Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dorothy Clutterbuck (January 19, 1880–January 12, 1951), also known as "Old Dorothy," was a well-to-do woman who lived near Christchurch, England, whom Gerald Gardner claimed had initiated him into witchcraft.
Clutterbuck was born in India, the daughter of an army captain. After his retirement, she appears to have moved back to England with her father and lived with him in the Christchurch area of the New Forest. After his death she continued to live in the same house alone, but at the age of 55 she married Rupert Fordham. To all outward appearance Mrs Fordham was respectable and conservative member of the local community.
After her death in 1951 she was identified by Gardner as his initiator into witchcraft in 1939, and thus as one of the founders of the neo-pagan movement that became "Wicca". He claimed she was head of a New Forest coven until her death. Some, such as historian Jeffrey Russell, opined that she was invented by Gardner to support his claim that such people still existed and to link his work with established ancient beliefs. However, Doreen Valiente, a friend of Gardner, reported in Witchcraft for Tomorrow in 1982 to have found Clutterbuck's birth certificate, marriage certificate, and death certificate.
Ronald Hutton, in The Triumph of the Moon, examines the historical data on Dorothy Clutterbuck, and concludes that she is unlikely to have been involved with Gardner's Craft activities. He suggests that Gardner may have used Clutterbuck to distract attention from 'Dafo', his first priestess.
Philip Heselton, in his book Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival (Capal Bann: 2000) presents a significant amount of evidence about Dorothy Clutterbuck, the community she lived in, and her involvement in the community including many indications that she was at the very least involved in or aware of alternative spiritual traditions such as theosophy, Rosicrucianism, and offshoots of freemasonry.
Interest in such ideas was common at this time, since the growth of Theosophy in the late nineteenth century. Nationalist and romantic interest in English rural traditions was also common, as is evidenced by foundation of societies for the collection folk-songs and other aspects of threatened folk-culture. The conservative emphasis on Deep England lay behind many of these movements, which became associated with Margaret Murray's ideas about pre-Christian survivals in English rural culture. It is possible that Clutterbuck combined an interest in pagan and occult ideas with an aspiration to preserve local folk beliefs, believed to have survived from ancient pagan faiths. From this Gardner could have developed the myth of an unbroken withcraft tradition dating back to the pre-Christian old religion .
However, the extent to which Clutterbuck was involved in witchcraft - if at all - still remains unclear. The endearment "Old" used by Gardner with reference to Dorothy Clutterbuck, and adopted by "Wiccans", is viewed by many witches as precious and pretentious.
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