The Panacea Society
The origins of the Panacea Society can be traced back to a series of letters (now located in the Panacea Charitable Trust’s archives) written between four women living separate lives, brought together through a common interest in the life and message of Joanna Southcott. These communications commenced in 1913. The four women were Mabel Barltrop, Rachael Fox, Helen Exeter, and Kate Firth. Each was interested in the message Joanna Southcott had sent out one hundred years before, and each felt the world’s troubles would be overcome if only the Bishops of the Church of England would consent to open Joanna Southcott’s sealed box of prophecies.
These four women corresponded with each other extensively, discussing aspects of prophecy and revelation, and believing their work to be divinely inspired. Mabel eventually emerged as the leader of the group and she and her followers identified Mabel as both Shiloh (the child whose appearance was foretold by Joanna over a century ago), and as Octavia, the eighth prophet of the Visitation, and the Divine Daughter.
From these early beginnings the group continued to grow, and through regular meetings called themselves “The Community of the Holy Ghost”. Over time these meetings became more formal and the community changed its name to The Panacea Society.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s the work of the Society reached its zenith when immense publicity was directed towards the Bishops of the Church of England to open Joanna Southcott’s Box of Sealed Writings. During this period The Society generated over 100,000 petitions for the box to be opened.
By the 1930′s there were about seventy members living in and around the Albany Road area in Bedford, with an additional 2000 members living elsewhere across the world. Each member devoted their lives to the work of the Society, which included not just the advancement of Joanna Soutcott’s box of prophecies, but also the advancement of its healing ministry – thought by its members to be a ‘panacea’ a healing cure for all illness. The cure consisted of drinking ordinary water infused with a linen square in it that received Octavia’s divine breath. The squares were sent free of charge to anyone who requested healing, and in total applications were received from 130,000 people across 90 different countries.
Further information on The Panacea Society and Joanna Southcott’s Box of Sealed Writings can be found in the museum guide book, by clicking here. You can find out more about Octavia, the founder of the Society, by clicking here.
As a religious organisation, The Panacea Society ceased to exist in 2012 when it subsequently changed its name to The Panacea Charitable Trust.