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Sybil Leek  (1917-1982)

Written and compiled by George Knowles.    

Sybil Leek was an English Witch, a gifted Psychic, Astrologer and prolific Author who wrote more than 60 books on such subjects as Astrology, Numerology and Reincarnation.  She was born with a witch’s mark and claimed to be a hereditary witch of Irish and Russian Descent.  A colorful character in her time, her trademarks were a cape, loose gowns and a pet jackdaw named Mr. Hotfoot Jackson perched on her shoulders.  She always wore a crystal necklace that she claimed had been passed down to her from a psychic Russian grandmother.  Her entire family was involved in astrology and some of the guests who visited her home included: H.G. Wells, Lawrence of Arabia and Aleister Crowley. 

Sybil claimed to be able to trace her mother’s ancestry back to the witches of southern Ireland in 1134, and her father’s ancestry to occultists close to royalty in czarist Russia.  Her most notable ancestor was Molly Leigh from Burslem near Stoke-on-Trent, and her choice of a pet Jackdaw as a familiar, bears an uncanny relationship:

Molly Leigh

As the story goes, Molly was born in 1685 and lived in a cottage on the edge of the moors at Burslem near Stoke-on-Trent.  Molly was a solitary character who never married; she talked to the animals and kept a pet Blackbird.  She made her living selling milk from a herd of cows to travellers and passers-by.  An eccentric person, the Blackbird was often seen perched on her shoulder as she delivered milk to the dairy in Burslem.

Molly was known for her quick temper and the people of Burslem were suspicious and frightened of her.  This was not uncommon in those times, for throughout the country ‘women’ and particularly elderly women who lived on their own in remote places, were labelled as witches.

In Molly’s case it was the local vicar the Rev. Spencer who made witchcraft accusations against her.  He claimed that Molly sent her Blackbird to sit on the sign of the Turk’s Head pub, a pub that the vicar frequently visited, and when it did the beer turned sour.  She was also blamed for other ailments suffered by numerous townsfolk. 

Molly died in 1746 and was buried in the Burslem churchyard, but then many claimed that her ghost haunted the town.  A short time after her burial, the Rev. Spencer along with clerics from Stoke, Wolstanton and Newcastle went to open her cottage and retrieve her pet Blackbird.  When they arrived they were shocked to see Molly (or an apparition of her), sitting in a favourite armchair knitting with her pet Blackbird perched on her shoulders (just as she had often been seen in real life).  Frightened, the vicar and others returned to the graveyard and reopened her grave.  They drove a stake through her heart and threw the living Blackbird into the coffin.  The vicar then decreed that as she was a witch, she would not rest easy until her body was buried lying North to South.  To this day, Molly's tomb is the only one that lies at right angles to all the other graves in the churchyard.

Molly's Grave in St. John’s churchyard, Burslem

Sybil took special pride in being descendant from Molly Leigh, and on a visit to Burslem she visited Molly’s grave.  Later she was seen about town with her own pet jackdaw perched on her shoulders, following the same custom that old Molly had done before her. 

Sybil was born on the *22nd February 1917 (see note below) in Straffordshire, England.  From an early age she lived and grew up in the New Forrest area of Hampshire and demonstrated an early gift for writing.  The New Forrest is one of the oldest forests in England and is steeped in folklore and witchcraft associations.  The same area is where Gerald B. Gardner first joined Old Dorothy Clutterbuck’s coven in 1939.  That coven was reportedly descended from one of Old George Pickingill’s famous Nine Covens.  Sybil claims that during her time in the area, there were still four old covens that had survived from the days of King William Rufus. 

In *1933 (see note below) when she was 16 years old, Aleister Crowley became a frequent visitor to her home.  She claims to have spent time with him climbing the mountainsides and wondering through forests near to her home.  In her autobiography Diary of a Witch (New York: Signet, 1969.), Sybil wrote that he talked to her about witchcraft and recited his poetry while encouraging her to write her own.  He also instructed her on the use of certain magickal words used for their vibratory qualities when used in magick. 

Sybil’s family was relatively well to do and she grew up as a young lady of privileged societal standing, her mother was related to the Masters family, well known in high society.  In their New Forest home her mother and a group of friends regularly met for tea, they called their group the Pentagram Club.  When she was fifteen years old and during one of the family's regular trips to the south of France, Sybil was initiated into a French coven based at George du Loup in the hills above Nice.  According to Sybil, she was initiated to replace an elderly Russian aunt who had been High Priestess of the coven, and it was from this coven that the New Forest covens in England were descended.

Returning home Sybil met a well-known pianist-conductor who was 24 years her senior.  Despite the age difference they fell in love and were married shortly after her 16th birthday.  During the relative quiet of the pre-war years they toured and traveled about England and Europe.  He died two years later and she returned home to Hampshire.  During World War II, Sybil joined the Red Cross and worked as a nurse in a military hospital near Southampton.  Later she was sent to help nurse the wounded at Anzio Beach, before returning to England and being stationed at a military barracks in the isolated Scottish Hebrides Islands.  She ended the War with a handful of medals, but the prosperity of her family had been lost to the austerity of the War.

After the war and into her twenties, Sybil returned to Hampshire and lived in a small village called Burley situated in the heart of the New Forest.  There she mixed with and lived among the Gypsies.  She also joined their 'Horsa' coven, a coven they claimed had existed for 700 years.  The Gypsy knowing she was a witch born, accepted Sybil as one of their own.  From them she learned a great deal about herbal potions and elixirs.  When the time came for her to move on, they honored her in the traditional Gypsy way reserved only for the most respected of outsiders.  They made her a 'blood-sister'.  This was done by cutting her wrist and mixing her blood with the blood of the Gypsy leaders.

 

Sybil at a crossroads near her home in Hampshire.

While living in Burley, Sybil started up and ran a successful antique shop.  Then at some point she met and married a man called Brian.  Together they had two sons Stephan and Julian who are reported to have inherited the family’s psychic gifts.  While walking in the woods one day Sybil had a vision, it brought to her the realization that her purpose in life was to promote the craft and the Old Religion.  She began to do just that and into the 1950’s her reputation as a Psychic, Astrologer and Witch, began to attract attention.  Media publicity brought tourists to her village but in the wake of autograph seekers her antique business began to suffer.  Witchcraft was still viewed with suspicion in those times and her landlord refused to renew her lease unless she publicly denounced it.  Sybil declined and was forced to close up shop and leave.

Sybil with a witch doll in her Antique Shop.

With the revival of a modern Witchcraft movement in the late 1950’s early 60’s, and the growing prominence of such people as Gerald B. Gardner, Alex Sanders, and Arnold Crowther.  Sybil feeling she still had more to do accepted an invitation to visit the United States, there witchcraft in general was still in its infancy.  In the early 1960's after making several media appearances in the States, she decided to stay and become a resident.  She settled first in New York but found it a depressing city and particular gloomy in winter.  Later she moved on to Los Angeles which was much more agreeable.  There she became acquainted with Aleister Crowley’s old secretary Israel Regardie, and much they must have reminisced about the great man. 

In her later years Sybil moved again to Melbourne in Florida, and divided her time between there and her work base in Houston.  She continued to promote the craft and the Old Religion in a positive sense, both as an author and a media celebrity dispelling myths and educating the public.  She worked as an astrologer and gained quite a reputation in the field editing and publishing her own astrological journal.  Such was her reputation that she toured frequently holding lectures throughout the States as well as making trips to England and Europe.

Strong in defence of her beliefs, Sybil sometimes differed and even quarrelled with other witches.  She wrote and spoke a great deal about reincarnation, guided she said by the spirit of Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, the cofounder of the Theosophical Society.  She disapproved of nudity in rituals, a requirement in some traditions, and was strongly against the use of drugs as were most modern Witches, but she was at odds with most other witches in that she did believe in cursing.  She was also one of the first of the modern day witches to take up environmental causes.

Sybil died on the 26th October 1982.  One report of her death has it that a train derailed near to her Melbourne home and dosed her with a toxic gas.  She will be remember as a remarkable woman of many accomplishments, a gifted Psychic, Astrologer and Writer who did much to influence the revival of the modern day movement.  Blessed she be.

Some of the many books she wrote are: Diary of a Witch (1968), My Life in Astrology, The Night Voyagers, Numerology: The Magic of Numbers, Phrenology, Reincarnation: The Second Chance, Star Speak, Astrological Guide to Love and Sex, Astrological Guide to Financial Success, Astrology and Love, Driving Out the Devils, Sybil Leek's Book of Curses (1975), Sybil Leek's Book of Fortune Telling, Moon Signs, ESP - The Magic Within You, Herbs, Medicine and Mysticism, The Complete Art of Witchcraft (1971), The Jackdaw & The Witch (Mr. Hotfoot Jackson), and How To Be Your Own Astrologer.

Sources

  The Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft  - by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.

Encyclopedia of Wicca &Witchcraft  - by Raven Grimassi.

Plus numerous website to many to mention.

 

First published on the 03rd May 2001, 20:29:02 © George Knowles

*Note

My grateful thanks to SoulFire who sent me the following by email:

Sybil Leek was actually born Feb. 22, 1917 and died October 26, 1982, not 1983.  I had tried to send flowers to the hospital where she was staying, but a nurse told me that she had checked herself out and gone home.  I obtained a copy of her funeral card from her last initiate.  To add to the confusion, Sybil publicly gave her birth date as 1922.  I am not the only person who has a copy of her funeral card.  Noted astrologer Lois Rodden, a former astrology student of Sybil’s, also has a copy, which confirms the 1917 dob.  You can read about it here (scroll down to the bottom of the link to read the entry).

One site that gives her dob as 1923 also gives it as 1922 within the same article.  I have always assumed that “1923” is merely a typo.  I suspect this is the source of the erroneous date, which spread like a virus all over the WWW and, eventually, in print as well.

Critics who claim that she could not have known Aleister Crowley because they were not in the same place in 1939 (when she was supposed to have been 16) base this on the incorrect dob.  She would actually have been 16 in 1933 rather!  

According to Sybil’s initiate, Sybil’s father knew Crowley, and it was through him that Sybil met A.C.  I’m no expert on Crowley, but it would be interesting to research whether Sybil and A.C. could have been in the same place around 1933-34.  Critics also say that there is no mention of the Leek’s in A.C.’s writing.  Naturally, because “Leek” was not her family name; it was her married name rather.

One report of her death has it that a train derailed near to her Melbourne home in Florida, and dosed her with a toxic gas. 

To clarify, Sybil died from cancer.  She did, however, apparently believe that the cancer had been caused by exposure to the gas.


B*B,
SoulFire

 

Best wishes and Blessed Be

 

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IncenseCandlesColoursMagickal DaysStones and GemsElements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

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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 MoonsLinks to Personal Friends & ResourcesWicca/Witchcraft ResourcesWhat's a spell?Circle Casting and Sacred Space /  Pentagram - PentacleMarks of a WitchThe Witches PowerThe Witches HatAn esoteric guide to visiting LondonSatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  /  Part 2 Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /  The History of ThanksgivingI have a Dream, the 1963 speach by civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King /  Auras by Graham Furnell - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

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)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:  Samhain / YuleImbolcOstara /  BeltaneLithaLammasMabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron MagickMirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrowFoxFrog and ToadsGoat / HoneybeeKangarooLionOwlPhoenixRabbits and HaresRavenRobin RedbreastSheep SpiderSquirrelSwansWild Boar /  Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

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 /  ElderAlso see:  The Willow Tree (Folk Music)

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

 Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:   / Apophyllite  / Amber AmethystAquamarineAragoniteAventurineBlack TourmalineBloodstoneCalciteCarnelianCelestiteCitrineChrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / FluoriteGarnet /  Hematite Herkimer DiamondLabradoriteLapis LazuliMalachiteMoonstoneObsidianOpalPyriteQuartz (Rock Crystal)Rose QuartzRubySeleniteSeraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodaliteSunstoneThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakeningThe Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murder by WitchcraftThe Fairy Witch of ClonmelA Battleship, U-boat, and a WitchThe Troll-Tear (A story for Children)Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-LanternThe Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

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Remembered at Samhain

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Abramelin the MageAgrippaAidan A. KellyAlbertus Magnus “Albert the Great”Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” Alison HarlowAmber KAnna Franklin /  Anodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey  / Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite Austin Osman SpareBiddy EarlyBridget ClearyCarl Llewellyn WeschckeCecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey LelandCharles Walton /  Christina Oakley Harrington /  Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) /   Dion FortuneDolores Aschroft-NowickiDorothy MorrisonDoreen ValienteEdward FitchEleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” /  Dr. John Dee and Edward KellyDr. Leo Louis Martello /  Eliphas LeviErnest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry /  Fiona Horne /  Friedrich von SpeeFrancis Barrett /  Gerald B. GardnerGavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gwydion PendderwenHans Holzer /  Helen DuncanHerman Slater "Horrible Herman" /  Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" MurrellJanet Farrar & Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne John George Hohman /  John GerardJohn Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJohannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von EckartshausenLaurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis Spence /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General”Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata /  Monique Wilson the “Queen of the WitchesMontague SummersNicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellersMrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-RavenheartOld Dorothy ClutterbuckOld George Pickingill /   Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsusPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip Emmons Isaac Bonewits Philip HeseltonRaymond BucklandReginald ScotRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /  Rudolf Steiner /  Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & DruidsSabrina - The Ink WitchScott CunninghamSelena FoxSilver Ravenwolf /  Sir Francis DashwoodSir James George FrazerS.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  StarhawkStewart FarrarSybil LeekTed AndrewsThe Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather /  Thomas AdyVera Chapman /  Victor Henry AndersonVivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna 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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