The History of the Gardnerian Tradition in Yorkshire.
Edith Woodford-Grimes, who to our tradition is better known as Dafo, was herself from Yorkshire. Dafo was involved in several esoteric orders during her life, predominately the Crotona Fellowship of the Rosicrucian Order when she resided in the New Forest area. This branch of the order was lead by a self-professed Immortal, and as such many of the members sought to work outside the order and formed what Gerald Gardner would later refer to as the New Forest Coven. During Dafo’s time within the Crotona Fellowship she came to meet Gardner, to whom she later initiated into their “Coven” in 1939.
In 1947/8 Gardner went off on his own to form the Bricketwood Coven, allegedly with Dafo as his High Priestess during this early period of the new coven’s history. Dafo was a large supporter of the secrecy of their covens work and was said to have encouraged Gardner to maintain his silence also, and yet with the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951 and Gardner’s draw to the spotlight, Dafo retired from the coven. Dafo and Gardner remained friends, but later in Dafo’s life her, involvement with Wicca was kept private due to her living with family members who were not so supportive of her beliefs. However, her Grandson is quoted in ‘In search of the New Forest Coven’ by Philip Heselton as saying “remember that there was a lot of books around the house and there was a large bookcase. There were definitely some books on witchcraft, some of which have been passed down in the family.”
Dafo passed away in 1975, at 88 years old.
Yorkshire’s first official Gardnerian coven was founded in in the 1960’s, with The Sheffield Coven. The Sheffield Coven worked out of the same location on City Rd, Sheffield until the retirement of Patricia Crowther the Covens High Priestess around the turn of the millennium. The mantle of “the Sheffield Coven” was acceded to a daughter coven of the original coven, that worked from a different part of Sheffield, which retained this title until the early 2010’s, when the coven moved away from Gardnerian practice and into a different form of traditional Witchcraft, and then later closed as the High Priest took over the running of a Western Mystery tradition.
The Sheffield coven’s legacy will always live on, with many downline and daughter covens across the world, and many initiates of the Gardnerian tradition who can trace their lineages through Patricia Crowther and her covens.
Patricia Crowther is THE most famous Gardnerian Initiate in Yorkshire and is still with us at the age of 95. Patricia still lives at the same address from which she ran her coven since the 1960’s, however she has now long since retired from active craft practice but is still visited often for her valuable insight and wisdom about our tradition!
Patricia along with her first husband Arnold Crowther were both initiated into the tradition in the late 1950’s, Patricia being initiated by Gardner himself, and herself initiating her soon to be husband during the same ritual. They went on to be married, with Gardner performing a Handfasting for the couple in 1960, where they officially went and founded the Sheffield Coven in Sheffield, Yorkshire.
The couple would over the next decade go onto hosting their own radio show on the subject of Witchcraft, publish several books together and give many interviews to the press, promoting a positive perspective of the craft and its members. Sadly, Arnold passed away in 1974, but Patricia continued giving interviews, writing books and being present at conferences.
Patricia Crowther is considered by many to be a “Grand-Mother of the Craft of the Wise”, and a well loved and respected elder of our craft, and we wish her many more years ahead of her.
There are Several contemporary Gardnerian covens now working across Yorkshire, some down line from the Sheffield coven and Patricia Crowther, and some downline from other lineages. More information about these covens can be found on Gardnerian Wicca – Seekers and Initiaites on FB, as many of the Leaders of these covens are listed on the Coven Leader list and are open to genuine seekers.