Hugh Williamson (1909-1999)
Written and compiled by George Knowles.
A lesser known figure whose work and knowledge of occult matters was instrumental in the formation and build up of the new and present day Wicca/Witchcraft movement, was the work and dedication of Cecil Hugh Williamson. He was the Founder of the Witchcraft Research Center during the war, and the Museum of Witchcraft in Castletown on the Isle of Man.
Williamson was born into a fairly well to do family on the 18th September 1909 in Paignton, South Devon. His father was an influential career officer in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. Williamson’s interest in witchcraft and the occult was aroused by an incident that occurred in 1916, which he describes as “a major public act of witchcraft”. In December of that year he witnessed an old woman (reputed to be a witch) being striped of her clothing and beaten. Young as he was (six years old) he ran to her defence and for his efforts was beaten himself. The old woman later befriended young Williamson and taught him all she knew about witches.
Some years later around 1921, Williamson confided to another old woman that he was being bullied at school. She allegedly showed him how to cast a spell against the bully. A short while later the bully had a skiing accident, leaving him crippled and unable to return to school. This had a dramatic effect on Williamson, and began a lifelong quest for knowledge and research into witchcraft and occultism.
Williamson was educated at Malvern College in Worcester, and spent the summer holidays in Dinard, France, visiting with his grandmother and her medium friend Mona Mackenzie. From Mona he learnt about clairvoyance and divination. After graduating from college, his father sent him to Rhodesia to learn about tobacco farming. While living in Rhodesia, he had a houseboy called “Zandonda”, a retired voodoo witchdoctor who taught him about African magic.
Williamson returned to London in 1930 and started a career in the film industry working as a production assistant for several studios. In 1933 he met and married the niece of film director and producer, Herbert Wilcox. Gwen Wilcox was working as a makeup artist for Max Factor of Hollywood.
Williamson continued his interest and study of the occult and witchcraft. He began to accumulate vast amounts of knowledge and a substantial collection of artifacts on folklore, witches and their craft. From his interest grew an impressive network of contacts, among whom there was: E.A.Wallis Budge the Egyptologist, Montague Summers the historian, Margaret Alice Murray the anthropologist and Aleister Crowley the occultist.
Perhaps due to his father’s high position within the Fleet Air Arm, Williamson came to the attention of MI6, the government’s intelligence agency prior to the outbreak of World War 11. In 1938 he was asked to head up a special section of MI6 attached to the Foreign Office. Its objective was to collect and assimilate information about Nazi occult interests, to facilitate this he formed the Witchcraft Research Center. Part of his strategy was to determine who in the Nazi high command was influenced by astrology, superstitions and predictions (particularly those of Nostradamus). This was done through the study of graphology and other such methods.
Williamson was instrumental in the capture of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy. He planted phony Nostradamus predictions in an old book in France, which was then made to find its way into Hess’s possession. The object was to lure Hess out of Germany. It succeeded and Hess was later arrested in Scotland.
Another scheme he was involved with was the now famous “Witches Ritual”. This was aimed at Hitler and the Nazi high command to prevent the invasion of England. It now transpires that this was an elaborate hoax to fool and worry Hitler who believed in witchcraft and the powers of the occult. The ritual took place in Ashdown Forest, Crowbourgh in Sussex, and employed the services of Aleister Crowley and his son Amado. Gerald Gardner makes claims that he and his New Forrest coven where involved and that the ritual took place in the New Forrest, Hampshire? Perhaps his coven did perform a similar ritual, but not under the auspices of Williamson or with the governments backing.
After the war ended Williamson found himself at a loose end, he had saved a little money but had no work. He spent most of his time traveling up and down the country continuing his research and maintaining his contacts. In 1946 he happened to call in at the famous occult bookstore “Atlantis” in London, and there was introduced to Gerald B Gardner who was giving an informal talk on witchcraft. Gardner had been keen to meet Williamson because of his occult contacts. While friendly enough at the start there relationship was often strained and would later end on bad terms.
Williamson was a prodigious collector of artifacts on witchcraft, and had collected thousands of magical objects and items of occult interest. He decided that best use he could make of them was to create his own business in the form of a “Witchcraft Museum”. But this was not so easy to do, for witchcraft in those times was still viewed with skepticism. In 1947 he set up his first site in Stratford-on-Avon, but was ran out of town due to difficulty with local antagonism. Eventually he had to move out of England and settle in Castletown on the Isle of Man. There his ideas were more favorably accepted, and he opened the Folklore Center of Superstition and Witchcraft in 1949. On the advice of his wife Gwen, the center also included a Witches Kitchen to be used as a restaurant and to boost business.
Williamson at the Castletown museum.
After the repeal of the old witchcraft laws in 1951, Williamson decided to return to England and try again. In 1952 he sold the buildings of the Castletown museum to Gerald b Gardner and moved his collection of artifacts back to England. He started with a museum in Windsor, near to Windsor Castle. Initially it proved a success and was a splendid tourist attraction, but after the first season ended local residents again grew skeptical and antagonistic, and forced him to move on.
In 1954 he relocated to Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire. There he was treated to the same kind of harassment he had met in other locations, included: Sigils painted on his doors, dead cats left on his doorstep at night and even had a wing of the museum destroyed by arson. Williamson moved several more times due to this sort of antagonism and in the process started up museums such as: the Museum of Smuggling at Polperro in Cornwall, and the Museum of Shellcraft at Buckfast in Devon. He finally settled in Boscastle, Cornwall and there opened his final Museum of Witchcraft in 1960, the one still running today.
Williamson retired in 1996 and sold the Museum of Witchcraft together with many of its contents to “Graham King” and his partner “Elizabeth Crow”. After his retirement he moved to Witheridge near Tiverton in Devon, taking with him some of the artifacts from the museum he was reluctant to relinquish. He also took with him his extensive collection of occult articles and objects associated with the Witchcraft Research Center.
Following the advice of Aleister Crowley given in the 1940’s, Williamson over the years did not belonged to any particular group or society. He maintained that the services of a witch was a valuable and necessary service to society, especially to the lower classes who cannot afford fancy medical treatments, but he disdained the modern Pagan religion of witches as being "nonproductive of results". According to his own records between the years 1930 – 1997, he took part as a spectator and sometimes as an operative in some 1,120 witchcraft rituals that produced beneficial results. He had known, met with and been taught by some 82 wise women.
Through his knowledge of witchcraft and the occult, and through his network of contacts with those involved, his Museums have done much to provide the means and a central focus point from which the new movement of Wicca and Witchcraft could evolve. Cecil Williamson died on the 09th December 1999. He was 90 years old.
Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft
- by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
First published on the 28th July 2002, 17:53:18 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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