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see Leshan Giant Buddha for the article about the landmark in Sichuan
Edith Woodford-Grimes, the woman whom Philip Heselton claimed was Dafo

Dafo (or "Daffo") was the craft name of a woman who is believed to have played a significant role in the development of Gardnerian Witchcraft, and therefore of Wicca.

Dafo was repeatedly cited by Gerald Gardner as an authority on witchcraft to those that he introduced to the religion. She has been variously identified as Gardner's "magical working partner", "High Priestess", teacher, and lover. It is not clear what her precise relationship was to Gardner or to the New Forest coven into which Gardner is said to have been initiated.

Dafo was identified by the Wiccan writer Philip Heselton as a teacher of music and elocution named Edith Woodford-Grimes, who is known to have been a close friend of Gardner. This identification seems to have displaced an earlier theory that identified her with Dorothy Clutterbuck, another figure associated with the New Forest coven.

Origin of name

While the origin of the name Dafo is not known with certainty, the term "dafo" is used in Chinese culture to denote a statue of the Buddha, including the Leshan Giant Buddha. This theory of origin is endorsed by the writer Philip Heselton, and is consistent with Gerald Gardner's personal connections with south-east Asia.

Biography and identity

Gardner, discussing the publication of his two books on witchcraft, mentions that he felt obliged to have the permission of the witches he knew to do so. It is now widely assumed that this was a reference to 'Dafo', who appears to have been a great deal more publicity-shy than Gardner was.

In the late 1940s, Gerald Gardner founded the Bricket Wood coven, and was joined by Dafo. However, she left the coven in 1952, fearing Gardner's growing publicity would expose her.[1]

In winter 1952 Gardner invited Doreen Valiente, a prospective witch, to meet him and Dafo at her house. They met here on several occasions, and on Midsummer 1953 Gardner initiated Valiente into the craft at Dafo's home. The three of them then set off to Stonehenge, where they watched the Druids performing a ritual there.[2]

By 1954, Dafo had started living with a strictly Christian niece, who disapproved of occultism and witchcraft. Dafo therefore kept her past involvement with witchcraft secret from her family. In 1958, three separate groups of witches approached her, asking for her to verify Gardner's claims. Dafo did not respond to two of these, and denied having any involvement other than a theoretical interest in the craft to the third.[1][3]

The historian Ronald Hutton, in his 1999 book The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, said that he had not researched into Dafo's past, because she would not have wanted such a thing, as most of her family were strict Christians.[1] The researcher Philip Heselton however, did investigate, and came to the conclusion that Dafo was a woman named Edith Woodford-Grimes.[4]

References

  1. ^ a b c Hutton, Ronald (1999). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Withcraft. Oxford University Press.  
  2. ^ Valiente, Doreen (1989). The Rebirth of Witchcraft. Hale.   Pages 39 to 40
  3. ^ Lamond, Frederic (19 July 1996).   Personal correspondence with Ronald Hutton
  4. ^ Heselton, Philip (2000). Wiccan Roots. Capall Bann.  

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