Monday, February 22, 2010

On the Origins of Bill Schnoebelen’s Megalomania - Part 2

This is part two of a four part series taken from my long article, “Are Witches Dupes of Satan”, which I wrote as a response to a book published by my ex-high priest, Bill Schnoebelen. The book was entitled “Wicca; Satan’s Little White Lie,” and it has bedeviled the witchcraft community ever since it was first published by Chick publications. This part focuses on Bill’s origins and his history up to the time that I met him.

Bill Schnoebelen was probably born in the Summer of 1949, in an eastern Iowa town (near Waterloo), and described himself as an archetypal Leo, so he was probably born around July or August of that year. (A court record concerning the "Matter of the Change of Name of WILLIAM RICHARD SCHNOEBELEN," filed in the District Court in Dubuque County, Iowa, dated October 8 , 1973, gives his date of birth as "August 24, 1949.") His parents were moderately conservative middle class, and his father part owned a tire store (East Central Tire Co-op?) and auto repair center. Bill’s father was very charismatic and knew many of the county’s residents, since he owned one of the biggest stores in the area, and many people sooner or later found themselves there to buy tires or get their car fixed. I believe that Bill’s father lacked a college education, but was very successful in business and well regarded by his community. Bill’s mother did graduate from a Catholic college and was her husband’s intellectual superior. I suspect that she felt a duty to enlighten her husband, but he was not interested. So her attentions naturally became focused on her child.

Bill was an only child, possibly born when his parents were in their early thirties. Bill grew up with all the benefits of a moderately wealthy family and went to Catholic schools and associated with other upper class Catholic families. Bill’s mother doted on him and treated him as if he were a very special child. As an adult this kind of treatment was still evident, though not always tolerated by his father, who sought a more well-rounded perspective of life for his son. Bill was somewhat gifted intellectually as a child, but was awkward and clumsy, even when he matured as a man. I doubt if Bill participated in athletic sports, choosing to pursue intellectual pastimes instead. Bill dreamed of becoming a Catholic priest and even played at saying mass as a child. He also tended to be more interested in hanging out with his parent’s adult friends than playing with children. Because of his mother’s overly protective nature and the fact that she amplified his self-worth, Bill grew to manhood expecting to do great things and to become someone of importance. Since he was given whatever he wanted, Bill never understood the value of things or that the achievement of greatness required hard work and personal sacrifice. Even as a man, Bill expected to be given his station in life, with all of its perks and possibilities. He never understood that his parents position in life was the result of a great deal of hard work and consistent effort.

Bill attended a Catholic liberal arts college called Loras College, located in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated in 1971. “He was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended Loras College — a Catholic school in Dubuque, Iowa. The president of Loras College has sent us a letter which claims Mr. Schnoebelen graduated from that school on ‘May 16, 1971.... with a major in music and a minor in education.’ (Letter dated February 9, 1988) In a letter dated February 2, 1988, Robert L. Ferring, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, said that after Schnoebelen graduated he ‘did indeed teach for two years in a Catholic High School in this Archdiocese.’” See Salt Lake City Messenger online edition - “Covering Up Syn” - no. 67 -

Bill claims that while at college (and away from his mother), he began to sour on his desire to become a priest, instead discovered the liberal youth culture of hippies, rock and roll, alcohol, drugs and sex, which he embraced with relish. He also met his future wife, Sharon (her married name at that time was "Sharon Mullen", and her maiden name was "Dura"), whom he met at a drug rehabilitation center where he had volunteered as a drug counselor. What Bill and Sharon were doing there is something of a mystery, since Sharon was not at all squeamish about using drugs, particularly marijuana. Bill also was known to partake of it from time to time.

When exactly he met Sharon is a mystery, but by 1973 they were studying the occult and witchcraft together. Bill related that he first started dating Sharon’s younger sister, but when they broke up, Sharon caught Bill’s eye, and he began to date her instead. Sharon was subsequently divorced, later telling us that she had her two children taken away from her by her ex-husband (or perhaps she allowed the separation for the sake of following her spiritual path). What Bill was doing for a living after he graduated is unequivocally stated above, and being a teacher allowed him some freedom. He took the entire summer off in 1973, going down to Arkansas to study under a man named Barney “Ely” Taylor, who was the grand master of a form of Druidic witchcraft. Ely ran an organization called the Mental Science Institute, so from that group, Bill received the bulk of his knowledge of herbs and folk magick and probably his basic occult knowledge. Later, Bill claimed that Ely also had a church organization called the Gallo Roman Catholic Church, where he had received a Bishop’s consecration, but didn’t know what it was at the time That date was July 23, 1973, an important date as we shall later see.

At the same time that Bill and Sharon were being trained as Druidic Wiccan clergy, they also contacted Jim Baker, High Priest of the coven Du Bandia Grasail, who was the principal representative of the Alexandrian Witchcraft tradition in the United States. Bill probably found a reference to the Baker’s post office box in one of Hans Holzer’s books, and so began to write to him, seeking yet another lineage. This was probably a form of insurance, just in case Bill ran afoul of Ely, which he did in less than two years. Ely Taylor ran an autocratic organization and was the sole authority on all things. It was probably here that Bill learned to be an autocrat himself. On Candlemas, 1973, Bill was initiated in Boston  to the first degree in the Alexandrian tradition. During the summer of that same year, he was initiated into Ely’s group; in the Autumn, he was raised to second and third degree in the Alexandrian tradition by a woman named Astraeas, and in 1974, he received his last initiation from Ely Taylor. I suspect that Bill had parted ways with Ely by the middle of 1974, since he legally married his handfasted (but not previously legally married) wife in May of that year. Perhaps that was due to the necessary abandonment of all of their spiritual connections with Druidic witchcraft. Bill mentioned that he had handfasted Sharon when they were in Arkansas together in the summer of 1973. By the early autumn of 1974, Bill had moved to Milwaukee to start teaching and initiating students into Alexandrian Witchcraft.

Some other sources of Bill’s occult instruction were derived from some curious organizations. He participated in the correspondence course from the Frost’s Church of Wicca (although we do not know when), and also belonged to and received correspondence courses from another organization called the Church of the Eternal Source (CES, founded by Don Harrison), an eclectic organization dedicated to the modern recreation of the Egyptian religion. Bill was involved with a spiritualist church (ADL - Alliance of Divine Love), and was supposedly ordained a spiritualist minister after taking their correspondence courses. Whether that occurred or not, Bill and Sharon were accomplished trance mediums. They knew how to use hypnosis quite well, so it is likely that they were ordained in a spiritualist church. But Bill never spoke about these affiliations. Bill has also claimed recently to have been initiated into the Gardnerian tradition of witchcraft, achieving the second degree before 1970. He never mentioned it to me and it clearly doesn’t fit the evolving pattern of his twisted path. It was also probably too early in his spiritual career at that point anyway.

Bill bought every occult book that was in print at the time. He had many new first editions, including the Weiser edition of Aleister Crowley’s Equinox, and numerous others, all kept in pristine shape - a grand occult library that was the envy of everyone. The many books he collected, traveling by plane and car, taking an entire summer off to pursue his occult studies, all of this cost money, and Bill was never very good at making money. I believe that after completing college, he worked as a poorly paid school teacher. Later, he lived on a monthly stipend that his parents gave him to help support himself and Sharon. When that finally ended, several years later, Bill began to exploit his students for money and support. His mother allowed and tolerated Bill’s religious eccentricities, since she believed that he would one day return to the proper faith. I also doubt that Bill told her much about what he was up to, sparing himself her estrangement. Bill’s mother was unhappy about his lack of direction and his inability to find a steady career, but his father quietly paid the bills and indulged his son in whatever he wanted to do.

Sometime in 1974, in the town of Dubuque, Bill probably started the coven that was named Astreas, which probably had only two or three members. It may have started earlier, but no earlier than the autumn of 1973, when Bill was elevated to the second and third degree, and Sharon to the first degree of Alexandrian Witchcraft. This group laid the ground work for what was to follow. By the autumn of 1974, Bill and Sharon had moved to Milwaukee, and only one of their coven members followed. How this migration occurred is a mystery to me, but in his book, Bill states that over 40 individuals wrote to him and begged him to move to their city, even assisting him in relocating. Since I was around at that time, I recall that when Bill and Sharon first came to town, they were sponsored by a man named Fritz, the owner of a local occult book store called Sanctum Regnum. That sponsorship may have started with an introduction from someone else. Perhaps someone was referred to Bill through the Bakers, started a written correspondence with Bill, then invited the two of them to visit Milwaukee, taking them both to see Sanctum Regnum, where they were introduced to Fritz. Bill was also involved in the Church of All Worlds, supposedly knew the Zells, and it may have been that avenue that attracted Bill to Milwaukee.

A young man who was trying to start a CAW grove was a friend of Bill’s, they even worked at the same steel and iron recycling plant. I met this man while attempting to find a suitable occult group, when I first started college at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, and for a brief time was involved with his grove. A woman that I had a brief affair with was managing Fritz’s store and was one of the first members of Bill and Sharon’s transplanted coven, her name was Joan, and the time was late 1974 to early 1975. I also attempted to crash the Halloween party that Fritz and the coven of Astreas put on in 1974, but I was ejected without getting to come in and meet the people (Fritz made certain of that). I spent some brief moments being mollified by my apologetic girl friend before leaving for home.

I would also guess that the second coven (Sophia) was started sometime in mid 1975, perhaps because the members of Astreas had all been given at least second degree. They then sought to practice more advanced techniques of magick, which would have been impossible with beginners present. Sophia was started with all new members, so when I joined it in early 1976, very few of the several members had received second degree yet. Sophia grew very quickly and by the middle of 1977, it had almost 25 members. But it also dropped back down to a dozen or so members by 1978. My ex-girl friend, Joan, had apparently gotten all three degrees, married a guy who owned a farm in the Madison area and I never saw her again. She contacted Bill and Sharon on occasion, but after two years into my training, she was never mentioned again. Also, by the time I entered into the coven Sophia, Bill and Sharon were no longer on speaking terms with Fritz. It became quite difficult to visit my favorite occult book store and also be a member of the coven, so I stopped going to Fritz’s book store.  This was a typical pattern for Bill and Sharon, for few of their important social connections ever lasted more than a couple of years.

When I “officially” met Bill and Sharon for the first time at a Solstice party in December of 1975, they were calling themselves Christopher P. Syn and Alexandria Pendragon. For Bill, this was an actual legal name change (as indicated above), but Alexandria probably didn’t change her name from Sharon, since there is no record of that legal action. It is pretty obvious why Bill chose this unusual name for his mundane and magical name, since it is a fictional hero, the Reverend Dr. Christopher Syn, or Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, created by the author Russel Thorndike, and acted by Patrick McGoohan in a 1964 Disney film. The character Dr. Christopher Syn is a mild mannered vicar during the day, and a feared outlaw at night, dressed in the guise of a scarecrow, harassing the King’s press men and tax collectors, and aiding local smugglers during the late 18th century in the boggy areas of the Romney Marsh. When I visited Bill’s parents, I was told not to call him “Christopher” in front of them. Obviously, they were not too keen on Bill’s unusual identity change, and I am certain that they knew about it, too.

The Solstice party and Sabbat was a smash hit for me. I got a private audience from Bill, where he went into trance and told me a number of things, but more importantly, that I was an important person with a lot of magical talents and “karmic” connections to both Bill and Sharon, so I should be a member of the coven. I was also invited to attend the next meeting, which was a private Esbat of the members of Sophia, and this would allow the coven to determine if I was a right”fit” for the group. I was very thrilled to be invited to my first Alexandrian Esbat for the full moon of January (17th or 18th) 1976, which was quite successful and enjoyable, and then, after being unanimously elected by the coven, invited to be initiated to the first degree, on Candlemas, 1976. Little did I imagine that I had just walked into the lion’s den and was about to be subjected to the greatest scam that modern Witchcraft has ever produced. Bill’s mother had produced a monster, but she would never admit it to herself or anyone else. The rest of us had to find out the hard way.

He was a painfully awkward man, and even made light of the fact that he often tripped over things and was generally unsteady on his feet. Bill had many peculiar habits, and was fond of wearing practically nothing when in his home, playing with his scrotum without any self-consciousness. He also habitually picked his nose and often spat while he talked. He was devoted to his wife Sharon, but he also believed that he had the right and obligation to sleep with whomever he wished, and his wife took the same position as well. So the group featured a variety of bazaar social scandals and weird kinky happenings, and a number of divorces as well.

Bill was of middle height (he says 5' 11", but it was more like 5' 9.5"), and often sported facial hair. He was thin when I first met him, but began to grow heavy and bloated while I was a member. Bill attempted to become something of a body builder, but could never be consistent enough at it to accomplish much, other than putting on a bit of bulky flab. Bill had a kind of unkempt naturalism about his habits and hygiene and I experienced many moments of disgust in his company.

Sharon was very romantically devoted to Bill, acting as his servant and staunch protector and defender. No one ever said anything very critical about Bill in front of her. Sharon was a decidedly homely woman, with bad teeth and a poor self esteem, but she could make herself look quite beautiful, for she was endowed with a graceful form, long dark hair, dark eyes, and a Mediterranean complexion. Bill could look dashing and was at his best when costumed as one of his favorite characters (Sherlock Holmes, Vlad Dracula, etc.), but we had to take him seriously or face his wife’s protective anger.

So you have two moderately gifted individuals who were probably very insecure, having found a venue to expand their egos unchecked into the stratosphere, and a bond of mutual admiration that kept the whole thing going for years. Such hubris hides from the truth and the light, and so in darkness and isolation we were kept, to keep the delusional dream from collapsing.

To be continued....

Frater Barrabbas

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