Let’s start by saying I can’t believe I’m writing another remembrance on this blog. I’ve lost too many authors in the 10 years I’ve worked for Llewellyn, and now I’ve lost my boss Carl Llewellyn Weschcke. We all have lost a very special person – not just his family, not just the Llewellyn family, but all of the Wiccans, Witches, Pagans, and magicians that I acquire books for, under his mighty imprint. So this is not going to be short.
Carl was a natural-born leader, the kind of person with so much enthusiasm for an idea or a project that others got caught up in it, too. He was a kind, intelligent person who was always looking to expand other people’s minds, by starting with his own. A lot of my fundamental training here at Llewellyn was simply having conversations with him; there was not a single esoteric, metaphysical, or alternative concept that he was not familiar with. He’d photocopy chapters from interesting books for me, or send all of us packets of articles to read. He wanted to spread knowledge and enthusiasm for our topics and our world.
He was the hardest worker I know – not the type of boss that expects everyone to give up their lives and kill themselves for their job, but the type who, himself, never took a break, never rested on his laurels, because there was always more to be done. It’s like he was put on earth with this huge mission and he kept at it day after day, year after year. Truly, his contribution to minority faiths, the New Age, and everything that Llewellyn is known for cannot be underestimated. America’s religious landscape would be a different place today if it weren’t for Carl’s unique mission in life.
When I first started working at Llewellyn, he was still in the office most days, and if not, he always came to our Thursday morning Acquisitions Meetings where he’d hold sway at the head of the table, getting into really interesting discussions about what we were and were not publishing, sharing stories and memories of his career and friendships in the industry, giving his opinions on matter both metaphysical and mundane. (He had a great sense of humor, too.) When he became unable to come in every week because of mobility issues, he made sure he was able to continue his work in the huge office and library that was on the lower level of his home, connected by our IT department to the rest of us. There, he reviewed what we were bringing in to Acquisitions, as usual, sending us messages of approval or encouragement before the meetings. Sometimes a book really excited him and he’d write a great deal about why it was important to publish it. During that time, by his own accounts he worked 70 hours a week on his computer.
While he could have been taking it easy in semi-retirement mode, he began instead to write books with his friend Joe Slate. Huge books! I still have no idea how a person could have such prodigious output in his 80s; I suspect it’s because he was very active mentally but physically not so much, so this was the perfect use of his time. To pass along all the wisdom and experience that he’d collected over his half-century of owning Llewellyn and being steeped in its books and knowledge. Recently though, he knew his limitations, even if he wasn’t happy with them. When letting me know last month that he wouldn’t be writing a foreword for an author who had hoped for one, he said, “I would want to read the whole manuscript, but with my present eye problems I need to ‘ration’ my time to my own work.”
When he first bought Llewellyn, it seems to me (although I wasn’t there) that he pretty much did everything. He edited books. He did the layout and typography. He sold the books, advertised and distributed them himself. He attended BEA, he started a bookstore, a newsletter, a conference, at a time when Pagans were hard-pressed to find other Pagans. He made that idea of gathering the tribes into a reality, and inspired countless others to follow in his footsteps: to be public about Wicca and witchcraft, to connect with others, and to fight for the rights of minority religions. He made sure that Oberon and Morning Glory’s “witch wedding” was publicized in the local papers. He convened the “American Council of Witches” in 1974 to set forth common beliefs, which then translated into helpful guidelines for military forces and prison populations. He always, always believed that people could do better and that enlightenment was just around the corner – if you were willing to work for it.
Yes, back to the work theme. Did I mention he was an incredibly hard worker? I’m just looking over our emails. We corresponded a great deal about Donald Michael Kraig’s Modern Tantra, a book that Don had been working on when he passed away in March 2014. We had meetings about it, Carl rewrote the foreword for it a few times, and it was very important to all of us. When I came to work this Monday morning, Don’s book had just arrived on my desk from the warehouse, hot off the presses. As I leafed through it, admiring how nicely it had turned out, I did have a sad moment remembering Don. How significant that just hours later I would find out Carl had passed, and most likely was already catching up with Don… and Isaac Bonewits and Margot Adler and Morning Glory Zell and Stephanie Clement and Patricia Monaghan and Scott Cunningham and Israel Regardie and countless other friends and associates… But it does sadden me that neither Carl nor Don saw the finished product in their incarnations on earth.
But Carl had much to be proud of beyond this book or that; he had a whole body of groundbreaking work that he was responsible for bringing to the masses. In particular, in one email to me he mentioned “the pioneering work Llewellyn did in publishing Sheba, Buckland, Fitch, Fortune, and others – including Crowley – back in the sixties.” He knew that he was a driving force behind the movement, but was still humble about it and always pleased and grateful to be included in lists of influential people. He even told me once, “Scott [Cunningham] used to call me ‘Father of the New Age,’ but I wouldn’t say that even though there’s probably more truth than blarney to the idea.”
I am grateful that Carl and his wife Sandra saw in me an ambassador for Llewellyn when he was no longer able to travel. Whenever I went to PantheaCon, I would send detailed trip reports to everyone at Llewellyn; when we started doing a hospitality suite there, he was really pleased:
“A really great report which I both enjoyed and appreciated reading. It certainly shows the value of using a suite as a kind of ‘family room’ for everyone to come together, and the value of direct involvement of staff as well as authors in the panels and talks. I always tried projecting the feeling of the ‘Llewellyn Family’ in every way – at ‘home and abroad.’”
That sense of the Llewellyn family is palpable here in the offices. Sure, sometimes we’re a big, messy, dysfunctional family, but Carl always stressed that he was happy to have every single one of us in it. When he couldn’t come to our Yule luncheon for the first time, in 2013, he sent a message to all staff, saying,
“For me, Llewellyn is even more than ‘family’ – it is heart and soul, and even those new people I’ve not met and those who are no longer with us are embraced in my thought and feeling. May we all have joy this season and SUCCESS, SUCCESS, SUCCESS in the coming year!”
(Yes – “Success! Success! Success!” was his motto. And it’s a good one.)
Here is a snippet from a more recent email. He turned 85 this September and, as usual, we all signed a big card for him. He emailed all employees,
“Yes, it is age 85, and rather than pretending to be just 25 (because I look so young, you know), I’d rather still have the energy and drive I had at age 45 when I was able to work 18-hour days back in the old combo-digs on Summit Ave.
“Amazing all that has come and gone over the years – good Llewellyn people, great authors, lessons learned, wonderful adventures, a bit of excitement, and more. Things for the book I should write about our history.”
Many people have posted condolences including the customary “Rest in Peace.” Well, I’m not sure that Carl will ever be ready to rest. I like to think that after a very short pause in the action to catch his breath and get his bearings in his new environment, he will be back to work very soon, behind the scenes, working for all of us left on the planet. In closing, I will quote from Carl one more time. This is what he wrote in his tribute to Isaac Bonewits:
“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.”
Thank you, Carl.