Patricia C. Crowther (1927- ) A Witch and high priestess of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, and one of the last surviving high priestesses initiated by Gerald B. Gardner. Patricia Crowther has, since the 1960s, been a leading spokesperson for the Old Religion in books, the media and lecture appearances. Initiated formally into the Craft by Gardner, she is regarded by many as Gardner’s spiritual heir. She has formed covens all over the United Kingdom.
She was born Patricia Dawson on October 27, 1927, in Sheffield. Her Breton great-grandmother was an herbalist and clairvoyant, who also told fortunes. Her grand- mother, Elizabeth (Tizzy) Machen (her maiden name) was a very small woman whose surname means “fairy” (see fairies).
The Dawsons lived next door to a palmist, Madame Melba, who accurately predicted that Patricia would develop great clairvoyant powers. During childhood, she experienced synchronistic associations with fairies and the Craft: at a children’s birthday party, she was chosen to be Fairy on the Moon, and was wheeled around seated on a huge, illuminated crescent moon (the Goddess with crescent moon is often symbolic of Diana); for a birth- day present, she was given a gold snake bangle, symbol of wisdom, life and rebirth; she performed as Robin Hood in pantomime, and she was the leading lady in a revue which featured a tableau entitled The Legend of the Moon Goddess.
When Patricia was 30, a hypnotist regressed her to previous lives, including one as a Witch, Polly, an old crone of about 66 in the year 1670. Polly revealed that she lived in a hut with a CAT, frog, goat and hen, and worked spells for people, most of whom she held in contempt. Polly freely recited spells, all in rhyme, with instructions on how to use them. Patricia had no knowledge of such spells, which experts determined were authentic. The regression proved to her that she had been a Witch in a previous life and that, in accordance with Witch lore, she would find her way back into the Craft in the present life. Since that experience, she has recalled, in clairvoyant visions, another past life in which she served as a priestess of the Goddess who had great power. She identifies more strongly with the spiritual priestess than with the spell- casting crone.
Patricia’s parents had trained her in singing, dancing and acting for the stage, and she toured all over the United Kingdom. While playing a theater in Birmingham in 1954, she met a fortune-teller who predicted she would meet her future husband, a man named Arnold, two years later over water. The prediction seemed fantastic, but it was borne out. In 1956 Patricia took a summer job on the Isle of Wight, where she met Arnold Crowther, a stage magician and ventriloquist who was performing in the same show as she. When Arnold discovered her interest in Witchcraft, he offered to introduce her to Gardner, a personal friend since 1939. Several years earlier, Gardner had predicted that Arnold would meet a fair-haired woman who would initiate him into the Craft. This prediction proved to be true as well.
After several meetings with Gardner, Patricia was initiated by him on June 6, 1960. The initiation took place in Gardner’s private Magic Room, the top floor of a barn, at his home in Castletown on the Isle of Man. Patricia in turn initiated Arnold. Gardner presented them with ritual tools and jewelry, including a coral necklace for Patricia.
During the rite, Patricia had a profound and powerful trance experience in which she saw herself being reborn into the priesthood of the Moon Mysteries, initiated by a line of howling, naked women who passed her, gauntlet- style, through their spread legs. Gardner posited that she had gone back in time to another previous life and relived an ancient initiation ceremony.
On November 8, 1960, Patricia and Arnold were married in a private handfasting officiated by Gardner. The ceremony took place in a circle; participants were skyclad (nude). The following day, November 9, the Crowthers were married in a civil ceremony which the press found out about in advance and publicized heavily. The Crowthers established their home in Sheffield. They took the second-degree initiation on October 11, 1961; Patricia became high priestess on October 14, her birthday.
The Crowthers often were sought out by the media for interviews. One interview inadvertently led to the gradual formation of a COVEN. Asked by a reporter if she wanted to meet others who were interested in the Craft, Patricia answered yes. The reporter’s story was headlined, “Witch Seeks Recruits for Coven,” which prompted many inquiries from interested persons. The Crowthers initiated the first member of their coven in December 1961, with others following gradually over time.
The Crowthers continued their instruction in the Craft with Gardner. Patricia was taught an old secret, in- ner tradition by an old woman who lived in Inverness, who saw Patricia on a television program and wrote to her. Her name was Jean, and she told Patricia she considered her worthy of inheriting this knowledge, which she imparted over the course of a two-year correspondence.
The Crowthers’ media exposure generated requests for more interviews and speaking engagements. Together, they authored two books, The Witches Speak (1965, 1976) and The Secrets of Ancient Witchcraft (1974). For B.B.C. Radio Sheffield, the Crowthers produced the first ra- dio series in Britain on Witchcraft, A Spell of Witchcraft, which debuted on January 6, 1971. They performed ser- vices for people, including casting spells and exorcising ghosts (see spirit exorcism). They wrote rituals for the seasons of the year and introduced new music and poetry into the Craft.
Patricia’s nonfiction books include Witchcraft in Yorkshire (1973), her autobiography, Witch Blood! (1974), The Witches Speak (1976), Lid Off the Cauldron (1981, 1985, 1989, 1992, 1998), The Zodiac Experience (1992, 1995), One Witch’s World (1998) and From Stagecraft to Witchcraft; The Early Years of a High Priestess (2002). Her novel Witches Were for Hanging (1992) was reprinted in 1999. In addition, she wrote poetry and designed three cards (The Sun, Karma and The World) for The Tarot of the Old Path (1990).
In addition, she has written articles for periodicals, including Prediction, Gnostica, New Dimensions, Zodiac, and The Lamp of Thoth. She is a frequent guest on radio and television shows and lectures as well, working to dispel sensational misconceptions associated with the Old Religion and with the modern Craft. In 1978 she represented Wicca in the United Kingdom at an international occult conference in Barcelona.
In addition to her activities on behalf of the Craft, Crowther continued to work professionally as a singer, magician and puppeteer well her later years.
After her 70th birthday, Crowther received clairaudient guidance while meditating in a circle that she should call herself a “Grand-Mother of the Craft of the Wise.” She emphasized that the Craft concerns the evolution of the soul, and that its inner teachings should be transmitted orally.
“I am sure that the Craft/Paganism will have a big part to play in the centuries to come,” she stated. “We must not forget that in the New Age, the ruler of Aquarius is none other than the Star Goddess, whose white hand, even now, beckons the Children of the Earth to become Children of the Stars.”
- Crowther, Patricia. Witch Blood! New York: House of Collectibles, Inc., 1974.
—Lid Off the Cauldron: A Wicca Handbook. York Beach, Me.: Samuel Weiser, 1989.
— From Stagecraft to Witchcraft: The Early Years of a High Priestess. Milverton, Eng.: Capall Bann Publishing, 2002.