History and Practices of the Coven of the Catta
Dame Sybil Leek
22 February 1917 – 26 October 1982
The Coven of the Catta ©, or CATTA COVEN ©, was formed around 1967 by Lord Merlin and Lady Phoebe Athena Nimue. They both loved cats and supported the Humane Society and gave the coven the totem of the cat “Bastet” from Egypt. Lord Merlin aka Dr Frederick LaMotte Santee had been familiar with many in the occult world including Sybil Leek. They met her in NYC and she was invited to Wapwallopen, Pa. When Sybil arrived at his bookhouse, according to Phoebe, she and the doctor’s secretary-librarians asked her to teach and initiate them into witchcraft to form a coven. Sybil’s lineage was from the Coven of the Horsa from the New Forest area SE of London England. She also hung out with and learned a lot from the Gypsies and their magickal ways. Before that the lineage came from Coven of the Red Dragon in Gorge du Loup (Wolf Gorge) in SE France. Santee was also initiated into various Covens and magickal groups in England, France, Germany, Italy and North Africa. So we would be considered a British and Continental Old Guard Tradition and Lineage Coven
Dr. Frederick LaMotte Santee
17 Sept 1907 – 11 April 1980
Santee himself carried a handful of witchcraft and occult lineages from Europe. The combination became the Coven of the Catta. At first they had their temple in the cellar of Santee’s house.
Lady Phoebe Athene Nimue
13 April 1921 – 5 December 2005
Lady Phoebe’s drawing Lady Triumphant
of the Goddess for The Cat’s Tale
Sometime in the 1970s Dr. Santee had a cinder block building built right next to his house and doctor’s office. Over the years he amassed a library that contained 50,000 books on all manner of subjects, from the Greek and Latin classics he loved to history and religion, including a fairly large occult section. There was the main room with fireplace and his large desk, another room with a round table for classes, a strong vault for the really old tomes dating back to the 17th century, and in the back a room used for rituals. After the book house was built, they moved their temple from the old to the new one in full ceremonial garb. From 1967 to 1980, the year of Santee’s death, the coven flourished with mostly members from the local community. In fact the Coven and the Doctor are somewhat of an urban legend in the area now with rumors of Satanism and cat sacrifices! The fact is they were just practicing good ole white witchcraft from everything I can see. They also published a newsletter called “The Cat’s Tale” (© circa 1967) in which various articles, spells and pictures were submitted by the main coven members. These articles were written with a typewriter back then and mimeographed for circulation. I wrote articles for this newsletter on my 1987 era Mac computer, which at the time was oh so high tech. This just reminds me how far we have come, from having to write letters on paper and mail them to people to nowadays where witches communicate through their email, blogs, social media sites and websites.
Original Temple of the COC
in the Santee Home Office
Bastet Cat’s Mark after the Fire
In 1979 someone broke into the book house to steal some of the doctor’s 17th century books and rumored gold and silver bars, then set fire to the place to cover it up. The resident cat Bastet was killed in the fire but left her mark on the floor to the temple. The place never fully repaired and the doctor died the next year.
Shawnus in the old Temple
in the Santee Bookhouse c.1980s
And that brings us up to 1981 when my Priestess Lady Iska Nuit Aradia and I arrived after answering an ad in Circle Network News that no one up claimed to have written. Over the next few months we drove almost a hundred miles north, cleaned out the temple, re-painted the three circles as prescribed, and rituals began again with some people from that area and mostly witches who came up from the Harrisburg area 8 times a year for Sabats. I drove up even more often to hand copy my own three “Books of Shadows” from Lady Phoebe’s two books, which is over 300 pages of material. Unfortunately when she passed all her possessions, including these books, were just thrown into the dumpster. Most of the material is from the books on witchcraft available in the 1970s, and the rituals mostly from Lady Sheba’s Books of Shadows. What Phoebe taught was what is called today “Old Guard Wicca”. We were taught to do the rituals as they were written in the books with no additions or subtractions. I suppose it is similar to a Catholic doing the Mass over and over. It may sound boring but there is a certain comfort in this type of ritual. The rituals for the Sabats were almost exactly alike except for short lines and ritual actions that were specific to the season. When it was time for our third degree initiation in which we were supposed to write our own ritual, Phoebe was not pleased with what we put together because it was too far off the original rituals. At other times we would often drive up and take Phoebe out into the woods to special places she loved. We would go up on Council Cup the nearby mountain and in the picture posted on the bio page she taught us how to call the winds by whistling for them. She felt close to her Amerindian past life and would tell us stories about it. At one place where her father had helped build an old stone bridge, out in the woods, she showed us the white spirit snake that Sybil had passed on to her, and that spirit was passed on to me at my first degree and integrated into my magicke. One thing about the COC system is that there is a lot of physical work between Probationership and the First degree and it does take a year and a day. In fact, that time period is between all the degrees. There are instruments to be made and found and consecrated. You can’t just buy everything on the internet like nowadays. We got blisters and bleeding fingers cutting our wands and besoms. For 9 years (1981-1990) we led a coven of many members who came and went. We and a handful of other witches who were initiated into the higher degrees over that time also, though most no longer practice that I know.
Hand copied Books of Shadows and Front Page
My Priestess and I eventually parted ways. Due to witch politics I eventually withdrew from being High Priest of the Coven and let things wane down, as they did. I had my falling out with Lady Phoebe at times, but eventually was also reconciled with her a few years before her death. Phoebe lost possession of the doctor’s house and book house and the latter fell into a more dilapidated state. I started doing the rituals again in her presence with Lady Alsace Isa Brie, an early elder member of the coven, as my Priestess. She is an Australian, a gifted psychic and wonderful gardener. We do these rituals mostly outside a couple times a year on her hilltop property outside Berwick, Pa. Sadly Lady Phoebe passed in 2005 and now the celebrants who come are mostly witches from other lineages and pagan friends. But now the circle of new Probationers and degreed witches is increasing once again.
In the last two years I have taken my three hand-copied Books of Shadows and turned them into Word documents and put them in various files that I considered public since they appeared to be copied from other books. I also wrote biographies which I had compiled from what Phoebe told me about Santee, and what I consider secret documents for those in the initiation process. One of the public documents I titled Coven of the Catta – Unique Ritual Practices and another one entitled Coven of the Catta – Teachings Blessings Spells Rites Magickes and Formulas and these have about 58 pages of writings condensed from the 300 pages in my Books of Shadows. I have tapped the expertise of a witch friend who has read almost everything published and has a great memory to let me know what is truly unique in the coven’s practices. I do know that the Books of Shadows are loosely based on Lady Sheba’s The Book of Shadows and The Grimoire of Lady Sheba. Other rituals and spells are from other books published in the 1960s to 1970s. But there are many practices which are quite unique and have put them in my books. I am not compromising anything which I would consider secret teaching which are reserved for Probationers and Initiates only.
I can see in the rituals both the hands of Lady Phoebe and Lord Merlin. I think the more traditional practices came from her and she copied a lot form the books she had read in the 1960s. I can see his hand in the parts which look and feel more like Golden Dawn material, a group he had been initiated into in England.
I have written and published two short books, one called Dr Frederick LaMotte Santee and the Coven of the Catta and Coven of the Catta – Elders and History, Unique Ritual Practices and Spells in which I reveal the history of my elders, the coven, and some witchcraft practices of our coven.
I hope my books have been of interest to those of you who already practice witchcraft in all its varied forms. Most lineages trace back to Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders and especially to Doreen Valiente. As I like to say we are all the bastard children of Gardner and Valiente. Our lineage traces back to Sybil Leek and there are few in this country who can say that. There has always been the question about whether Dame Sybil ever had her own Book of Shadows and I have never heard anyone say yea or nay. If she did have one then honoring her vows she did not publish it, and as you know she was a prolific writer with many books published. If there is such a book I would assume one of her relatives has it, or maybe it is so tucked away as to be lost. The main rituals of the Coven of the Catta are from one main ritual which I assume Lady Phoebe wrote with Lord Merlin.
Outside Ritual Pictures
Now I hope this website brings the teachings and lineage of the Coven of the Catta into the www in a way that will benefit many witches who practice the Old Path.
We do not accept convicted felons or tolerate the use of illegal drugs or drunkenness, though some of us wine and dine at the feast after ritual.
We celebrate the 8 traditional Sabats and some Esbats and healing circles. The rituals are done as they were given to us with rare minor additions for certain Sabats.
Rituals are done robed, not skyclad. The Great Rite is done symbolically with athame and cup, not physically, except amongst couples in their private rituals.
The word of the High Priestess or High Priest of the coven is Law. A coven is not a democracy except among higher degrees initiates.
We do not charge money for teachings and initiations but any contributions to ritual supplies are welcome.
If you are a student or member of another coven you must be a second degree near to your third degree and have permission from your teacher, or be a third degree already. if you join our coven you start from scratch in our degree system and are not automatically given the degree you already have in the other lineage.
The Coven of the Catta is not a social club, game or drama. This is the serious learning and practice of witchcraft. Keep your petty politics and gossip out of the coven.
You must respect the privacy of individuals and do not ask their real name or other information unless offered. No posting of coven activities or pictures on Facebook, Myspace or any other social media without permission.
If you are interested in this lineage then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will arrange for a meeting and interview at a public but private location, not at each others house. I will then decide if you are a suitable candidate for possible Probationership. The period of Probationership or Dedication is a year and a day before being considered for initiation into the first degree. The time period between the other degrees varies with the advancement of the initiate.
If you decide during your Probationership that this is not for you then you may freely leave but must return all coven teaching materials.
Booklet on the Coven of the Catta
Coven of the Catta – Elders and History Unique Ritual Practices and Spells
You Tube Videos
The Haunted series on The Animal Planet
Shawnus Merlin Belarion 3*
High Priest Coven of the Catta