All the Illuminati and Glitterati of the New York City Pagan Scene turned out Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, for the first in the Pagan Way 40th Anniversary Lecture Series, in the Chapel of the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Brooklyn Heights, NY, through the enthusiastic support of FUUB minister Rev. Jude Geiger. (The FUUB church of Brooklyn, by the way, was built in the 1830s-1840s, and contains many wonderful features of early nineteenth century architecture; it truly is a marvelous monument of a building.) The inspiration for the Anniversary Lecture Series belongs to Gary Suto (Minos of Temenos Ophiuchus); the source of inspiration was Michael Lloyd’s Bull of Heaven: the Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan. In his book, Mr. Lloyd discusses the first Pagan Way Lecture Series presented by Herman Slater and Eddie Buczynski in November 1972, to promote Pagan outreach; build Pagan community; and advertise their store The Warlock Shop. Held at the same First Unitarian Universalist church aforementioned, the series was one of the first recorded interfaith outreach efforts between a “Liberal Religion” church and a NYC Pagan group: one of the first truly ecumenical events sponsored by a church regarding Paganism and Witchcraft (as Mr. Lloyd put it). The 1972 series included Raymond Buckland; Eddie Buczynski; and Leo Martello; the first in the 40th Anniversary Series was titled “NY Pagan History: How We Got To Where We Are Today,” and was presented by Michael Lloyd and Margot Adler, author of Drawing Down the Moon: as Michael noted, the single most important documentary work concerning modern Paganism. (Rev. Jude noted that DDTM was required Pagan reading for UU ministership.)
Ms. Adler began the talk, speaking of her experiences as one of the first initiates into the NYC Witchcraft scene. Seeking at the time she wasn’t sure what (the best that Ms. Adler, as a Child of the Sixties, could put it), an “ecological religion” that took a “holistic view” of the earth: Ms. Adler began to discover certain “code words” that seemed to lead her in the direction for which she was looking. Terms like “the Craft”; “the Old Ways”; eventually a strange and mysterious word “Wicca” led her to a Village Voice advertisement, and (wait for it) the first lecture series at the First Unitarian Universalist church in Brooklyn (sponsored by “Friends of the Craft”). Seated in the same building where she had sat forty years earlier: Margot Adler recalled seeing Herman Slater, Leo Martello, and Eddie Buczynski, and reflected that- had it not been for that illuminating event- her “journey” might never have happened.
I found Ms. Adler’s remarks remarkable. Remembering growing up Gay in the super-closeted 1970s: I recall when the only terms denoting Gay People were words like “Fag,” “Pansy,” and “Dyke,” and there was no “Gay Culture” spoken of; conceived of; or to be found (much as I guess it was during at least the 1940s; the 1950s; and the 1960s). It is truly strange to recall now: but code words; hints; subtext were necessary to locate others “in the Life.” Ms. Adler’s descriptions of tracking down codes, seeking she was not sure what, but on her journey towards discovering that “Identity” which would settle all the pieces of her soul once and for all, illuminating the person whom she always knew that she was and was meant to be: reminded me so strongly of the process of discovering the Truth about Gay Identity, that I believe the discovery of Truth about Pagan Identity must be similar. (I remember a Pagan lady at NYC Pagan Pride this year going, Pagans are more Closeted than Gays these days. It’s easier for Gays to Come Out now, than it is for Pagans. Arguably true.)
After Ms. Adler, Michael Lloyd spoke. (I wish to point out the dedicated commitment to this event demonstrated by both Ms. Adler and Mr. Lloyd: as Rev. Jude noted in his introduction, Ms. Adler has been working for National Public Radio three-times-and-a-half overtime since Hurricane Sandy hit, and Mr. Lloyd literally made a twenty-four hour stopover in NYC, getting up at four in the morning to make his flight. Neither can be said to have been well-rested; yet both rallied through that stalwart Pagan Spirit to be animated, thoughtful, and articulate in their lecture.) Mr. Lloyd spoke of the things that prompted (compelled, perhaps) him to write his book, explaining that as a chemical engineer, math and numbers “adding up” were important to him. As a member of Eddie Buczynski’s Minoan Brotherhood, Michael began to notice that certain stories didn’t “add up.” Wanting to establish a definitive record of Mr. Buczynski, Mr. Lloyd set out to create what he (humorously, now) initially imagined as an informative paper. (Research kept leading Mr. Lloyd deeper and deeper, until we are at Bull of Heaven today; even Ms. Adler conceded that- although she had known and worked with Eddie personally, she had not known his full story until she read Bull of Heaven).
Mr. Lloyd went on to speak of the vital need to preserve our modern Pagan history and archives, noting that the Minoan Brotherhood lineages were lost when Mr. Buczynski was rushed to a hospital in the final stages of AIDS, leaving his apartment to the ministrations of those who did not know enough to secure his Magickal records. He discussed some of the investigative techniques he developed in his research, noting that “people’s memories suck.” (Michael took to asking things like, Do you remember what season this was? Do you remember who was President?) He emphasized the advantage of writing up biographies while people are alive, as it becomes all the harder once people start dying.
Mr. Lloyd noted that the astonishing flourishing of Witchcraft (soon to become Neo-Paganism) was a product of its time; by 1972 and the first Pagan Way lecture series, the Movement was scarcely over a decade old, a phenomenon only explicable by the peculiar Zeitgeist of the ’60s and early ’70s (the Era of the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius). Most importantly, he spoke of a future in which Witch Wars, Banishings, and Curses (the Bane of the Old School Craft) were no longer in evidence, and that genuine Good-Will and true Spiritual Intent were the guiding forces for Paganism, the Craft, and the future. According to Michael Lloyd, the greatest product of Paganism to date has been Pagan Community.
An eager question-and-answer session included Michael Lloyd’s ruminations upon how the development of the Pagan Festival Circuit promoted cross-cultural Paganism (even more so than the newsletter fad of the period). Ms. Adler discussed Paganism as a “dogma-free” Spirituality, calling it a “non-credal” religion, based (like many tribal religions) not upon what you believe, but rather upon what you do. As Margot Adler sees it, one of the virtues of modern or neo-Paganism is a virtue of New York City itself: a multiplicity of peoples and traditions will lead to a respect for many pathways that lead to Divinity.
Great thanks to Margot Adler and Michael Lloyd for presenting this inaugural lecture in the 40th Anniversary Pagan Way Lecture Series; to Gary Suto and the NYC Pagan Alliance for conceiving and producing it; and to the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Brooklyn, and Rev. Jude Geiger for hosting the event. Rock on, Pagans, rock on!