It would be true to say that I have left my own Wiccan Roots behind and yes; there is a pun in that comment. Although Gardnerian Witchcraft influenced Paganism is where I began my journey and although I have changed to reach a point some twenty five years later, where the ‘Wiccanesque’ influence is very much reduced. It is where I began and it would be foolish to deny that a residual element remains within me. It would be equally foolish to ignore the fact that I and many others who are not Wiccan, have benefited enormously from the public acceptance that has resulted from members of the Gardnerian and Alexandrian Traditions going public.
So it was that on Sunday the 6th of April 2014, I travelled in to Nottingham to attend and to support an event of significance to the Pagan Community at large. A Day for Patricia Crowther was jointly organised by the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation. The event was held to honour Patricia Crowther and to mark her remarkable contribution to the continued acceptance of alternative spiritualities. Mrs Crowther is a third degree Gardnerian High Priestess and as one of the last contemporaries of Old Gerald, an important link to that heady time when Wicca and by implication Paganism, stepped out of the shadows.
The day consisted primarily of four segmented talks. These included presentations by Vivianne & Chris Crowley, Rufus & Melissa Harrington, Philip Heselton and John Harper. These talks covered the history of Gardnerian Witchcraft, its contemporary influence, Mrs Crowthers’ own contribution and in the case of Mr Harper, a talk on magic and astronomy that was very well received by an appreciative Nottinghamshire audience.
The day also included a question and answer session with four experts or Craft Elders up on the stage, there to field questions from the massed audience. This section of the itinerary was led by John Belham-Payne, trustee and founder of the Centre for Pagan Studies. The panel acquitted themselves well presenting a highly professional image of Wicca, which was of a deeper and more spiritually meaningful variety than the pop-wicca presented to the public usually.
Unfortunately perhaps, not being Wiccan myself some of these experts were and remain, unknown to me. Their fame perhaps not extending far outside of the close knit community that is initiated Gardnerian Wicca or perhaps London. What is important however is that they presented a true and accurate image of that specific Craft Tradition. In the words of another, they were on the day true ambassadors for Wicca and highlighted the difference between Wicca proper and the wicca of the popular press and reality TV show.
The day was interspersed with short breaks and a longer lunch break. This allowed time for socialising with friends, making new friends and browsing the many quality stalls in the hall. I was surprised and indeed rather disconcerted, to find myself recognised by a few complete strangers. It is difficult to appreciate as a writer how many do read ones’ work, either in print or via this BLOG.
This unknown readership included on the day, a charming American gentleman called Al. This gentleman had with his endearing young son, travelled over especially for the event, making it part of a longer holiday. We enjoyed a brief chat in which he told me of his involvement with Mrs Crowther and a Youtube project based upon one of her books. He also rather astutely spotted an item of craft jewellery I was wearing, explaining that he knew the American silversmith that had made my specially commissioned piece.
TVEIR HRAFNAR: MAGICKAL TALISMANS CRAFTED BY HAND IN STERLING SILVER
In another room was a small exhibition of early Wiccan artefacts from the Doreen Valiente collection. This included what is by modern standards, a rather garish wand that once belonged to Gerald Gardner and a magnificent Book of Shadows written in his own hand. One item of particular note, shown to me by my friend Ashley Mortimer a Trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, was a clay plate of an unknown age and provenance. The main upper part of which is completely plain, the underside however is clearly designed for use a pentacle. Truly it would be a secret hidden in plain sight, when placed unobtrusively in a cupboard.
The final part of the day was the appearance of the lady herself on stage, to answer questions, to entertain and to sing a spirited rendition of a Pagan version of Lord of the Dance. Mrs Crowther then drew the tombola or as she insisted it be called, the raffle. Mrs Crowther presented each and every winner of the raffle with their prize which she chose, before patiently signing autographs.
Ashley Mortimer, Patricia Croather and John Belham-Payne
In my opinion this event is likely to be remembered as one of the most important to take place in the East Midlands for a number of years. Furthermore, the Centre for Pagan Studies should be congratulated not only for their professionalism but for having the courage to hold an event of such import to the Pagan Community in Nottingham. As has been proved by other towns and cities such as; Derby (the Witan 2011), Glastonbury (The Hecate Symposium and the Occult Conference), Ludlow (the Occult Conference), Boscastle (various events associated with the Museum of Witchcraft) and Leeds (the Day of Mysteries and Magic), not every culturally significant event of import takes place in the English capital or indeed needs to.
Ashley Mortimer and the Chattering Magpie
Picture © J. Burton 2014
Some will no doubt overlook the significance of this event, noting that Patricia Crowther as a High Priestess of the Gardnerian Tradition, may not be an immediate source of inspiration for those outside of the more ‘wiccanesque’ influenced Pagan paths. This is a valid observation but does rather neglect the enormous contribution made by people such as Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Patricia Crowther, Alex Sanders and others to the growth and general acceptance of Paganism within Britain.
Both the Gardnerian and Alexandrian Witchcraft Traditions, what today we may commonly refer to as Wicca, were following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act, of an enormous social interest during the 1950’s and 1960’s. This was a time when Britain faced continued internal sociological change after the Second World War and came to terms with the inevitable loss of a World Empire.
This event was not simply about Wicca and this event was not just for Wiccans. Far from it, this was a celebration of the life and contribution of Patricia Crowther and her generation to the Pagan Community at large.
A DAY FOR PATRICIA CROWTHER took place on Sunday 6th April 2014 Nottingham. The event was organised by the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation and was held to honour the life and work of Mrs Crowther.
Details of the Centre for Pagan Studies and their work can be found here: http://centre-for-pagan-studies.com/
All images © D.B. Griffith 2014 unless otherwise stated.
Images may not be reproduced without permission of the photographer or that of the CfPS and the DVF.
My own tombola or raffle prize