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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - South: Monday 28th October, 2002


Sybil Leek. Image copyright J. Leek

Sybil Leek - dubbed 'Britain’s most famous witch'- has an incredible life story. Inside Out presenter Chris Packham flew to Florida to discover more.


Born in 1923, Sybil Leek lived in Burley, Hampshire, in the late 1950s.

The world's media flocked to her door when she announced she was a white witch.

The Witchcraft Act was only repealed in 1951 and few witches dared to reveal their craft at this time.

Her village was besieged by tourists and many residents were also uncomfortable having a white witch in their midst.

Burley resident Dionis MacNair says, "People either thought she was a bit of a joke or a fraud."


When Sybil's landlord refused to renew her lease she took it as a sign to pack up her broomstick and move elsewhere.

Sybil Leek being interviewed by Annie England
Sybil became a staple of the American chat shows

She flew to America to promote one of her books and fell in love with the country.

Radio presenter Annie England was one of the first people to interview her in 1964. They became lifelong friends. Annie says;

"Everyone wanted her on their show. She rubbed shoulders with all the celebrities of her time… Gypsy Rose Lee... Neil Diamond."


Sybil has many more tricks up her sleeve then some of the witches above.

One of the most incredible claims about her is that she was recruited by the British Government during the Second World War.

According to the Second World War author Michael Salazar, her role was to provide phony horoscopes for the Germans who believed in Astrology.

She apparently wrote a chart which convinced the Nazi Rudolf Hess to fly to England, where he was captured. Michael says;

"World War II was a battle between good and evil and Sybil was in the middle of it."


Julian Leek
Sybil's son Julian now lives in America

Sybil's son Julian is now building a research centre in Melbourne Beach, Florida.

This will house a huge archive dedicated to his mum. By the time she died in 1982, she had written over 60 books, given hundreds of interviews and was a millionaire.

But the best legacy for Sybil is the fact that witchcraft is thriving in America and the UK.

A coven of white witches in the New Forest are following in Sybil’s footsteps. High Priestess Julie Forest says;

"She was a pioneer of her time and she is an inspiration to modern day witches."

Fellow witches

Sybil isn’t the only witch that has shot to public attention ..

Mother Shipton
Mother Shipton was born in 1488 in a cave in Knaresborough, Yorkshire. Legend has it that her powers included healing and spell-casting. She is also said to have made prophecies about modern times that have apparently come true. Mother Shipton is said to have foretold the invasion and defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Mother Shipton died in 1561. Her cave and well can still be visited in Knaresborough.
North Berick witches
A group of men and women were named the Berwick witches in Scotland in the 16th century. They were accused of causing a deathly storm through witchcraft to drown King James I. The King survived and is said to have started the first great witch hunt. He wanted vengeance on those who had tried to kill him. The Berwick witches were arrested, brought to trail, tortured and burnt. By the early 17th century, witchcraft was in full swing, particularly in Scotland. The ruins of the Old Kirk, where events surrounding the Berwick witches are believed to have took place can still be seen in North Berwick, Scotland.
Joan Wyttle
Joan Wyttle was a Cornish woman also known by the name of Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin. Born in 1775, legend has it that she was a clairvoyant and a healer. As a result of a tooth abscess, she became ill-tempered and fiery. She got involved in a fight and harmed some people with her remarkable strength. She was imprisoned as a result of the fight but died in prison in 1813 as a result of poor conditions. Her bones were displayed in the Museum of Witchcraft. But it is said that her spirit was haunting the museum and so her remains were laid to rest at a proper burial. A plaque accounting her story is now on display with her empty coffin at the museum.

Images of Sybil Leek (c) Copyright Julian Leek

See also ...

On the rest of the web
History of Sybil Leek
Mother Shipton
Twisted Oak Alexandrian Coven

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