[I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Zan Fraser, a fixture in the New York Pagan scene who was a regular contributor to The Juggler, a culture-oriented Pagan blog I had initiated, and one of my main go-to sources for news from his community. I'm pleased to run this tribute assembled by Brian Brewer, Chris Goffredo, Michael Lloyd, Paul Patton, Bruce and Kay Skidmore, Gary Suto, and Courtney Weber. With photos by Brian Brewer, George Courtney, and Gary Suto.]
Zan at opening of Magickal Realms occult store in the Bronx.
Summerland gained a true jewel this past week and the Pagan community at large suffered a great loss in the crossing over of Bruce Alex Skidmore, aka Zan Fraser, aka Puck. The tie-dyed, impish-grinned fixture of the New York and national Pagan communities received a packed and emotional tribute on Tuesday, September 17th at the LGBT Center in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. A gorgeous collage of ecstatic dance, cathartic chant, stories, sonnets, laughter, and solemnity in memory of the man who was remembered for dancing effortlessly between the worlds he walked. Countless others who were unable to attend coordinated candle lighting and recitation of the character Puck’s final speech Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Born in South Carolina, Zan adored Shakespeare from an early age—he was often caught reading The Tempest alongside comic books. Later, Zan trained classically as an actor at the New York City National Shakespeare Conservatory. A scholar of medieval drama, Zan wrote and lectured extensively about literature about the magical and mystical – focusing primarily on the presentation of Witchcraft in Elizabethan plays by authors such as Shakespeare and Marlowe – and was a frequent contributor to The Juggler blog covering the history of Witchcraft and its intersection with and influence on pop culture. Zan had an uncanny eye for sussing out threads of interconnection between disparate subjects and a style which made everything that he wrote interesting, entertaining, and downright quirky – but always, always educational. To that end, he wrote five books on the subject of Witchcraft:
Zan could pluck an entire Shakespearean scene from thin air with the ease of Prospero (the way many of us might recite a scene from Monty Python – only much, much better). He could spellbind the crowd in one moment and have them roaring the next with a change in inflection, or the merest raising of an eyebrow. His announcing for the Between the Worlds Players every September was a delight, and his recitation at the close of that festival could send chills down one’s back. He had a healthy appreciation for the absurd, and said to be the skinniest Wonder Woman many had ever seen. He was in the main a gentle man and the loyalist of friends, but he also had a low tolerance of fools and “nasty queens.” When his writer friends were recipients of criticism from the latter, he staunchly defended them and their work.
Zan Fraser at 2013 Gay Pride Parade with “Pagan for Gay Rites” group.
Zan was known for his flagrant playfulness in rituals, never shying away from dance, silliness, and throwing rigid structure out the window—as well as his overabundant generosity. At the queer men’s gathering Between the Worlds in 2011, Pan was the deity of honor. Zan, along with the rest of the New York brothers organized and put on a ritual dedicated to the god. Afterwards, they donated a pair of the satyr pants they had worn in the ritual to the annual auction. One attendee got into a bidding war with another attendee of the gathering, and lost. On my way back to his tent, Puck stopped the attendee and asked why he wanted the pants. The attendee said he considered himself a loyal follower of the God. Zan led him to a small grove of trees, gathered the New York brothers, pulled out a bag that contained the satyr pants he had worn in the ritual and proceeded to “initiate” the man into the “brotherhood of Pan” as he called it. He gave the coveted satyr pants as a gift to their brotherhood. Zan was known for doing all that he could to make a moment of happiness or a smile from someone, even if only for a moment. He was well-known for helping out neighbors in need and looking out community members in need. One young man in the NYC Pagan scene shared a story of when Zan heard that he was to spend a Christmas alone in the city, he invited the young man to join him for a movie so he would not be alone on the holiday.
In New York City, Zan was known for “attending everything.” On any given Sabbat, Esbat, or anything in between, he could be seen smiling happily in open Circles and was known for approaching new faces, frequently being among the first to welcome them. Known as New York City’s “Pagan Scribe,” he wrote detailed articles about NYC Pagan functions, showing particular support for fledgling groups and leaders. A fervent Gay Rights supporter, Zan joyfully marched with various Pagan groups at the annual Gay Pride Day parades. Deeply concerned about the rise is homophobic attacks in the city, particularly after the hate-crime killing of Mark Carson, Zan was a primary organizer of a Peace and Protection march and ritual, enticing the Spirits of New York to protect its LGBT citizens. Next on his agenda was to organize a Samhain “Witch-In” in Central Park.
Zan’s memorial with Gary Suto (left, with flaming mandala) and parents Kay and Bruce Skidmore (to right of Gary).
Zan attended nearly every one of the monthly Gay Men’s Pagan Circles and was scheduled to lead the rite on the 17th. The evening instead became a celebration of his life, attended by his parents Bruce and Kay Skidmore and members from well over a dozen Pagan, spiritual and activist groups. The memorial included readings of Shakespeare sonnets, excerpts from Zan’s extensive Juggler blog, hilarious stories of glittery and ball-gowned antics, and the lighting of Mandala coins and Money for the next life to the chants of Hare Krishna, honoring Zan’s love for Eastern practices. It was an exhilarating function Zan would have written about, but his city is without its beloved Scribe. The night ended with a reading by his close friend Gary Suto of a piece Zan adopted from Cymbeline,
Fear no more the Heat of the Sun, nor the furious Winter’s Rages: Thou thy worldly Task has done; Home art gone, and ta’en thy Wages. Golden Lads and Girls all must, as chimney-sweepers, come to Dust. Fear no more the Frown of the Great; thou art past the Tyrant’s Stroke. Care no more to Clothe and Eat; to thee the Reed is as the Oak. The Scepter, Learning, Physic, must: all follow this, and come to Dust. Fear no more the Lightening-Flash, nor the all-dreaded Thunder-Stone. Fear not slander, censure rash; thou hast finished Joy and Moan. All Lovers young, all Lovers must: consign to Thee, and come to Dust. Hear, nature, hear: Dear Goddess hear. Crown them(Him) with flowers and make them(Him) your joy. Who taught thee how to make me love thee? Quiet Consumption have and Renowned be thy grave.
A recording of the memorial can be heard at http://newyorkpagan.podbean.com.
Zan, the worlds you walked were ever more enriched by your presence and permanently changed by the legacy you left. Those dancing, prancing shoes will never be re-filled, but they certainly left footprints on our hearts and souls. Blessed Be, Sweet Prince, and flights of glittery fairies sing thee to thy rest.
Zan hanging with the local Pagan flavor.
[Thank you to the friends and family of Zan for contributing this memorial, what is remembered, lives!]