The village of Burley has several gift shops specialising in witchcraft
but why are they there?
In the 1950s a woman called Sybil Leek lived in Burley with her
pet Jackdaw. She became a TV reporter but primarily claimed to be
had lived with gypsies and gained an excellent knowledge of the
She was recognised as an expert on forest ways and wrote several
books on the subject. She also named a witchcraft shop, "A
Coven of Witches".
After her television success in Britain, Sybil went to live in America
where her popularity continued. She died in 1982 but her son, Julian,
is constructing a building in Florida to house her memorabilia and
many of her students practice witchcraft to this day.
Sybil was by no means the only Forest witch. Gerald Gardner, a retired
civil servant from Christchurch, claimed to have been initiated
into a coven of New Forest witches in 1939 by Dorothy Clutterbuck,
or "old Dorothy" as she was known.
wrote several books on modern witchcraft, or Wicca, and sparked
a revival of "the old religion" which became known as
As interest in witchcraft grew during the early 60s, Gardner became
a respected spokesperson for Pagans. The press referred to him as
"Britain's Chief Witch".
The exact practices of Gardner's coven were kept secret but they
are reported to have attempted to prevent a German invasion during
World War II by going down to the beach and sending out a "cone
Whether the spell worked or not is debatable but the invasion never
came! Gerald Gardner died in 1964.
to locals there are still white witches in the forest but they live
quietly and prefer to detach themselves from the typical broomstick
and pointed hat image.
Many like to adopt the term "Hedgewitch", meaning a witch
who works alone rather than as part of a group, or coven.
The shop named by Sybil Leek has been owned by Jenny Tucker for
the past 21 years. According to Jenny trade is good. Indeed several
similar shops have opened in Burley: "We
sell quite a few books nowadays but our best seller is spells, which
are made by Hedgewitches."
the many strange wares on her shelves are spells, which come in
bottles and with