[Today, guest writer Zora Burden continues her conversation with author Patricia Keneally-Morrison. Burden is a poet, author, and a journalist for the San Francisco Herald. Her work focuses on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism and the esoteric.The first part of this interview (side A) was published last Sunday. ]
“Patricia Kennealy-Morrison was one of the first female rock critics and journalists, having begun her career in the 1960s […] Along with her own work, Patricia was also the wife of the rock legend Jim Morrison. Her bestselling memoir Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison commemorates their life together and love for one another, and is one of the most candid and definitive books on Jim Morrison. […] Her prolific writing continues with the murder series The Rock & Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries, the latest of which is set for release at the end of 2015. She is also the author of a series of Celtic-based science fiction novels, The Keltiad.
“In 1990, Patricia was knighted as a Dame Templar at Rosslyn Chapel, an initiate of the Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani. She is a historian and archivist of Celtic traditions, as well as a High Priestess. She was one of the first women in the U.S. to boldly and publicly acknowledge that she practiced Witchcraft, during a time when feminism was barely in its second wave.” – Zora Burden, a condensed version of the introduction from side A.
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Zora Burden: What inspired you to write your books?
Patricia Keneally-Morrison: They just came to me. I don’t have a lot of ideas, but I have very deep and complex ones. The Keltiad Celtic legends set in far future outer space, King Arthur meets Star Wars came first, when I was at college; in fact, Jim was the first person I told about it, and he was very encouraging. I wasn’t ready to write it yet, though, and I tinkered with it for years. But when I had been let go from CBS Records, in one of the great purges of the early 80s, I found myself with both time and money enough to do it, so I stayed home and wrote. I got an agent right away, he sold it very quickly, and the first Keltiad book, The Copper Crown, came out in hardcover in 1984. There have been eight more, including one short-story collection.
My series The Rock & Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries, about a rock newspaper reporter and her superstud English guitarist boyfriend, first appeared in 2007, with Ungrateful Dead: Murder at the Fillmore, and the seventh one is just about to be published. There’s also ROCK CHICK: A Girl and Her Music: The Jazz & Pop Writings, a collection of my rock critical pieces for my magazine, and of course Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.
Only the last three books of the Rennie series (Go Ask Malice: Murder at Woodstock, Scareway to Heaven: Murder at the Fillmore East and Daydream Bereaver: Murder on the Good Ship Rock & Roll), ROCK CHICK and the Keltiad short stories, Tales of Spiral Castle, are available on Kindle at the moment, But I’m working to get all the books up on it, including Strange Days, and the first four Rennie books are available on Lulu.com.
I’m planning on three or four more Rennie books to wrap up her story, two more Kelts books to wrap up that series in a blaze of glory, and my long-in-progress Viking book, Son of the Northern Star, which has 140,000 words on it and not nearly finished. After that, I think I’m done. Unless of course I have another idea. Or two. Which I might.
ZB: Do you feel with your book series, that you’re channeling spirits or manifesting energies with your characters?
PKM: Well, no, because that would imply that I am reliant on outside help to write my books for me. And nothing could be further from the truth. But I do feel that the characters speak to me and tell me what they plan on doing. I never argue with them.
ZB: How did you become the editor for the paper you first started working with? What are some of your fondest memories and experiences working with the paper?
PKM: In 1967, I saw a copy of Jazz & Pop on the newsstand in the midtown office building where I worked for Macmillan Publishing, writing a kids’ dictionary. It was full of stories about the new progressive rock I’d been crazy about for several years, and I fell in love with the magazine immediately. So I wrote to the editor and publisher, Pauline Rivelli, and asked if there might be a job there for me. She called me about two months later, and I began as editorial assistant, becoming editor at the end of 1968, best job in the world.I got to meet pretty much everyone but the Rolling Stones (who cares?), including all my really truly favorites like Jefferson Airplane and the Doors and Janis Joplin. It was a four-color, slick magazine published entirely by women (four of us) for a readership about 80% male; I’d say we did a pretty good job. Sometimes the old Marxist jazzbos on staff, male, gave me a hard time for editing them not to their liking, but hey, I was the editor, not them.
It was a difficult time for women, but I had very little difficulty. Maybe because I gave off a vibe of “Mess with me and I will end you,” but the only real unpleasantness was the time backstage at the Fillmore East before Led Zeppelin’s debut, when Robert Plant called across the dressing room, “Hey, you in the lace nightie, get over here and sit on my face!”
I was wearing my lace-tablecloth Joplin-style lace pantsuit, and I declined his offer in no uncertain terms. I mean, we’d had dinner together, all five of us plus manager and publicist, the night before, and he’d been fine as we discussed all sorts of things, from Aleister Crowley to JRR Tolkien. Besides, I had a MUCH better rock star’s face to sit on…
After Jazz & Pop and Jim’s death, I went to work for RCA Records as an advertising copywriter. My first big assignment: David Bowie’s first American ad campaigns. I got to work personally with him on these, as he had studied advertising at school in London and understood how it worked. We did some beautiful stuff for the first four albums: Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups. David was a delight to work with, the second smartest person I’d ever met in rock. As I met him for the first time in the studio, and we shook hands, and I looked up into those extraordinary eyes, I was hit by just one thought: “This man has come to Earth to kill the Sixties.” Right again, as usual…
Three years later, I moved over to CBS Records, to write ads there. I was twice nominated for Clios for my work for Billy Joel, and also wrote ads for Wings, Barbra Streisand, Mott the Hoople, James Taylor, Boston, Aerosmith, just about all the acts on the label. In my capacity as director of the radio spots I wrote for all these people, I even got to direct John Belushi, Bill Murray and Jane Curtin: we used the cast of Saturday Night Live as voiceover talent.
In the early 80s, I was let go, as were hundreds of others throughout the industry, and that’s when the books began…
ZB: You have written about being disillusioned by the romantic poets of the music world but when you met Jim he embodied that. What about him was different from the rest and how much of yourself do you feel brought that (poet) out of him?
PKM: Oh, he was so smart, of course. Probably the smartest and best-read person I had ever met (with David Bowie not far behind), and I’m no slouch in either department. And when he realized that, in all modesty, I was just as smart as he was (Mensa level IQs, both of us), I think he found that really attractive: a woman he could talk to on his own level, and a woman he could tear up the sheets with. Sometimes at the same time. Also he was rather nice to look at.
ZB: Do you feel that you and Jim were fated to be together and that he sought you out to mentor him and fill a spiritual void he had within himself?
PKM: Definitely. There were actual blue sparks that showered the first time we touched, to shake hands in his hotel room at the Plaza the day after the Madison Square Garden concert. I could hardly look up at him, but he was smiling. “Portent”, he said. He was right.
About the mentoring part, sort of. Jim sought people to learn from and who could supply with information. The greatest thing about him was his curiosity, and he never stopped asking questions when he was interested in something.
And yes, he did have a great god-shaped void to fill. He was a seeking soul, and I think that when he found me, and realized that I could tell him all this marvelous stuff that spoke to his own Celtic heritage, that was a centering and very intriguing thing for him. Unfortunately, he was taken away before he could work this out to his complete satisfaction. He wasn’t a stupid man by any means, and in the end he didn’t want a stupid woman.ZB: What wisdom that you imparted to him really affected him and what had he taught you spiritually in turn?
PKM: I can’t really quantify it like that. I told him things, he told me things, we found things together. Just like any other couple in love.
ZB: Did Jim express wanting to travel to certain parts of Europe in relation to your own beliefs?
PKM: We had discussed going to our respective homelands of Ireland and Scotland for a honeymoon, and perhaps eventually to Rome and Athens. We would have visited sacred sites, of course, because that would have been part of it. Stonehenge was high on the list.
ZB: What were Jim’s favorite mythologies? What were his beliefs or magical focus?
PKM: Jim was a natural seeker, and what he sought, as I said earlier, was to fill a God-sized hole in his life. He got very little out of his born Presbyterianism, and had rejected it as completely as I had rejected my Catholicism. He grabbed influences wherever he could. I don’t know what his real, true inner beliefs were: sometimes he seemed to reject the existence of a Supreme Being at all, other times he wrote things like An American Prayer (“O Great Creator of Being, Grant us one more hour to perform our art, and perfect our lives.”) I don’t think he was being ironic when he wrote things like that.
ZB: What fascinated Jim most about Paganism? What did he like to practice himself?
PKM: I have no idea if Jim ever practiced when he was not with me. You can see from his writings that he was very much into it, though. I think the fact that it was part of his own Scottish heritage intrigued him, and he did mention that in a poem or two. I gave him an amulet to wear, but I don’t know if he ever did.
ZB: What Pagan holidays did you and Jim celebrate together, if any? What do you currently focus on most in your practice in terms of ritual or ceremony?
PKM: Jim and I became engaged right at Beltane, ring, knee, and everything, and I performed a little ceremony to bring that Beltane energy into line with ours. And of course our handfasting, which literally almost knocked Jim out.
I generally celebrate Beltane and Samhain most elaborately; flowers, candles, food and drink, a formally cast and very protected circle. Imbolc, which I prefer to call Brighnasa, and Lughnasa, less so. Very occasionally, I attend a ritual at the house of friends, or, once, in a lovely Unitarian church rented out for a Yule ritual, but I haven’t for years.
Oh, and people who call the fall equinox “Mabon” drive me up the wall. “Mabon” was invented by Scott Cunningham in the 70s, with not a shred of evidence for it Plenty of well-known and very learned Witches have written screeds debunking “Mabon,” and I’m with them. If we’re going to make things up, I prefer to call it “Fionnasa,” the feast of Fionn, in line with Lughnasa (feast of Lugh) and Brighnasa (feast of Bríd).
ZB: Do you feel that the stigma attached to Pagan religions is the reason that people are dismissive of your handfasting marriage?
PKM: I can’t speak for other people and how they think, or don’t think. I expect the reason people are dismissive of our marriage is that they are jealous of me with Jim, personally. Or they prefer to buy into the fiction that people like the late Ray Manzarek or the late Danny Sugerman propagated. Whatever. I can’t get worked up about their stupidity. Jim said he loved me. Jim said we were married. Jim gave me two rings. Jim called me his wife. That’s all I need to know. It should be all they need as well. If they disrespect it, they disrespect Jim and his choice.
ZB: Will you mention any of Jim’s poems that were based on his spiritual experiences you had together or on his own? What are some memories you have of his writing as a poet that people may not know about?”
PKM: Artists don’t really care to separate inspiration from achievement in that fashion. In fact, I don’t think we even can: it’s all one fabric, one piece of creation. I’m absolutely sure that some of Jim’s work, whether songs or poetry, was indeed the outcome of his spirituality, but I wouldn’t presume to put words in his mouth and arrogantly say what this poem or that song was based on.
The Jazz & Pop cover of Jim was the September 1970 issue and, per his request, I brought 40 copies of it down to Miami with me when I joined Jim there for a week of his obscenity trial. We thought to enter it into evidence as proof of his status offstage, as a poet, because his poem “Anatomy of Rock” was published in it for the first time. Didn’t work, as we were denied. The photo is by his friend Frank Lisciandro, taken at Maximilian’s Palace, Mexico City, in front of a mural by Juan O’Gorman, and photographed in April of 1970
I have a fair amount of Jim’s writings to and for me, that he left in my care. Gorgeous and erotic love poems, songs, letters, even beautiful drawings and nude sketches of me (he was a talented artist, along with everything else). Unfortunately, I cannot publish any of them. According to law, the gift of such things does not include copyright, unless specifically stated, and in our romantic fervor, we didn’t think of such a thing back then. Well, what lovers would? So the Morrison estate lawfully owns the content of these very private things, even though they have nothing to do with them and the family has never seen them. I own the physical objects: I could sell them, or eat them, or even display them in public, say as an art show in a gallery. But the one thing I cannot do is publish them.
A while back, I had thought to be able to do this once Jim had been dead for fifty years, which was the state of copyright law at the time. However, thanks to Sonny Bono and Walt Disney and the desire to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain, the law has been changed, and now there is no hope of publishing these wondrous things in my lifetime. Still, you never know: should I ever be diagnosed with a fatal illness, I may just decide to self-publish Jim’s words to me and the estate be damned. That would be a fitting way to go out, don’t you think? Very rock and roll. I think Jim would like it…
ZB: Do you write poetry yourself?
PKM: Sometimes. Songs also. They have nothing to do with my practice. I use the songs in my rock & roll murder series, The Rennie Stride Mysteries, and the poems in The Keltiad.
ZB: As his wife, great love and mentor in the arts of magical traditions, how do you feel you affected Jim’s work in music?
PKM: Again, I can’t speak for him and the sources of his inspiration. On the other hand, he informs my own work, as the daemon, the God, the male spirit, to a serious degree. Most of my male characters are based on aspects of him to some extent, either physical or spiritual: Gwydion and Morric in The Keltiad especially. Funnily enough, the only male character not based on Jim is the only rock star character, the superstar lead guitarist co-protagonist of the Rennie Stride books, Turk Wayland. He is most definitely not Jim in the slightest degree.
ZB: With poetry as a form of spell work, did Jim see his lyrics and songs as spells in essence?
PKM: They can be, and it might have been. He liked to think of it that way, at least, and he was probably right to do so. Writing and poetry are the means by which ritual and spells are performed. I mean, how could they not be the means? You need words, obviously.
ZB: To many of his fans, Jim Morrison was considered a shaman. Do you feel this is something a person is born with innate abilities or the skills have to be learned?
PKM: It’s usually idiots who have no glimmer of an idea of what a shaman is or does who are the first ones to bray about Jim being one. He wasn’t, not really, though he might have become one in time. He had no training, no teacher, no real idea. He certainly had no way of protecting others, or even himself, on his shaman journeys. Acid wasn’t really going to do it for him. If he got into shamanistic ways, it was purely instinctual. Which may be the best way to do it. I won’t say he didn’t see a ways ahead of the rest of us, because he did, and sometimes staggeringly so, but I would hesitate to say that that of itself made him a shaman. There’s too many other factors such a calling demands.
ZB: Will you talk about the lore of Jim being possessed by the Native American shaman after witnessing the accident in his youth. Do you feel he contained this other spirit or that the event triggered a prior knowledge within himself that he was born with shamanistic talents?
PKM: Complete bogus. Yeah, yeah, the accident happened, and clearly affected him, since he was only a little boy, but he did not believe he was actually possessed by some dead Indian who was almost certainly not a shaman. Oliver Stone has a lot to answer for, having made much more of the incident than Jim ever did. He just needed a hook to hang his execrable movie on, and that was what he picked.
ZB: How accurately do you feel you were portrayed in The Doors movie as a Priestess? What should they have included in the script that would have better defined you and your relationship to Jim?”
PKM: That movie was an evil, monstrous spiritual rape of Jim, me, the Doors and the Sixties, and I will never forgive Oliver Stone for it. I was billed as a “consultant” to the film, and wrote my own lines for the ritual scene, but my advice was largely ignored otherwise and Oliver made me look like a naïve dupe, to be laughed at in a later scene. Jim was completely serious about our wedding and never at any point mocked it or me.
On the other hand, the movie was also the most public exposure with Jim that I ever got, horrible though it is, and Kathleen Quinlan, who is a dear friend to this day, portrayed me beautifully. (Though she took me aside before we shot the scene and bade me be very mindful not to accidentally marry her to Val…) So…two blades of the axe, right? I could have really used an axe… Still, it’s interesting how after that movie Oliver became a national laughingstock and punch line. I haven’t really kept up with his career, but I don’t think he’s done much, if anything, to equal his pre-Doors output. Hmm, almost as if someone put a curse on him…but no. He called down his karma upon himself. I just hung the karma mirror. And, of course, it got me to write Strange Days, which I would never have done otherwise.
ZB: Is there anything you wish you would have included in Strange Days that you didn’t?
PKM: Well, I wish I’d known as much about the horrific circumstances of his death as I do now, and whom to blame for it. Because certainly that would have gone in, and a little of it did, in the paperback version. And I didn’t include anything in Days that I wish I hadn’t.
ZB: With regards to mainstream society’s attitudes towards paganism and witchcraft, do you see these changing?
PKM: I do think attitudes are changing, yes, and I’m thrilled to see it. What we do is analogous to what Native Americans do, a nature-based shamanic religion, and we should get the same respect. Of course, it’s taken hundred of years for them to get respect as well. But that too is changing, at least culturally; politically may take longer.
ZB: How do you think we can change this prejudice?
PKM: I’m not sure we can. But maybe coming forward, getting out of the broom closet, is the way to show people that our religion is worthy and real, that we’re regular folks just like them. Only, our church is a teensy bit different from theirs. The more of us stand up and declare ourselves, the more “normal” our faith will look to the scaredy-cats
ZB: What else do you feel is important people should know about yourself?
PKM: If I want people to know anything about me, I’ll tell them in my own way and in my own good time. It’s all in my books, really. Otherwise, it’s none of their business and they don’t need to know. That’s all. And thank you, Zora, very much. Brightest Blessings to you and all in The Wild Hunt.