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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Idries Shah


Written and compiled by George Knowles

Idries Shah (also known as Sayed Idries el-Hashimi) was a prominent Sufi author and teacher dedicated to cross-cultural Islamic Sufism, some of his earlier works however are books based on his interests in magick, folklore, witchcraft and occultism.  He founded in 1960 the “Octagon Press”, an early cross-cultural publishing house based in London, UK.  Their first publication was the biography “Gerald Gardner: Witch”, the founder of the Gardnerian Tradition of Wicca/Witchcraft in England during the late 1950s.

Shah was born in Simla, northern India, on the 16th of June 1924 to an Afghan-Indian father Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah and a Scottish mother Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah.  He is the youngest of three siblings, a sister - Amina Shah (31 October 1918 – 19 January 2014), and a brother - Omar Ali-Shah (1922 – 7 September 2005) both of who became authors and writers supporting Sufism.  His paternal grandfather was Sayyid Amjad Ali Shah, a wealthy nobleman and the nawab” (a Royal title indicating a sovereign ruler, often of a South Asian state, comparable to the western titles of a King) of Sardhana near Meerut, north of Delhi. 

Most of Shah’s early life was spent living in Afghanistan, India and England, and then travelling widely throughout Europe and the Middle East accompanying his father Ikbal Ali Shah in his Sufi work.  During his travels he was educated by private tutors, a characteristic of a wealthy Sufi education.  From an early age therefore, he was able to meet with and spend time with prominent Statesmen and other distinguished personalities in both the East and West.

In 1958 Shah married Cynthia (Kashfi) Kabraji who bore him a daughter Saira on the 05th October 1964, followed by a son and daughter (twins) Tahir and Safia on the 16th November 1966.  All now have careers as authors, journalists and documentary filmmakers.  Saira Shah, reported on women’s rights in Afghanistan in a documentary called “Beneath the Veil”. 

By this time living permanently in England, Shah had already started writing.  His earliest works focused on his interests in Magick and the Occult, and include:  Oriental Magic” (1956) and “The Secret Lore of Magic: Book of the Sorcerers” (1957).  In 1960 he started “Octagon Press”, (later registered in the United Kingdom as a limited liability company at Companies House on 10 January 1972), the first title of which was “Gerald Gardner: Witch”, the biography of the UK’s leading figure in the British witchcraft revival of the 1950s.  The book has been attributed to Jack L. Bracelin, the High Priest of Gardner’s Bricket Wood Coven in St. Albans, but it has long been known as a pseudonymous work by Shah, who it is often alleged, was acting as Gardner’s secretary at the time of writing.  Philip Heselton does much to clear up this little controversy in his latest biography “Witchfather:  A Life of Gerald Gardner” (Vol 2). 

During the late 1950’s while holding court at the Cosmo Restaurant in Swiss Cottage, North London (a popular meeting place for London’s literary and occult inteligensia), Shah became aquainted with Jack Bracelin who later introduced him to Gerald Gardner, the result of which was the compilation of his biography “Gerald Gardner, Witch” (published in 1960).


Jack Bracelin  -  Gerald Gardner

Later, Shah developed the press as a means of publishing and distributing Sufi books that might otherwise have gone out of print.  His desire was to have these always available to each generation.  The books range from traditional Sufi manuals, to contemporary works.  Several books feature the fictional “Mulla Nasrudin” character in his humorous teaching stories, which are said to have the ability to act as a mirror to human foibles, aiding philosophical self-examination.   In addition to publishing translations of Sufi classics, they included titles by other notable authors, focusing on the fields of the humanities, cultural geography, literature, poetry, folklore, psychology, travel and philosophy.

Shah’s own writings greatly extended western knowledge of Sufi teachings.  He profoundly influenced several intellectuals, most notably the “Nobel prize” winning author Doris Lessing and Robert Ornstein.  His definition of Sufism was liberal in that he was of the opinion that it predated Islam and did not depend on the Qur’an, but was universal in source, scope and relevance.  He maintained that spiritual teachings should be presented in forms and terms that are familiar in the community where they are to take root.  He believed that students should be given work based on their individual capacities, and rejected systems that apply the same exercises to all.  In his own work he used teaching stories and humor to great effect.

Doris Lessing

In the mid 1960’s Shah started the “Society for Understanding the Foundations of Ideas” (SUFI) in London.  This was renamed the “Institute for Cultural Research” alongside a more esoteric “Society for Sufi Studies” also founded by Shah.  The “Institute” is still currently based in London and hosts lectures and seminars on topics related to aspects of human nature, while the “Society” has now ceased its activities.

Shah’s books have sold over 15 million copies in 12 languages worldwide.  They have been reviewed by “The New York Times”, “The New Yorker”, “The Times”, “The Tribune”, “The Daily Telegraph” and numerous other international journals and newspapers.  His best-selling novel “Kara Kush” was based on fact, incorporating Shah’s first-hand knowledge of the courage of the Afghan people, and the atrocities inflicted upon them.

About a year after his last visit to Afghanistan in late spring of 1987, Shah suffered two successive and massive heart attacks.  He died in London on the 23rd November 1996 at the age of 72.  According to the obituary in “The Daily Telegraph”, Shah was a collaborator with Mujahideen in the Afghan-Soviet war, a Director of Studies for the Institute for Cultural Research, a Governor of the Royal Humane Society and the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables.

Shah’s Grave Stone baring the inscription:

“Do not look at my outward shape but take what is in my hand”


Idries Shah’s books on Sufism have achieved wide critical acclaim.  He was the subject of a BBC documentary (“One Pair of Eyes: Dreamwalkers”) in 1970,  and two of his works (“The Way of the Sufi” and “Reflections”) were chosen as the “Outstanding Book of the Year” by the BBC’s “The Critics” programme.  Among other honours, Shah won six first prizes at the “UNESCO World Book Year in 1973”.  At the time of his death, Shah’s books had sold over 15 million copies in a dozen languages worldwide. 





Oriental Magic ISBN 0-86304-017-9 (1956)

The Secret Lore of Magic ISBN 0-8065-0004-2 (1957) 


The Sufis (1964)

Tales of the Dervishes (1967)

Caravan of Dreams (1968)

Reflections (1968)

The Way of the Sufi (1968)

The Book of the Book (1969)

Wisdom of the Idiots (1969)

The Dermis Probe (1970)

Thinkers of the East – Studies in Experientialism (1971)

The Magic Monastery (1972)

The Elephant in the Dark|The Elephant in the Dark – Christianity, Islam and The Sufis (1974)

A Veiled Gazelle – Seeing How to See (1977)

Neglected Aspects of Sufi Study (1977)

Special Illumination: The Sufi Use of Humour (1977)

A Perfumed Scorpion (1978)

Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way (1978)

The Hundred Tales of Wisdom (1978)

Seeker After Truth (1982)

Sufi Thought and Action (1990)

The Commanding Self (1994)

Knowing How to Know (1998)

Observations (1998) 

Collections of Mulla Nasrudin stories

The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin (1966)

The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mullah Nasrudin (1968)

The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasrudin (1973)

The World of Nasrudin (2003) 

Studies of the English

Darkest England (1987)

The Natives are Restless (1988)

The Englishman's Handbook (2000) 

Plus many more, too many to list here


Philip Heselton’s latest biography “Witchfather:  A Life of Gerald Gardner” (Vol 2). 

Plus many more, too many to list here 

Written and compiled by George Knowles  © 24th November 2020 



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) /  Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /    


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:

(Our Ancestors)


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagorasParacelsus /  Abramelin the Mage Archimedes AgrippaSocrates  /  AristotleAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” /  



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


Aidan A KellyAleister 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 DuncanHermann Löher /  Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIdries ShahIsaac 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" /  Lambert Daneau /  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” /  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-SmithPatricia 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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