Dafo

PaganGreen Paganism and Witchcraft

 The pseudonym or magical name of the woman
who initiated Gerald B. Gardner into witchcraft around
1939–40. The identity of Dafo remains uncertain. She is
sometimes confused with Old Dorothy Clutterbuck,
who was Gardner’s first high priestess. He described her
as his teacher and an authority on witchcraft.
Little is known about Dafo’s life. She lived in Christchurch,
Hampshire, and was a member of the New Forest
coven, which Gardner always claimed was a line of
hereditary witches practicing the Old Religion. Dafo was
the leading lady and stage director of the Rosicrucian theater
of the Fellowship of Crotona, a Mason group founded
by Mabel Besant-Scott, the daughter of theosophist Annie
Besant and actor G. A. Sullivan.
Dafo was probably a woman of considerable social repute
who needed a pseudonym to conceal her involvement
in what was, until 1951, an illegal practice under British
law. From 1944 on, she was a frequent companion of Gardner’s.
In 1947, they became partners in Ancient Crafts Ltd.,
a company that bought a plot of land and built a replica of
a 16th-century witch’s cottage. Dafo and Gardner led their
coven rites there until 1952, when Dafo withdrew, partly
due to poor health, but also out of concern that Gardner’s
increasing publicity would jeopardize her secrecy.
Gardner introduced Doreen Valiente to Dafo in
1952. Valiente described her “an elegant graceful lady
with dark hair.”
By 1958, Dafo was living with a niece who was a devout
Christian. She turned down requests from three
witch groups to validate Gardner’s story of the New Forest
coven. She would neither confirm nor deny Gardner’s
claims in her answers to two groups. To the third she said
she had only a theoretical interest in the occult.
In researching the roots of Wicca, Ronald Hutton
decided not to approach Dafo’s heirs and to leave her
identity obscured. Author Philip Heselton makes a case
for Edith Woodford-Grimes being Dafo.

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