Wiccan Ghost-Hunting in India

If you are of a certain age — or if you hang around the “occult” section in used-bookstores — you might remember the ghost-hunting team of English witch Sybil Leek (1917–1982) and American parapsychology author Hans Holzer (1920–2009).

They were both writers, but the books appeared under his name, such as The Lively Ghosts of Ireland.

I was just reminded of them by reading this recent review of Bhangarh to Bedlam: Haunted Encounters, which covers some similar ground. Only most of the ground is in India, where — even with all of the kinds of polytheism, henotheism, and monism (and other -isms) that live under the umbrella term “Hindu” — Wicca, too, has gained a toehold in the religious landscape of the subcontinent.

In fact, author Deepta Roy Chakraverti is the daughter of Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, credited with bringing Wicca to India, as I noted in 2006.

The author who is a corporate lawyer by profession investigates the presence of the supernatural in the world we inhabit and writes about paranormal encounters she has had ranging from Bhangarh Fort on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, in the Lodhi gardens, the Konark Temple in Orissa, and the mental asylum of Bedlam in London. . . .

Deepta explores the energies of the Safdurjung Road house of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who was assassinated and the psychic investigator writes about her experience . . .

She recalls a chilling encounter in the chapter “Who Walks on Marine Drive? “related to a peanut seller on Mumbai’s Marine Drive who has a horde of people, including a father-daughter pair flocking to him. The people, says the author are those who died suddenly in the 2011 terrorist attacks and are hovering between the worlds of the living and dead.

And in the interview/review she quotes Holzer himself. We have a tradition!

Bhangarh to Bedlam has a Facebook page, is available on Amazon in India but not here, it seems, and has created some controversy there.

An Indian website in April 2015 reported,

It also includes a chapter on a popular shopping mall in Kolkata, where a number of accidents and suicides have taken place in recent times.

And this is where a controversy has erupted, with the mall in question demanding that all references to it be eliminated from the book. According to Roy Chakraverti, a corporate lawyer by profession and a psychic investigator by calling, who is the daughter of the self-styled Wiccan priestess Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, the publishers [not identified] bliged by calling off the publication of the book.

But also in April, Life Positive Books (New Delhi)  announced its publication. Same house? Different one? Roy Chakraverti hints at dark forces:

The dark energy has its own power. I feel that this fiasco happened because there were one or two political entities in the background, which were afraid of a Wiccan woman gaining popularity.

According to the Facebook page, launch parties and signings are ongoing.

3 thoughts on “Wiccan Ghost-Hunting in India

  1. I have long been a fan of Sybil Leek (Holzer too, to some degree, although that is neither here nor there atm), but I have never considered her a “Wiccan,” proper. A Witch, yes. She was such a different critter from the published Gardnerians, et. al, of the time that this classification you’ve used gave me pause, bringing me back to the sticky wicket I revisit frequently enough. Where is that line between “Witch” & “Wiccan”? Did she ever actually use the word “Wicca”? I never encountered it in her books, but I confess I have not read them all, nor can I remember them for that matter. Have any light to shed on this subject?

    1. You are right that Sybil Leek did not use the word Wiccan, but this group in India certainly does. Like so many public Craft figures of her era, she offered a fairly fantastic story about her back history, mostly unverifiable (initation in France, etc.).

      1. Medeina Ragana

        If I remember correctly, back in the 1970s there was some group of “witches” (don’t remember who) who decided that the word “witch” was too fraught with negative associations so they did research and came up with the word “wicca” to “replace” the word “witch” so it wouldn’t be such a red flag to the non-Pagan population, especially Christians. They were attempting to mitigate the harassment and outright bigotry at that time period since some Pagans and witches were having their children taken away from them because of their religion.
        Since Sybil Leek was pre-“wicca” she, of course, would never have used that word since it really hadn’t been “invented” at that point. There was something I read way back when (prior to 1990s) that may have had Sybil Leek actually have been part of a Gardnerian group at some point and then branched out into her own thing. Not sure how accurate that assessment was.
        My own introduction to Paganism in general was through Sybil’s books. May she rest in peace.

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