A History of the Craft in America: The Council of Earth Religions and the Green Egg Yellow Pages

[I apologize to my dedicated readers. It has been rough. I plan to resume posting something almost every day.]

Tim Zell’s discussions with the groups he had visited in California in August 1972 established the basis for dividing the Council of Themis into two separate organizations; hence various groups formed the new Council of Earth Religions on August 31, 1972. COER represented a continuation of the effort to find a way to create a national networking organization for Pagan religions. The CoER picked up another 12 members by April 1973, at which time Green Egg listed them as follows.

Atlantion Wicca, Don Sawyer,Liverpool,NY;

ChurchofAllWorlds, Tim Zell,St. Louis;

Church of the Eternal Source, Harold Moss,Burbank;

Dancers of the Sacred Circle, Stanewicks,Redlands,CA; Feraferia

House of Wicca, Courtney Willis,Buffalo,NY;

NY Coven of Welsh Traditionalist Witches, Ed Buczynski,Brooklyn,NY;

Pagan Way PA Grove, John Wootten;

Order of Thelema, Steve Bell,El Cajon,CA;Bellwas also the leader of the Twiceborn Wicca coven in El Cajon and the coordinator of the COER

Center for Pythagorean Studies,Polistena,Italy

ChurchofWicca, Geo. Patterson,Bakersfield,CA;

Coven of Gwynvydd,Carolyn Clark,St.   Louis,MO;

Gliocas Tuatha, Joe Wilson,Tujunga,CA;

Martha Adler Coven,Los Angele;

Wicca Covendom of the Pagan Family of Our Lady, Jonathan Zotique,Toronto

The Council of Earth Religions was much more focused than the Council of Themis had been. There were only two members who (perhaps) were not Pagan in the current sense. Unfortunately, after much work by many people, neither council could serve as or help form an organization that could function like a church for its members, and both disappeared from the Craft scene by the end of 1973. The problem was not a question of whether groups were organized hierarchically or democratically. Rather, even among the avowedly and democratically Pagan groups, there were still too many fundamental differences in theology to allow a viable organization to be formed.

Nevertheless, the overall intensity of Craft activity inCaliforniatook a noticeable jump after Tim and Julie’s visit, as all the people they had put in touch with each other began to talk, meet, plan, interact, and cooperate. This activity began to materialize as a series of Pagan Ecumenical Conferences in 1974 that served as a prelude to the founding of the Covenant of the Goddess in 1975.

A Table of Contents Sort of Entry

The blogs in this historical series up to here will be reworked into Era One in the final book. I have been taking the histories of the various groups only through the end of 1973 as much as possible, although a few have needed to be carried on for another year or two to reach a good interlude. I don’t think I’m being arbitrary, because the years 1973 and 1974 clearly marked a turning point inAmerican Craft history in many ways, although it is not obvious why all these changes should have coincided. These changes included:

In 1973, Ray and Rosemary Buckland stepped down as leaders of the Long Island Gardenrian coven, turning it over to Judy and Tom Kneitel (Theos andPhoenix). Ray soon resigned from Gardnerianism, moved toNew Hampshire, and founded Seax-Wica.

In 1973, Jim Baker decided that Alex Sanders had lied to him about Craft history and closed down Du Bandia Grasail, the first Alexandrian coven inAmerica. Its members dispersed into three new covens in 1974.

In 1973, Carl Weschcke hosted the first national conference of Craft leaders inSt. Paul, which led to the creation of one of the first significant descriptions of Craft beliefs.

In 1973, both Joe Wilson and Ed Fitch moved to southernCalifornia.

At the beginning of 1974, the first official Gardnerian coven inCaliforniawas established.

And in 1974, the longest (and last) of the Green Egg Yellow Pages appeared, putting many more Witches and Pagans in touch with each other.

The Green Egg Yellow Pages

In 1971 Green Egg, the journal of the Church of All Worlds, published a one-page list of Craft, Pagan, and magical groups; it largely coincided with the membership of the Council of Themis. Then from 1972 to 1974 it published an annual Yellow Pages that listed many such groups inAmerica and a few in other countries. These pages provide a glimpse of those who, four decades later, are seen as the elders of the Craft and the Pagan movement. Moreover, they enable a reasonably accurate estimate of the size of the Craft movement a decade after Raymond and Rosemary Buckland brought Wicca toAmerica and established the first Wiccan coven onLong Island.

In the 1971 list there were only four American Craft groups:

Leo Martello’s Witches International Craft Association inNew York;

Sara Cunningham’s Albion Training Coven inPasadena;

Rita Norling’s coven inMontebello,CA; and

Fred and Martha Adler’s coven in Hawthorne; they would later be members of the Council of Earth Religions, and were among the founders of the Pagan Way.

It is not an accident that three of the groups were in southernCalifornia

The list in October 1972, which resulted in part from the Zells’ vacation trip that year, included at least another 29 groups.  The list in 1973 added another 9, and the final one, in 1974, added another 49 Witches and covens, largely because Green Egg extended an open invitation to anyone who wanted to be listed. Many of these listings were for individuals (not covens) about whom I have not discovered further information. There were also other covens listed in various issues of Green Egg, Earth Religion News, and Gnostica between 1973 and 1975. Counting only covens, I arrive at a total of 102 covens inNorth America by 1975; there are another two dozen listings that might also actually be covens.

In the future book, I will, of course, list them all, since few people will have those issues of Green Egg handy. Most of these covens and other Pagan groups have been or will be discussed or at least mentioned in various blogs in this series; so I don’t see a reason to list them all here also. However, there are some groups that I don’t know how to hook into the family tree anywhere; so in fairness I will list them rather than just leave them out. At the least, I’m sure there are people who will find it interesting to know these groups existed about 40 years ago.

Adrian, Children of the Dawn,  Asheville, NC

Aeona (Witchcraft study course), St. Paul, MN (she’s been in northern California since the late 1980s)

Andromeda and Cadoc, Cedar Falls, IA

Ariestede McAleister in San  Pedro, CA

Bill D., Tamlacht, Lindin, NJ

Bonnie Sherlock, Delphian Coven, Lander, WY

Church of the Four-Sided Triangle, Salt Lake  City, UT

El Draco, Coven of Arianhu, Hereford, TX

Jim Palmer, Pagan Church, Houston, TX

Kathy & Grant Morgan, Wicca Contact Service, Dallas, TX

Lady Selene, Moonstar Traditionalist Coven, Interoccult Council of Watertown, NY

Larry Fidler (Alexandrian), South  Bend, IN

Mary Ann Herman and John Ortiz, Miami Pagan Grove, No. Miami Beach, FL

Medea, Starcraft Coven, Indianapolis

Merlin the Enchanter (Col. L. Edward Lawrence), Unicorn Coven,Lawrence Museum of Magic & Witchcraft, Galveston, IN

Michael & Judy M., Holy Order of St. Bridget; Craftcast Farm, Weldona, CO

Order of Rhea,Chicago,IL

Patricia Condon, Centre of Pallas Athena & Hephaestus, Augusta, GA

Pauline Manning, First Church of Manningerian Wicca, Ft. Gordon, GA;

Religious Order of Wicca, Inc., Margate, FL

Richard Alan Miller & Dyanne Kirkland,Aquarian Circle of Seattle, Beltane Books, Seattle, WA

Rodelle and Thomas Kulp, Order of the Holy Grail, Richmond, VA

Roth, Gardnerian Wicca, Inc., Elmont, NY

Taliessin, HP, Blue Phoenix Coven, McGuire AFB, NJ

Tombmar Hammurabi, HP, & Felicia, HPs, First Order of the Ancients (FOOA), Omaha, NB

Treesong & Ravenwolf, Modesto, CA

William Denny Sargent, Mandragore, Rye, NY

Is there a way to test whether this count of 100 is accurate? What factors might necessitate increasing this number?

For example, by 1974 the NROOGD had evolved into six distinct covens; yet, because of their overlapping memberships and common membership in the Order, it would be arbitrary to count the NROOGD either once or six times, and I must guess that other covens had gone through similar growth patterns. Certainly in 1974 there were only two active Craft traditions in theSan Franciscoarea: the NROOGD and Victor Anderson’s Feri Tradition.

Although many of the covens listed in the GEYP had existed for some years before Zell learned about them, in the mid-1970s American Witches were not secretive. Almost every Witch listed in the GEYP included his or her home address, and we all tended to hear about one another; the founding of a new coven was always interesting news. It’s not very likely that a large number of covens could have missed. Hence a reasonable order-of-magnitude estimate for the number of covens inNorth America around 1974 must be around 100, perhaps 200 at the very most, and certainly nowhere near 1,000.

These covens were thoroughly invisible to the general public at that time. When I offered my research on the origin of the Gardnerian movement to various scholarly presses in 1976, none of their editors could believe that the topic of witchcraft would ever be of any importance whatsoever.

We can also estimate the growth rate of the Craft. If we start from one Gardnerian coven in 1963 and perhaps half a dozen pre-Gardnerian covens, and arrive at 100 covens a decade later, then the Craft movement was doubling in size roughly every two years. This growth rate is consistent with the rough count of 1000 covens I arrived at in 1995, as well as with the estimates made by other researchers. Such rapid growth is indisputable evidence that the Craft was  meeting and continues to meet the spiritual needs of a great many people.

We can also deduce some significant information about the geographic distribution of Craft activity in the early to mid-1970s. A count reveals that, of the known covens:

26 were in states along the BosWash strip, including 16 in New York;

19 were in states around the Great Lakes. with 8 being in Ohio, 4 in Indiana;

17 were in California, 12 being around Los Angeles, 5 around San Francisco;

21 were in southern states, with 6 in Tennessee, 5 in Texas, 4 in Kentucky, 3 in Florida, and 3 in Missouri; and

aside from 5 inOntario, the remaining 15 were scattered, with one or two to a state.

That is, two-thirds of the covens were located within the major population centers, and even those in the southern and other states were almost always located near the major cities in those regions. The Craft movement has occurred among urban intellectuals, for the most part, not among the genuinely rural.

 


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