Williamson, Cecil Hugh (1909–1999) English researcher, occultist, and magical Adept. Cecil Williamson knew Aleister Crowley and Gerald B. Gardner and was involved in British intelligence work during World War II to monitor Nazi activity concerning the occult. Williamson was born on September 18, 1909, in Paignton, South Devon, England. His father was in the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm. Williamson’s interest in the occult was stimulated by incidents involving Witchcraft. At age six, he witnessed an old woman reputed to be a witch being stripped of her clothing and beaten in North Bovey, Devonshire. He tried to defend her and was beaten himself. The grateful woman taught him about witches. Five years later, Williamson experienced his own magical power. He met an odd, elderly woman who taught him how to cast a Spell against a boy who was bullying him at school. The bully soon had a skiing accident that left him crippled and unable to return to school.
For the remainder of his life, Williamson was involved in occult and magical activities. He worked with mediums and psychics in London. After graduating from Malvern College in Worcestershire, he was sent by his father to Rhodesia to learn the tobacco trade. His houseboy there was Zandonda, a retired witch doctor who taught him African magical skills.
In 1930 Williamson returned to London and went into production work for film studios. He collected information and artifacts related to folk Magic and witchcraft. In 1933 he married makeup artist Gwen Wilcox, niece of film producer and director Herbert Wilcox.
In 1938 he agreed to help the MI6 intelligence section of the Foreign Office collect information about Nazi occult interests. He founded the Witchcraft Research Centre as a cover for his activities. He identified and monitored highranking Nazis who were interested in Astrology, Prophecy, NOSTRADAMUS, graphology, and so on. He played an instrumental role in using phony Nostradamus predictions to lure Rudolf Hess to Scotland. The predictions were planted in an old book in France that was made to find its way to Hess, who was arrested in Scotland.
Williamson took part in a famous “witches’ ritual” to curse Adolf Hitler and prevent his forces from invading England. He said that the Ritual, staged in Ashdown Forest, Crowbourgh, Sussex, was a hoax to fool Hitler. Crowley and Crowley’s son, Amado, were part of the operation.
After the war ended, Williamson opened a witchcraft museum in Stratford-on-Avon. Public hostility caused him to move to Castletown on the Isle of Man, where in 1949 he opened the Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft and Witches Kitchen restaurant at the Witches Mill. He filled the center with the numerous magical objects and Tools he had collected over the years. He was renowned as a “witchcraft consultant” who could cast effective spells and make magical Poppets.
He met Gardner in 1946 at the famous Atlantis occult bookshop in London. The two had an uneasy relationship—Williamson had a low opinion of Gardner—and their relationship eventually ended on bad terms. He took Gardner to meet with Crowley on several occasions. Crowley also did not care for Gardner and considered him a poor student of magic. Nonetheless, he gave Gardner magical material, which Gardner used in fashioning his witchcraft rites and tradition. The last time Williamson saw Crowley was in 1946, when Crowley was ill and living in Hastings. Williamson brought Gardner, who wanted to mend his relationship with Crowley. Crowley was wary and later privately warned Williamson to be careful of Gardner.
In 1952 Williamson sold his buildings on the Isle of Man to Gardner and took his collection to England, finally settling in Boscastle, Cornwall. In 1996 he sold the Museum of Witchcraft to Graham King and retired to Witheridge, Tiverton, in Devon. In April 1999, Williamson suffered a severe stroke and was permanently impaired, including his ability to speak and recognize others. He was moved to a nursing home in South Moulton. He died on December 9, 1999, not long after his 90th birthday.
During his life, Williamson amassed a huge database on witchcraft and magic for his Witchcraft Research Centre. According to his records, between 1930 and 1997, he took part as a spectator or operative in 1,120 witchcraft cases that produced beneficial results, and he had known, met with, and been taught by 82 wise women.
Crowley had always advised Williamson not to join any particular lodge, group, or order; because Williamson followed this advice, he could move with more freedom in magical circles. He said he valued folk witches as providing social and healing services to the masses, but he was critical of modern witches and pagans for knowing little about real magic and for “being nonproductive of results.”
Crowley once offered Williamson his BAPHOMET magical ring for his museum but pawned it instead. Williamson redeemed it and gave it back to Crowley, but Crowley insisted that Williamson keep it. Williamson said he neutralized the magical power imbued into the ring.
FURTHER READING :
- Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. 2nd ed. New York: Facts On File Inc., 1999.
Williamson, Cecil Hugh (1909–1999) researcher, occultist and founder of The Witchcraft research Centre and the museum oF Witchcraft in England. Cecil Hugh Williamson was acquainted with Gerald B. Gardner and Aleister Crowley during the formative years of the Witchcraft revival. He was in his own right an accomplished wise man and magician. Williamson was born on September 18, 1909, in Paignton, South Devon, England, to a well-to-do family. His father had a career in the fleet air arm of the royal Navy. In childhood he was introduced to the by through being involved in what he terms “a major public act of witchcraft” at North Bovey, Devonshire, where he spent holidays with his uncle. In 1916, at the age of six, Williamson witnessed an old woman reputed to be a witch being stripped of her clothing and beaten. He ran to her defense and was beaten himself. The woman befriended him and taught him about witches. These events were followed five years later by another witchcraft incident in which the power of spellcraft was Demonstrated to him. An odd, elderly woman showed him how to cast a spell against a boy who was bullying him at school. The bully soon had a skiing accident that left him crippled and unable to return to school. These incidents had a dramatic and lifelong impact upon his way of life and led eventually to his meeting and associating with leading mediums and psychics working in London. He took part in their seances by playing the role of the “young, silent virgin boy in white.” Williamson attended prep school in Norfolk and then malvern College in Worcestershire. He spent summers in Dinard, France, with his grandmother and her medium friend, mona mackenzie. After graduation, his father sent him to rhodesia to learn how to grow tobacco. There he had as houseboy, Zandonda, a retired witch doctor who taught him about African magic. In 1930, Williamson returned to London and entered the film industry, doing production work at several studios. He continued to collect information on folk witches and their craft. In 1933, he married Gwen Wilcox, niece of film producer and director Herbert Wilcox. Gwen worked as a makeup artist for max Factor of Hollywood. Williamson’s study of the occult brought him substantial knowledge and a network of impressive contacts, among them Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge, historian Montague Summers and anthropologist mArgAret murrAy. His expertise came to the attention of the British government’s mI6 prior to World War II. In 1938, he was asked, and agreed, to help the mI6 intelligence section of the Foreign Office collect information about Nazi occult interests. He formed The Witchcraft research Centre for this purpose. His tasks included such things as identifying who in the Nazi power structure was interested in astrology, predictions (especially those of Nostradamus), graphology and so on. He played an instrumental role in using phony Nostradamus predictions to lure rudolf Hess to Scotland. The predictions were planted in an old book in France that found its way to Hess. He was arrested in Scotland. Williamson said he was involved in a famous “witches’ ritual” to put a Curse on Hitler and prevent him from invading England. The ritual was staged in Ashdown Forest, Crowbourgh, Sussex, as a hoax to fool Hitler. Aleister Crowley and Crowley’s son, Amado, were part of the operation. Gerald Gardner was not present, although he later said he and his New Forest coven were involved and that the event took place in the New Forest (see Cone oF power). After the war ended, Williamson found himself without work but with a little cash. He decided to go into business for himself and hit upon the idea of setting up a witchcraft museum. He selected Stratford-on-Avon as the site in 1947, but local antagonism ran him out of town. He moved to Castletown on the Isle of man, where in 1949 he opened the Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft and Witches kitchen restaurant at The Witches mill. He filled it with magical objects he had collected over the years. He was described in the press as a “witchcraft consultant.” He said his proficiency in the magical arts—such as spell-casting and the making of poppets—was both professional and academic. In 1951, he opened a museum addition and employed Gardner as the “resident witch.” The repeal of the Witchcraft Act the same year enabled Williamson to get a lot of media attention and publicity. Soon after the repeal, Williamson advertised for witches via the media. On July 29, 1951, he was featured in newspapers in an article headlined “Calling All Covens.” He described the Old religion and how witches observed four Sabbats, Samhain, Candlemas, Beltane and Lammas. He said he had connections to witches and invited others to contact him. One who did was Doreen Valiente. Williamson passed her letter on to Gardner. In 1952, he sold the museum buildings to Gardner and moved his collection back to England. He relocated several times, including to royal Windsor and Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds. Local residents were not pleased. In Bourton-on-the-Water, Williamson received death threats and was bombed. Dead Cats were hung in trees as warnings to him. An arson attack destroyed part of the museum. Williamson moved an, finally settling at Boscastle, a tiny seaside village on the north coast of Cornwall in 1960–61. During that time, he operated other museums in various locations, such as the museum of Smuggling at Polperro and the museum of Shellcraft at Buckfast. Relationship with Gerald B. Gardner. Williamson met Gardner in 1946 when he happened to visit the Atlantis occult bookshop in London and was introduced to him as he was giving an informal talk. Gardner apparently was keen to establish a relationship because of Williamson’s network of occult contacts. The relationship between the two was strained at times and ended on bad terms. Williamson described Gardner as vain, self-centered and tight with money and more interested in having outlets for his nudist and voyeuristic interests than in learning anything about authentic witchcraft. Nonetheless, he was a colorful character, and Williamson saw him frequently prior to his move to the Isle of man. At the time of their meeting, Gardner was running a coven in Bricketts Wood outside St. Albans. He had a cottage on the grounds of a nudist club. His altar, said Williamson, consisted of an “Anderson,” an air raid shelter table with a metal top. Here the Great Rite was performed. The coven had far more men than women, about an 80–20 percent split, since the sexual ritual was not favored by many women who joined. At one point, Williamson said, Gardner resorted to hiring a London prostitute to fill the role of the high priestess and engage in sex. Williamson said he participated as an observer in some of the coven’s activities. Williamson took Gardner to visit Aleister Crowley on several occasions (Gardner did not drive a car). Gardner signed up for a lesson course from Crowley, ostensibly to learn more magical craft for his budding witchcraft tradition. It was a short-lived project, for he did not study the lessons as Crowley wished. The last time Williamson saw Crowley was in 1946, when Crowley was ill and living in Hastings. According to Williamson, Gardner wanted to patch up the relationship with Crowley and so they paid a visit to him. Crowley was only cordial, not conciliatory, and later privately warned Williamson to be careful of Gardner. Crowley offered Williamson his Baphomet magical ring for his museum, although the ring was pawned. Williamson redeemed it and gave it back to Crowley, but Crowley insisted that he keep it. When Gardner discovered Williamson’s interest in establishing his museum on the Isle of man, he urged him to buy the Bricketts Wood cottage and dismantle it and take it with him. Williamson bought only the exhibits inside. After Williamson and his wife moved to Castletown on the Isle of man, Gardner unexpectedly showed up on their doorstep to visit. He was having money trouble with a family trust fund and stayed for three months, until lawyers straightened the matter out. Gardner officiated at the opening of the museum, where he also sold copies of his privately printed novel, High Magic’s Aid. While staying with Williamson, he also worked on his Book of Shadows and his version of the history of witchcraft, published as Witchcraft Today in 1954. Gardner moved to Castletown and purchased a house near the museum. Over the years, Williamson followed Aleister Crowley’s advice to stay clear of cult groups. He did not belong to any occult group or society. He saw the services of the folk witch as valuable and necessary to society, especially to lower classes who could not afford fancy medical treatment and who were often persecuted or victimized by authorities and the upper classes. He disdained the revivalist Pagan religion of modern Witches, criticizing them for “being nonproductive of results.” Later years. Once back in England, Williamson continued his active research of the occult, acquiring pieces for his collections and adding information to his data bank for the Witchcraft research Centre. He also turned to investigating survival after death. According to his records, between 1930 and 1997 he took part as a spectator or “operative” in 1,120 witchcraft cases that produce beneficial results and had known, met with and been taught by 82 wise women. He said the days of the genuine witch and her craft were coming to an end, as fewer and fewer people turned to witches for resolution of problems. Williamson retired in 1996. On October 31, at midnight, he sold the museum of Witchcraft to Graham king and Elizabeth Crow. He retired to Witheridge, Tiverton, in Devon. He retained some of the museum artifacts, as well as his extensive collection of occult objects that are part of the Witchcraft research Centre, such as the skeleton of ursulA kempe, executed for witchcraft in the 16th century in the St. Osyth WItChes case. Williamson’s health declined and in 1999 he suffered a stroke. He died at his home on December 9, 1999, at age 90. At his request, there was no funeral service. He left instructions that people who wished to observe his passing conduct their own Ritual on December 18 at 10 p.m. gmt.
Some of Williamson’s letters, personal magical items and artifacts are at the museum of Witchcraft.
will-o’-the-wisp See JACk-o’-lAntern.
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