On June 2nd, the ritualist, liturgist, performer, and Witch known to many as Sparky T. Rabbit passed away. Sparky T. Rabbit (aka Bruner Soderberg, Peter B. Soderberg) brought his acting and performance background into his modern Pagan experience, and as a result, helped shape Pagan liturgy and practice as we now know it. This included his work with the ritual music duo Lunacy, which released two albums during its tenure. Sparky T. Rabbit, during his lifetime, involved himself in several religious communities, was very influential in shaping gay male spirituality within religious Witchcraft, endeared himself to many, and gained a reputation as someone who would, in his own words, “critique and satirize neopaganisms, monotheisms, and any other -isms that seem appropriate.”
“I first met Sparky in a hot tub–I believe it was somewhere in Madison Wisconsin sometime in the ’80s when I was there to do a workshop. I remember him singing and laughing, and how his beautiful voice transported me. Sparky has given us so many of the chants that I still use in rituals and celebrations. They form the rhythm and melody of my life in the Craft. Sparky could be difficult at times. He often stirred a bitter brew in his cauldron–yet out of that ferment came great beauty and inspiration. I honor his spirit, and will play his music and remember him singing and laughing! In love may he return again!” – Starhawk, author of “The Spiral Dance.”
Since his passing, a number of wonderful tributes and obituaries have emerged from those who knew him. Aline “Macha” O’Brien explores her long association and friendship with Sparky, and storyteller Steven Posch, a close confidant, posted three days of tribute to a man that he called his “heart-friend and partner-in-arts,” while Nels Linde at PNC-Minnesota shares remembrances from those who’ve been touched by his life.
“Sparky T. Rabbit’s voice is intertwined with the roots of my development as a witch, and we still use the chants that he wrote and the chants that he popularized within our covens today. I played the cassettes for his two albums so often that I wore them out and had to buy replacements twice. I cherish the one time that I had the opportunity to sing with him. It is still a luminous fan boy moment for me. I grieve the loss of such a beautiful man and his beautiful talents, but I also grieve that so many in the current generation of Pagans have not heard of him. What is remembered lives. Take the time to look him up and find copies of his music which is finally available again in digital formats. Then you’ll feel the joy of discovering his music, and also share my sense of loss as well. May he go forth shining.” - Ivo Dominguez, Jr. Elder, Assembly of the Sacred Wheel
We here at The Wild Hunt have been honored that Ray Bayley, Sparky T. Rabbit’s handfasted husband since 1984, took a moment from what must be a very emotionally trying time, to share a few words about his partner’s life and legacy.
“Peter/Sparky/Bruner worked on, showed me and others, and sought to walk the talk that spirituality, psychology, sociology, politics, and communication are all one thing. E.g. he sought to not tolerate hypocrisy and power-over manipulations, and he promoted clear communication, consensus, and empowerment.
He promoted high quality and people seeking to have high quality. E.g. he brought theatre skills and knowledge to ritual performance. He promoted experts doing their expertise and people becoming actual expert in what they claimed to have expertise in. He wanted us to be supportive of feedback/critique (thus given in a neutral or friendly fashion) and to do it in a positive direction where a suggestion is made for betterment. Some might think that supporting high quality and the authority of experts/expertise was allowing for power-over hierarchies. However, he wanted hierarchies only in the sense that some are better at some things than others and we consensually agree, through clear communication among us, that some among us have a position that is more authoritative, more guiding, even more boundary setting in some situations, for as long as we agree on that and their worthiness of that position continues.
Peter/Sparky/Bruner valued humor highly both in “it’s good to laugh” and in using tricksterism to stir the pot and poke at the overly serious and overly inflated. He valued sincerity highly, however seriousness was leavened with some humor. His laugh was said by some to be like a jolly, good king laughing, loud, spontaneous, and friendly.
He and I were concerned at first that my being a scientist would conflict with his being so on the poetry, stories, lyrics, spiritual side. However, my creed of ‘wide open to possibility, skeptical about actuality, probability is the only certainty’ turned out to fit well with his wanting clear communication, truth not lies, allowing for diversity, etc.”
Like Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, who knew Sparky T. Rabbit for years, many are “thankful for his spirit, wit, rituals, stories, and music.” It’s clear that he was an individual who reached deep into other people, and helped them toward their own realization and power.
“I remember Sparky from the beginning. Way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s was the beginning of many Pagan festivals and groups. I lived in Minneapolis at the time. There was an early gay men’s spiritual weekend at Rowan Tree. There was a Pan Pagan Festival in Indiana. COG was at Circle Pines. PSG started its long journey through the years and diverse locations. A dear departed friend had a post Pagan festival gathering of gay men at his lake house in Michigan. Conversations online and many deep conversations recently in Missouri and at Stonehouse are fresh in my mind. Long years, deep connections. Sparky was there for me to help loosen me up. I was a shy introvert. Every step of the way I learned how precious considered thought and action are, and how important being fabulous is. I learned that I was valued and that valuing others and sharing is what life is about. An abiding principle was that it is always a greater thrill to expect the unexpected than to expect the expected. I have a deep admiration for his music, teaching, and sharing; and a love for the man and his work in this world. I hope we meet again Bruner.” – Nicholas Sea, Kentucky
To celebrate Sparky T. Rabbit’s legacy, Ray Bayley hopes to reissue Sparky’s two Lunacy albums on CD, and publish other works. What is remembered lives.