Articles/Essays From Pagans
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Energy and Karma
Community and Perception
December 20th. 2015 ...
Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
Native American Spirituality Myopia
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A Dream Message
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Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
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Into the Dark
September 16th. 2015 ...
Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents
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Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
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Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
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A Pagan Altar
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Sex, Lies, and Witches: Love in a Time of Wiccans and Atheists
Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism
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13 Keys: The Crown of Kether
March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
Historiolae: The Spell Within the Story
My Concept Of Grey
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
The Three Centers of Paganism
Magick is No Illusion
The Ancient Use of God/Goddess Surnames
The Gods of My Heart
January 1st. 2015 ...
The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
Pagans All Around Us
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
A Microcosmic View of Ma'at
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
Abandoning Expectations and Remembering Your Roots
September 28th. 2014 ...
Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
Creating a Healing Temple
September 20th. 2014 ...
GOD AND ME (A Pagan's Personal Reply to the New Atheists)
September 7th. 2014 ...
Deer Man- A Confounding Mystery
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Coven vs. Solitary
A Strange Waking Dream
August 24th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
The Pagan Cleric
A Gathering of Sorcerers (A Strange Tale)
August 17th. 2014 ...
To Know, to Will, to Dare...
On Grief: Beacons of Light in the Shadows
August 10th. 2014 ...
As a Pagan, How Do I Represent My Path?
The Power of the Gorgon
August 3rd. 2014 ...
Are You a Natural Witch?
You Have to Believe We Are Magic...
July 27th. 2014 ...
Did I Just Draw Down the Moon?
Astrological Ages and the Great Astrological End-Time Cycle
The New Jersey Finishing School for Would-Be Glamour Girls and Boys
July 20th. 2014 ...
Being an Underage Wiccan
Malleus Maleficarum - The Hammer of the Witches
Greed, Power, Witches, and the Inquisition
Thoughts on Ghost Hunting
July 13th. 2014 ...
A World Of Witchcraft: Belief Is Only The Beginning...
From Christian to Pagan (Part III)
My Wiccan Ways...
July 6th. 2014 ...
Keys: Opening the Portals into Other Worlds
The Lore of the Door
Leaves of Love
June 29th. 2014 ...
What Does the Bible Say About Witches and Pagans?
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
An Interview with Oberon Zell (with Bernadette Montana)
Article ID: 14571
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Posted: June 5th. 2011
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Bernadette: Oberon, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this. You were actually the one who inspired me to do this series of interviews. When we had our talk at Starwood, we spoke about history and who our elders are. How can we teach the next generation of pagans/witches/heathens about our history? As we all know, Isaac Bonewits has recently crossed over. I was wondering if you would you like to say a little something about him and your experiences with knowing him?
Oberon Zell: Isaac was an amazing guy—just over-the-top brilliant, and utterly dedicated to the Goddess and the Pagan movement. He was deeply committed to all the highest Pagan causes: social justice, environmentalism, civil rights, women’s issues, and particularly, scholarship. His motto (which should be the epitaph on his tombstone) was “Why not excellence?” We corresponded from around 1971, after I read his book, Real Magic, and we first met in 1972. As editor of Gnostica News, he was at the Gnostic Aquarian Festival in Minneapolis over Mabon of 1973, where I was a keynote speaker. It was there I met Morning Glory, and at the banquet Isaac asked us when we intended to get married, and if he could perform the ceremony. The following Easter, he and our CAW High Priestess Carolyn Clark conducted our spectacular Pagan handfasting at the Gnostica Spring Witchmoot. The highlight of the ceremony was when both of them set their waist-long hair on fire from the altar candles! Later on, MG and I performed his marriage to Selene Vega, and more recently (July 23, 2004) , I performed the handfasting for him and Phaedra at Starwood.
Over the years, Isaac and I shared a number of lovers, creating our own little clan of “lovers-in-law.” We attended many festivals together, hung out around many campfires, drank a lot of mead, and sang many silly songs together. We’d have these great conversations on the whichness of what, and how to unscrew the inscrutable. We always talked about writing a book together on Pagan thealogy, and that year at Starwood—before he was diagnosed with cancer—he was talking about moving back to the Left Coast and joining the faculty of the Grey School . I’m really having a hard time accepting that he’s gone. But “what is remembered, lives.” And Isaac will always live in the memories of those of us who have been privileged to know him.
In honor of Isaac, and his livelong commitment to magickal scholarship, the Grey School of Wizardry has just established an “Isaac Bonewits Memorial Scholarship” to be awarded to the youth and adult students who each year earn our two “Student of the Year” awards.
Bernadette: You have been seen the Pagan community grow over these many years. In what direction do you see the Pagan community going?
OZ: Well, of course, I see it continuing to grow, and become more and more visible in the world. Eventually, the general mainstream public will realize that we exist, and who we really are. Our values and positions on many issues (environmentalism, women’s rights, gay rights, etc.) , will become more widely known and appreciated as wiser and more viable alternatives to the madness of the predominant culture, and I think many more will be drawn to join us in a “green religion” to heal and awaken our living Earth. We will acquire more and more Pagan lands, where we’ll erect stone circles and create retreat centers for festivals. I expect Pagan villages and retirement communities to start coming together on such lands. Pagan businesses will become more and more prominent and successful. Each new generation born into Paganism will deepen our traditions, celebrations, and Mysteries. I feel strongly that Paganism is truly the unifying religion and mythos that the world needs, and its re-emergence in our time heralds a grand new Renaissance of human culture on a global scale.
Bernadette: How does it compare to the “early” days?
OZ: Well, back “in the day” (the ‘60s) I could count the number of self-professed Pagans in the world on the fingers of one foot—and we all knew each other. We formed a network of friends and lovers that permeated the emerging Pagan community and connected all the early groups with each other into a genuine grassroots movement. Those were the heady days of the founding of all the various Paths and Traditions. We felt we were pretty much on our own, entirely free to make it up as we felt inspired; anything was possible! So we concentrated on creating the sorts of values, traditions, groups and institutions that suited our own needs and Visions, rather than trying to shoehorn ourselves into existing ones.
We were very excited in our awareness that we were starting a major new religious movement, and we were very concerned and conscious to avoid the errors of previous such movements that led to holy wars (an oxymoron if ever there was one!) , Crusades, Jihads, Inquisitions, genocides, and all the other horrors that have been inflicted upon a suffering humanity (and the natural world as well) throughout history in the name of religion. And I think we figgered it out: We had to eschew the notion of “One True Right and Only Way, ” and cherish diversity as our highest value. And we had to recognize that we are all children of the same Mother—and that, as Hesiod repeated numerous times in The Theogony, “Mother Gaea loves all her children.” In this I feel we have been enormously successful. Modern Paganism is profoundly inclusive—rather than exclusive as most other religions tend to be.
Bernadette: How where you first introduced to Paganism and who influenced you in the very beginning?
OZ: I was introduced to Paganism as a child—my first readings were children’s versions of the Greek myths (with Roman names) in the Childcraft book, Myths and Legends of the World. I fell in love with mythology, the stories, the deities, Goddesses, heroes, magick—all of it. After that I couldn’t get enough of reading mythology, and I branched out into fantasy and science fiction, where I encountered the juvenile novels of Robert A. Heinlein as he was writing them—and as I was the age of his protagonists. And in my first year of college (1961) , the next book in the series was Stranger in a Strange Land, which inspired the creation of the real-life Church of All Worlds and a polyamorous lifestyle that I have continued ever since.
In 1970, I was introduced to the Goddess by Robert Graves’ The White Goddess and Erich Neumann’s The Great Mother. That same year, I began training in Witchcraft under Deborah Letter (now Deborah Bourbon) . She opened the first occult shop (The Cauldron) in St Louis in 1969, and started offering classes in the Craft and Ceremonial Magick in 1970. I was among her first students, and she still mentions this on the website of her current store, Pathways.
Isaac Bonewits’ Real Magic (1971) was extremely helpful, making enough sense that I could become a serious magickal practitioner. There was Carolyn Clark, High Priestess of CAW in the early ‘70s, who taught me a bit of Appalachian Witchcraft and Hoodoo. And Mama Julie Tower of the Tower Family, who continued my magickal training in the late ‘70s with lessons on immersing myself into the each of the Four Elements.
Bernadette: You have contributed so very much to the community. I would like to hear about the contributions that you are most proud of.
OZ: Hmm. Well, first, of course, there’s the Church of All Worlds , which Lance Chris tie and I inaugurated by sharing water on April 7, 1962. Then there’s the self-identification with the word “Pagan” in 1967—which began a movement. And Green Egg Magazine, which I started at Ostara of 1968, and which got everyone talking together and sorting out what we all believed, and where we wanted to go with it. Co-founding various Pagan networks, coalitions and alliances (Atl, Council of Themis, Council of Earth Religions, Covenant of the Goddess, Universal Federation of Pagans, Papal Apology Project) . There’s the “Gaia Thesis, ” which came to me in a transformative vision on Sept. 6, 1970, giving us a universal thealogical mythos.
Bringing genuine living Unicorns back to the world in 1980 was pretty major, restoring a sense of wonder and a realization that if Unicorns could be real, than anything was possible. I’m proud of my artwork—book and magazine illos and covers, posters, T-shirts, figurines, jewelry, etc.—especially my masterwork, the Millennial Gaia figurine (1998) . I’m pleased that my books have been so successful—particularly Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard (2004) . And now, my crowning achievement to date, there’s the Grey School of Wizardry, opened on Lughnasadh of 2004.
Bernadette: I grew up reading Green Egg. It is now an online magazine. Why the transition to the Internet?
OZ: Throughout its 42-year history, Green Egg has always been at the cutting edge of what was possible to do with an essentially amateur publication. Beginning at Spring Equinox, 1968, the first 18 monthly issues were run off on a ditto machine! Then we graduated to mimeograph (with an electronic stencil cutter) , then to a little Rex Rotary desktop offset printer, and eventually to a big Multilith. For page layout, we went from manual to IBM Selectric typewriters. All this was in the late ‘60s-‘70s—back in St Louis.
When we resurrected GE in California in the ‘80s, we went straight to professional shop printing, utilizing the first Macintosh computers with PageMaker for layouts. We were the first Pagan publication to do split-fountain color covers, to use soybean inks and recycled paper, to go to 4-color glossy covers, and every other innovation we could utilize. So when it became possible to dispense with paper printing and mailing altogether, and create downloadable PDF files, naturally we were right on top of it!
The new online version is in full-color throughout, which is really cool. There is no limit to the number of pages that each issue can contain. And it is downloadable, so it can be printed out as hard copy. We save the enormous costs and logistical troubles of having to have a printing company, buying paper, and mailing copies to subscribers and distributors (as well as billing them) . We don’t have to worry about unsold back issues (of which I still have boxes in my garage!) . We don’t need to rent an office building and hire a large staff, as everything can now be done from everyone’s personal computers at home.
The Internet is the wave of the future, and I feel strongly that Green Egg will continue to thrive and flourish in this new virtual venue, finding its own special niche as it has done before, with pretty much the same goals, Vision and Mission: “To boldly go where no Pagan publication has gone before!” And we will stay at the leading edge of publishing possibilities, as we get more interactive, with animation, and eventually virtual reality… Green Egg’s current motto is: “Legends Never Die.” And the current Editor, Ariel, has just proclaimed it free of charge to all subscribers!
Bernadette: What are your goals?
OZ: Well, my personal Mission Statement hasn’t changed since college: “To be a catalyst for the coalescence of consciousness.” I am working to aid, abet, and foster the evolution of consciousness into the next quantum leap: the Awakening of planetary consciousness—of Gaea Herself. Everything I do in my life is directed in service towards this great ultimate Purpose. Founding a church and fostering an entire religious movement; publishing the vanguard journal of that movement for more than 40 years; creating and participating in numerous ecumenical and interfaith councils; creating sacred art and iconography (temple posters, altar statues, jewelry, ritual clothing…) ; writing books of magickal lore and teachings; and most recently, founding a School of Wizardry.
I have major plans for the next phase of the Church of All Worlds, which will center on bringing our current website up to the same state-of-the-art level of complexity and interactivity that we have with the Grey School. I want it to become a vital resource and support system not only for our own members, but for the entire Pagan community—providing training programs towards self-actualization, liturgical materials (rituals, chants, invocations, etc.) , and a library of writings on all aspects of Pagan culture, politics, theology, wisdom, lifestyles, and personalities. Fortunately, talented people are already working on this …
With the CAW on a firm foundation, I hope to return to my most ambitious ecumenical project: the Universal Federation of Pagans (UFP) , in which all Pagan organizations would be able to participate. I started this out 20 years ago, and we incorporated in 1990 with more than 100 member groups. We even got our 501 (c) (3) . But other circumstances involving the CAW and Green Egg drew my attention elsewhere, and I had to leave it in the hands of others, where it has languished.
I’d like to travel with Morning Glory to visit a few more places in the world we haven’t gotten to yet: Egypt, Thailand, Bali, Cambodia, South Africa (a safari!) , New Zealand, Ireland, Stonehenge, India, Japan, Malta, Turkey … I want to go to all these places with Morning Glory, and also take her to Paris, England, Italy, and Greece (where we’ve each been separately) .
I’d like to experience sky-diving, parafoil sailing, hang-gliding, hot-air ballooning, water-ski kiting, a ride on the “vomit comet, ” and a trip into space…
And by the time I’ve finished doing all these things, I’ll have even more ideas. I never run out of inspiration and ideas for projects—far more than can possibly be accomplished in a single lifetime—so I’ll just have to keep coming back time and time again!
Most immediately, however, we are trying to generate enough money to purchase the home we are living in. A 10.7-acre farm, it is currently up for sale, and we really don’t want to have to move again! This (or someplace even better) would also provide a physical campus for the Grey School of Wizardry, where Morning Glory’s and my life, work, library and museum collections would find a permanent home and become a legacy to future generations. I might like to raise Unicorns again, maybe breed a Phoenix; have a “funny animal” farm and petting zoo, with kangaroos, emus, alpacas, wombats, fruit bats, possums, draco volens…
Bernadette: Can you tell us more about “Green Egg Omelet"?
OZ: It’s a really cool anthology representing some of the best articles, poetry, fiction, cartoons, etc. published in Green Egg over a 40-year span, when GE was the vanguard journal of the entire Pagan movement. Chas Clifton helped me select pieces to include from among the vast number we’ve published over those decades, and he wrote introductions for each of the 12 sections. I’m really proud of the selection.
There are many more Green Egg anthologies I could put together, focusing on different themes—I’m thinking Green Egg Sunny-Side Up (fiction and humor) ; Green Egg Hard-Boiled (history, power and politics) ; Green Egg Soft-Boiled (thealogy and philosophy) ; Green Egg and Ham (kids and families) ; Green Egg Poached (ecosophy and environmentalism) ; Green Egg Easy Over (feminism and sacred sexuality) ; Green Egg Benedict (Paganism and comparative religions) ; Green Egg Fried (psychedelics and consciousness) ; and Green Egg Scrambled (miscellaneous) ..Ham. These would be released in an appropriate sequence yet to be determined…
I could put together an entire book just of my editorials, essays, columns, interviews and opinions on all manner of subjects…but what to title it?
Bernadette: Can you tell us about the Grey School of Wizardry?
OZ: Sure. From my earliest years in college, I always had a dream to create a school that would teach the magickal arts and wisdom of the ages to gifted students. I was inspired by real-life experimental schools, such as Summerhill, Montessori, and the Walden schools—as well as “Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters” in the X-Men comics. So I studied education and developmental psychology, earned a teaching certificate, and taught public school for several years. But my other Great Work, which at the time seemed more urgently necessary, was creating a Pagan Church and fostering a nascent Pagan Movement, so that commanded pretty much all my attention for four decades.
When I was writing the Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard, I thought I’d provide the basic information, and then refer readers to some online schools of magick where they could continue their studies. But I quickly discovered that there weren’t any. All the schools of magick out there were religious (invariably Wiccan) , and none of them admitted minors. But Wizardry isn’t a religion—any more than philosophy, science, or medicine. And I didn’t want to be recruiting the kids who read my book into some funny religion—even if it is my own. So I realized that this was one of those “Assignments from the Goddess” that I get periodically: if I see a need for a thing that doesn’t exist, I know I have to create it myself.
So once I’d completed the Grimoire and sent it off to New Page, I turned my attention to conceptualizing and creating the School for which the Grimoire would become the foundational textbook. This meant locating and recruiting phenomenal and dedicated website designers, teachers, administrators, and a brilliant Pagan attorney with expertise in non-profit organizations. We incorporated in California on March 14, 2004, and obtained our Federal 501 (c) (3) as a nonprofit educational institution. We opened our virtual doors to our first incoming students at Lughnasadh of 2004.
The motto of the Grey School is: Omnia vivunt, omnia inter se conexa (“Everything is alive; everything is interconnected”— Cicero) . We have 16 color-coded “Departments” for Majors, offering more than 350 classes, at seven levels. Graduates are certified as “Journeyman Wizards.”
Besides the academic focus, Grey School students and faculty provide a thriving interactive magickal community. Youth students are sorted into Elemental “Houses” based on their Sun sign, while adults are likewise directed into Elemental “Lodges.” These compete via academic credits and merit points for the “House Hat” and the “Lodge Cup, ” which are awarded semi-annually at the Equinoxes.
Clubs are available to students who wish to delve deeper into specific focus areas. Special forums provide everything from an online Bardic Circle , Healers, Defensors, All-School Challenges, to the latest edition of the student-produced school newspaper, Whispering Grey Matters.
Regional outdoor summer camps called “Conclaves” bring local students and faculty together for up to a week of classes, hikes, campfires, and more. A few of our 40 faculty members also offer hands-on internships. The long-term Vision for the Grey School includes acquiring a physical campus, such as a castle, a monastery, or a retreat center—with residential facilities for both students and teachers. To this end, we are seeking substantial grants and other donations.
¾ of the students enrolled in GSW are adults—some into their 70s. This was totally unanticipated; we’d designed the Grey school for teenage apprentices. But it seems that people of all ages who have been drawn to the magickal path have wanted for their whole lives the teachings that we are providing. And so we have adapted our format accordingly, with both youth and adult tracks—including a new “Magister” program that allows adult students to take classes in all Departments at all levels.
Like the fictional “Hogwarts” of the Harry Potter stories, the present Grey School is equivalent in grade level to middle school through high school (seven years) . This is our Apprenticeship program, and it culminates with a Certificate of Journeyman Wizard in your particular Major. A few years from now we intend to develop the next level: a program of Journeyman studies equivalent to a four-year college, culminating in a Master’s Degree. And after that, a University-level program of Master studies for an Adeptus Degree (equivalent to a PhD) . So there’ll be plenty of more adult-oriented studies to come!
We are intentionally training future leaders—not only for the Pagan community, but also for the larger world (the Grey School is not a religious school—we welcome and have students of all religions here) . We have a strong and effective program of leadership training in the School, which includes student Prefects and Captains for our eight Houses and Lodges. Also, of course, many people who are already leaders in their communities have been enrolling in the Grey School to receive our unique training, and they are naturally going to be taking that back to their own communities as well. We are very visionary with what we have in mind—Wizards in every walk of life, advising, counseling, teaching; shaping the future with the Wisdom of the Ancients.
Bernadette: For those who are not familiar, can you give us an explanation of Gaian Thealogy?
OZ: Sure. “The Gaea Thesis, ” as I like to call it, is, quite simply, the premise that all life on Earth, us included, comprises a single vast living organism, in whose body we are the equivalent of cells. This is not just a metaphor; all creatures on Earth are literally descended from a single original cell fertilized into replication at the time of the “Cambrian Explosion, ” 544 million years ago. And, just as with the cells in our own bodies, the same DNA runs throughout all creatures on Earth. This planetary being has been acknowledged by all cultures from the dawn of time as “Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature.” The ancient Greek name for Her was “Ge, ” or “Gaea, ” from whom we derive the names of all the Earth sciences and studies, such as geology, geography, geochemistry, geodesy, geophysics, etc.
And, like any living organism at any scale, it is implicit that She has Her own sentience, consciousness, awareness, Spirit. This we have always known, and called “Goddess.” Our Goddess is the very Soul of Nature! And our vision of the future evolution of this life-stream includes what Dane Rudyar has called “the planetarization of consciousness, ” and Teilhard de Chardin terms “the Omega Point.” This implies the linking up of all sentients into a “global brain” wherein a vast single consciousness emerges, just as we ourselves individually attain such consciousness sometime during our first year of life. Thus will Gaia come fully into wakefulness, where now She but slumbers (and dreams…) .
All this came to me in a profound revelatory vision on Sept. 7, 1970…
Bernadette: What projects do you and Morning Glory have coming up?
MG is now into the second year of offering a monthly series of weekend Goddess Retreats at our rural home, RavenHaven, using her collection of 300 votive Goddess figurines from around the world and throughout history. Each of these retreats focuses on a different category of Goddesses—such as Goddesses of Love, Healing, Prosperity, Darkness, Motherhood, Animals, etc. The plan is to eventually develop these retreats into a series of 13 books: “Golden Goddess Guides.”
As for me, I have a number of books in the works. Morning Glory and I have completed our life story so far, which will be published by Llewellyn in the fall of 2011. Its title is The Witch and the Wizard OZ. I’m currently working on a long-overdue book to be titled, GaeaGenesis: Conception and Birth of the Living Earth and also the Grimoire for the Journeyman Wizard. After that may come another Companion. And eventually, of course, a Grimoire for the Master Wizard.
I’m also working on an encyclopedic 'Wizards of the World', in conjunction with Natasha “Solaris” Kirby, one of our Grey School faculty members.
Future books I want to write after these include: A Wizard’s Guide to Girls; A Wizard’s Guide to Women; A Wizard’s Guide to Life; Legendary Journeys (journal entries and color photos from Morning Glory’s and my travels to sacred sites around the world) ; Children of the Lesser Gods (a companion to A Wizard’s Bestiary, about mythical peoples rather than animals) ; History’s Mysteries; Unicorns in Our Garden (a coffee-table book of color photos, news clippings, and writings about our living Unicorns) and The Gospel of Gaea (a narrative story of the history of life on Earth, written in the style of Genesis) . Maybe even a book on the Church of All Worlds, titled Never Thirst, or Water Shared is Life Shared…and one on the Pagan Movement, titled Green Religion. And an anthology of stories by ex- Christian clergy who have come over to Paganism, titled Goodbye, Jesus; I’ve gone home to Mother. I have folders full of material for each of these.
I’m sure I’ll keep coming up with more book ideas as I go along…
I also want to get back to sculpting more plaques and figurines, whenever we can manage to set up another art studio. I have several entire pantheons leaning over my shoulder, demanding “me next!” and plenty of available models.
When I get some time to do something frivolous (i.e. not marketable) , I have an intricate kit for a four-foot-wingspan working model of Leonardo da Vinci’s ornithopter that I’ve been dying to assemble! But that’s a month-long project, at least, and would cover the entire dining room table—and I just don’t have that kind of time and space these days.
Bernadette: How is the research into ancient lore and legend coming? I imagine that this is a life-long project.
OZ: It is indeed! See my book, A Wizard’s Bestiary. The full stories of our Living Unicorn Project and Mermaid Expedition are included therein. As I mentioned above, there are still many places in the world that MG and I wish to visit and learn about firsthand. And we are seriously talking about bringing back Unicorns again…contingent upon our buying this farm.
Many people hear about polyamory but really have no clear-cut understanding of it. Can you explain what polyamory is to you? Where so you see the polyamory movement going? What may be the positive and the negative aspects of polyamory. Is it for everyone?
Polyamory (a term coined by Morning Glory in 1990) simply means “The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.” This is distinct from polygamy, which means marrying several people. As for numbers, we recently saw a short documentary on the History Channel which claimed that there are currently more than 500, 000 people in the US practicing polyamory, so it looks like MG started a real movement with that term!
As for the positive aspects, these are legion: always having backup when one partner isn’t available for some reason; a mediator when any two people get at loggerheads; a team to handle larger projects; companionship; never having to be lonely. With multiple partners, more needs can be met than one person can possibly fulfill, so one can explore and develop more aspects of one’s potential.
As for the negative aspects…well, try as I might, I just can’t think of any! But I do think the worst thing about monamory is that no one ever gets to sleep in the middle.
But polyamory definitely isn’t for everyone! One has to be truly inclined in that orientation (as with being gay) to make it work—and also, of course, one has to find partners who share that essential nature. MG and I have come to believe that the most common natural relationship pattern for most people may very well be serial monogamy: exclusive devotion to one person at a time—for several years, perhaps—and then moving on to another. This is not polyamory, which is about having several significant relationships simultaneously.
As to the future of polyamory, I believe that the first syllable of the word polyamory, “poly, ” is a post-modern paradigm of great value; and that “polyamory” is one expression of it. We live in a POLYmorphous POLYverse, in which even many scientists seem to understand that our world emerges out of chaos and the order we perceive feeds and thrives on the chaos that is beyond our understanding. Where one linear idea once lived in human culture, a diversity of notions has grown.
I believe that polyamory is a very important new relationship option whose time seems to have arrived. Where once we thought every family should consist of a monogamous man and woman with their 2.5 kids, we now consider a family to be any small group of bonded people who claim that connection with one another. Most families no longer fit the conventional description. The much-lamented “breakdown of the American family, ” and the need to reclaim “traditional family values, ” are manifestations of the 20th Century’s transition from village life and extended families to the modern “nuclear family” units, which often reduce down to a single mother trying to raise and support children she hardly even interacts with.
A century ago, the typical American family consisted of three generations (parents, children and grandparents) living together in a large house, along with lateral relatives such as Uncles and Aunts, and even at least one unrelated live-in “servant, ” such as a nanny, butler, cook or housekeeper. The “Traditional American Family, ” in fact, looked pretty much like “The Addams Family!”
With each generation of the last century, we have become increasingly isolated and alienated. Ever-increasing numbers of American children are growing up with no brothers or sisters, hardly any parental interactions, and no adult role models for parenting or other relationships. Their interactions with other children occur in hostile environments, such as schools and the street, where they are subject to ever-rising levels of teasing, harassment, bullying and violence. They retreat to the world of television, video games, and the Internet—none of which provide real-life interaction with actual flesh-and-blood human beings.
But deep within each of us is our genetic ancestral memory of the Tribe, the Clan, the extended Family. Such rich relationships nurtured and sustained our ancestors from the dawn of time, and it was within that context that we became fully human. We require and crave such connections and relationships in our deepest heart-of-hearts, and we seek them in clubs, gangs, fraternities, cliques, parties, pubs, communes, churches, nests, covens, and circles of close friends.
And for an increasing number of us, we are learning how to create such complex and deep bonding relationships through extended networks of multiple lovers and expanded families. “Polyamory, ” implying multiple lovers, is both a new paradigm for relationships and a vision for healing the pathological alienation of individuals in modern society.
We now know that the biodiversity we value in nature, as the biologist Bruce Bagemihl points out, is valuable in sexual and bonding behavior also. And although Dr. Bagamihl is talking about animals, we are also animals and this applies equally to us. Polyamory is not “the answer.” Diversity and choice are the answers—and polyamory is one of the strands in the decentralized network of diversity and choice with regard to human bonding, intimacy, and family.
Blessings Oz! :-)
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