Old George Pickingill (1816-1909)
This photograph purporting to be Old George Pickingill is in fact a photo of Alf Cavill, a station porter at Ellstree, taken in the early 1960s.
and compiled by George Knowles.
Pickingill was a legend in his own time, a feared “Cunning Man” by local
residents, a sought after Witch and Magician by those in occult circles.
Born to Charles and Susannah Pickingill (nee Cudner) on the 26th
May 1816, George was the eldest of nine children.
They lived in a small Essex village called Hockley in East Anglia, from
where he later he moved to the nearby village of Canewdon, and there he remained
until his death in 1909.
George” as he became known, was a hereditary witch and claimed he could trace
his ancestry back to the time of “Julia Pickingill – The Witch of
Brandon”, who lived in a village north of Thetford in Norfolk.
Julia as legend would have it was hired in 1071 to make magical chants
for the troops of “Lord Harewood the Wake” inspiring them into battle
against the Normans. During the battle, Julia was seen standing in a wooden tower
overlooking the two opposing armies and where her chants could be heard across
the battlefield. Her chants seemed
to be working, but then the Normans set fire to the dry reeds around the tower
and Julia died in the flames. Since
that time each generation of the Pickingill family have served as Priests and
Priestesses in the Old Religion.
Canewdon Church circa 1900
(Legend now has is that as long as the tower of Canewdon’s St Nicholas Church stands; there will always be six witches living in the village).
occult circles he was highly regarded, and was widely acknowledged as the
country’s foremost authority on Witchcraft, Satanism and Black Magick.
Overtime, many of the days leading Witches, Satanists, Rosicrucian’s,
Freemasons, Magicians and other magically inclined people travelled from all
over England, Europe and the United States to consult with him.
As his reputation grew, Old George became just as infamous as Aleister
Crowley was in his time. He was
also known to have encouraged Satanism, which horrified other Craft Elders who
considered him a renegade and a disgrace to the craft.
the course of his lifetime, Old George established a total of nine hereditary
covens, situated in Norfolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Sussex and Hampshire.
In many ways he was a zealot, for when he started a new coven; he
insisted its leaders produce evidence that they came from hereditary witch
lineage. Each coven he formed
worshiped the “Horned God” and used a basic set of rites, though he was
constantly changing, embellishing and introducing new concepts as they
developed. All rituals were
conducted by women and involved ritual nudity and sexual inductions.
Pickingill family, including Old George, were renowned for their allegiance to
the Horned God and adopted many ancient Craft practices that were not observed
in other parts of the country. The
rites developed by the Pickingill tradition were a unique blend of French and
Scandinavian craft practices. This
was due in part by the influx of French and Flemish weavers into East Anglia,
who introduced elements of the Cathar faith and the Old Religion as observed in
France during the Middle Ages. Old
George used a basic format for each of his covens, but he was always re-writing,
revising and introducing new rituals, therefore each of his nine covens although
similar, were not exactly the same.
until Old George’s time, many existing covens were based on oral traditions,
their knowledge and rituals having been passed down from generation to
generation, and instilled upon their members by repetition, memory and practice.
This in part due to the secrecy imposed on witches during the “Burning
Times”, which inevitably, and over time, led to fragments of their traditions
being lost. However, some
hereditary covens kept a “Coven Rulebook”, now called a “Book of
Shadows”, which contained a list of all the coven members and outlined the
covens basic rites. For
safekeeping, the book was guarded by the coven’s secret “male” deputy,
often referred to as “the Man in Black”, and only made available on special
occasions at the Master’s bidding to add/delete names or transfer authority.
No members, particularly woman, were ever permitted to read it. This may have been due to the opinion that a woman would
reveal the location of the book if her children were tortured in front of her,
whereas a man may not.
the fear of the “Witch-hunts” began to decline in the later half of the 18th
century, Old George always willing to change, adapt and evolve took the idea of
the “Coven Rulebook” and developed it, starting the tradition of keeping a
“Book of Shadows” for the exclusive use of all coven members.
The original Book of Shadows as compiled by Old George and modified over
a period of his lifetime was then passed on to each of his nine covens, a legacy
that lives on today. Many think
Aleister Crowley passed on the details of one of Old George’s Book of Shadows
to Gerald Gardner who adopted the same into his own tradition.
The concept of keeping an individual “Book of Shadows” in your own
handwriting, evidently originated from Alex Sanders who founded the Alexandrian
Crowley is reported to have been a member of one of Old George’s covens in or
around 1899. He is thought to have
obtained his Second Degree before being dismissed due to his contemptuous
attitude toward women and deplorable behaviour.
Other pupils of note were two Master Masons by the names of “Hargrave
Jennings” and “W.J. Hughan”. Both
later become founder members of the “Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia”; from
which the “Order of the Golden Dawn” would eventually emerge.
Doreen Valiente in her book “Witchcraft for Tomorrow” alleges that
Jennings consulted with Old George and conspired with him to concoct a cipher
manuscript (Cipher MS), which led to the founding of the Golden Dawn.
However such claims have since been discredited.
from his famous “Nine Covens”, there was a more sinister side to “Old
George” for which he became notorious. Old
George had an intense dislike for Christianity and local authority.
He openly campaigned for the overthrow of the Christian Religion and the
establishment in generally. Some
claim he even collaborate with Satanists, because he believed that by promoting
Satanism, he was helping to ensure the destruction of the Christian church. This brought him into conflict with other Craft Elders who
strongly objected to his activities.
to popular belief, for many misinformed articles are commonly sensationalized in
the Press, witches do not believe in “devil-worship”, nor do they invoke
Satan during ritual to carry out evil deeds.
Satan and the Devil are by-products of Christianity and have nothing to
do with the Old Religion. The Old
Religion was being practiced well before Christianity came along.
This in mind, the other Craft Elders had good cause for objecting to what
“Old George” was advocating, preferring secrecy and discretion to the
unwanted attention he was arousing.
Old George’s death in 1909, and some 30 years later, Gerald B. Gardner was
initiated into one of his descendent covens and began openly writing about Wicca
and Witchcraft. In 1946 when
Gardner met with Aleister Crowley shortly before his death, it was alleged that
Gardner paid him to write in his original “Book of Shadows”, but this has
now been discounted. While his BOS
did contain some of Crowley’s writings, this is now believed to have been the
result of Gardner and Crowley comparing notes on rituals used in Old George’s
New Forrest coven. Doreen Valiente
in her book “Witchcraft for Tomorrow” does much to shed light on this
The Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft - by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
New Encyclopedia of the Occult - by John Michael Greer.
of Wicca &Witchcraft
- by Raven Grimassi.
Witchcraft for Tomorrow - by Doreen Valiente.
The Dark World of Witches - by Eric Maple
First published on the 02nd February 2001, up-dated 08th June 2007 © 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 / 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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