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The Untold Chapter Of British Traditional Wicca

‘Julia Phillips is one of the best current historians of Wicca and is breaking genuinely new ground in tracing the way in which the religion developed.’ (Ronald Hutton)

Modern pagan witchcraft commonly known as Wicca, or British Traditional Wicca, emerged publicly in England in the 1950s, influenced by the notion promoted by Margaret Murray of a continuing tradition of a Pagan religion that had survived centuries of persecution. Retired civil servant Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) claimed that had been initiated into such a cult in Hampshire, England, in 1939 and in December 1950 he met Cecil Williamson (1909-1999), whose childhood encounters with practitioners of a traditional style of English rural witchcraft inspired a lifelong passion for witchcraft and magic. In 1951 Williamson purchased a farm on the Isle of Man, which he turned into a Museum of Witchcraft and invited Gardner to take up a role as the ‘resident witch.’ Using original sources, Julia Phillips tells the story of this significant chapter in the story of the establishment and development of Wicca, placing Williamson and Gardner, and the Museum of Witchcraft, within the context of post-war Britain.

Speaker Bio

Julia Phillips is a post graduate researcher in the Department of History at University of Bristol. Her interest in occultism began in the 1970s, when she attended lectures at the Society for Psychical Research in London. Over the past fifty years Phillips has studied and written on many different subjects related to the occult and magic and her research about this untold chapter of British Traditional Wicca was published in Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft, (University of Pennsylvania Press, Volume 16, Number 2, Fall 2021).

Photo: Cecil Williamson 28 January 1951, Sunday Mercury

Curated and Hosted by Dr. Amy Hale

Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site and her website