An Esbat among the Quads

An Episode of Witchcraft at Oxford University in the 1920s


  • Graham John Wheeler Independent scholar



Witchcraft, Contemporary Paganism, Oxford University


This article presents evidence of an attempt to undertake a revival of witchcraft at Oxford University in the 1920s. The students involved in the attempt appear to have been influenced by ideas about witchcraft that were circulating in contemporary British society, including (but not limited to) the theories of Margaret Murray. The episode constitutes an interesting early step in the progress of the modern witchcraft revival. The surviving evidence also highlights how one of the most prestigious of British institutions could play host to overlapping networks of individuals whose occult interests challenged the norms of both traditional Christianity and secular rationalism.

Author Biography

Graham John Wheeler, Independent scholar

Graham John Wheeler is an independent scholar living in London.


Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon, revised and updated ed. London: Penguin, 2006.

Butler, Alison. Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Calder-Marshall, Arthur. The Magic of My Youth. London: Hart-Davis, 1951.

Clarke, Peter B., ed. Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements (London: Routledge, 2009.

Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Lanham, Md.: AltaMira, 2006.

Cohn, Norman. Europe’s Inner Demons, new ed. London: Pimlico, 2005.

Collins, David J., ed. The Cambridge History of Magic and Witchcraft in the West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Davies, Owen. Witchcraft, Magic and Culture, 1736-1951. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999.

Owen Davies. Grimoires: A History of Magic Books. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Ferry, Georgina. Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life. London: Bloomsbury Reader, 2014.

Fremantle, Anne. Three-Cornered Heart. London: Collins, 1971.

Gerald Gardner. The Meaning of Witchcraft. Boston: Weiser, 2004 [1959].

——. “Witchcraft.” Folk-Lore 50 (1939), 188-90.

Gibbons, Brian. Spirituality and the Occult. London: Routledge, 2001.

Greene, Raymond. Moments of Being. London: Heinemann, 1974.

Grigson, Georffrey, ed. Thirty Eight Poems by Pennethorne Hughes. London: John Baker, 1970.

Heselton, Philip. Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration. Milverton: Capall Bann, 2003.

——. Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner. 2 vols. Loughborough: Thoth, 2012.

Howard, Michael. Modern Wicca. Woodbury, Minn.: Llewellyn, 2009.

Hughes, Pennethorne. Witchcraft. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1952.

Hughes, Pennethorne, ed. Malleus Maleficarum. London: Folio Society, 1968.

Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Kaczynski, Richard. Perdurabo, revised and expanded. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2010.

Kelly, Aidan A. Inventing Witchcraft. Loughborough: Thoth, 2008.

Lancaster, Marie-Jacqueline. Brian Howard: Portrait of a Failure (London: Timewell, 2005.

Lewis, James R. Odd Gods. Amherst: Prometheus, 2001.

——. Witchcraft Today. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1999.

Longford, Elizabeth. The Pebbled Shore. Stroud: Sutton, 2004.

Luhrmann, Tanya M. Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Murray, Margaret Alice. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921.

Pearson, Joanne. A Popular Dictionary of Paganism. London: Routledge, 2002.

Report of the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline: Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty. London: Wyman and Sons, 1906.

Ruickbie, Leo. Witchcraft Out of the Shadows. London: Robert Hale, 2004.

Sheppard, Kathleen L. The Life of Margaret Alice Murray (Lanham, Md.: Lexington, 2013.

Sutin, Lawrence. Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley. New York: St Martin’s, 2000.

Symonds, John. The Beast 666. London: Pindar, 1997.

Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1971.

Truzzi, Marcello. “Towards a Sociology of the Occult: Notes on Modern Witchcraft.” In Religious Movements in Contemporary America, edited by Irving I. Zaretsky and Mark P. Leone, 628–45. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974.

Waugh, Evelyn. Little Learning. London: Penguin, 2011.

White, Ethan Doyle. “The Creation of ‘Traditional Witchcraft’.” Aries 18 (2018), 188-216.

Whitechapel, Simon. “Adam and Evelyn: ‘The Balance,’ The Temple at Thatch, and 666.” Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies 33, no. 2 (2002), 1–9.

Young, Francis. A History of Anglican Exorcism. London: I. B. Tauris, 2018.



How to Cite

Wheeler, G. J. (2019). An Esbat among the Quads: An Episode of Witchcraft at Oxford University in the 1920s. Pomegranate, 20(2), 157–178.