As a member of the Minoan Brotherhood, a gay men’s Wiccan tradition, it was with the greatest of anticipation that I had awaited the publication of The Bull of Heaven
by Michael Lloyd, a biography of Edmund Buczynski. Eddie Buczynski is the founder of the Minoan Brotherhood as well as several other Wiccan traditions, whose activities during the 1970’s played a seminal role in the development of the Wiccan community in New York.
Consequently I can say with the utmost delight that the wait has indeed been well worth it. Michael Lloyd’s meticulous attention to fact and detail is surpassed only by his ability to tell a compelling story. Indeed the very few stories that I had heard about Eddie and his work always struck me as the elements of myth. However upon hearing the full story, or at least a great deal of it for the first time, I now know that Eddie’s life was indeed the stuff of which myths are made. For those fortunate enough to take the time and pleasure of reading Michael Lloyd’s book, they will discover that it is nothing less than the story of a hero’s spiritual quest for meaning in a wasteland that constantly tried to convince him that his life had no spiritual meaning. And when after many years of searching, working and experimenting; after finally coming to a place where all his experiences seem to be at last approaching a point of supreme focus promising a brand new spiritual synthesis, the hero’s life is suddenly and dramatically cut short, seemingly ending in a dead end of lost potentials and possibilities. Or does it?
For me, one of the most compelling aspects to Eddies story was his search for authenticity. It is probably a basic human need to know that one’s life or one’s search or whatever it is that a man pins his dreams upon is in fact authentic. And yet authenticity at least of the existential variety is almost as nebulous and difficult to pin down as mist upon a mountain. And as often as not when we do finally reach what we thought we were looking for, it turns out that it was not what we really thought it was or what we really wanted. But it is only by finally coming to that point and finding it, do we learn that most unpleasant lesson.
Eddie Buczynski Memorial Ritual, at Bull of Heaven book-launch
This phenomenon is well recorded in the history of Christianity which has had no small effect upon our own contemporary society. In a time when early Christianity was surrounded by any number of pagan mystery traditions, each one promising its devotees a personal experience of the Divine, early Christian leaders asked themselves, “How do we know that we are in fact the authentic path to the Divine?” They answered that question by declaring that while other mystery traditions were based upon mythical and therefore false deities found in mythical stories in mythical times, Christianity by contrast to all other traditions was not simply based on historical fact but was indeed historical fact. They defined as literal fact Christ’ existence as the literal Son of God whose literal sacrifice, death and resurrection thereby brought literal salvation, redemption and entry into Heaven after death and union with God. This notion which seems rather quaint to us today, in the early Church’s eyes, as indeed it is in the Church’s eyes today, made Christianity the one, true and only authentic path to the Divine. As the only true path, all other paths became false and therefore misleading and dangerous. From there it became the next logical step that for the protection of all human souls, all other paths except orthodox Christianity must be destroyed by any means necessary. And as a result, a path based on Love became a path of bloody intolerance to upon which no atrocity would be too horrific as long as it served to prove the authenticity and truth of Christianity.
In the early days of the modern Wiccan/Witchcraft movement a similar hunger, need, or (lust?) for authenticity seemed almost paramount. “How do we know that our tradition is an authentic one in contrast to other traditions?” The answer to that question became the pedigree of that tradition’s Book of Shadows. “Our Book of Shadows and the knowledge, rituals and history contained within it can be traced all the way back to the Sixteenth Century, the Twelfth Century, Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Atlantis, etc. (Please take your pick.) Whereas all those other Traditions along with their Books of Shadows are merely cobbled together compilations of information gleaned from the local public library or made up completely. Therefore our Tradition is truly authentic while others are sadly not.” And so began the War of the Witches wherein Traditions bad mouthed, attacked and even hurled baneful spells of darkest dissolution against each other in the belief that they were attacking false and dangerous Traditions, while affirming the authenticity of their own and thereby protecting innocent and sincere seekers of the true Wiccan mysteries from getting sucked into false ones.
This sad state of affairs continued through the 1960’s and 70’s until during the 80’s the number of eclectic covens and traditions who proudly declared their eclecticism began to outnumber the more traditional Traditions. Also historic and scholarly research during that same period also began to show that the so-called Traditional Traditions were in fact just as eclectic in their formation as the newer Traditions that they were railing against.
And so, as related by Michael Lloyd in The Bull of Heaven, in 1970, Eddie first read Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today and in so doing discovered the existence of a living tradition of witchcraft. Taking Gardner’s writing as a factual historical treatise instead of the totally brilliant exercise in creative mythology that it was, Eddie conceived the notion that Gardnerian Witchcraft was indeed the authentic Wiccan Tradition and therefore superior to any other. He then embarked upon a quest to seek initiation and therefore authenticity in the Gardnerian Tradition. And so for the next three years he constantly sought a Gardnerian initiation and was constantly thwarted in his quest. His open and flamboyant homosexuality, most likely cast many barriers in his way. But in spite of this and perhaps even because it, Eddie went on to create the Welsh Tradition and the Wica Tradition. In the Welsh Tradition, Eddie himself fell into the authenticity tar pit and gave out to his students that the Welsh tradition hearkened back to earlier ages, as indeed some of the materials which he incorporated into the tradition in fact may have done. Still it rose up to bite him in the posterior as those who read his biography will come to discover.
Altar at Bull of Heaven book-launch, taken by Lady Zoradia
Finally after several attempts and several setbacks, Eddie finally achieved initiation into the Gardnerian Tradition but not without controversy. Personality disputes along with the homophobia that ran rampant in the Witchcraft community during that period both conspired to perturb the waters and to darken and frustrate Eddie’s experience. All of this finally led to Eddie’s creation of the Minoan Brotherhood, a Wiccan based tradition for Gay Men, freed from a great deal of the nonsense that was inherent within the Wiccan community at that time. But it is only due to all of his experiences good and bad that Eddie possessed the knowledge and experience needed to create the Minoan Brotherhood. Nowhere in the Minoan Tradition did Eddie ever imply that it was in fact a tradition that had survived in secret down the millennia and passed down the long distant ages in an unbroken line of gay high priests and adepts. It seemed that Eddie had come to the realization that true authenticity comes from the love and sincerity in which it is created as well as the love and sincerity in which it is followed. Anything else is no more than the ragged remnants of a butterfly’s cocoon.
Sadly, Eddie only worked with the Brotherhood for a relatively short time before he effectively retired from the Wiccan community and went back to school. Eddie had dropped out of High School due to his homophobic experiences. Now, Eddie got his GED and then went on to receive his Bachelor’s Degree from Hunter College and his Master’s Degree from Bryn Mawr before he ultimately succumbed to AIDS.
But, as is revealed in Bull of Heaven, Eddie never truly left the Brotherhood. During his college years he kept a Minoan shrine in his apartment. Towards the end before he realized how sick he was, he even began to try and work the tradition with others. If Eddie had lived to earn his doctorate and go into teaching archeology as he both planned and desired, he would have brought everything he had learned and experienced into his Minoan practice. He would have brought new depths of understanding and new levels of complexity to the Minoan Tradition which would have enriched the Tradition and his followers immeasurably. He would have brought such changes to it that it could almost be reckoned a new tradition. This is somewhat ironic given that some of his followers today treat the Minoan Tradition as something that fell from the heavens, perfect and splendid and with only a minor detour through Eddie’s own genius and therefore should be enshrined and preserved untouched and unchanged till the stars themselves finally go out.
Eddie Buczynski’s life showed that all the Traditions he created were meant to be living organic paths to the Divine. Change and growth were not only expected but necessary to the future functioning of those Traditions. And so Buczynski’s true legacy is not only the traditions that he created which are followed still by many, but also the knowledge that the freedom to grow and evolve are indeed pivotal to all Wiccan Traditions. All those seeking to better understand the times and events that gathered to shape the Wiccan community, should definitely read Michael Lloyd’s Bull of Heaven, A book that is informative, illuminating and yes, even liberating.
- (Guest-Post provided by Cory Rochester)