in perfect Love, in perfect Trust,
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill:
An ye harm none, do as ye will.
What ye send out comes back to thee,
So ever mind the rule of three.
Follow this with mind and heart,
and Merry ye Meet, and Merry ye Part.
Notes on Gardnerian History, 1963-1990.
by Aidan A. Kelly, Ph.D.
Art Magickal Publications
Los Angeles, California
[I intend the title "Notes on . . . " to indicate that this file is notes, work in progress, to be improved. I would welcome any corrections, amplifications, or other feedback that anyone might feel inspired to share with me about it. I hope that those who know the details of Gardnerian history might consider this project an appropriate way to record them, so that the history of the movement can be documented while its key events are still in living memory. I will be asking some of the major parties mentioned herein if I have described their accomplishments fairly, or if things have suffered a sea change in percolating over the Rockies, to mix three metaphors.]
Gardnerian history in America begins with Raymond and Rosemary Buckland. Whatever else may or may not be true, Ray Buckland was the person who recognized how important the Gardnerian movement was going to be, and who went over to Britain to be initiated and to bring the Craft to America.
Buckland was born in London on August 31, 1934. He was educated at King's College School in London and served in the Royal Air Force from 1957 to 1959. He married his first wife, Rosemary, in 1955. Ray had been studying the occult for many years when he first read Gardner's Witchcraft Today in the late 1950s, and realized that witchcraft was the religion for which he had been searching. He wrote to Gardner, who was living on the Isle of Man, and struck up a mail and telephone relationship. When he and Rosemary emigrated to the United States in 1962, and settled in Brentwood, Long Island, where he went to work for British Airways (then BOAC), he became Gardner's spokesperson in the United States; whenever Gardner received a query from an American, he forwarded the letter to Buckland.
Buckland finally met Gardner in 1963, when he and Rosemary journeyed to Perth, Scotland, where, as Gerald had arranged, they underwent a brief, intense training by Lady Olwen and were initiated. (In the Gardnerian lineage papers, the one for Rosemary says that Olwen appointed her to be Maiden of the New York Coven on Nov. 30, 1963, "until such time as she attains the Sublime Degree" -- which presumably she did.) They then brought the Gardnerian Book of Shadows and secret names back to New York, where they founded the New York Coven in Bay Shore, Long Island, which became the center of the Gardnerian movement and the Neopagan movement in America for the next twenty years. Almost all the "official" Gardnerians in America are descendants of that coven.
The Bucklands, whose Craft names were Robat and Rowen, did their best to screen people carefully and train them thoroughly according to the principles and procedures in the Gardnerian Book. Over the years, however, more and more people came banging on the door, demanding to learn the Craft, and threatening to go start an imitation based on Rosemary's Baby if they weren't let in. In order to prevent such a tendency from growing wild, Ray tells me, he and Lady Rowen gradually relented: letting people in sooner, training them less rigorously, elevating them to the higher degrees sooner. Still, as far as Ray remembers, there were fewer than 20 women raised to the Third Degree during the nine years of their "administration" of the New York Coven.
One of the most important of the Buckland's initiates was Ed Fitch. While serving in the Air Force in Thailand, Fitch wrote two books that were never formally published but that later circulated in the Pagan community and became "underground classics": The Grimoire of the Shadows,, a book of magical training techniques, and The Outer Court Book of Shadows, which works what Ed knew of the magical and seasonal rituals of ancient Crete, Greece and Druidic Europe into the basic Gardnerian format. Twenty years later, material from these books was still surfacing in new traditions and rituals, sometimes being labeled as an "ancient Celtic tradition from Ireland and Scotland." On returning to the USA, Fitch helped create the Pagan Way, which served as an outer court for Gardnerian and other covens during the 1970s.
In 1972, Lady Rowen decided to retire as High Priestess; she appointed Theos (Judy K.) to be High Priestess of the New York Coven on November 17, 1972, on which date the rest of the members of the coven swore and signed an oath of fealty to Theos. It read "We the undersigned, present members of the New York Coven, do swear allegiance to our new High Priestess, the Lady Theos." It was signed by the third-degree members Robat (Raymond Buckland), Phoenix (Tom K., Judy's husband), Ea (Ed Fitch), and Sea, and the first-degree members Gillis, Retep, Puck, and Tanith. Theos and Phoenix took over responsibility for the New York coven with great enthusiasm, moved the Covenstead to their home in Commack, and quickly built it back up to full strength. It is a long ride from Manhattan out to Commack in Suffolk County, Long Island, but the coven's members seem to have made that trek happily at least once a month; many made it about once a week.
At first the Bucklands remained as Elders in the coven, but then they separated, and started becoming less active. When Theos and Phoenix realized that Rowen would soon no longer be available to answer questions, they debriefed her on everything she could remember about oral traditions and about how the coven actually operated, thus creating the longest single document in the current Gardnerian Book of Shadows, the "Notes and Guidelines," which was at first intended to be just that, mere guidelines, but over the years hardened into rules and regulations.
Lady Deirdre has written about that period (in The Hidden Path, Beltane 1990, p. 29),
"The `original material' that was handed down by Gardner was just the bare bones . . . There were fewer than 100 pages in the Book of Shadows in 1972. Lady Theos & Phoenix studied with Rowen & Robat for only a brief period, but an intensive one. They wrote down the teachings they received, because they knew they would not always be able to call on their Queen for advice & counsel. . . . Lady Theos, Phoenix, Modred, and I studied the materials we had been given and the teachings they had written down. We then `hit the books' and researched various mystery traditions . . . in an attempt to flesh out the bare bones . . in every case . . . signing our names to the material which we added to the Book of Shadows."
In 1973, Lady Rowen, Robat (Ray Buckland), Lady Theos, Phoenix, Ea (Ed Fitch), and Sea, as the actual Elders of the Gardnerian movement in America, signed the materials they were adding to the first-degree Book of Shadows, thus certifying it as authentic and authoritative (Hidden Path, Samhain 1987, p. 30). The rules and procedures thus created, observed faithfully by American Gardnerians, are the ones that the English Gardnerians have never heard of, and to which their response is usually more or less on the order of, "What? Surely you jest!"
[Editor's note: According to Phoenix (May 11, 2003) regarding the Notes and Guidelines, "Kelly got it a bit wrong. I did write the N&G when Theos and I first became HPS and HP. ,,, We jotted down some of the high points of what she said just to use as a memory jogger. We did not intend to write down everything." and "Kelly writes about us and our coven with seeming authority, yet he never made any attempt to communicate with us." ]
Lady Morda (Donna Cole) and Robert S. in Chicago were also training initiates in their Gardnerian line, which goes back to England via a route different from that of Lady Rowen. Donna told me at Merrymeet 1992 that she had traveled to England in 1969, had worked with Madge Worthington and Arthur Edmonds, two of Eleanor Bone's initiates, and was raised to Second Degree by them; she was also close friends with Lois Bourne, who had succeeded Doreen Valiente as High Priestess of the original London coven, the one to which Fred Lamond still belongs. Donna then brought the Gardnerian Craft to Chicago, teamed up with Herman Enderle and began a pagan group which was originally nameless but eventually became known as Temple of The Pagan Way. Ginny Brubaker joined the group inn 1971 while it was still nameless. This group adapted Ed Fitch's new Pagan Way materials as an Outer Court, and thus helped create the Temple of the Pagan Way as an eclectic Tradition with a Gardnerian core.
[Editor's note: the next sentence is corrected from Kelly's history according to material supplied by Phoenix. Some details of the Kelly material is revised and updated with information supplied by Ginny Brubaker on June 17, 2005.]
Theos and Phoenix resolved an institutional problem by elevating Donna (Lady Morda) to the 3rd degree in their Gardnerian Tradition at Long Island according to New York procedures, thus again grafting two lines together. Covens that descend from Lady Morda's Temple of the Pagan Way are thus also Gardnerian by several different definitions.
Deirdre and Modred in Louisville were training initiates, and the Craft was therefore also expanding rapidly from that base of operations. Other non-Long-Island lineages include: those from Frederick Folter's Coven of Artemis Orthia, active in British Columbia in the early 1970s; from Carol Bulzone's Enchantments covens, which also have papers (which I have seen) going back to England by a route independent of Long Island; as well as from a coven in Nova Scotia that apparently predates Lady Olwen.
If you stop to think that some large fraction of these Third Degree people have also been turning out trickles, streams, or floods of initiates themselves during the last two decades, and that these third-generation Third Degrees have in turn been turning out yet more, etc., you can begin to appreciate that the Craft has been growing much more rapidly than anyone outside the Craft, or even most in it, could imagine possible.
Obviously, I do not and cannot know the details of the history of every Gardnerian coven in America at this point, and I don't believe that anyone else knows them either. (I do know that Lady Tiamet has been working hard for some years to compile a Gardnerian family tree, and I hope that someday she may be willing to share it with me.) Instead, I can tell the history of only the Gardnerians I happen to know about -- but since these particular people have been at the focus of every controversy in the Gardnerian movement for the last decade, their history is at least typical, perhaps archetypical, of the history of American Gardnerianism in general.
Pagan Way was purposely created in America in 1970 in response to a rapidly rising interest in European Paganism, Witchcraft, and Magic. Existing Witchcraft covens, with their traditional intensive screening programs and "year-and-a-day" probationary periods, could not accommodate the large number of inquiries and applicants coming in. Pagan Way provided an alternative with an open, nature-oriented system that emphasized celebration of nature over magic and that had no formal initiation or membership requirements.
The three most important figures in the creation of the Pagan Way were probably Joseph B. Wilson, Ed Fitch, and Thomas Giles.
Wilson was an American Witch who founded a popular journal, The Waxing Moon, in 1965. While stationed with the U.S. Air Force in England in 1969, Wilson had contacted members of Roy Bowers' 1734 Tradition, some of whom he had already known as pen pals. At this time he began and coordinated correspondence among 15 to 20 groups and persons interested in establishing an exoteric form of Paganism.
Ed Fitch was a High Priest in the Gardnerian tradition (easily one of the most important of the Buckland's initiates), at the time stationed with the U.S. Air Force in North Dakota. While serving in the Air Force in Thailand, Fitch had written two books that were never formally published but that later circulated in the Pagan community and became underground classics: "The Grimoire of the Shadows," a book of magical training techniques, and "The Outer Court Book of Shadows," which worked what he knew of the magical and seasonal rituals of ancient Crete, Greece, and Druidic Europe into the basic Gardnerian influence. Twenty years later, material from these books was still surfacing in new traditions and rituals, sometimes being labeled as an "ancient Celtic tradition from Ireland and Scotland."
Thomas Giles was an even more curious phenomenon: a Witch of a home-grown American Tradition that began with Olney Richmond, founder of the Order of the Magi in Chicago in the 1890s, and passed on to him by his mentor, the Chicago bookseller Donald Nelson. In his own practice, Giles had begun blending the folk-magic practices of his own Tradition with the Gardnerian procedures coming to light, and moving more and more toward Gardnerianism because of its usefulness, as apparently all traditional American Witches did.
These three men were apparently responsible for creating not only the Pagan Way, but also the "American Tradition," as a form of Witchcraft that was Gardnerian in all but a few oath-bound details, and which could serve as a middle ground between the non-initiate religion of the Pagan Way and the rigorous rules of the strict Gardnerians.
Other members of the Pagan Way Committee of Correspondence were Fred and Martha Adler, American witches in California; John Score (also known as M) of England, who wielded considerable influence on both sides of the Atlantic through his newsletter, The Wiccan; the leaders of the Regency and Plant Bran (i.e., 1734 Tradition) covens in Britain; Tony Kelly, British poet; and Susan Roberts, journalist and author of Witches U.S.A.
After four to five months of correspondence, the founders decided on some basic principles for the new movement and conceived ideas for rituals. Fitch adapted the materials he had already written in Thailand to this new purpose. Some of this material first appeared in The Waxing Moon, the publication of which Wilson turned over to Fitch and Thomas Giles, of Philadelphia, in 1969.
Fitch and Giles set up mailing centers in Minot, South Dakota, and in Philadelphia. The Pagan material was so enthusiastically received that Fitch and Giles soon approved the establishment of additional, independent mailing centers. Giles, because he traveled on business, became the "point man," carrying word of this new development directly to the covens he was in contact with across America. (I first met him at Caerdderwen in 1972.)
The rituals, lore, and background material were never copyrighted but were placed in the public domain in order to gain the widest possible distribution. Over the years, they have been republished several times by various occult houses as The Rituals of the Pagan Way, A Book of Pagan Rituals, and perhaps under other titles as well. In 1971 Wilson resumed editorship of The Waxing Moon; Fitch and Giles renamed their journal The Crystal Well and published separately.
The Pagan Way movement received a strong boost from two of Fitch's colleagues, Donna Cole and Herman Enderle, Gardnerian Witches in Chicago. Donna Cole had gotten Gardnerian initiation in England in 1969 from Madge Worthington and Arthur Edmonds, who derive from Gardner via Eleanor (Rae) Bone.
Donna then brought the Craft back to Chicago and began a nameless group with Herman Enderle. Ginny Brubaker joined the group while it was nameless. It was later renamed Temple of the Pagan Way as the first formal Pagan Way grove in Chicago, to serve as an Outer Court around the central Gardnerian coven. Donna left the group in 1972 to focus on her Gardnerian coven, The Coven/Temple of the Sacred Stones. Ginny Brubaker became the High Priestess at Yule 1972. The group changed it's name to Temple of Uranus in 1972 and 1973 to reflect a greater emphasis on ceremonial magick of Herman's Rosicrucian background. The group divided in 1974 with Herman and Ginny going separate ways. Herman's new group was called Earthstar. The larger portion of the group which included Ginny kept the name Uranus briefly, and then changed it's name back to The Temple of the Pagan Way. In 1988 the name was changed again to Covenant of Gaea.
In Philadelphia, Penny and Michael Novack took over from Giles and formed other groves, which rapidly expanded and spawned more groves in the eastern United States. In the 1970s Pagan Way groves spread across the United States, primarily in major cities but also in some small communities.
[Numerous] Pagan Way groves and were contacts published in Green Egg in 1973 and 1974. [Editor's note: Most of the addresses are obsolete and are not reproduced on this page.]
Pagan Way appealed to two main audiences: those just getting started in Witchcraft, and those interested in attending Pagan ceremonies and structuring social and civic activities around them, much as in mainstream churches. The founders and early organizers let the movement take its own course. No central organization was formed; the groves and mailing centers remained autonomous and loosely affiliated. Some covens of Witches ran Pagan Way groups as training circles for interested persons and potential initiates. Candidates for initiation spent the traditional year and a day in probation, studying the Craft and undergoing evaluation by coven leaders. Not everyone who joined a Pagan Way training circle was initiated into Witchcraft. Those who were not remained in Pagan Way groups for as long as they chose; or worked as solitaries; or formed their own Pagan Way groups.
With the formation of the Covenant of the Goddess in 1975, and with the spread of the festival movement, each festival being run by an autonomous local committee, there came to be less and less need for the Pagan Way as an intake device for the Neopagan Witches. By 1980 what was left of the Pagan Way had fallen apart, and groves dwindled in size and number.
However, an ever-changing scene of new groups has emerged out of Pagan Way milieu since the early 1980s. The Pagan Way rituals endured, and continue to be used and adapted by numerous succeeding Pagan groups. According to Fitch, the Pagan Way movement was never intended to address the esoteric audience of those who wanted initiation and training in the Craft itself. Eventually, adaptations of Pagan Way materials were made for those who wanted more esoteric aspects: initiation rites were added by Cole, Enderle, and others, and secret, closed Outer Courts were formed which gave more emphasis to magic.
In the United Kingdom, the movement evolved separately from the American movement with the founding in 1971 of the Pagan Front, which later changed its name to the Pagan Federation. The Regency covens, which were involved in the formation of Pagan Front/Pagan Way, became established in the United States under the name Roebuck.
In the Chicago area, under the influence of Cole and Enderle, the Pagan Way evolved into an autonomous Tradition of the Craft (although I am informed that members of this Tradition insist on referring to themselves as Pagans, not Witches). It is most easily identified by its use of a system of "elemental pacts": five initiatory grades keyed to the elements in the sequence earth, water, fire, air, and spirit.
Some prominent covens in this lineage have included:
Our Lady of the Woods, Los Alamos, NM; offshoot of Temple of the Pagan Way, Chicago.
People of the Woods, Albuquerque, NM, and Cheney, WA; offshoot of Our Lady of the Woods.
Dromenon Circle, Chicago area; PK 1994
Covenant of Gaea, Chicago, IL; came directly from Temple of the Pagan Way.
The Great Write [published 1981-84], Epiphanes; Council of the Sacred Earth, Chicago, IL, Pagana #2, 2/81; Pagana #9, 3/82, p. 21; CMD Cauldron, 9/93
Coven of the Moonlit Grove, Chicago, IL.
Coven of the Sacred Stones, Chicago, IL; Gardnerian coven started by Donna Cole.
Our Lady of the Prairie, Rock Island, IL; offshoot of Our Lady of the Woods.
Coven Ouroborous et Ova, Los Angeles, CA; the coven was active in the late 1980s.
Our Lady of the River Wiccan Church (formerly Nova Coven), Algonquin, IL,; began January 1983 as offshoot of Coven of the Sacred Stones, and hived off four covens by 1991.
Cornfield Coven & Tradition, Granville, IL; Eclectic: Fairy/Gardnerian/TPW; PK 1994