Lady Sheba (d. 2002) Self-described “Witch Queen” who rose to prominence in American Witchcraft in the late 1960s and 1970s. She set a precedent in 1971 by publishing her Book of Shadows. Lady Sheba was born Jessie Bell in the mountains of kentucky. She said her family had practiced witchcraft for seven generations, and she had inherited her psychic gifts.
When she was about six years old, her grandmother introduced her to witchcraft, beginning with stories of Irish leprechauns and little people (see Fairies). Every evening, Lady Sheba went with her grandmother to put out a saucer of milk for the little folk. As she grew older, she learned more and became aware that she was different from most other people.
Though a frail child, she knew she possessed powers and knowledge that others did not. Lady Sheba said she had been granted a “hand of power” that enabled her to protect others. The palm of her right hand supposedly was etched with symbols that could be seen only by other psychics. Her Craft name came from an inner awareness early in life that, in addition to her family name, she had always been “Sheba,” perhaps in a former life.
She believed she had lived before in Northern Ireland or Scotland, though she never formally attempted to investigate her past lives. Lady Sheba said she was initiated as a Witch in the 1930s (see Initiation). She divided her time between witchcraft and rearing a family. (She and her husband raised four sons and four daughters.) The family moved to michigan around 1950.
In 1971, Lady Sheba founded her own tradition, the American Order of the Brotherhood of Wicca, of which she was high priestess. The tradition combined her own Celtic heritage with American Indian Magic.
Her Rituals closely follow the Gardnerian tradition, except that coveners (see Coven) worship robed rather than skyclad (nude). As she influenced the forming of additional covens, Lady Sheba said she became “Witch Queen” over them all. Her covens spread over the United States, with a few overseas.
Her Talisman was a large ruby ring, which she wore on her right index finger as a protector against evil L and bringer of good luck. She could see visions in the stone and said others sometimes could see visions, too. She did not allow anyone to touch it, lest the protective power be broken.
Lady Sheba gained attention with the publication of The Magick Grimoire, a collection of excerpts from her personal workbook of spells and Rituals, some of them handed down through her family. Her second book, The Book of Shadows, published in 1971, was controversial in the Wiccan community.
The Book of Shadows comprised laws, revised Gardnerian rituals and descriptions of Sabbats, information traditionally supposed to be kept secret among Witches. By making it public, Lady Sheba was accused of violating that tradition. She defended her decision to publish the book, saying she had been directed by the Goddess to do so.
In 1973 the Twin Cities Area Council of the American Order of the Brotherhood of Wicca was formed by coven leaders, though all traditions were invited to participate. The Council took an active role in the establishment in 1973–74 of the Council of American Witches. As of the mid-1980s, only a few covens were still part of the Brotherhood.
- Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. revised ed. New York: Viking, 1986.
- Lady Sheba. Book of Shadows. St Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1971.