Frederick LaMotte Santee (17 September 1906 - 11 April 1980) was a medical doctor, occultist, and practicing warlock in rural Pennsylvania. He was the founder and leader of the Coven of the Catta, a coven that practices Gardnerian Wicca.
His life was an inspiration for the book Magicians, Martyrs, and Madmen, which includes his complete biography.
Santee was born on 17 September 1906 in the rural Pennsylvania town of Wapwallopen, the only child of Dr. Charles LaMotte Santee, and grandson of Dr. Ephraim A. Santee. Both his father and grandfather were practicing physicians.
Frederick was able to read English and German at age three and at the age of eight, wrote a translation of Caesar's Gallic War from the original Latin, which hd had taught himself by studying his grandfather's old Latin books. As a youth, he excelled at baseball, with a classmate claiming he was a "budding 'Babe' Ruth, whose heavy hitting had won more than one game for his team." Santee later claimed he tried very hard to be good at sports in the hopes of attracting girls.
In 1920, Santee became the youngest person accepted to Harvard University, at only age 13. Newspapers around the country carried reports of his remarkable achievement. The Scranton Times stated:
Frederick Santee, 13, Wapwallopen, son of Dr. and Mrs. Santee has matriculated for the regular course in Harvard University. He is the youngest ever to enter as a candidate for degree. The boy has been unusual since his first day in school…
He returned to Wapwallopen during his summer breaks to work on a local farm, but kept his own apartment in Boston, which was paid for by his parents. He won the Bowdoin prize for his Greek translations and graduated magna cum laude in 1924 at the age of 17 with a Bachelor's degree.
After leaving Harvard, Santee earned a second BA and an MA in classics at Oxford, before graduating from the University of Berlin with a PhD in 1928. He taught for several years, but after losing his teaching position during the Great Depression, he earned his MD in 1938 at John Hopkins University.
Involvement with the occult
Santee was introduced to the occult by his english professor at Harvard, George. L. Kittredge, author of the book Witchcraft in Old New England. During his time at Oxford, Santee became acquainted with W.B. Yeats, who was a member of Alpha et Omega, while the "modern witchcraft" movement was enjoying immense popularity throughout England. He was inducted into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and met Aleister Crowley and Israel Regardie. With the assistance of his philosophy professor, Dr. Brabbart, he became a member of the Theosophical Society of England.
While studying in Berlin, Santee was initiated into a Wiccan lineage by Arnold Reinman, who was a High Priest of the Black Forest Tradition. Santee's coven members claimed that during this time, "Europeans wanted to be guided by him" and he served as a homeopathic healer and quasi-religious advisor to Adolf Hitler.
In 1967, after returning to America and starting up his own medical practice out of his home in Wapwallopen, Santee and most of his staff of nurses were initiated into the New Forest Wicca lineage by Sybil Leek, creating the Coven of the Catta in the process.
As High Priest
From 1967 until his death in 1980, Frederick Santee was the High Priest of the Coven of the Catta. His High Priestess was the head nurse of his medical practice, Edna Kishbaugh Williams, who was nicknamed "Janie," but usually used her coven name, "Lady Phoebe."
Santee always considered himself a teacher, and in that respect, he instructed many people in the ways of Wicca. He did believe in God, but was disenfranchised with organized religion, having declared in 1950, “In religion, I lean towards Anglo Catholicism, am a member of no church.”
Santee died peacefully in his home in early April 1980. He left over $1,000 to various cat shelters. The bulk of his $200,000 estate was left to Edna Williams.
Despite being a prolific writer throughout his lifetime, only two of Santee's books were ever published. These were both limited editions printed by small presses.
- Sawdust and Tomatoes (1945)
- The Devil's Wager (1979)