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.”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.”
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.