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Philip Heselton

Written and compiled by George Knowles

Philip Heselton is an independent historian and researcher, a highly respected writer and author on the subjects of Earth mysteries, Wicca, Witchcraft and Paganism.  He is best known for his books documenting the life of Gerald Brosseau Gardner, arguably the father of Contemporary Witchcraft, which include:  Wiccan Roots:  Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival (2000), and Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration (2003).

Philip was born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, on the 29th March 1946 and spent the first few years of his life growing up in suburban London.  After the birth of his younger brother Nigel Heselton in 1950, his parents, father Kenneth Yeaman Heselton and mother Joan Heselton, enrolled Philip at the Beckford Junior School in West Hampstead to start his schooling.  From 1952-1957 he attended the Kenyngton Manor Primary School in Sunbury-on-Thames, then moved up to Sunbury Grammar School where he completed his early education in 1964.

A mainly solitary person, from an early age Philip had gained an affinity for the land and a deep respect for nature.  He would often on his pushbike, cycle and travel out of London into neighbouring counties seeking out the wild woods and desolate heaths for his spiritual inspiration.  At the same time he was always aware that realms beyond the physical existed, and this led to his early interest in psychic phenomena, UFO’s and other associated Earth mysteries.

The first indication that other people felt the same way he did came in 1960, when his parents borrowed a book from the local library called:  Witchcraft Today by Gerald B. Gardner.  On reading the book, much of what it said had a familiar ring, almost as if some strange echo from a past lifetime was attracting him.  However it was what the book didn’t say that fascinated him, the answers to which led him on a life-long quest of research and exploration into earth mysteries, and much later to undertake an in-depth investigation into the life of the book’s author.

By his mid-teens Philip’s main interested was in UFO’s, which led to his meeting with John Anthony Dunkin (Tony) Wedd, his first mentor, and the person who introduced him into the mysteries of leys (sometimes referred to as “ley lines”).  Wedd was the founder of the STAR Fellowship, an organization dedicated to finding evidence of UFO’s from space and making contact with their people.  The STAR Fellowship first came to public attention through an article he had written for the Flying Saucer Review (issue Jan/Feb 1961), a magazine dedicated to UFO’s, and entitled:  Diffusionist Theory and the STAR Fellowship.  Wedd also authored a small booklet:  Skyways and Landmarks, which he wrote to coincide with the first STAR Fellowship Rally held on Saturday 27th May 1961, a rally Philip eagerly attended.

In 1962, together with Jimmy Goddard and other UFO enthusiasts, Philip founded The Ley Hunters Club, a revival of The Straight Track Club (1927-1948) first founded by the earlier pioneer of leys … Alfred Watkins.  In 1965 to support growing interest in the club’s activities and findings, they also founded:  The Ley Hunter magazine.  Philip edited the first few issues of magazine from 1965-66, before handing it over to other members so he could concentrate on his University studies.

    

John Anthony Dunkin Wedd (1919 - 1980)  -  Alfred Watkins (1855 - 1935)

In 1964 Philip’s interest in leys and landscapes led him to the North East of England and the study of Geography at the University of Hull.  He graduated from Hull in 1967 with a BA (Hons) degree.  Deciding on a career in Planning, from 1968-1970 he continued his studies at the University of Manchester, gaining a Diploma in Town and Country Planning.  He then took employment as a Planner with the East Riding of Yorkshire County Council, and in 1973 was granted membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute (MRTPI).  Later in 1985 he took a position as a Conservation Officer with Hull City Council.

It was not until 1972 that Philip first met some practicing pagans, but of these, one in particular was dogmatic in his thinking, which put him off seeking others for several years.  In the late 1980’s he met another group of pagans whose ideas and theologies coincided with his own.  Soon after, he became involved with various other local groups, some members of which have become his closest friends.

In 1979 Philip helped to found The Northern Earth Mysteries Group, for which he edited their magazine called Northern Earth Mysteries.  The remit of the magazine was to record history and archaeology both ancient and modern, as well as folklore and its customs, and to act as a cauldron for unexplained and scientific facts.  From hollow mounds to sleeping giants and from rural landscapes to the urban myths of cityscapes, it brought together a host of people with shared interests.  Having edited the magazine for more than a few years, Philip passed on the task to another member, Rob Wilson in 1987, so he could move on with his other interests.

During the mid-1980’s together with Jimmy Goddard and Paul Baines, Philip co-wrote a booklet:  Skyways and Landmarks Revisited (1985).  This was a re-evaluation of the work that Tony Wedd had started on leys and their connection with UFO’s.  As well as a detailed history of the leys, it contained the full text of the original booklet written by Wedd, together with the findings of the STAR Fellowship and his ideas on the significance of sound to earth energies, which he believed flowed along the alignments and could be used by extraterrestrials.  Philip then followed this with another booklet:  Earth Mysteries - An Exploratory Introduction (1985) co-written with Brian Larkman.

A year later Philip wrote his first book, a biography in honour of his mentor called:  Tony Wedd:  New age pioneer (1986).  This he self-published and even organised the printing and binding.  While the book only sold about 100 copies, he felt he had achieved his aim in respect for his dear friend.  It was about this time that he found a new interest and began a serious study of Astrology.  In 1988 he gained a Diploma from the Faculty of Astrological Studies (D.F.Astrol.S.), and through the early 1990’s was a part-time professional astrologer.

During his writing career thus far, Philip had edited various magazines, had contributed articles to associated magazines in the earth mysteries and pagan genre, had co-written and produced a number of independent booklets, and had self-published a book about his friend and mentor Tony Wedd.  What still eluded him however, was his desire to have his own work published by an “established book publisher”.  That opportunity came just a few years later.

In 1989 a friend of his, Caroline Wise suggested he contact Element Books, who at the time were publishing a series of books (The Elements of ... series) based on various esoteric subjects.  So Philip wrote to them and offered to write a book based on Earth Mysteries.  After submitting a synopsis with a sample chapter, the editor of Element Books invited him in to discuss it.  As a result in July 1990 he was offered a contract, and a year later:  The Elements of Earth Mysteries (1991) was published.

In the 1990s, he moved away from his earlier fascination with UFO’s and leys, to investigating our experience and understanding of the landscape and nature around us, and this he expressed in his next series of books:  Secret Places of the Goddess:  Contacting the Earth Spirit” (1995), “Mirrors of Magic: Evoking the Spirit of the Dewpond” (1997) and “Magical Guardians - Exploring the Spirit and Nature of Trees (1998).

After his retirement from Hull City Council in 1997, Philip returned to his roots and began researching and gathering evidence for a project he had long been wanting to fulfill.  Ever since he first read Witchcraft Today in 1960 he had been curious about its author Gerald B. Gardner and the many mysteries surrounding his life.  Equally mysterious was the secrecy and origins of the New Forest coven, which had allegedly survived through generations of witches.

After an in-depth investigation spanning several years, Heselton revealed his findings in a new series of books:  Wiccan Roots:  Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival (2000), and Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration:  An Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft (2003), in between which Philip himself had bowed to the inevitable and was initiated into a Gardnerian coven in 2002.

 

Philip’s study and detailed research into the life of Gerald Gardner and the existence of the New Forest coven has been well received and welcomed in the pagan community.  Many see his books as the most authoritative account to date of the true origins of the Gardnerian Tradition of modern witchcraft, but he wasn’t yet finished.  At the end of his last book:  Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration, he stated:  I have enjoyed researching and writing this book immensely:  I hope you will enjoy reading it.  I am still enthusiastic and hopeful that a fuller story will one day emerge.  As I said in Wiccan Roots and will repeat here – the subject has not finished with me yet!!!

Indeed it was not, for Philip has just released a new two volume book, a full-scale biography of Gerald Gardner called:  Witchfather:  A Life of Gerald Gardner.  Volume 1 - Into the Witch Cult, chronicles his life up to 1939, when he was initiated into the ‘Witch Cult’ by people who called themselves ‘the Wica’.  Volume 2 - From Witch Cult to Wicca, chronicles the last quarter of his life and his efforts to ensure that not only did the ‘Witch Cult’ survive, but that it would become a significant player on the world’s religious stage.  The book is currently available as an e-book from Thoth Publications, and hard copy books are expected to be available by the end of January 2012.

Never one to remain idle, Philip has traveled extensively around the country giving lectures and promoting his books.  He still resides in Hull, the city he made his home early in his career, and where with his long-time partner of over 30 years, Hilary Byers, he has raised two sons, Owen (born in 1987) and Aidan (born in 1990).  When not traveling he continues his researches into various esoteric subjects.  More recently he has been commissioned by the ""Centre of Pagan Studies"" to begin research and write a biography about Doreen Valiente, Gerald's most prominent High Priestess.

 

Certainly not idle for on the 20th September 2014 Philip finally married his long-time partner Hilary Byers.  The official wedding vows were taken at the James Reckitt Reading Room in Albion Street, Hull. Later that same day over 70 relatives, friends and guests gathered at the Community Orchard in Pickering Road, Hull, to witness Philip and Hilary jump a broom in a traditional Wiccan handfasting ceremony before retiring to the local Minerva pub for lunch overlooking the River Humber.

 

              

         

Bibliography:

 

With Jimmy Goddard and Paul Baines: Skyways and Landmarks Revisited (1985)

With Brian Larkman: Earth Mysteries - An Exploratory Introduction (1985)

Tony Wedd: New age pioneer (1986)

The Elements of Earth Mysteries (1991)

Secret Places of the Goddess: Contacting the Earth Spirit (1995)

Earth Mysteries (1995)

Newland Avenue School – 1896-1996 – Our Past, Present and Future (1996).  A second edition, published in 2006, was given the title "Newland Avenue School - 1896-2006"

Mirrors of Magic: Evoking the Spirit of the Dewponds (1997)

Magical Guardians: Exploring the Spirit and Nature of Trees (1998)

Leylines - A Beginner's Guide (1999)

Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival (2000)

Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration: An Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft (2003)

Witchfather:  A Life of Gerald Gardner (2012)

 

Sources:

My grateful thanks to Philip Heselton for all his help in compiling this brief biography

Philip now has his own website at:  http://philipheselton.com/

 

Other sources:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Heselton

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Watkins

http://www.twpt.com/heselton.htm

http://www.tlh6976.fsnet.co.uk/

http://www.leyhunter.org

Plus others to numerous to mention

 

Written and compiled on the 05th June 2009, updated January 2012 © George Knowles

 

Best wishes and Blessed Be

 

 

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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 GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality

 

Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

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 SatanismPow-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 Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

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:

 

Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon

 

Tools:

 

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

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansWild 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 /  Elder

 

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 Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom and Inspiration:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /

 

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:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /  Amber KAnna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman Spare /  Biddy Early /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristina Oakley Harrington Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne 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 HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Isaac Bonewits Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” /  Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJoseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen /  Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceMargaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillPaddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip HeseltonRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Robert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir 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 LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna 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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