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Herman Slater

 

(Horrible Herman)

 

 

Written and compiled by George Knowles

 

During the early 1970’s at a time when the revival of contemporary witchcraft in America was still in it’s hay-day, Herman Slater was a Wiccan High Priest and proprietor of a well-known occult bookstore.  Slater was an out-spoken and flamboyant man who attracted both critics and admirers.  A businessman first and foremost and to his own advantage, he never the less did much to advance the growth of contemporary witchcraft in America.

 

Slater was born of Jewish parents in 1938 and brought up in a lower middle class neighborhood of New York.  At an early age he became aware of the anti-Semitic prejudices directed against Jews.  In the first instance on the part of the Catholic Church, for it was not until the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965 that the Roman Catholic Church formally repudiated the charge that all Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, and condemned genocide and racism as un-Christian, and in the second instance on the part of the American government, who prior to 1945 had excluded all Jews from taking academic posts in universities.  During his teens, Slater became politically active in the equal rights movement.

 

Slater studied business administration at New York University, and then Liberal Arts at Hunter Collage, before studying Traffic Management at the Traffic Management Institute in New York.  He also completed a full-time course at the United States Navy Personnel School in Bainbridge, Maryland.  From 1958 through to 1969 he held down a number of positions from business management, to traffic control, to insurance claims investigations, but in 1969 he was forced to stop working due to ill health.  He was diagnosed and found to be suffering from tuberculosis of the bone, the treatment of which cost him a hipbone replacement and required three years of recuperation.

 

During his convalescence and with nothing better to do, Slater began to read about and experiment with the Occult Psychic Sciences, such like divination (tarot cards), clairvoyance and the mystical art of levitation.  He experienced levitation first hand during his recuperation, when he had to stay in bed for a year wearing a body cast with a weight of some 300 pounds.  One morning he found himself in his cast stretched across a chair on the other side of the room??  This experience caused him to delve deeper into such phenomena and eventually led him to discover Witchcraft.

 

After leaving hospital Slater joined a New York coven of Welsh Traditional Witches led by High Priest Ed Buczynski (Lord Gywddion), into which he was initiated in 1972 and given a craft name of Lord Govannon.  The two soon became lovers and formed a partnership to promote Witchcraft.  Together they opened a small Witchy bookstore on Henry St in Brooklyn Heights, New York, called “The Warlock Shop”.  Buczynski being the more magical and spiritual part of the relationship, left much of the business side of the shop to Slater, under whose savvy guidance it soon became a profitable venture.  More importantly the Warlock Shop quickly established itself as the central information hub for local Witches and the newly emerging Neo-pagan communities.

 

Ed Buczynski

 

With the business established, and in order to further to promote witchcraft, Slater then formed a publishing company from which to publish their own magazine, a periodical called:  Earth Religion News”.  The magazine was an immediate success, but quickly gained notoriety for its explicit contents and cover designs.  Slater devoted much of his time to educating others, and was a frequent guest speaker at many of New York’s colleges.  He also starred in his own video:  An Introduction to Witchcraft and Satanism”, in which he appears dressed in his ceremonial robe and antler headdress, together with his familiar animal, a pet boa constrictor he called Herman.

 

Earth Religion News magazine

 

Slater by this time had become a minor local celebrity and in his efforts to promote witchcraft, he hosted a weekly cable television show from Manhattan, called:  The Magickal Mystery Tour”.  In it he featured interviews, rituals, music, occult practises and magic, but not without controversy.  In public Slater professed himself to be a conservative, and vehemently opposed to drugs, promiscuity and sex magic.  As such he was often vocal in his condemnation of other witches and pagans for their moral conduct, stating that they should stay in monogamous relationships.  Yet privately he did not practice what he preached, for he was known to keep a steady stream of gay lovers outside of his relationship with Buczynski.

 

This contradictory side to Slater’s nature would show itself time and again throughout his life, and earned him the title “Horrible Herman”.  Indeed sometimes he seems to have enjoyed cultivating such a persona.  On one memorable occasion during his stint as a TV host, he controversially presented an annual award called the “Inquisitional Bigot of the Year”.  During a guest appearance on the “Today show” in 1972, he presented the award to NBC for an episode of their “Macmillan and Wife” series.  In it they had taken an innocent witchcraft ritual and portrayed it as Devil worship.  The Today crew were outraged and physically remove Salter from the set.

 

In 1974 Slater was initiated into a Gardnerian coven and a few years later assumed its leadership as High Priest.  The coven was renamed the “Earthstar Temple” and practised a mixed blend of Welsh and Gardnerian witchcraft.  Also in 1974 and through his publishing company, Slater published his first book:  A Book of Pagan Rituals” and again controversy came calling, bringing with it serious repercussions that would blacken his name and turn many in the pagan community against him.  The book itself is excellent, and contains many examples of basic, simple and meaningful rituals, a must have for any pagan library.

 

Pagan Rituals book cover

 

However the book was not altogether authored by Slater, but merely compiled by him without crediting his sources.  The rituals were almost entirely taken from the “Outer Court Book of Rituals” belonging to the “Pagan Way Tradition” founded in 1970, much of which had been written by Ed Fitch.  Many think Slater plagiarized and stole the writings of the Pagan Way founders, which included Ed Fitch, John Hansen, Joseph B. Wilson, Tony Kelly and Herman Enderle, and published them in his own name for personal gain and credit.  However, Slater later sold publishing rights to the book to Donald Weiser of Weiser’s Books for a mere $500.00, so he hardly made a fortune out of it??

 

    

Ed Fitch  -  Joseph B. Wilson

 

Whether he did or not is open to speculation, but the fact remains that the original rituals were placed in the public domain and published in numerous magazines and periodicals, among them “The Waxing Moon” and “The Crystal Well”, and freely distributed to be used by one and all.  The fact that Slater compiled them into one volume, though no question he should have shared the credit, means that many thousands of people still gain benefit from them, when otherwise many would have been lost over time.  In this way Slater acted no differently from other great leaders of the revival before him, for example:  Alex Sanders who allegedly plagiarized Gerald Gardner’s “Book of Shadows” and Israel Regardie who published the ritual workings of the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn”.  Where would we be today had they not so???

 

          

Alex Sanders     -     Gerald Gardner     -     Israel Regardie

 

In 1976, Slater and Buczynski decided they had out-grown their shop in Brooklyn and move into new premises at 35 West 19th Street in Chelsea, Manhattan.  Due to the negative connotations of the word “Warlock”, they renamed the shop “The Magickal Childe”.  Slater now had enough space to dramatically increase the shop’s merchandising, and through his connections, the new shop soon became the premier occult store in New York, and for a time operated as one of the largest occult mail-order businesses in the country.

 

In addition to herbs, oils, candles, books, robes, swords and other accoutrements of the Craft, there was also an array of human skulls, dried bats, mummified cat’s paws and a wide variety of unusual jewellery.  A back room of the store served as a temple and classroom for various traditions of Wicca, Witchcraft and Neo-pagan groups as they evolved, and was made available for them to use as a place for their private meetings.  It also served as the centre from which the growth of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) began in New York during the late 1970’s early 80’s.

 

Aleister Crowley

 

In 1977, his partner Ed Buczynski founded the Minoan Brotherhood, a tradition designed exclusively for Gay men to enable them to explore and perform traditional Witchcraft rituals without the conventional constraints normally imposed on gender, and to enjoy the same sexual mysticism and sense of empowerment as did other traditional forms of Wicca and Witchcraft.  As a Gardnerian initiate, Buczynski created the Minoan rituals based roughly on those of the Gardnerian tradition, but with changes to its core mythology and ritual customs.  They used the imagery and deities of Ancient Crete and Mycenae, but their working tools and uses were similar to those of British traditional Wicca.

 

With Slater’s help through contacts gained from The Magickal Childe, they assisted Carol Bulzone (Lady Miw) of the Enchantments Occult shop in New York and Lady Rhea of the Magickal Realms Occult shop in the Bronx, to established the Minoan Sisterhood, a similar but Gay Woman’s tradition, providing a means for women to celebrate their own Mysteries, again without the traditional constraints of gender.  Today the Minoan tradition consists of three branches, the Minoan Brotherhood (gay men) the Minoan Sisterhood (gay women) and the Cult of the Double Axe/Cult of Rhea (gay men and women together).

 

Throughout the late 1970’s Slater continued to publish books with occult themes, not all of them his own.  The most famous and popular book he published was the controversial “Necronomicon”, a fictitious spell book originating from the mythical Cthulhu fantasy stories of H.P. Lovecraft.  Slater however employed a controversial marketing strategy to ensure the success and popularity of the Necronomicon, in other words he created a scam to make the book appear to be authentic and of ancient origin.

 

 

    

The Necronomicon book cover     -     H.P. Lovecraft

 

Slater put the word out that a Russian monk called “Simon” had brought a rare unknown manuscript into his store, which he claimed had been found among those of a rare book heist during the 1970’s.  A rare book heist did take place in the early 70’s, but the Necronomicon manuscript was not among those stolen, for it never existed.  The book heist was merely the ploy used by Slater to lend the “alleged” manuscript credibility.  Slater then put together a team to create the Necronomicon, complete with manuscript and make it appear authentic to the public.

 

The team consisted of a few friends:  L. K. Barnes the owner of Barnes Graphics and a publishing company called “Schlangekraft”, James Wasserman who was responsible for the book’s layout, Khem Set Rising who designed the magical mandala and seals, and Peter Levenda (aka “Simon”) who researched and wrote the text for the book, then acted as the general editor (he was apparently awarded half of the book’s royalties for his part in the scam??).

 

Slater published the Necronomicon in December of 1977 as a limited edition of 666 leather bound hardback books, which quickly sold out even with a price tag of $75.00.  In the following year, a second edition of 3,333 books also sold out, followed by a third printing of unknown quantity.  Clearly the Necronomicon was a huge success and became the talk of the occult community, but once news of the scam and the books authenticity broke; Slater was accused of defrauding the public.  In 1980 Slater sold the rights to Necronomicon to Avon Publishing, who re-issued the book as a paperback retailing at just $5.00, since then the book has never been out of print.

 

Throughout the 1980’s Slater continued to run the Magickal Childe as the oldest occult store in New York, but every now and again rummours would cirulate that he had problems with the IRS due to unpaid sales taxes, at which point he would threaten to sell the shop, but he never did.  He also continued to write and compile books, the most popular being his:  Magickal Formulary Spellbook Book I & II and The Hoodoo Bible.  Toward the end of his life Slater devided his time between Manhatten where he lived with 3 dogs, a cat and his pet boa constrictor called Herman, and a second holiday home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

 

Magickal Formularybook cover

 

In 1989 Slater’s long time lover and partner Ed Buczynski passed away into the Summerland’s after complications brought on through the dreaded “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome” (AIDS).  Just two years later on the 09th July 1992 having contracted the same disease, Herman Slater followed him.

 

During his time Herman Slater was a colourful and charismatic man who inspired the people he was associated with, but he was also a businessman first, who took every opportunity to raise a few more bucks.  Raymond Buckland on one occasion presented him with a “cast cross-hilt and pommel for a Gardnerian Wicca Sword (made by Gerald Gardner), on the strict understanding that it was for his own personal use and not for commercial use”, but within a week or so of his receiving it, his shop catalogue of sale items contained replicas made from the original.  Such was his way; he was either loved or hated by the community at large.

 

Raymond Buckland

 

Slater was a rogue of the highest order, but despite all his faults, he made a considerable contribution to the revival of contemporary witchcraft in America, particularly in New York.  His dedication was rewarded after his death when friends and ex-employees banded together in order to keep his legacy open.  After his death they managed to keep his shop “The Magickal Childe” operating.  Unfortunately however, he had left a huge debt in unpaid sales taxes, despite this the shop continued to trade for a number of years before finally closing its doors in 1999.  All that remains today is the shop’s official website:  http://www.magickalchilde.com/, which continues to be run by his friends and supporters as a tribute to the man that so inspired them.

 

End.

 

Sources:

 

Books:

 

Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft  - By Raven Grimassi

The Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft  - By Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The Witch Book - The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism  -  By Raymond Buckland

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

Websites:

http://www.magickalrealms.com/EdmundBuczynskiEdwardian.html

http://www.greenfaeriegrove.org/member-articles/ed-buczynski/#

http://rigorousintuition.blogspot.com/2005/11/weird-tales.html

http://www.nypress.com/print.cfm?content_id=8374

http://www.magickalchilde.com/herman.html

http://www.necfiles.org/necfile.html

 

 

Written and compiled on the 23rd February 2008, updated on the 08th July 2009  ©  George Knowles.

 

Best wishes and Blessed Be

 

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Wicca & Witchcraft

 

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Traditional Writings:

 

 Wiccan RedeCharge of the GoddessCharge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches ChantThe Witches CreedDescent of the GoddessDrawing Down the MoonThe Great Rite InvocationInvocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of ChivalryA Pledge to Pagan Spirituality

 

Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColoursMagickal DaysStones and GemsElements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /

 

Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /

 

Other things of interest:

 

Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology)Esbats & Full MoonsLinks to Personal Friends & ResourcesWicca/Witchcraft ResourcesWhat's a spell?Circle Casting and Sacred Space /  Pentagram - PentacleMarks of a WitchThe Witches PowerThe Witches HatAn esoteric guide to visiting LondonSatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  /  Part 2 Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /  The History of ThanksgivingI have a Dream, the 1963 speach by civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King /  Auras by Graham Furnell - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

Sabbats and Rituals:

 

Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:  Samhain / YuleImbolcOstara /  BeltaneLithaLammasMabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron MagickMirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrowFoxFrog and ToadsGoat / HoneybeeKangarooLionOwlPhoenixRabbits and HaresRavenRobin RedbreastSheep SpiderSquirrelSwansWild Boar /  Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow /  Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  ElderAlso see:  The Willow Tree (Folk Music)

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

 Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:   / Apophyllite  / Amber AmethystAquamarineAragoniteAventurineBlack TourmalineBloodstoneCalciteCarnelianCelestiteCitrineChrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / FluoriteGarnet /  Hematite Herkimer DiamondLabradoriteLapis LazuliMalachiteMoonstoneObsidianOpalPyriteQuartz (Rock Crystal)Rose QuartzRubySeleniteSeraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodaliteSunstoneThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakeningThe Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murder by WitchcraftThe Fairy Witch of ClonmelA Battleship, U-boat, and a WitchThe Troll-Tear (A story for Children)Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-LanternThe Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the MageAgrippaAidan A. KellyAlbertus Magnus “Albert the Great”Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” Alison HarlowAmber KAnna Franklin /  Anodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey  / Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite Austin Osman SpareBiddy EarlyBridget ClearyCarl Llewellyn WeschckeCecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey LelandCharles Walton /  Christina Oakley Harrington /  Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) /   Dion FortuneDolores Aschroft-NowickiDorothy MorrisonDoreen ValienteEdward FitchEleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” /  Dr. John Dee and Edward KellyDr. Leo Louis Martello /  Eliphas LeviErnest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry /  Fiona Horne /  Friedrich von SpeeFrancis Barrett /  Gerald B. GardnerGavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gwydion PendderwenHans Holzer /  Helen DuncanHerman Slater "Horrible Herman" /  Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" MurrellJanet Farrar & Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne John George Hohman /  John GerardJohn Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJohannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von EckartshausenLaurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis Spence /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General”Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata /  Monique Wilson the “Queen of the WitchesMontague SummersNicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellersMrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-RavenheartOld Dorothy ClutterbuckOld George Pickingill /   Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsusPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip Emmons Isaac Bonewits Philip HeseltonRaymond BucklandReginald ScotRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /  Rudolf Steiner /  Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & DruidsSabrina - The Ink WitchScott CunninghamSelena FoxSilver Ravenwolf /  Sir Francis DashwoodSir James George FrazerS.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  StarhawkStewart FarrarSybil LeekTed AndrewsThe Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather /  Thomas AdyVera Chapman /  Victor Henry AndersonVivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest

 

 

Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)

 

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