A foundational group in modern Wicca, steeped in mystery and alleged wartime magical endeavors.
The New Forest Coven holds a pivotal place in the annals of Wicca and modern witchcraft, often wrapped in the enigma of its origins and activities. Allegedly formed in the early 20th century in southern England, this group is most famously associated with Gerald Gardner, a British occultist who claimed to have been initiated into the coven in 1939. Gardner’s involvement with the New Forest Coven is critical to the development of Gardnerian Wicca, a tradition of witchcraft that he later established, drawing heavily on the coven’s beliefs and practices.
Origins and Beliefs
The New Forest Coven is said to have met in the New Forest area, practicing a form of paganism that pre-dated Christianity in Europe. Gardner suggested that the coven was part of a witch-cult, a hidden pagan religion that had survived through the ages, an idea that resonates with the theories of Margaret Murray, although these theories have since been largely discredited.
Gerald Gardner’s Involvement
Gardner’s discovery of the coven occurred after his engagement with the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, where he met a group within the fellowship who introduced him to the coven. This marked a turning point in his life and led to the initiation that would form the basis for Gardnerian Wicca. Among the members he met were Ernest and Susie Mason, who, along with others like Edith Woodford-Grimes, were believed to have been practicing a form of esoteric spirituality based on Co-Masonry and Theosophy.
Operation Cone of Power
One of the most fascinating tales associated with the New Forest Coven is the alleged Operation Cone of Power, a magical ritual conducted in 1940, during the height of World War II. The coven purportedly gathered in the New Forest to perform a ritual aimed at preventing the invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany. The ritual involved raising a Cone of Power, a concentrated form of magical energy, intended to dissuade German leaders from considering an invasion. The physical toll of the ritual was said to be significant, with several older members reportedly dying shortly after due to the strains endured during the process.
Legacy and Controversy
The existence of the New Forest Coven and the details of its practices and members remain subjects of controversy and speculation. Some researchers, like Philip Heselton, have provided evidence supporting the coven’s historical reality, identifying members such as Dorothy Clutterbuck and Edith Woodford-Grimes, and suggesting that Gardner’s accounts were based on real events and people. However, skeptics argue that Gardner may have fabricated the story of the coven to lend historical legitimacy to Wicca.