In The Media

Honoring the Ancestors – Eleanor ‘Ray’ Bone

Note: This article was written by Vivanne Crowley to honour Eleanor Bone after having attended the unveiling of her gravestone. Vivianne was part of the Memorial Fund Committee, where she was a wonderful support. The original article can be found here: Greening the Spirit Blog – Vivianne Crowley

By Vivianne Crowley

On Saturday September 12th a group of Pagans gathered at the village of Garrigal in the north of England, not far south of Hadrian’s Wall and the border with Scotland. By the standards of the small island that is Britain, this is a remote place. Set in the middle of the North Pennines, a landscape of hills, heather moors, and peatlands, it is an officially designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, one of the largest in the United Kingdom.

At the heart of the village, on the village green, is the only pub. It has the very traditional English name of the George and Dragon, but it was not the promise of real ale by a warm fireside that brought me and others to the village of Garrigal on a rainy late summer day. We were there to honor one of the ‘ancestors’ of contemporary Paganism, Eleanor Bone and to celebrate the placing of a memorial stone on her grave.

Matriarch of European Gardnerian Wicca

Few people will have heard of Eleanor. She was not a famous author, though she did write; but she is a prominent figure in Wiccan history. Eleanor ‘Ray’ Bone (15th December 1911 – 21st September 2001) was one of Gerald Gardner’s last initiates and a coven leader for many years. Like the ‘Long Island Line’ in the United States, in Europe the initiatory descendants of Eleanor Bone are the largest group in Gardnerian Wicca. One of her best known acts was the saving of Gerald Gardner’s grave. In 1968, she travelled to Tunisia in North Africa to visit the grave and was horrified to learn that the cemetery was to be turned into a public park and the graves removed. She set about fund-raising among Gerald’s initiates and arranged for the grave to be relocated to a cemetery close to the ancient city of Carthage, where it still can be visited today.

Given how well known authors such as Doreen Valiente and Pat Crowther are, it can be surprising for those outside Europe to learn that most of European Gardnerians are descended by initiation from High Priestesses who are not especially famous. There are many who have run covens for generations and whose initiates have gone to create covens in their turn whose names are unknown except to their coven families.

In recent years, with the internet, the names and lives of Eleanor Bone and of her initiates and my initiators, Madge Worthington and Arthur Eaglen, have come much more into the public domain. One reason for the greater interest is that information is now more widely available. Once people would have had to have access to private correspondence to know who were the movers and shakers following Gerald Gardner’s death. Now information about the Gardnerian Wicca movement is readily available from a Google search.

Another reason why people are better known is because of the interest that those in Paganism now have in their immediate history. Many of us became involved in Paganism when our history was more that of romanticized myth. Now we have a real history. For those in initiatory traditions, there is a spiritual family tree which has a meaning as strong for many as the ties of blood. People want to know about their ‘ancestors’ – their lives, their ambitions, their hopes, and their fears for the Pagan tradition they were in the process of creating.

Where our predecessors wrote books, we know much more about their thoughts and dreams; but only a part, the public part. In most cases, we do not have access to the diaries and photographs that would have shown more of the private self. These kinds of records have become important as we journey down the generations. People want to know and understand the people that went before; not because we consider them a new breed of ‘Pagan saint’ – we are not looking to them expecting them to be perfect and ‘holy’. But we do find in their dedication a source of inspiration for this difficult task that we do of trying to build a new Paganism to meet the needs of the contemporary world.

Creating a Rooted Paganism

For some people creating an authentic and rooted Paganism means to try to reconstruct faithfully the practices of those who lived a thousand or more years ago. For me this would not provide authenticity; for the essence of Paganism is that it comes from what we find around us in the universe. It must grow and evolve, even as we grow and evolve. This is as true of practice between generations as it is within our own life spans, as our needs evolve and change with age. Rather we seek to know how our immediate predecessors thought and felt and practiced so that we can find inspiration to establish a Paganism that is rooted in the ‘now’, even as they did.

Eleanor Bone, Madge Worthington, and those of their time were in the generations who, in the wake of World Wars and the changing global societies around them, were in the process of becoming post-Christian. Much of their Paganism was intentionally counter-cultural – gender equality, nudity, liberal ideas about sexual expression – all this was part of their Paganism, as they sought to throw off the shackles of past dominant thought systems.

For Madge and for many of those who embraced Paganism in the 20th century, human beings’ relationship with the environment around them was also a driving factor. People sought the Divine in the natural world at a time when urban civilization assumed a new dominance. As the concrete crept forward, human beings in the urbanized West longed for nature, fields and streams and forests. As Doreen Valiente wrote in A Chant for Beltane (1971) our hope was:

Let the streams and fields be pure,
Earth and sky be clean once more ….

These motivations of our predecessors that helped them find Paganism are still important; but people do not need Paganism to find liberal expressions of sexuality, environmentalism, or women’s empowerment. These have become part of the mainstream of contemporary life. So what else drives us?

In search of the Mysteries

Something else our predecessors sought was mystery. Wicca is much less mysterious than it once was. Much has been exposed to the light of media and academia. But the evocative imagery of Wicca, with its night-time rites, its beautiful artefacts, its small group cohesiveness, and its emphasis on what ‘is eternal and abides’, which is not materialism but deeper values and truths, all these still appeal.

So Wicca retains its place as a home for those who seek to look beyond the everyday concerns of material life. It helps us to find wonder and enchantment in the unfolding galaxy around us and to engage deeply in humankind’s struggle with the complexities of living in an animal body, while having a vision of eternity. Our spiritual traditions can help humankind to come to terms with a consciousness that expands beyond the confines of the physical self.

A Sense of Wonder

Our predecessors were women and men who sought the mysteries, not in the sense of that which is secret necessarily, but of that which can only be found by those who have eyes to see. Wicca is about seeing the world in a different way; seeing through the surface appearance of matter to wonder at the mystery of matter’s creation and of its source from beyond the stars. Gerald Gardner in Witchcraft Today wrote:

Witchcraft was, and is, not a cult for everybody. Unless you have an attraction to the occult, a sense of wonder, a feeling that you can slip for a few minutes out of the world into the world of faery, it is of no use to you. (Gardner 1954, p.29)

Women such as Eleanor Bone and Madge Worthington, men such as Gerald Gardner, we honor them because they were way-showers. They lived according to their vision and for this we honor them. Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner are now officially commemorated at the last houses in which they lived by blue plaques that in England are used to honor the great and the good who have contributed to society. They are honored along with politicians, military heroes, artists, musicians, writers, and poets; recognized for being poets of the spirit – those who helped the human spirit expand and evolve.

Her Name is Carved

Eleanor Bone and Madge Worthington are lesser known but are honored within their own spiritual community. It was with joy that I gathered with other members of the Eleanor Bone Memorial Committee, her initiatory descendants, other Pagans, her grand-daughter, and members of her local community to celebrate the erection of Eleanor’s grave stone with a rite to bless the grave. We honored too those who could not be with us on the day – those worldwide, her spiritual descendants and her wider ‘tribe’ – who contributed to the purchase, carving, and erection of the stone. For Saturday’s rite to bless the grave, Pat Crowther kindly provided the words that Eleanor herself had used at Gerald’s grave and her grand-daughter read Doreen Valiente’s poem Elegy for a Dead Witch. As Eleanor honored her initiator Gerald Gardner by arranging for the preservation of his grave in Tunisia, so it was fitting that she was honored in a similar way. In stone we remember them and her name was carved with pride.

The stone on Eleanor’s grave was erected after fund-raising by the Eleanor Bone Memorial Fund Committee, chaired by Sophia Boann More information can be found at

Photos by Vivianne Crowley, All Rights Reserved.

Interview Eleanor Bone by Jonathan Tapsell

Note: Originally this interview was partially published on by Jonathan Tapsell. Sadly, both the website and the remainder of the interview have been lost.

Interview with Eleanor Bone

For those who have visited this site for the first time and may wonder about my own connection with Wicca – I am not a Witch, nor I have been initiated into the Craft. Yet, rather curiously I have befriended many of the most prominent Witches in the UK quite by chance and Eleanor was one of those great Pagans who I have the good fortune to come across. In fact I asked Eleanor if she would write the introduction to Doreen Valiente’s last book ‘Charge of the Goddess’ – a collection of Doreen’s poems and personal recollections of the Craft.

Sadly, Eleanor is no longer on this plane. In her time here this great lady was described within the Wiccan community by the rather grandiose title ‘The Matriarch of British Witchcraft’ and enjoyed some standing within the Craft. I never found out how this title came to be bestowed on Eleanor or Rae as she preferred to be known among friends. It was all rather mysterious but as time unfolded I found out the Rae had connections with all manner of secret societies and even Presidents and other international figures. Her sense of humour was legendary and buoyed her spirits through ailing health to the very end. This Oct 06 I visited Alston in Cumbria and paid homage to this great Witch. I hope to captured some of Eleanor in this snippet of an interview conducted by telephone in 2001.

1. Eleanor, you are the Matriarch of British Witchcraft and this country’s most senior Witch. When were you first initiated into the Craft?

I was initiated in August 1941 while I was working in Cumbria during the War. A couple talked to me about life and revealed they were Witches and said I was too. It was after a conversation we’d had together on reincarnation.

2. Witchcraft was illegal at this time wasn’t it? What would have happened if people had found out you were a Witch in those days?

I don’t think we ever worried about it.

3. Did your family know you were part of the Craft?

No, my mother died in 1942. I’ve held unorthodox views on religion since 8 when my cat died. I was very upset and cried when I asked the Vicar whether the creature had gone to heaven, he replied that animals did not go there. This comment did not sit well with me and I began to read the Golden Bough and became interested in folklore.

4. The group of people who you operated with back in the 1940’s, did any of them encounter persecution as a result of their beliefs?

In the countryside it was just accepted.

5. What was your reaction when you heard that a lady had been jailed under the Witchcraft Act in 1944 only three years after your own initiation?

I personally never heard about this incident until some time later and I think there may have been a number of political reasons for the prosecution, because it interfered with the war effort.

6. Did you breathe a sigh of relief when the Witchcraft Acts were finally repealed in 1951? What was your reaction? Did you celebrate?

I was not in a coven at the time and missed the meetings. I was very pleased that the legislation was finally passed.

7. You are the only Witch alive who can remember the mysterious ‘Dafo’ who was in the New Forest coven. Why she did remain underground when the laws changed?

Dafo most certainly did exist and I had the pleasure of visiting her with Gerald Gardner and my husband on many occasions. We were good friends. Dafo talked about the New Forest traditions and seemed to think that the coven had originated from around the time of Rufus— the Norman King who died in the forest. She was a schoolteacher and was also known to my mother who knew her through the Hampshire education circuit. I never met any other members of the New Forest coven and did not practise Wicca with Dafo. She and I were good friends. She confided in me that both she and the New Forest coven gave a sigh of relief when Gerald Gardner moved away to the Isle of Man. They felt he was a publicity seeker and I know for a fact he had never been trusted with any teachings in writing. Dafo and I called Gerald ‘The Old Boy’— he was a lovely old man and generous to a fault, people often took advantage of him. I know he had never been initiated beyond the first degree in Wicca.

8. A lot of people claim that Gerald Gardner invented the New Forest coven and that it didn’t exist. But you know about their activities don’t you?

I know that this will upset people but Gerald, bless him, did add a lot of material in his Book of Shadows, from Crowley and Masonry and all over the place. It was because as I’ve said he was not privy to the teachings of the New Forest coven, he was forced to supplement his knowledge of Wicca from other sources. During WW2 spells were raised by the New Forest coven against Hitler to prevent him from invading England.

9. Why haven’t joined the Pagan Federation. Surely as Britain’s most senior witch the PF would be anxious to have you as a member?

I was approached quite recently and asked whether I would accept an honoury invitation into the Pagan Federation but I declined that offer. It was nice of them to think of me. It was because the Pagan Federation is not about the Craft and for that matter supports several traditions that are entirely fictitious inventions. I know because I watched as they sprang up. I belong to a genuine tradition – the Cumbrian tradition and that is all I need.

10. What do you think of the new Human Rights Act?

I think it is right. Rama Chrisna.
When I first practised the Craft it was in fact illegal. Hopefully these times are past.


Witchcraft Funeral Makes History

Note: When Arthur William “Bill” Bone, Eleanor’s husband, passed away on the 24th of August 1984, Eleanor decided to bury his cremated remains herself in the local cemetery in Garrigill. There is no indication that she asked the council for permission, and he is not officially listed as having been buried there. When a gravestone was bought for Eleanor, it was decided to add his name as well as the name of Eleanor’s son, to the gravestone.
It is unclear when this newspaper article was written, but it was sent by Eleanor to her friends, together with the short ritual she performed. Much thanks is given to Patricia Crowther who kindly shared this article.

A number of eyebrows have been raised by a story carried on Page 1 of last week’s Cumberland News.
It concerns the funeral service conducted by witch Eleanor Bone for her late husband Bill in Garrigill cemetery.

Witchcraft is a very emotive word; even today many people think of it as anti-Christian, so that the idea of a witch conducting a funeral service may seem almost a sacrilege.
Witches are followers of the Old Religion, the nature worship that has existed for thousands of years.
They are not ‘anti’ any religion; they believe that people will follow the path that suits them best.

They observe a God and a Goddess in their rites, personifications of the masculine and feminine aspects of the great Life Force – positive and negative, if you will – the duality which makes a whole.
They think of the Goddess as Mother Earth, out of whom everything is born, by whom everything is nourished, onto whom everything ultimately sinks into death, to provide food for rebirth.

Every man must grow old, die, and physically disintegrate, yet the need of a man to belong permanently in the great cosmos is universal, but a man’s conception of life after death is a very personal thing.
Witches believe in reincarnation and because of this it is natural that when they lose somebody dear to them they prefer to have a farewell ceremony that embodies their beliefs.

This is one ritual which lends itself ideally for this occasion, the ritual which is used at the most important festival of the witches year – Hallowe’en.
This is the night when they remember their dear ones who have gone before. 

In 1963, Gerald Gardner, one of the best known witches of this century, died at sea and was buried in Tunis.  In 1968 the cemetery was being turned into a pleasure park and it fell upon Eleanor Bone to travel to Tunis and arrange the transfer of his remains to a cemetery in Carthage. She used this ritual at his graveside.

When her husband, Bill, died recently she decided she would like to conduct the funeral herself using the same sort of ceremony.
The funeral took place in the small peaceful cemetery in the little village of Garrigill. 

After thanking their many friends for coming to say ‘Goodbye’ to Bill, Eleanor said a few words in tribute to him as a person.
She said nobody could ask for a better epitaph than this: “He was loved by all who knew him.”


She concluded with the following words: “As most of you know, I believe in reincarnation. Therefore I pray that when Bill has rested and refreshed awhile in the Summerlands, he will be born again with sturdier limbs and keener brain, and I pray, by the grace of the Great God and Gentle Mother, that it will be in the same place and at the same time as his loved ones and that he will meet, and know, and remember, and love them again. 

“I would like you all to say just two words of farewell to Bill – “Blessed be.”
“Blessed be this place, and this time, and Blessed be those who are with us today.”

This is the first time in the country that a witch has officiated at a funeral and Eleanor hopes that it will give others the strength and courage to follow her example.   

Eleanor Bone, a woman, and Bill Bone dancing around a fire in a field, while holding a candle.
Bill, on the left. Not part of the original article.

Mrs. Bone, The Witch

Note: This article was published in the The Robesonian,  March 2nd 1975, in the column “The Unexplained” by Allen Spraggett. The article mistakes Eleanor’s name for ‘Elizabeth’ in several places. 

Most self-styled witches, I’ve found, are bores who couldn’t be duller if they tried. Practicing “witchcraft” is the way some middle-aged suburbanites get their kicks. This kind of witchcraft is about as authentic, or exciting, as the ghosts and goblins of Hallowe’en.

But there are witches and witches. Not long ago I met one who claims to be real. Her name is Elizabeth Bone and she lives in the London Suburb of Tooting Bec.

Mrs. Bone invited me to attend, as an observer, a ceremony of the London coven, of which she is chief witch. The ritual was held in a secluded glen in Surrey.

The ceremony, which was filmed for television, was carried out with the utmost seriousness by the participants – a dozen men and women, most in their 40s and 50s, and all nude. (With knobby knees and various veins very much in evidence, the spectacle was hardly erotic.)

Eleanor Bone, high priestess of the coven, whose witchly name is Artemis, shed her clothes, tied a simple cord around her waist, and under the full moon invoked the ancient pagan deities of her cult. 

Sprinkling incense she walked slowly around the witches’ circle marked off by her nude followers, chanting: “We summon you, O ye gods of the north, and of the south, and of the east, and of the west.”

Then, seizing a long dagger, she plunged it ceremonially into a goblet of wine, held by her high priest, a bearded man wearing only a helmet with stag’s horns. 

“Thus”, she intoned, “does the female conjoin with the male to produce fertility and life”.

The ritual concluded with the witches joining hands and dancing wildly in a circle, chanting in a strange tongue said to be ancient Celtic. The purpose of this dancing, they said later, was to generate the power needed to work their spells.

To wind things up, each witch, men and women, leapt over a blazing fire. This, they said, symbolized their willingness to go through any ordeal for their faith.

Yes, FAITH. Make no mistake. For the sincere practitioner of witchcraft, such as Eleanor Bone, it is nothing less than a religious faith. 

“I am a pagan”, Mrs. Bone said proudly, “I was baptized a Christian, but I left the church when I was still a child. 

“My religion now is the old religion  – the one that goes back into the mists of time, much further than Christianity does. I believe in and practice witchcraft, the way other religionists practice their faith.”

A highly intelligent, articulate woman, Mrs. Bone took great pains to clarify what she calls the “confusion in the public mind” between white and black witchcraft. 

“We practice white witchcraft” she said, “We have no truck with the black variety, any more than most Christians would want to be associated with the members of their faith who in the past, and even the present, have persecuted and killed what they called heretics”.

But of what does the practice of witchcraft, black or white, consist?

“The concentrated belief of the witches’ coven can generate a power that produces apparent miracles,” Elizabeth Bone explained. 

“We only use this power, this magic, if you like, to bless. Black witchcraft uses it to destroy, just as fire may be used to heat a house or to burn it down.

“We bless the person for whom we cast a spell. But a black witch, using an image of the person, can curse him. And it works.”

Mrs. Bone confided that a certain witch in London freely offered to cast evil spells for a fee, and her nose crinkled with distaste as she assured me that no self-respecting white witch would ever associate with him. 

As evidence that her coven’s magic is effective, Mrs. Bone mentioned the case of a seriously ill baby who improved dramatically within hours of having a spell cast for him.

The power of suggestion? Or something more?

“More” said Elizabeth Bone, “Much more.”

Practices Of Black Magic Spread Through England

Published in the Lawrence Journal, November 25 1971. A similar article was published in The Day, The Times News, The Free Lance-Star, The Southeast Missourian, The Sumpter Daily Item, The Nevada Daily, The Sydney Morning Herald and quite a number of other newspapers.

LONDON (AP) – Black Magic is spreading across England, upsetting village vicars and serious witches alike.

“All this devil worship is attracting people to the wrong sort of cult.” complained Mrs. Eleanor Bone, a “white” witch who says the only spells she casts are good ones that help in such ways as trying to remove warts.
Mrs. Bone runs a coven – six couples, plus Mrs. Bone as priestess – in the London suburb of Tooting Bec. Evil spells, she says, have no place in their monthly dances around a fire, but amateur dabbling in the black arts is getting them a bad name.
Church leaders are similarly worried about the growing interest in the occult.
“We are frightened of what seems to be a steady and continuing growth in the popularity of witchcraft and devil worship,” said a Church of England spokesman, “and it is frightening to realize it is attracting young people.”

There have been a number of bizarre events in England, apparently linked to the black magic craze. A child’s body was stolen from a grave. A young man hanged himself after his girlfriend hexed him. Another youth was charged with murder after the body of an earl’s grandson was found next to a bloodstained letter containing the words “Hail Satan.” The letter also had the Lord’s Prayer written backwards – a favorite black magic incantation.
“This is a problem that the Church has not met for the past 200 years,” the Rev. Tom Willis told an Anglican Church synod last weekend. “But priests are now finding all over the country that they are having to cast out devils and evil spirits. “People are turning away from material things like cars and refrigerators … the supernatural gaining ascendancy.
“More and more people are dabbling in fortune telling, home seances, witchcraft and black magic.”

Police say some members of the score or so of black magic groups in the London area, who dance naked and conduct perverted church services, are respectable businessmen.
Con men have cashed in on the growing interest in the occult. A Birmingham “faith healer” got an eight-year jail sentence for defrauding 670 pounds – $1.670 – out of women by “removing evil spirits” through such techniques as anointing them and having sexual intercourse with them.

Sales are booming at the psychic bookshop on London’s Great Queen Street. Recent best sellers include “Through the Mists,” “ I hear a Voice” and “Life Begins at Death.”
A gloomy London restaurant called Cafe Macabre is decorated with plaster skulls and coffin-shaped tables. It saw the stage debut of Alex Sanders, 45-year-old self-proclaimed “King of the Witches,” who takes his ritual stage act around the country.

Mrs. Bone, the white witch, protests about the dabblers in the occult: “There are just too many half-baked groups springing up.”
She says her own coven tries to help people and asks no money for its services.
“We  do not hold sex orgies” she said. “We do not drink. We live normal lives. We believe that our faith is the oldest religion and we try faithfully to follow it.”

I am a Witch! The Saint Magazine May 1967

Note: This article was published in the Saint Magazine of May 1967. It is quite significant in that it was written by Eleanor Bone herself, and not by a journalist. The magazine was edited by author Leslie Charteris and was a spin-off from the Saint book and television series.

I am a Witch !
Eleanor Bone

Last month, I was telling how I had long been intrigued by the discovery that Witchcraft is by no means dead in Europe even today, and indeed seems to be enjoying quite a revival, and how as a preliminary to pursuing this subject I commissioned our favorite researcher W O G Lofts, to do us a background article, which I hope none of you missed.
In the beginning, I planned to write the follow-up article myself, which would deal with the facts of present-day Witchcraft, as best I could discover them without reference to lurid and sensationalized newspaper stories but by finding myself a real live practising Witch and learning all I could as nearly as possible at first hand.
But, as I said last month, when I did make contact with an avowed authentic Witch, my neat professional plan went (as they would say in the Craft) all widdershins.
Her name is Eleanor Bone.

She does not claim, as some publicity-seekers of her sorority have done from time to time, to be “Queen of the Witches” or “High Priestess of the Witches of England” – as she will shortly explain, such titles are strictly exaggerated, since all Covens are completely autonomous, and while members of one may visit with members of another, there is no central parliament or monolithic Authority.
But in the first hour of our first meeting, she talked with such easy confidence and astounding erudition that I very quickly realized that anything I tried to put together from the notes I had frantically started making would be only a hollow travesty of what she had to say. In answer to any question, facts poured out of her as if from an inexhaustible fount of knowledge, yet with the unaffected and unassuming ease of an off-duty doctor discoursing on the fundamentals of his specialty with someone assumed to be his intellectual equal though, in a different field. For me to have tried to write my second-hand version would have been as presumptuous (and superfluous) as if I had interviewed a highly articulate Einstein on the subject of Relativity, and insisted on writing my own article, with all its potential errors, long after I had discovered that his own conversation was much clearer and more informative than any essay I could have based on it.
I therefore ended eventually by asking Mrs. Bone how she would like to write her own article. And this – shorn only of her modest apologies for any lack of professionalism in the writing – is the result.
You may be interested to know what a real witch is like to meet. This one is of entirely average and inconspicuous female stature, at a guess between 35 and 40. The only things about her which you might notice as being in the traditional witch pattern are her rather wild black hair and very piercing eyes: but I think you would only notice them after you had been told she was a witch and had started to search for outward symptoms, and could not honestly say that you would have found them at all remarkable if you had just happened to sit next to her on a bus. In mundane fact she owns and manages a rest home for old people, whom she affectionately calls her “babies”, officially registered with the local Council, which is not reputed to grant such licenses to operators suspected of being deficient in their marbles; she has a pleasantly conventional husband who takes no part in Witchcraft himself but is amiably tolerant of her activities.
She takes her religion (as you will find she thinks of it) seriously enough to have named her private home in the north of England Witchwood. And yet she is so far from being a crank that she has the sense of humor to send her personal letters in envelopes imprinted with the symbol we reproduce here, which is almost a facsimile of the old legendary Witch-image which in her earnest role she disclaims.
To some, this must be an incomprehensible paradox. To me, it is one of her strongest claims to respectful audience. For only very sane people can share a joke about themselves.


I am a witch!
This does not mean that I wear a pointed hat and fly around on a broomstick with a black cat on the pillion, nor do I perform miracles with a wave of my hand or a twitch of my nose, like the characters in one television show.
I know that this is the popular image of witches and that they are associated with evil in the minds of many people.
This was the picture created for us as children, when we listened to bed-time stories, most of which revolved around the theme of the good fairy who always succeeded in getting the better of the wicked witch. We read about the three Weird Sisters in ‘Macbeth’ with their portent of evil, ugly old harridans chanting weird incantations as they stirred the noxious brew in their cauldrons. Later we were taught about about the witches of the Middle Ages who were burned at the stake for their wickedness and heresy.

Only a few years ago the majority of people did not believe that witches still existed in the twentieth century. Indeed, many people did not credit that they ever had existed outside of storybooks.
When the last Witchcraft Act was repealed in Britain in 1951, the absolute secrecy which up to then had been essential became of less importance, and it was not long before the general public became aware of covens of witches in their midst. At first people were horrified. Just as in the old days Christians were thrown to the lions, so, in this modern day and age, a more subtle form of persecution was throwing witches to the Press. And what lurid pictures were conjured up! Witchcraft was mixed up with Black Magic, with a suggestion of Black Masses and ‘bloody sacrifices’ thrown in for good measure – to say nothing of sex orgies – a really good entertainment to brighten up a dull Sunday afternoon.

I shall always remember one very charming young woman in her early twenties who came to see me. She told me she was very interested in Witchcraft and desirous of joining a Coven – BUT – she just couldn’t cut an animal’s throat! She really believed that this was part of the ritual and, unfortunately, many other people believe likewise.

From time to time over the last few years, accounts have appeared in the National Press of the desecration of Churches, the disturbance of graves, inverted crosses and other things of a similar nature. Each time this sort of thing crops up there is a suggestion of Witchcraft. It is so easy to blame the witches. My own opinion is that many of these happenings are perpetrated by bright young things who are a little bored with life and who have been reading too much Dennis Wheatley.
Of late, much has been written and said about witches and witchcraft. Writers, sceptics, modern ‘witchfinders’ – even the witches themselves have said their say. One gentleman made witchcraft sound like an American protection racket, whilst another suggested that it had been “garnered from dustbins of the world religions”. We have been painted very, very black and it has been suggested that we are all ‘insecure, frightened, unsuccessful, perverted people’. On the other hand we have been made to appear so ultra-white that we sound like an advertisement for the latest detergent.

Thus I read the article by W.G. Lofts with interest, hoping to find a new slant on an old subject.
However, he appears to have based his article on the suppositions of writers of the Middle Ages whose writings merely reflected the propaganda put about by the Church and State in their fanatical attempt to crush the Old Religion. If one delves into such works as ‘Calendar of State Papers Domestic’ 1584; ‘Compleat History of Magick, Sorcery and Witchcraft’ 2 vols. London 1725; ‘Collections of rare and curious tracts relating to Witchcraft’ London. 1838; Confessions of Witches under Torture’ E. Goldsmid, Edinburgh 1886, and many more I could quote, the, of course, one expects to find this fanaticism. In any case of propaganda one cannot accept accusations at their face value. Incidents become exaggerated into events, knaves become heroes, and vice versa.

Inquisitors caused Joan of Arc to be burned as a witch. She may well have been one – in fact her nickname ‘La Poucelle’ – ‘The Maiden’, – makes this a strong possibility – but this was merely an excuse for her execution, the reason was purely political.
Mr. Lofts tells us a good deal about the persecution of witches in the Middle Ages but he does not give a really satisfactory explanation as to why and when this persecution really began. He tends to pooh-pooh the idea that witchcraft had its origin in the Old Religion.
He also tends to confuse witchcraft with ritual magic – a quite common mistake many lay people tend to make. For example, when he mentions Dr. John Lamb.
Now Dr. Lamb was the personal physician to the Duke of Buckingham. He experimented in ritual magic and alchemy (as did Dr. John Dee in the 16th century, who was imprisoned by Queen Mary and later befriended by Queen Elizabeth I.) He was a magician, not a witch. He was stoned to death by a mob in 1640. King Charles I rode out personally to stop the riot. However, he arrived too late. He fined the City of London £600 for failing to punish the ringleaders. Surely a man on whose behalf the King himself intervened must have been held in esteem by the royal circle, and witches certainly did not rate highly enough for such attention.

As Mr. Lofts points out, witch trials did indeed follow a pattern. They appear to have consisted of a number of leading questions which in the Courts today would never be allowed. After the accused people had been subjected to callous treatment and a good deal of brain-washing, it is not surprising that they should agree to anything suggested.
I think it is quite untrue to say that there are no records of big English Witch Trials to compare with the Salem Trials. The mass trial of twenty witches in 1612 was described in a chapbook entitled The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the County of Lancester by Thomas Potts (London 1618), and the same Pendle Witches were immortalised by Harrison Ainsworth in his book The Lancashire Witches. They even inspired a first novel in 1951, Mist over Pendle, with which the author, Robert Neill, established his reputation.
The first really notable trial was that of the Chelmsford Witches in 1566. Then there were the trials of the St. Osyth Witches 1582 and the Warboy Witches in 1589. The trial of the Bury St. Edmunds Witches in 1662 was much documented and publicized and, in fact, it was this trial that influenced very strongly the conduct of the Salem trials.

I am quite sure it was never alleged that physical deformities were the characteristics of every witch. Many attractive women of all ages were tried. For example, Lady Alice Kyteler, the first Irish witch to be tried.
This trial was instigated by Bishop Ledrede of Ossory, a Franciscan trained in France. He undoubtedly learned of witch trials there and tried to introduce them to Ireland. Since Lady Kyteler was the wealthiest woman in Kilkenny, her wealth was probably the attraction, because conviction for heresy meant confiscation of estates. She defied the Bishop, who ex-communicated her. However, Lady Kyteler imprisoned the Bishop, and eventually the whole affair was settled with Lady Kyteler triumphant.

On present-day witchcraft Mr Lofts seems somewhat uncertain of himself, his information appears to have been gleaned from newspaper articles and then not always correctly.
For one thing the late Gerald Gardner did not state there ‘were enough witches to bring about world peace’. The exact words, used by a young British High Priestess in 1958 were these: – ‘WERE there enough white witches around, they could bring about world peace’.
Again, the Witches Mill at Castletown, Isle of Man, is not the only Museum of Magic and Witchcraft in the world. Until a few weeks ago there was one at Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire and there is another at Boscastle, near Tintagel.

I must say that a quotation of Edgar Allan Poe would not have been my way to close any article if I wished to convince people. Most people know very little of his serious works – I think he is far better known for his macabre writings which appear to have been inspired by a weird and morbid, though fascinating, imagination. Whilst his character was not as black as his first biographer, Rufus Griswold, pictured it, at the same time it was not very good. He died in an institution as the result of a drunken bout. I have always felt that he might well have been a schizophrenic and I think The Raven indicates this split personality, perhaps more than any other work. This particular quotation was taken from The Raven. In any case, quotations taken out of context prove nothing, even though a dramatic note is achieved.

What, then, is the truth about us living witches?
To find the origin of Witchcraft we must go back to pre-Christian times. The word witch is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word wicca meaning ‘wise one’. The witches were the priesthood of the Old Religion, which was a combination of the worship of the Sun and Moon, indeed, it embraced all facets of nature. In many old cults it was customary for the rites of the priesthood to be kept secret and this is one of the reasons for the secrecy which surrounds the rites of the witches even to this day.
It was to the witches that the ordinary people went when they needed advice. They were skilled in the art of ‘wort-cunning’ – this was the old name for herbal cures – and so they healed sick people and sick animals, and helped and advised in many ways. I always think they must have been very good psychologists, too.

In a pastoral community, the fertility of men, animals and crops, was of primary importance. The rites performed by the witches were to achieve these ends. They believed that if they wanted the Gods to help them, they must help the Gods. A very sound idea when you think about it; after all, we cannot expect to get anything out of life unless we put something into it. We must remember that these rites and sacrifices were not part of the philosophy – they were a form of sympathetic magic. As the priesthood grew stronger, so the number of rites increased. Is this not typical of priesthoods everywhere? So often the dogma, which is quite often absurd, becomes so important that the original teaching is almost hidden from view. This seems to happen in every religion, it adds to the importance of the priesthood and makes it indispensable.

It is in these rites that we find the origin of the broomstick story. The witches used to dance around the fields astride their broomsticks. They believed that the higher they could leap, the higher the crops would grow. As time went by, the story became exaggerated so that they were reputed to have flown through the air! In the same way, when they desired the fertility of animals they would dress themselves in skins and animal masks, and mimic the actions of the animal for whom they desired fertility – a form of sympathetic magic. This may well have been the origin of the superstition that witches could change themselves into animals at will.

The Old Religion was a simple one – simple beliefs for simple people. They observed a God and a Goddess, the God equated the Sun, the Goddess to the Moon or Earth Mother. These deities were known by many names in different parts of the world throughout the ages.
It is not until the Middle Ages that we begin to hear of the Coven consisting of twelve persons and a leader. This does not necessarily mean that they were non-existent, only that there is no record of them.
Idries Shah Sayed in his book The Sufi puts forward a theory that this was due to Saracenic influence. Whether we are in agreement with him or not I feel that this theory must be examined.
In the 9th century the Aniza shool of mystics was founded by Abyu el Atcahia. After his death a group of this school migrated to Spain, which had been under Arab rule for over a century at that time. This Berber off-shoot was known as ‘the Two Horned’. They adopted as a symbol the Goat, cognate with the tribal name Anz, Aniza. A torch set between the horns symbolised the illumination from the intellect of the Aniza teacher.
Let us look at some of the similarities between these people and the witches.
Both use the term ‘ Old Religion’ and ‘Ancient Tradition’.
The witches refer to their deities as ‘the Old Ones’ – the deity of the Sufi is ‘the Ancient One’. The black-handled knife of the witches is the athame – the ritual knife of the Sufi is the adh-hame. The word Sabbat could have been derived from the az-zabat – the ‘forceful occasion’. The patron saint of the Sufi is khidr – the Green One, whilst the Green Man has always been associated with the witches.Whilst these similarities do not constitute proof, at the same time they lend strength to the hypothesis. We know that the Goat became identified as the Devil in Spain, and at about that time the Devil in this country suddenly developed two horns and a tail.
The survival of the old pre-Christian religion could have been greatly strengthened by the importation of the Saracenic cult and therefore have caused fear and misgiving to the Church of the middle ages. The New Religion was still not old enough nor stabilised enough to feel completely secure.

As in days gone by one cult absorbed many of the beliefs and rituals of other cults, so had the Church absorbed many of the solar and lunar theogonies of the Old Religion. In the same way the old pagan Mother Goddess Bride was, for proselytising purposes, canonised as a Christian saint.
It must be remembered that in the early days Christianity was brought to England by foreigners. Augustine was an Italian and in the 7th century the Church here was organised by Theodore of Tarsus aided by Hadrian the Negro. For several hundred years the influx of pagans greatly outweighed the small number of immigrant Christians. When William the Conqueror defeated Harold, whilst he himself was a professing Christian, most of the population were pagan. Even the Priests often served both the Old Gods and the Christian God. In 1282 it is recorded that the Priest of Inverkeithing led the fertility dance round the churchyard, for which he was severely reprimanded by his Bishop.
In the 13th century Witchcraft was declared to be a sect and heretical, but it was not until the 14th century that the two religions really came to grips. The battle raged through the 16th and 17th centuries, the pagans fighting the gallant but losing fight. In this country the treatment meted out was considered to be more lenient than in some European countries, where thousands were consigned to the flames. Still they clung to their faith and suffered and died in agony rather than renounce their old Gods. If they were burnt, they believed they would become sacrificial victims, and in this way serve their gods in the struggle against evil, and also ensure fertility to the community. I think they can well command respect for their integrity of purpose.

Now, however hard a large majority of people try to stamp out something of which they do not approve, and especially something which they fear, there will always be a small group of faithful adherents who will cling firmly to their beliefs and instil them into others who wish to hear. So it has been with the Old Religion. Throughout the years the beliefs have been passed down, and many of the rituals too, so that today we can still hold our meetings and practise our rites as did our forefathers.
Religion is surely man-made, tailored to suit the particular environment at a particular time. Although as a child I was baptised into the Church and attended Church and Sunday school regularly, yet at an early age I realised that this religion was not for me. Being an only child I spent a great deal of my time reading. I enjoyed reading books about the Old Gods and Goddesses; the religion of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks; the Celts and the Norsemen and the Phoenicians. In all these religions I found the same pattern – the worship of a great Life Force. This appealed to me. Here, I felt, was something I understood, something in which I really could believe, it seemed almost familiar – maybe the echo of something I had known long ago. I felt nearer to the heart of everything out in the open spaces, in woodlands, on hilltops, by running water, than I had ever felt within the four walls of any church. As I grew older this feeling increased – unconsciously I was seeking people who felt as I did.

In the early years of the war I was living and working in Cumberland. I became friendly with a colleague of mine. She was a sympathetic and understanding person, and often at weekends we would go for long walks in the country. One afternoon we were sitting beside the river and I found myself telling her my thoughts and my beliefs. She was extremely interested and suggested that I meet some friends of hers whom she knew would be sympathetic to my ideas.
In due course I did meet them and became a regular visitor to their home. We did indeed have many things in common and it was not long before I realised that at last I had met people who shared my beliefs. I must explain that up to this time I would never have placed the tag of ‘witch’ upon myself. I merely looked upon myself as a pagan, a nature worshipper – I could never believe Great Pan was dead…

Then, one night Mary talked to me and said that she and her husband were now quite certain that I was ‘one of them’. She went to explain that they were members of a Coven of witches.. Witches! For a moment time seemed to stand still… and then – I knew that this was indeed the answer. The last elusive piece of the jigsaw puzzle had been fitted into its place and the picture was complete. I saw quite clearly in that moment that it was not the Devil whom the witches in the Middle Ages had worshipped, it was the old Horned God. Great Pan was not dead and never would be…
At their next Coven meeting I was initiated and taken into the Circle. I am bound by an oath of secrecy not to reveal the secrets of the Craft so I cannot tell you very much about the initiation. It is as vivid in my mind now as it was twenty-five years ago.

It was a clear moonlit night. A necklace was placed around my neck, I was bound with cords and blindfolded, then wrapped around in a coarse, woollen cloak and led through the garden to the woodland where they held their meetings on fine nights. I could feel the dew on my bare feet – I could smell the grass and the leaves and the flowers – all my senses seemed quickened. Suddenly we stopped, and the friendly hands that had been guiding me were no longer there. I was standing blindfolded, bound, helpless and alone – oh, so alone… It was an eerie sensation. I felt completely disorientated, almost panic-stricken. Where were the others? A twig crackled – only some small animal moving in the undergrowth, but quite startling to me. Somewhere a dog barked. The waiting time could only have been a few minutes but it seemed an age. Then, suddenly, the cloak was stripped from me and I shivered as I felt the cool night air on my body.
Oh thou who standest on the threshold, between the pleasant world of men and the dread domains of the Lords of the Outer Spaces, hast thou the courage to make the assay? For I say unto thee verily, it were better to rush upon my blade and perish than mate the attempt with fear in thy heart.”
I felt the pressure of cold steel against my breast, my heart beat madly – I felt almost suffocated – and then – strong arms swept me into the Circle – and the initiation went on.
After I took my oath the blindfold was removed also the cords and I was welcomed by my fellow witches. Then I joined in the Meeting Dance, starting slowly and then working up to greater and still greater speed until my feet seemed scarcely to touch the ground, and the feeling of exhilaration was indescribable.
After it was all over I felt a great peace and I knew that I had come home at last.

I know that the fact that we do not wear clothes at our meetings has become quite a moral issue with our detractors. I would like to point out that nudity has nothing whatever to do with the morality or immorality of an individual. They can achieve immorality without removing one garment.
People sometimes ask me if I felt at all embarrassed by my first ritual nudity. I know that it is sometimes a little difficult when looking back over a number of years, to be completely clear about one’s reactions in certain situations, but I think I can quite honestly answer ‘NO’. In the Circle bodies seem to be of only secondary importance – the atmosphere is more of a spiritual one. This is not only my personal experience: I have heard other people proffer the same opinion, some of whom had felt beforehand that nudity would be an ordeal in itself.
Of recent years I have belonged to the Naturist movement as have some of my witch friends. However, not all witches find it attractive. I find it most relaxing – it is as if with the putting away of clothes, one also puts away the everyday worries and problems. This is purely psychological and possibly the same effect is not felt by everybody.

I receive many letters and meet many people who have an urge to become witches. Some of them are merely curious, others would obviously like to come in for ‘kicks’ – the latter, I feel sure, would be very disappointed if they did get in.
Some people we know instinctively are ‘right’ for us; even so, we do not bring them into the Circle immediately. We do not seek converts – people who really belong will find their way to us, just as I found my way.
Are people born witches? I find that requires a great deal of thought. I suppose they are. This does not necessarily mean that either their parents or their grandparents were witches; but in all probability, if they could go back far enough, they would find witch blood in their family. I think they are certainly born with a feeling about it all which develops strongly if it is given a chance. I must admit that I get highly suspicious when I receive letters which state: – “I am a witch, my grandmother was a witch, she initiated me when I was seven years of age.” If she did, then she wasn’t the ‘wise woman’ she should have been. Quite often, I’m afraid, such letters are written by either cranks or poseurs.
Unfortunately there are far too many of this sort, and I think perhaps it is this type to whom Mr. Lofts refers when he mentions ‘publicity seekers’. Real witches do not seek publicity – they are sought.

During the last few years a new phrase has cropped up – ‘Queen of the Witches’ – ‘King of the Witches’. This tends to be very misleading as one claimant after another pops up making such sweeping statements. People wonder what is going on in the world of the witches. Well, I would like to make one thing quite clear – these people are only self-styled: there never has been and never will be a King or Queen of the Witches. I think these people may have read a book by the late Dr. Margaret Murray where she refers to the ‘Reine du Sabbat’ – ‘Queen of the Sabbat’ – which of course refers to the Maiden or High Priestess of the Coven who presides at the Sabbat.
Why do they do it? If it is to create an impression it usually defeats its object, as so often the impression created is not a good one and tends to present such an odd image of witchcraft to the public.
The reason that a woman leads a coven is, of course, quite obvious. It is because it was originally a Matriarchal cult, and at that time (the late Stone Age – before the institution of fatherhood and marriage) woman was not considered to be inferior to man.

Whilst I am exploding modern myths about witchcraft, I cannot pass over the ‘witch wedding’ story. Not very long ago I was a picture in a newspaper and read a description of a so-called ‘witch wedding’. Well, it was merely a version of the old Scottish and Romany ‘hand fasting’ with a little bit of extra mumbo-jumbo thrown in. The participants were reported to have declared that having gone through this ceremony they had no need of a civil wedding. As the female was under twenty-one and the man over twice her age there was a good deal of criticism.
Now as there is no such ceremony in witch rituals and it all sounded rather silly and nasty, I drove 175 miles for the purpose of tackling the alleged ‘witch’ responsible. Having run him to earth at last and made it quite clear what I though about him, he decided that he couldn’t fool me. He admitted that he had just staged it to show ‘what a witch wedding would be like if if there had been such a thing.’ At the same time I found out that whatever he was practising, it certainly was not genuine witchcraft. It was some weird mixture of cabalistic and Egyptian magic gleaned from books with a few inventions of his own. He showed me something he called a ‘witch ring’ (The number of witch rings I have been shown in my time! Most of them oddities either picked up for a few shillings in the Portobello Road or somewhere of that kind, or else made by somebody who is prepared to supply ‘ritual items’ at fantastic prices; a few have been quite valuable and attractive but possessing no occult properties whatsoever).

More recently still a young man who felt that he had been ‘let down’ by the Christian faith gave an interview to a journalist. He had prayed for his Mother to live and when she died he decided that God was no good and so he would become a Devil worshipper. Well, if it makes him any happier, that is up to him; but he didn’t leave it at that. He proceeded to state “In Witchcraft it is paying humble homage to Satan”. He also announced his plans to start a witch coven. Obviously he was a very mixed up young man, and personally I feel he is to be pitied, but it is people of this sort who bring the Craft into disrepute.
Another report in a paper was headed in large block capitals: WITCHCRAFT – COURT STORY OF COLOURED GIRL’S MAGIC SPELLS. It was an account of a murder case and mention was made of a person being put into a nut which was invisible and flew over rivers. Having forced myself to wade through this odd report I came to the conclusion that ‘NUTS‘ was the operative word!

I do believe that many people are pagans without actually being witches, just as many people are Christians without being priests, and these people can be of great value to the Craft. Not very long ago I was given a ceremony which appeared to have probably originated in the Middle Ages, for the purpose of bringing people into the Craft without actually bringing them into the Circle, so that they could attend a Meeting, witness it, and join in the feasting and Meeting Dance at the end. Whilst I have not yet used it, I am hoping that at some future date we shall be able to incorporate it in our rites.

Perhaps one of the attractions that the Craft holds for many people is that whilst it is a religion it is not hidebound and cluttered with dogma. Today our beliefs have taken a rather different complexion. Whilst we still observe the traditional God and Goddess in our rites, we do not look upon them as personalities. We believe them to be personifications of the masculine and feminine aspects of the great Life Source – positive and negative, if you will. We have no printed text-books telling us what we may do and what we may not do. Every Coven is autonomous, and whilst the fundamental principles are the same, rites can be very in different covens just as they did in days gone by.

In the Middle Ages, witches were instructed to keep a book in his or her ‘own hand of write’.In times of danger it was destroyed. This tradition is carried out to this day. This book is known as “The Book of Shadows”. In it we write the rituals we use on various occasions, chants, initiation rites, old herbal recipes, and the like; sometimes when we are engaged in research we come across fragments which we add to it.
At the time of the persecution the witches tended to dispense with their books and pass things on by word of mouth instead, as a safety measure. Unfortunately this meant that over a few hundred years certain things became altered, other things were lost, so that we are continually seeking for bits and pieces to add to our knowledge.

We hold thirteen meetings a year, once every lunar month, as near to the full moon as possible. We observe the four Great Sabbats – Beltane (May eve), Lammas (August Eve), Hallowe’en (November Eve), and Candlemas (February Eve), which have been celebrated since very early days. In those early days Hallowe’en was called Samhuin, which means ‘Summer End’ (in those days there were only two seasons – Winter and Summer). Candlemas was known as the feast of Feil-Bride in honour of the Goddess Brigid. She was the Goddess worshipped by the great tribe of the Brigante who occupied most of Northern England at that time.
We prefer to hold our Meetings in the open whenever possible – not always easy in this unreliable climate, I’m afraid. Our Midsummer Eve Meeting always takes place in the open. This is one of the Meetings at which we allow sympathisers to be present.
First of all the High Priestess forms the Circle with the athame – the black handled knife – then she invokes the Four Quarters to guard the Circle. A fire is lit in the centre of the Circle,a nd the Cauldron, filled with water and decorated with summer flowers, stands in the East. The witches stand around the circle whilst the High Priestess invokes the Sun. She then bids the witches: “Dance ye about the Cauldron of Cerridwen” (Cerridwen was an old Welsh name for the Earth Mother, and her Cauldron is taken to represent the Holy Grail of Immortality.) They dance around chanting, gradually gaining speed. Then, led by the High Priestess and the High Priest, they leap over the fire in couples. This is to stimulate the life giving forces of the Sun at the beginning of its downward course.
Every Meeting ends with a Cakes and Wine ceremony. Some people have suggested that this was a travesty of the Sacrament, but of course, this is quite incorrect. It is purely a rite of thanksgiving for the corn and the grapes that have ripened to give food and drink.

At every Meeting we do work for people. Sometimes healing, sometimes helping to sort out their domestic problems – people come to ask our help for all sorts of reasons. We do our best to help them. Of course, there are exceptions when we don’t, such as the lady who felt it would be nice and handy if we could dispose of her unwanted husband. I will say we have more successes than failures. If you are a skeptic you can call it ‘coincidence’; nevertheless, it happens, as many people can testify.

Again, different covens have different ways of working. We always found dancing and chanting very satisfactory. Occasionally we use wax images. Many people only think of wax images as something to stick pins in, to cause illness or death (It’s those ‘Old Black Magic’ books again!) so it will no doubt come as a surprise to know that a wax image can also be used for healing purposes. We make the image of pure beeswax, and then one person kneels in the centre of the Circle and massages the affected area, whilst the rest of the Coven dance round chanting.
We do not consider there is anything supernatural about our powers. The power springs from within us, from the will, from the mind and the spirit, and it can be joined to external symbols. The implements, words, symbols and spells are our working tools – but the mind is the most important of all.
There seems to be some misunderstanding that a witch cannot work alone. This is quite incorrect – of course a witch can work alone – some of us do it quite often.

Frequently people ask me the difference between White Magic and Black Magic. Magic is magic – it is neither white nor black. I will give you a very simple analogy. One person can take a carving knife and carve a joint to feed the family; another person takes the same knife and stabs somebody. It is not the knife which is good or bad, but the user. So it is with Magic. This force itself is neutral. There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. The mind of a man is a receiver and transmitter, and the personality of the user influences the transmission. It is correct then to speak of White witches and Black witches.
Black witches are the ones who work against people, their work is directed towards evil ends, whereas white witches work to help others and to do good. When white witches work in a circle they always move in a clockwise direction – deosil – the way of the sun. Black witches work in the opposite direction – widdershins, as it is called. White witches work when the moon is full or when it is waxing, black witches when it is waning. To sum it up quite simply – white witches work constructively – black witches destructively.

In these modern days people have grown more and more materialistic. They tend to rely too much on the teachings of science and to discard too hastily the thoughts and teachings of the ancients, which Eastern civilisations have known and accepted for thousands of years.
To know, to dare, to will and to be silent! This has been the code of the witches. There comes a time, however, when it is necessary to break that silence, when only by telling the world something about ourselves, our beliefs and aims, can we be accepted and left in peace to follow our faith in our own way. All we ask is that people shall respect our beliefs just as we respect the beliefs of others. Some people laugh about us and think, we are more than a little odd. This we do not mind in the least, because after all, nothing deserves to be held sacred that cannot withstand laughter.
Our Meetings are not solemn affairs held with grave faces. They are happy and gay and full of the joy of living. At the end we feel uplifted, exhilarated, contented.

It is twentyfive years since I was accepted into the Craft. For the last four years I have been a High Priestess. I am sometimes asked what are the qualifications to become one.
I suppose an understanding of other people, to be able to help them with their problems, to inspire them with trust so that they can talk freely, knowing that their confidence will be respected. To be able to bring out the power in others and encourage them to use it in the right way. All these things come only from the experience of living and that is why High Priestesses are not young girls but women who have graduated from the University of Life.
This high office is a responsibility and a joy. We must not let it cloud our vision nor dim our passion. We must always be ready to pass it on to some more worthy member. This temporary ownership saves us from pride, for pride breeds jealousy, which is dangerous. There is a sense of achievement which is good, the sense of individual work well done, which is good.
While I hold my office I shall do my utmost, with joy, knowing that I have played my part, done my duty, performed the ritual as a link in the continuity of the Wise-Craft. For that is the true meaning of the word.

Blessed be.

New Brooms For Old

Prediction – Monthly Miscellany November 1966

Mrs. Eleanor Bone, one of our leading modern witches, is planning to form a coven in Cumberland. At present Mrs. Bone, with her husband, runs an old people’s home in London. But she has taken a cottage at Blindcrake, near Cockermouth, and is now busy modernizing it before moving in.
She says that even before they thought of moving to Cumberland, she had a number of letters from people in the area expressing interest in the craft.
“I think people in the country” she added, “are fare more sympathetic to the craft than city people.”

In the Glasgow Herald however, Alastair Phillips thinks Mrs. Bone will not find things easy in Cumberland, which, he says, is already full of witches and warlocks. “She will doubtless find her cantrips severely tested by the rivalry of many experienced, if less well-known, witches and adherents, who will be less easily overcome or convinced than the idle and decadent dilettantes of the London suburbs”.
One might, I think, reassure walkers who climb the Great Gable or stride along Striding Edge, that they need not fear meeting any air-borne witches or warlocks. Modern witches do not fly, not even on vacuum cleaners

My days as a matron and my nights as a witch. by Mrs. Ray Bone

Published in Tit-bits magazine  06 June 1964.

By day she is Matron Bone, running an old folk’s home in a London suburb. At night she becomes Witch Bone, high-priestess of a coven, dedicated to the magic arts. In this interview with GLENDA BANKS she tells of her strange double life and asks you to judge: “ Am I fit to run an old folk’s home?”

It has all been a bit of a strain, keeping my private life separate from my professional one. But at last my secret is out and I don’t much care who knows. I’ve been a witch for 30 years – a matron for ten. And now everyone is talking about the witch who runs an old folk’s home. I feel I have some explaining to do…..
My flat, a fourpenny bus ride from the old folk’s home in Streatham, is in a house called The Towers. The cauldron inside my front door is no door-stop. It’s part of my other life.
I’m not only a witch, but one of Britain’s three high-priestesses. By day I dress for my job as matron in a tweed suit, thick lisle stockings and brogues. By night I dance naked with only a garter on my left thigh.


Let me tell you about my two lives…. At my old folk’s home I have nine patients under my wing. At my flat, where incense burns and ritual knives are laid out on an altar, 12 coven members follow me in worship.
This all might sound strange, but in fact my two lives run in perfect harmony. And there’s no need for anyone to worry about the old folks in my care. At the home I go by the medical book. The London County Council, who licensed my home, know about my other life – and it’s more than I dare to treat any patients with witchcraft’s own herbal remedies, spells and magic.
I’ll tell you about one or two of my patients – old folks who have passed on. One was an old dear from Monte Carlo. She was 84 and a chronic drug addict. She had been “hooked” on morphia for 40 years. I nursed her for six years. When she died, her family were so pleased with the way I had cared for her, they left me an envelope full of money. Another old lady died and left me everything she had in the world. One sweet old gentleman who died when he was 85 left me some antique silver which I use now when performing the “craft ceremonies”.
But one of my greatest treasures is an Egyptian ring about 2,000 years old. It was given to me by a dying patient.
But the living remember me with gratitude as well. More than one old dear has trusted me with absolute power of attorney in her business affairs.
One has property and I collect her rents… I don’t think her knowing that I am a witch will make much difference. All my old people trust me.

But I don’t bother them by holding my witchcraft meetings at the home. It would be much too noisy. I’ve often wondered what my neighbours at The Towers think of the bumps in the night. Well, I’ll tell them. It’s me moving the furniture about. My coven meets in the living-room. I take everything out of the room, clear of the magic circle on the carpet. And setting up the altar is not an easy task. I use a huge, old chest on which I lay my ritual knives. Sacrifice? Never. People confuse witches like me with Black Magic. They say the red wine and small cakes I administer to my kneeling coven are a travesty of the Holy Communion. Piffle! They are symbolic of the harvest and we are simply giving thanks to the gods for the grapes and the grain.

It is true that we are always naked in our rituals. But the reason is our search for purity. We don’t wear clothes because they bring foreign particles into our magic circle. Our magic circle is purified with salt water. It is a big ring drawn at the beginning of each ceremony. It is drawn symbolically with the witches’ sword – but I have painted mine on the carpet to save time.
Once the circle is made, the high-priestess – that’s me – sprinkles salt water all over it. You might call it our equivalent of Holy Water. When the circle has been purified in this way no member of the coven can enter it unless they are naked. For a speck of dust from our every day clothes might spoil our magic. Please don’t run away with the idea that we have a sexual orgy. My coven is made up of middle-aged men and women – the kind of people you see in any bus queue. There’s nothing sexy about us with our clothes off. We take it all very seriously and a prospective member of the “craft” is watched closely for three months before his or her nomination is put to the vote. That’s how choosy we are.
As high-priestess of the coven I’ve had my share of cranky letters. But I’ve a stock answer for those kind of crackpots – I write and tell them it’s a psychiatrist they need, not a witch.


I’m 52, old enough to know my own mind and the “craft” is my religion. But I don’t inflict it on the old folk who pay for a bed in my rest-home. There’s no hocus-pocus when they need spiritual help – I call in the priest or minister of their own denomination. But if they prefer to die in my arms I will comfort them as best I know how. The gossips can say what they like. They’ve even named my favourite seat in the local pub “witches’ corner.” But I defy anyone to find fault with the way I run my rest-home.

Am I fit to run an old folk’s home? You be the judge. Matron Bone or Witch Bone – take your choice. And if you have trouble sleeping tonight thinking about witchcraft, take a tip from Matron’s cauldron: Two teaspoons of honey in hot milk is a wonderful sedative … you’ll never hear the bumps in the night.