Fitting Tributes: The Passing of Lord Athanor

Pagans having two names can have some amusing consequences. How often do you tend to know someone’s mundane name or magical name, but not both? You know who Nightfire is but swear you’ve never met Michael, not knowing they are the same person. I recently had an experience like that.

Lord Athanor is one of those elder names I hear a lot when speaking to folks from my tradition. We’ve got a boatload of elders and countless names from the history of Paganism in Atlanta. I’ve never met most of these people, partly because I’m a hermit by nature and partly because many have already passed. So when I heard he passed it didn’t ring any bells for me.

In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that the news of his passing annoyed me. I’ve written a few trad Craft obits in my time, and almost without fail I was stonewalled in my attempts to get basic info, given grief for what I did write, and generally the whole process was a personal nightmare. After the passing of Lord Merlin last September I swore I wouldn’t touch an obit again. The trad Craft community didn’t seem to care whether a timely and appropriate notice was posted online so that those who had known the deceased across the country would be notified, and those that didn’t would learn a bit about our history.

Most of the elders who are passing now are veterans of the Witch Wars of the 70′s (and 80′s and 90′s) and have boatloads of baggage with them. There are still Witches nurturing grudges that are 30 and 40 years old. When one of these elders pass you either have people refuse to speak since they feel they have nothing good to say, or people anxious to share every sordid detail, every rumor and every crumb of secondhand gossip. In an overreaction to this, friends of the departed elder often write florid obits that lack even the most basic information. Write something that someone disagrees with in the slightest and you’ll find all the angst of the past heaped on your doorstep. It’s a sorry state to be in, and it’s the reason why when the HP who initiated me told me of Lord Athanor’s passing, my immediate irritated response was that I wasn’t writing an obit.

Yet Lord Athanor wasn’t some distant elder who I was entirely unaware of. It was only after his passing that I discovered that I knew who he was. I have been “Facebook friends” with his son Adrian for a long time, and I’d been following the updates regarding his health, sending energy and prayers. The John Monogue whose health I had been concerned about, and whose son I had come to think well of, was the very same elder I had dismissed earlier. I felt pretty ashamed of myself.

Thankfully, this revelation was followed quickly with the news that his family and students had already published an obit, published info for his memorial service and revealed plans to honor his memory. Maybe it wasn’t a carbon copy of a mundane obit, but it was timely, gave the pertinent facts and said something nice about the deceased. It’s a good obit, and gave other writers info for their tributes to Lord Athanor. It makes me feel a tiny twinge less guilty for my initial reaction to his passing.

This timely and appropriate response to Lord Athanor’s passing speaks well of him, his family and his students. This is how it’s supposed to be done. I should hope that every elder in our community should receive such a timely and respectful response to their passing.

Every elder that passes takes a universe of knowledge, stories and experience with them, and they also take our history. There are few Pagans in Atlanta today that remember the 60′s and 70′s, and maybe a scant few more that were active in the early 80′s. The Unicorn and Ravenwood traditions became the grand dames of the Atlanta Pagan community, surviving for decades and still going strong today. Not many people are left who remember when they were new, fledgling groups trying to find their way. Often when people try to talk about the past, they try to dredge up the dirt, but the truth is there are stories that will make you laugh, that will inspire you, and that are sober, cautionary tales. And those are the ones that are most worth saving, not the catty ones.

I wish Lord Athanor rest, reunion and rebirth. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the members of his tradition. I hope his memorial service is full of the good stories. We need more of those.

John Monogue/Lord Athanor

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Kelly_aidan

    Hi, Star,

    Part of the reason I’m still working on a general history of the Craft in Anglo-America is that I have saved information from those decades, like about Lady Sintana and Lady Circe and Lady Galadriel and so on, I don’t know whether the Craft actually attracts more than its statistical share of the permanently immature, but it does seem that way sometimes. Got to get to work.


    • kenneth

      My own thought on that as a lifelong student of people and history is that movements select for “dramatic” people at certain stages of their development.  It’s important for those of us who were not adults, or not pagans, during the 60s 70s and 80s to be able to step back and understand the context of the times.
          Being a witch, in those days, was a much different deal than it is today. It meant outright persecution, ridicule, and even just social isolation in a way that many of us will simply never experience firsthand. Just even finding your way into the craft was something of a trial by fire and test of patience. To survive that and stick with it and emerge as a leader of it, you had to be very individualistic, a bit eccentric, and maybe even a little crazy.
          This was not the sort of venture that could attract, or retain, “go along to get along” types. They were all, in their own ways, pioneers, and pioneers are, by definition, misfits. Misfit can be a very good thing. No innovation happens without them.
          At the same time, misfits cannot be misfits if they are terribly sensitive to what others think of them.  They’re not big on the whole “filter between the cortex and mouth” thing.  That, compounded with maturity issues, was probably responsible for 99% of the witch war dynamic. If Leader A thought Leader B didn’t have the real tradition, or just felt like telling them to shag off for whatever reason, they rarely held their fire. In a community where everyone knew everyone else or had some sort of tangled allegiance to trads and personalities, you can see where that becomes a more or less permanent civil war. It’s unfortunate it played out that way, but I still feel like we ought to honor these folks who gave us so much, warts and all. 

      • Star Foster

         Yeah, I think the fact that they had to deal with things back then that we don’t have to worry about so much today contributes to the atmosphere of high drama. When you have to install bullet-proof glass in your home out of real necessity, intra-Craft conflict seems minor.

  • kenneth

    I have very mixed feelings when I consider the departure of all these old line elders in the big picture sort of sense. I’m too young or at least too recent to the craft to have any personal baggage dating to their time, but there was still radioactive fallout from all that when I first got into the traditional coven scene where I was initiated. 
        I wish them all well on their journeys, and I think we owe it to them, and ourselves, to do whatever we can to not let their history and accomplishments die. We owe a lot to them. On the other hand, I think it’s to the good in some ways that we are no longer a movement of big personalities, where everyone was a couple of initiations removed from everyone else and had an opinion about who was a real so-and-so.  It’s like the foundation of any new movement. In those rough-and-ready days when you’re in the wilderness, literally and figuratively, you need those strong personalities, those fierce tribal identities, and even hatreds to keep things alive. Once you’re a bit more established, those things slowly become more of a liability than an asset. 
        Yeah, there’s no doubt some good things we’ll lose from the old school initiate-of-an-initiate scene, but we’re a much bigger and more diverse movement that needs to find its own way in our own times. We can afford more room, and need more room, to figure out how to engage things on our own terms and to make mistakes, and perhaps to be more defined by our own relationships with the gods versus what lineage we’ve sworn into, or swear at.  
       That said, I’d like to see some sort of oral history project to do some real, in-depth, in their own words, no-punches held interviews with these folks while we still can.  We ought to preserve all of what we can, even the ugly and contentious aspects of the old history, because that’s the authentic version. I can’t say whether future generations will give proper attention to the old masters, but at least we ought to afford them the opportunity to see the full picture of who they were, successes, failures and all. 

  • Pandan49

    The thought that came to me when I saw this was about how often we hear of couples who have been together a long time and then one dies, and the other follows not long after.

    When I first met them many years ago, Athanor introduced himself and with a smirk, he said that he was  also known as Mr. Galadriel.

    It has not been that long, relatively speaking since Galadriel, his wife and priestess crossed over.

    • Adrian Hawkins

      Lady Galadriel past 5 years and 4 days earlier than Lord Athanor.  She always said that she liked to go first to figure out if something was really worth doing. I imagine that Imbolc is going to be a hard time for me from now on.