It allegedly resembled a Pagan temple; Hanussen offered consultations and lectures, notably predicting the subsequent fire in the Reichstag. (His prediction was too good; as with William Lilly (see page 747) he was suspected of collusion.)
The Palace was lush and luxurious; Hanussen threw lavish parties attended by important members of the Nazi party but also simultaneously by occultists and entertainers, in particular Jewish occultists and entertainers. Whether he genuinely thought he could create some sort of integrated balance, whether he liked to live dangerously or was just self-destructive is subject to conjecture.
He was certainly courting danger by the end of his life; there were lots of illicit drugs and sex at his parties. He allegedly provided orgies for his new friends, which he secretly filmed, capturing important people in embarrassing moments. Rumors of these films, which have never surfaced, also circulated and may have contributed to his murder. Various highly placed Nazis were also allegedly indebted to him for great sums of money.
Hanussen was reckless: he bragged about his sessions with Hitler, whom he allegedly described as resembling an “unemployed hairdresser.” Hanussen published an updated horoscope for Hitler; although predicting initial success, it also detailed (accurately) eventual, violent failure. Allegedly Hitler was furious, adjusting his birth time on future horoscopes by two hours so that similar results would not be obtained.
By the summer of 1932, Hanussen had advised friends that his days were numbered. He paid last goodbyes to several people. He never attempted to flee, however; instead at some point in February 1933, he simultaneously converted to Roman Catholicism and joined the Nazi Party.
At some point during this time, journalists located his original birth certificate and revealed his true ethnic origins. On March 24, 1933, he was arrested and charged with submitting a fraudulent Aryan certificate to gain admittance to the Nazi party. A squad of Nazi officers searched and looted his apartment and safe, demanding Hanussen surrender all loan receipts from Nazi debtors, which he did.
Hanussen was brought to Nazi headquarters, interrogated for two hours and released. Early next morning three men in Nazi uniforms broke into his apartment. He was taken to Gestapo headquarters where he was shot; his body was dumped in a field. His apartments and the Palace of the Occult were systematically searched and looted, his villa, yacht, jewelry and valuables confiscated.
Further information about Hanussen’s life and adventures may be found in Mel Gordon’s Erik Jan Hanussen: Hitler’s Jewish Clairvoyant (Feral House, 2001).
By personal order of Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s Chief of Propaganda, no word of Hanussen’s murder was published in German newspapers although he was a very public figure. There was no investigation. He was eventually buried in a pauper’s grave.
Hermes Trismegistus was a legendary Egyptian master magician whose name means “Thrice Great Hermes.” He allegedly composed the works now known as the Hermetica, laying the foundation for alchemy and Ceremonial Magic. He was the first to coin the term “As above, so below,” which is the cornerstone of astrology. He is credited with writing thousands of texts allegedly once contained in the Egyptian Temple of Neith in Sais, whose library supposedly contained works dating back nine thousand years. (See WOMEN’S MYSTERIES: Spinning Goddesses.)
“Hermeticism” is the term used to describe beliefs and practices deriving from a set of Greek writings known as the Hermetic Texts or Hermetica. Most modern historians date these texts to Alexandria between the first and thirdcenturies CE, although some suggest they’re much older. These writings include teachings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. See also Ficino.
Some believe the Tarot card called The Magician is intended to represent Hermes Trismegistus. Trismegistus may have been a man, a deity or a deified man. An alternative theory suggests he was the son of a deity and a human mother.
Among those identified as Hermes Trismegistus are:
the Egyptian deity Thoth
the Greek deity Hermes
an otherwise anonymous Egyptian High Priest of Thoth
the biblical prophet Moses
Some theorize that some or all of the above may in fact be identical.
A controversial legend, long discouraged and suppressed by the Church, is that Jesus was a magician. Count Cagliostro, for instance, described Jesus as “the first and greatest magician who ever lived.”
The Church did not take that statement as a compliment. At the time of Jesus’ life, Egypt, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean were filled with traveling magicians, many of whom specialized in healing and exorcisms. A few even claimed to have performed resurrections. (And Jesus does not perform the first or only resurrection in the Bible. The prophet Elisha earlier revives someone from the dead.)
Jesus was a contemporary of these magicians; he first came to attention as a miracle healer. His cures were what first made him famous. A recurrent theme and issue of the Gospels is that Jesus is divine, the Son of God, and not just another magician.
Was Jesus a magician or did his enemies just accuse him of being one in an attempt to deny the divine origin of his miracles? Part of the problem about attempting to answer that question is that virtually everything now known about Jesus was written by his devotees.
What did those who were not devotees say? Many, if not most ancient writings are now lost. In 396 CE, Emperor Constantine ordered books of “heretics” hunted down and eliminated. A series of decrees issued by Constantine and his successors ordered the discovery and destruction of written works that contradicted official teachings.
How do we now know anything about these writings and what they contained? Fragments of a few survive as do lists of lost books, and official refutations of their content survive. This is how we know that among the accusations early Christians were eager to refute were suggestions that Jesus was a magician. (Not everyone who perceived him as a magician presumably refuted his divinity. Simon Magus (see page 767) was openly acknowledged as a great magician but also worshipped by some as a god.)
A list of titles of lost books about Jesus attributed to Pope Gelasius (492—496 CE) ends: “We declare that these and similar works which Simon Magus…and all heretics and disciples or heretics or schismatics have taught or written…are not only repudiated but indeed purged.”
Justin Martyr, writing in Rome between 150 and 165 CE, complained that Jews were describing Jesus as “a Galilean magician.” (Among Jews, Galilee bore a reputation of retaining Pagan and/or less conventional Jewish traditions.)
Sometime near the end of the second century or the beginning of the third, a Platonist named Celsus made a study of Christianity, writing a treatise attacking it. The treatise itself no longer exits. Following the political triumph of Christianity, all copies of the treatise were destroyed, but earlier, c.247, the Christian Origen (185—254) wrote a reply, Against Celsus, quoting from the original text, and this refutation survives.
Apparently Celsus began his attack by describing Jesus as a conjuror of miracles. Because Christians know that other conjurers will also claim to perform miracles by the power of God, they will not permit the presence of other conjurers. Celsus wrote that Jesus grew up in Galilee, went to Egypt as a hired laborer and returned home as a magical practitioner.
This theory suggests that what are described as miracles ascribed to Jesus were actually performed by controlling spirits, a forerunner of High Ceremonial Magic and Commanding and Compelling. King Solomon too allegedly commanded spirits and a powerful tradition of angelic magic already existed.
Although the most common legend is that Jesus allegedly learned magic in Egypt, an alternative theory suggests that he studied with master magicians in Babylonia. He reputedly performed miracles and resurrections (including his own) via the magical use of the Ineffable Name, the greatest of all spells.
According to these legends, Jesus was allegedly tattooed with magical spells or symbols, known as “the Egyptian marks.”
In the Roman world, Jews were renowned for exorcism skills and spirit-summoning magic in the same manner that the Greeks viewed Thessalians as powerful magicians or the Nordic people viewed Saami shamans as exceptionally powerful.
The Mandaeans of southern Iraq claim descent from devotees of John the Baptist. According to Mandaean tradition, Jesus was a magician in contact with Samaritan practitioners similar to Simon Magus.
In the Gospel of Matthew 27:62 some translations suggest that the Chief Priests tell Pilate, “that deceiver said, while yet alive…” Other translations substitute the word “magician” for “deceiver.” Similarly, the Gospel of John 18:30, in some translations, has the Chief Priests describing Jesus to Pilate as a “malefactor”—a word that during certain eras (notably the Burning Times) had powerful magical implications; the quote has been interpreted as indicating that Jesus is charged before Pilate with practicing magic.
Furthermore, among the crimes punishable by crucifixion are political sedition, rebellion against the empire, rebellions by slaves against masters, rabble rousing, and the practice of magic and witchcraft.
It is possible that, like Simon Magus, some early worshippers of Jesus, particularly Gnostic devotees, adored him as a sacred magician. It is also possible that the earliest Christians were not as vehemently anti-magic as they would eventually become, and that after Christianity gained official status, previous magical aspects of the religion were suppressed.
Early Christians used the fish or ChiRo as emblems of their faith rather than the cross. According to historian Morton Smith, author of Jesus the Magician, two of the three oldest representations of the crucifixion are engraved on magical gems while the third also probably refers to Christian magical beliefs. A fourth-century gold glass plate in the Vatican Library depicts Jesus as a magician complete with wand in the process of raising Lazarus from the dead. It is not a malicious depiction. The image may be found on the cover of the 1978 paperback edition of Morton Smith’s book.
Within Jesus’ own lifetime, magicians began to use his name in spells as a Name of Power, although whether they considered themselves Christians is unknown. Acts 19:13 describes Jewish magicians and exorcists using Christ’s name, and in the Magical Papyri and Greek curse tablets of the first and second centuries, Jesus’ name is among those used to conjure and control spirits as well as perform exorcisms in Pagan as well as Christian spells.
Further Reading: Morton Smith’s Jesus the Magician (Harper & Row, 1978).
Joan of Arc (January 6, 1412—May 30, 1431)
The story of Joan of Arc, the illiterate French peasant girl who crowned a king, is well known. Joan emerged from the French countryside to lead French troops to victory. She was successful but was captured and placed on trial. Notably, the French king she had crowned made little if any attempt to rescue or ransom her, preferring to distance himself from her instead, although he did reward others in her entourage. Joan was eventually burned at the stake; five hundred years later she was canonized. Her story continues to elicit admiration and fascination. A question guaranteed to raise hackles and passions, then as now, is whether Joan was or wasn’t a witch or a devotee of the Fairy Faith.
Joan was born in Domrémy, France. When Joan was 13, she heard a voice that she described as from God. During the next five years she heard sacred voices several times weekly. They identified themselves to her as those of the Archangel Michael and saints Catherine and Margaret.
According to the twelfth-century historian and chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth, Merlin prophesied that “a marvelous maid will come from the Nemus Cenutum for the healing of nations.” During Joan’s time this mysterious Nemus Cenutum came to be identified with the Bois Chenue forest near Domrémy where a Fairy Tree was situated.
Among the accusations made against her was that Joan was in the habit of attending Fridaynight witches’ sabbats at a fountain near this oak. The opposing English forces certainly perceived her as a witch. Both sides perceived her as possessing or having access to supernatural powers.
Shakespeare’s play Henry VI Part 1 expresses the contemporary English view that Joan was a witch: “Bring forth the sorceress condemned to burn.”
Joan was captured at Compiègne on May 23, 1430 and charged with heresy and witchcraft. The bishop before whom she was brought was intent on proving her a witch. If it could be proved that Charles VII had gained the crown of France via witchcraft, the English could challenge his divine right to rule.
On what grounds was she charged with witchcraft? Her enemies charged that she spoke with evil spirits (demons) not saints or angels. They claimed that Joan had induced the voices by chewing on a mandrake root she carried tucked into her bosom. (During her trial she was asked whether she possessed a mandrake root; Joan denied this, although she admitted hearing of the practice—see BOTANICALS: Mandrake.)
The whole concept of a young girl leading an army was strange and radical; however Joan’s brief campaign had been punctuated with odd occurrences that could be interpreted as signs of magical activity:
A man on horseback once swore at Joan, who despised foul language. She retorted, “In God’s name, why do you swear and you so near your death?”An hour later, the rider fell from his horse into a moat and drowned. Clairvoyance? Divine revelation? Or witchcraft?
Joan waited two days at Chinon before being granted a royal audience. She was shown into a grand hall where Charles played a trick on her. He was hidden among approximately 300 bystanders while someone else was dressed in royal garb. Joan, who had never seen Charles before, went straight to the true dauphin, saying, “The King of Heaven sends words by me that you will be anointed and crowned…”
Other aspects could be interpreted as signs of witchcraft or Pagan faith if so desired. Joan first heard her voices at the Fairy Tree near Domrémy. The tree was situated by a healing well linked to the fairies. Allegedly fairies and witches danced around the tree together. When Joan was a child, she too had sung and danced around the tree with other village children. She hung garlands from it but claimed this was done to honor Our Lady of Domrémy. Joan denied all dealings with Fairies.
There are three ways of considering these actions:
Joan genuinely hung the garlands in honor of the Virgin Mary, although hanging garlands from trees is not exactly orthodox Christian practice.
For whatever reason Joan refused to admit to having partaken of Fairy traditions.
Through the process of Identification, traditions once associated with a Fairy Queen or Goddess were now performed in honor of Our Lady of Domrémy. Whether local peasants in Joan’s time were aware of the history of the practice is unknown.
Joan’s power to heal was also considered by some as evidence of witchcraft. Her title, La Pucelle or “the Maid,” could be interpreted as having witchcraft significance. In some covens, Maid or Maiden is a title for a high-ranking individual.
Joan refused to say the Lord’s Prayer; years later this would be considered the equivalent of a confession of witchcraft. She was reputedly the friend or even lover of King Rene d’Anjou of Provence, who narrowly escaped charges of heresy himself. Joan also chose Gilles de Rais to serve as her patron and protector. Nine years later, he too was charged with witchcraft and executed.
Joan was imprisoned in a dungeon for one year and one week, often chained to a wooden block with chains securing her neck, arms, and feet. At her formal ecclesiastical trial before 37 clerical judges, Joan faced 70 charges including being a witch, diviner, sorceress, false prophetess, conjurer, and invoker of evil spirits, in addition to various charges involving heresy. She was accused of being “given to the arts of magic.”
She represented herself and held her own with this powerful group of educated men. Most of the charges could not be substantiated and were dropped.
The Inquisitors continued with 12 charges, including the ability to see visions, heresy in refusing to submit to the authority of the Church, her insistence that she was responsible only to God and not the Church, and the one for which she was finally convicted and condemned to death: wearing men’s clothing.
During the trial evidence favorable to Joan was deleted from the official record. The court scribe, Guillaume Mauchon, later claimed that when proceedings recorded in French were translated into Latin, the judges ordered him to change meanings and language.
On May 30, 1431, Joan was publicly burned at the stake. The authorities wished to destroy her mystique and prevent any rumors of lastminute supernatural rescue as had been circulating. When her clothes were burned off, the executioner was instructed to reduce the flames so that the crowd could see “all the secrets which can or should be in a woman.”
After her death, her remains were thrown in the river so that no sacred relics could be taken, although the crowd did collect ashes. According to tradition, a dove flew from her lips at the moment of her death. How one interprets this depends upon spiritual orientation. As a sign of the Holy Ghost? Or as a visible wandering double or fetch?
Joan became an unofficial saint immediately. Peasants set up shrines to her and carried votive images. Just as she had healed the sick while alive, Joan allegedly performed miracles of healing following her death. It took five hundred years of popular pressure, however, before Joan was eventually canonized on May 16, 1920.
Long before that though, she had been legally vindicated: in June 1456, Joan was declared a martyr in France; her oppressors were in turn described as heretics engaging in a political vendetta. One theory for her retrial is that after twenty years on the throne, Charles VII was annoyed by the rumors and innuendo that he had been placed there by a witch, and so he ordered a retrial.
Margaret Murray interpreted Joan of Arc’s title La Pucelle to indicate her position as Maiden of a coven. Murray postulated that Joan was a “divine victim” who served as a substitute for a royal victim. Gerald Gardner claimed that questions of heresy would have been very easy to prove without need of questions regarding Fairies and witchcraft.
John, Dr (c.1801—August 23, 1885)
Dr John is the most famous of the male New Orleans Voodoo doctors. He worked closely with Marie Laveau, possibly serving as her teacher and mentor. His name retains renown because of its adoption by the New Orleans musician Mac Rebennack.
His birth name is unknown but Dr John was also known as Bayou John, Jean Bayou, John Montaigne, John Montanet, John Monet, Jean Racine (Racine means root), Jean Gris-Gris, Jean Macaque, Hoodoo John, and Voodoo John. He was a practitioner in New Orleans from the 1820s to the 1880s but flourished especially in the 1840s. He sold amulets and charms and was an accomplished astrologer. In his time, he was described as the “black Cagliostro.”
He was born a prince in Senegal. His face displayed medicine scars (cicatrisation) from his native Africa believed to indicate Bambara heritage and royal status. Kidnapped by Spanish slavers, he eventually wound up in Cuba where he learned to be a chef. Allegedly his master was very fond of him and granted John’s freedom in his will.
John took to sea; serving as a ship’s cook, he traveled the world including trips back to Africa. When he got tired of traveling, he got off the ship in New Orleans where he lived for the rest of his life. He first worked as a cotton-roller, eventually attaining the status of overseer on the docks, and began to establish his magical practice. He allegedly practiced divination by interpreting marks on bales of cotton. Both black and white people began to consult him.
He is described as a large, charismatic man and an extremely effective healer. He became wealthy enough to retire from his day job and buy land on the Bayou Road, then a swamp, where he constructed a home. Eventually he owned substantial real-estate holdings on Bayou Road between Prieur and Roman Streets.
John Montanet appears in the United Census of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. His address is given as 232 Prieur Street. In 1880, his age was given as 79. According to the 1880 census his household included five of his sons and daughters, the youngest only one year old.
Dr John served as a healer, magician, amuletmaker, and fortune-teller. He is described as divining via shells, perhaps the same or similar as the Yoruba cowrie shell divination system, dilogun.
Dr John unifies various spiritual, herbal, and magical traditions: it is unknown how old he was when he left Africa and what training he brought to the West but in Cuba he must have been familiar with Santeria and/or Palo, based on Yoruba and Congolese traditions respectively. New Orleans Voodoo, which he mastered and helped formulate is based on spirituality combined with Congolese, Native American, and European traditions.
He was controversial. Although some adored him, he enraged others. He lived well, like the prince he was born. Dr John allegedly had a harem of some 15 women, white as well as black. His white wife especially aggravated some.
Like Cagliostro, Dr John maintained the equivalent of soup kitchens: the former chef himself cooked gumbo and jambalaya for the poor and hungry. At the end of his life he was in financial distress; he was not educated in finances and had been cheated of his real-estate holdings. He spent the end of his life living with a daughter. He died of Bright’s disease on August 23, 1885. Folklorist Lafcadio Hearn eulogized him in an article published in Harper’s Weekly on November 7, 1885, called “The Last of the Voodoos.”
In The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, by Louis Martinié and Sallie Ann Glassman (Destiny Books, 1992) Dr John plays the role of the Magician.
Kelley, Edward (August 1, 1555—1597)
Edward Kelley, also known as Edward Talbot or Edward Kelly, was an alchemist, spirit medium, and necromancer. However, he is most famous as the most successful scryer employed by Dr John Dee (see page 725). Together they created the system of Enochian Magic.
Kelley was apparently from Worcestershire. There is much conjecture about his history prior to his work with Dr Dee. He apparently studied law and Old English with the intention of entering the legal profession. He may or may not have studied at the University of Oxford under the name Talbot. He was fluent in Latin and proficient in Greek. He was adept at deciphering old scripts and documents and was a good copyist. Perhaps too good: Kelley always wore a tight black skullcap pulled down low over his ears, allegedly to conceal that they were missing. (Although this is frequently stated as fact, there is no evidence one way or the other.) His ears had allegedly been cropped as punishment for forgery or counterfeiting. Rumor had it he had been pilloried in Lancaster as punishment, too.
Kelley is usually described as being “of ill repute” and many believe he was a scam artist who conned the gullible Dee. (And for those who are ambivalent about magic, Dee can be a “good” magician, if Kelley is the fraud.) Kelley and Dee met in 1581. Dee was passionately interested in contacting angels but needed a scryer (a crystal-gazer) to assist him. Kelley became Dee’s scryer at a salary of £50 a year. Kelley saw and communicated with the spirits while Dee kept records. Kelley gazed within a crystal ball or magic mirror until he received visions or was able to make contact with spirits and angels. He spoke while Dee recorded his descriptions and conversation.
Dee was so enthusiastic about Kelley’s scrying skills that Kelley complained of being kept a virtual prisoner at Dee’s estate at Mortlake. Kelley periodically threatened to quit unless he received more money. Some interpret this as Kelley exploiting Dee, although one could argue that many skilled technicians frequently ask for raises without being accused of exploitation, and that Kelley never particularly wanted to scry; he was more interested in alchemy and necromancy. In any case, inevitably Dee gave in to his requests; they worked closely together for seven years.
Dee and Kelley’s work together produced the occult tradition, Enochian Magic. In a trance, Kelley dictated The Book of Enoch to Dr Dee, which revealed mysteries of creation.
In 1583, Kelley and Dee traveled to Europe, together with their families, seeking patrons for their alchemical work. They gave public demonstrations of their alchemical gifts as they traveled. They also simultaneously continued their angelic communications.
Kelley allegedly was able to extract the Philosopher’s Stone. His sister claimed that he made gold and silver and showed it to visitors in England. Arthur Dee, Dr Dee’s son, claimed to have seen Kelley make gold. In April 1587, Kelley insisted on concentrating on alchemy and refused to scry for Dee any longer.
Kelley convinced Dee that the angels wanted them to share all things including their wives. Jane Dee was reluctant but Dr Dee agreed. It didn’t work out: the two women had violent arguments. Their dire financial situation and the constant threat of legal persecution didn’t help either. In 1589 Dee decided to go back to England. They never saw each other again.
Kelley continued to travel in Europe, looking for patrons and supplementing his income via fortune-telling. He was arrested at least once on charges of heresy and witchcraft.
Emperor Rudolf II of Bohemia ultimately became Kelley’s patron, knighting him in 1593. He set him up in laboratory, expecting him to produce gold. Kelley was paid handsomely and temporarily enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. Rudolf grew tired of waiting for the gold, however, and periodically imprisoned Kelley, allegedly to stimulate him to produce gold faster. In 1597, Kelley was once again imprisoned, this time in the Castle of Hnevin where he died. According to legend, he tried to escape by lowering himself from the tower with a rope but the rope was too short and he fell, broke his leg and eventually died from his injuries (Whether or not he was chained in a dungeon when he died is subject to debate.)
Kingsford, Anna Bonus (September 16, 1846—February 22, 1888)
Anna Kingsford, a Christian occultist/spiritualist, established Theosophy in Britain and served as mentor to the magus Samuel MacGregor Mathers. Kingsford was among the first British women to become a physician; she obtained her medical degree in Paris as no British university would accept her as she was a woman.
Kingsford had had visions since early childhood. She was a passionate women’s rights activist, an anti-vivisectionist, vegetarian, and animal rights activist. She believed herself to be the reincarnation of Mary Magdalen.
In 1882, Kingsford became president of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, although she was among Madame Blavatsky’s rivals and critics. She once accused Blavatsky of attempting to cast a spell over her. Blavatsky dismissed Kingsford, describing her as a “medium.” (Yes, Blavatsky was a medium, too…)
Kingsford’s followers broke away from the Theosophical Society to form the Hermetic Society on April 22, 1884. (MacGregor Mathers was also a member.) Kingsford described the conflict in terms of Oriental Occultists (Blavatsky) versus Occidental Mystics (herself). She perceived Occultists as further down the spiritual evolutionary scale.
Kingsford died of chronic lung disease. Her revelations, received in trance and while asleep, were published posthumously in the book Clothed With the Sun (1889).
Marie Laveau was a Voodoo priestess, medium, diviner, and spell-caster. She is credited with formalizing and establishing the tradition of New Orleans Voodoo. She has been called the Queen of Conjure; she proclaimed herself the Pope of Voodoo and few would disagree with her.
Marie’s life is somewhat mysterious. She was born a free woman of color in New Orleans. Her date of birth is variously given as 1783, 1794, and 1801. She was of mixed African, European, and Native American ancestry, born to a family allegedly well versed in Hoodoo and Voodoo.
A “free person of color” was a legal classification of status in French colonial North America. French law distinguished between enslaved and free people of color. A free person of color was forced to carry papers proving their status so as not to be pressed into service as escaped slaves, as no doubt many were.
In 1819, Marie married Jacques Paris, a free man of color from Saint-Domingue, now modern Haiti, but Paris disappears from history within a few years. There is no known record of his death but Marie became known as the Widow Paris. She then entered into a relationship with Louis Christophe Dominic Duminy de Glapion until his death in 1855.
Legend had it that he too was a free man of color from Saint-Domingue, but historian Carolyn Morris Long, author of Spiritual Merchants (University of Tennessee Press, 2001) claims that based on death certificate and property succession records he was born in Louisiana, the legitimate son of white parents. He was allegedly related to the Haitian ruler Henri Christophe via his paternal grandfather, the French nobleman Chevalier Christophe de Glapion, Seigneur du Mesnil-Gauche.
Marie Laveau worked as a hairdresser, a position of tremendous power for a magical practitioner and not just because she was privy to intimate gossip, as has been suggested, but because she had access to hair. This is a powerful component in a vast variety of magic spells.
By approximately 1850, Marie Laveau was recognized as the leader of the New Orleans Voodoo community. She worked from her home, offering personal consultations and leading rituals. The Glapion-Laveau family lived at 152 St Ann Street. Marie’s cottage was demolished in 1903. The site is now 1020—1022 St Ann Street.
Interviews with those who knew her describe her home as filled with lit candles. She had a statue of St Anthony turned upside down to make him “work” more efficiently and images of St Peter (Elegba?) and St Marron, an unofficial Louisiana saint. She also maintained an altar in the back of her house that featured statues of a bear, lion, tiger, and wolf.
Marie presided over annual St John’s Eve (Midsummer’s Eve) ritual celebrations on Lake Pontchartrain where she famously danced with her snake, the Grand Zombi. (Not zombi like the living dead; zombi as in a corruption of the Vodou magician lwa, Simbi. See DIVINE WITCH.)
A famous legend of Marie Laveau suggests that when she was elderly, she entered the lake, submerged and re-emerged as if she were decades younger. Devotees considered this proof of her power; skeptics believe this was how she retired and passed power to her daughter, also named Marie. Some believe Marie Laveau died on June 15, 1881. Others believe she never died but kept regenerating herself and her power.
Marie’s grave is in New Orleans’ oldest cemetery, St Louis Cemetery Number One. It is visited annually by thousands who come to pay tribute to Mamzelle Marie Laveau, as she is known, and to beg for the favors she allegedly grants from beyond the grave. (There are also rumors suggesting that the Marie in the grave attributed to Marie Laveau is really High Priestess Marie Comtesse, a Voodoo Queen in late nineteenthcentury New Orleans, known as La Comtesse.)
Leek, Sybil (February 22, 1922—October 26, 1982)
Astrologer, author, lecturer, witch, ghosthunter, and radio and television personality, Sybil Leek was born at a crossroads where three rivers meet in what she described as a “witchridden” part of Staffordshire.
She claimed to be a hereditary witch of Russian and Irish descent. She traced her maternal Irish lineage back to 1134. On her father’s side, she was descended from occultists affiliated with the royal court in Russia. She grew up in the New Forest region of England, one of the country’s oldest surviving forests, and was largely home-schooled until age 11. Beginning in childhood, she studied astrology, occultism, witchcraft, the Kabalah and the Bible, and Eastern religions and philosophies.
Aleister Crowley was a family friend during her childhood and predicted great things for her. H.G. Wells was another friend of the family. In her twenties she moved into the New Forest where she lived among Romany horse-traders for a year, studying their herbal traditions.
She eventually became High Priestess of a New Forest coven. According to Leek, the New Forest supported four distinct covens living in different sections of the wood. There were thirteen people per coven, six men and six women plus a High Priestess. Leek was the High Priestess of the Horsa Coven. She described the phenomenon of “religious” people who feared witches coming to the forest to seek healing from them anyway.
Leek ran an antique store in Burley. Her familiars included Mr Hotfoot Jackson, her jackdaw and Miss Sashima, a boa constrictor. She attracted too much notoriety, and some neighbors encouraged her to leave. Leek moved to the United States where she became an astrologer, which she described as her “first love.” Her 1969 autobiography, Diary of a Witch, was followed by dozens of other books.
Lenormand, Marie (May 27, 1772—June 25, 1843)
Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand, an astrologer and fortune-teller, was known as “The Sibyl of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.” She was born in Alençon, France. She left for Paris at age 21 where she started a salon with a partner, Madame Gilbert. She achieved great popularity and was consulted by thousands.
Among those who consulted her were French revolutionaries Marat, Robespierre, and St Just, whose deaths she allegedly predicted, but she is most famous for her relationship with Josephine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s future bride. Josephine, from Martinique, reputedly knew a thing or two about magic herself and was also a card-reader. Lenormand predicted her divorce from Napoleon, as well as Napoleon’s own rise and fall. Lenormand read Napoleon’s astrological chart for him.
When she correctly foretold Napoleon’s intention to divorce Josephine, Napoleon had Lenormand imprisoned until the divorce was finalized. When she predicted the downfall of his Empire, he banished her from Paris.
Lenormand designed her own 36-card fortunetelling system. Neither tarot nor playing cards but an original system, many decks are currently available, although not all give Lenormand credit. The Gypsy Witch Fortune-Telling Cards are reputedly based on her system.
Lenormand was also a skilled palm-reader and studied numerology and Kabalah.
Levi, Eliphas (c.1810—October 12, 1875)
French occultist Eliphas Levi exerted tremendous influence over contemporary metaphysical traditions. He was born Alphonse Louis Constant in Paris, a shoemaker’s son. He was educated at Roman Catholic schools and at the seminary of St Sulpice, and was eventually ordained as a deacon in 1835. He had an early fascination with the occult, especially the works of Cornelius Agrippa and Francis Barrett’s grimoire The Magus. He studied the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage and pursued studies in advanced Kabalah.
He was eventually expelled from St Sulpice; exactly why is unclear. Various reasons have been offered: either he taught doctrines contrary to the Church, had radical political values, difficulty maintaining his vow of celibacy, or all or some of the above. He eventually adopted the magical name Eliphas Levi.
His first book, The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, was published in 1861 and linked Tarot to the Kabalah and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. He connected the four suits of cards to the four natural elements and the four letters of the Tetragrammaton.
Levi was a powerful influence on the Golden Dawn, who incorporated Levi’s rituals, and also on Aleister Crowley who, born on the day Levi died, believed himself to be a reincarnation of Levi.
Levi committed his life to metaphysical study and practice. He suffered tremendous financial hardship—at one point he was virtually homeless. However, Adolphe Desbarolles, a successful palm-reader, came to his assistance, giving him a room in a lovely house at 19, Avenue de Maine in Paris, where Levi began attracting students. He taught various occult arts until his death.
His works include Doctrine of Transcendental Magic, History of Magic, The Key of the Grand Mysteries, and Fables and Symbols.
Lilly, William (May 1, 1602—June 9, 1681)
William Lilly was an astrologer, prophet, publisher of almanacs, and treasure hunter. He was known as the “English Merlin.”
He came from a family of yeoman farmers but young William had no interest or aptitude for farming. Lilly learned astrology from a Mr Evans, a well-known necromancer of the time, who had allegedly been consulted by Lord Bothwell, Mary Queen of Scots’ third husband.
In 1636, Lilly bought a house at Hersham, near Walton-on-Thames, Surrey where he carried out his studies and consultations. In 1644, he published the Prophetical Almanack, which brought him prominence and renown. He continued to write and publish this almanac until his death as well as writing a number of books devoted to astrology.
Allegedly Lilly had over 2,000 occult consultations each year between 1645 and 1660. Lilly’s predictions had a high reputation for accuracy. Among those who frequently consulted with him was King Charles I. Lilly foretold the Great Fire of London in 1666 so accurately that he was arrested on charges of arson. He was later proven innocent.
Lilly managed to stay in the good graces of Charles and Charles’ opponents. He was consulted as to where Charles should retire when he escaped from Hampton Court. Lilly’s advice was allegedly not followed. Also, allegedly, Lilly provided the saw and acid with which Charles nearly removed the bars of a window during an attempt to escape from Carisbrooke Castle, the fortress on the Isle of Wight where he was imprisoned prior to his execution.
Lilly exerted great influence during the English Civil War. His prophesies in Merlinus Anglicanus were used by leaders on both sides. In 1649, Lilly received a pension amounting to £100 a year from the Council of State.
Mathers, Moina (February 28, 1865—July 25, 1928)
Moina Mathers was a High Priestess, occultist, and a founding member of the Golden Dawn. Born Mina Bergson in Geneva, Switzerland, she was the fourth of seven children. One brother would become the renowned French philosopher Henri Bergson.
The family on her father’s side were reputedly Kabalah scholars, although as Kabalah was traditionally not taught to women (at least not publicly), it’s unknown whether Mina learned any of this tradition at home.
The family moved incessantly across Europe as her father attempted to support his family via a musical career. Eventually they settled in London where Mina, an accomplished artist, attended the Slade School of Art where she became good friends with Anne Horniman, a tea heiress, who later would become the main financial supporter of the Golden Dawn.
In November 1887, Mina was sketching in the Egyptian hall of the British Museum when she met Samuel MacGregor Mathers. Although her parents disapproved, they were married on June 16, 1890 in the library of the Horniman Museum. Mina changed her name to the more Celtic Moina so as to give it a more “Highland ring” in keeping with Mathers’ predilections. Her motto was Vestiga Nulla Retrorsum, “I never retrace my steps.”
Moina referred to Mathers as her teacher, husband, and friend. They agreed from the outset of their relationship to abstain from sexual intercourse although exactly why is unknown. They were extremely devoted to each other. Moina had an excellent command of Hebrew and there is some speculation that she actually did much of the Hebrew translation credited to Mathers. Certainly it is safe to say that she contributed to his work, although always without official credit. She was also clairvoyant and served as a medium.
In 1892, the Mathers moved to Paris where they lived in abject poverty. In 1894, they established the Ahathoor Temple there. Moina adored Mathers and allowed him the limelight but she worked alongside him until he died.
Her magical and metaphysical contributions are often overlooked in favor of the scandals with which she was involved. Dion Fortune, with whom Moina feuded, claimed that Moina had subjected Fortune to psychic attack and was responsible for the magical murder of Fortune’s friend Netta Fornario, although Moina had died eighteen months before Fornario.
After MacGregor Mathers’ death, Moina returned to London in 1919 where she directed the Alpha et Omega Lodge for nine years. She was in desperate financial straits in London. Her health began to fail. Eventually she stopped eating although, as with her abstention from sex, exactly why is unknown. She died at St Mary Abbott’s Hospital on July 25, 1928.
Further Reading: Rare information about Moina Mathers and the other women so crucial to the development of the Golden Dawn is found in Mary K. Greer’s Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses (Park Street Press, 1995).
Mathers, Samuel L. MacGregor (January 8, 1854—November 20, 1918)
Samuel L. “MacGregor” Mathers was perhaps the most important member of the Golden Dawn, responsible for the creation of most of their rituals. He was the first to translate various occult texts into English.
Samuel Liddel Mathers was born in London; he claimed to be of Highland Scottish ancestry, a member of Clan MacGregor, and hence his eventual adoption of that name. He is most popularly called MacGregor Mathers. He was very devoted to his Scottish heritage and frequently dressed in Highland garb complete with kilt.
(He liked to dress as an Egyptian priest too.) He was a fervid vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist, a non-smoker at a time when it was customary for men to smoke. He was a strong believer in women’s rights and equality and insisted that women be equal partners and participants in all facets of the Golden Dawn.
Mathers insisted that the order respect the truths of all religions. He created a flexible system of magic that could be used in various ways. He was a self-taught scholar with a sound knowledge of French, Greek, and Latin as well as some Coptic, Gaelic, and Hebrew.
Mathers’ major intent and goal was the translation and publication of key magical documents that might otherwise languish in obscurity in museum and library archives. He dedicated his life to the study of the Western Mystery Tradition.
He was initiated into Masonry in 1877. Within 18 months he became a Master Mason although he later resigned in order to devote himself to the new order, The Golden Dawn.
Mathers made the first English translation of Christian Knorr von Rosenroth’s, Kabbalah Unveiled in 1887. His mentor was Anna Kingsford (see page 744) to whom he dedicated the work. In 1892, Mathers moved to Paris with his wife, Moina (see page 748), where he began translating the classical grimoires into English, including The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.
He was Chief of the Second Order of the Golden Dawn and author of almost all the Golden Dawn documents and teachings. Mathers introduced the Egyptian pantheon into the Golden Dawn.
He returned to London in 1910 to engage in litigation with Aleister Crowley over Golden Dawn secrets that Crowley had published in his magazine Equinox. Mathers was unsuccessful, however, and returned to Paris in 1912.
Moina Mathers felt her husband eventually died of exhaustion caused by the accumulated effects of his profound metaphysical work. Dion Fortune stated that he died of Spanish Influenza but no cause of death is listed on his death certificate. It is unknown where he is buried.
Among his many works are The Tarot: A Short Treatise on Reading Cards, Egyptian Symbolism, The Grimoire of Armadel, The Tarot, Its Occult Significance and Methods of Play, The Key of Solomon the King: Clavicula Solomonis, The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, and Astral Projection, Ritual Magic and Alchemy.
High Priestess of Hecate, Circe’s niece, herbalist supreme, potions-mistress and spell-caster, Medea is among those serving as prototypes of the witch.
Medea’s name is related to metis or “wisdom” and is usually translated as “the cunning one.” She was the daughter of the King of Colchis, now part of modern Georgia. Her mother is variously described as an “ocean spirit” or even as Hecate herself. (Whether this was meant literally or whether Hecate should be considered her spiritual mother is subject to interpretation.) Medea is Hecate’s priestess and acolyte. She may channel and embody the goddess.
Circe, Medea’s aunt, is plainly a spirit; Homer uses the word “goddess” to describe her. Medea may or may not be a human being. It has been suggested that she is a pre-Olympian deity whose murders reflect past human sacrifices.
Medea was the central figure in at least ten Greek and Roman plays, of which only two survive in more than fragmentary form. From what does survive, she seems to have usually been portrayed as a foreigner witch. (Whether anything survives—or existed—in her Georgian homeland is unknown.)
She is the hero who accomplishes the task Jason is given credit for, obtaining the Golden Fleece.
In order to gain his throne, Jason, a disenfranchised prince of Iolchus in Thessaly, must obtain the Golden Fleece, which hangs on a branch in a grove in Colchis on the shores of the Black Sea. Jason was a student of the centaur Chiron and under the protection of the goddess Hera. The Argonauts include the shaman Orpheus, the sons of the North Wind, and even, for a while, Heracles.
Aeëtes, King of Colchis, son of Helios the Sun and brother of Circe, wishes to retain the Golden Fleece. He sets a task for Jason that should result in certain death, which would please both himself and the king of Iolchus and maintain the status quo. The appointed task, to be accomplished between sunrise and sunset, was to harness Aeëtes’ fire-breathing bulls, plough up a field and sow it with dragon’s teeth. If Jason is successful, he gets the Golden Fleece. If he fails, Aeëtes will snip out the tongues and lop off the hands of Jason and the Argonauts.
However Jason has Hera on his side. Hera asks Aphrodite to tell Eros to shoot Medea with an arrow of love. She falls madly in love with Jason. Without being asked, Medea concocts a salve for him that renders him safe from fire or iron for 24 hours. She requests that Jason meet her at the Temple of Hecate where she tells him she loves him enough to betray her father and gives him the salve. Jason says he loves her too and swears by all the gods to make her his queen and love her for ever, much to the delight of Hera, Aphrodite, and Eros.
Although Jason fulfills the task, Aeëtes has no intention of giving him the Fleece. He orders his men to seize the Argo and kill the foreigners at daybreak. Medea warns Jason, telling him to take the Golden Fleece and run.
At night, she leads him to the grove where the Fleece is guarded by a sleepless dragon. Medea bewitches it via incantations so that it does fall asleep. (Notably she does not kill the dragon, Hecate’s sacred creature.) Jason and Medea grab the Fleece and escape.
When the king’s men go to attack the Argo at dawn, it’s gone, as is the Fleece and the king’s daughter. Ships are sent in pursuit. A faster ship, steered by one of Aeëtes’ sons, overtakes the Argo. Medea again saves Jason: she arranges an ambush for her brother on a nearby island, having tricked him into meeting her. Jason kills Medea’s brother, and her father has to stop the pursuit in order to give his son immediate funeral rites.
After various adventures Jason and Medea finally arrive at Iolchus, Jason having been gone now for years. Jason is warned that Pelias the king knows he’s back and intends to kill him. Once again, Medea saves him. Disguised as a humble old crone witch peddling magical herbs that will rejuvenate the old, Medea tricks Pelias’ daughters into boiling their father to death.
The throne now belongs to Jason. He is welcomed home as a hero but the people don’t trust Medea, perceiving her as a foreigner witch. They refuse to accept her as queen and so another king is chosen in Jason’s place. Jason and Medea flee to Corinth.
Jason doesn’t love Medea anymore. He asks her to leave so that he can marry the Princess of Corinth and inherit her father’s kingdom. Medea sends a magic robe to his bride-to-be. It’s irresistibly beautiful, but as soon as the bride tries it on, it goes up in flames, as does her entire palace. Medea escapes in a chariot drawn by two dragons, sent for her by Hecate. (Other versions of the myth have her escaping in a chariot sent by her grandfather Helios, the Sun god.)
What happens to Medea then? Again there are different versions:
In her youth, Medea rejected Zeus’ advances, thereby earning Hera’s eternal devotion. Although she dies (she commits suicide), she is sent to the Isles of the Blessed, the Greek paradise, where she is happily married to Achilles
Now (or always) a goddess, she travels to Italy where she assumes the name Angitia
She married King Aegeus of Athens and tried but failed to poison Theseus
She went to Asia where the Medes were named in her honor
Merlin’s very name has become a synonym for wizardry. He was a poet, prophet, magician, hermit, teacher, and wizard. A Welsh origin is most commonly attributed although claims are also made by Brittany, Ireland, and Scotland. One version suggests he was born off the coast of Brittany, on an island associated with witchcraft during the Roman era.
There are countless legends featuring Merlin. Many are contradictory; they may not all be of the same person. In most versions, Merlin’s mother is a princess. His father is a mystery.
One story suggests that Merlin’s mother lost her way home and slept beneath a tree in the woods where a Wild Forest Man discovered her. Merlin inherited his prophetic ability from his father and was periodically seized by fits of wildness that drive him into the woods to live like a wild man. He finally arranges his own capture so that his prophetic ability will be of service to others. Disguised as a stag, he reveals how to capture a wild man (himself) who is the only one able to interpret the King’s ominous dreams.
Legends once suggested that Merlin was responsible for Stonehenge. One of the Welsh Triads suggests that Britain was once called Clas Myrddin (Merlin’s Enclosure) in his honor. Merlin may originally have been a deity or a deified ancestor. Some suggest he was worshipped at Stonehenge.
Merlin either fought with or against King Gwenddolau, a British king believed to have Druid connections, at the Battle of Arfderydd in 573 CE. Merlin and his brothers fought; all the brothers except Merlin were killed. In grief, Merlin escaped to the forest of Celidon in the Scottish Lowlands where he lived as a wild man (Merlin Wyllt) together with his sister Gwenddydd, living on berries, writing prophesies and consorting with spirits. He eventually emerged from the forest to become the sage Merlin Emrys.
In a later legend, the devil (or a demon) is Merlin’s father: Merlin was intended by Satan to be the Anti-Christ but his mother’s confessor had the foresight to baptize baby Merlin at birth so that he turns out to be benign not evil.
Merlin has powerful associations with women: in early legends, Merlin is closely identified with his sister, a female magician. Some legends suggest that Gwenddydd taught Merlin all he knew. In later Arthurian legends, Merlin is the “good” male magician as opposed to “wicked” female magicians, especially Morgan le Fay.
Merlin allegedly orchestrated the birth of King Arthur and supervised his upbringing until he could assume his throne. Merlin served as Arthur’s advisor and protector; it isn’t until Merlin eventually disappears that Arthur’s kingdom and the Society of Knights of the Round Table began their final deterioration.
Merlin’s disappearance involves his love life. One version suggests that Merlin fell in love with Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. She feels threatened by him, justifiably, as he creates a spell to bind her to him. She begs him to teach her magical arts. He agrees and takes her to a lakeside grotto where she casts a spell on Merlin that he himself taught her. Merlin now sleeps in that cave for eternity.
According to another version, Merlin met the fairy Vivien in the Forest of Broceliande in Brittany. He fell in love with her and allowed himself to be enchanted. Merlin was resting beside a spring in the forest when Vivien appeared and asked what he was doing. Merlin gave her a magical demonstration: he traced sigils in the grass and a castle complete with knights and ladies appeared.
Vivien is charmed and asks to keep the castle grounds, named the “Joyous Garden” after Merlin dismisses the vision. The pair promise to rendezvous a year later on Midsummer’s Eve. Merlin goes to England for Arthur and Guinevere’s wedding but then returns to Broceliande where he is enchanted by Vivien.
He tells her how to perform a binding spell and then goes to sleep. She circumambulates him nine times chanting incantations. Some depict her action as treacherous but the romantic might perceive that having found bliss, Merlin wished to retain it forever and that he and Vivien lived (and live) happily ever after. Some identify Vivien as the Lady of the Lake.
There are also other versions of what happened to Merlin:
He transformed himself into an oak following Vivien’s rejection
He fled in the face of Christianity accompanied by a party of nine including bards to Bardsey Island off the Lleyn Peninsula, taking with him Britain’s Thirteen Treasures
The first fully developed written account of Merlin was Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The Little Book of Merlin or Merlin’s Prophesies, written c.1135. Nennius’ ninth-century History of the Britons told the tale of a fatherless boy and red and white dragons battling beneath the foundations of a tower. Geoffrey identified the boy as Merlin although this may have been based on oral tradition.
Geoffrey of Monmouth was also the first to turn Arthur from a Pagan warrior into a romantic (and Christian) hero. He wrote History of the Kings of Britain c.1160, combining legend and invention. How much was true? How much based on oral tradition, how much pure literary invention or embellishment? Who knows? Geoffrey was fluent in Welsh and Latin and he refers to an earlier book written in Welsh as his source of information. However this book has not yet been located.
Murray, Margaret (July 13, 1863—1963)
Margaret Alice Murray, British author, archeologist, anthropologist, and Egyptologist, is perceived by some to be the mother of contemporary witchcraft.
Her work evokes passionate reactions in many; some venerate Murray; others openly despise her. Many who disagree with her theories are quite disrespectful toward her. She is frequently described as a “crackpot.” Many fellow anthropologists and historians are quite dismissive toward her, beyond professional criticism. Whether one agrees with her theories or not, Margaret Murray was an eminently educated woman and was once considered an authority in her field.
Born in Calcutta, she studied archeology at Cambridge University, joining its faculty in 1899 at a time when very few women served in such positions. She studied Egyptian hieroglyphics, holding the position of Assistant Professor of Egyptology until 1935. She went on various archeological digs in the United Kingdom, Middle East, Egypt and the Mediterranean, including Sir Flinders Petrie’s excavations at the Egyptian holy city of Abydos.
Having studied Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and Charles Leland’s Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, Murray developed an interest in witchcraft, theorizing that it was a pre-Christian Pagan religion. She began studying witch-trial records.
In 1921, Murray published The Witch Cult in Western Europe, which stated that victims of the witch-hunts were practitioners of surviving Pagan religions. The controversial theories described within were embraced by Gerald Gardner but disputed by other scholars. Her theories would be a major influence on Gardnerian Wicca.
Among the issues regarding her work is that she based her theories on witch-trial testimony (particularly from Scotland) obtained under torture. Murray cited the consistency of many concessions. Was this consistency proof of witchcraft, as she surmised, or proof of the witch-hunters’ obsessive need for consistency?
Another argument against her theories is that she virtually ignored trial records from outside Western Europe. Her information derives heavily from the British Isles and France with little emphasis on Germany, which had a massive witch-hunt, or Central and Eastern Europe.
According to her (very hostile) critics, Murray was guilty of selective editing: she was accused of inventing or slanting evidence and lost scholarly credibility. She quoted witch-trial defendants extensively but deleted what she seems to have perceived as “fairy tale” parts such as shape-shifting, riding through the air and other magical elements. Murray was interested in the religious and spiritual aspects of witchcraft, not necessarily any magical or shamanic parts. Thus she emphasized what she perceived as spiritual aspects of Paganism but eliminated the shamanic. Her work is actually quite reflective of the tension between the two camps—magic/shamanic vs spiritual—that still resounds today.
Ironically, Murray has been somewhat rehabilitated in recent years by witchcraft historians like Carlo Ginzburg who have explored genuine shamanic elements emerging from witch-trial records, the Benandanti for instance, and who suggest that even if all of Murray’s theories are not correct, she was a pioneer to recognize the existence of European Pagan vestiges.
Murray was not the first to postulate that witches represented pre-Christian traditions, although she was the first to do so in English. In 1749, Girolamo Tartarotti published a book in Italian, Del Congresso Nottorno delle Lammie, stating that witchcraft derives from rites of Diana.
The person frequently credited as the first to put forward the idea that witches represented pre-Christian traditions was Karl-Ernst Jarcke, Professor of Criminal law at the University of Berlin. In 1828, he edited seventeenth-century German witch-trial records for a legal journal, adding his own commentary. He argued that witchcraft was a survival of the nature religion of pre-Christian Germans. According to Jarcke, the Church condemned this surviving nature religion, identifying it with devil worship so intensely that over time even witchcraft’s own devotees subscribed to the Church’s notion.
Jarcke was a devote Roman Catholic and not sympathetic to witches. Margaret Murray’s radicalism may have been in being the first to publicly express empathy and sympathy for witches, and there are those who believe that this is what actually created the controversy that still surrounds her work.
Margaret Murray’s other books include:
The God of the Witches (1933), which focused on the horned god and the Paleolithic origins of witchcraft
The Divine King in England (1954), which argued that all English kings from the eleventh to the early seventeenth centuries secretly practiced witchcraft and died ritual deaths, similar to those described in Frazer’s The Golden Bough. The general response to The Divine King was mockery. Branded a crackpot, many simply dismissed all Murray’s work
Nostradamus, Michel De (December 14, 1503— July 2, 1566)
The most famous prophet perhaps of all time, Nostradamus was also an astrologer, “celestial scientist,” herbalist, healer, and formulator of prized cosmetics and fruit preserves: his recipe for quince jelly won acclaim from the Papal Legate of Avignon.
Michel de Nostredame was born in Provence of Jewish ancestry. His maternal grandfather, Jean de Saint Remy was the astrologer/physician for Rene d’Anjou, Ruler of Provence. Under Rene d’Anjou, Provence was a haven for Jews; following the death of his heir, however, Provence reverted to the less-tolerant French crown; an Edict of September 26, 1501 gave Provençal Jews three months to convert or leave. The family converted before the birth of Nostradamus and his two brothers.
Michel was raised and schooled by his grandfathers, who taught him Greek, Hebrew, Latin, astrology, and Kabalah. At age 14, he studied liberal arts at the University of Avignon where his fellow students dubbed him “the little astrologer.”
Indeed, Michel wished to become an astrologer but his family feared that metaphysical interests combined with Jewish ancestry would make him a target for the Inquisition and advised a more circumspect career. So instead, Michel studied medicine at the acclaimed University of Montpelier.
Nostradamus earned tremendous renown as a healer, allegedly exhibiting great courage in the face of the Plague as well as creativity and resourcefulness, i.e., he was an unorthodox healer. His unconventional medical practices eventually brought him into conflict with the local medical authorities. Nostradamus resolutely opposed bleeding patients, then standard medical practice, and instead emphasized hygiene and cleanliness, which was then very controversial.
A fresh wave of the Bubonic Plague struck; although he saved many patients, his wife and children died. This was the beginning of a turbulent time for him. He had conflicts with patrons and many patients abandoned him after he was unable to save his own family; his deceased wife’s family went to court to try to recover her dowry.
A few years earlier, in 1534, he had sarcastically told a workman casting a bronze Madonna that the workman was casting devils instead.
Several years later when, having lost his patrons, clients, and much income, Nostradamus was perceived as vulnerable, the workman alerted authorities of the remark, which, at best, reeked of Protestantism. (Nostradamus did not deny the statement but claimed it referred to the mediocrity of the art.) In 1538, he was ordered to appear before the Inquisitor of Toulouse. Instead he hit the road.
For the greater part of a decade, he wandered. Little record of him exists for the next six years but it’s known that he traveled through Lorraine, Venice, and Sicily where he studied with Sufi mystics. He visited alchemists, astrologers, healers, Kabalists, diviners, and magicians and studied the works of Paracelsus and Agrippa.
He eventually returned to Provence where, on November 11, 1547, he married a rich widow with whom he had six children, three daughters and three sons. He settled in Salon-de-Provence, living there for the rest of his life. The street where he lived, in his time Rue du Moulin-d’Isnard, has been renamed Rue Nostradamus; his home has been restored and is now a museum.
Nostradamus owned treasured copies of the Key of Solomon as well as various Kabalistic works but wrote that he burned them when the Inquisition got too close. (See BOOKS: Grimoires: Key of Solomon; MAGICAL ARTS: Kabalah.)
He converted the upper floor of his home to a metaphysical laboratory. As far as is known, Nostradamus did not engage in prophesy until his return to Provence. His prophecies were derived via a combination of astrology and scrying. (See MAGICAL ARTS: Astrology, Divination.)
Inspired by the prophetic pythonesses of Delphi, Nostradamus sat atop a high tripod, whose legs were angled at the same degree as the Egyptian pyramids, and gazed down into a brass bowl filled with steaming water to which essential oils were added, placed atop another tripod. (See TOOLS: Tripod.) He saw visions of the future and then recorded them, believing his psychic vision was a divine gift.
In 1550, he published his first almanac, containing his predictions as well as weather, astrology, and standard almanac information. His almanac was a success and he published an annual almanac for the rest of his life.
His first prophecies were cautious; they were not written as straightforward predictions but as quatrains (four-line poems). Each almanac contains twelve quatrains, one prophecy for each month of the year.
He began a more ambitious series of books, titled the Centuries: ten volumes each containing 100 quatrains, totaling one thousand predictions. It is these predictions published in the Centuries that have earned Nostradamus the renown that makes his very name a synonym for prophesy.
The verses are not easy to read. Writing prophecies and practicing divination was dangerous and controversial and thus, for his own protection, the verses are mysterious and obtuse, written in anagrams and riddles in a mixture of Greek, Italian, Latin, and Provençal. They must be interpreted. From first publication until today, people have argued and debated about the meaning, accuracy, and veracity of Nostradamus’ predictions. Prophecies extend until at least 3797 CE and so these debates are in no danger of dissipation.
The project was initiated on Good Friday, 1554. Four volumes were published in Lyons in 1555 to tremendous interest and success. They were bestsellers of the time and Nostradamus developed a huge following among the nobility and the upper classes. However, others described him as a tool of Satan. Medical colleagues were embarrassed by his forays into prophecy and the occult and repudiated him.
In 1556, Nostradamus was summoned to the court of French Queen Catherine de Medici (April 13, 1519—January 5, 1589), who was deeply involved with the occult and maintained a staff of astrologers, diviners, and magicians, most brought from her native Italy. Although superficially a devout Catholic, Catherine allegedly practiced Pagan rites in private, keeping a staff of priestesses devoted to Pagan deities. She had a wide collection of occult books and was a skilled mirror reader in her own right.
Nostradamus arrived in Paris and promptly became a celebrity. According to legend, the strenuous journey to Paris took a month. When he finally arrived, he was stricken with an attack of gout and laid up in bed for ten days. A steady stream of people came to visit, consult, and pay court to him, at a time when he really wished peace and quiet. Nostradamus, exasperated at a persistent knocking on his door, called through the door, “What’s the matter, page? This is a lot of noise over a lost dog. Look on the road to Orleans; you’ll find the dog on a leash.” Indeed, the boy outside his door was a young page, employed by a renowned family, desperately seeking the valuable, lost dog entrusted to him. He followed Nostradamus’ directions and discovered another servant who had located the dog bringing it home on a leash. The story circulated and further cemented Nostradamus’ reputation.
Nostradamus had published a prediction that Catherine’s husband, King Henri II, would either become a second Charlemagne and heal the breach between French Catholics and Protestants or be killed in a jousting accident. Months earlier, apparently unbeknownst to Nostradamus, Catherine’s astrologer Luc Gauric had made a similar prediction, advising the king to avoid jousting, although Gauric’s prediction lacked the specific, poetic detail of Nostradamus’:
The young lion will overcome the older one
On the field of combat in single battle
He will pierce his eyes through a golden cage
Two wounds made one, then he dies a cruel death
(Century 1, Quatrain 35)
Catherine interviewed Nostradamus in depth and was very impressed with him. She consulted with him for the rest of his life. She had Nostradamus cast the horoscopes of the royal children, all of whom were doomed to sad fates. Nostradamus was not only a prophet but a diplomat, managing to deliver his prophecies delicately. He did not fall from favor with Catherine nor did she ever claim his prophecies were inaccurate. (He told her all her sons would be kings, which was true, if only because of their early deaths and the death of their father.)
Catherine took Nostradamus’ predictions seriously but Henri did not. He was killed in a joust with the Captain of his Scottish Guards, Count de Montgomery. A splinter from Montgomery’s lance pierced the king’s golden visor and entered his eye, simultaneously blinding him and penetrating his brain. Henri II died after ten days of excruciating suffering.
When their prophecies ultimately proved true, Gauric and Nostradamus were blamed. Crowds burned Nostradamus (the more famous of the two) in effigy. Rumors spread that the Inquisition was looking for him and he headed home.
Nostradamus remained famous for the rest of his life, variously admired or vilified. The local nobility flocked to have their horoscopes cast and buy the cosmetics he formulated. (The term “aromatherapy” hadn’t been coined yet; however Nostradamus may be understood to have been the equivalent of an aromatherapist.) He was always controversial, however, and was periodically accused of Satanism, of being a secret Jew, and/or of practicing witchcraft, although his association with Catherine de Medici ultimately protected him.
Books appeared accusing him of heresy, witchcraft, and fraud. His house was frequently stoned by young local fundamentalist Catholics. The threats were so extreme that for a while he sought safety for himself and his family in the local jail. Some perceived him as engaged in evil arts; others perceived his prophecies as threats, not predictions.
Among the events Nostradamus allegedly predicted were the execution of the English king Charles I, the Great Fire of London, the French Revolution and the subsequent executions of the royal family, Napoleon’s rise and fall, World War II, the emergence of the United States, Communism, the stock market crash, the Apollo Moon Landing, the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Among his predictions was his own death and a secret joke: Nostradamus’ final request was to be buried upright within a wall inside the Church of the Cordeliers of Salon so that no one could ever tread on his grave. In 1700, officials decided to exhume his body and move his remains to a safer, more prominent wall in the church. Nostradamus had anticipated the move: a medallion discovered around the skeleton’s neck and buried with him when he died was engraved with the year 1700.
Paracelsus (1493—September 1541)
Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim called himself Paracelsus, probably to indicate that he believed himself superior to Celsus, the first-century Roman medical authority. He inevitably is identified solely by his nickname today, perhaps because his true name is such a mouthful.
Magus, alchemist, astrologer, philosopher, and physician, he was a controversial figure in his own time and aroused passionate opposition especially from other physicians and apothecaries.
Born in Switzerland, he spent his childhood in Carinthia, a province of Austria.
He is believed to have studied medicine under his father, a physician. He received his doctorate from the medical school at the University of Ferrara c.1515. He traveled to Rome, Naples, Spain, Portugal, Paris, London, Moscow, Constantinople, and Greece.
He was the first researcher to describe zinc and to use chemical compounds in medical practice. In 1526, he was appointed Professor of Medicine at Basel University and City Physician. He began by publicly burning the works of Avicenna and Galen.
Paracelsus was so foul-mouthed that Thomas Thompson, Scottish historian of chemistry, was incapable of completing a translation of his work. After only 11 months, he was obliged to resign his chair at Basel and spent the rest of his life wandering through Europe as an itinerant physician, mainly in Austria and Germany.
His specialty was bronchial illnesses. He developed the first comprehensive treatment for syphilis. He was fascinated by potential links between weather and illness and wrote extensively on the connections between astrology and medicine.
Paracelsus regarded illness as a form of imbalance. His theories would now be described as “holistic”; he insisted that body and soul must be simultaneously addressed in order to bring about a true cure.
“Everywhere I enquired diligently and gathered experience of the medical art, not alone from doctors, but also from barbers, women, sorcerers, alchemists.” (Paracelsus)
He believed in the existence of natural magic powers, and allegedly kept a spirit named Azoth imprisoned in the crystal pommel of his sword.
In 1541, utterly impoverished, he settled in Salzburg under the protection of Archbishop Duke Ernst of Bavaria. He died there, allegedly thrown off a precipice by his enemies.
Pickingill, “Old George” (1816—1909)
“Old George” Pickingill, an influential figure in modern witchcraft, claimed to be a hereditary witch. His roots allegedly stretched back to his ancestor Julia, the Witch of Brandon in Norfolk. According to a family legend, Julia was hired in 1071 to chant incantations to inspire Hereward the Wake’s soldiers when they battled the Normans and to confuse the Normans. Unfortunately, the Normans burned Julia’s village with her in it.
Pickingill worked as a farmer in Canewdon, Essex. Suspicious neighbors accused him of magical intimidation, alleging that they feared to argue with him lest he cast spells over them. Neighbors claimed Pickingill relaxed by his hedge while a host of imps did his heavy labor for him.
Pickingill openly advocated the demise of Christianity and suggested that witches form alliances with Satanists in order to further that vision.
He established covens in Essex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, and Sussex.
Pickingill formed the Nine Covens with hereditary witches serving as leaders. Tremendously proud of his hereditary witchcraft lineage, he placed great emphasis on “witch blood.” Men and women were accepted into the coven but only women were permitted to conduct rituals. Pickingill also reputedly led an all-female coven as well, the Seven Witches of Canewdon.
He was reputed to have initiated both Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner into the Nine Covens.
Pythagoras (c.569 BCE—c.475 BCE)
Mathematician, musician, and sage, Pythagoras allegedly coined the word “philosopher” meaning “lover of wisdom.” He is most famous for his mathematical “Pythagorean theorem,” however he was a tremendously influential spiritual teacher and occultist as well.
The son of a wealthy jeweler, Pythagoras was born on the island of Samos and consecrated to Apollo before he was born. At one year old, his mother took him to an Israelite High Priest who blessed the baby.
Mathematics was his first passion, followed by music. He may have learned sacred geometry in Egypt. He devised the theory of the “music of the spheres” and healed through specially prepared musical compositions.
The Pythagoreans believed that everything in existence possesses a voice with which to sing praises of the Creator.
Pythagoras studied magic and spirituality in Egypt, Babylonia, and India and possibly with Druids in Europe. He allegedly studied in Egypt for 22 years. He underwent circumcision in Egypt, common to Egyptian spiritual traditions but not to Greek.
Pythagoras also studied with Thessalian witches from whom he learned a divination technique of holding a polished metal mirror up to the moon, then reading messages within. He also possessed a wheel with which he divined. He was a firm believer in divination via astrology, augury, dreams, and entrails.
Pythagoras calculated that Earth was spherical and a satellite of the sun (although these ideas may have been learned in Egypt). Around 518 BCE Pythagoras moved to the Greek city of Crotona in southern Italy where he founded his school of philosophy. His followers were known as mathematikoi and obeyed a code of secrecy.
Pythagoras allegedly never came out in daylight; he only ventured outside at night. He appeared in a long white garment; he had a long flowing beard and wore a garland around his head. He allegedly encouraged his acolytes to consider him an avatar of Apollo who had assumed human form the better to teach them. He could allegedly call eagles from the sky and converse with animals.
Various miracles were attributed to him:
His thigh was made from pure gold
He was seen in two places simultaneously
He was allegedly the reincarnation of King Midas
A river called out “Hail Pythagoras!” to him as he passed by
He lived to almost 100, marrying one of his students when he was 60. They had seven children. He taught that the human soul can achieve union with the divine, mathematics is related to all aspects of reality, and philosophy is a vehicle of spiritual purification. He also taught the necessity of a pure and simple life including vegetarianism.
His students were divided into two classes:
Neophytes, who received a general education
Initiates, who were admitted to the inner teachings. To become an initiate one had to donate one’s property to the school and live within its community
Students were not permitted to argue with the teacher. They had to endure long periods (years) of silence. Pythagoras taught beginner students from behind a curtain—perhaps the inspiration for the Wizard of Oz.
If students were discovered deficient in any area—including intellectual aptitude (and Pythagoras had high standards)—they were summarily expelled from the community.
Whatever property they had donated was doubled in value and returned to them. Funerary headstones and monuments were erected in their memory in the communal meeting hall. They were as if dead. Should they meet other members later, their past would not be acknowledged and they would be treated as strangers.
The beginning of Pythagoras’ end came when a prominent man called Cylon, perhaps the Prince of Crotona, enrolled in the academy. He was very rich and influential. He spent three years in probation, five years in complete silence, and was then found intellectually wanting and expelled.
Cylon described Pythagoras as an intolerable despot and set about a campaign against him. Assassins were hired to torch the academy and kill Pythagoras. The college was set afire by a mob and 40 students were killed, although Pythagoras and two followers were either not present or just barely escaped. Other Pythagorean communities were also destroyed. Pythagoras took refuge in the Temple of the Muses where he died after a 40-day siege.
Pythagoras spread the idea of political liberty throughout the Greek communities of Italy. He left nothing in writing; whatever is known about him derives from the writings of disciples and others. Most of his mathematical secrets were never committed to paper and died with him.
Randolph, Paschal Beverly (October 8, 1825—July 29, 1875)
Paschal Beverly Randolph, a prominent nine-teenth-century spiritualist, occultist, and prolific author was perhaps the primary exponent of magic mirrors and sex-magic. His theories influenced Helena Blavatsky and Aleister Crowley among others.
Randolph was a brilliant metaphysician: a High Ritual adept, Rosicrucian, Spiritualist, and Hoodoo doctor. He traveled in the circles of elite French and English occultists but also sold something called the “New Orleans Magnetic Pillow” via magazine ads. (He studied with Voodooists in New Orleans although later publicly criticized them.) Randolph founded various metaphysical societies including the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Brotherhood of Eulis.
Randolph was born at 70 Canal Street in New York City’s notorious Five Points slum. Five Points was that rare phenomena, a five-way crossroads. He identified his father, to whom his mother may or may not have been married, as a member of the prominent Randolph family of Virginia and, through him, claimed descent from Pocahontas. Randolph’s mother, Flora, was of African descent. He described her as being psychically gifted and believed he inherited his intuitive skills from her.
Randolph eventually became a sailor, then a barber. By 1853, he was listed in the New York City directory as “Dr. Paschal Beverly Randolph, clairvoyant physician and psycho-phrenologist.”
Although he used the title “Doctor,” Randolph was not a medical doctor but a “clairvoyant physician” who used powers of clairvoyance, sometimes while entranced, to diagnosis illness and prescribe treatment. The medical field was more eclectic at that time; by 1854, Randolph was working for two physicians in New York, seeing fifty patients a day.
He became involved with Spiritualism and was a gifted trance medium. Among those he channeled were Benjamin Franklin, Zoroaster, Napoleon, and his mother who chided him for allowing himself to be susceptible to so many spirits. He became entranced easily and suddenly (some said at the drop of a hat); a handsome, charismatic man, he was a popular lecturer as it was never sure whether he would deliver the advertised lecture or suddenly begin to channel some spirit.
He traveled through Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, spending time with the Dervishes and various occultists, and becoming proficient in various languages including Arabic and Turkish. In Paris, he may have met Eliphas Levi, who may or may not have initiated Randolph into the societies to which Levi belonged. Returning to the United States, Randolph became an importer and publisher, founding the Randolph Publishing House. He wrote many works, although usually under pseudonyms like Le Rosicrucien.
By 1860, Randolph was the foremost advocate of the magic mirror in the United States and was using it to teach a system of true, conscious clairvoyance. He authored books teaching these techniques and was also the primary distributor of magic mirrors.
Previously mirror-gazing was a passive activity; the medium merely received messages from the device. Randolph created a system of active magic using specially designed mirrors. The mirrors he advocated usually consisted of two pieces of glass or metal, one convex and one concave, fitted together in a frame leaving a narrow cavity that could be filled with various substances, such as ink, hashish, and/or assorted sexual fluids.
Randolph also became the foremost scholar and theorist of sex magic. Randolph’s sex magic is unusual: most systems of sexual magic involve relationships between the practitioner and discarnate entities. Randolph’s theories actually involve sex between men and women. Equally unusually, especially for his time, he placed tremendous emphasis on women’s sexual happiness.
Randolph taught that human vitality is dependent upon mutual sexual fulfillment. The moment of mutual, simultaneous orgasm is the point of supreme magic power. The vital energy that flows during correct sexual intercourse supports clairvoyance and mediumship and ultimately links the human soul with those of the celestial spheres.
The key word is “correct” sexual intercourse; Randolph believed that in order to achieve this state, men and women must find their soulmates, their “correct” compatible partner. Much of his life was devoted to finding that partner; he had a stormy love life, marrying at least three times. With the correct partner, it would theoretically be possible to conceive a magical child. (Randolph believed this was accomplished with the birth of his son, Osiris Budh, on March 29, 1874.) It is theorized that many of Aleister Crowley’s later obsessions with Scarlet Women and magickal children are rooted in Randolph’s work (see Crowley, page 720).
This sexual vitality, which he envisioned as a type of fluid, similar to lymphatic fluid, is intrinsic to human well being and magical power. In addition to sex, vitality may be bolstered and enhanced through certain foods, as well as through various herbal elixirs that Randolph formulated and sold via mail order, their primary ingredient hashish. He made various, presumably potent, concoctions of hashish, opium, henbane, and belladonna.
Randolph became very bitter at the end of his life; he was in severe financial straits and was perhaps drinking. He felt he was not given the respect due to him by other occultists, blaming it, with much justification, on prevalent race prejudice.
On July 29, 1875, Randolph committed suicide by shooting himself with a pistol in Toledo, Ohio. Just a few months later, Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott formed the Theosophical Society, many of whose early theories were closely related to Randolph’s. Randolph and Olcott corresponded with each other, and it’s known that Olcott admired Randolph’s books. Various rumors exist, none substantiated, regarding Randolph’s relationship, if any, with Blavatsky:
Some suggest they knew each other in Paris before Blavatsky came to the US
Some suggest they belonged to the same secret societies and that Randolph was privy to Blavatsky’s Ascended Masters
Some suggest that Blavatsky and Randolph feuded, possibly fatally. One story suggested that Randolph had attempted to hex Blavatsky but the spell rebounded, causing him to kill himself. (In all fairness, this story derives from those who wished to paint Blavatsky as a powerful but malevolent witch.)
Further Reading: An extensively detailed, long-overdue biography, Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian and Sex Magician, by John Patrick Deveney (State University of New York Press, 1997) also includes two of Randolph’s most famous works, The Ansairetic Mystery: A New Revelation Concerning Sex! and The Mysteries of Eulis.
Rucker, “Black” Herman (1892—April 1934)
Herman Rucker was an African-American author, conjurer, illusionist (stage-magician), occultist, Freemason, fortune-teller, and herbalist. Like the old Italian mountebanks, he offered a combination of entertainment, occult, and healing services at his medicine shows. He possessed a rare combination of personal charisma and financial acuity to be one of the few occultists to achieve lasting financial success and stability.
He dubbed himself “Black Herman” to make his ancestry very clear. He wished to avoid trouble and cancellations in the Jim Crow South. Magicians would be hired and would travel at their own expense to distant locations where, when it was discovered that they were of African ancestry, they would be refused work and reimbursement for their expenses, or worse. Other African-American magicians (or anyone remotely dark-skinned) took to wearing turbans and pretending to be Hindu magicians from India, which at that time was very stylish. Rucker took a different, direct, and very brave approach.
Benjamin Rucker was born in Amherst, Virginia. In his youth, he met a traveling magician, Prince Herman, also an African-American, who sold health tonics and did card tricks. Young Benjamin was fascinated with the tricks and asked to become a student. The two became friends. On Benjamin’s 16th birthday, Prince Herman offered him a position as his apprentice.
Benjamin hit the road with Prince Herman serving as chauffeur, valet, ticket seller, and general all-around assistant. He learned the tricks of the trade and the tricks of the stage. Rucker learned the art of concocting the health tonics sold at medicine shows as “Herman’s Wonderful Body Tonic.”
Brewing the tonic was part of the show: a cauldron was set up over a bonfire and the potion brewed on the spot. He himself was an excellent testimonial for his brew: tall, handsome, charismatic, and expensively dressed. He encouraged spectators to toss silver dimes into the pot for extra power and luck.
Prince Herman died in 1909. Apparently at that time, Rucker assumed the name “Black Herman.” He became a solo act and moved to Harlem, then in the midst of what is now known as the “Harlem Renaissance.” When not on the road, Rucker held salons in his home.
His repertoire included divination and faith healing rooted in Christianity but also incorporating various occult traditions. Illusionist tricks were incorporated including classics like the Sword Cabinet or sawing a pretty lady in half. Rucker also wrote various books that were sold at his shows. The greatest demand was for fortune-telling and so eventually that was emphasized. Rucker got around anti-fortunetelling laws by not charging for them. Readings were included as a free bonus with purchase of the health tonic.
Because Rucker was also an illusionist, the assumption now tends to be that his occult and divination interests and skills were fraudulent or also an illusion, however he was a knowledgeable and skillful occultist.
He bought a three-storey townhouse at 119 West 136th Street. It was expensively furnished with a telephone on each floor, a comparative rarity at that time. He conducted his fortunetelling business from his home where he offered private consultations. He was sufficiently in demand to employ two secretaries to handle his scheduling and appointments.
One room in his home served as an altar room, painted black and hung with African masks. The altar is described as “Voodooinspired” although which tradition, whether Haitian or New Orleans or other, is unclear. A human skull was surrounded by candles, and African drums were rigged to play by themselves.
A garden behind the house supplied the ingredients for his tonics and spells as well as the beauty products his family also marketed. It was a family business with his wife and brother overseeing various aspects.
A fairly high percentage of his business focused on selecting numbers for local lottery games. Rucker had a reputation for selecting winning numbers for people. He was arrested in New York on charges of fortune-telling and was incarcerated briefly in Sing Sing prison in Ossining New York.
By 1923, Rucker had incorporated the stunt, “Woman Buried Alive” into his repertoire. He would first hypnotize a woman, then bury her alive (six feet under) for almost six hours. In 1933, searching for a new angle, he adapted this stunt and began burying himself. Eventually he himself began to star in “Buried Alive.”
Rucker would pretend to be dead. The audience was invited to feel his wrist for a pulse and find none. (His trick involved a balled-up handkerchief in his armpit to artificially stop his pulse.) The coffin was nailed shut and buried. The crowd would then come back days later for a resurrection. Rucker’s trick involved a secret passage by which he could leave the coffin and travel disguised to another town. Eventually he’d return and slip back into the coffin to emerge triumphantly alive.
In April 1934, while performing in Louisville, Kentucky, Rucker collapsed. A doctor in the house was unable to revive him. (Cause of death was listed as “acute indigestion.”) The audience, however, used to his tricks, expected a resurrection. His body was brought to a local funeral parlor. People still believed it was a trick. Finally Herman’s assistant Washington Reeves began charging people for the opportunity to view the body because, in his words, it was what Herman would have done. Herman, genuinely dead, was shipped home by train and was buried, for good, in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Various other illusionists continued to use his name for years including his assistant, Washington Reeves, who performed under the name “The Original Black Herman.”
Sanders, Alex (1926—April 30, 1988)
Alex Sanders, once known as the “King of the Witches,” founded a Wiccan tradition and was once considered Gerald Gardner’s primary competitor.
Born in Manchester, Sanders stated that age seven he accidentally stumbled onto his Welsh Grandma Bibby naked in the kitchen in the midst of a ritual. Those who stumble onto rituals must be initiated and so he was sworn to secrecy.
Grandma Bibby initiated Alex and advised him that now he was one of “us.” She explains that she (and he, through her) derived from a long line of witches stretching back to the fourteenth-century Welsh chieftain Owen Glendower who preserved Celtic traditions.
Alex and Grandma became very close. She taught him magic, how to create charms, potions and write a Book of Shadows. Grandma Bibby died in 1942. Sanders burned her Book of Shadows but retained many of her ritual tools including a magic sword.
Sanders said he initially engaged in magic for personal financial and sexual gratification, apparently quite successfully, but then resolved to continue his grandmother’s work and began initiating covens in the Manchester area.
Sanders met Maxine Morris (1946—), convent-educated and raised a devout Roman Catholic. She had had visions since her childhood and Sanders recognized her as a natural witch. They married in 1967 and moved to London, establishing a new coven together. They became celebrities of a kind: Maxine was very beautiful and the couple made various radio and television appearances.
Maxine and Sanders separated in 1973. Maxine began a new lower-key coven and Sanders, semi-retired, moved to Sussex where he died of lung cancer in 1988.
Scot, Sir Michael (c.1214—c.1291)
Sir Michael Scot was a renowned Scottish sorcerer. He allegedly learned the magical arts in the renowned occult academies of Toledo, Spain. He himself lectured at the University of Padua on judicial astrology and spent several years teaching in Salamanca and Toledo. He practiced divination at the court of Emperor Frederick II to whom he dedicated a book on natural history.
He is interred in either Melrose Abbey or Holme-Cultram in Cumberland, his magical books allegedly buried with him.
Dante placed Michael Scot in the Fourth Level of Hell, the part of the inferno where sorcerers are sent.
Sendivogius, Michael (—1646)
Michael Sendivogius was a famed Moravian alchemist. Alchemists were allegedly calling themselves Rosicrucians during the sixteenth century; Michael Sendivogius’ Society of the Unknown Philosophers is considered among the precursors to the Rosicrucians.
Sendivogius rescued the alchemist Alexander Seton (see below) and used Seton’s powder to make gold, apparently creating several genuine transformations. When the powder was gone, he bluffed for a while based on his previous success but was eventually reduced to poverty.
Sendivogius married Seton’s widow whose dowry included an alchemical manuscript left by Seton. Sendivogius published this manuscript under his own name in Gdansk in 1604, titled, Twelve Treatises on the Philosopher’s Stone.
Seton, Alexander (—1603)
Alexander Seton was a Scots alchemist who reputedly mastered the art of transmuting lead into gold by means of a mysterious black powder. Seton traveled to Holland, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany giving demonstrations of his ability to create high-quality true gold from base metals.
Sometime during the very early seventeenth century, c.1602, in Cologne, Seton allegedly produced 6 ounces of gold, which stood up to testing. His experiments were well publicized and news of this miracle reached the ears of Christian II, Elector of Saxony, who summoned Seton to his court and demanded his alchemical secrets. Seton refused. When bribes and threats didn’t work, he was brutally tortured.
Moravian alchemist Michael Sendivogius (see above) rescued Seton but demanded the formula for the black powder as his reward. Seton explained that he was unable to reveal the secret to the uninitiated but gave him the remaining powder; Seton then died from the injuries he’d incurred during torture.
The notion of seven spiritually powerful sisters seems universal. China has Seven Weaving Maidens; the Bible has the Seven Midianite Sisters, daughters of the shaman-priest Jethro. Even the sky has the Seven Pleiades, popularly believed to represent “Seven Sisters.” “Seven Sisters” is also a popular name for Hoodoo practitioners, regardless of whether there are really seven or only one.
Seven Sisters was the magical name of Ida Carter, a celebrated Hoodoo doctor from Hogansville, Alabama
The Seven Sisters of New Orleans, renowned conjure women, were the inspiration for the 1931 blues song by J.T. “Funny Paper” Smith. According to the song, the names of the sisters are Sarah, Minnie, Bertha, Holly, Dolly, Betty, and Jane.
Shipton, Mother (1488—1558)
Mother Shipton was a renowned English witch and prophetess. Details of her life are hazy, and alternative birth and death dates are suggested (1448 and 1518 respectively). Her maiden name is usually given as Ursula Southeil or Sonthiel.
One legend suggests she was born in a cave near the River Nidd in Yorkshire. The cave is now a memorial for Mother Shipton. Her mother was reputed to be a witch. Some said her father was the devil. Shipton was apparently orphaned at birth, her mother dying during childbirth. Her mother could allegedly heal, hex, foretell the future, and raise storms. Her daughter, raised by a local woman, seems to have inherited the powers.
Mother Shipton’s reputation as a witch began in childhood. She could allegedly move things without touching them. Strange phenomenon occurred: women found themselves dancing in circles, unable to stop because when they tried an imp in the form of a monkey pinched them.
She had a reputation as being “ugly” and is sometimes described as “deformed” although few details are offered. She allegedly cast spells over those who mocked her appearance. Her familiar was a black dog who accompanied her everywhere.
She married Toby Shipton, a carpenter, in 1512. It was rumored that she had bewitched him with a love potion because of her lack of looks. By the time of her marriage, she was already famous for her prophecies. They lived in the village of Skipton in North Yorkshire.
Although she was feared, she was also very much in demand because of the accuracy of her prophecies. People traveled from great distances to consult with her and request her advice.
According to legend, Mother Shipton was summoned to court for taking revenge on prying neighbors. She had bewitched them at a breakfast party; the guests fell into fits of hysterical, uncontrollable laughter. They ran out of the house pursued by what were described as goblins. Mother Shipton allegedly threatened the court that she’d do worse if prosecuted. She allegedly then said, “Up draxi, call Stygician Helleuei.” A dragon appeared and she soared off on its back.
The most famous legend regarding Mother Shipton is that she predicted Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, would never reach York. The cardinal had sent three lords incognito to check up on Mother Shipton. She knew them for who they were immediately and told them to deliver a message to Wolsey: he would see but never arrive in York. Their response was that when Wolsey reached York, he’d see Mother Shipton burned as a witch. Shipton tossed her handkerchief into the fire, saying that if it burned so would she. Allegedly the handkerchief did not burn.
Her prophecy regarding Wolsey proved accurate. He arrived at Cawood, eight miles from York, close enough to view York from the top of the castle tower. While there, he received a message saying that the king wished to see him immediately. Wolsey turned back towards London but became sick and died in Leicester.
Mother Shipton gave her prophesies in rhyme. She predicted the automobile (“Carriages without horses shall go”) and e-mail and the Internet (“Around the world thoughts shall fly, in the twinkling of an eye”) and the California Gold Rush (“Gold shall be found and found, In a land that is not known”). Not all her prophesies were accurate, however—she predicted the world would end in 1881.
In 1684, Richard Head wrote a book detailing her life and prophesies.
Simon Magus, or Simon the Magician, was a magician and spiritual leader from Samaria. It is unknown whether he was an ethnic Samaritan or a Jew originally from Caesarea. A magician named Simon lived in Caesarea c.40 CE; this is sometimes acknowledged to be Simon Magus. Justin Martyr however claims Simon was born in Gitta, a Samaritan village.
Simon was baptized a Christian by the Apostle Philip and is described by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons as the man “from whom all the heresies take their origin.” Simon Magus became the Christian symbol of arrogance and pride.
Simon is recalled in the word “simony,” the practice of buying positions of power within the Church. In the Book of Acts, Simon is portrayed as a wandering magician who has converted to Christianity. He observes Peter laying on hands. He wished to acquire this skill too and so offers to pay Peter for it and is sharply rebuked for assuming these were powers that could be bought.
Simon may have been a disciple of John the Baptist. He achieved tremendous success as a magician and spiritual leader in Samaria and Rome.
He is credited as the founder of the school of Simonian Gnosticism. Its doctrine suggested that the world was created by a female power who then became lost in her own creation. God exists but the Cosmos was not created directly by God but by a female emanation of God, the Ennoia (Thought). She created the angels who then rebelled against her. The battle was so vicious that Ennoia lost herself in her Creation and forgot her identity. She wandered through various incarnations, one after another, becoming ever more confused.
In the meantime, the angels tried to rule the world but fought amongst themselves. The world filled with suffering, which was not God’s original intention. God finally decided to rescue Ennoia and save humankind, so he came to Earth in the form of Simon Magus. God, in the form of Simon Magus, found Ennoia in the form of a prostitute named Helena in the Phoenician city of Tyre, the cradle of sacred prostitution. Thanks to Simon, Helena regained her memory.
Simon taught that anyone who recognized him as God was saved. Once saved, there was no need for conventional rules of morality, because these rules were originally created by the angels in order to enslave people.
Knowledge of Simon comes from Christians who opposed him and perceived him as a competitor of Jesus Christ. It was said that he conjured spirits, concocted potions, and encouraged free sex (as told by people who perceived these as dreadful things). Simon was identified as the Anti-Christ, and some early Christians accused Simon Magus of accomplishing his miracles via control of the spirit of a murdered boy via necromantic rituals.
Simon allegedly died during a magical duel with Peter when he flew off the top of the Roman Forum. Alternatively he buried himself for three days but did not resurrect. After his death, he was buried in Aricia, near Rome.
Simon Magus was worshipped in Rome. A community of devotees built temples to him featuring statues of Simon and Helena. After his death, leadership of Simon’s sect was assumed by his disciple Menander. Simonian Gnosticism survived alongside Christianity in the Roman Empire for over 150 years. However, by the early third century, Origen claimed there were less than 30 Simonians left.
All writings of Simon’s School were destroyed.
Valiente, Doreen (1922—September 1, 1999)
Doreen Valiente is the Founding Mother of modern Wicca and the author of many of its most beloved rituals. She served as one of Gerald Gardner’s High Priestesses and with him co-authored what is now known as the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, the book of rituals that has become the standard text and liturgy of Wicca.
Doreen Dominy was born in London and educated at a convent school. Her clairvoyant skills manifested in her youth. She studied various occult traditions and Theosophy. (See Blavatsky, page 711.)
In 1944, Doreen married Casimiro Valiente, who disapproved of his wife’s occult interests and psychic skills. However, Doreen began corresponding with Cecil Williamson (see page 769); from him she learned of covens in the New Forest and eventually met Gerald Gardner, who had been initiated into one of those covens. In 1953, Gardner initiated Valiente into his own new coven.
Together with Gardner, Valiente revised his liturgy, deleting much of Aleister Crowley’s contributions (which she found offensive) and incorporating her own poetry instead, including “The Charge of the Goddess” and “The Witches’ Rune.”
Valiente had read and admired Charles Leland’s work prior to meeting Gardner and modeled “Charge of the Goddess” after his Aradia. She labored over the Book of Shadows from 1954 until 1957 before she and Gardner were completely satisfied with the results. In 1957, Valiente left Gardner’s coven to form her own.
Doreen Valiente died of cancer in 1991. Her books include Natural Magic, An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present, and Witchcraft for Tomorrow.
Virgil (70—19 BCE)
Publius Vergilius Maro is now most famous as the Roman poet Virgil, however he was also a legendary magician. Born near Mantua, he is buried in Naples, which legend says he founded and still protects via his magical arts.
Virgil was the son of a Roman senator and allegedly a graduate (with honors!) of a Moorish magical college of Toledo. In addition to being a magician, he was an escape artist and esteemed worker in metals for magical purposes (copper, gold, and iron). The implication is that he was an alchemist.
Virgil allegedly founded a school for sorcerers in Naples and taught there himself.
According to one legend Virgil was once jailed; he sketched a ship on the prison wall, climbed aboard and escaped by sailing away through the air.
He allegedly constructed magical, healing thermal baths. Jealous physicians in Salerno, who had an investment in people’s illnesses, destroyed them as the baths were destroying their business.
Virgil used magic to protect Naples:
He created a frog-sized fly and set it atop a city gate to ward off other frogs
He created a golden leech to free the city from a plague of leeches
A horse made from copper chased thieves who ignored the city curfew, trampling them underfoot
A huge iron horse cured horse diseases. (It was eventually melted down by jealous farriers, whose responsibilities then included veterinary work, and used to craft church bells.)
In days before outdoor lighting, he prepared a glass lamp that was never extinguished
While digging in a vineyard, according to one story, Virgil unearthed a corked bottle containing not one genie but twelve demons. They demanded to be released. He negotiated: the demons would teach him magic in exchange for popping the cork.
On his deathbed, he decided to carry out a magical rejuvenation ritual, requesting help from a faithful servant. He told the servant to kill him and chop him into little pieces. His head was to be quartered and salted. The various pieces were to be placed in a barrel in the cellar in a very specific order under a magic oil lamp that Virgil had prepared, arranged so as to leak into the barrel and onto his body parts. The lamp was to be kept burning for nine days and nights after which time Virgil said he’d be revivified. The servant initially protested and refused to do it but Virgil was very persistent and the man finally agreed, killed him and followed directions.
The Emperor missed Virgil and came looking for him. He forced his way into the house, which was searched. Virgil’s dismembered body was found. The Emperor refused to believe the story about the magical resurrection and killed the servant before the operation was completed. After the servant’s death, the Emperor saw an apparition of a naked child run three times around the barrel and say to the Emperor, “Cursed be the time you came here!” The child disappeared, never to be seen again, nor was Virgil resurrected.
He was buried in Naples.
Williamson, Cecil (September 18, 1909—1996)
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.
Dr Yah-Yah was a renowned Hoodoo Doctor and an African-American slave on a plantation near New Orleans. On the plantation where he labored he was called Washington but his professional name was Dr Yah-Yah. Also known as Dr Yah, he emerged as a renowned practitioner in New Orleans during the late 1850s.
Among his potions was a concoction of honey, jimsonweed (datura) and sulfur sipped from a glass that had been rubbed against a black cat. That formula is recorded because that’s the formula that got Dr Yah-Yah into trouble.
In 1861, Dr Yah-Yah was arrested. An Italian client had given a sample of Dr Yah-Yah’s potion to his physician, who in turn called the police. Dr Yah-Yah’s owner was ordered to pay a fine of $15, and Dr Yah-Yah was punished by being transferred to the backbreaking work of a field hand and forbidden to practice his craft.