Morning Glory Zell Foundation Plans Delayed by Pending Eviction

Terence P Ward —  August 5, 2015 — 3 Comments

COTATI, CALIFORNIA –When the Morning Glory Zell Memorial Foundation was formed in December 2014, it had an ambitious goal: to purchase “property and financially [sustain] physical infrastructure and community services of the Church of All Worlds (CAW) and its affiliate schools and organizations,” according to the official charter letter. Advertisements at the time stated, “A major objective is creating a rural Pagan retirement village with a permanent home for Morning Glory and Oberon’s enormous library and museum collections of Goddess figures, magickal tools and artifacts, altar setups, liturgical and research materials, ritual regalia, seasonal decorations, etc.” It was to be located in northern California. A statement released by the foundation this past February set forth the minimum criteria for the land being sought, and established a price range of $400,000-800,000.

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Those plans are now being shelved for the immediate future, as that enormous collection — as well as Oberon Zell himself — must be relocated quickly due a pending eviction from RavenHaven, where he and others have lived for some time. The vast collection of magical memorabilia is being packed up, and Zell plans on staying with friends in another part of the state while his search for suitable land — and a critical mass of funding and people — continues.

The Church of All Worlds is one of the oldest legally-recognized Pagan religious organizations, having been incorporated in 1968 and recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a church in 1970. CAW spawned the influential Pagan magazine Green Egg, and Zell is credited with popularizing the terms “Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” to describe the religious movement of which he is part.

CAW itself is compared by its members to a phoenix, insofar as it has undergone several “resurrections” since its original conception in the 1960s. At that time, the eponymous church in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land inspired Zell and others to “share water” and pursue self-actualization. Those early, heady days saw Oberon and Morning Glory Zell undertake some grand adventures, including an eight-year stint homesteading in rural Greenfield, California.

“But as romantic as that was at the time,” Zell said, “at my age I just can’t do that again.”

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon Zell-Ravenheart [Courtesy Photo]

To fulfill CAW’s larger dreams, the MGZ Memorial Foundation was created to find and fund appropriate land. Because it will become the new center for CAW, the criteria were designed with an eye on maintaining and supporting its existing community. In addition to space for a museum and library, the foundation’s board is seeking land that is sufficiently private for festivals that are clothing-optional, but no more than two hours from a major metropolitan area.

To allow for the broader goals of creating an intentional community that would allow elders to retire surrounded by a support network, the land must have reliable cellular reception and internet access. The size of the parcel needed would depend in part upon its natural features. Flat areas are needed to ensure access for all, tree cover to shelter campers, open spaces for ritual work. But Zell did say that, at minimum, 20 acres would be needed. The search area, initially focused on three counties in the North Bay area, has been expanded to include the entire San Francisco bay area, down to Santa Cruz.

Zell earns what he describes as a “sufficient” income from his book royalties and other sources, and stresses that this project is not about finding him a place to live. Indeed, he and another individual have each committed to spending $20,000 to further this dream.  While Zell can afford to pay mortgage or rent for himself, he said, “I want to live in a supportive community, with my friends, lovers and partners.”

The late Morning Glory Zell, pictured with some of her many goddess figurines.

CAW’s membership is no stranger to intentional community, as evidenced by the application to join the “eco-village,” once that broader goal manifests. While plans are to include options both for renting and owning homes in the community, applicants are expected to know members of the church, provide references from the Pagan community, and write a detailed essay explaining how they might contribute. Since February, when the call for applications came out, only three have been received. That makes it all the more important that whatever land is ultimately selected be connected to the outside world through phone and computer. The location recently scouted was not, and Zell, a 72-year-old cancer survivor, is unenthusiastic about that prospect, saying, “So even if we were able to make the purchase and renovate one of the buildings sufficiently for me to move into with the museum and library within the next two months, I’d be out there all alone, with no internet or cell phone, and a half-hour drive to the nearest town.”

But the deadline is why plans must change in the short term, as Zell explained.

The two most promising properties we have looked at over the past 5 months turned out to be unsuitable for various reasons. And then a month ago I received an eviction notice. I have to pack up and get everything out of RavenHaven by Sept. 23, and so I simply have no more time to continue searching for a new home for myself and the Collections. While that remains a Dream I would dearly love to fulfill in the remainder of my life, it is out of reach for the present. I have bought an RV for travels, and I am moving into a cottage on the property of some dear friends in Bonny Doon, near Santa Cruz. We are planning to rent a large storefront place in Santa Cruz which will house the Museum, Library, and a store in which to sell our products. This will also be a community meeting space, and out of it we hope to build a larger community that will be able to revisit the land purchase and Village project at a later time.

The short-term Santa Cruz plan will likely suffice to continue supporting ongoing church projects, such as the Grey School of Wizardry, and the bigger dream of returning to the land as an intentional community will continue percolating. In addition to the $40,000 committed by Zell and another, there are other promises of about $100,000 which will take the form of “potential investments, loans, long-term leases, or 2nd mortgages.” The project has an ongoing GoFundMe campaign (actually the second, as the first was closed early due to “administrative difficulties.” Donations are also being accepted directly at the foundation’s web site, which is a channel that avoids the additional fees associated with crowdfunding. Because the MGZ Memorial Foundation is a subsidiary of the Church of All Worlds, all donations are tax-deductible.

Terence P Ward

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Terence P Ward is a moneyworker, journalist, Hellenic polytheist and convinced Friend who lives in the bucolic Hudson Valley with his wife, five cats, and multiple household shrines.
  • Damiana

    Why has he been evicted? That’s a lot of stuff to relocate :-/ Poor guy.

  • kenofken

    I wonder if this might be an opportunity to partner with the New Alexandrian Library. It doesn’t seem feasible to try to build a museum to archive a lifetime’s worth of stuff for every seminal figure and different tradition. I wish Zell all the best, but the situation seems to be following the classic script of financial implosion of Pagan projects. There’s the really big cool idea, the tiny core of people actually willing to commit a chunk of their net worth to launch it while just surviving day to day, the big setback, the public appeals and well-intentioned vision to one day redeem the big dream. That’s usually followed by a series of retreats to tighter and tighter financial perimeters until there’s nowhere to fall back to. At the end, there is usually a vast hoarde of books and artifacts with no clear home, “catalogued” only in the head of the original owner.

    Now, I don’t know how the people at NAL would feel about this, but it makes theoretical sense to me to focus our fundraising efforts on creating (for starters), one very good repository of our movement’s history. NAL has an excellent start on that infrastructure and mission. I think it has enormous potential if we were to all give it some steady operation support.

    Professional archiving and curating is a critical piece of that. We Pagans have a tendency to hang on to every book, tarot deck, magazine and ritual bric-a-brac we ever acquire. There is no way we will ever be able to collectively save all that junk in museums and libraries, nor should we. The focus should be on original works, out-of-print stuff and the personal papers that tell the real stories of our various traditions.

    The umpteen thousand goddess figurines and athames? Those need some sober curation as well. Many may well be valuable pieces of history, some perhaps better saved in other academic or museum settings. Much of it could sold off, or better yet, used as fund raising incentives. I may or may not give a few bucks on a given day to appeals like CAW has now. On the other hand, if I knew the money was going toward some solid plan of preservation, I may well be induced to cough up $500 for the chance to own a blade or some other article which was actually used by Oberon or Morning Glory, if it had some provable provenance.

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    Is there some way to find out why this sudden eviction. I think most of us would be curious to find out what is going on. I have be reading his latest book, The Wizard and the Witch, and he had this happen once before suddenly. At his age such stress is just about enough to kill him.