I think the saddest thing about writing for the Pagan community is writing about elders who have passed that I never had the chance to meet. The poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko said “Not people die but worlds die in them.” It’s an appropriate way to express the memories, knowledge and perspective lost every time someone passes from our communities. We should make a greater effort to reach out and honor our elders and record their stories before they become our ancestors. I know a lot of Pagans are making greater efforts to record our history before it’s lost and honor our elders while they are still with us, and I applaud that.
I never met Lord Senthor (Steve Collins), though he served the Craft and performed Pagan music for over 30 years. He passed on March 14th and you can find his obits on The Wild Hunt and PNC-GA. He’s an elder in the tradition I belong to and was present for some very interesting parts of my tradition’s history.
In the 1980′s the House of Ravenwood in Atlanta decided to go from being located in an urban area to moving out into the country. Ravenwood had been operating a spiritual center open 24/7 to seekers since the mid-70′s and I’m certain maintaining that was a bit of a strain on the coven. Moving to the country seemed the ideal solution and they found land in Alabama, sold the large old Victorian on Moreland Ave and moved the church to the country. They dubbed the land “The Farm” and settled into the “back to nature” life, with folks driving out for ritual from Atlanta. Eventually it was determined that it was best for Ravenwood to return to Atlanta, and Lord Senthor chose to remain in Alabama. He bought the property and formed his own coven with Lady Epona.
What I like about this story is it illustrates that all things come to pass as they should. I believe the heart of the Ravenwood tradition will always reside near Atlanta, and from conversations I’ve had with people who knew Lord Senthor it seems he was meant to connect to the land he lived on in Alabama. I had the pleasure of speaking to Lord Peregrine (of Sage Moon Grove) who told me how struck he was at how in-tuned and connected Lord Senthor was to the land he lived on. Lord Peregrine spoke of him as warm and welcoming, saying “His graciousness and warmth exemplified what every Craft leader should be.”
Indeed, despite the drama that seems inherent and inescapable in the Craft, everyone I reached out to spoke of him in glowing terms. Tabhorian, who shares a Ravenwood lineage with Lord Senthor, spoke of him as a “a man of peace, and a consoler.” He told me “It is through our faith in the Lady and Lord and a belief that we will all meet again and love and be reunited with the Hidden Children that gets us through tough times like this.”
Lord Senthor was well-known outside of trad Craft as well. His band Moonstruck had been performing since the early 80′s and may have been the first Pagan band to embrace Southern Rock among other genres in their repertoire. Playing guitar since he was 7 and performing in public since he was 11, he began writing and performing Pagan music in 1980. Moonstruck embraced traditional Craft music as well as traditional folk, parody tunes and original music for the Pagan community.
Pagan musicians have spoken about his influence on Pagan music. Popular Georgia Pagan band Emerald Rose often played the same festivals and events as Moonstruck. Arthur Hinds of ER said “He was a pioneer in the world of Pagan music. He started when there were very few folks singing songs for the Old Ones and he inspired many others to walk that path.” Clyde Gilbert of ER remembers “as small as the Pagan music world used to be we all worked our own brand of collaborative magic (Pagan music) for years: shared sound systems, did setup and takedown, coordinated music and the like. We spent many weekends camping and making music over the years. He’ll definitely be missed.”
Zebrine Gray met him through the Pagan festival circuit and remembers Steve well: “As a vendor at Pagan Festivals, I often set up right across from the stage and heard his Southern-Pagan songs so many times I can still hear them in my head now (years later). We would both arrive early and stay late, so I had many nice late-night conversations around the fire with him during these times. He was a good man, a worthy priest of the Goddess, and I am glad to have known him.”
It’s strange to learn so much about a man after his death. Lord Senthor sounds like someone I would have loved to sit down and chat with, recorder in hand. For every story I hear about him I wonder about the stories I don’t know. I wonder about the stories only he knew, or at least only he could tell well. His family lost a son, husband and father. His coven has lost a priest and teacher. His band has lost his talent and inspiration. The Pagan community has lost part of it’s history.
I never got to meet Lord Senthor. I didn’t ask him the questions that would lead to stories illustrating the history of the Craft. The sad stories, the funny stories. The trials and triumphs. The wounds that healed over time. The ones that remain keen. The source of the passion and faith that leads one to serve the Old Religion for over 30 years. What a missed opportunity. I can only learn as much as I can from the elders who knew him, listen to his music and try to reach out to the elders in my communities before they become my ancestors.
Many thanks to Lady Larina of RavenStone for providing information and connecting me with those who knew Lord Senthor.