Dafo The pseudonym or magical name of the woman who initiated Gerald B. Gardner into witchcraft around 1939-40. The identity of Dafo remains uncertain. She is sometimes confused with Old Dorothy Clutterbuck, who was Gardner’s first high priestess. He described her as his teacher and an authority on witchcraft.
Little is known about Dafo’s life. She lived in Christ- church, Hampshire, and was a member of the New Forest COVEN, which Gardner always claimed was a line of hereditary witches practicing the Old Religion. Dafo was the leading lady and stage director of the Rosicrucian theater of the Fellowship of Crotona, a Mason group founded by Mabel Besant-Scott, the daughter of theosophist Annie Besant and actor G. A. Sullivan.
Dafo was probably a woman of considerable social repute who needed a pseudonym to conceal her involvement in what was, until 1951, an illegal practice under British law. From 1944 on, she was a frequent companion of Gardner’s. In 1947, they became partners in Ancient Crafts Ltd., a company that bought a plot of land and built a replica of a 16th-century witch’s cottage. Dafo and Gardner led their coven rites there until 1952, when Dafo withdrew, partly due to poor health, but also out of concern that Gardner’s increasing publicity would jeopardize her secrecy.
Gardner introduced Doreen Valiente to Dafo in 1952. Valiente described her “an elegant graceful lady with dark hair.”
By 1958, Dafo was living with a niece who was a devout Christian. She turned down requests from three witch groups to validate Gardner’s story of the New Forest coven. She would neither confirm nor deny Gardner’s claims in her answers to two groups. To the third she said she had only a theoretical interest in the occult.
In researching the roots of Wicca, Ronald Hutton decided not to approach Dafo’s heirs and to leave her identity obscured. Author Philip Heselton makes a case for Edith Woodford-Grimes being Dafo.
- Heselston, Philip. Wiccan Roots. Milverton, Eng.: CapallBann, 2000.
- Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Back to Famous Witches
Back to Witchcraft