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Article Specs

Article ID: 11312

VoxAcct: 177482

Section: festivals

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 4,609

Times Read: 6,750

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Hellfire Caves Ritual

Author: Ankerwytch
Posted: June 10th. 2007
Times Viewed: 6,750
Sponsored by: The Circle of Ankerwycke
Location: West Wycombe, Bucks
Event Date(s): November 10th 2006
Attendance: 70

On Friday, November 10th, 2006 the Hellfire Caves in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, played host to over 70 Pagans who hired it for the evening. For the first time in 250 years, the amazing tunnels and caves echoed once again to the sound of chanting and the rhythmic beating of drums. Many of the revelers traveled from other parts of the country, some coming hundreds of miles for the event.

Owned by the Dashwood family since the 1750s, the notorious Hellfire Caves are reputed to be the venue for wild parties, sexual licentiousness and the practicing of black magic. Sir Francis Dashwood who owned the estate at the time was a prominent member of fashionable society and was elected to Parliament in 1741. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1762-3, retiring after just one year following an unpopular budget.

From 1765 until his death, Sir Francis was joint Postmaster General and during that time he met American Benjamin Franklin with whom he became friends. Franklin appears to have visited the caves in 1770. In addition, Sir Francis was a founder member of the Dilettante society, which came to play a prominent role in the study of classical art. He was also a well-known Freemason and Masonic symbols together with those of Paganism are in evidence throughout the estate. Tales abound of Witches and Nuns together with the most prominent people in society, holding wild parties and orgies.

The Staines based Circle of Ankerwycke hired the venue for the evening to hold a ritual and celebration. With almost a mile of passageways and a number of large caverns, the main event was held in the Banqueting Hall, some 300 feet below the mausoleum of the Dashwoods. The tunnels were lit by thousands of tea lights, as indeed was the hall itself and the event got underway to the sound of drums and the smell of incense.

Following a simple but moving ritual, feasting began in the usual fashion while we enjoyed the singing and guitar playing of Paul Mitchell, well known pagan folk singer. In turn belly dancing, juggling, drumming and the inevitable spiral dancing followed this. The whole being very reminiscent of a medieval ball with many of the revelers in costume and masked. The tables groaned with food and the wine flowed

Having the run of the caves system, many people wandered off to find the underground river Styx now traversed by a small bridge. Complete with stalactites, this looked amazing by candlelight.

A re-enactment took place of a hoodwinking ceremony when one of the revelers was led down a tunnel complete with hood over his head. Sworn to secrecy on his return we can only speculate on what happened but he received a beautiful hand illuminated charter after the event and said he was privileged to have had the experience. Another echo from the past was enjoyed when a number of replica gold coins were given out. These coins were identical to the many found in the caves over the years and it is believed they could have been used to pay the ferryman for those wishing to cross the river Styx to get to the inner sanctum. Those given the coins began a spiral dance to create the energy to take them to another time and place in their minds while the drums built up to a mind blowing crescendo.

As one leading participant said on a Pagan forum the next day, “If ever there was a prize for the coolest people doing the coolest thing in the coolest venue – we won it!”

Will we do it again? Watch this space.




Location: Cornwall, England

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