Isaac Bonewits at the Gnosticon Aquarian Festival III, held September 20 - 23, 1973 in Minneapolis

One of the first things Isaac said to me when he came to work at Llewellyn was to explain that his name, Bone – wits, meant “smart bones”—that he was smart.

In many ways I think he set out to live a smart life no matter what profession or subject he was interested in. When he was allowed to major in “Magic” at UC-Berkeley, he went about the streets of Berkeley wearing a ceremonial sword knowing he would be attract attention and many opportunities to explain what a magic ceremonial sword was.

I never heard that he had to explain his sword to the police, but I can imagine how he would welcome that particular opportunity!

Isaac Bonewits at a speaking engagement, circa November 1973. His topic was “Witchcult.”

So Isaac was smart, theatrical—even flamboyant —and very much an activist, politically and otherwise. In those days, the early seventies, he wore his hair in a single braid down to his skinny ass, and a single long earring. He took opportunities to wear his ceremonial robes publicly, and never lost an opportunity to assert that he was a Pagan. He was active, assertive, smart, and well-liked even by the few with whom he had disagreements—even when he made absurd statements. Only one of those remains in my memory: he asserted that the equality of the sexes included the ability of a man to produce breast-milk to nurse a baby.

Controversy was something he never shied from. Were the occasions for seeking out and generating controversy always “smart?” Probably not, but his friends knew that was part of his character. And these were the Seventies, not quite as “far out” as the late sixties in Berkeley, but Isaac played a leading role in the “establishment” of Paganism, of the New Age as new way of thinking and living, and always reminding those making claims on behalf of their beliefs of the need to support their statements with “rigorous scholarship.”

Gnostica became the leading New Age, Pagan, Metaphysical, and Occult periodical of the time—a time before its time as the market wasn’t quite ready to sustain what we envisioned and the bankruptcy of the two magazine distributors necessitated some retrenchment. But the market continued to evolve and the quality of our work together went on to establish the community we know today.

Isaac brought many voices to Gnostica and to the Gnosticons, and his leadership was immensely important in transiting the Sixties’ phenomena into the most dynamic intellectual and social movement of the Twentieth Century—that which we know as the reality of the real New Age.

I officiated in his marriage to Rusty in our backyard. It was not a big affair, but I remember Rusty saying, with amazement, that the ceremony “worked”—she felt like a bride. I guess it didn’t work too well, since that marriage didn’t last very long. And Isaac moved on from Llewellyn and the days of Gnostica magazine and our famous Gnosticon “gatherings of the tribe.” It was at one of those—the rather famous WitchMeet where I introduced the Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief—that Isaac officiated at the marriage of Morning Glory and Tim Zell (later to become Otter G’Zell). That marriage lasted.

Handfasting of Morning Glory and Oberon Zell Ravenheart, presided over by Archdruid Isaac Bonewits and High Priestess Carolyn Clark at the April 1974 Spring Witchmeet.

What more can I write?

Isaac was a good man, and a real New Age person who contributed enormously to what I believe to have established this New Age as a fundamental change in consciousness in which Paganism, Wicca, Magic with and without a “K,” Shamanism, and transformative technologies are seen as NEW, not just as revivals of OLD ways or the adoption of Eastern and other practices.

Isaac—as a “Fundamentalist,” as part of “the Establishment”? It takes some re-thinking and recognition of what being a pioneer and revolutionary means. Certainly Isaac was a leading member of the New Age “establishment,” and his academic and intellectual contributions were “fundamental” to taking us beyond the mere acts of rebellion that could have stultified the Movement as its beginnings.

Well, my friend, while I wish you bon voyage on your next life, I have to say: Don’t stop now, for our New Age revolution still needs your help. Keep up the Good Work and practice the Good Life wherever you are.

Love and Blessings,

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke

Written by carlw
Carl Llewellyn Weschcke (Minnesota) is the owner and chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, the world's oldest and largest metaphysical publisher. He played a seminal role in the rise of Wicca and Neo-Paganism in the 1960s and 1970s and has been called "the father of New Age" for his public sponsorship ...