“We cannot effectively advocate that which we do not live. We must practice what we preach, before we begin to preach it. Our way of doing things is an integral part of our difference from the mainstream and so of the message we have been called forth to bring.” – Judy Harrow
On Friday, word emerged slowly through Facebook and private correspondences that Judy Harrow, Wiccan Elder, Pagan community organizer, counselor, and author, had unexpectedly passed in her sleep. While Harrow may not have been as high-profile as some prominent individuals within our community, she had been hugely influential, laying the groundwork for many of the projects, institutions, and modes of thought we now associate with our movement.
Coming to Gardnerian Witchcraft in the middle 1970s, Harrow went on to co-found Proteus Coven, a theologically liberal manifestation of her tradition. Shortly after this, Proteus Coven affiliated with the newly-formed Covenant of the Goddess, with Harrow serving in a number of leadership roles within the national organization in the 1980s. In 1985, she was the first member of COG to be legally registered as clergy in New York City. Founding the Pagan Pastoral Counseling Network in 1982, she would go on to head the Pastoral Care and Counseling Department at Cherry Hill Seminary. In addition, Harrow did important outreach work within the fields of professional counseling and interfaith.
Judy Harrow was also active in media and publishing, producing the weekly radio feature “Reconnections,” which concerned progressive religious groups, for WBAI in New York, and authoring two books. These were “Wicca Covens: How to Start and Organize Your Own” and “Spiritual Mentoring: A Pagan Guide.” Harrow also edited the collection “Devoted To You: Honoring Deity in Wiccan Practice.”
Since word emerged of her passing on Friday, a number of tributes have been written, from both organizations and individuals within our interconnected movement.
“The Covenant of the Goddess takes a quiet moment to say farewell to one of its long-time members and elders as she crosses. Judy Harrow was instrumental in expanding CoG’s reach from its birthplace in Northern California to the East Coast. She helped to establish the North East Local Council that assisted the growing number of Wiccans and Witches in that area. Judy was also a dedicated National Board member and one of the only East Coast members in attendance at the very first Merry Meet in 1981. Judy’s work for CoG was only a small part of who she was and of what she contributed to the growth and well-being of the Pagan community. In all her efforts, Judy was keenly aware that history was being made step-by-step. On this day in early spring, we honor all that she did, all that she was and all the beauty in the legacy that she left. What’s remembered lives. And what lives, will bloom forever.” – The Covenant of the Goddess
“Judy was involved from our early years, forming and chairing the first Department of Pagan Pastoral Counseling, pushing the organization to begin aligning our training with professional requirements at a time when most Pagans still only concerned themselves with coven secrets and ritual cycles. Without her wise shaping of the program, I can’t imagine what CHS would look like now. Judy was a gifted teacher, as both our students and scores of her own lineage will attest. To thank and honor her, CHS several years ago named our online library the Judy Harrow Library. True to form, she was pleased but surprised by the fuss and wanted us to keep the title as simple as possible.” – Holli Emore, Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary
“She was the only one of the members of our small Gardnerian coven, iargolon, who carried the flame far and wide, creating so many groups that everywhere I go, I get, ‘Hello Grandma, I’m downline!’” – Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down The Moon.”
“I am so sorry to hear of Judy’s passing! Judy was one of the first people I met in the Craft outside the Bay Area, many, many years ago. To me she was an example of someone who could bring together the magical disciplines with psychology and psychotherapy and her own abundant trove of common sense. She never lost sight of the need tor our groups and covens to learn group dynamics and community building skills. She is a true elder and one of the early trailblazers for the Pagan movement, and she will be deeply missed!” – Starhawk
“I first met Judy many years ago, in the late 1980s, when I lived in western Masschusetts. She attended events with various groups I knew at the time, including larger festivals, traveling from the New York City area to gather with others. I remember her as being opinionated, feisty and a true firebrand; like so many of our pagan elders, the burgeoning pagan movement was an exciting space to explore and Judy was a major figure in the growth of that movement. [...] As we grow older and our pagan elders pass away (including Donald Michael Kraig earlier this week), may we never forget how these strong and spirited people forged paths and inroads for all of us, and may we continue to learn from their example and honor their work. Go in peace Judy, and may your lively conversations continue with those who have gone on before.” – Peg Aloi, The Witching Hour, and The Witches’ Voice
“Oh, there’s so much more to say about Judy and her life! Others have told their Judy stories elsewhere. There’s plenty of drama to go round. In my experience, however, over many years and many projects, Judy maintained the ability to keep her eye on the prize. Regardless of personal disagreements — and they could be long and heated and irresolvable — Judy made sure we kept our focus on the goal toward which we were striving. Her life influenced many people, from teaching coveners to getting NYC to accept CoG’s credentials, from writing a Wiccan chaplains’ manual for the military to schmoozing with world religious leaders in Barcelona, from dancing round a bonfire to helping create a respected Pagan seminary. Knowing Judy has enriched my life beyond measure. She was a Pagan pioneer. If you knew her, you know all this. If you didn’t know her in life, know that her work has advanced our religions and made our futures more assured and comfortable. She has blessed us all. Judy went to the simmering cauldron of emerging American Paganism and added something every once in a while. Then she’d stir it to mix it all in and to keep stuff from sticking on the bottom.” – M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien)
“I first met Judy very late on a May evening in 1979, when I picked her up along with another friend at the Trailways Bus terminal in Framingham, MA. She had come to attend the first Rites of Spring gathering, the first large pagan festival that either of us had ever been part of. We became friends that weekend, and occasional collaborators in the years since, founding (along with a few other people) the North East Local Council of Covenant of the Goddess, and participating in a spirited panel discussion on pagan clergy in FireHeart magazine, among other things. Judy went on to become a psychotherapist, an author, the founder of the Protean tradition, and a member of the faculty of Cherry Hill Seminary. I have fond memories of the brief time we spent together in Barcelona during the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions, though it was painfully obvious even then that she was in poor health. I will never forget Judy telling me once how very important it was for us to always be mindful that we were writing pagan history — that one day we would be remembered as ancestors by future generations, so we needed to leave them some really good stories. Judy has now officially become part of that history, and joined the ranks of the ancestors. Farewell, my friend, I will miss you.” – Andras Corban Arthen, EarthSpirit
“I am thankful for Judy, for our friendship, and for her many contributions to Paganism, to Interfaith relations, and to the Mental Health Professionals realm. I cherish memories of our good times together at Pagan conferences and festivals over the years, and at the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona, Spain. May her bright spirit, writings, and wisdom continue to support, encourage, and inspire.” – Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary
“I want to write about Judy, but it’s too hard. It’s like I’m standing too close to something, trying to take a picture. Nothing comes into focus. It’s all too big to fit into the frame. She was family. I guess that’s what it comes down to. She could be maddening; she could be irascible. She sang off key; she made mistakes. She had the most astonishing students you could imagine; she wassmart and disciplined and passionate, and she adored reaching out to people she imagined might be more those things than she was. She was righteous to a fault, absolutely dedicated to Pagan movement and the Craft, and probably constitutionally incapable of compromising her ethics. She loved scholarship and scholars, she loved innovation and music… and she loved her community.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop
“The 1990s were a time of testing boundaries, of high magic and higher tempers. From those fields rose a handful of patient and brilliant teachers, who were also visionaries about the future of these strange spiritual systems and their place in the modern world. Judy Harrow was one of those teachers, one of those visionaries. We have been blessed by her work for many years and her death leaves a hole in our springtime world. We won’t see her like again.” – Byron Ballard
This is but a sampling, as I know that many more are who have been touched by her work and life are penning tributes and obituaries to this remarkable individual. As the days progress, I will spotlight them as they emerge. As for me, my interactions with Judy Harrow have been brief, but were weighted with the great admiration and respect I held for her. We overlapped a bit at Cherry Hill Seminary when I sat on their board for a short time, and I got to make her acquaintance at a PantheaCon some years ago. I remember she was quite frail at that meeting, having recently emerged from a long medical ordeal, but well enough to give me a hug and tell me that I looked far friendlier in person than in my sometimes severe online portraits. I was worried then that we would lose her, but she rallied and remained a strong presence in our community for years to come. Now that she has truly left us, I find myself wishing I had found the time to speak with her more, to learn from her history more, to step aside from my deadlines and drink deeply of her experience.
Losing Donald Michael Kraig and Judy Harrow in the same week draws attention to the fact that our elders, teachers, and visionaries are a precious resource that we can lose at any moment. Some, we are prepared for, and some hit us hard, but all take with them their vibrant spirit, though they may leave their teachings and legacies. This should be a moment of awakening for us, to truly honor those who blazed the trails we now seek to travel on, to preserve as much as we can of their work and life for future generations. We have the means, technology, and ability to do this work, all we need to do is find the time and will. There are some nascent projects on this front, but we need more.
As for Judy Harrow, you will never be forgotten. You have enriched us, you have fought for us, and you have given your life in service to our faiths. You live still with us, especially with the many Witches you’ve shaped. Rest now in the arms of the gods and return to us again.