Happy birthday to George Pickingill. Although there is no birth record, there is a record of baptism for May 26, 1816. He is the eldest of nine children born in Hockley, Essex to Charles and Susannah Pickingill. He died in Canewdon, Essex April 10, 1909.
Although he was a humble farmer, George was a cunning man with great magical gifts who attracted visitors from all around Essex. He claimed to be a hereditary witch and would help them with any ailments and lost items.
George was highly regarded as an authority on Witchcraft, Satanism, and Black Magic. He established nine hereditary covens.
George is said to have adapted the idea of a “coven rule book” (a book guarded by the ‘man in black’ in covens of old) designated only for the leader to a book for the whole coven. Copies of the book, which had contained the writings from all his life, were passed on to each of his nine covens.
Aleister Crowley is said to have been a member of George’s coven, where he received his second degree. It is believed that Crowley gave the idea of such a book to Gerald Gardner, who started the same tradition in his coven. Later, the concept of an individual Book of Shadows, may have originated with Alex Sanders.
Thirty years after George Pickingill’s death, Gerald Gardner was initiated into one of his descendant covens, The New Forest Coven.
In 1951, the old Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed. With all of the new interest in Wicca, the elders of his former covens were worried that if George's satanic activities came to light, it would stain the image of the Craft.
“To protect against this, the Elders of the Hereditary Tradition in East Anglia conspired to discredit any claims made by Gardner and others concerning the survival of Hereditary Witches. This in part involved eradication of many traces of “Old George” and his “Nine Covens” as was possible. Today as a result, the real importance of Old George's contributions to the revival of present day witchcraft may never be determined.” – from http://www.controverscial.com/Old%20George%20Pickingill.htm
However, all of these claims might be completely false. Was he just a simple, rural cunning man who would cure ailments for free? Was he just an agricultural laborer who constantly changed his age and name to suit his purposes? Or, was he a master sorcerer that could trace his witch ancestry back to 1071 Norfolk? Did he influence great ceremonial magicians? Is he the man who created the rules and basis of Wicca that Gardner later claimed was his own creation?
The life of George Pickingill as a cunning man has been under intense scrutiny since the 1960’s. We encourage you to do your own research into the controversial history of “The Master of Witches.”
Photo: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44780857
Inner Circle Sanctuary
Inner Circle Sanctuary is a school for traditional style Wicca and holds eight sabbat festivals every year.