Leek, Sybil

Leek, Sybil (1923-1983)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Astrologer who emigrated from England to America in the mid-1960s. In her books and through various newspapers and other interviews, Leek created a confused and frequently contradictory background of her life, with few verifiable details. She was born Angela Carter (although in one of her books she gives her family name as Falk) in Staffordshire, England, in 1923. Her father was a civil engineer who, in his earlier years, had been an actor. He went walking and climbing with his children and taught his daughter yoga exercises. Leek came from a large, close family. Her maternal grandmother was an astrologer who taught some of her art to Leek. She was mainly homeschooled until she was eleven.

Leek said that in late 1939, at the age of sixteen, she married a famous pianist who died two years later, but she gives no details of the man, not even his name. She said that after getting married they toured Europe for two years before his death, although Europe was in the throes of World War II at that time. Leek claims to have been initiated into the Craft in the south of France, in the hills above Nice, after the death of her husband, but she makes no mention of the German occupation of France. Back in England she lived for a year with some Gypsies before opening an antique shop in the New Forest. Leek worked as a roving reporter for Southern Television, in addition to running her antique store, providing material for documentaries about life in the south of England. She also claims to have joined a coven of Witches in the New Forest area and became its High Priestess. At some point she married a man named Brian and by him had two sons, Stephen and Julian.

By the early 1960s, Leek was claiming a Witchcraft background. Unfortunately, her publicity drew unwelcome attention to her shop, and her landlord terminated the lease. She had, meanwhile, written a book called A Shop in the High Street about her experiences in the antique business. It mentioned her life in the New Forest and her encounters with Gypsies. Nowhere in the book was there any mention of Witches or Witchcraft, since it was written prior to her initial claims of Witchcraft association. The book had moderate success and was published in the United States in 1964. To help promote the book, Leek came to the United States where she started a self-publicity tour presenting herself as a practicing Witch. At that time, her claims were many and varied. The New York Times of April 26, 1964, said that she was "the only practicing witch in England today," while Fate magazine of June 1964 said she was "Chief Witch of England." On a number of occasions, Leek claimed that she was "Chief Witch" or "Queen of all the Witches," having been voted into that position "by all the witches of the world in 1947," even though the Craft was fragmented and still under cover at that time. In October of 1964 Leek was selling Hallowe'en candy at the New York World's Fair and claiming that she was "one of 80 professional witches in Great Britain" and that she communicated "with the more than 300 ghosts she keeps around her old beamed cottage" (New York Daily News, October 13, 1964).

Leek was fascinated with figures, as was evident from the following: she claimed to have starred in "some 926 television shows" (Boston Herald, September 16, 1964), commanded "800 full-fledged, initiated witches in addition to some 8,000 followers of witchcraft" (New York Sunday News, December 6, 1964), and could "trace her witch lineage back some 500 years" (Sunday News).

On a television show broadcast from WNEW-TV on June 11, 1966, she claimed to be 450 years old. She also claimed during that period that, in addition to being an antiques dealer, she was "an anthropologist" (Reuters, 1965), "a journalist by trade" (Houston Post, November 28, 1966), "self-proclaimed Queen of England's witches and a spiritualist" (Staten Island Sunday Advance, March 20, 1966), and "a British writer and medium" (New York Sunday News, July 3, 1966).

By the end of 1966 Leek had taken to using the title "Dame." A Dame of the British Empire is the female equivalent of a Knight. Sybil Leek's name does not appear on the honor rolls of that period, the Queen did not bestow the title on her, and it is certainly not a Witchcraft title.

Leek lived with a series of people in New York for a number of years. She was a colorful character, invariably dressed in floor-length purple dresses and capes. She later moved to California, then Texas, and finally to Florida. She continued her work as an astrologer and for several years produced a popular astrology magazine. Although in her early American years she gave out much misinformation about Wicca, over the years she did educate herself on the true workings of the Craft and for the last few years of her life performed good work for Wicca in helping to straighten the misconceptions. The rituals of her Horsa tradition owed much to Gerald Gardner, her tradition using the names Faunus and Diana for the male and female deities. She died in Melbourne, Florida, in 1983.

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