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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others

Walter Ernest Butler 

Written and compiled by George Knowles

Walter Ernest Butler was a highly respected occultist and author of a number of classic books on esoteric subjects including:  The Magician: His Training and Work (1959), Apprenticed to Magic (1962) and Magic and the Qabalah (1964), when few books on such subject were being published.  In 1965 he founded the influential “Servants of the Light” (SOL) School of Occult Studies for which he remained Director of Studies until shortly before his death in 1978. 

Butler was born in rural Yorkshire on the 23rd August 1898.  He was the eldest son of Oates Butler (1870) a poor quarry engine driver and his wife Sarah Hannah Butler (1870).  According to the 1911 census they lived at 50 West Lane, Haworth, Keighley, West Yorkshire, and by this time the family included several brothers and sisters:   Marion Butler (1899), Alice Butler (1901), Eric Butler (1902), Garfield Butler (1904), Harry Kay Butler (1906, died aged 5) and Frank Butler (1910, died aged 1).

Life during the early 20th century would have been difficult for such a large family living in a rural area.  It is thought (though unconfirmed) that poverty eventually drove his parents to seek refuge in a workhouse and their children distributed amongst family relatives?  Thereafter it is believed he boarded with an aunt or grandparent?  Later friends and associates reported that Butler rarely talked about his early life, although his book of lectures:  Lords of Light: The Path of Initiation in the Western Mysteries gives us a little insight. 

Education at that time particularly for the poor would also have been basic and rudimentary, but in efforts to improve his lot and climb out of the poverty trap, he attended night school to study engineering.  He also joined the Liberal Catholic Church where he gained an interest in occult studies.  While there he came to the attention of the exorcist, astrologer and Independent Bishop of the Church - Dr. Robert King, who began his early training as a medium in astral travel, exorcism and trance work.  Much later in his life Butler became a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church himself

Dr. Robert King 

In 1917 Butler joined the Army as an engineer and reaching the rank of A/Sgt with the Royal Garrison Artillery (Army No - 32232) and spent a number of years serving in India.  While there he continued his occult studies, particularly yoga and Eastern theology with a number of Indian mystics and spiritual teachers.  He also came into contact with Annie Besant the then leader of the esoteric Theosophical Society, earlier founded by Madam H. P. Blavatsky in 1875, but she rejected his requests to study with her and instead advised him to return to England and look for a “Lady with Roses”?  (The Rose is a symbol associated with the esoteric Rosicrucian Society, which is based upon Western theology rather than the Eastern theology of the Theosophical Society).

Annie Besant

On his return to England, Butler married Gladys Irene Newell in 1924 with who he later had a daughter called Iris.  In the following year 1925 having been rejected by Annie Besant and the Theosophical Society, he joined the Society of the Inner Light, a magical Order founded by Dion Fortune as an offshoot of the by then defunct “Order of the Golden Dawn”.  There he continued his own occult training and participated in their work giving the occasional lecture and contributing articles to their Inner Light Magazine, but at the end of World War II he left the Society for a time after a disagreement with Fortune over Spiritualism.

Dion Fortune

Leaving the Army in 1929, Butler worked for many years as an engineer until in 1956 he took up a position working at the University of Southampton as a laboratory technician in charge of physical chemistry.  Later in the 1950’s he returned to the Liberal Catholic Church and took Holy Orders as a Priest. 

In 1962 after rejoining the Society of the Inner Light, he met and began working with another Society member Gareth Knight to write and develop a correspondence course in Practical Qabalah for the Helios Book Service, a small occult bookselling and publishing business co-founded by Knight and his partner John Hall.  Knight at the time was also the editor of an occult magazine called “New Dimensions” to which Butler had occasionally contributed articles.  

After the initial start of the correspondence course and with just six lessons contributed by Knight, Butler took over full administration of the course and the supervision of its student’s work, while at the same time writing more lessons.  By 1965 Butler had extended the course to include 50 lessons, and using these as a base, founded the “Servants of the Light” (SOL) as a separate School of Occult Science.  Butler remained as Director of Studies of SOL until shortly before his death, when he passed on the responsibility to Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki


Gareth Knight  -  Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki

Nearing retirement Butler was a little concerned about his financial future for he made very little money from the books he had published and would only have  a small Army pension and State pension to support himself and his wife.  However he needn’t have worried for he was able through friends to move into an attractive country cottage near Southampton called “Little Thatches”, and live there rent-free in return for general maintenance on the house and garden.   

Walter Ernest Butler

Walter Ernest Butler sadly died in Southampton on 1st August (Lammas Day) 1978, causes unknown.  His legacy the “Servants of the Light” (SOL) continues to thrive today, and under the guidance of Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki as Director of Studies supports more than 8000 students worldwide in their personal spiritual development. 

Books by Walter Ernest Butler are now considered classics among experts, not least due to his clear diction and extensive practical experience. 

May he rest in peace.



Magic: Its Ritual, Power and Purpose by Walter Ernest Butler (Aquarian Press 1952)

The Magician: His Training and Work by Walter Ernest Butler (Aquarian Press 1959).

Apprenticed to Magic by Walter Ernest Butler (Aquarian Press 1962)

Magic and the Qabalah by Walter Ernest Butler (Aquarian Press, 1964)

How to Develop Clairvoyance by Walter Ernest Butler (Aquarian Press 1968)

How to Read the Aura by Walter Ernest Butler (Red Wheel Weiser 1971)

How to Develop Psychometry by Walter Ernest Butler (Aquarian Press 1971)

An Introduction to Telepathy by Walter Ernest Butler (Aquarian Press 1975)

Lords of Light: The Path of Initiation in the Western Mysteries by Walter Ernest Butler (Destiny Books 1990, edited by M.A. Geikie).



Let those remembered never be forgotten, for we shall not see their like again.   

Copyright © George Knowles - 01st August 2016

Best Wishes and Blessed Be. 


Site Contents - Links to all Pages


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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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