Tuesday, March 3, 2015

History of Neopaganism and Druidry - Part 4

Identify and explain the importance each of the follow has hand in Neopagan history and magical revival

Gerald Gardner:

Gardner was born June 13, 1884 in England where he was civil servant. He studied anthropology and became a writer, publishing both fictional and non-fictional bodies of work. Though Gardner was first initiated into the New Forest coven, he was instrumental in the creation of Wicca. During its creation, Gardner brought together different occult traditions rituals, such as Aleister Crowley’s work, under the umbrella of Wicca. Gardner wrote two important books that brought Witchcraft back to the modern world’s attention, Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft. Though Gardner’s work spawned numerous Wicca and Witchcraft traditions, one tradition still bares his name and tries to stay true to his teaching, Gardnerian Wicca (Davis).

Robert Graves:

Robert Graves was popular English poet and novelist who lived from 1895-1985. During his life, Graves wrote an impressive collection of works including “… translations and innovative analysis and interpretations of the Greek myths… and his speculative study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess…” (Wikipedia Foundation). This book became extremely influential to the Wiccan tradition. Grave’s proposes the existence of a Five-fold Mother Goddess which he calls the “… White Goddess of Birth, Love, and Death…” (Graves 214). Much of Graves assumptions are made through the belief that “… ‘true’ or ‘pure’ poetry is inextricably linked with the ancient cult-ritual of his proposed White Goddess and her son” (Wikipedia Foundation).

Dion Fortune:

                Dion Fortune was a pseudonym for Violet Mary Firth, born December 6, 1890 in Britain. Dion was raised as a Christian Scientist. From an early age, she experienced psychic abilities that were said to have caused her to have a nervous breakdown.

                Her occult career started with joining the Theosophical Society. This then lead to her membership in the Stella Matutina order. In 1919, Dion started writing fantasy novels and short stories that were to influence the religion of Witchcraft. Dion also wrote works of non-fiction on magical systems. Three of her most notable books were The Cosmic Doctrine, The Mystical Qabalah, and Psychic Self Defense. Her book The Mystical Qabalah was to become one of the foremost books on magic, as well as being influenced by Aleister Crowley.

                Dion and her husband formed the Fraternity of the Inner Light, which was seen as an offshoot of Alpha et Omega. The Fraternity was to later be named The Society of the Inner Light, which trained followers via correspondence courses. Interestingly enough, the initiates were initiated into what was called the Lesser Mysteries and then later the Greater Mysteries. Most of the rituals were based of the Golden Dawn rituals in the beginning, but changed completely over time. Though Dion died in 1946 her influence can still be felt in the modern world of Paganism.  (Wikipedia)

Oberon Zell-Ravenheart:

                Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, born November 30th 1942, is one of the most notable names within the Neo-Pagan community and other activist movements, from environmentalism to modern polyamory. One of the things he is most notable for is the surgical creation of a ‘living unicorn’, which toured with a famous circus.

                Oberon Zell was a founding member of several organizations such as the Grey Counsel and the Ecosophical Research Association, which explores the root truths beneath myths. In addition to being the author of several books, contributor to many other books, and writer for the magazine Green Egg, Zell was the founding member of the Church of All Worlds, formed in 1962, which was inspired by an organization from the science-fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. The church is an organization based off pantheism, but seems to be more orthopraxic in nature than orthodoxic, and is centered on the Earth Mother and the Sun Father.

                Zell, to this day, is an influential figure in the Neo-Pagan community. He teaches workshops, lectures, and attends many public Neo-Pagan events. Though at times I feel that Zell can be a little out there on his beliefs and teachings, he has opened many doors to those seeking the Pagan path (Zell).


                Starhawk is the pseudonym for Miriam Simos who was born June 17, 1951. Starhawk is known for being a stark feminist, activist, and self-proclaimed modern witch. Starhawk is the co-founder of the Witchcraft tradition called Reclaiming that is based on the religion and magic of the Great Goddess and focusinges on an active honoring and defending of the Earth.

                Though Starhawk is noted for many of her books, the one I know her best for is The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. The book is a very rich source for information. While I believe Starhawk has her place in the Pagan community, I feel her brand of Paganism can do damage to the modern movement that is struggling to find balance. Stark feminism is an extreme polar opposite of the male dominated Christian faith. Being the opposite extreme can cause those same people in the end to leave Paganism to wander lost without a spiritual focus.

Isaac Bonewits:

                When Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits was born October 1, 1949 in Royal Oak, Michigan, no one could have guessed the kind of impact he would have in the Pagan movement.

                Bonewits started on his Pagan path when he joined RNDA while attending UC Berkeley in 1966. During his studies at Berkeley, Bonewits was not only to become an ordained Neo-Druid Priest (October 1969) but was also the first and last person to receive an actual degree in Magic from UC Berkeley (1970). Bonewits later rejoined RNDA in 1976 and became the ArchDruid of the Berkeley Grove.

 Bonewits was a part of many Neo-Pagan groups, such as Caliphate Line of the Ordo Templi Orientis, Gardnerian Wicca, New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Church of Satan, which he left due to political conflicts. Bonewits also helped to establish several organizations such as the HDNA (Hasidic Druids of North America) and the AADL (Aquarian Anti-Defamation League). One of the most notable groups Isaac Bonewits founded was ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin) which started in 1983. ADF became an incorporated as a U.S. 501©3 non-profit organization in 1990. Bonewits remained the Arch Druid of ADF until 1996, when he resigned due to health issues, though he retained the lifelong title of ADF Arch Druid Emeritus. [i]

Isaac is a renowned author, songwriter, singer, and recording artist who spoke regularly at Neo-Pagan festivals. Many of his works of music and lectures/panel discussions are recorded on CD’s. His collection of works include; Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic (1972, 1979, 1989), Authentic Thaumaturgy (1978, 1998), Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach (2003), Witchcraft: A Concise Guide or Which Witch is Which? (2003), The Pagan Man: Priests, Warriors, Hunters, and Drummers (2005), Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca (2005), Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Druidism (2006), Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, and Substances of Heal, Change, and Grow (2007), and Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work (2007). With these works and his public speeches Bonewits has coined such terms as ‘Never again the Burning’, ‘Paleo-Paganism’, ‘Meso-Paganism’, and ‘Thealogy’.

One of the most important creations by Bonewits would have to be the ABCDEF (Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame). This document was created to help individuals and professionals examine religious or spiritual groups could be considered potentially dangerous cults.  (Bonewits)

Aleister Crowley:

                One of the most influential occultist and authors on modern Pagan traditions would have to be the English writer Aleister Crowley. Born in 1875 as Edward Alexander Crowley to a wealthy Christian family, Crowley rejected his upbringing and began exploring the world of the occult. In 1898 he joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn to begin his training as a ceremonial magician. In 1907 with the help of George Jones, Crowley co-founded the Thelemite order AA. Later in 1912 he became an initiate in the German order Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). During 1920 he moved to Sicily where he was to form the Abbey of Thelema. At the time of his death Crowley had authored over 40 books on the occult and 18 books of poetry. (Wikipedia Foundation)

                Many of his books are still in publication today having wide influence in many ceremonial magic and Pagan traditions.

Scott Cunningham:

                Cunningham’s body of work is one of the most powerfully informative collections that the Neo-Pagan community could hope for. Scott Cunningham was born in 1956 in Royal Oak, Michigan. He passed into the realm of the Ancestors March 28, 1993. Though he lived a short life, Cunningham was able to produce a great number of books.

                In high school, Scott was introduced to the occult and Wicca through a female friend of his. Though Cunningham did attend the San Diego State University for nearly two years, he ended up leaving the university to write full time. Scott studied with different Pagan groups in his time, including a three-year term of study with Raven Grimassi.

                 Through his books, Scott taught people about his own personal brand of solitary Wicca. His beliefs may have been basic but were received very well by a hungry public seeking more in-depth knowledge of Wicca and the occult. Scott taught that religion was something deeply personal. Even though the majority of his practice was solitary, Cunningham believed that Witchcraft and Wicca should be more open and accessible to the people seeking their knowledge.

                Scott’s published books included; Magical Herbalism: The Secret of the Wise (1982), Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic (1983), Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (1985), The Magical Household (1987), Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic (1987), Truth About Witchcraft Today (1988), Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (1988), The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, & Brews (1989), Magical Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent (1989), Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic (1991), Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen (1993), Divination For Beginners (1993), Living Wicca: A Further guide for the Solitary Practitioner (1993) {one of his most popular books}, Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects (1993), The Truth About Herb Magic (1993), The Truth About Witchcraft (1994), Hawaiian Magic and Spirituality (1995), Pocket Guide to Fortune Telling (1997), Dreaming the Divine: Techniques of Scared Sleep (1999).  (Wikipedia Foundation)

[i] The information from this section is pulled from the Wikipedia Foundation webpage on Isaac Bonewits. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Bonewits
Post a Comment