Herman Slater (1938–1992) was an American Wiccan high priest and occult-bookstore proprietor and publisher, whose flamboyant style and out-spokenness earned him both admirers and critics. He viewed his role as “telling the truth” about Witchcraft and Paganism “within the context of today’s lifestyles.” Born in 1938, Slater grew up in a lower-middle-class Jewish neighbourhood of New York. At an early age, he became aware of anti-Semitism on the part of the Catholic Church, which became one of the influences that led him to Witchcraft.
He also was influenced to become politically active after seeing Frank Sinatra portray a politically strong figure in The House I Live In. Slater studied business administration at New York University, liberal arts at Hunter College and traffic management at the Traffic management Institute in New York. He completed a full course at the United States Navy Personnel School in Bainbridge, Maryland. From 1958 to 1969 he worked in a series of business jobs in management, traffic expediting and insurance-claims investigation.
In 1969 he was forced to quit work because he was suffering from tuberculosis of the bone, which cost him a hip bone and required three years of recuperation. Slater began experiencing paranormal phenomena, including clairvoyance and a mysterious Levitation. The Levitation occurred during his recuperation, in which he spent one year in bed in a body cast that weighed 300 pounds. One morning, he awoke and found himself, in his cast, stretched across a chair on the opposite side of the room.
His paranormal experiences led him to the Craft, and in 1972 he was initiated (see Initiation) into the New York Coven of Welsh Traditional Witches, of which Ed Buczynski was high priest. Slater and Buczynski became public advocates for Witchcraft and opened a bookstore in Brooklyn, the Warlock Shop. For several years they published a periodical, Earth Religion News. Through an affiliate organization, Friends of the Craft, they presented awards to the Inquisitional Bigot of the Year.
In 1972 Slater presented the award to NBC during a guest appearance on the Today show, for an episode of Macmillan and Wife that had taken Witchcraft rituals and corrupted them into Devilworship rituals for the plot. The outraged Today crew had Slater physically removed from the set.
In 1974 Slater was initiated into the Gardnerian tradition (see Gerald B. Gardner). He assumed leadership of the Coven in the late 1970s and moved it and the bookstore to manhattan. The coven was renamed Earthstar Temple, practicing a blend of Welsh and Gardernian traditions. The bookstore was renamed the magickal Childe. Slater devoted a great deal of time to educating others about Witchcraft. He was a frequent guest lecturer in area colleges.
He starred in his own video, An Introduction to Witchcraft and Satanism, in which he appears in his ceremonial robe and antler headdress, along with his Familiar, a snake named Herman. For awhile he hosted a weekly cable television show aired in manhattan, The Magickal Mystery Tour, which featured interviews, rituals, music, occultism and magic instruction. Slater loosely defined it as an “Earth religion 700 Club” because it spreads the word on the Old religion and asked for donations.
A self-professed conservative who opposed drugs, promiscuity and love magic, he was blunt in his criticism of Witches and Pagans who indulged in drugs and sex magic—practices that began to wane in the 1980s. He acknowledged that such bluntness made him unpopular. Slater is the author of A Book of Pagan Rituals, The Magickal Formulary and The Magickal Formulary II. He divided his time between manhattan where he lived with three dogs, a cat and the snake and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. His Craft name was Govanan. He died on July 9, 1992, of AIDS.