Edith Woodford Grimes's Biography (Photos)
Edith Rose Woodford-Grimes (1887-1975) was an English Wiccan who achieved notoriety as one of the faith's earliest known adherents. She had been a member of the New Forest coven which met during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and through this became a friend and working partner of Gerald Gardner, who would go on to found the Gardnerian tradition with her help. Widely known under the nickname of Dafo, Woodford-Grimes' involvement in the Craft had largely been kept a secret until it was revealed in the late 1990s, and her role in the history of Wicca was subsequently investigated by historians.
The reason for Woodford-Grimes' adoption of the pseudonym Dafo is unknown, with the researcher Philip Heselton believing that it was not her craft name but a nickname given to her by Gardner, possibly being based upon his experiences in eastern Asia, where it had been used to refer to certain statues of the Buddha.
Edith Rose Woodford-Grimes Biography:
Woodford-Grimes was born as Edith Rose Wray in a house in Malton, Yorkshire, on 18 December 1887. Her father, William Henry Wray, was an implement maker at the local waterworks, whilst her mother was Caroline Wray, nee Harrison. Whilst much is still not known about her early life, she became a teacher, specialising in English, Drama and Music, in later years becoming an associate of the London College of Music and the London Academy of Music.
Through the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship that Woodford-Grimes likely met members local esoteric group, the New Forest coven, which was one of the earliest recorded Wiccan covens to exist. Its members considered themselves the continuation of the historical Witch-Cult, an ancient religion that the anthropologist Margaret Murray had described in several books published in the 1920s and 1930s. Nonetheless, subsequent investigation and research by historians has disputed that the Witch-Cult had ever existed, and as such it appears that the New Forest coven were in fact a group who had been founded in the early 1930s.
Following this marriage, Rosanne and her new husband moved into Woodford-Grimes' bungalow, Theano, whilst she herself relocated once more to Avenue Cottage in Walkford, the village adjacent to Highcliffe, where Gardner and his wife Donna lived.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Woodford-Grimes has left an enduring legacy in the Wiccan and greater Neopagan community who recognise her as one of the earliest known adherents of her faith. Because she never became publicly known in her lifetime, and the fact that she intentionally denied her involvement in the Craft towards the end of her life, Woodford-Grimes' identity would not be publicly known till several decades after her death. Nonetheless, her involvement in the New Forest coven under her pseudonym of Dafo was known, and was occasionally featured in published sources: one of the earliest of these was in June Johns' 1969 biography of Alex Sanders, King of the Witches, in which she incorrectly spelled the pseudonym as "Daffo".
After her identity was revealed, she became well known in Wiccan circles, for instance the Neopagan bard Francis Cameron delivered a prose interpretation of her life and involvement with the Craft, written as if from her own point of view, entitled "Dafo's Tale", at The Charge of the Goddess conference 2010, held at Conway Hall in London.