For old pagans with deep closets

I seem to be slowly moving back to working on Isaac Bonewits’ biography. I’ve let it lie fallow for about two years, mainly because I became frustrated at my attempts at some hard-to-reach interview subjects.

Recently, Phaedra Bonewits has tried to identify the original members of the American Council of Witches. She was kind enough to forward me confirmation from Oberon Zell-Ravenheart that Isaac was the main author of the Principles of Wiccan Belief (though some editing was done).

This reminded me of another gap in my biographical research:

Isaac was editor of Gnostica, and wrote many articles for the Green Egg; what interests me more about the latter are his exchanges with the Satanic community in the magazine’s letter column. Back issues of Gnostica and Green Egg are hard to find, at least for the period of Isaac’s involvement. I know that Oberon and the Weschke family have the complete run of back issues, but they’re not going to mail them off to some dude (namely me) they don’t know.

I don’t really want the issues themselves. What I want are PDF files of those publications so I can reference them at my leisure. That leads to the title of my post: Are you a pagan who’s been around for a while you might have back issues of Gnostica from 1973-1975, or Green Egg with Isaac’s letters, sitting around in a back room, a box, or a closet? Would you be willing to send them to me if I paid the postage? What I’d do is scan the magazines to PDF, then send them either back to you, or to the University of California at Santa Barbara to be part of their American Religions Collection.

I can be reached at <bonewits.research> at <gmail.com>. Please feel free to re-post, re-tweet, share, forward, or shout this blog post from the mountaintops.

A light at the end of the transcription tunnel?

According to David Pogue, the latest version of Dragon Dictate is capable of transcribing interviews.

Based on the example in the article, the results are limited. Still, it offers hope that by the time I’ll need it for the biography, there’ll be some form of software that will let me turn 100+ hours of interviews into text form.

This is also a reminder to myself that I have to get moving on the interview process again. It’s daunting; there are so many people to speak with, and it’s not clear how to contact many of them.

Still, a journey of 100+ hours begins with the first word.

Bull of Heaven – a review

In the past few years, modern pagans have started to reclaim their history. As Ronald Hutton points out, pagans have always had a strong sense of “history” (an interest in past events), but not always in “historicity” (understanding what actually happened, as opposed to what you wish had happened).

Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon traces the factors that led to the founding of the modern Neopagan Witchcraft movement. Philip Heselton’s Witchfather focused on the life of one important individual: Gerald Gardner. In other words, Hutton told us about the times, Heselton told us about a life.

Michael Lloyd’s Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan does both. It does it a way that’s engaging to read. I’d never heard of Buczynski before Margot Adler recommended this book to me; now I understand his impact on the Craft.

Continue reading “Bull of Heaven – a review”

A little more progress…

…on the biography.

I’ve exchanged a couple of e-mails with Michael Lloyd, author of Bull of Heaven. He was kind enough to share some of his process in approaching the biography.

As I read BoH and composed the e-mails to Lloyd, I had an insight: I need to find some narrative thread(s) to make the story of Isaac’s life of compelling interest to people other than “Isaac Bonewits fans.” I never heard of Eddie Buczynski before I learned of Lloyd’s book. I only knew about Bull of Heaven when Margot Adler mentioned it to me, and I wanted to see how someone else handled a biography of a pagan figure. Now I’m anxious to continue reading the book because I’ve become invested in Buczynski’s story.

I need to do something similar with Isaac’s story. I’ve got a couple of ideas, but they need to percolate a bit more as I gather more facts.

I also wrapped up a series of interviews with Deborah Lipp. In theory, there’s more I could ask her, but at some point I have to mark a particular research avenue as “done” and move on to the next thing.

Getting back to work

I spent most of this weekend working on Isaac’s biography:

– I interviewed Stephen Abbott, an old friend of Isaac’s from Berkeley.

– I sent out messages to a couple of other folks I want to want to interview, to (re-)establish a connection.

– I wrote to Michael Lloyd, author of Bull of Heaven, to ask another biographer how he approached the kinds of problems I’ve encountered. (Quick review: read this book. I’ll have more to say in a later post.)

– I spent several (aching) hours coding more of Isaac’s old documents. I’ve barely made a dent, but with enough visits eventually the bird’s beak will wear down the mountain.

I can’t give the project this kind of attention every weekend. It did show me that, with persistence, I can get this done.