LIFE photo essay of 1960s Wiccans in the UK

140324 witchcraft 06 1

In 1964, LIFE magazine published a photo essay titled "Real Witches at Work," about Wiccans in contemporary England. They've just posted a number of those striking images plus others, including the beautiful shot above. Of course, people practicing witchcraft in the nude has always freaked out (and turned on) the squares. Here's how Mrs. Ray Bone, one of the Wiccans interviewed in LIFE at the time, responded to that mindset: “It seems obvious to me that people can be just as immoral with their clothes on as with them off.” Real Witches at Work: Photos of English Pagans in the 1960s

Notable Replies

  1. I read a book once about how to practice Wicca that included a lot of nude ceremonies. However, the impression I got wasn't that they were preserving an ancient way of life, but rather that this old bearded dude was taking advantage of the young impressionable women and boning them "ceremonially". There were many parts where the ceremony is temporarily suspended while the grand master and his chosen retire to a separate room before returning and having him choose a different girl. It was very cultish. I thought the prominence of the guy was kind of weird for a religion that's supposed to be so maternal.

    One bad book doesn't condemn a whole class of people, but I was surprised that it was published at all given how it made the author look. I'll have to look up the name of the book when I get home and see if it has been disowned by the majority of Wiccans or something.

  2. That actually works? Yumpin Yimminy, what am I waiting for?

  3. our desire to replace bullshit with bullshit is astounding.

  4. Found it. "Eight Sabbats for Witches" by Janet & Stewart Farrar. Copyright 1981.

    A representative passage from the book:

    "When the High Priest reaches To the wonder and glory of all men in the Invocation, he stops. The Maiden then fetches her athame from the altar and ritually opens a gateway in the Circle by the door of the room. The coven file through and leave the room. The Maiden steps last out of the Circle, ritually seals the gateway behind her, lays her athame on the floor outside the Circle and leaves the room, closing the door behind her. The High Priest and High Priestess are thus left alone in the room and the Circle...No member of the coven may question them on it afterwards, directly or indirectly.

    An amusing aspect is their little hints about doing the rituals in the modern world. Apparently birthday candles are excellent for making a crown of candles. Also, if you light a bonfire in the woods for your ritual, keep an extinguisher handy.

  5. Yeah, I've brought this up with wiccan friends and their justifications were dressed up versions of "feels good man".

Continue the discussion

15 more replies