Quick Review: The Wizard and the Witch

wizard and witchOne of my earliest entries on this blog, clear back in 2003, was a complaint about the lack of biographical and autobiographical writing in American Wicca — and I would extend that to all types of new Paganism generally.

That entry did mention Margot Adler’s Heretic’s Heart (1997), but I did not care for Whispers of the Moon (1996), a biography of Scott Cunningham, because it seemed too obviously tidied-up and sanitized. (Sam Webster says that it is still valuable despite that — I won’t dispute the point.)

Michael Lloyd’s The Bull of Heaven (2012) broke the drought. His thoroughly researched book placed Eddie Buczynski in a cultural context — the New York Pagan and Gay Liberation scenes of the 1970s — and explored a wealth of connections and possibilities without blinking.

Now John C.. Sulak, who co-wrote Modern Pagans (2001) for RE/Search Press, has brought us  The Wizard and the Witch: An Oral History of Oberon Zell & Morning Glory.

It is not just the history of a significant slice of  American Paganism from the 1960s until now, but also the love story of a couple married for forty years.

Yet Morning Glory, priestess of Aphrodite, invented the term “polyamory” (but not the concept)  and they embraced it. Paradoxes abound.

Sulak tells the story of Otter and MG through multiple voices, more like a radio documentary — there is even a voice labeled “Narrator.” I thought that was a little weird at first, but I got used to it.

Sometimes the Zells may seem like Pagan rock stars, but then you see them in screaming fights, or admitting that they made mistakes in who they trusted or dealt with their families of birth or how they raised their kids  (Those children, now grown, are also heard from.) Highs and lows, gains and losses, feasts and famines — it’s all here.

Reading it, you can see how the Church of All Worlds, founded by Tim Zell and his close friend Lance Christie, started out as what we now would call “spiritual but not religious,” and changed as it encountered other overly Pagan groups (such as Feraferia) as well as various Witchcraft groups.

There is much about the publishing chronicle of Green Egg magazine and the founding of the Grey School of Wizardry as well, not to mention the growth of the Pagan festival circuit.

When people wonder, “What was the American Pagan scene like in the 1970s, 1980s, 0r 1990s?” they will do well to read The Wizard and the Witch for one answer. It is a sign of Llewellyn’s editorial maturation that they published it, and I applaud that.

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