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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Dr. Leo Louis Martello



Written and compiled by George Knowles


Dr. Leo Louis Martello was an American Witch, a certified hypnotist and graphologist, and an author with a number of books to his credit.  He first came to prominence during the 1960’s as a leader involved in the early spread of Contemporary Witchcraft in America.  A colorful and sometimes controversial figure, he is perhaps best known as an activist involved with - Civil Rights, Animal Rights, and Gay and Lesbian Rights issues.  He is particularly famed for his manifesto seeking retribution for atrocities caused to Witches during the three hundred year history (1450 - 1750) of Witch hysteria that devastated Europe and the UK (including the brief episode of the Salem witch trials in the United States in 1692) and filing suits of $500 million against the Roman Catholic Church and $100 million against Salem, Massachusetts.

Leo Martello was born on the 26th of September 1930 in Dudley, Massachusetts.  His father was an immigrant Sicilian who owned a small farm, but this was the time of the Great Depression, when poverty, joblessness, homelessness and hunger were all too prevalent throughout the United States.  As he struggled to raise his young son, they were forced to move first to Worcester and then to Southbridge, during which time Leo was baptized as a Catholic.


Perhaps due to the stress of the times the marriage between his parents deteriorated and they were divorced while Leo was still very young.  As a consequence Leo was sent to a Catholic boarding school to begin his education.  Leo later contended that the following six years at boarding school, were the unhappiest years of his life, a time he was regularly up to mischief and often in trouble.


As a child, Leo had many psychic experiences and in his early teens began to study palmistry and tarot with a Gypsy woman.  He also learned about hypnotism and graphology.  By the time he was sixteen, he was making radio appearances, giving handwriting analyses and selling articles to magazines, at the same time continuing his education at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.


At the age of 18, Leo moved to New York and there studied at Hunter College and the Institute for Psychotherapy in New York City.  This he managed to do on his own, supporting himself with a variety of odd jobs.  A year later aged 19, he won a gold medal for the best fiction story written by a teenage author in New York City.


Up until this time Leo had little knowledge of his ancestral heritage, except for his father’s brief references that he resembled his maternal grandmother in Sicily, a lady called Maria Concetta.  He also stated that he had inherited her temperament and psychic abilities.  Maria had been a well-known Strega Maga (a female Witch) and a High Priestess of a secret coven called ‘Goddess of the Sikels’.  After the sudden death of a local Mafiosi by heart attack, it was rumored that she had caused his death after he had threatened to kill her husband for not paying protection money.


After moving to New York, Leo’s father informed him that there were cousins from the old country there who wished to meet with him.  After meeting with his cousins, he was told they had been watching him for years, waiting until he was ready to be brought back into the Old Religion.  On the 26th of September 1951, Leo was initiated into his cousin’s secret Sicilian coven, and thus he became a Stregone Mago (a male Witch).  The initiation involved a “bloodletting Oath”; he was never to reveal the secrets of the coven, its members, or any of their secret teachings.


In 1950 combining his talents as a hypnotist and graphologist, he studied handwriting obtained under hypnotic age regression, and worked professionally as a graphologist analyzing handwriting for businesses and various corporate clients.  He also founded and was director of the American Hypnotism Academy in New York from 1950 to 1954, and treasurer of the American Graphological Society from 1955 to 1957.


In 1955 aged 25, Leo was awarded a Doctorate of Divinity degree by the National Congress of Spiritual Consultants and became an ordained minister of the Spiritual Independents-Nonsectarian.  He served as pastor for the Temple of Spiritual Guidance from 1955 to 1960.  No-longer accepting the theology of the National Congress of Spiritual Consultants, he then left this position to pursue wider interests connected with witchcraft.


In 1964, Leo traveled to Morocco in North Africa and for a year resided in Tangiers studying oriental religion, magic and witchcraft.  Returning to New York and in order to promote the truth about witchcraft, Leo next sought the permission from his Sicilian coven to go public as a Witch.  With their consent, he contacted other friends and associates leading to his initiation into Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Traditionalist traditions.  In 1969 finally going public, Leo had his first book on Witchcraft published:  Weird Ways of Witchcraft (New York – HC Publishers, 1969).



Leo Martello circa. 1960's


Leo was one of the first American witches to go public and championed such causes as legally incorporated tax-exempt Wiccan churches, Civil rights for Witches to hold public activities and demonstrations, and paid days off from work for Witches on their holidays.  To aid his work, he founded the Witches' Liberation Movement and the Witches International Craft Association (WICA), for which in 1970, he launched the WICA Newsletter and Witchcraft Digest.  By the mid-1980’s, this Newsletter had gained a circulation of around 3,500 nationally.


Leo, sometimes a controversial man, received much publicity in 1970 when he organized the now famed “Halloween (All Hallows Eve) Witch-in" in New York City’s Central Park.  The New York City Parks Department initially refused to issue a permit for the ‘Witch-in’, but soon changed their minds when Leo secured the services of the New York Civil Liberties Union and threatened to file suit for discrimination on behalf of a minority religion whose rights were being violated.  On Thursday the 29th of October just two days before the event, the permit was granted.


On the evening of the 31st October 1970 (the Eve of Samhain, Halloween’s Eve and All Hallows Eve), the “Witch-in” in Central Park New York was a tremendous success.  Over a 1,000 people attended the “Witch-in”, which was filmed and turned into a documentary by Global Village.  The highlight of the evening was when Witches and non-Witches alike, held hands in an ever-widening circle and danced a Witches reel.  They sang new words to the old folk tune "London Bridge is Falling Down":


“Witches meet in Central Park, Central Park, Central Park,
Witches meet in Central Park.  For our Lady”!


After the success of the “Witch-in”, Leo then founded the Witches Anti-Defamation League, later renamed the Witches Anti-Discrimination Lobby (WADL), which he dedicated to ensuring Witches' religious rights.  By the late 1980's, the League had established chapters in every state in the U.S.A.


He then drafted his now famed ‘Witch Manifesto’, which called for a National Witch Day parade and the condemnation of the Catholic Church for its torture and murder of Witches during the Inquisition.  He also sought and proposed a $500 million lawsuit against the Church for damages, the proceeds of which would to go to the descendants of victims, paid for by the Vatican.  A further suit for $100 million was made against Salem, Massachusetts for damages in the 1692 Witch Trials.  It was an imaginative but an impossible goal to be achieved in this late day and age.


While working professionally as a writer, graphologist and lecturer, Leo made numerous public appearances speaking at many major festivals, events and gatherings, helping to educate others about the craft.  His definition of a Witch was:  A wise practitioner of the craft, a nature worshipper and a person who is in control of his/her life”, and inline with his own Sicilian tradition, he felt that “A Witch must not condone injustices”.  Regardless of sensitivities, he taught not to turn the other cheek, but to be strong and right a wrong when needed.  He also felt that there was too much emphasis on personalities in the broader Pagan community.


The following is an extract from his book:  Witchcraft: The Old Religion (Seacaucus, N.J. University Books, 1973):


In the Craft, there is no hard dogma. Hard drugs are forbidden. Mindless morons can't be a compliment to our Mother Goddess. Sex is sacred, not something to be exhibited at a peep show. Power is something personal, not to be used over others, which is contrary to Craft ethics. Those who think the Old Religion will make them masters over others are slaves to their own self-delusions. A happy person is always a powerful person and is hated by those who aren't. A happy person is in many ways selfish; in the Craft we must protect our best interests and ensure that the power that comes from joy remains constant, knowing that none of us are immune from the vicissitudes of life, but that our Old Religion will help us handle any adversity. The Craft has survived for thousands of years. After everything else has come and gone, it will remain. And one day, in the coming Age of Aquarius, there will once again be magnificent temples to the Goddess”.

Leo retired from public life in the early 1990’s, yet he continued to give his help and advice whenever leaders, groups and others asked for it.


Sadly Dr. Leo Louis Martello passed into Summerland on the 29th June 2000.  Following his wishes, the Rev. Lori Bruno of Medford, MA, an elder in Leo’s tradition and the administrator of his estate, had his remains cremated.  In October 2000, Lori also officiated at a very moving memorial service in New York City.  It was held at the Gay and Lesbian Center where many people had shared their experiences with him throughout his years.


Blessed was he, may he rest in peace.




Your pen personality (1961)

It's In The Cards: The Atomic-Age Approach to Card Reading Using Psychological & Parapsychological Principles (1964)

It's in the stars: A sensible approach to and a psychological evaluation of astrology in this "age of enlightenment." (1966)

How to prevent psychic blackmail: The philosophy of psychoselfism : sensible selfishness versus senseless self-sacrifice (1966)

Hidden World of Hypnotism - How to Hypnotize (1969)

Weird Ways of Witchcraft (1969)

Black Magic, Satanism, Voodoo (1972)

Understanding the Tarot (1972)

Witchcraft, The Old Religion (1973)

Reading the Tarot: Understanding the Cards of Destiny (1990)







The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft  - By Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The Witch Book (The Encyclopdia of Witchcraft, Wicca and Neo-paganism)  -  By Raymond Buckland

The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and   -  By Shelley Rabinovitch & James Lewis

Most helpful in compiling the above was Lori Bruno' memorial tribute which can be seen at:

Plus numerous other websites to many to mentions.


First published on the 25th June 2004, updated on the 28th June 2009 © George Knowles



Best wishes and Blessed Be



Site Contents - Links to all Pages


Home Page


A Universal Message:


Let there be peace in the world  -   Where have all the flowers gone?


About me:

My Personal PageMy Place in England / My Family Tree (Ancestry)


Wicca & Witchcraft


Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick


Traditional Writings:


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 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 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /   


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




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


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





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders 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 /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor 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 HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean 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 SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘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 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 GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam 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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