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Windsor Witch Coven

By Zan

In reviewing Gerald Gardner’s claim that he was initiated into a surviving tradition of English Witchcraft, it makes sense to me to go back, to the last undisputed era of Witchcraft in England (1500s-1600s), to see what evidence can be found for the elements of Witchcraft which he described. Right off the bat, we see that the Ritualistic aspects of Gardnerian Witchcraft properly belong to the grimoire-traditions of medieval Ceremonial and Ritual Magicke, practiced by the educated and the literate. Village Witches being illiterate for the most part, they are not likely to have performed text-derived rituals. However, the case of the Windsor Witches of 1579 suggests that Elizabethan Witches would organize themselves into covens (although that word is not used during the Windsor case), operating under the direction of a High Priestess (although they describe this position in different terms). Various plays from the prolific Elizabethan period of drama reinforce the perception of Witches forming collectives; as to what sort of rituals or magicks such Witch-covens might have performed: period dramas of the late 1500s/ early 1600s suggest that Witches would enact rituals of “Energy-Raising.”

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