Word has come to us that Pagan teacher, performer, and elder Len Rosenberg, known to the wider community as Black Lotus, passed away on October 15th due to complications from pneumonia. Black Lotus had also been battling colon cancer and was receiving chemotherapy. A Shakta (Hindu Goddess worshipper), and devotee of the South Indian Holy Woman, Ammachi of Kerala, Rosenberg also co-ran Mnemosynides Coven within the Protean Tradition of Witchcraft, a thealogically liberal group within the Gardnerian family. His writings were excerpted in Judy Harrow’s “Wicca Covens”, and in Cristina Biaggi’s “In the Footsteps of The Goddess”.
Rosenberg was partners for many years with noted Celtic scholar, linguist, and author Alexei Kondratiev, who passed away this past May from a heart attack.
And when at last, I take the road
That leads to journey’s end,
I’ll find a Guide to show the way,
And recognize my friend.
- Black Lotus (Len Rosenberg), Excerpt from Song to Hermes
Here are some shared thoughts and remembrances from some of Len’s friends, acquaintances, and co-religionists.
“Len entered my life May 1992. He was my High Priest, mentor, teacher, and above all, friend. He would call every member of the coven at least once a week, often more often, to touch base and just kibbitz a little. We (Mnemosynides Coven, aka Children of Memory) met at least every other week, outdoors as often as possible, and participated in community networking events.
As the new century dawned, his mobility and health issues became more of a problem, and we met less often, and always indoors. Regardless of the limitations imposed by his body, Len’s mind was always sharp – especially his razor-sharp wit!
I was elevated to 3rd degree in 1999, so in 2004, when he stepped down for health reasons, becoming “High Priest Emeritus”, I stepped into very big shoes as High Priestess alongside Alexei.
He was an amazing human being, with interest in and expertise in many diverse topics: In addition to the Craft, there was writing, art, music, dance, sci-fi, Hinduism, Norse and other World religions. Having a conversation with him was always an invitation to learn something new – something you had never thought of before, and certainly had no idea that he knew anything about! Len was always full of surprises. When I announced that I was going to grad school, to study Oriental Medicine, he began chatting about how Ayurvedic medicine compares to Chinese medicine, with some Tibetan medicine thrown in!
My brother once said, after hearing Len sing, (with, of course, a preamble story explaining the mythology behind the song), that he belonged on stage.
His was a very big, and forceful personality. We loved each other very much – and often drove each other crazy (we actually had a counselor mediate between us once! His idea. I’m not that brave). Such is the reality of such a long running and intimate relationship.
But he reached out to keep it, when I was retreating. I’m glad he made that move all those years ago. Huge understatement. My life is richer for having had him in it. I know that he was assured nothing more than 3 – 6 months of misery, and I know it is selfish of me to say that I wish he could stay, but I will miss him terribly. Now, he is reunited with Alexei, well, strong, and whole. There are no limitations imposed on him now. ” - Karen Agugliaro, High Priestess, Wu Ji Coven, Florida
“I will remember him best in the Bardic circles and for the volumes of naughty songs he knew. While we will (and do) miss his presence – he is now free of the body had trapped and confined him to a life that left him dependent, isolated and lonely. I prefer to think of him and Alexi dancing in some Wild Place and arguing over how they will come back to us…” – Catherine LaForza, long-time friend of Len & Alexei’s
“About 25 years ago I met him during a bardic circle at a small festival in upstate New York. He sang several wonderful Pagan Filks in a sweet, reedy, Tom Paxton-like voice, even adding a little dance routine to a couple of them, hat and cane in hand. For years I looked forward to hearing him sing again, and then one year he was more solemn, and introduced a song of his own, the Sapta Matrikas, or the Seven Little Mothers. Just a few words into the song, we were all captivated, by the way he almost glowed with reverence as he sang, by the beauty of the song. To this day it is one of my favorites, and I sing it often. He practiced Hindu Wicca, was devoted to Kali, and could recount stories from the tradition for hours, captivating his audience, even in recent years, when his illness kept him seated and short of breath.” – Eric Robbins, founder and board member of EarthTides.
May he find peace and rest in the Summerlands, be reunited with Alexei, and return to us again.
Here’s a short excerpt:
Len brought the energy of mirth and reverence to whatever he did. His humor – plus his talent with words – came across in his satiric songwriting. His performances of “Witches Want to Cast Spells” (to the tune of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun) and other similar songs enlivened many a bardic circle. And he was usually the emcee of the bardics around here.
One moment is particularly cherished in Proteus Coven. We were in the elevator on the way up to a covener’s apartment for a ritual when a neighbor woman got in with us. She had apparently been walking her little dog. The dog, on a leash, was wearing one of those little doggie sweaters. As soon as the woman got out of the elevator, Len solemnly intoned, “I am the Mother of all things, and all things should put on a sweater.”
Thank you to Judy Harrow for sharing this with us.