Lord Merlin, aka David John White, was the elder high priest of the Ravenwood tradition for almost three decades and he died over a week ago, on Mabon. He led an extraordinary life, much like his wife Lady Sintana, and he died a year and a week after she passed from us. He was there by the Lady to bless the founding of my coven, and when I’m initiated this Saturday he will be a part of my lineage, my spiritual grandfather. Though I never met him, his passing fills me with sadness, and more than a little anger.
I’m sad and angry because he was an extraordinary man, yet no obit has yet appeared. RavenStone has a brief memorial on their website, but as of this writing I can’t find even a sparse and stingy newspaper obituary to mark his passing. I can’t tell you how old he was or when he was born or even if he left any family behind, but I know he was from England and trained in the Craft there. I know he died surrounded by loved ones. I know he practiced the Old Religion for for longer than I’ve lived and that he was fiercely loved. Yes, I can tell you that for sure. He was loved by many, many people.
There’s one thing I can tell you, one thing left out of the obituaries of Lady Sintana, and quite possibly left out of any official obituaries to come: Lord Merlin was gay. He was married to Lady Sintana, and they loved each other dearly. They were fast friends and fiercely loyal to each other, but they had other lovers. They lived in separate houses, and sometimes separate states. Lord Merlin was involved with Gay Spirit Visions here in Atlanta and he lived with his partner Charles for years until Charles’ death. He was a grandfather for Lady Sintana’s grandson, a mentor for many Witches and by all accounts a warm, funny and loyal man.
There are a lot of stories out there about Lord Merlin. People are privately remembering him and exchanging photos. Starbridge Sanctuary here in Dahlonega has a lake named after him. A memorial festival is being held for him there later this month. People will tell stories there. Perhaps the people who hear the stories will pass them on.
Lord Merlin won’t be able to tell his stories though, and the stories told about him will dwindle. Perhaps in a few decades he will be only a name in Ravenwood history. A researcher looking for him would find a straight man who died a year after his wife. Apparently Wiccan. Not terribly interesting. Just another Wiccan lost to history.
This is what makes me sad and angry. The idea that yet another elder’s years of service and love will be lost. That yet another GLBT person’s life might be whitewashed after death. That this vibrant influential Witch who was part of the coalition to fight the Helms amendment, who mentored Witches for almost 30 years in the Atlanta area and worked to help create a spiritual haven for gay men in Atlanta, will fade as our memories fade. He will be nothing more than a name, a footnote of history, a one-dimesional cardboard figure, an image with an unknown face.
Maybe his students and friends will speak up. Maybe the men of Gay Spirit Visions will share their memories of the man they knew. Maybe his students will speak out about the man they knew and share stories of his amazing life with the rest of the Witchcraft and Pagan community. Maybe. We’ll see.
There are people who won’t be happy about me writing this. Criticizing your Craft elders less than a week from your initiation isn’t a wise move. That’s ok. I’ll take the heat and the consequences. Trying to get proper obituaries on elders in our communities isn’t merely difficult, but damn near impossible. I just wish we thought enough of our elders to not let their memory fade into obscurity. After all, crafting an obituary for a man in his eighties shouldn’t come as a surprise, and if you need a guidance there are examples of obituaries in every paper in America. There is no good reason any public Witch should be lost to history. None at all.
UPDATE: I did find an obit, by Lord Peregrine of Sage Moon Grove. Many thanks to him for posting a timely obituary.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obit, linked here per request of Lord Peregrine. Normally I don’t link news stories with intentional errors in them.
*If anything in this account is factually wrong please kindly let me know and I will correct it. Please feel free to share memories of Lord Merlin in the comments if you feel so inclined.*