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.