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On the Shoulders of Giants

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on August 12, 2010 | Comments (7)

By now, you probably know of the passing of a true giant, Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits. I did not know Isaac all that well, be we did spend many hours together at various festivals and I will always consider it an honor that he called me his friend.

Actually, I knew Isaac long before I met him. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1970 with a degree in magic and thaumaturgy, the only person to ever receive such a degree from an accredited university. The following year he published Real Magic. It was something incredibly new. Until that time, books on magick had primarily been either the mocking and debunking, or the repetition of historical texts. In this book, Isaac revealed his experiences and discoveries with magick and spirituality from the viewpoint of an intelligent college graduate. But this was no thesis in book form. He interspersed personal stories and humor, making the book lively reading. In my opinion, many of the books on magick, Wicca and Witchcraft, Paganism, and Druidry would not be what they are today if it had not been for Real Magic.

Soon thereafter, Isaac began working for Llewellyn. For two years he was the editor of Gnostica Magazine. Many of you reading this may not remember that magazine. In my opinion it was the best popular magazine based around magick, occultism, Wicca, and the paranormal ever published in the U.S.

In 1983, Isaac founded Ar nDraocht Fein (A.K.A. “A Druid Fellowship” or ADF). This has become a leading druidic (or more accurately neo-druidic) organization in the world.

Although he will be remembered for his founding of ADF and Real Magic, I doubt if his real impact on the Pagan world will ever be fully known or appreciated. Like an editor behind the scenes, his frequent writings and teachings have directly and indirectly influenced thousands. Many of the leaders in the community received input from him, thus shading their eventual concepts and ideas. Isaac will never receive credit for this because he did it from his heart and not for the publicity.

Perhaps the one thing I’ll remember about Isaac was his indefatigable energy. Even when he was diagnosed with a disease that exhausted him (from taking some badly produced L-triptophan), he seemed to always be going and doing; awake, alert, knowledgable, and always willing to share information, a story, a song, or a laugh.

In the coming days, you will read many memorials to Isaac, all of them earned, and all of them, no matter how glowing, not even half of what they could be.

Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” If I am remembered at all for anything I have said or written, it will be because I, too, have stood on the shoulders of giants.

Isaac Bonewits was one of those giants.

Rest well in the arms of the Goddess, my friend. You have earned it.

Isaac Bonewits
October 1, 1949–August 12, 2010

Do you have recollections of Isaac? Share them in the comments section.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Ann Marie
on August 12th, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

This is lovley sentiment thank you DMK for the quote,
my memories of Isaac are at several festivals. He was always approachable, smiling laughing and teaching. He challanged ny mind and caused me to articulate my thoughts. I am grateful for the workshops and the exanple of good teaching.

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#2 
Written By Elysia
on August 12th, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

Very nicely said, Don. You’re right, he was indefatigable, and made such an impact that many people often don’t even know that some of the terms they commonly use in talking about Neo-Paganism were coined by him. He was truly working behind the scenes, and in the limelight, at the same time.

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#3 
Written By "Dazzle"
on August 12th, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

Isaac was a sweet, and, kind, and gentle man. He approached every day as a New Day and every woman as if she was the Goddess herself. He was a flirt and had the voice of a bard. My husband and I had the pleasure of hosting him in our home several times when he came to teach classes based on his books Real Magic and Authentic Thaumaturgy. My fondest memory will always be of him singing one of the “old songs” in that beautiful voice of his and drinking with relish all the Guinness I provided. Isaac will be sorely missed and the world is a richer place (and filled with Magick) because he was in it. My heart goes out to Arthur, Phae and Deb.

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#4 
Written By Carlos Melendez
on August 12th, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

I remember Isaac and during his yearly trek to the Washington DC memorials; this one at the Jefferson memorial we did magick.

He was truly an amazing person and we will miss him.

RIP Isaac

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#5 
Written By Janne Butler
on October 7th, 2010 @ 4:01 am

Say it ain’t so! I’ll miss ya, Isaac, All those goofy phone calls and letters, your visits, and you graciously accepting long distance healing from me- and all the magick. Safe journey to the Summerlands, my friend- hope to see you soon- love and cookies- Janne.

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#6 
Written By Eric Blood
on November 17th, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

I had no idea that Issac was dead! I’m in shock right now. Real Magic was the first book I ever read on the occult and magick. He influenced and continues influence my worldview on how the occult sciences work. Whenever any one wants to know more about magick, Real Magic is always the first book I recommend.
I never met the man, but he changed my life for the better.
May you find beauty and joy as you plunge into the next great mystery Issac, you will be missed

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