Slade, Paddy (1939– ) English village witch or wise woman in the old hereditary tradition.
Paddy Slade was born Patricia Hadlow near Canterbury, kent, on September 29, 1939, to Robert and rose Hadlow. Her father was a sailor. She was the youngest of seven children, with three brothers and three sisters. She was nicknamed Paddy by her father.
Slade’s mother—a Highland Scot—and her father’s parents quietly practiced the old ways of the village witches or cunning men and women (see Cunning Man/Cunning Woman), which were absorbed by the young Paddy. Evidently destined for the path of the Witch, Slade had an initiatory visionary experience at the age of nine.
At the time, World War II was under way, and Canterbury was subjected to a 14-night blitz by the German Luftwaffe. residents were evacuated as the city burned, and Slade’s family went into the woods to sleep in tents. Slade describes the experience that happened one night:
I don’t know if it was a dream or it actually happened. It was very clear then and it is very clear to me now. I went out of the tent and started walking through the woods, which kept changing character. I came to a place where there was a stream. You don’t get water on high chalk land, but here was this stream. All around were all the flowers that were ever seen in the woods, from the early spring right through the year. There were lots of animals—weasels, badgers, foxes and all sorts. I looked at them and at all the flowers, wondering why there were violets and briar roses at the same time. Then I became aware of a great figure on the other side of the stream. It seemed to me that he was dressed in black leather. He had magnificent antlers. I looked up at him and said, “Are we going to die?” He said, “No, you’ve got far too much to do and learn.” He sat on the other side of the stream for awhile, telling me what I should know. Then he said, “I want you to meet somebody else.” He took me across the stream and put me in front of him on his horse, and off we went, up into the sky, such a long way. We came to a lovely place. There was a beautiful woman sitting on a stone. She started telling me more about what I needed to know and learn. When she finished, I was put back on a horse and brought back to my little bed in the tent. In the morning I told only my mother about it. She said, “You’ve been lucky—you have met the Horned God and the Goddess. But you are only nine. You have got to go to school, you have got to live with other people. Don’t forget about it, but keep it in the back of your mind. You are a very lucky girl.”
Slade did not share the experience with others until much later in life. She told it to her husband, Pete, who said, “I think you met your God.”
Slade went to Cambridge, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in medieval history and English. After college, she joined the Signals branch of the Women’s royal Air Force.
While in the service, Slade met her husband, Philip (Pete) Slade. They married in 1955, and had two sons: Robert, born in 1956, and Peter, born in 1957. military service took them abroad for several years to Singapore and Fiji.
After returning to England, husband Pete suffered a heart attack and died in 1962. As relatives and friends pressed her about what to do with her life, Slade decided to isolate herself by moving around to remote locations in the English countryside. For a time, she had no telephone. In 1982, she settled in a small village near Bath in Somerset, where she has remained to the present.
Immediately after Pete’s death, Slade lived on Dartmoor. There she had a second profound visionary experience that was her self-initiation as a witch. Although interested in the old Craft ways all of her life, she had not overtly practiced as a “witch.” One night she went out to the moor and found a natural magical circle with a standing stone. There she stayed all night and through the next day, having visionary encounters with a host of beings, including the Horned God and Goddess again; Puck, who became her dominant guide; the spirits of the elements; and other spirits.
The experience, she said, “shattered” her and left her significantly changed. She discovered an ability to attune to animals and trees, and to understand them (in folk tradition, the gift of understanding animals is bestowed by Puck when he takes a liking to a person). This especially aided her natural affinity with horses.
Slade embarked upon her path, developing her own methods for working magic. While she learned much from various teachers, including Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, her greatest teachers were nature and otherworldly beings. Education on the inner planes is characteristic of initiations in all great mystery traditions.
Slade advocates thoroughly experiencing the elements before practicing any kind of spells or magic. Some of this must be done naked and alone for very short periods in order to relate to the elements in the depths of one’s being. When one is thoroughly familiar with the elements and the rhythms of nature—it takes a year or two—then one is ready to learn magic. (She differentiates this nudity from the skyclad ritual nudity made popular by Gerald B. Gardner, which Slade considers a modern invention and not true to the old ways.)
As for modern WICCA and Witchcraft as a religion, Slade feels that most individuals who enter this path are well-intentioned, but some do not know what they’re doing, because they have not taken the time to educate themselves to the ways of nature: they get more caught up in artificial trappings and procedures than in real magic. modern craft lore about covens, hierarchies, working tools and so on has little, if anything, to do with traditional witchcraft.
Slade has taught her craft to many students, offering a course in “the Old Wild magic.” She is sought for herbal and magical remedies. In recent years, she has decreased her teaching and concentrated on her private path, working magic with a few individuals.
Slade is the author of To Thomas Monk with Grateful Thanks (1972), a biographical and historical work; Encyclopedia of White Magic (1990); Natural Magic (1990), a book about old-fashioned magic with the elements; Seasonal Magic: Diary of a Village Witch (1997), a revision of Natural Magic that follows her original vision for the book, and Tales Round the Cauldron (2004).
- Hedge Witch