Aleister Crowley and Ashdown Forest
I recently received an interesting email with which I regret that I was unable to help. Given the knowledge of members here, I thought it might be worth seeing if anyone could help...
I wonder if your readership might be able to help me with a Crowley related conundrum?
I live in the environs of the Ashdown Forest in Sussex, famous for Winnie the Pooh among others legends. In recent times, the area has become a gathering point for many esoteric groups including Mormons, Scientologists, Rudolph Steiner, etc. I am aware that the area - especially Ashdown Forest has a collection of ley-lines that are quite powerful, and may account for the concentration of energies in the area.
As you may know Aleister Crowley and others (rumours include Rudolph Hess, author Ian Fleming and also Winston Churchill) performed a ritual against the Nazi's as part of 'Operation Mistletoe' "somewhere" on Ashdown Forest during WW2. There is an internet report that says that the ritual took place in a disused church on the forest. I am aware of such a site which is near Wych Cross, but was wondering if anyone can confirm this is the exact location. It would appear possible. The locals around here pay reference to the "Witches' Grave" which is close to the church.
Owner and Editor
I was under the impression that this was a myth -- or at the very least a dubious and unconfirmed story -- whose origins lie in the book The Secrets of Aleister Crowley. For those who don't know, this was the book written by a guy who called himself "Amado Crowley" and pretended to be Aleister Crowley's secret illegitimate son, to whom Aleister taught all the secrets that he kept hidden from everyone else. The only problem is that there's no evidence for any of the stories Amado tells about meeting his "father" and, as another thread on lashtal pointed out, there are a ton of problems with his claims: http://www.lashtal.com/forum/http://www.lashtal.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=9
So, in short, the story's origins lie in a book that we have good reason to be suspicious of.
Now, I haven't read Amado's book, but I do recall reading GM Kelly's amusing review of it some years ago, and a quick google search brought up this link ( http://www.geocities.com/athens/parthenon/7069/amado.html ) and extract:
Supposedly Rudolf Hess' flight to Britian was the result of this absurd ritual Amado describes. He wrote on page 130 that "no explanation [for Hess' flight] fits as well as mine. In fact, no other explanation has ever been put foward." Yet I am sure many World War II scholars have given an explanation for Hess' actions, and certainly we do not need to accept a story about a goofy pseudo-magical ritual to explain such a simple matter.
An article in the Fortean Times ("The Magical Battle of Britain") says, "it would seem that Crowley’s Ashdown Forest working is more than likely pure myth." (link: http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/4435/the_magical_battle_of_britain.html )
Later in the article, there are a few more details and reasons not to think the story is true:
‘Operation Mistletoe’ was purportedly cooked up by James Bond creator Ian Fleming during his time in Naval Intelligence, and was intended to use Crowley’s occult powers to lure the Deputy Führer to Britain. The ritual, held in Ashdown Forest, involved a large number of soldiers dressed in ad hoc magical robes, and either a burning dummy in Nazi uniform or a symbolic model aeroplane which flew down on a cable stretched from a church tower to a nearby tree, accompanied by considerable pyrotechnics and much ritual chanting. (In some versions of the tale, two German SS officers, codenamed ‘Kestrel’ and ‘Sea Eagle’, had been somehow duped into attending the Ashdown Forest ritual and reported back to Hess that the Order of the Golden Dawn was alive and well and waiting to take power once peace was established).
Cecil Williamson (a former intelligence officer and subsequently the first owner of the Museum of Witchcraft) also describes this ritual in what appears to be confirmatory detail, but in previous correspondence with Gerald Yorke (one of Crowley’s literary compilers and later the Dalai Lama’s emissary to Britain) Williamson remarks that he’d never met Crowley. Therefore, if Williamson was at Ashdown Forest then Crowley couldn’t have been; and if Williamson was not there, how can he claim to give a firsthand account?  The most parsimonious answer appears to be that Williamson is regurgitating Amado’s tale as if it were his own. More tellingly, there is not a single reference to any such event in Crowley’s own voluminous magical diaries and no independent account has ever arisen; nor can any record of soldiers being deployed be found in the National Records Office or Military archives, while the physical geography described in the tale does not fit current or past maps of the area. All in all, it’s extremely unlikely that anything like the event described ever happened, in Ashdown Forest, or anywhere else. 
I'd be interested in learning if there are more details or any other evidence.
Churton mentions it, referencing Amado. The only thing he adds to mix is a diary entry that mentions a ritual but gives no location or purpose for it:
"New Year's Day 1941
Crowley made a surprising diary entry: 'Used ceremonial after so long abstinence. It went very well. P.S. Too well! Started three fire accidents!' There is no mention of where this magick was performed or why.
It has long been rumoured in the small world of British occultism that at least one magical ritual was performed to ward off German invasion. In one version, a witches' coven in the New Forest sacrificed an old, terminally ill man. In another, a ritual in Ashdown Forest, Sussex, performed by Crowley with Canadian soldiers and secret service backing, aimed to encourage Rudolf Hess, Deputy Leader of the Nazi Party, to fly to Britain, by psychic force."
Aleister Crowley, The Biography, p. 383. His only note to this passage cites Amado Crowley, The Secrets of Aleister Crowley, Diamond Books, 1991.
There was also the “Operation Cone of Power” in which Gerald Gardner participated, although no mention is made of whether A.C. may also have been in attendance (unless astrally of course). His Wikipedia entry describes it:
According to Gardner's later account, one night in September 1939 they took him to a large house owned by "Old Dorothy" Clutterbuck, a wealthy local woman, where he was made to strip naked and taken through an initiation ceremony. Halfway through the ceremony, he heard the word "Wica", and he recognised it as an Old English word for "witch". He was already acquainted with Margaret Murray's theory of the Witch-cult, and that "I then knew then that which I had thought burnt out hundreds of years ago still survived." This group, he claimed, were the New Forest coven, and he believed them to be one of the few surviving covens of the ancient, pre-Christian Witch-Cult religion. Subsequent research by the likes of Hutton and Heselton has shown that in fact the New Forest coven was probably only formed in the mid-1930s, based upon such sources as folk magic and the theories of Margaret Murray.
Gardner only ever described one of their rituals in depth, and this was an event that he termed "Operation Cone of Power". According to his own account, it took place in 1940 in a part of the New Forest and was designed to ward off the Nazis from invading Britain by magical means. Gardner claimed that a "Great Circle" was erected at night, with a "great cone of power" – a form of magical energy – being raised and sent to Berlin with the command of "you cannot cross the sea, you cannot cross the sea, you cannot come, you cannot come.”
Clearly something seems to have happened along these lines in wartime, in at least one incident, although precise details are sketchy. Maybe more details and information will arise in due course, and it is still conceivable that some of the younger attendees may still be alive.
Norma N Joy Conquest
An awful lot of research has been done into this supposed ritual. Wicca's own historians tend to lose interest when they delve very deep, because of the considerable evidence that it wasn't really a witchcraft rite. Rolla Nordic claimed to have been there but stated "we didn't call it witchcraft then" so G Gardner's claim that it was a "grand sabbat" looks like wishful thinking. It seems to have been a visualisation perhaps enhanced with spiritualistic. rosicrucian, druidic and co-masonic elements. All of those were present amongst the local population,who included a lot of middle and upper class "refugees" living in their country retreats full time.
given that Rudolf Hess' flight resulted in the Nazi's suppression of German okkultists in the "Aktion Heß", perhaps AC's plan was to kill two birds with one stone and eliminating some of his continental competition along with weakening the Reich. I mean, as long as we're wandering the caves of confabulation 😉
This is interesting supplemental information Steve, however it’s not quite clear whether the working you’re referring to here is the one in the Ashdown Forest or Gardner’s one in the New Forest, and also whether in some way “Operation Mistletoe” and “Operation Cone of Power” may refer to the same single action. There also seems to be a divergence between on the one hand the former working’s attempting to entice Rudolf Hess to fly across the Channel, and the latter one saying “you [Hess and/or the Luftwaffe] cannot cross the water”.
I don’t have my copy of Amado’s The Secrets Of Aleister Crowley at the moment – not being a tract I consult very often, it’s buried deep in a storage box somewhere – but I’ve a vague feeling that in his description of the Operation he gives there he makes mention of Old Mother Clutterbuck, which may provide some sort of a connection with Gerald Gardner’s involvement. However I may be mistaken, and leave it up to someone with a copy directly to hand to verify if that is the case.
I spent part of the weekend digging out Amado’s oeuvre from some boxes and skimmed through particularly The Secrets of Aleister Crowley again, the process thankfully shortened by previous annotations. My, among other things I had forgotten quite how anti-gay the fellow was! And whatever else you can say about Amado, if nothing else he certainly seems to have been blessed with a vivid imagination in parts and dare I say the occasional bit of waspish (& quite witty) humour – for example:
“What about the Freemasons?” asked Aleister. “Can you keep them off my back?”
The Admiral shook his head regretfully. “God could, no doubt. But up to now, He has chosen not to.”
“Which God are we talking about?” asked Crowley. “Beaverbrook or Northcliffe?” (pp. 114-5)
As I thought, Amado did mention Dorothy Clutterbuck (whom Gerald Gardner stated initiated him in the Craft, q.v.) however it appears it was (also) the code name by which A.C. chose to be known for some reason:
[...] "Our boffins want you to have a cover name, some other way of referring to you without betraying your true identity. It makes very good sense. Walls have ears, as they say. We have a special list and I can easily allocate you one from that. Unless of course, you have some name you wish to propose.”
Crowley thought for a moment and then said: “Old Mother Clutterbuck.”
The admiral’s eyebrows shot up and he lifted his head slowly.
“May one ask why?”
“It was a comic character in the only pantomime I ever saw as a child. It is a very fond memory. And think how funny it would be for civil servants trying to pronounce it with their usual gravity.”
“Quite!” The man coughed. “My name is Triton, by the way. Mr Louis de Wohl is known as Cassandra. As for our chief”, he waved an invisible cigar, “he is known as Johann Sebastian Bach or JSB for short.” […] (p.114)
A propos this further, Amado later went on to observe:
[…] Legend has it that Gardner was made a witch by “Old Dorothy Clutterbuck”, who mounted rituals in the New Forest to thwart a German invasion. I have already explained how the ritual happened elsewhere, for a different reason, and that “Old Mother Clutterbuck” was a pantomime dame whose name my father adopted. (p.145)
The relevant Chapters of the admittedly rather intriguing episode are 16 through 21 appearing on pages 105 though 146. To save anyone ploughing through the whole thing (assuming they happen to have the book as well), I have attempted to give a brief précis summarising the key pints of the episode as follows (any emphases in bold throughout are mine alone):
“You come highly recommended by a certain Mr Maxwell Knight, an important figure in the country’s secret services. [Legend has it that he was the ‘M’ upon whom Ian Fleming based James Bond’s chief.] Mr Churchill sought his advice, you understand. Consequently he has asked for you by name.” (p.114)
It took about four hours to reach R.A.F. Tangmere travelling by official car from London. We were due to meet two German officers; code-named ‘ Kestrel’ and ‘Sea-Eagle’. The whole thing had been set up by the Roumanian Mission in London and its counterpart in Lisbon and was all very hush-hush. […] (p.116)
The dramatis personae, apart from A.C. and of course Amado, were (as mentioned by in the FT piece previously) “Kestrel” and “Sea-Eagle”;
When I delved more deeply, many years later, I learned that the professor was Karl Haushoffer, a significant figure in German occult circles, and the doctor [sic] was Joseph Retinger, who held high office in German Freemasonry and who later joined the Polish Free Forces in London. (p.117)
“Triton” (who may have been Naval Intelligence Admiral Godfrey or even possibly Admiral Louis Mountabatten – Amado does not make that one clear); “JSB” (who may have been Maxwell Knight or possibly Ian Fleming - he does not make that clear either); and “Cassandra”, or Louis deWohl the astrologer. Also happening to be in attendance was a certain bishop:
[…] The bishop’s face was wreathed in a huge smile as he clapped his hands on my father’s shoulders. “Oh, Mr Crowley,” he mused with a slight sigh. “I think you would be surprised at how much I do realise.” To everyone’s shock he bestowed a different occult blessing on the speechless magician and embraced him.
This may bewilder readers today as much as it bewildered us then. The Bishop’s name was Angelo Roncalli and help is provided by a book from a reliable Catholic source. In THE Broken Cross, Piers Compton states that Roncalli became a member of the Illuminati sect whilst he was on diplomatic service in Turkey. He later became the Patriarch of Venice, being given the red hat while on a visit to France by President Auriol. In 1958 he was elected Pope John XXIII. On his pectoral cross he even bore the sign of the Illuminati – an all-seeing eye in the centre of a triangle. (p.122)
Apparently Maxwell Knight and possibly Ian Fleming were also in attendance as well at “Operation Mistletoe” itself; as Amado remarks about ‘M’:
He was directly involved in the operation but much more than that – he had a profound, personal interest in occultism and was terribly excited to watch the ritual unfold. (p.128)
The Ritual itself was (in part) described in the following terms:
It was Pythagoras, I think, who said he could tilt the earth if given a long enough lever and a fulcrum. What Aleister Crowley did as regards the subsequent history of the world was every bit as momentous.
The high ritual took place at a spot in Ashdown Forest, Sussex. I must not say where exactly. Despite all the security, word did get out but in a twisted version, and ever since, the locals have been pestered by weird people. Crackpots come, even some [neo-]Nazis, apparently to suck up any magical energy that might still linger. It was Gerald Gardner (about whom, more later) who shifted the story to the New Forest. That would have been further away from the target we were aiming at, and along the wrong Nexus, vis-à-vis Germany. The ceremony itself was long and complex. I have lost a great many of the details mainly because certain items were so dazzling and prominent. For instance, I have a very vivid memory of a dummy, dressed in Nazi uniform, being sat on a throne-like chair. I had to sit with my back to this, and a large mirror was raised in front of me. The result was I could see my own face quite close, and the dummy’s face over my right shoulder.
Most of the people there wore occult robes of one sort or another. At Crowley’s orders, even the contingent of soldiers had them over their customary battle-dress. I say robes, but in most cases they were mere lengths of sheeting. Each of them had a runic symbol cut out of coloured felt and stitched to their breast. The mass of people moved around the dummy and me in two circles. The outer one turned deosyl and the inner went widdershins. This movement wasn’t just a regular, monotonous rotation either. At certain moments, or at given signals, they wove in and out of each other. It reminded me of the furry-dance I had seen in Cornwall, or the figure dances in the film of ‘Gone With the Wind’. It was all timed with great precision, and each time the dancers stopped, and faced inward, the runes on their robes spelled a different set of messages which were all aimed at the dummy.
Aleister explained that the gist was quite close to the short phrases I had to yell out, each time the dancing stopped. They were not in English or German but they signified things like: You are the one appointed, and You are the hero armed in gold. There was a lot more like this, but all of it in a similar vein. Strange names and weird titles cropped up from time to time and I recall how irritated my father got when I had difficulty with the word “Thule”.. […]” (p. 123)
This can be viewed as priceless stuff, but all factors considered, there may indeed be something in what he says regarding an actual Ritual of some sort which did take place:
Why has none of this ever come out? It’s quite a puzzle, isn’t it? Not once in fifty years [N.B., this was written in 1991] has anyone said a word. Yet other matters have been revealed and some of them, once closely guarded secrets, have been made into films like ‘The Dam Busters’ and ‘The Man Who Never Was’. They were hush-hush too, but they came out in time, when there was no longer the slightest reason for keeping them under wraps. Evidently, there are people who felt it absolutely crucial to go on keeping the Crowley/Hess story under wraps, even today. As far as they are concerned, it is still a very hot potato! […] (p. 128)
Incidentally the reason for enticing Rudolf Hess to Scotland was apparently for him to meet the Duke of Hamilton (whom he asked for by name upon landing) in a scenario where he (Hess) would proceed to be made “King of Scotland”, while the Duke of Windsor (ex-Edward VIII) and his consort Mrs Simpson both as Hitler’s buddies would be reinstated to the English throne.
There are clearly some aspects of fact amongst other parts which are clear fantasy – and one day perhaps we may find out exactly which parts are which – but in the meantime I think it would make a good film, at least as entertaining as The Eagle Has Landed!
First to clarify, I was talking about GG's claims about a New Forest ritual, not about the Ashdown fantasy.
As for "Old Mother Clutterbuck", this was Gardner'sjoke. Dorothy Fordham (nee Clutterbuck) was a middle-aged middle-class woman who wrote twee nature poetry that Wiccan historians have combed for evidence of paganism, without realistic success. That Aleister Crowley ever heard of her is dubious, but it was a well known story by the time Amado was on the scene.
Most interesting further information on Old Mother Dorothy Fordham Clutterbuck, Steve!
But is GG’s claim about the New Forest (“Cone of Power”) ritual any less “fantastic” than the Ashdown Forest (“Mistletoe”?) one, which according to the OP does at least seem to have some basis upon an actual historical event which occured in wartime between May 1940 and May 1941 of some description?