Isaac Bonewits 1949 – 2010

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 12, 2010 — 21 Comments

Word has come to us that seminal Pagan author, theologian, singer, and Druid leader Isaac Bonewits has passed away after a long battle with a rare form of colon cancer. Tributes and blessings for this influential figure within the Pagan movement have been pouring in since Isaac’s wife Phaedra Bonewits announced on August 9th that he was “nearing the end”. On the morning of August 12th, surrounded by family, he passed away.

“This morning, August 12, 2010 at approximately 8 AM ET, Isaac Bonewits passed away peacefully in his sleep. All his brothers and sisters arrived at his side last night. His family and friends surround him now.”


Isaac Bonewits, photo by Ava Francesca, from the ADF website.

A true Pagan polymath, Bonewits seemed to drink deeply of modern Paganism in all its myriad forms. He’s been an initiate into Santeria, religious Witchcraft (both orthodox and heterodox), various magic(k)al traditions, and fraternal Druidism. A man of letters, he wrote many celebrated books, and many more influential essays. Many of the phrases and terminology we now use on a regular basis had their genesis with Isaac Bonewits. His Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF) has been used by Federal law enforcement and foreign governments to evaluate religious minorities, and he’s been a visionary in predicting the growing pains our movement would encounter.

Perhaps his greatest gift and legacy to the Pagan movement will be the founding of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), a Druid fellowship that from the outset anticipated the ramifications of our growing numbers, and the strove to meet the challenges that would bring.

“We believe that Neopaganism is eventually going to become a mainstream religious movement, with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of members, and that this will be A Good Thing, both for the individuals involved and for the survival of the Earth Mother. Neopaganism is riding the crest of the “baby boom.” Many people who grew up in the 60′s and 70′s are discovering us at about the same time that they are realizing both the desperate state of our planet and the eternal relevance of our youthful ideals. Membership in the Neopagan community is quietly growing at a geometric rate, both through word of mouth and the many do-it-yourself books now available, giving us an ever-greater impact on the mainstream culture as a whole.

All these Neopagans are going to need publically accessible worship, teaching, counseling, and healing. Within thirty years we expect to see indoor temples and/or sacred groves throughout North America and Europe, staffed by full-time paid professional clergy. They’ll provide the full range of needed services to the Neopagan community, with no more “corruption” than the Unitarians, the Buddhists, or the Quakers experience. We see globally televised Samhain rites at Stonehenge, and Beltane ceremonies attended by thousands in every major city. We see Neopagan clergy taking part as equals in international religious conferences with clergy from other faiths. We see our children wearing pentacles, Druid Sigils, and Thor Hammers to school as easily as others now wear crosses, Stars of David, or Hands of Fatima.”

That vision of the ADF, written by Bonewits nearly thirty years ago, captures what was so vibrant and vital about him. The audacity of expecting excellence and success from himself, his coreligionists, and his peers. We are now entering the age that Bonewits predicted would come about, and he can cross the veil knowing that the ADF is well-prepared for it. With stable leadership, an engaged and socially conscious membership,  and confident clergy performing their rites in public for hundreds. His role in founding the ADF alone has earned him a place in history. The ADF, in honor of their founder, has erected a special memorial page on their web site today. Including a guestbook where you can leave your condolences.

On a personal note, I would like to say that Isaac’s writings were very influential for me as a younger Pagan, and it is a great sorrow to me that I never got to sit down and speak with him in person. Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie said, “No him, no me,” regarding Louis Armstrong, and I feel a similar sentiment is true for several of us now making waves and gaining notoriety within modern Paganism. I don’t know if I’ll ever work on televising Samhain at Stonehenge to a global audience, but I will do my part to build a Pagan news and media ecosystem he would have been proud of. Farewell to you Isaac Bonewits. My deepest blessings to Isaac’s family and friends at this time of transition, may he rest with his gods and return to us once again.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • brainwise

    Excellent summary. I cannot say that I agreed with everything that Isaac Bonewits ever wrote, but I am ever so grateful that he did write.

  • Ross

    Goodnight sweet prince, we'll remember you with pirde.

  • Debbie McNulty

    Peace to you Isaac and family.

    • jamiefreeman

      Our elders are leaving us. Who will step up? What's next for the movement? It makes me wonder where we are going now.

  • Kim

    That was a beautiful tribute

    • Kimmy

      Excellent video!!!!

  • Ryllwynn

    I joined Ar nDraiocht Fein for no better reason than it had been started by Isaac Bonewits. I also did not agree with everything he wrote, but then, he encouraged free thinking. He was one of my heros. He will be missed by those of us still on Earth, but I can just imagine the party in the Summerland on his arrival! Brightest Blessings to his loving family. Blessed Be, all! )O( R

  • http://www.meetup.com/nycwitches/ Lady Morgana of Avallone

    BLESSINGS TO PHAEDRA AND FAMILY…
    WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE BRILLIANT MAN HE WAS AND HOW HIS LEADERSHIP TO THE PAGAN COMMUNITY WILL BE ALWAYS AN INSPIRATION. MAY THE LORD AND LADY BLESS YOU AND YOURS AND GIVE YOU STRENGTH THROUGH THIS TIME.

    LOVE AND LIGHT ISAAC…WILL REMEMBER THE TIME AT MAGICKAL WONDERS WITH FONDNESS.
    LADY MORGANA, HPS
    WITCHES OF THE CROSSROADS

    • Baurch Dreamstalker

      He leaves us enhanced by his example and works, and reduced by his passing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stevebrogdon Stephen Brogdon

      We shall yet collaborate in this life. Farewell for now, great teacher. Rest gently. The story is just begun.

  • Fred/Debbie Anderson

    What a sad loss to our community!

  • Ursyl

    May the future parts of his journey be as full of adventure and learning as this one was.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Katavina777 Katavina I. Snyder

      He has gone onto the Summerlands, and will be truly missed here on Mother Earth..

      • BloodlockSCC

        I leave my sympathies to the Bonewits Family. We shall meet in the Summerlands.

        Ave Satanas. Blessed Part.

      • Gillie Whitewolf

        Blessings to Phaedra and family… Deep peace Issac, journey well.

        • Onyx

          Isaac will be missed. Healing and comforting energy to Phaedra and family.

  • http://www.elleneverthopman.com Ellen Evert Hopman

    I will be forever grateful to Isaac for reviving Celtic religion and scholarship for the Pagan public in America. I first became aware that there were still Druids in this world because one of my herb clients had met Isaac in the early 1980′s. She was very impressed by his scholarship and wit and that caused me to go looking for Druids. I received my fist Druid training through ADF and Isaac officiated at my Second Circle vigil in 1986, at PSG. Years later I was declared the first “ADF Heretic” (I was one of five people who hived off to found The Henge of Keltria) and it was Isaac who insisted on reinstating me as a member in good standing. I will always remember his warmth and intelligence and wonderful sense of humor. I suspect that he will begin challenging the beings of the Otherworld shortly, to ensure that they maintain excellence. Farewell brother Druid. I miss you.

  • blah

    blessings from the light be upon you in my name Isaac Bonewits. laka ti zemlja i spokoj ti duši.

  • Amenah0829

    May the Lord and Lady be with his Family and Friends during this time. May they all know that the contibutions that Isaac has made to our community will never be forgotten. Sending Loving energy to Phaedra, his family and the Pagan Comunity this day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ManhattanMermaid Claudine Manhattan-Mermaid

    Thank you for all that you shared with us. Rest well. See you around ;)

  • Michael Lloyd

    May he be at rest and free of pain. My thoughts are with his family and friends.