Article by Goddess Rosemary Sahjaza
On this date in the year 1992, Herman Slater - a Wiccan High Priest and well-known occult author, the proprietor of “The Magickal Childe” bookstore and Witchcraft supply shop in New York City, lost his battle against AIDS. His death was a great loss to the magickal community. We remember you, Herman!!
The Magickal Childe, New York City’s oldest and longest-running occult bookshop, started life as “The Warlock Shop” in Brooklyn Heights, situated on Henry Street, just off Atlantic Ave, during the early 1970s. In 1979, Herman moved the shop to 35 West 19th Street in Greenwich Village, and with the move changed its name to The Magickal Childe. The new shop soon became established. Inside was an ever-flowing waterfall, and as the smell of incense invaded your senses, the sight of shelves stocked with jars and books filled the mind with intrigue. This was where I first met Herman in about 1985. You can get a glimpse of the shop in the movie “Vampire's Kiss.”
Herman Slater’s Jewish parents hailed from New Paltz, a lower-middle-class suburb of New York, where he was born in 1935. From the beginning, he was in search of his own path.
In the 1970s - 1980s he published a newspaper called Earth Religion News. I think my favorite book he had his pen on was: The Magickal Formulary I & II. He also wrote: The Hoodoo Bible, Introduction to Witchcraft, Pagan Rituals, and A Book of Pagan Rituals I & II. This included the idea of pre-initiation into a Coven and the concept of a Pagan Grove as an Outer Court extension of the Coven.
He also published his own version of H.P. Lovecraft’s: Necronomicon, which was perhaps the reason some people started to call him “Horrible Herman”? This body of work was rumored to have come from the Catholic Church, from a library text given to him by an Old Catholic Archbishop named Simon. Another rumor was that a mysterious Russian Monk called Simon delivered it to his shop. Those who knew about this unsubstantiated information; then dubbed the work Simonomicon. The truth of this will never be revealed, as this is one of the mysteries that he would never deny or confirm.
Herman’s Necronomicon was published in 1977, with a publication of 666 copies. The next year another 3,333 copies were published, followed later by a third issue of an unknown number of copies. The first books were all leather bound with a price of $75.00 each. Then an elaborate “manuscript” was created and touted to be the manuscript that Herman received under mysterious circumstances, but no one knows the real story. Herman created a beautiful work as his version of the Necronomicon with the help of Schlangekraft and James Wasserman as part of the layout team, and Khem Set Rising who designed the book raised seals. In 1980 the rights to the book were then sold to “Avon Publishing”, who produced a paperback copy at a cost of $5.00 each.
Herman also produced his own version of the Gardnerian Wicca Sword created by Gerald Gardner, of which he sold replicas of the original given to him as a gift by Raymond Buckland. Herman had a good sense of humor and was a trickster, but he could get you just about any candle, herb, potion, book, card-deck, charm bell or whistle you would ever want or need.
Herman was known as Lord Govannan in his Earth Star Temple, and was a smiling player of the “Witch Wars of the Seventies”. The NY Welsh tradition came to be with the help of Herman and his partner Ed Buczynski, who founded the tradition in the 1960s. Eventually, Gardnerians, Welsh Trads, Alexandrians and Sicilian Trads all came to be seated around a table in the back of Herman’s shop. Lady Rhea could often be found mixing oils there, as did many other prominent people from various traditions involved in the world of magick, meet and work together there. People from different religious areas, from Voodooen’ to Wicca, to Crowley's Magickal Order (the O.T.O.) also found a safe haven there.
Herman studied Business at NYU, and Liberal Arts at Hunter College in 1969 until ill health caused him to stop working. He had TB (tuberculosis) of the bone. While he was recovering he began to explore the Occult and Psychic Sciences. During his stay in bed, and after a year or so in casts, they managed to cure him of TB, but it cost him a hip replacement. Science was not as progressed then and hip replacement was not what it is today. His interest in psychic phenomena began with levitation, which no doubt was due to the fact he was unable to get around in a body cast. He also gained an interest in divination and the tarot. He studied the occult sciences for many years after his recovery and insisted that he had on a few occasions been able to levitate. You could never tell when he was serious or when he was joking, so one never knows, perhaps he did?
At the end of his life, Herman owned 3 of his beloved dogs, Salukis, but as his hip prevented him from walking the dogs, he always maintained someone to serve as a “dog-walker”. He also had a cat and a boa constrictor, and at the end, he spent some of his time at his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and some of his time in NYC where he lived on 16th Street. For a while after his death, loyal fans, friends and employees tried to keep the shop open, and for a while, it stayed open, but debts, taxes and bills left unpaid, all took there toll and sadly it was closed in 1999.
There were times when the shop did not keep regular hours, it was open when it was and closed when it was not. I remember many times in the 80s and 90s going there during normal hours only to find it was closed. Herman’s Magickal Childe was an institution to East Coast Pagans of all paths. Curiosities stacked on dark wood shelves and in glass cases, still cause one to recall the combined smell and aroma of books, candles and large glass jars full of herbs to one's memory.
I can still remember the first time I opened the door to that fragrant shop and came in out of blinding sunlight. The first person I focused on when I could see again was Herman behind his counter. He was counting bones or some other items for display. I looked around and there were colored books, oddities and flyers all over the place. He was both friendly that day and none committal like he was curious and could care less. At the same time, he was a man of many contradictions and was from that first meeting my strange and totally interesting friend.
Copyright © June 2010 by Goddess Rosemary Sahjaza
George Knowles at Controverscial.com
The Witch Book - The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism - By Raymond Buckland
Plus many other personal sources.
Published in issue #21 of Autoeroticasphyxium