Tag Archives: notable Wiccans

John Belham-Payne

5 January 1952 to 15 February 2016

John Belham-Payne at the unveiling of the blue plaque for Gerald Gardner
At the unveiling of the blue plaque for Gerald Gardner (photo by Yvonne Aburrow)
John and Julie Belham-Payne at the unveiling of the blue plaque for Doreen Valiente
With Julie Belham-Payne at the unveiling of the blue plaque for Doreen Valiente

John Belham-Payne (born John Patrick Payne), the founder of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, is best known as the last high priest of Doreen Valiente. John was widely regarded as an inspirational Pagan leader, and his name is included in The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-paganism by Shelley Rabinovitch and James Lewis.

In 1992 John married Julia Belham-Payne and together they bought The Old Oast, in Maresfield, and began to convert the barn into a venue for Pagans to meet and learn about Paganism. They called it the Centre For Pagan Studies.

The Centre For Pagan Studies attracted many well-known Pagans, including Doreen Valiente. She soon became a firm supporter, and became the patron of the Centre for Pagan Studies.

This eventually led to John Belham-Payne working magically with Doreen and being with her constantly during her death. He held her hand as she passed to the Summerlands on 1st September 1999.

The collection of artefacts, manuscripts and documents that Doreen Valiente had bequeathed to John, formed the basis of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, the Charitable trust that John Belham-Payne founded, in 2011, known as the Doreen Valiente Foundation. He passed away from renal failure on 15 February 2016.

His Wiccan funeral was attended by many Pagans and witches from all over the world, and he was cremated at Woodvale Crematorium, the same place where he had been celebrant for the Wiccan funeral service for his priestess Doreen Valiente 16½ years previously. His ashes are scattered in a bluebell wood, in the same location where he scattered the ashes of Doreen Valiente.

John Belham-Payne
John smiling

Further reading

John Belham-Payne in the 1980s
John in the 1980s

Madge Worthington

Madge Worthington
Madge Worthington

Madge was immensely important in the development of the Gardnerian Craft. She was initiated around 1964 by her high priest, Arthur, who was in turn initiated by Eleanor (Rae) Bone who died in 2003. Madge and Arthur used to hold their meetings in Arthur’s house in Whitecroft Way and to this day her many magical descendants speak of themselves as being of the Whitecroft line. Sadly, in the last few years of her life, Madge was progressively immobilized by Parkinson’s, and unable to pursue her great passions – the Craft, Green politics and animal welfare.

Here is a tribute to Madge that appeared in Pagan Dawn, Beltane 2004.

Memories of Madge

At Maureen’s she arrived with her toy boy, who was in his 50s and she was in her 80s. She still had a great body for her age. She was asked to do the Annis Charge and was powerfully beautiful with her rendition, then would insist that the quarters were treated with more respect and drawn slowly – which I always did anyway. She praised me for that hating this “modern” practice of zipping the pentagram at speed. She would wave goodbye to them at banishing and I felt dead chuffed that she said she could really see them after I drew them. Maureen told me that she got to nearly 100 but would never tell anyone her age – a lady didn’t! Maureen would go to see her when she was very old and alone, she was very ill at times and no-one there to look after her in her last days.

Madge was also camping out at the feminist camp against nuclear weapons for a while, not Greenham Common, the other one. She was in her 80s but saw no reason that should stop her. I think she was there for months but not sure about that.

I remember meeting her at the second big Gather in Cumbria and her first words were, “Have you read King Jesus by Graves, you must, you really must” and wandered off. I didn’t really know what to say to her, I was aware of the esteem she was held in and felt a little shy. I have a photo of her from there with her, Vivianne, me and one of my initiates, Karen – 4 generations of witches and 3 were Scorpios. They all wore turquoise and purple, unknown to each other (I’m Cancerian so wore green and ruined the effect).

At Witchfest, she wandered in with a bandage on her leg having come undone. Reg and [Dot] his wife (we called them Rot and Veg but don’t know their real names), commented to me that this old lady had wandered in and needed help as she looked like she had dementia. I whirled round and told him that without that old lady, he and most of the witches there wouldn’t exist! He snorted and disappeared, but I ran after her and did up her bandage for her. She was a little bewildered by it all, walked around the stalls and had tea, but nothing much else.

She was at my handfasting, she said she loved handfastings, but I don’t remember much about that. She came down the wood where a lot of covens would meet up for circles, and danced with all of us, enjoyed the whole thing and we all panicked when she said she was going to jump the fire. I remember discussing jokingly with Chris how easy it would be to dress a dead body – we were afraid she might have a heart attack and we didn’t know how to explain it to the police – it was a joke… sort of. But she jumped with us all, nothing would stop her.

~ Debby