77- Monique Wilson (1923-1982): Lady Olwen
The sad story of Monique Wilson, High priestess turned outcast.
What does a High Priestess of British Witchcraft and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” have in common? Too much.
The daughter of a French naval officer, Monique was born in Haiphong, Vietnam in 1923. During her childhood, by sheer happenstance, she met a young British customs official who was working in Vietnam. He became very close with Monique and her family, and she started to call him “Uncle Gerald”. During the outbreak of WWII, Monique witnessed her father’s murder in the streets of Hanoi. She fled to Hong Kong with her mother, and eventually met her future husband. In 1954, the young couple moved to Britain and settled in Perth, Scotland.
The Wilsons were fascinated with “The Old Religion” and witchcraft. Monique found many similarities between the goddess worship of the craft and her familiarity with the figure of Kuan Yin from her upbringing in Vietnam. She became fascinated with witchcraft through reading the book “Witchcraft Today” which had just been published by Gerald Gardner (the Father of Wicca). At this point, Gardner was the resident witch at the “Museum of Witchcraft and Magic” on the Isle of Man. The museum housed his personal artifacts and objects instrumental to the history of witchcraft and Wicca in Britain. Not knowing he was the same “Uncle Gerald” from her childhood, Monique reached out to him. The two rekindled their longtime friendship, and Gardner initiated her into his coven, giving her the craft name Lady Olwen.
By 1961, she was elevated to High Priestess, the last under Gardner before his death. Wilson was entrusted with creating a series of covens around Perth and attracted similar media publicity as Gardner did, with the press labeling her as “Queen of the Witches”. One of her most important contributions to the history of witchcraft was her initiation of Raymond Buckland in 1963. This forever changed the course of modern paganism and the witchcraft revival. Ray Buckland would go on to bring Wicca to the United States in the 1960s, establishing the first Gardnerian Wiccan covens in America.