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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others

Rossell Hope Robbins

Written and complied by George Knowles

Rossell Hope Robbins was an English born Professor of English Language and Literature specialising in early musical lyrics and verse.  He was the author of numerous scholarly books dealing with medieval lyrics in English, he also wrote “'The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology” (Crown Publishers, 1959) a best selling classic book dealing with the three hundred year history (1450-1750) of the delusional “Witch trials” that spread throughout Europe and the UK (including the United States Salem witch trials of 1692) in which thousands of people were falsely accused of witchcraft, brutally tortured, then burned alive at the stake or hanged.

Rossell Hope-Robbins was born on the 22nd July 1912 in Wallasey, Cheshire, England.  His father Rossell Casson Robbins, formerly from Liverpool, and mother Alice Eveline (nee Hope) Robbins, formerly from Kirkcudbright, Scotland, also bore one other child, a sister Marjorie Hope-Robbins (1902-1992).  At birth each child was given their mothers former maiden name of Hope as their middle names, which they initially used hyphenated as Hope-Robbins. 

(Photo undated but likely circa 1930’s)

Robbins with mother and sister

Robbins began his formal academic education at Wallasey Grammar School (1921-30), before entering the University of Liverpool to study English Language and Literature.  There in 1933 as a student of J. H. G. Grattan he received a B.A. degree with first class honours.  In 1934 he received a diploma of education from the School of Education, Liverpool, while from 1930-36 he studied music at the Matthay School of Music, Liverpool, receiving a licentiate from the Guildhall School of Music, London, in 1932.  He was also a member of the London Verse Speaking Choir under the direction of Marjorie Gullan from 1935-37.

In 1934, Robbins was admitted to Emmanuel College Cambridge on a Wallasey Borough Research Scholarship and a University of Liverpool Graduate Scholarship.  There after studying under G. G. Coulton he graduated in 1937 with a Ph.D. degree in literature.  That same year he was awarded a Commonwealth Fellowship by the Harkness Foundation, which allowed him to immigrate to America.  In America he continued to work on English verse and literature at the State University of New York (SUNY) where together with a fellow colleague Dr. Carleton Brown (an American medievalist), they wrote and published his first book the “Index of Middle English Verse” (Columbia University Press 1943), a work that is still acknowledged as the best of its kind.

"Reverend" Dr. Carleton Brown

On the 09th June 1939, Robbins married Helen Ann Mins (b. 1901 - d. 1994), a high school teacher from Manhattan.  Helen Ann proved to be the perfect partner and academic match for Robbins.  She had received a B.A. degree in 1922 from Hunter College in the City University of New York (CCNY) where she had studied Greek, Latin, French and German languages.  She had also taken additional classes, mostly in the sciences, at CCNY from 1918 through 1926, as well as attending the University of Wisconsin in the summer of 1924.  She then began a high school teaching career, first at the Manual Training High School in New York, where she worked until 1926 before transferring to the James Monroe High School where she remained until 1940, shortly after she married Robbins.

Rather than get married at the local City Hall, which they considered lacking in dignity for two professional academics, they chose to get married in the more fitting venue, the office of the Modern Language Association of America (MLA), located on the New York University campus.  As it happened, their friend and fellow colleague at the University, Dr. Carleton Brown had been the fifth executive director of the MLA (1920–34) and its forty-sixth president in 1936.  Unknown to many of his academic colleagues, Brown had also been ordained a Reverend Unitarian minister at his home church in Boston, a position and title he had served very little while pursuing an academic career.  He had never officiated in a marriage service before, and went to considerable trouble to get his license documentation from his home church in Boston re-registered by New York State to enable him to perform the wedding service himself.

Helen Ann Mins Robbins

On the 07th December 1941 after a surprise bombing attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States declared war on Japan becoming fully engaged in World War II, Robbins was inducted into the United States Army on the 08th March 1943 receiving full United States citizenship in 1944.  Throughout the remainder of the war he served with distinction in the War Department Special Staff, Education and Information Division at the Pentagon, during which time he wrote dozens of pamphlets and discussion guides on how to deal with war prisoners and repatriation.  His orientation programs for returning soldiers and information bulletins for occupation troops in Europe, including those dealing with the war trials at Nuremberg became mandatory reading for the American Army in Occupied Germany.  After the war ended, in 1946 he was recommended for the Legion of Merit for his contributions to the US war effort.

Inducted into the United States Army on the 08th March 1943

After the war Robbins accepted a teaching position at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now the New York Polytechnic Institute), and there he remained teaching until 1954.  In 1955, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and semi-retired from teaching to devote more time to his scholarship.  In 1958 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, one of only a half dozen American writers to be so honoured.

In 1959 he published his now classic book “The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology,” an enormously successful book that has been reprinted many times and translated into Spanish (1988) and Russian (1996), and in 1961 the Columbia University Press published his “Early English Christmas Carols” in a handsome gift edition with music, illustrations and an LP record.  From 1958 to 1985, Robbins and his wife Helen Ann spent their summers at Cornell University where they continued to research and study the histories of witchcraft.  (Cornell University now provides free online public access to over 100 books from their Witchcraft Collection at:

During his semi-retirement between 1954 and 1969 Robbins enjoyed the life of an independent scholar working occasionally and assisted by a grants from the Modern Language Association (MLA), two American Council of Learned Societies grants, and a Ford Foundation grant as a visiting scholar at Dunster House, Harvard.  He also accepted visiting assignments at the University of North Carolina, Mount Allison University of New Brunswick, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the University of California at Berkeley, the Sir George Williams University in Montreal and the University of California at Riverside.

Robbins returned to full time teaching in 1969 as an International Professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany, and there he remained until his full retirement in 1982.  This position at SUNY was particularly attractive to him and his wife Helen Ann due to its close proximity to “Katsbaan Onderhuegel”, their home in Saugerties.  It was also here that they began building their library of medieval books and literature, which in 1987 became the Rossell Hope Robbins Library at the University of Rochester, New York.


Rossell Hope Robbins with wife Helen Ann at the Library

The Library

The Rossell Hope Robbins Library is located on the 4th floor of main Rush Rhees Library building on the campus of the University of Rochester, New York.  Rush Rhees is one of the most visible and recognizable landmarks on the university’s River Campus.  Construction of the building began in 1927 with other original River Campus buildings, and the library was dedicated in 1930.  It is named after Benjamin Rush Rhees, the university’s third president.  A major addition was added to the building in 1970, which now houses the main computer lab and additional office space.  The Rush Rhees Library is the flagship of the River Campus Libraries System and holds about 3 million volumes.

Rush Rhees Library building at the University of Rochester

In 1987, Robbins donated his own medieval library collection of more than 20,000 volumes to the University, but only if they agreed to keep his collection together with enough room for expansion and future acquisitions.  His collection at the time was appraised to be worth more than $750,000.  Robbins also set-up provision for new acquisitions and established a trust of $160,000 for a fellowship program.  His sister Marjorie Hope-Robbins also endowed a significant monetary amount to support the continuing growth of the collection. 

Rossell Hope Robbins died of a heart attack on Monday the 05th March 1990 at his home in Saugerties, New York.  He was survived by his wife of 41 years, Helen Ann Mins Robbins, who passed away in 1994, and his sister Marjorie Hope Robbins who passed away in 1992.

A Select Bibliography

Index of Middle English Verse, with Carleton Brown. New York: Columbia University Press, 1943.

The T. S. Eliot Myth. New York: H. Schuman, 1951.

Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952.

Historical Poems of the XIVth and XVth Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.

Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown Publishers, 1959.

Early English Christmas Carols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961.

Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse, with John L. Cutler. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1965.

Witchcraft: An Introduction to the Literature of Witchcraft. Millwood, NY: KTO Press, 1978.

Some Sources:


First published on the 21st July 2019 © George Knowles




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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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