Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Pagan Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
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.
(Military service circa 1938)
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.
The 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
The 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 / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A 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 Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat / Rats / Unicorn
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
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
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered 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)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Aidan A Kelly / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Praetorius / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Hermann Löher / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer and the “Malleus Maleficarum” / Idries Shah / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / James Sprenger and the “Malleus Maleficarum” / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean Bodin / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim - the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" / Lambert Daneau / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Rossell Hope Robbins / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / 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 and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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