37- Old Dorothy Clutterbuck (January 19, 1880— January 12, 1951). English witch, or literary creation?
Perhaps one of the most controversial and enigmatic figures of British Witchcraft, Dorothy Clutterbuck was, for many years, believed to have never existed at all. While the jury is still out as to her existence and/or involvement with witchcraft, Old Dorothy remains one of the earliest known alleged practitioners of pre-Wiccan British Traditional Witchcraft. In the very least, she is a literary creation and archetype used to establish the origin myth for the tradition that has become Wicca and Modern Witchcraft.
Her story, of course, begins with the father and founder of Modern Witchcraft, Gerald Gardner. It was Gardner who first claimed to have discovered a secret witch-cult, the New Forest Coven. As a member of this coven, Dorothy Clutterbuck (Old Dorothy as Gardner called her) was said to have initiated Gardner into the New Forest group in 1939. Henceforth, Old Dorothy has been an elusive figure who is seen as the impetus behind the resurgence of the ancient and hidden practice of witchcraft. Unfortunately, whether or not this is all true remains a mystery lost to time.
What has been discovered of an historical, existent Dorothy Clutterbuck comes through the sleuthing and detective work by the Mother of Modern Witchcraft, our beloved Doreen Valiente (#86). Doreen spent years searching through birth and death certificates (along with various other records) trying to authenticate the claims made by Gerald Gardner. By 1985, Doreen’s discoveries lead her to believe Gardner and the existence of Dorothy Clutterbuck.