The Passing of Sára Cunningham

Another key figure in the American Craft Scene of the 1960s–70s slipped away in December 2016: Lady Sára Cunningham(19352016).1)Also known as Sara Cunningham Carter.

Sara Cunningham and dog

This photo may be in the house that Hans Holzer described. (From the Perfume Alchemy website.)

It seems like almost everyone profiled in Hans Holzer’s 1972 book The New Pagans2)A important survey of the American Pagan movement at that time, it predated Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon by seven years, although it was nowhere near as in-depth a study. is gone now, starting with “Professor” Holzer himself (1920–2009).  Fred Adams, Svetlana Butyrin Adams, Harold Moss, Louise Huebner, Leo Martello . . . lots of colorful characters. Ubi Sunt?

Holzer opens his passage about Sára Cunningham3)The accent mark on her name seemd to come and go, but Holzer used it. thus:

When I first met Sára a few years ago she was living in the Hollywood hills in a delightful semidilapidated house that even the most experienced taxi drivers had difficulty locating. The house was filled to the brim with the paraphernalia of witchcraft, ranging from herbs, dried ritual objects, even animals, to books and the tools of her witchcraft trade. For Sára was then, and is now, a teacher in the ancient art of witchcraft. Her pupils  range from students eager to learn the occult through the backdoor, so to speak, rather than at U.C.L.A. to such motion-picture luminaries as Susan Cabot and June Lockhart. These people weren’t necessarily practicing witches, but they came to listen to Sára as friends and because they were interested in the many aspects of the occult in which Sára Cunningham is an expert.

In 1970, together with Don Harrison and Harold Moss, she formed the neo-Egyptian Church of the Eternal Source.4)They were also involved with founding the umbrella group Covenant of the Goddess, which leaned more Wiccan. She was also known for her perfumes and incenses, of which you can read more at the Perfume Alchemy website.

For some reason, she moved in the mid-1970s to Boulder, Colorado, where I, still in my “Pagan seeker” phase, found her somehow and visited several times. But she was not destined to be my teacher. Maybe I was the wrong gender; she seemed to do better with female students. I would get to know two of them — one a graduate student in anthropology and one who taught Romance languages for a time and then became a writer. Both built on what they learnt from Sára about incenses, etc., in building their own businesses.

Not long after I met her, Sáea returned to the West Coast and eventually lived in southern Oregon. But there was one fascinating side to her that I had never known until now:

Lady Sara was also life-long secretary to Peruvian princess and diva Yma Sumac (1922-2008), the “Sun Virgin”, who became an international success for her extreme vocal range, which was well over four octaves. Sara’s collection of “The Peruvian Nightengale’s” publicity shots is preserved here: http://www.sunvirgin.com/

Notes   [ + ]

1. Also known as Sara Cunningham Carter.
2. A important survey of the American Pagan movement at that time, it predated Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon by seven years, although it was nowhere near as in-depth a study.
3. The accent mark on her name seemd to come and go, but Holzer used it.
4. They were also involved with founding the umbrella group Covenant of the Goddess, which leaned more Wiccan.

2 Comments

  1. Medeina Ragana says:

    Yma Sumac. A Gardnerian Priestess friend pointed out that “Yma Sumac” if you spelled it backwards came out, “Amy Camus”. Hmmmm…..

  2. Rummah says:

    I found both “Drawing” and “New Pagans” at the same time in the early 80’s. Amazing how different the tone was on each book!