A History of the Craft in America: California and Councils, VI, The Second PEC

A History of the Craft in America: California and Councils, VI, The Second PEC March 10, 2013

In discussing the first Pagan Ecumenical Council meeting afterward, Gwydion, Alison, I and several others realized that we had not arrived at a specific proposal for an organizational structure because, in fact, the Pagan groups represented at the meeting did not have enough common ground to define any goals or structures. The PEC had focused on Pagan religions, excluding the magical lodges, political associations, and metaphysical churches, yet we still differed on what we did, how we worked, how we ran our organizations, and what we believed, so much so that we could not define ourselves specifically enough to have a foundation for an organization. In contrast, there was much common ground among all the Witches, however they defined their own traditions—but could we exclude the other Pagans? It seemed unfair to do so—hence we could not see what to do next. Still, the meeting was regarded as a milestone in cooperation among Pagan groups. We sent out copies of our minutes to many friends. Lady Theos, as head of the Gardnerian movement, wrote back to us on April 3, saying,

Phoenix & I both endorse the purpose and function of the PEC, and support fully its existence and goals. Moreover, we both add a collective”aye” to the matters discussed at your February meeting as outlined in the minutes. While we do not have anything so formidable as the PEC here in the NYC area, our coven hosts regular meetings of leaders of local Gardnerian covens . . . usually attended by invited leaders of other Wiccan & Pagan groups. At our next meeting . . . we will read the minutes of your meeting for the benefit of these people, who all share your desire for advancing Paganism.

Developments in Northern California

Knowing what else was going on from late 1973 through 1975 helps explain which covens became active in the process of creating the Covenant of the Goddess. The developments in California were not more important than what was going on elsewhere in the country; I just have more information about them. Rather, they were typical, because by 1974 covens were proliferating in New York, Boston, Chicago, and probably elsewhere.

By the end of 1974, the NROOGD consisted of seven covens, the first being the original Full Moon Coven. The new Spiral Dance Coven came into full existence by March 1973. Although Alta and I had trained its members very thoroughly, with great help by Taoni and Geri, we had not been able to choose them for compatibility. As a result, by late 1973 the five Red Cords who had survived the training had diverged onto separate paths. Latona (Lynn H.) remained as High Priestess and built the coven back up; it flourished through 1977.

After the Spiral Dance study group became closed in March 1972, Glenn Turner, who has always been the Matriarch of the NROOGD, had begun a new study group in San Francisco. By March 1973 its members decided they were now a real coven and took on the name Horned Moon. When they began meeting at full moon in September 1973, they changed their name to Stone Moon. Similarly, the Moon Seed study group that Judy Foster (Calypso Iris), Brandel, and Ivy had started in the East Bay declared itself to also be a real coven in April 1973.

Gandalf (Larry K.), from Spiral Dance, founded the Tuatha de Taran in September 1973 and began training Gavlin (Karla), whom he married, as his High Priestess. Gandalf emphasized some aspects of the Craft that other NROOGD covens did not. Because of the resulting controversy, Gandalf stopped telling his initiates that they were part of the NROOGD. As a result, covens that descend from the Tuatha de Taran—Lady Allusha (Rose S.) had founded several in southern California by the early 1990s—usually don’t know about their NROOGD ancestry.

In March 1974 Geri de Stefano (Lilith) and David (Roland) began another new study group in San Francisco, and in September 1974 founded the Isis Rising Coven, which flourished through 1977. In April 1974, I, Alta, Judy G. (Rhiannon), and Dick B. (Burbage Rowanstump) founded the Coven of Eurynome in the East Bay. It flourished through 1977.

In addition to the covens, the NROOGD was governed by a Red Cord Council, which had been formed in March 1973 and would consist of all who had earned the Red Cord, the NROOGD badge of full empowerment, in any of the covens. It functioned through 1976.

Ursa Maior was the first all-women’s circle founded in the San Francisco area and sparked a great deal of debate over whether single-sex covens were “really” covens. They worked together from about 1973 to 1977, and exerted a great influence on the women’s spirituality movement because of their vitality and creativity, especially through the summer-solstice ritual that they worked for about 150 women at the Women’s Spirituality Festival in Oregon in about 1974. Founding and key members included Barbry MyOwn, Deborah Bender, Hallie Mountain Wing,  and Tiponya (Rita R.). The group worked by consensus. Technically they were not a NROOGD coven, but there was much overlapping membership.

A second Feri Tradition coven was active in Berkeley, under the leadership of Gabriel Caradoc and Eldri Littlewolf (Esther Z.) Valerie Voigt was an active member in it.

Other Pagan groups active in northern California in 1973-74 included:
the Reformed Druids of North America, specifically Bill Heidrick, Bob Larson, and Isaac Bonewits;
a Nemeton chapter headed by Tina Musgrove;
a chapter of the Discordian Society in San Francisco, headed by Greg Hill (Malaypse the Younger), another in Guerneville, headed by Robert Anton Wilson;
the San Francisco Nest of the Church of All Words, headed by Jack and Rae Hurley, and the Nest in San Jose headed by Dan Norman.
The New Wiccan Church in Sacramento was being started around this time also.

Given Gwydion’s energetic advocacy, a second meeting of the Pagan Ecumenical Council was held at his and Alison Harlow’s home in Oakland on June 1 and 2, 1974, attended by fewer people from southern California, more from the northern half, but no one seems to have taken notes on who attended. Meanwhile, Sylvia Porter’s national economics column of May 2, 1974, had maligned Witches, identifying us with Satanists, con artists, gangsters, and so on. A letter of protest was sent to her, with a copy to Green Egg, the latter accompanied by a second letter about the need for a legal organization to combat slander and other negative publicity.  Unfortunately, when this issue was raised at the second PEC meeting, the representatives of several of the Pagan groups said, in effect, “But that’s not our problem. That’s why we don’t call ourselves Witches.” It too was overall a friendly and pleasant meeting, but also made no progress toward creating a useful organization.

Afterward, we ringleaders chewed it over and considered that, if our being maligned was not the other Pagans’ problem, then maybe they weren’t our problem either. We’d been going nuts trying to figure out how to include them; maybe we really didn’t have to. Organizing something just for Witches would be much simpler. Now we had a reason, or at least an excuse, for narrowing our focus. During past decades, this pattern, of having to narrow the focus down from alternative religions in general to only Pagan religions and then to Witches only, has been repeated many times. I will give other examples as we come to them.

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