Pickingill, George

Pickingill, (Old) George (1816-1909)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Born in Hockey, Essex, George was the oldest of nine children born to Charles Pickingill and his wife Susannah (née Cudner). Little is known of his early life, but he grew up in the Canewdon district of East Anglia to become a farm laborer like his father. He was reputed to have a foul temper and was generally disliked and feared. However, he was frequently sought after because of a reputation he gained for magical prowess, and he would therefore be classed as a Cunning Man or local Hedge Witch. It was said he could find lost property and cure sickness.

Pickingill claimed that he was descended from the "Witch of Brandon," a woman named Julia who lived near Thetford, Norfolk, in the eleventh century. According to E. William Liddell, he further claimed that since Julia's time, members of the Pickingill family had served as Witch priests and directed covens. Unlike the majority of Wiccans, he was vehemently anti-Christian.

Pickingill would visit local farmers when they were harvesting and threaten to bewitch their threshing machines. To make him go away, they would bribe him with beer. Eric Maple says that he typically ended his day in a drunken stupor.

Liddell states that Pickingill established nine covens over a sixty-year period. They were located in Essex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, and Sussex. Liddell also claims that Aleister Crowley was initiated into a Pickingill coven in 1899, although there seems to be no evidence to support that. He similarly claims that the coven into which Gerald Gardner was originally initiated was a Pickingill one. Again, there seems to be no evidence of this.

Local parish registries show many variations on the name Pickingill, including Pittingale, Pickingale, Pickengale, and Pettengell, which makes it difficult to trace detailed records of the family.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.