Sybil Leek

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Sybil Leek
Born (1917-02-22)February 22, 1917
Normacot, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Died October 26, 1982(1982-10-26) (aged 65)
Residence England, later United States
Nationality English
Occupation Witch, Antiques dealer, author, television personality

Sybil Leek (February 22, 1917 - October 26, 1982) was an English witch, astrologer, occult author and self-proclaimed psychic. She wrote many books on occult and esoteric subjects. She was dubbed "Britain’s most famous witch" by the BBC.[citation needed]

Because she rose to media fame in the 1950s, after the repeal of the 1735 Witchcraft Act in 1951, she had an effect upon the formation of neopagan witchcraft, mainly the religion of Wicca.[citation needed][1]

Early life[edit]

Sybil Leek was born on 22 February 1917 in the village of Normacot in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England to a well-to-do family. Sybil claimed to have a long family history of witchcraft which she traced back to the 16th century and to her ancestor Molly Leigh, who had been accused during the witch hunts.

Sybil’s immediate family all played a part encouraging her to follow the craft. She learned much from her father about nature, animals and the power of herbs, and even discussed eastern philosophies. Her grandmother taught her astrology, by decorating biscuits and cakes with astrological symbols and asking Sybil to put them in order and describe what each symbol meant.

She only had three years of orthodox schooling. Her family continued to school her at home, but her grandmother focused on her esoteric training, such as the knowledge of herbs, astrology, the psychic arts, and divination much more than she did mathematics and English.

Sybil’s family played host to some very scholarly characters. H. G. Wells, Sybil and her father used to take long walks discussing metaphysics. Sybil Leek claimed she knew Aleister Crowley, stating that he was a family friend and he had told her family that Leek would be his successor.

Marriage and France[edit]

Sybil met a prominent concert pianist who became her music teacher, and she married him when she was 16. He died two years later, and stricken with grief Sybil returned home to her grandmother’s house.

Shortly after, she was sent by her grandmother to a French coven based at Gorge du Loup (Wolf Canyon) in the hills above Nice, to replace a distant relative of hers as High Priestess.

Return to England[edit]

Eventually she returned to England. For a short while she stayed with an acquaintance in Lyndhurst, in the New Forest, but found the lifestyle there tiresome and decided to run away.

She became friends with the Romany Gypsies in the forest. Sybil learnt much from the Gypsies about the forest, ancient folklore, and more about the practical use of herbs than she had learnt from her grandmother. She lived with the Gypsies for a year, and attended rituals with the Horsa coven in the New Forest, of which for a short time she was High Priestess, and therefore a member of the Nine Covens council.

Career[edit]

When she was 20, Sybil returned to her family, who had now moved to the edge of the New Forest. She then opened three antique shops; one in Ringwood, one in Somerset, and one in the heart of the New Forest in Burley. She then moved to Burley herself, into a house behind the shop Lawfords of Burley. She refused to sell anything to do with witchcraft in the antique shops, much to the disappointment of visitors.

However, her open attitude about being a witch caused problems, too. As media interest grew, Sybil found herself being pestered by news reporters and tourists, who travelled to Burley and would turn up on her doorstep, day and night. Sybil even had to create decoys in order to be able to escape out of the village to go to the secret coven meeting places, for fear of being pursued by cameramen. Although the village itself thrived on the extra tourism and visitors, some people were not so happy about the extra traffic and noise being caused. Her landlord eventually asked her to move out.

United States[edit]

When Leek moved to America, she became an astrologer, describing astrology as her "first love".[2] In April, 1964, an American publishing house wanted Sybil to speak about her new book A Shop in the High Street, and she was invited to appear on "To Tell the Truth" a TV programme in the States. She took the opportunity to go, and flew to New York, where she was mobbed by reporters and gave many interviews. While in New York, she was contacted by Hans Holzer, a parapsychologist, who invited her to join him investigating hauntings and psychic phenomena. They went on to do numerous TV and radio programmes on the subject.

She then moved to Los Angeles, where she met Dr. Israel Regardie, an authority on Kabbalah and ritual magic. They spent much of their time together discussing and practising the Golden Dawn rituals.

Views[edit]

Strong in the defence of her beliefs, Sybil sometimes differed and even quarrelled with other witches. She disapproved of nudity in rituals, a requirement in some traditions, and was strongly against the use of drugs, but she was at odds with most other witches in that she did believe in cursing.

Her student Christine Jones admitted that Leek "mixed truths with untruths liberally, causing great harm as she went."[3]

Death[edit]

Living at Melbourne Beach, Florida Sybil was well-loved by her neighbours and she gave many readings to local residents.[citation needed]

She died at her Melbourne Beach home on 26 October 1982.

References[edit]

Leek, Sybil, Diary of a Witch (Prentice-Hall, 1968).

  1. ^ Complete Art of Witchcraft (March 1, 1973, New American Library
  2. ^ Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Judika Iles, p746
  3. ^ Jones 2010, p. 121.

Sources[edit]

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