Clairaudiently given the title Grandmother of the Craft of the Wise, Patricia Crowther's witch roots run deep into the history of Wicca. As one of the first High Priestesses in Gerald Gardner's coven, she was privy to and part of the great Wiccan rebirth movement of the sixties and onward.
Most of what we know as Wicca today comes from that select group of witches who brought the practice to the mainstream. So, in case you are unfamiliar with her contribution to Wicca, let us discover everything we can about the enigmatic and illustrious witch named Patricia Crowther.
Patricia Dawson was born in Sheffield, England, on a warm October day, in 1927. From an early age, Patricia showed evidence of clairvoyant sensitivities—something that her neighbor, Madame Melba, would point out to her mother.
She insisted that Patricia had an innate gift for seeing beyond and encouraged her to nurture Patricia's gift. All evidence points to her mother taking this advice, as most remember the young Patricia as imaginative, inquisitive, and curious. As a child, Patricia delighted in everything to do with fairies and nature.
She claimed she could communicate with the fairies, and they would tell her secrets from beyond the pale—secrets that most people weren't ready to hear. She often fantasized about turning into a fairy and traveling the world.
Something that she would definitely do as she got older...just without the wings.
Patricia sought the spotlight and pursued a career on stage, acting, dancing, and singing. She achieved moderate success and was able to remain steadily employed, doing what she loved for years. During this time, Patricia met a hypnotist who helped her see into a couple of possible past lives. In the first one, she was an old lady living in a hut in the middle of the woods with a few small animals.
The year was 1670, and witches were something the general population had been trained to fear. She feared for her life but continued to brew potions and salves for the people who despised her. It was the only way she could earn a living, but she knew it would be the end of her.
In the second flashback, she was a High Priestess in the service of a Goddess. Patricia would later say that she much preferred the second life as it resonated with her more than the first. She did not know it yet, but that experience would lead her down the path to becoming a High Priestess once more.
In 1954, Patricia went to see a fortune teller who would predict a major life change. She said that Patricia would meet her husband in two years over water. The two years came and went, and Patricia found herself on a plane crossing the Solent (a channel between the coast of Hampshire and the Isle of White), where she met Arthur Crowther, a stage magician and ventriloquist who was appearing in the same show in which Patricia was.
Sure enough, a romance sparked between the two, and they quickly bonded. They found they had much in common, including an interest in the Occult. Once Arthur learned of Patricia's interest in witchcraft, he grew eager to introduce her to his friend...Gerald Gardner.
High Priestess Reborn
It did not take long before Patricia found her place at Gerald Gardner's side. The two were like long-lost friends and easily forged a strong relationship of mentor and apprentice. Gerald was also in need of a new High Priestess, having had a falling out with his former High Priestess, Doreen Valiente. And so he initiated Patricia into his Bricket Wood Coven on June 6th, 1960, in his home on the Isle of Man. During her initiation ceremony, Patricia had a profound vision.
She saw herself being reborn as a Moon Goddess Priestess through a long line of howling women who passed her through their wombs.
Gerald would explain the experience as being another past life regression wherein Patricia was given ancient ritual rites. After her initiation was over, Patricia initiated Arthur into the coven as the new High Priestess. After that night, Patricia would go by the craft name Thelema.
In the autumn of that year, Patricia and Arthur were married by Gerald Gardner in a skyclad ceremony (naked). The hand-fasting ceremony took place in the center of a circle strewn with wildflowers. The couple danced, sang, and jumped the broom as per tradition.
They and their guests celebrated into the wee hours of the morning. The next day, they partook in a civil ceremony with pictures taken that would be suitable for the papers.
As minor celebrities connected to the media landscape through their time in the theatre, Patricia and Arthur became known as spokespersons for the craft. They did many interviews themselves and provided opportunities for Gerald Gardner to give his own.
This is one of the reasons for the split between Gerald Gardner and his first High Priestess, Doreen Valiente.
Valiente did not think the craft’s secrets should be so heavily publicized. She believed it should be kept in the shadows for the true seekers to find. Gardner believed the opposite.
So after Doreen left the Bricket Wood Coven, there was room for another High Priestess. Patricia was perfect for the role and became a great forward face for the media.
She was charismatic and personable, and the camera loved her—not to mention she loved the camera. There were few engagements she would turn down if it meant publicity for herself or the craft.
Some expressed concerns that Patricia was more in it for herself than for the exposure and advancement of Wicca. They worried that the actress in her was too egotistical to defer the spotlight away from herself.
But, regardless of what people thought of her, she truly did make her mark in the media and is one of the most photographed and quoted witches from the revival movement.
As many people do when they reach that level of notoriety, Patricia and Arthur decided to start writing books. The duo authored two books together, The Witches Speak (1965) and The Secrets of Ancient Witchcraft (1974).
After Arthur's death in 1974, Patricia immersed herself in her work. She frequently appeared on radio and television programs, attended speaking engagements, and continued writing books. With the help of various other co-authors, she wrote:
Patricia's message is clear wherever she speaks it. She is dedicated to the betterment of the craft and works diligently to dispel misconceptions and untruths spread by malicious religious smear campaigns. She holds the craft dear to her heart and says she simply cannot sit idly by while careless others try to destroy what she and her friends built.
She is mainly referring to those who carelessly endeavor to practice witchcraft—for whom the craft is not respected by discipline and dedication to the rituals and rites and is merely played with for amusement. She always has been adamant that Wicca should be revered and not toyed with for woe betide the one who does not fully understand the power at work.
As of the writing of this article, Patricia Crowther is still alive and well at 96 years of age. She is still an active member of the Wicca community (though not as active as she would like to be), and she maintains a thriving group of students who look to her for guidance. Even at her advanced age, she still does everything she can to guide the seekers of the craft.
Her legacy has been cemented in the community for decades and shows no evidence of diluting away in the near future. For those who love her, Patricia Crowther truly is the Grandmother of the Craft of the Wise and will be remembered as such for a long time to come.