Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Pagan Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
and compiled by George Knowles
Barbara Vickers was one
if not the first High Priestess initiated by Gerald B. Gardner after he founded
the contemporary tradition of Gardnerian Witchcraft circa. 1949-50.
Born Kathleen Marie
Blake on the 13th July 1922 in Acton, West London, Kathleen’s parents Thomas
and Elsie Blake were staunchly Catholic in their religious beliefs (Thomas
having been born in County Cork, Ireland) and had raised their daughter within
the strict confines of that religion.
In her late teens Kathleen began to rebel against her
parents and Catholicism in general. She
first joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists movement and later the
British Union of Socialists party. In 1939 at the start of the Second World War, and a year
before she was legally entitled to, Kathleen enlisted in the Women’s Army
quickly rising to the rank of Corporal in the Signals Corps. During a posting to Catterick, North Yorkshire in 1944, she
met her future husband Gilbert Vickers. They were married on the 23rd December 1944 in Kingston,
Surrey, where both had been stationed.
Gilbert had been born in 1907 into a wealthy Protestant
family, the owners of Hedley Vickers and Co., a meat processing company in
Manchester who specialised in producing tins of Corned Beef (Bully Beef), the
staple diet of British Soldiers during the War.
To better fit in with her new family members, Kathleen changed her name
to a more Protestant-sounding one, Barbara Kathryn Vickers.
She also began taking elocution lessons.
When the war in Europe officially ended in May 1945, the newly web couple moved into the Vickers family home called Barnfield, located in Prestwich, near Manchester. Barnfield was a large house however and in those days of austerity following the war they could little afford to heat it. Instead they occupied just a few rooms on the ground floor near the kitchen and closed off the rest of the house. Later they tried running the house as a Bed & Breakfast Hotel, but the business failed due to difficulty getting staff.
It was while living at Barnfield House that Barbara had her
first psychic experience. While checking through the closed-off parts of the house one
day she opened the door to one room and noticed a group of people dressed in
old-fashioned clothing gathered around the fireplace. Surprised she quickly closed the door and then re-opened it
only to see dustsheets covering all the furniture.
While this may not be considered a remarkable incident particularly
during the post-war period when such phenomenon was commonplace, it does
indicate some psychic ability on her part and may well have sparked her interest
in spiritualism and the occult.
and Barbara Vickers
It is still not certain when or how Barbara first became
acquainted with Gerald B. Gardner, but it is interesting to note that during the
time she lived at Barnfield House - 1945 to 1953, both she and her husband were
members of the North Western Sun Bathing Society, a private naturist club with
woodland premises located between Macclesfield and Congleton in Cheshire.
Given Gardner’s association with the Fiveacres naturist club in Bricket
Wood, London, it is possible they were introduced through associated members?
A more likely scenario may be that during her frequent trips to London to visit with her parents, Barbara began to investigate her newfound interests in spiritualism and the occult. In doing so she would likely have visited the famous Atlantis Bookshop, by that time the central meeting place for London’s occult intelligentsia. The owner of the shop was Michael Houghton who had recently published “High Magic’s Aid” by Gerald B. Gardner (1949), of which copies would likely have been displayed for sale in the shop window. If she had purchased a copy of his book, this may well have been the impetus for her to make contact with the author. While much of this is speculation, what is known for sure is that by November 1950, Gardner had initiated Barbara into his coven with the craft name of “Morven”, the same name as the witch heroine in his book “High Magic’s Aid”.
Gerald B. Gardner
According to Philip Heselton (author of the acclaimed biography
Life of Gerald Gardner”), there are two photographs of
Barbara that have survived from that time.
They were taken by her husband Gilbert and show Barbara posing naked
holding ritual objects. Heselton
states: “… these photographs
are of immense significance in that they are the earliest so far identified of
anyone involved in what Gardner described as 'the witch cult',
characteristically skyclad with 'regalia' and postures.”
In the first one, there is what looks like a dark circular mirror about 3ft 6ins in diameter, surrounded by a frame on which the names of the four archangels are painted, possibly in Gardner's own hand, while Barbara is depicted holding a two-handled metal cup. In this photo below, Barbara is seated with hands crossed holding what looks like a scourge and a wand. She is wearing a large metal bracelet similar to those Gardner made for his other Priestesses. She is also wearing a green stone pendant on a necklace. Beside her on the bed is a book, which appears to be handwritten, and could well be her Book of Shadows. Heselton states: “…We know that she did have such a book, since in the typed version of what is commonly known as ‘Jack Bracelin’s Book of Shadows’ we have a handwritten annotation at one point reading “from B.V.’s book”.
Photo's courtesy of Philip Heselton
In March 1952 Barbara gave birth to her only daughter Miranda
Vickers, but just over a year later in September 1953, her marriage to Gilbert
failed and they separated. Soon after their separation Barbara returned to
London with her daughter and for a short time lived with her parents.
This brought her into conflict with her parent’s strict Catholic
beliefs and so she kept her craft activities private.
Later when her daughter was old enough to be left alone with her parents,
Barbara bought a flat in Knightsbridge where she began to hold séances on a
regular basis. By the end of 1954
however it seems as if she had ceased to attend meetings of the coven.
It is thought the last time Barbara worked with Gerald’s
coven was at the initiation of Jack Bracelin and Thelma Capel, whose witch name
is Dayonis, probably at the Full Moon in March 1956. Heselton states: “I
think she came as a special favour to Gerald as Doreen Valiente, the coven's
High Priestess, was not available for some reason.
I think that Barbara probably felt that bringing up her daughter in the
Catholic faith, which she agreed to do, was incompatible with remaining a member
of the coven. She later
immigrated to Canada in October 1959, where she died in 1973.
Her husband Gilbert Vickers died in 1978 (full dates currently unknown).
grateful thanks to author Philip John
Heselton for all his help and information.
numerous websites to many to mention.
compiled on the 11th July 2020 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
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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 / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / 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 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 / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / 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" / 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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