Leek, Sybil (1922–1982)
Astrologer, witch, author, and one of the more popular figures
in the modern occult revival. She was born on February 22,
1922, in the Midlands, England, and claimed an ancestry in
witchcraft through both sides of her family. Through her
mother the lineage could be traced to southern Ireland in the
twelfth century and through her father to Russia. She was tutored
at home and attended school for only four years (ages
12–16).
She claimed that she had been initiated into the craft while
near Nice, in southern France, and that her initiation was to fill
an opening left by the death of her aunt, who had been high
priestess of a coven. She then returned to England and settled
near New Forest, where she reportedly joined the Horsa
Coven, which she claimed predated the Norman Conquest. She
soon became high priestess of the group. There is no substantiation
of that story and some evidence that it is fabricated.
In the early 1950s she claimed to have had a mystical experience
in which she realized that her calling in life would be as
a spokesperson for witchcraft, the old religion. Her early efforts
resulted in tourists flocking to her antique shop, not to buy but
to get her autograph. She had a conflict with her landlord, who
demanded she renounce her religion, and she eventually had
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to close her shop. Meanwhile, she had written several books,
but none of them dealt with witchcraft.
In the early 1960s Leek moved to the United States. With
the assistance of her publisher and a set of public relations people,
she soon became famous as a public witch. She lectured
widely, appeared on television, and built a large clientele as an
astrologer. Quietly, she founded and for a period led several
covens, two in Massachusetts, one in Cincinnati, and one in St.
Louis.
Leek wrote over 60 books among which were an autobiography,
Diary of a Witch (1968), and several on witchcraft, including
The Complete Art of Witchcraft (1971). The material in these
books conflicts. While claiming traditional witchcraft roots,
prior to the neo-pagan revival of witchcraft by Gerald Gardner,
her own presentation of witchcraft is completely Gardnerian.
She talks of ritual items such as the athame (the ritual dagger)
as if she had known about them before Gardner. However, we
now know that they were invented by Gardner. She seems to
have reproduced a variation on Gardner’s ritual. It appears as
if she, like many in the early decades of the Wiccan revival, created
a magical lineage for herself, but in fact obtained her
training and knowledge of the craft from Gardnerians.
She died in Melbourne, Florida, in 1982.
Sources
Buckland, Raymond. Witchcraft Ancient and Modern. New
York H. C. Publishers, 1970.
Leek, Sybil. Astrology and Love. New York Berkley, 1977.
———. The Best of Sybil Leek. New York Popular Library,
1974.
———. Cast Your Own Spell. New York Pinnacle Books,
1970.
———. The Complete Art of Witchcraft. New York World Publishing,
1971.
———. Diary of a Witch. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. PrenticeHall,
1968.
———. A Shop in the High Street. New York David McKay,
1962.
———. Sybil Leek’s Book of Curses. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Prentice-Hall, 1975.
———. Sybil Leek’s Book of Fortune Telling. New York Collier,
1969.