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The New Forest coven were an alleged group of pagan witches who met around the area of the New Forest in southern England during the early 20th century. According to his own claims, in September 1939, a British occultist named Gerald Gardner was initiated into the coven and subsequently used its beliefs and practices as a basis from which he formed the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca. Gardner described some of his experiences with the coven in his published books Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959) although on the whole revealed little about it, saying he was respecting the privacy of its members. Meanwhile, another occultist, Louis Wilkinson, corroborated Gardner's claims by revealing in an interview with the writer Francis X. King that he too had encountered the coven and expanded on some of the information that Gardner had provided about them. According to Gardner, the faith they followed was the Witch-Cult, a supposed pagan religion that had survived in secret after the Christianization of Europe. This was in keeping with the now-discredited theories of Margaret Murray and her supporters.
As Wicca developed in the latter decades of the twentieth century, some of the figures who were researching its origins, such as Aidan Kelly and later Leo Ruickbie, came to the conclusion that the New Forest coven was simply a fictional invention of Gardner's to provide a historical basis for his faith. The historian Ronald Hutton accepted this as a possibility, although recognised that it was not "implausible" that the coven had indeed existed. Later research by Philip Heselton which was published in the early twenty-first century, indicated that there was much evidence for a coven of practitioners, whose members he identified as being Dorothy Clutterbuck, Edith Woodford-Grimes, Ernest Mason, Susie Mason, Rosamund Sabine and Katherine Oldmeadow.
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