Exploring Sheffield's fascinating links with the world of modern-day witchcraft

From Mother Shipton to Mary Pannal and Mary Bateman, Yorkshire has a long association with witchcraft - but did you know that Sheffield has strong links with the modern day form of the religion?

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 8:50 am
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 8:50 am

Wicca became a driving force in the world of new religions in the early half of the last century and draws heavily on pagan beliefs - the driving force behind historic witchery.

Followers often dorn dark robes, believe in a Lord and Lady, and often practice magic as part of their religious beliefs - and a belief in reincarnation is common amongst many followers.

While practice is diverse, along with any religious movement, some also believe in a higher being still, beyond human understanding, and follow a belief system similar to ‘karma’ - that bad deeds will be served back on the offender.

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Patricia and Arnold Crowther, pictured with Gerald Gardner

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The Wicca movement was first launched on the world proper in the 1950s by chief Wiccan Gerald Gardner.

But A Sheffield woman, Patricia Crowther - along with Doreen Valiente, Lois Bourne and Eleanor Bone - is considered one of the early mothers of the movement.

Born in the city in 1927, she was initiated into the movement by Gardner in 1960 and, along with her husband Arnold, who died in 1974, they went on to become High Priest and Priestess of the Sheffield Coven, which they founded in 1961.

Arnold, who had worked as a stage magician, became fascinated by witchcraft after meeting Gardner shortly after the Second World War, but was not formally indoctrinated until 18 years later.

Born in Cheltenham, Arnold’s magic show - called Black Magic - was a huge success after he performed before the then Princess Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

He also toured Europe during the Second World War entertaining the troops.

The pair wrote two titles together on the theme of Wicca and witchcraft as well as a six-part radio series, produced on Radio Sheffield in 1974.

Going under the craft name Thelema and set to turn 93 this year, Patricia went on to write many more books about witchcraft, including Witch Blood:The Diary of a Witch High Priestess (1974), Lid off the Cauldron: A handbook for witches (1981), and Covensense (2009).

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