The Pagan Way

In a strict chronology, I should next be discussing events in California and New England in the late 1960s, but, given the problem of many developments all happening more or less simultaneously, I think it will be clearer if I wrap up some later history of the Pagan Way movement, since I have covered its origins.

In creating the Pagan Way, Joe Wilson, Ed Fitch, John Hansen, and the other members of the Committee of Correspondence created a form of Witchcraft that was Gardnerian in all but a few oath-bound details. They hoped it would allow more people to become Witches than could possibly be accommodated by the extant Gardnerian covens, with their fairly strict rules on how long candidates for admission had to remain in training. The founders combined knowledge from their various traditions and created new rituals to replace those that were oath-bound. One major source for the work was the Grimoire of the Shadows that Ed had written while stationed by the military in Thailand in the 1960s.

The rituals, lore, and background material of the Pagan Way, which included major contributions by Donna Cole, were never copyrighted but were placed in the public domain in order to gain the widest possible distribution. Over the years, they have been republished several times by various occult houses as The Rituals of the Pagan Way, A Book of Pagan Rituals, and perhaps under other titles as well.

The Pagan Way movement soon had two major centers, one in Chicago, the other in Philadelphia, with other groves spreading about the country. In Chicago, Donna Cole, with Herman Enderle and Ginnie Brubaker, founded the Temple of the Pagan Way in 1970 as a formal Pagan Way grove. It practiced a combination of ceremonial magic and Ed’s nonsecret Craft rituals. The Temple was not a Gardnerian Outer Court, but it did serve to attract people whom Donna could consider for training and initiation into her Gardnerian coven, The Coven of the Sacred Stones, which she kept strictly separate from the Pagan Way.

The history of the Temple itself is complex. Enderle later left and started the Earthstar Temple. Other organizations were spun off from it. These have included Epiphanes, under the direction of Christa Heiden; Parthenon West; the Covenant of Gaea, under Ginnie Brubaker and Dave Norman, which hived from the Temple of the Pagan Way in 1971; and the Calumet Pagan Temple, founded by Richard Clarke in 1973. The name of the Temple was changed several times; in 1974, the Elders of the temple changed its name to the Temple of Uranus.

Dianis Lucien has written that

 The Temple of the Pagan Way described itself as an Initiatory Temple and its goal as restoring the Temples of Initiation of the ancient Mysteries. The Temple distinctly understood and described itself as practicing Initiatory Craft. However, there was some ambivalence among the members about using the words “Witch” and “Witchcraft” . . [since] some of the members felt [that those] words (rather than the shorter form “Craft”) carried too much baggage, because of the negative connotations of the words to the average person, and would therefore be detrimental to the Temple’s goals. . . . This official ambivalence toward the words “Witch” and “Witchcraft” (not denial, but certainly not active espousal except by and as individual Initiates) is reflected in the fact that while some of the Pagan groups descended from the Temple identify themselves as practicing Wicca, or other forms of Witchcraft, there are also some that do not.

John Hansen was at first the mainstay of the Pagan Way in Philadelphia, but fairly soon Penny and Michael Novack took over from him and founded their own grove, which also served as a nest of the Church of all Worlds and was a member of the Council of Themis in 1972. In the 1970s Pagan Way groves spread across the United States, primarily in major cities but also in some small communities.

According to Ed Fitch, the Pagan Way was never intended to address the esoteric audience of those who wanted initiation and training in the Craft itself. Pagan Way appealed to two main audiences: those just getting started in Witchcraft, and those interested in attending Pagan ceremonies and structuring social and civic activities around them, much as in mainstream churches. The founders and early organizers let the movement take its own course. No central organization was formed; the groves and mailing centers remained autonomous and loosely affiliated. Some covens of Witches ran Pagan Way groups as training circles for interested  persons and potential initiates. Candidates for initiation spent the traditional year and a day in probation, studying the Craft and undergoing evaluation by coven leaders. Not everyone who joined a Pagan Way training circle was initiated into Witchcraft. Those who were not remained in Pagan Way groups for as long as they chose or worked as solitaries or formed their own Pagan Way groups.

It is useful to distinguish between the Pagan Way as an organization and the Pagan Way Tradition, which continues to flourish. A pattern that has often been repeated is that what was originally a networking organization evolves its own new Tradition as a way of practicing the Craft. Within the Pagan Way, the ritual materials were adapted for those who wanted more esoteric aspects: initiation rites were added by Cole, Enderle, and others, and secret, closed Outer Courts were formed which gave more emphasis to magic. In this way the Pagan Way in Chicago evolved into an autonomous Tradition of the Craft (although, as Dianis Lucien commented, some members of this Tradition insist on referring to themselves as Pagans, not Witches). It is most easily identified by its use of a system of “elemental pacts”: five initiatory grades keyed to the elements in the sequence earth, water, air, fire, and spirit.

Given the evolution of the overall movement during the next decade, there came to be less and less need for the Pagan Way as an intake device for covens. By the early 1980s what was left of the Pagan Way had fallen apart, and groves dwindled in size and number. Even though the Pagan Way’s functions were taken over by other kinds of Pagan organizations, the Pagan Way rituals endured and continue to be used and adapted by numerous succeeding Pagan groups.

Another offshoot of the Philadelphia Pagan Way was the family of covens known as the Open Goddess Tradition, which was active in 1973 and 1974. Its High Priestess and High Priest were Pennie and Kevin Robbins, based in the Boston area; hence their history is entangled with that of the Boston Alexandrians (we’ll get to them). There were daughter covens headed by Ingrid Lupp in the Bronx and Linda Martorelli in Woodbridge, NJ. The Robbins were friends with Carol Maddox, who also used the names Claudia Haldane and Erinna Northwind. She taught a Tradition that she called Deborean and insisted was the true form of Witchcraft, which (according to the Witches at the Hub of the Universe, compiled by Jim Baker et al.), made it difficult for her to cooperate in the local networking meetings. She was active in the Boston area, began publishing a journal, Northwind News, in 1976, and had a group called People of the Holy Earth. In 1990 her group was called Eregion Grove.

According to the useful and quite accurate research of the Beaufort House group, some major offshoots of the Pagan Way Tradition have included: the McFarland Dianics, from which the Faerie Faith Tradition evolved; the Isian Tradition; the Starkindler Tradition; the Aglaian Tradition; and the Blue Star Tradition, which later spun off the Odyssian Tradition and then Pagans for Peace. I’ll eventually be discussing all of these.



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  • PhaedraHPS

    Many of those who descended from the Pagan Way in Chicago but did not call themselves Witches referred to themselves (by the 1980s, possibly earlier) as Hermetic Magicians. Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Spirit were initiatory grades, not “elemental pacts.” In the late ’80s, a series of workings called Elemental Pacts, reserved for initiates, were introduced to the Chicago area, but were quite separate from initiatory levels.

    • aidanakelly

      Thank you, Phaedra. Obviously I did not get that all straight when you first explained it to me. I will be writing more about Chicago down the line, and you are one of the people I’d like to have vet the details.

  • Christa Landon

    Herman Slater, owner of Magickal Child in NYC, was an early influence on the Pagan Way movement. I recall at least one of his visits to Chicago.

    I joined Temple of the Pagan Way in Chicago in 1970, and was initiated Imbolc ’71, took 2nd degree Imbolc ’72, and was ordained by Donna Cole & Herman and the Temple community in November of ’72. Ginnie Brubaker joined in late ’71 or ’72. Sometime in ’73 I deferred to her and she was ordained. I continued in the “council of elders” but in fall of ’74 I was going to school full time and working 25 hours a week to support myself, so there was really no time to be active.

    If the name was ever changed to Covenant of Gaia, I wasn’t part of it then. Perhaps your source was confusing it with Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, which I co-founded in 1985. (

    • Jonathan Nightshade

      The photo caption in the June 19, 1972 issue of Time magazine says, “Below, at a ritual of the Pagan Way in Chicago, High Priestess Donna Cole annoints the forehead of High Priest Herman Enderle.”

      Donna Cole (Lady Morda) was quoted in “Keepers of the Flame” by Morganna Davies & Aradia Lynch, 2001 (page 161), “In 1972 when I decided to marry for the second time, I performed a “Venusian ritual to bring the right person to me. ……Two days later this man materialized; three weeks later he installed himself in my apartment, and we’ve been married for twenty four years.”

      Only after Donna and Robert became a couple, and he became High Priest of the coven (Temple of the Sacred Stones), did Donna break off from the Pagan Way, which Herman Enderle continued with. Both of the documents and dates quoted above, as well as Rev. Christa Landon’s account of her history, would lead one to believe that Donna Cole and Herman Enderle were still running the Chicago Temple of the Pagan Way through at least sometime in the later part of 1972.

      Per the excellent research of Michael Lloyd in “Bull of Heaven,” Herman Slater and Ed Buczynski visited Herman Enderle and Ginnie Brubaker in Chicago, in April of 1974 (page 270). I know that they did not meet Donna at this time, but left a copy of a publication of the early Pagan Way rituals for her. “Bull of Heaven” is a must read for those interested in the early days of the rebirth of modern paganism in the U.S., and contains information on the Pagan Way, especially the East Coast chapter.

      Herman Slater published material that was created by Donna Cole, and also Herman Enderle, in his Book of Pagan Rituals (part 2). I don’t believe that he actually wrote any of the material himself. Most of Part 1 (the original Pagan Way material) was written by Ed Fitch. In Pagan Rituals III by Herman Slater (Magickal Childe, 1989), Herman Slater relates that he visited Herman Enderle and Ginnie Brubaker in 1973 (he may have his dates incorrect here, see “Bull of Heaven”). In the introduction (page 10) he grudgingly admits that he published material written by Donna Cole (without crediting her) in Volume II of a Book of Pagan Rituals.

      Christa – I met you briefly, probably in 1979 or 80 (I was about 25 then). I think that I vaguely remember that you may have been considering leasing a storefront on Greenleaf avenue in Rogers Park for a store at that time? Hope that you are doing well!

      • Jonathan N

        There is a PDF available online of Herman Slater’s “Earth Religion News” Volume I #4, 1974 (unfortunately no month given). Within, there is an article entitled “A visit to a temple” describing Herman Slater and Ed Buczyski’s visit to the Chicago Temple of the Pagan Way. I would think that this would lead one to believe that they did visit Chicago in April, 1974 as per “Bull of Heaven.”

        • Jonathan Nightshade

          Michael Lloyd’s book documents ERN Vol. I #4 as being published in June 1974.

          • Jonathan Nightshade

            Actually, looking at this issue of ERN, there is an article immediately following the “visit to the temple” article, wherein Herman Enderle and Ginny Brubaker announce the change of the name of the Chicago Pagan Way to the Uranus Temple. Therefore, this change in name must have taken place in early to mid 1974 while HE and GB were still HP and HPS of the group. The meetings of the Temple of the Sacred Stones as well as the Pagan Way and Uranus all took place in the same 3 story brownstone building in the finished basement for quite a few years.

  • aidanakelly

    Christa and Jonathon, thank you very much . This is all very helpful information, and I will certainly integrate it into the final book, with source citations. Hm, I wonder what the various style guides propose as formatting for citing a comment on a blog.

    • Dave Burwasser

      “Sort-of personal communication”? ;-)
      (Hi, Christa!)

  • Connie Gilbert

    My coven is a product of the pagan way. Our founder who passed away 8 years ago was from Chicago. She told us a little about the history but not much. Thanks, I have been trying to piece together what she didn’t share with the rest of us. I would like very much to find others from this trad in order to compare teachings if possible.

    • Connie Gilbert

      Betty Green, or Elsbeth, was our priestess. If any from Chicago knew her I would very much like to hear from you. There is a coven in Tennessee that could use the information. Thanks so much.