Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Chanctonbury Ring - a Site of Primeval Power

If you climb Chanctonbury Hill in West Sussex, you might come across a Witches' Sabbat. A witch explains that sex is a great rite and a powerful form of magic, but you have to know how to handle it!

The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse 1886  Public Domain

The Chanctonbury Ring is a hill fort based ring of trees on the top of Chanctonbury Hill in the South Downs of West Sussex. A Mrs. Valiante, appeared in a review in the Argus newspaper, describing herself as a practising witch. She told how the sacred landmark was a favourite spot for witches' covens. "I became a witch many years ago... I have danced at the Witches' Sabbat on many occasions and I find enjoyment in it. I have stood under the stars at midnight and invoked the old gods and I have found in the invocation of the most primeval powers, those of life, love and death, an uplifting of consciousness that no orthodox religious service has ever given me." The review comments that 300 years ago, Mrs. Valiante would have been burnt at the stake for making such a statement.
     The most well-known legend, appearing in many sources of Sussex folklore, is that if you go to the ring at midnight and run around it several times, the Devil would appear and offer you something to eat and drink. "A bowl of soup," says Mrs. Valiante, "which sounds rather prosaic unless the contents of a witches' cauldron are intended."  Anyone who accepts the Devil's gift becomes his forever.
A New Enlightened Society
The author said it was difficult to know how many practising witches there are today (1973) because there was no central leadership, and while some covens sought publicity, others shunned it. She said we were advancing towards a new regenerated and enlightened society that repudiated the old persecution of witches. Witchcraft was a druid-like religion centred on nature worship, a belief in reincarnation, a philosophy and a way of life. 
     Achaeologists have discovered the Chanctonbury Ring was a site of a Romano-British temple. During the 1970s, there were also a number of articles about witchcraft as a Black Art invoking the Devil and many other unpleasant practices - although none of these articles are included here. Some things are best left well alone.
Sex and Witchcraft
Mrs. Valiante was also featured in an article by John Wellington in The Brighton and Hove Gazette dated 3 August 1979 where she talked about the use of sex in witchcraft rituals. 
     "I think that young people may want to have sex at rituals. The older ones prefer not to. I think we were more inhibited in my day. The world may be catching up with us," she said. "But in the old days they would have a great Sabbat and a terrific festival." Mrs. Valiante agreed the festivals often turned into orgies, although she was unhappy using that word.
     Her initiation into witchcraft was in 1953, and to her knowledge there were three covens in Brighton, each comprising between three and thirteen witches. She added that witchcraft was older than the druids, in fact its history stretched back into prehistoric times. "Sex is the great rite. It is a powerful form of magic - but you have to know how to handle it," she warned.
     Other sightings at Washington near Chanctonbury Ring include Caesar and his entire army, sounds of the hooves of unseen horses and phantom druids.
Valiante, Doreen, The ABC of Witchcraft, Robert Hale, 1973.
Wellington, John, The Brighton and Hove Gazette, 3 August 1979.

"Review" The Argus, 12 April, 1973.

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