Witchcraft and the witches of the New Forest
The New Forest is an important place in the history of Wicca. Gerald Gardner, the “Father of Wicca” was initiated into the New Forest Coven in 1939. However the “old religion” has been practised in the forest for a long time before then. “Cunning folk” from Medieval times and all over Britain would practice their form of magic to help heal, cast spells and in fortune telling. These wise men and women would often be persecuted for witch craft. So, understandably these “witches” would often keep a very low profile and their faith quiet.
Witches and Witchcraft in Burley
Witchcraft is never far away in Burley. How open minded are you? Some believe it all started when ‘Britain’s most famous witch’, Sybil Leek moved to this pretty little village. Others believe it started long, long before then. Let’s take a look at the “Old religion”, Burley and witchcraft in the forest.
One of the first things to strike you when walking around Burley are the witch and witchcraft shops. Burley’s association with witches is due largely to a former resident, Sybil Leek. Sybil rose to media fame in the 1950s, after the repeal of the 1735 Witchcraft Act in 1951. She was one of the first witches to come out into the open.
Sybil Leek was a “white witch” but also a colourful character. Her fame and notoriety eventually made her unpopular in the village. She used to live behind Lawfords before her landlord refused to renew her lease. She used to own several antique shops one being in Burley and one in nearby Ringwood.
The diary of a witch
Sybil was the author of the controversial book, “Diary of a Witch”. Where she reveals how she was introduced to witch craft and reading the book you are left with the impression of someone who loved nature as much as anything magic. She tells stories of New Forest gypsies, from whom she learnt much of her art.
“My religion, witchcraft, is not a dramatic thing. It’s meditation instead of prayer. It’s listening instead of talking. It’s waiting for someone to say something to you. It’s quiet, natural and easy.”
– Sybil Leek
She used to have a tame jackdaw called Hotfoot Jackson. Some Burley residents thought that Sybil were a fraud. And some say that the nearby Thorney Hill witches had been practicing the “Old Religion” for much longer.
To get a true feel for the mystery of it all, your first stop could be the village centre. A Coven of Witches cannot be passed by. It’s not just any old gift shop. It’s a magical shop. From Dragons to Witches, spell books to incense. wands to crystals. Discover more Burley Shops.
- A Covern of Witches, The Cross, Burley BH24 4AA Tel: 01425 402449
- The Sorcerers Apprentice, The Cross, Burley BH24 4AB Tel: 01425 403586
- Witchcraft, The Mall, Burley BH24 4BS Tel: 01425 402224/5
- Wizzydoras, The Cross, Burley BH24 4AA Tel: 01425 405661
Celebrate All Hallows’ Eve in the New Forest…