Seldom have I found photos to capture the intensity of emotion that precedes them, but I think this picture comes close. This is me walking in the New Forest, in Wilverley near the Naked Man. This is where it began–modern Witchcraft. There is a real sense of peace and magic in the New Forest, and as I stood among the moss-soaked trees, I could it feel it. The sound of the motorway hushed and I could only hear the twilight calls of birds echoing, one to my right, another to my left. I was acutely aware of my gods, my Craft, and my heritage. I was as a sapling amongst towering oaks.
I’m in England on a bit of a magical sabbatical. I’m spending time meditating, journaling, reading, and visiting places of interest. Okay, and maybe hitting up one or two antique shops along the way. The past few days, I’ve been in the New Forest area. This is where modern Witchcraft really started. There’s something magically historic about this place. It’s like an ancestral home in some respects, and I admit that I feel an odd connection to it.
The Naked Man
I spent today traveling and saw a number of historic Craft sites. The day started with a visit to the Naked Man, also know as the Wilverley Oak . Folk belief says this was a Witches’ meeting place, and Gardner is reported to have told Doreen Valiente that the New Forest coven would meet here . It’s also said that some of Doreen Valiente’s and Stewart Farrar’s ashes are scattered at the Naked Man .
An Antique Shop Find
From the wilds of Wilverley, I traveled to Lyndhurst and found myself in an antique shop–an admittedly guilty pleasure of mine. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but that didn’t stop something from catching my eye.
Look familiar? I’ll give you a hint:
It’s the same statue that was on Doreen’s altar! Granted, hers is a bit doctored up. But still. I was able to find this same statue, in the New Forest, after just having visited the Naked Man. I’m going to see if I can touch mine up a bit to look like Doreen’s. Regardless, it’s a great piece with some sentimental value and it will sure capture moonlight well.
I finished up the day at Christchurch. Now, if I were pressed to pick a single place where the modern Craft began, I would pick Christchurch. It was in this town that Gardner was initiated into the Craft. I was very fortunate to see two important historic sites while here. First was the Mill House, where Gardner was initiated into the Craft in 1939.
The second site was Gardner’s Christchurch home. Today this house sports a plaque recognizing it as the house of Gerald Gardner. Doreen Valiente’s home (which I have not visited) has a similar plaque.
I’m leaving the New Forest tomorrow and heading to Avebury. I’ll be staying amidst the stone circle there. I look forward to recounting my experiences.