Archives For Carl Llewellyn Weschcke


It was announced yesterday that Carl Llewellyn Weschcke had passed away on Nov. 7 at the age of 85. Carl was the Chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd, the “the oldest and largest publishers of New Age, Metaphysical, Self-Help, and Spirituality books in the world.” He was a pioneer in the publishing world, a student of metaphysics and an author, himself.

Carl was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota into a Roman Catholic family. However, his parents did not object to spiritual and metaphysical exploration. According to the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Wicca, his grandfather was the vice-president of the Theosophical society and gave him an astrological chart on his 12th birthday. His parents were vegetarian naturalists who believed in reincarnation. This early exposure led Carl to a life long interest in exploring the many concepts found in metaphysical, spiritual. occult and New Age practices.

In 1948, Carl graduated from the St. Paul Academy and went on to study business administration at Babson College. After graduating in 1951 and a brief time working in the family business, Carl went on to study law at LaSalle University and pursue a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota. At the same time, he also volunteered with the local chapters of the ACLU and NAACP.

Then, in 1961, life would present a new opportunity. Welsh astrologer Llewellyn George wanted out of his small mail-order publishing business. He sold it to Carl, who then moved it from its base in Los Angeles to a mansion home on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. According to sources, being a publisher was always his dream. Therefore, with that one business transaction, a new life journey was about to begin.

As owner of Llewellyn, Carl quickly channeled his energy into turning visions into reality. Not only did he increase the company’s output, but he also added audio and video recordings, as well as magazines. According to Rev. Selena Fox, Carl was one of the first to ever produce Pagan music recordings on the brand new “cassette tape technology.” He was a true pioneer during the infancy of a movement.

By the early 1970s, Carl became very public in his promotion and support of the growing Pagan community. Aside from his work at Llewellyn, Carl opened the Minneapolis-based Gnostica bookstore and Gnostica School, which sponsored its own newspaper. In 1971, he helped organize a local festival, which was initially called the “First American Aquarian Festival of Astrology and the Occult Sciences.” Later it was renamed “Gnosticon.”

In 1972, he was initiated into the American Celtic Tradition Witchcraft, through which he met his wife Sandra. In 1973, he helped organize the American Council of Witches and became its chairperson. Rev. Selena Fox added, “After the American Council of Witches disbanded, He referred Pentagon staff to me in crafting the updated version of the Witchcraft and Wicca section of the US Army Chaplain’s handbook in 1983.”

By the mid to late 1970s, Carl began to pull back from from public life. He closed the stores and stopped running festivals. Carl sold the mansion and moved his family to the country. He also relocated Llewellyn to its own dedicated facility in St. Paul. From that point forward, Carl kept himself in the background, devoting his energy to two things: his family life and Llewellyn. Through the 1980s and beyond, he managed to grow the publishing house into what it is today.

At the age of 85, surrounded by family, Carl passed away in peace. But he did not say goodbye before leaving behind a legacy of work and spirit that is unparalleled in scope.

Elysia Gallo, Senior Acquisitions Editor at Llewellyn said:

It’s a very somber day at Llewellyn Worldwide. Carl touched so many lives in so many ways, we will all keenly feel his loss. He was a visionary, the hardest worker I know, indefatigable, inspired, and inspiring. He had so much enthusiasm for all our books and authors, and more importantly, for the movement itself – raising people’s consciousness in the New Age that he believed in with all his heart. We are all deeply saddened.

Rev. Selena Fox met him first at Gnosticon in 1976. She said, “Carl’s legacy is immense. He was an pioneering leader in the quest for Pagan civil rights in the USA and beyond.” She added that he was an “innovating force,” adding, “I am thankful for his friendship and many contributions to consciousness studies, metaphysics, and Paganism.”

Rev. Fox and others will be sharing their memories of Carl on a special tribute program to air Wednesday night on the Pagans Tonight Radio Network. The show will be hosted by Rev Donald Lewis and Pamela Kelly. To date, the guests include Jason Mankey, Oberon Zell, and Ed Hubbard. More guests will be added to that list over the next day. The show will run for 3 hours from 7 pm – 10 pm CST.

Additionally, Carl’s family asks that any tributes be sent directly to Llewellyn at 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury MN, 55125. Or, guests can post messages on the Llewellyn blog. All of these tributes together will be placed on display at a private Gathering of Friends service to be held next week, as well as at a future public memorial service, which has yet to be scheduled.


Many generations of students and seekers have come along since those very early days when Carl first began his work. Even today, people peruse bookstores seeing the little crescent moon on book spines and devouring the many titles that have been published by Llewellyn over the years. Most of these readers are unfamiliar with Carl’s story and the tremendous impact that he made during the infancy of “New Age” publishing and Pagan culture.

In many ways, his life and his times are obscured by the endless book shelves standing in front of him. But ultimately that may be exactly what he wanted.

What is remembered, lives.

UNITED STATES – In recent weeks, an anonymous group claims to be reviving the American Council of Witches (ACW). In doing so, the group has raised questions from the wider Pagan community concerning their motives and secrecy. Someone has even created Facebook page, mimicking the American Council of Witches 2015’s page, adding the word “SRSLY” to the logo. Who is organizing this council? What is their purpose? The Wild Hunt looks closer at this group and its goals, interviews one of the council members in waiting, and finds out how other Pagans feel about its possible rebirth.

A Brief History of the American Council of Witches
In 1973, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, owner and chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, helped organize the American Council of Witches. The group convened in Minneapolis, Minnesota but disbanded shortly after, allegedly due to internal divisions. Before disbanding, the group managed to put together the Thirteen Principles of Belief, which was a general set of principles for Witches. That material was subsequently incorporated into the 1978 edition of the Army’s military chaplain’s handbook.

In 2011, a new group calling itself the U.S. American Council of Witches attempted to form. This new council said it was coming together after receiving a request from the U.S. military to update the Thirteen Principles of Belief.  However, almost from the beginning, there were questions raised about the goals, structure, and secrecy surrounding the renewed council. The main Pagan media outlet investigating and reporting on the 2011 council was The Modern Witch Podcast, hosted by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon. They questioned the new council’s founder, Kaye Berry, about concerns raised by the wider Pagan community. After intense scrutiny, several prominent members of the council resigned and it disbanded.


A New Council Forms
Now another attempt is being made at resurrecting the American Council of Witches and, similar to past years, questions are being raised about its goals, structure, and secrecy.

One of those persons raising questions is the very one who asked the tough questions in 2011. Devin Hunter said:

We do not know the voices behind this new attempt but we do know they are planning to do something with the principles according to their logo. There are a two definite similarities between this new attempt and the previous which immediately surface.

The first is that there is a deep lack of transparency from these organizers. From posts on their Facebook page they claim a council already exists and that they are investigating murders while waiting to convene on March 1st. All this but no website, no organization, no community outreach, just a Facebook page and a single webpage with a logo.

The second is that there appears to be from my perspective a lot of similar language being used, which got the previous organizer in a lot of hot water. The previous organizer did not like questions from the media nor the general community, even going as far as to delete inquiries so that no one could see them being challenged. Currently they are not taking questions because they are awaiting the completion of a website. Mind you, this meeting is suppose to take place in less than two weeks.

As Hunter notes, the available information about the group, its goals, and even who is organizing it, is scarce. On its Facebook fan page, the group has stated that no official council members have been selected and that all information will be released on March 1st.

However, as shown by their Facebook posts, organizers do claim there are already council members in-waiting, nominated by the group’s Chairwoman, a webmaster, a legal team, and a person designated to review future council members. They recently announced they are accepting an open call for people interested in applying to join the council.

In a response post, Cathy Fia Moritz said: I’m not trying to be contentious. But, I would at least like to know who is posting these [Facebook] updates and who will be behind any press releases or any other actions, external or within our community.”

In a direct reply, Brandon Erickson said,First I’m going to address the need to know “who” it is, you don’t know these people they are not famous, nor are they seeking any kind of notoriety, so “who” it is does not matter, What matters is that they are qualified for the job, and have the craft’s best interests at heart with people like you and myself and others in mind. … So please stop worrying about something that has no bearing on anything that is going on here. As for your concern about behind closed doors, it is up and coming things are being put together and worked on to be made public. I have never seen an organization bother other people with how it is being put together beyond those that are directly involved with putting it together, you have all been notified of the goings on’s and workings of this council and such by this page’s statements. Nothing is going on behind closed doors that is of any concern to anybody but those directly involved in the steps to get this running.”

According to the fan page, ACW2015 has reached out to “Authors, Musicians, Counselors, and even a Publisher or two.” Organizers said, “We have established that this council will not represent just Wicca, but all facets of Paganism that we can…” They added that, after March 1st, they will list the names and bios of each council person on their website. Additionally, the group has said that they plan to revise the Thirteen Principles of Belief and to write at least one book.

However, none of this has eased community concerns. There are too many unanswered questions. In one Facebook post, the group said that Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, chairman of the last council (1974), gave “his permission to relaunch the Council.”

However, Mr. Weschcke, through Llewellyn employee Elysia Gallo, disputes that claim. She said, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke has obviously seen a lot of Wiccan and Pagan groups come and go in his time, and he receives requests for his personal involvement in different organizations all the time. At this point in his life, he is concentrating his energy on writing his own books, passing the torch to others as far as organizing and action goes. He was contacted by a person calling for the formation of a 2015 American Council of Witches, asking for his advice and his recollections of the instigating spirit and goals of the original 1974 Council. Carl, always the professional, always interested in furthering the “New Age,” gave a polite response to the effect of “good luck but I can’t take on anything else,” as he has a full plate. Such a response should not be construed as an endorsement of this association or its goals.

Who is Behind the Council?
The Wild Hunt attempted to contact the ACW2015 and was directed to Elwin La Fae Herman and Heath Keeper. Heath Keeper said our questions would need to be answered by a Lady Rhiannon Martin, one of the founders of a Seax Wicca line called SerpentStone. Unfortunately, Lady Rhiannon was unavailable due to personal circumstances.

After repeated attempts to contact Ms. Herman, we were sent a message stating:

I regret to inform you that with such a short time we are unable to answer all of these to a satisfactory solution; however, all of this information will be on our Facebook page come March 1st. At which time we will have a chair person for public relations and gladly be able to address as many of your questions as we can if you would like to set up an interview then.

In addition, we were told to “refrain from contacting [the] council further.” Like 2011 Council, the organizers won’t talk to the media.

However, the Council has stated that Kaye Berry, who lead the 2011 revival, is not associated with this attempt. Beyond that, the group has not given out any membership information despite repeated questioning on their Facebook page by members of the community. For example, Don Wildgrube wrote:

I was in the original Council of American Witches in Minneapolis in 1973. It was open as far as membership and knowledge of each other was concerned. I am concerned because the only way that we know who is in this group is by occasional postings. Make the membership public to the rest of us. If necessary, make this a closed group, so we can see who is a part of this group, so we can contact each other. Also the web page only has the illustration that is on the upper left of this group and nothing more. If we are to cooperate, let us do so.

Other than Elwin La Fae Herman, Lady Rhiannon Martin, Brandon Chaffinch (web designer), and Donna Clifton (Council Member in Waiting) not much else is known and all details highly guarded.  Another unnamed source wouldn’t release the name of the person spearheading this effort, presumed to be the Chairwoman, but did offer a few extra details. The council’s goals are to “update the 1974 tenets and release the discussions in a book form under a pen name.” The organizers do not appear to be affiliated with any larger organizations and meetings will be held over the internet to allow “witches from all over the country to participate.” The organizers have also allegedly said that the idea for the 2015 revival was discussed over social media and in podcasts, and that many people supported it happening. 

Interview with Council Member in Waiting
Fortunately, The Wild Hunt was able to talk with one council member-in-waiting. Donna Clifton is an eclectic solitary Pagan who goes by the craft name of Lady Belladonna. She said that she first heard of the effort to resurrect the council back in January.

“I was conversing with someone who was aware that it was forming, and the person asked me if I would be interested in becoming a part of it.” Unfortunately, she declined to give the name of that person, saying that she didn’t have permission and would feel uncomfortable passing it along.

Donna Clifton [courtesy photo]

Donna Clifton [courtesy photo]

The Wild Hunt:  Why do you want to be part of the council and about when did you hear of it?
Donna Clifton:The reason I accepted the nomination was because I have experience, and I feel that I can represent the voice of the Solitary pagan. I feel that in this modern day time frame that many other kinds of Pagan faiths have surfaced, and there is much more diversity being expressed in today’s Pagan world than represented in the mainstream.

TWH: What do you know of the council’s goals?
DC:  The goals are basically to address witchcraft in the present day and help to address modern day practitioners to help and guide those of future generations.

TWH:  How do you see the council as helping guide future generations?
DC: It is not to re-define anything, but to address the issues of the modern day practitioner. This council has the vision of things taking place in the modern times, and the issues that we face in our own day and age, and we hope to be able to address those things and find solutions that our continued freedoms can go forward.

TWH:  How do you think this council will be different from the effort in 1973 or the failed attempt in 2011?
DC: This time more planning and organization will have gone into the efforts.

TWH: What kind of planning and organization? Is there an example that illustrates that?
DC: Nothing that I can elaborate on at this present time.

TWH: When and how will you be confirmed as a council member? What’s the process?
DC:  March will be the time frame that the council will be formed and, at the moment, I do not have the authority to go into that explanation, I will be happy to go to the people who are for you if you would like, and let them explain what can be explained right now.

TWH:  Are you excited? Scared?
DC: I am. Wow, perhaps all of the above. Hoping that I can accurately represent the solitary practitioner this is a big responsibility.

TWH:  I can understand that. The group is already getting quite a bit of attention by the greater Pagan community. And people have been asking why there’s so much secrecy around the council. How do you respond to that?
DC:  Because nothing is set in stone at the moment. Answers given at this present time could possibly change.

TWH: But why keep the names of the organizers secret? Is there a purpose for that?
DC:  When everything is in place all things will be revealed. It’s a matter of timing. Once more, that too is subject to change.

TWH:  Is there anything you can say about the council? Or wish to say? Anything you’d be excited for our readers to know?
DC:  I would say that those within it have pure intent and the highest hopes of coming together in a united purpose of representing modern Witchcraft at its best.

*   *   *

Will this attempt pan out better than the failed 2011 attempt, as Clifton believes? Hunter gave this advice:

The last time an attempt was made it was so unorganized and immediate that there was no possible way for it to take off and be successful. It fell under scrutiny because it was unable to provide basic and important information, gain the favor of the community by actually courting it over a period of time, and because in the end it was the ego driven dream of someone with a keyboard.

I think that for something like this to ever happen it would need to be something new and gain it’s reputation by real work and ingenuity. It would need to start off with a small grassroots community that would grow over time and momentum. It would need to shed the term council and there would need to be an actual effort beyond a computer screen. The organization behind it would need to seek real legitimacy within the community before even attempting to convene such a group and there would need to be an actual need for it to begin with.

Time will tell. March 1 is less than two weeks away.

UPDATE: The Wild Hunt has learned that The United Pagan Radio has scheduled a live broadcast with council members at 4:30pm EST today Feb. 19. They will then replay bits of the afternoon show and more at 10:00pm EST tonight.

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

“Jane Goodall and I had the rare opportunity to steal away from the cameras and people … literally retreating into a stairwell with security blocking the doorway so we could have a moment alone. We talked about our common work and made plans and commitments to work together and support one another going forward. Like me, Jane travels so much that it is just not possible for either of us to cover the whole world, and since my work is really growing in India, I agreed to share her message along with mine when I speak there as I am there more often than her. We also discussed my traveling to Africa and connecting with her projects there also, which dovetails well with other requests for me to share my work globally. The bottom line for both of us is our mutual recognition that there will not be peace in the world until we as humans recognize our interconnectedness with all sentient and non-sentient beings, and take responsibility to promote equality not only between races and cultures, but also between species. It is a huge job, but as I’ve always said, and Jane concurs; It starts by putting one foot in front of another and simply stepping up to the task at hand. The rest will be up to forces and responses beyond our control … and perhaps even beyond our comprehension. Yet like her, I fully believe peace is possible, and so together, we continue to take the first step.”Patrick McCollum, describing a moment he shared with famous British anthropologist and peace activist Jane Goodall at the UN’s International Day of Peace ceremony.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“Magic-users know that every problem invokes its own solution. I submit that we Pagans were invoked into existence by the crisis humanity is undergoing right now. We are especially suited as the catalyst that will reify a successful future for humanity. […] There is a secret power in us that make us especially unique to this culture and this time. While we are a new florescence of religious life, we have reclaimed and built ourselves of the rejected, forgotten, suppressed and oppressed parts of Western culture. We have even taken as ours an ancient name of calumny: Pagan. This tells me that we are the Shadow of Western Civilization.  It is to the Shadow that we must turn, when all of our conscious and socially acceptable modes of behavior have failed. In the Shadow is what we need. From the Shadow comes renewal. We, Pagan folk, are the children of the Shadow. And this is why they, the Established ones, fear us, and they rightly do: for I assert that we have the power to bring about the end of the unjust and unsustainable ways of our global civilization, and those who are invested in defending those injustices know in their hearts we can. Will we step up?” – Sam Webster, on why Pagans can save the world.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“Stated plainly, in the Goddess I find kindness, sympathy, caring, concern and charity. In my choice to worship her I have chosen to worship that which I believe can manifest the type of world I want to live in. Imagine with me for a moment a world where international conflicts were settled with peace, compassion, communication and a deep understanding that we are all some mothers’ children. Further, conceive if you can a professional world where competition, politics, conflict and profit were set aside in favor of the grater good for employees, customers, or co-workers. For me it is beyond reason that such a world could manifest being lead by masculine principles. For century’s we have had our chance, the result has been suffering, war, poverty and oppression. Am I proud to be a man? Yes I am proud to be a man who understands that the feminine traits buried within me need to be nurtured, expressed and held as an example of being a responsible citizen of this world. While I incorporate male Gods into the pantheon I worship, make no mistake, it is the Goddess and all she represents as the sacred feminine that sits atop of my personal concept of deity.” – Peter Dybing, on men and the Goddess.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“Today I re-started my daily practice. I have to do this all the time, because I’m actually terrible at it. I love ritual, and I do it often, but I’m terrible at keeping to a daily, disciplined practice routine. Readers who don’t know me well might imagine that as a fighter, a spiritual teacher and a dedicated priestess of the Morrígan, I must have a thorough and disciplined daily practice that I never miss. Yes, I do have a daily practice, but I have to work as hard as anybody at actually doing it every day. I think this is true for a lot of people: daily practice is kind of like balancing on a rope. You’re almost never standing in perfect grace; instead, you’re constantly correcting back toward center from the myriad of forces that constantly push and sway you off balance. Maybe sometimes you fall off the rope altogether and have to take a break. If you do it for long enough, the corrections you have to make come smaller and easier, and maybe you aren’t falling off any more.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on starting again at day one in a daily spiritual practice.

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

“It suddenly holds my attention, sometimes because I read a critical text or attend a critical event, and sometimes by more of a process of accretion. An example of the first: I read through Mary Stewart’s Merlin novels in hospital in 2004 when undergoing surgery and starting to recover from it, and those inspired me to look closely at paganism in modern Arthurian fiction, on which I published an article a few years later. An example of the second: my girlfriend held a residential weekend in 2009 dedicated to fairy lore, and my reading up on that interested me in research from which I have just written an article. An example of the third: when I was fourteen, my class at school all had to write a project on the English Civil War, at about the same time at which I read a popular biography of the Cavalier hero Prince Rupert, and that summer I went on holiday in South Wales and began to notice that the castles which I visited had all played parts in the war. That got me hooked, and ten years later I wrote up my PhD thesis on the Cavaliers in Wales and the West Midlands, which became my first book and launched my career.” – Historian Ronald Hutton, on what inspires him to take on a subject.

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke with author John Michael Greer

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke

“We are all Spirit Communicators—all the time unconsciously broadcasting all kinds of “messages” to the Universe, and all the time unconsciously receiving messages from the Universe that is everything and everybody, including you and me. It’s not just the visible “out there” Sun and Moon and distant Stars, nor the invisible spirits in higher dimensions; we too are spirit. Inner and Outer, we all are made of the same stuff, at the foundation of which is Spirit, the universal “subtle element” that is the source of all the other elements manifesting in both visible and invisible dimensions and both inner and outer levels.  We, and everything physical and non-physical, all possess “spiritual” qualities and are, in fact, mostly composites of physical/ethericastralmentalcausal; and spiritual substance, spiritual energy, and spiritual consciousness. Each living person incarnates Body, Mind, and Spirit, and Feeling, Will, and Purpose within a single multi-level vehicle. Each person is a “power house” of near infinite potential, but, most people are barely “awake” at the physical level of conscious awareness, and have little control over the non-physical levels of feeling, thought, and will. Our bodies are alive at the deepest and most minutequanta levels, where we are constantly broadcasting messages from and between body cells and organs, and radiating it all from inner selves to all selves everywhere.” – Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, proclaiming that we are all spirit communicators, all the time.

Ruadhán J McElroy

Ruadhán J McElroy

“Racism is the gigantic elephant in the room for traditional polytheism — too many use their religious practices as an excuse for racism and vice-versa.  While, true, Heathenry has the biggest reputation for racism, here’s the thing:  There is not a single recon religion without its racist baggage in some form.  I’ve met Neonazi Celtic Recons passing out literature at the Celtic Festival in Saline, Michigan, back when I was in high school.  In more recent years, I’ve seen Hellenists in North America describe Hellenismos as ‘kinda like Asatru, but for the Greek pantheon and, best of all — no Nazis! ^_^’ and then ten minutes later encounter Hellenic polytheists from all over the globe say some of the most appallingly racist filth.  Hell, at least the LaVeyans and Boyd Rice fanboys I used to hang with during my misspent youth had the decency to try and hide it. This is an issue that is a HUGE deal to me, for lots of reasons. […] I’m a Mod and Ska DJ, and I’ve been involved with a couple S.H.A.R.P. protests — no-one calls out racism like a skinhead, le me tell you (no, really, follow that link), and we called it out. That’s the ideology I’ve maintained, even when i couldn’t do much else:  When bad things happen, call it out.  Call it out repeatedly, if you need to.  If you did it, learn and change.  If some-one you care about does it, help them to learn and change.” – Ruadhán J McElroy, on calling out racism within reconstructionist polytheism.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Too many reviewers and potential readers have been or might be put off by some of Grey’s ideas because they are radical in their condemnation of many of the excesses of modern (and particularly industrialized, technologized, and commercialized and consumerist) life, and may get stuck with those difficulties while ignoring or missing the more interesting and potentially revolutionary aspects of Grey’s work as a result.  I invite anyone who does read ‘Apocalyptic Witchcraft’ to put those concerns as far aside as possible while they consider his manifesto — indeed, his work reads that way at points, in a passionate and poetic fashion, and pages 14 to 17 are a thirty-three point ‘Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft.’ To use a hackneyed phrase, Peter Grey is interested in restoring the cultus and practice of witchcraft in the modern world as a practice of ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll’; the only difference is that by ‘rock ‘n’ roll,’ Grey’s book tends to mean ‘poetry,’ but otherwise, ‘sex’ and ‘drugs’ should be brought back, brought forward, and brought out far more than they have been or should have been in more recent decades.  Further, the cleaning-up of the public image of witchcraft and the distancing of itself from some of these things which the overculture has considered unpalatable should be avoided at all costs, and an unapologetic approach should be taken to these matters wherever they might arise.  I think this is a laudable goal, and one that I can agree with on most points (and where I differ does not matter for the purposes of this review).” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, reviewing Peter Grey’s “Apocalyptic Witchcraft.”

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“People are starving. People need education. People are being killed on the streets and in their homes. People are being killed by drones, from the sky. People need clean water. People need beauty. The world is out of balance, the Divine Twins of generosity and greed are both present, but too often these days, the Twin of greed seems to be holding sway. “…despite recent turbulent economic times, demand for super yachts has remained steady” reports Luxury Society. We know the other stories, too: the cost of celebrity weddings, money which could provide clean drinking water for a million children. The U.S. Government selling arms to dictatorships all over the world, making a profit from oppression. 500 prisoners in California having spent 10 years in solitary confinement. War veterans getting their food stamps taken away… And yet, last week when I asked people to share the ways in which they engage in mutual aid, all sorts of answers came in: donating to food banks, working in a mental health clinic, offering emotional support to friends, setting up barter economy, growing and sharing food, volunteering at domestic violence shelters, doing drug counseling, offering showers and meals to young people in their neighborhood.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on building hope.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

I’m out of town today, attending a doctor’s appointment in Ashland, Oregon, so I don’t have the time to do my usual exploration and analysis of news of interest to the Pagan community. Instead, I’d like to offer some links from across the Pagan media world that have drawn my attention. So enjoy, I’m hoping to hit the Oregon vortex on my way home!

That’s all I have for now, have a great day, I’ll be back tomorrow.

Minnesota newspaper the Star Tribune does a profile of local business Llewellyn Worldwide, the largest publisher of Pagan and metaphysical books. In the article owner Carl Weschcke addresses the recent collapse of Borders, which cost the company half a million dollars, saying they’ve managed to stay profitable.

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke with author John Michael Greer

Carl Weschcke with author John Michael Greer

The company has weathered the Great Recession despite losing $500,000 in the Borders bankruptcy, Weschcke said. He credited stringent controls put in place by his wife, and company president, Sandra Weschcke, for keeping the company profitable despite the Borders loss. Their son Gabe Weschcke is Llewellyn’s vice president. The company ended its 2011 fiscal year June with $15 million in sales. “For every change, there is opportunity,” Weschcke said. “The main thing is to recognize change and be flexible and say that change is not bad. The only things that are bad are taxes.”

The article also discusses plans to expand more into fiction, and the central role the business plays to metaphysical booksellers. Quote: “Joseph A. Amara, vice president of business development and an owner of Magus Books in Dinkytown, said that Llewellyn is “one of the great pillars” of its industry.” Considering how close-lipped the company is about its finances and internal workings (they wouldn’t talk on-the-record to me about the Borders closure), its nice to get some news from a company that’s so central to the Pagan economy.

In 1973 Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, owner and chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, shortly after his initiation into the American Celtic tradition of Witchcraft by Lady Sheba, helped organize the American Council of Witches (aka the Council of American Witches). The group would convene and disband in 1974, partially due to internal divisions and debates, but before it did they published the Thirteen Principles of Belief (aka Principles of Wiccan Belief). Meant as a general set of principles that all groups participating at the time could agree with, that material was subsequently incorporated into the 1978 edition of the Army’s military chaplain’s handbook thanks to Dr. J. Gordon Melton (the material was revised in the 1980s and 1990s, with input from groups like COG and Lady Liberty League). Now this group is attempting to rise from the ashes as the US American Council of Witches.

“We are an independent group of members who each follow a Natural Earth Religion or Tradition. Who shall gather together in interfaith dialog, to redraft a set of Common Principles, Mission Statement, Purpose, Revision of the Army’s Manual and a possible revision of the The Thirteen Principles Of Belief.”

The nascent council has already issued a press release outlining its goals and mission.

Newly Formed Group Defends Witchcraft Rights And Beliefs

The United States is a nation whose very foundation, the Bill of Rights, guarantees its citizens freedom of religious beliefs. Yet those citizens with beliefs that fall well outside of Christianity are often misunderstood and persecuted. There seems to be a rising voice in American politics that non-Christian beliefs are somehow less valid than Christian beliefs. One arena where we have seen this is the attack on our President by those claiming he is Muslim, which they appear to believe invalidates his ability to lead our nation. Another arena is such outspoken organizations as David Barton’s Wallbuilders, who advocate a Federal acceptance that the Unites States is a Christian nation.

In light of these attacks upon our basic religious freedoms, members of the community of Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, and other polytheists have united to re-form the American Council of Witches. First formed in 1973, the Council was a group of over seventy Witches and Pagans who drafted a set of principles outlining the common practices of Neopagan religions in North America. This statement was adopted by the Unites States Army for inclusion in their Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains in 1978.

Though the Council was disbanded in 1974, individuals who each follow a Pagan, Neopagan or Witchcraft Tradition feel it is time to reform the organization in order to achieve certain goals that were not addressed by the original council in the early Seventies. Among these goals are: to revise the original council’s Thirteen Principles of Belief Common Among NeoPagans; to re-submit revisions to the United States Army Handbook for Chaplains; to provide government and law enforcement on Federal, State and County levels with information on NeoPagan beliefs and practices to be used in creating and upholding laws, allowing NeoPagans their Constitutional rights, and ministering to the beliefs of Pagan inmates.

The revised American Council Of Witches will be composed of Pagans,Wiccans, Witches and other NeoPagan practitioners from each of the fifty United States. We will engage in an interfaith dialogue to identify and address the legal and social needs of members of our religions, and we will create policy and documents as deemed necessary. And we hope to dialogue with members of other faiths to foster a basic understanding of our beliefs.

For information, interviews and membership, please contact:

Wanting more information, I contacted them, and spoke with Wiccan author and musician Kenny Klein, a member of the new Council.

Kenny Klein

Kenny Klein

Are there any links between this new ACW and the original body?

The new Council was organized primarily at a request from the U.S. Army to update the Army Chaplains Handbook, whose Wiccan/Pagan statement was written by the original council. Oberon Zell served on the original body, and will be involved with the current body. Isaac’s widow, Phaedra, has also had input. Other members of the original body may be contacted as well.

Who is organizing this effort? Who’s driving it? Have any Pagan organizations/religious institutions endorsed your plans?

The original effort was organized by Chicago area Witch Kaye Berry, who was handed the request from the U.S. Army (I believe from Oberon). Kaye began contacting Witches and Pagans whom she believed would make valuable contributions to the effort. I was contacted early on, and felt this was a worthy project. I have been helping to identify Witches who are leaders in the Pagan/Witch community who might be assets to the project. Our current goal is to bring thirteen core members in as a board. Ultimately we will bring in a representative for each state in the U. S. Of this number, it is my own personal goal to see representation of the major traditions of Wicca and other Pagan practices, and also voices of less structured practices.

You mention Pagans and polytheists in addition to Witches and WIccans, does that mean the group is open to non-Witches?

That is correct. The word Witch may have served the mission statement of the original 1973 board, but the Pagan community has diversified greatly since then. While we continue to use a variant of the original name, we feel that the service and input of members representing the entire Pagan community is of the utmost value to our efforts.

Do you have any specific outreach/interfaith initiatives planned at this time?

At this time our goal is to identify the thirteen core members, and to begin organizing committees to work on our three primary objectives (see below). We do have a Facebook page, which has been receiving a good number of hits. We feel this will generate an interest in the organization. We will begin to plan outreach once our initial goals have been met, which will include the creation of a website, and representation at major and regional Pagan events.

Please note our three initial objectives for the council:

  • Revision of the original statement in the Army Handbook for Chaplains
  • Redrafting a set of Common Principles, updating the set of principles drafted by the original Council
  • Revision of the The Thirteen Principles Of Belief drafted by the original Council

For those wanting to get involved, or follow their progress, you can do so at their Facebook page. No doubt they’ll be in touch with present day active Pagan organizations like COG, Circle Sanctuary, the ADF, the Troth, and others, as things move along. I will be following their progress with interest.

If there is a 500 lb gorilla of the Pagan/metaphysical publishing world it has to be Llewellyn Worldwide. Formed in 1901 as a publisher of books and annuals of astrology, the company now boasts yearly gross sales of over 16 million, and has recently moved to an 80,000 square foot complex in Woodbury, Minnesota. A quick look at the selections of most book-sellers (mainstream or occult) will show shelves dominated by the Llewellyn moon logo on the spines.

Despite this success (or perhaps because of it) there has been an increasingly loud groundswell of criticism towards the company. One common complaint is that the company constantly re-hashes basic introductory (or “101”) material and rarely provides “advanced” literature for the more experienced practitioners. Now Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, president and owner of Llewellyn Worldwide, has come forward to say he agrees with those dissatisfied by the company’s output.

“Where are the Advanced Books? We hear this question as a complaint. People say there are mostly 101 books available and too few 202 and 303 books. And as a publisher I agree with the question and the complaint. I want to see more advanced books. I want to read and study more advanced books. I want to sell more advanced books. I want our community to have more advanced books.”

He then asks people to e-mail him directly and suggest what sorts of “advanced” books they would like to read. For some critics of the publisher, this may seem too good to be true. The owner asking for direct input on advanced titles? Is there a catch? The answer is, yes, there is a catch.

“…please, don’t confuse things. ‘Advanced’ books are not to be confused with history books, or memoirs … ‘Advanced’ books, in my personal opinion, are ‘specialty’ books dealing with what I call ‘Esoteric Technology,’ and others have called ‘technology of the sacred,’ ‘techniques of ecstasy,’ ‘ascension,’ etc. All deal with ‘becoming more than you are’ through an acceleration of a natural evolutionary process.”

So the recently published biography of celebrated Craft author and teacher Stewart Farrar, or the recent memoir by Alexandrian ‘Witch Queen’ Maxine Sanders, while most likely illuminating to any advanced student, wouldn’t count as “advanced”. Likewise, scholarly books on Wiccan or Druidic history by authors like Ronald Hutton or Chas Clifton, shouldn’t be confused with the “advanced” label either. Finally, groundbreaking books exploring Pagan theology don’t meet the very specific requirements of “advanced” proposed here.

What Weschcke wants are books exploring “Esoteric Technology”, or to put it another way, books on magic and magical techniques*. Not that there is anything wrong with Llewellyn wanting to publish more advanced works in this area (far be it from me to dissuade them from publishing advanced material in any subject), but that limiting “advanced” material to these “technologies” can create a distorted picture of what modern Paganism is. While magic can be important, it should never be forgotten that for many these “technologies” are bound to a religious faith. “Advanced” books on meditation, ritual magic, trance, and chants, should be joined by advanced books on theology, history, and philosophy.

For me, and I suspect for others, modern Paganism is primarily a religious movement. It is about reverence, fellowship, respect, joy, and connection. Magic (and related “technologies”) can, and have, been a part of that for me to differing degrees over the years. That said, the longer I journey this path, the more I value works that deepen and challenge my spiritual understanding. This isn’t to say I can’t learn more in the area of “sacred technologies”, or that many Pagans wouldn’t welcome such works, only that “advanced” isn’t something that should be isolated to the “how”, and should also explore the “why” and the “where” (not to mention the “what” and the “who”).

* If Weschcke is serious about exploring all “eight paths to the center”, then I look forward to books on the use of mind-altering substances and entheogens in the coming years.