OH to NY to AL: Claude Lawrence Cornett

Larry Cornett has worked tirelessly on and for the Craft for almost 40 years. The story of his work, spread over at least four states, stitches together many strands of the tapestry, yet he has never received nor, I think, wanted any great measure of public acclaim. Here is the beginning of the story he sent me on Nov. 15, 2009. Larry is rather ill right now. He deserves and needs your thoughts.

I was born on August 28, 1947, and raised as a Presbyterian.  In the early 1960’s, in high school in Chesterland, Ohio, I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, through which I made contact with people with diverse religious philosophies.  In 1962, in 10th grade, I became interested in the philosophy of world religions, especially those that did not claim to be the one and only true way and which were not into personality cults.  I had rejected the Christian view of an all knowing, all powerful, omnipresent deity and the simultaneous existence of evil.  Nevertheless, I sensed that something interconnected everything and loved Nature.

In 1965, I went to Purdue University to study physics and became active in the Peace Movement as well as the counter-culture.  I discovered the mystical implications of quantum mechanics in the spring of 1968, noticing that the mathematics of quantum mechanics describes reality as waves that are interconnected everywhere and that change states everywhere all at once.  This implied non-localized connections in reality, which fit into Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist Eastern philosophy, including the writings of Alan Watts and Swami Vivekananda. My main difference from most of the Eastern philosophies was my attitude that, if we are one with the universe, why not enjoy it and use the connection for healing and improving life on this planet? I also considered the concept of non-localized consciousness not centered in people or specific organisms to be plausible, and discovered that things happened when ancient Gods and Goddesses were invoked in ritual.

By the fall of 1968, I had experienced some psychokinetic control of candle flames, knew the power of chants at changing consciousness, was hosting informal shamanic rituals in my apartment; and became active in the Reformed Druids of North America, by whom I was initiated.

After getting my B.S. in Physics in 1969, I went to the University of Chicago to go for a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics. However, in February 1970, I was arrested at my physical for passing out literature advocating a choice of draft resistance, desertion, joining the American Servicemen’s Union, etc., for getting other people taking their physical at the time to also pass out the literature, and for almost starting a riot. The day I was arrested, I dropped out of graduate school to work full time as the Indiana Regional Coordinator for the Vietnam Moratorium Committee.  I decided that, even if I could prove mathematically a cosmological theory of physics describing how the universe operates and its relationship to consciousness, it would not stop the war in Vietnam or make the air safe to breathe. After the Vietnam Moratorium Committee went bankrupt, I went to the University of Cincinnati, starting in June 1971, and got an M.S. in Air Pollution Control Engineering in 1972.

I didn’t pursue formal magical studies from 1971 until 1979 (although I did continue to follow developments in theoretical physics related to cosmology, consciousness, and the fundamental nature of the universe).  I also continued to do informal rituals with friends with the objective of exploring consciousness, sometimes under the influence of entheogens (a practice I had been performing since 1967).

In 1978, Larry, Ian Corrigan, and C.C. Rosencomet (Jeff Rosenbaum) were among the founding member of the Chameleon Club at Case Western Reserve University. They organized the first Starwood on July 24 – 26, 1981. It began as a weekend festival and grew over the years to a six-day event. Attendance grew from 185 in the first year to peak at around 1800 people in 2002. In 1983 Chameleon Club members founded the Association for Consciousness Exploration (ACE), which took over the Starwood Festival, and began the Winterstar Festival as well, on February 9-12, 1984, at Burr Oak State Park in Glouster, OH. The Chameleon Club also considers itself an extended family in the style of the Merry Pranksters; its members can be found from Cleveland to New Orleans, from California to New York.

I got heavily involved with studying magic and organized Paganism again in 1980, when, on a hunch, I went to the Pan Pagan Festival, where I felt I had finally reconnected with the tribe I was part of in the late 1960s; and I learned I had been a Pagan for at least seventeen years without knowing it.  I re-experienced some of the power of the Goddesses and Gods and Pagan magic.  At a NROOGD circle, I found myself thrust, within minutes, into a state of mind that I had only achieved on very rare occasions while meditating on entheogens, and the results were clearer, more controlled, and without any entheogenic assistance.

Those experiences motivated me to start seriously studying magic again and to make conscious Paganism a major part of my lifestyle.  I was living in Dayton, Ohio, at the time, and became an apprentice with Circle, from whom I received much useful guidance.  At Samhain 1980, I performed my first full-scale, solitary, Wiccan-style ritual- invoking a God and a Goddess at each quarter.  The next day, I led a successful Wiccan- style exorcism with friends (the house I lived in was haunted by a lost spirit, and we helped her find her way to the Summerland).

At Yule 1980, I connected with Amaranth Energies, a Dayton coven at the time, and found that six of the eight Gods and Goddesses that I had invoked at Samhain were also the ones invoked at the quarters by this coven.  However, the High Priestess (Prudence Priest) and the High Priest of Amaranth Energies moved to California a few months later; I didn’t know about her NROOGD connection until years later. The one other remaining member of the coven (Pasha) and I kept the Dayton Amaranth Energies coven going strong.  We did many powerful workings, including Wiccan Shamanic work with the spirits of the land.

In 1981, I was about to be laid off in Dayton; so I worked a spell to find a job in a cosmopolitan area, as a cone of power launched at an extremely powerful bonfire drum/dance and chant circle Saturday night at the first Starwood Festival.  When I returned from Starwood, I found a letter waiting for me, about a job interview in New York City.  I went to the interview and got the job within three days. I worked solitary most of the time for the first three years in New York City, although I did attend classes and participate in rituals of the Circle of Naught in upstate New York, worked with a Cherokee medicine man, and traveled to Wisconsin a few times for Circle Apprenticeship training.

In 1982, I started to publish an International Calendar of Pagan Festivals that were two days or longer; it continued until 2000. I also published a local calendar of Pagan workshops and events in the New York City area, as an activity of the Atlantic Pagan Council.

Larry’s Calendar of Events was one of the most important Pagan publications during the 1980s and 1990s; in those days before the Internet, it was a major resource for keeping track of what other Witches and Pagans were doing.

By 1984, I was active in the Coyote Medicine Society, and connected with Isaac Bonewits and his newly organized Ar nDraiocht Fein Druid Fellowship, as well as Coven Marasmius, a NROOGD coven led by Sally Eaton, in which Isaac was also involved.  At last, I had found groups in New York City that performed rituals in the forest and actively worked with Nature Spirits.  By August 1985, I had been initiated into Coven Marasmius by Sally Eaton, into ADF with Isaac Bonewits, and into Amaranth Energies by Prudence Priest (the original high priestess).  By that time, the Atlantic Pagan Council was dead, but I continued to publish the International Calendar of Pagan Events and a local calendar on my own.

My job situation changed, and I found myself in living in Birmingham, Alabama, for almost a year.  I had two Birmingham subscribers to the International Pagan Events Calendar when I moved there, and they introduced me to some of the local Pagan community.  I called a party and ritual in Birmingham to celebrate the defeat of the Helms Amendment and to empower Pagan freedom; more than 20 Alabama Pagans came.  Before long, I and several people who attended the party had organized a networking and ritual group called Pagan Web.  Soon, we had a functioning coven and were often up in the hills of Alabama (weather permitting) working with the Goddess, Gods, nature spirits, etc., at full moons, new moons and Sabbats.

Larry’s life in Virginia will be covered in Volume III.

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