Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Mask is Finally Removed From Bill Schnoebelen - Concluding Remarks

This is final part and conclusion 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 is where I examine Bill’s real motives for writing his book. I reveal the real person behind the edifice - a person who is deeply flawed, troubled, and even mentally disturbed. This is a person that we should pity if it were not for the damage that he has wrought upon the occult community.

When I read Bill’s book, it became obvious that he was very bitter and even angry about his past failings as a Wiccan High Priest and occultist. He portrayed himself as a man who was betrayed and corrupted by the dark agencies within the Witch Cult. No matter how altruistic or righteous he behaved in his role as a spiritual elder, guide and teacher, he was bound to fail. He now believes that the true faith was lurking behind that failure, that God had brought him through the darkness, despair and the evil corruption of his Wiccan and Satanic adventure for the sole purpose of making him an instrument of persecution and accusation against the adherents of a threatening and pernicious creed, which even today is corrupting young people and leading them into the uncompromising embrace of the Devil. Bill’s message is very clear, if you’re a Witch and you aren’t a deliberate devotee of Satan, then you are merely the unwitting dupe of a terrible Satanic conspiracy. Bill’s Christian ministry specializes in bringing one time members of the craft back into the fold of the faithful. He and his wife have assisted hundreds of individuals to cope with their broken and destroyed lives, rebuilding them with the salvation, love and grace of Jesus Christ.

Of course, I myself have never met anyone who had ruined their lives and their families by being involved in an earth based religion. In fact, I would find it rather strange if such things happened. What Bill is saying is that people who get involved in Wicca or Neopaganism also become drug addicts and criminals in a cavernous underground of human suffering, malicious deeds and dark soulless activities, too horrible to even mention (even though he mentions them at every opportunity). Yet there is absolutely no proof that any of Bill’s accusations are true. In fact, most of what he relates in his book either didn’t occur or has been so exaggerated and distorted as to be barely recognizable. Bill is telling a very dramatic tale, one that Stephen King would surely envy. The truth is far more humbling, boring and sad. That tale is how one individual who was gifted with so many talents, failed at everything that he tried to accomplish. However, Bill’s path should be an object lesson to us all, so we can now discuss the fatal mistakes that destroyed his dream of a Wiccan Camelot.

Bill is very bitterly opposed to Witchcraft, Paganism, magick, and the host of New Age occult practices and beliefs, as well as the perennial philosophy itself. Bill has turned his back on the adventure of self-discovery and the revelation of his own divine and spiritual heritage - one that all of humanity shares. In fact, Bill has become the nemesis against all forms of liberality, whether it be the so-called liberal press or the liberal political establishment, which supports a social agenda of secular humanism as a means to protect individual rights and religious practices from government interdiction.

He identifies secular humanism as the lax and overly tolerant social malaise that allowed dangerous forms of liberality to be promoted, including Witchcraft and Neopaganism. Bill has taken it upon himself to be the guardian of the new moral force in our society, one that will over-turn the rot instigated by secular humanism. However, this is really a rejection of liberality based upon Bill’s personal, spiritual and moral bankruptcy. It’s a way to explain that failure in a manner that allows him to deny any responsibility (“the Devil made me do it!”).

Bill and Sharon were responsible for exploiting and hurting the people who followed them. Because of their corrupting influences, they actually caused a few of them to fall into ruin and self destruction. It took Bill’s former coven members years to shed the stigma and the bitterness of the fall. I know this to be true, for I was one of them. Bill, himself, also reaped some of the bitterness that he sowed. Perhaps that may have changed him if he had taken full responsibility for it all.

However, Bill responded to this fall from grace by seeking a quick solution, so he first sought out the Mormons. Then when that did not deliver him from the crushing demands of his own petty ego, he found the one path where he could enjoy the status of a superstar and cash in on all of his years of occult study and practice. The earth based spiritual traditions could not give Bill the respect he required nor support him in the kind of lavish life style that he would feel was due to someone of his lofty rank, so he switched his spiritual allegiances until he found an organization that gave him what he required in life. This was no dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus as Bill would like us to believe, but a purely calculated move to accomplish and fulfill his material ambitions.

Such notoriety as Bill has acquired has its costs, as a reformed spiritual pervert, the leaders in Bill’s adopted spiritual community will certainly keep him under scrutiny in case of any observable relapses. Bill will never be wholly trusted by his new partners, since his list of infamous crimes and practices makes him tainted in eyes of good Christians, who never wavered in their faith to the exceptional degree that Bill did. He will be a controversy and will never really be accepted by these people. This is because they believe that no matter how dramatic a conversion to the true faith one experiences, the crimes of the past must still be accounted for. There is no guarantee of complete forgiveness by the Lord, no matter how pious one is from the moment of conversion to the end of one’s life. This also has all of the characteristics of the life story of a traitor, a person who, for whatever reasons, has cashed in on his former allies. He is never wholly accepted by his new allies and he is despised by his own people. For the rest of his life, he is never trusted nor wholly believed by anyone. Such a life is a lonely one and it’s a good thing that Bill has his faithful wife Sharon to keep him company for the long years ahead.

The final lesson in the tragedy of the life of Bill Schnoebelen is one that is both profound and deep, one that requires a great deal of wisdom to understand. Perhaps if Bill had spent more time trying to understand the spiritual wisdom of his own path in Witchcraft, he would have matured past the point of his own egoic excesses. But it is more likely that Bill would never have learned this subtle point, even if he were still involved in Witchcraft today. Bill’s most egregious failing is that he mistakenly believed that in order to grow and become enlightened, he had to submit himself to the darkness, in other words, he had to abrogate his will and open himself to whatever dark influences moved him. Bill believed that this was the only way to master his spiritual path. Because there was no one around to show him his error or dispute this aspiration, Bill got to experience the full measure of bitterness, perversity, darkness and despair that such a foolhardy act ultimately achieves.

We are taught that when we practice magick and intense forms of occultism, we should never practice alone. That a person should be subjected to the judgement of his or her peer group and in this manner, avoid the pitfalls of ego obsession and the distortion and bias caused by one’s inherent imperfections. Through others, we learn to objectify our own spiritual process and keep it from falling prey to dark unconscious motivations and personal power trips. The greatest lesson in Bill’s fall is that we do not submit ourselves to darkness. We should always submit ourselves to the highest spiritual love and instead, master the darkness and translate its fear and ignorance into acceptance and insight. What is sacrificed when an occultist gains the subtle domain of nondual consciousness is the petty ego, its infantile needs and false idols of selfhood. These are the things that the true aspirant renounces, offering them up to the ultimate and unknowable spiritual truth.

Bill was never able to give up his egoic pursuits. Even now, he continues to build an empire for his empty and shallow self to occupy. He has failed the ultimate test of adepthood, and for him, there will be no further growth until he is ultimately humbled and experiences the long overdue death of his petty ego. I, for one, will not wait for that day, since I believe that it will be very long in coming, if it ever comes at all.

Frater Barrabbas

Those Most Troubling Points of Darkness - Part 4b

This is part four - the second half - 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 is the fourth part, which discusses and analyzes Bill’s book, particularly those accusations that are most difficult to explain to outsiders and most troubling.

Bill says in his book, “If it quacks like a Satanic duck, then it is a Satanic duck!” - and he is referring to several characteristics of Witchcraft that would seem to lend a little credence to his accusations. We, who are practitioners of the new earth based religions, know that we don’t worship Satan, but we also know that aspects of our mysteries appear to be shrouded in darkness and that they take place in an underworld, the Lord of which, seems to bear a superficial resemblance to the Christian Devil. The Horned God as the Lord of Darkness, whose emblem is the inverted pentagram, seems to be a simulacrum of the Devil, despite whatever spin we might want to give him. He appears as a man and goat joined into a composite creature, who is animal, man and also a god, and although this is an archaic image of proto-man that is older than recorded history. It is also a new image for a new God. The animal-man-god is an archetype for a higher than normal state of human consciousness, called by Ken Wilber, the centauric state of conscious development - signifying the mind state of the Body-Mind (Sanscrit - Tanamana).

The Horned God is also represented as the cycle of living, dying, and being-reborn-again aspect of the Deity that sympathizes and identifies with the ephemeral condition of all life, which is within and beyond life, emerging as the transcendental Spirit. Thus the God of the Witches is both old and archaic, but also very new and emblematic of the coming age of (truly) spiritual  humanity, (as opposed to religious humanity - our current phase). We have become ourselves an image of God. We must discover this image and know it as the source of spirit within us.

The images and meanings that I have presented above about the Horned God would seem to represent something altogether different than what we know about Satan, the Christian Devil. And that is only the beginning of the differences between Christian Evil and Neopagan Mysteries. It’s the difference between those who fear and avoid the darkness and those who cautiously learn to master it. This act requires some courage and even daring, a very centauric quality.

Everyone who is even moderately spiritual knows that the highest state of being is empowered by love and that hatred, anger and violence are the destructive forces that negate and dispel all forms of conscious union. The Horned God represents the heroic, mortal and immortal quest of all humankind, the quest for the source of our spirit and its awakening and revelation through us. The centauric aspect of God is represented as the sacrament of life itself, fully blessed and fully lived in the bliss of eternal love. And that is the God of the Witches!

In the underworld, where all the mysteries take place, we encounter the divine Mysticon, and through it, we are initiated (transformed) and return to the world of light, reborn and regenerated. The cycle of light and darkness are the transformations that occur in our life, but our darkening times are not to be confused with times of despair and dissolution, nor do they obscure any guilt or malfeasance. As we progress through life, we alternately open and close ourselves to the world around us. The times of opening up are times of light and the times of closing off are the times of darkness. It is only in the times of darkness, when we are closed off from the outside world, that we may experience the mysteries of our own soul and spirit. And also, it is an error to remain in the darkness, for we must enter into the light and translate our newly acquired wisdom into life affirmations and aspirations.

The underworld ordeal is only half of the equation, since it requires an entrance into the world of light and love to complete it. The cycles of conscious evolution are easily stimulated by the cycles of nature, the light and dark phases of the Moon and the stations and seasons of the Sun. So it is that physical life itself initiates us, and our spiritual connection with the Absolute guides us to that ultimate and great event; where the Goddess as archetypal woman and the God as archetypal man join together in the sacred union that expresses the Union of All Being - the origin of all Divine Emanations (as the Qabbalists would say). The eternal cycle of light and darkness in the spiritual and physical domains becomes like the House of God. It is the symbolic Temple of the Human Spirit and all things perceived and realized within it are the dreams of the gods. It is astonishing to me that anyone could ever consider such a domain as this one composed exclusively of evil and sin. Such a mental bias boggles the mind! But then knowledge has always been the enemy of religious fanaticism. So the taint of evil is removed from the underworld where the mysteries are revealed!

The inverted pentagram, depicting the face of the goat, has long been associated with Satanism, and indeed, it was used as the emblem of the Church of Satan. The name Leviathan (actually a demonized Tiamat, the World as Goddess) is emblazoned on the emblem. Lurking within the symbolism is the visage of the Templar God, Baphomet. There is undoubtably an overlap between what would be considered Christian Satanism and another discipline, Chthonic Paganism. There is a striking difference between them, although to the eyes of a Christian, the differences are subtle. It’s far easier to lump them all together as being Satanic.

The Christian Devil is not an ancient deity that goes back to the beginning of time, as Elaine Pagels has demonstrated quite ably in her book, “The Origins of Satan.” The concept of the Devil as adversary to God has evolved over the last two millennia. Only Islam and Hasidic Judaism share this theological concept with Christianity. Bill states that the Devil is as old as time itself and he points to what he calls the oldest book in the Hebrew Bible, which is the Book of Job, to reinforce his arguments. Bill places the age of the Book of Job at 1,500 B.C.E., but this is quite absurd and very poor scholarship, for the Book of Job has been dated to no later than the 6th century B.C.E., during the time of the Babylonian captivity. Bill is off by a mere millennia, as are a lot of his arguments.

According to scholars, the Devil evolved from an angel who acted as the tempter and tester of mankind and was an instrument of God, not an adversary. It was not until Judaism was exposed to the dualism of Persian Zoroastrianism that the concept of fallen angels, powerful daemons and the Devil began to be developed into a by-product of the Hebrew religion. Nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures is the concept of Satan as a deadly adversary of God supported, since God is one and indivisible. In Islam, Satan is seen as the great trivializer, a being who is comically depicted as always trying to ape God, and who does a poor job of it; so he is consigned to engaging in minor mischief. It would be a grave error to give too much importance or power to Satan in the various practices of Islam. Only in Christianity is the Devil given so much importance and power. His role has been the primary justification for the incarnation of Jesus and the bestowal of the powers of the Holy Ghost, to cast out demons who are sent against humanity by the Devil. Yet there is even a false Christ, known as the Anti-Christ, who forces the final conflict between evil and good, which is the Apocalypse of the Book of Revelations.

But the forces of evil are always at a great disadvantage and the scales are tipped considerably to the side of God, since he is considered omnipotent and omniscient and incapable of being defeated. One has to wonder why there is even a character like Satan to defy and antagonize the one true God, unless God himself had made it so, creating and deploying the Devil like some amusing side story to keep the common crowd interested in the evolving narrative of the Gospels. It is without any doubt that those who actually give homage and worship to Satan must also be engaged in the eternal dialectic of good and evil within the context of Christianity, since the concept of Satan as imperfect adversary only exists in Christianity. It could only be the seduction of perversity that would cause anyone to ally themselves with a being and a force that was so obviously going to be defeated, and whose works are easily overturned by the faithful and by the will of God. Only a Christian could find any value in worshiping the Devil in this manner, and then, usually hedging his bets with forgiveness and absolution before death makes a present of his soul to the Evil One. This is a reoccurring theme in Christian stories depicting the plight of individuals who are tempted by Satan.

To us pagans or witches, such a context of beliefs and theology about the Devil would be meaningless, since we don’t subscribe to the dual world view of Christianity and we don’t believe in a unified force of evil. How we interpret the world from a spiritual stand-point represents how we operate in that world.

One could deduce that all of the evil perpetuated in the world comes from a common source, which would be supernatural and embodied in an almost godlike being, acting against the authority of God and the common good. One could also deduce that evil in the world is perpetuated by humanity, not as a unified whole, but as isolated chaotic instances of mankind’s ignorance and brutality; the animal aspect of humanity without the quality of the god aspect to enlighten and ennoble it.

The Devil is an immortal angelic being who has fallen from grace and acts as God’s adversary. The Horned God is not immortal, since he dies and is reborn each year and represents the life of the land. These two beings could not represent two more different aspects of godhead, and so we must consider them as distinct and part of two completely different theologies and world-views.

Christianity has used their definition of the Devil as a kind of scape goat, placing all the dark aspects of their Deity, including the mysteries, into the hands of the adversary of God. In this fashion, they have made their highest deity the principle source of all good and light and taken from him any blame for the evils of the world. So the God of the Christians is the God of light, love and compassion; the Devil is the repository of all that is gross, dark and negative. This is quite different than Chthonic Paganism.

Chthonic Paganism is the realization of the dark side of the deity as an aspect of the mysteries. It consists of the transformations and the power of death itself, the cessation of all life, but also the amplification of the domain of spirit. In Neopaganism and Witchcraft, there is no need to split the deity into light and dark, good and evil, since all of these represent the common cycle of human existence. So to the Neopagan, the deities are the source of light and darkness, life and death; but humanity and also the chaotic nature of chance (fate) take the blame for accidents and human engineered calamities. There is no evil entity driving these cataclysms, only the folly and tragedy of human existence. Since there is no Devil in Neopaganism and Witchcraft, the concept of deity is not split between light and darkness, so there is a possibility for such an adherent to experience the unified aspect of the Deity, which would be impossible in protestant Christianity.

Also, since we believe in the immanent aspect of the Deity, we are also not barred from merging our own minds and spirits with that of the Gods. However, the Christian Devil is also a convenient device that keeps Christians from getting too close to their deities, and acts as a profound divisive power that allows some to claim that they are saved while condemning others as unbelievers and unredeemed, planting the seeds of fear that urges religious conversion and persecution. We who follow the earth based spiritual traditions have no need for such a device, since we are content to live in peace with our neighbors, who may or may not share our faith. We don’t seek to change the world and we don’t proselytize our faith. We believe in a world of plurality, so we see deities everywhere and use tolerance and compassion to guide our dealings with others who worship differently. Therefore, to us, either all religions are correct or none of them are correct, since they all seem to stem from a common experience of the spiritual dimensions of consciousness.

We should also write a small paragraph to dismiss the analogies between Lucifer, the Devil and the Solar God of the Witches, which appear many times in Bill’s book and represents one of his primary theses. He has stated that Witches and Nepagans worship a solar deity called Lucifer, who is really the Devil. It is easy to cast this aspersion on the followers of Wicca before a Christian audience, who use the name Lucifer as an alternative to the name Satan, although once again, they are not even remotely the same being.

The name Lucifer is a Latin appellation, which means Light-Bearer (Latin - lucifer), and is a title given to Helios-Apollo, the Sun God of the Greeks and the Romans, as well as an appellation of the Morning Star, Venus. How this name came to be confused with the Devil is an interesting tale, but it is based on an error of translation. The source of this mistranslation is found in the book of Isaiah, who poetically describes the fall of a great prince (Isa. 14:12-15), as a euphemism for the day star, son of the dawn, who is cast from heaven. The word luminous falling star was translated from Hebrew into Latin (of the Vulgate), as Lucifer, so this appellation became the name of Satan, who was cast down from heaven after failing in his rebellion against God. However, Isaiah never meant to confuse the fall of an arrogant prince, filled with his own self importance, with something of greater theological importance, such as the fall of the Devil.

Ever since that translation error, Lucifer has become another name for Satan, but we can see the error and the misuse of this appellation. All of the Witches I have met use the name Lugh to name their solar god or some other Celtic or pagan variation, and I have never met any witches or neopagans who have used the name Lucifer for their solar deity. Micheael Bertiaux used the name, so do a lot of Theosophists, who have corrected the translation error and use it in its literal definition as Light Bearer. Michael also used it to classify Satanists who were more progressive and Promethean in their philosophy, calling them Luciferians. Bill also uses this term in his book, but he is unable to really stick the name Lucifer to the practicing witches of his tradition (we used the name Lugh), so his entire argument about this name, that it is the “smoking gun” or proof that witches worship the devil, is completely erroneous.

The final and most disturbing theological argument that Bill uses in his book is that we who have converted to earth based spiritual traditions from various forms of Christianity are still subject to its rules and judgements, irregardless of our present faith and beliefs. This, of course, is based upon the supposition that Evangelical Christianity is the only true faith. If one has not declared Jesus Christ as his true savior, then that person is destined to a final spiritual perdition.

It appears that Bill’s numerous previous conversions do not affect him in any way, since he is now on the one true spiritual path. Yet there is a great flaw in this argument. On the one hand a person may convert to Evangelical Christianity, all other previous faiths that one might have followed before are wiped out and they do not cause any kind of adverse judgement on that individual. On the other hand, if one converts to another faith, particularly non-Christian, then one is in grave error, but even so, according to Bill that conversion doesn’t count. We are either followers of the one true faith (and saved), or we are damned to perdition. Once again, Bill has to have it both ways! His conversion is valid and mine is invalid because I did not convert to the one true faith. Of course, we have dealt with this issue previously and it’s ridiculous to even consider Bill’s flawed argument that his faith is the only one that is correct and true.

So we need to examine his logic that conversion wipes the spiritual slate clean. If we accept this logic, then not only are conversions to Witchcraft and Neopaganism valid, but so is Bill’s conversion. So we can say with confidence that all conversions are valid, from one religion to another. This would mean that Bill cannot be judged as an apostate and oath-breaker in regards to Wicca, since he is no longer a witch. It would also mean that we can’t be judged as apostate Christians, since we are no longer following the Christian faith.

However, we can judge Bill for the spreading of lies and the instigating of hatred between followers of his own branch of Christianity, and those of us who are following the earth based spiritual traditions. Bill is also spreading lies about Mormonism, Catholicism, Masonry, and other various legitimate systems of the occult. For these crimes against us, we can judge him most harshly; for we have not in any manner either attacked Bill and his faith, nor have we spread lies about him and his religious practices. Yet Bill attacks a great many people and their faiths in a premeditated and vicious manner. Bill uses the false logic that his faith is the correct one. Even when using lies to condemn us, he is not perjuring himself, since to combat the Devil, all methods and tactics are reasonable.

We have proven that this logic is egregiously in error, so can question the nature of Bill’s faith, his truthfulness or lack thereof, and the motives that drove him to persecute us. We have shown that his motives are quite selfish, since they are wholly about his own self aggrandizement, that Bill aggressively seeks power, authority and wealth within his community. This is all done at the expense of a people who represent a small harmless minority, who at one time were his spiritual peers. Bill has shown that he is not only grossly distorting the truth, but he is also helping to create divisions in our spiritually heterogeneous society. This alone is a great and terrible act of spiritual treason. The fact that these dubious works are also materially rewarding for him, makes Bill and his business partners seem like an evil force of selfish callousness infecting our society. Perhaps the public should look for Satan hiding amongst the money, power and greed in Bill Schnoebelen’s With One Accord Ministry. 

To be continued....

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Analysis of “Wicca - Satan’s Little White Lie” - Part 4a

This is part four - the first half - 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 is the fourth part, which discusses and analyzed Bill’s book, which is more a reflection on his delusions and escape from madness than it is a critique of witchcraft and occultism. (I apologize in advance for the length of this article, but there was a lot of material to cover.)

One of the first things that Bill mentions in his book is that one year after being elevated to the Wiccan High Priesthood, he was told by his initiators that Witchcraft was not all that it seemed. That Witchcraft is actually a manufactured religion (and therefore not really an old religion at all). He also proposes in his book that Wicca is actually a Satanic cult, with “Satan’s hoof-prints all over it”, and that anyone who is a member of this cult is part of the conspiracy, wittingly or not. He has also stated that all of the upper hierarchy of the various Witchcraft traditions are hard-core practitioners of Satanism - or are “card carrying Satanists”, referring to the membership cards that the Church of Satan sent out to its paying members. Bill even credits his salvation to an unknown woman who wrote on his posted check to the Church of Satan for his membership dues, “I will be praying for your soul”, as the single most effective Christian magic that brought down his entire house of cards, and eventually assisted him in finding his way to the right and only true spiritual path, Evangelical Christianity.

Bill presents a large body of personal experiences to back up his claims, but it is rather obvious to me, someone who was there during his period of ascent and decline, that much of what he presents is false or misleading. For instance, in the above arguments, Bill stated that in 1974, his teachers and initiators informed him that Witchcraft was a contrived religion of recent derivation. However, it was only years later that practitioners, such as Aidan Kelly, or historians, like Ronald Hutton, began to investigate the claims of Gerald B. Gardner and others about the legitimacy of the various traditions of Witchcraft. No one except historians knew about the cunning men and women of England, and the actual historical antecedents of Witchcraft were heavily mythologized. Bill never mentioned in his teachings these points, since he affected the guise of the true believer. He taught that modern witchcraft was a derivation and reconstruction of an ancient faith and this was the party line.

So it is highly doubtful that Bill was told this bit of information in 1974. It’s possible that some of the founders suspected that their claims of practicing the Old Religion were probably misleading, and perhaps even Jim Baker had these doubts and expressed them to Bill; but at the time, such doubts would have been speculative at best and no alternative theory would have been produced. Also, Bill was the only Witch I ever knew who also was a “card carrying” member of the Church of Satan. Positions in the church were bought and sold by the Church of Satan, and were basically meaningless as far as indicating any kind of occult knowledge or spiritual power. So when Bill speaks of the Satanic element within Wicca, he is speaking of his own perspective and his own personal path.

The incident with the returned check from the Bank did actually happen, and Bill showed the returned check to me and a few other members. We all thought it was funny at the time, but we also thought that Bill was kind of crazy for joining the Church of Satan, even if the monthly newsletter, the Cloven Hoof, had good articles in it. It seemed a ruse or a joke at the time, and we hardly believed that Bill would take any of this seriously. Later on, Bill began to bring Satanism into the fore-ground of our practices, but I can verify that he was the only Witch or Neopagan that I have ever met who thought that Satanism was standard practice for witch covens. I, for one, did not include any of that material in my practices, since I found it to be ridiculous and juvenile.

Did Bill’s occult empire collapse as the result of that woman praying for his soul? The timing was pretty far off, since Bill wrote that check in 1977, and did not experience the calamities that he claims he did until many years later. Bill had problems keeping jobs, so when he was no longer getting a monthly stipend from his parents, he began to experience fiscal hardships. However, by 1978, he was living with members of the group and had to move whenever he had finally alienated them completely, which happened frequently. Things of course stabilized at some point when he moved to that large old three story house, although it was filthy and needed a lot of cleaning and amenities before it became liveable (and the labor to make it liveable was provided by Sharon and a few other members of the group).
Bill also claims that Aleister Crowley was directly involved in the writing of the book of Shadows and formulating the initiations of Gardnerian Witchcraft. This claim was made by Francis King, and has been disputed and proven wrong by a number of historians and individuals who were involved with Gardner. While Gardner did indeed meet with Crowley during his last year of life (May, 1947), these were formal visits, and there were only a few of them. Gardner did receive the material for the O.T.O., Man of Earth series of initiations (M.M.M. - 0 through 3rd degree), and also other materials, which he used to fashion the early rituals of his Witchcraft cult, either because there was scant ritual lore with what he had received from the New Forest Coven or because Gerald had not yet created that lore.

Crowley’s involvement in Witchcraft was nonexistent and those who claim otherwise have no proof to back up their statements. Also, while Aleister Crowley was at times excessive and self-destructive in his personal pursuits, he was also a very complex and mysterious man, evading self-definition even within his own biographical notes, not to mention the attempts of numerous writers to pigeon-hole him. However, his writings remain as a great legacy to all occultists, but his personal life is a warning to those of who cannot learn to find a middle ground and a balance in their lives.

Such a warning was certainly ignored by Bill, who seemed to follow every excess that Crowley was reputed to have done, but in a limited and feeble manner. Bill never had the courage of his convictions that Aleister Crowley had. Bill also often misquotes Crowley’s Thelemic axiom, which is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law!” - and he always fails to follow it up with that most important response, which is “Love is the Law, Love under Will!”. It seems that this was a critical omission by Bill and represents his most profound error. That the occultist submits himself not to the perversity of darkness nor dissipation, but to the love of the Deity itself. The phrase “Love under Will” represents that the love of the Deity is tempered with the knowledge of one’s true self, and one’s true spiritual vocation. Only so armed can a person choose his own path or do what he truly wills to do. Gardner’s Wiccan Rede, “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”, although similar to Crowley’s axiom, is actually quite different. Gardner was seeking to suggest to his followers that they forswear deliberately hurting others with their intentions and their magick and to peacefully coexist with others - this certainly was not the intent of Crowley’s axiom.

Bill also states that the only kind of morals or ethics that are legitimate are those found in the doctrines of Protestant Christianity. Anyone else who tries to “wing it” on their own, or follows the dictates of a “made-up” religion like Wicca, become liable to satanic seduction and find themselves engaged in a morass of contradictions that leads one profoundly astray. If we follow Bill’s logic, then anyone who does not follow Christian morality will ultimately end up practicing murder, fornication, become addicted to alcohol or drugs, engage in drug pushing, child pornography, prostitution, and a host of other terrible crimes. It reminds me of the anti-drug propaganda, that a single joint of marijuana will cause one to become a heroin addict.

This, of course, is really ridiculous. If Witchcraft really caused people to egregiously break the law, then the authorities would be rounding up witches and punishing them for their lawlessness and their heinous crimes. This has not yet happened, of course, because as a group, we are fairly law abiding, as is everyone else. Human nature is such that we aspire to be good and moral, and at times, end up failing to meet that sublime goal, irregardless of whether we are Christians or involved in some other religion. However, all religions were at one time made up by someone or some group of people, perhaps inspired by spiritual sentiments and insights, but always derived by mankind for various reasons. There isn’t only one spiritual truth and there isn’t one true religious path or tradition. Human nature requires plurality, so we as members of the human race must use compassion, understanding and extreme tolerance when making judgements about the spiritual practices of other faiths and traditions.

There is a reason why our nation has strongly defended the separation of church and state and has assiduously defended everyone’s right to practice their spiritual beliefs as they see fit. Although many fundamentalists condemn this as a form of wicked secular humanism, these rights and conventions protect them as well as those who practice earth based religions, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and many other sects and religious traditions. The wisdom of our founding fathers speaks great volumes for their unselfish devotion to personal rights, and it speaks against those who would want to change the nature of our secular political regime. We need only to briefly mention that many upright and seemingly sanctimonious leaders or followers of the fundamentalist Christian movement have been involved in sexual scandals, fraudulent use of funds, child molestation, the assassination of abortion doctors, various acts of terrorism, and many other crimes, both lesser and greater. One only has to think of Jones’ Town, or David Coresh in Waco, Texas, to realize the price of religious extremism. The majority of Christians are law abiding and express their faith modestly, so we would be foolish to judge the whole movement by the excesses of a small minority. Yet this is exactly the kind of sloppy logic that Bill uses to judge those who are followers of earth based religions.

Another fallacy mentioned by Bill in his book is that he tells his Christian audience about his connections with the upper hierarchy of the Witch cult, and that he eventually becomes a member of that hierarchy. Although there are some elders as well as some founders, High Priestesses and High Priests, there is no hierarchy in our religion. We are a profoundly unorganized religion, and anyone who claims to be the highest authority is quickly disputed by one and all amongst those who consider themselves witches and pagans. The fact is that there is no hierarchy in the various traditions of Neopaganism and Witchcraft, other than what is found in the small groups, covens and various loosely led organizations, allows them to be very protean. Leaders are often criticized by their members and seldom get much respect, groups often lose their members, and these ex-members become leaders of groups themselves. It is almost chaotic, but one would expect that from a newly formed religion whose total population is far less than a million in the U.S. Most of the individuals in that population are practicing solitaires or members of very small groups.

To claim  that Witchcraft is a Satanic conspiracy would require a solidly organized cult with a hidden but powerful elite, and this is exactly the claim made by Bill. Of course, it’s all a fantasy and Bill certainly knows that to be the case. He was never able to gather together a large group and found that there were many competing organizations around him who never gave his claims of personal godhood much credit. Few outside of our tight group had ever heard of Bill while he was practicing his brand of witchcraft. All anyone has to do is go to a sponsored pagan festival, local gathering or a meeting of COG, or some other organization, and discover how disunified we are as a spiritual tradition. But our diversity is really our strength, for we represent a religion that is being built from the bottom up, instead of the top down, as most religions have formed.

Perhaps someday there may be some kind of ecumenical society of earth religions, but I wouldn’t bet that it happens soon, and when it does occur, it will have the greatest difficulty trying to put together any kind of representational creed or shared philosophy. Unlike Bill, I actually put together a five state pagan festival in the mid 1980's in Kansas City, called the Heartland Pagan Festival. Getting twenty or so organizers to agree on a single commonsense point was at times almost impossible. The gatherings were considered highly successful if there were no major disputes between groups or individuals, and that almost never occurred.

Another interesting point made by Bill was about how witches and pagans were always sending curses against each other for various petty reasons, that magick would allow a practitioner to perform all sorts of harmful acts, unless of course, a faithful Christian deflected it or God intervened to nullify it. Bill also states that magick is not scientific, that it is a sort of hit and miss phenomena, meaning that it is no more effective than chance. Then with the same breath he says that magick is only partially effective because either good Christians or God himself block it.

Of course, Bill professes a belief in angels, demons, evil spirits and the manifestation of the powers of Satan himself, which are not only unscientific beliefs, but actually rather mediaeval in character. Bill can’t really have it both ways! Either magick is a fantasy or science is really blind to the nature of supernatural phenomena. However, Bill doesn’t seem to understand that his own beliefs are very antithetical to science, especially his stand against evolution, not to mention all of the hard sciences that have supported the fact that the universe was not created in seven days, but evolved over billions of years.

Bill also doesn’t seem to really understand that magick is not merely a means to causing change to occur in accordance with one’s will, as facetiously stated by Aleister Crowley. Magick is far more complex than that. It’s very subjective, like meditation and prayer and is supposed to be used to unite the individual with the Godhead. Even Crowley makes the statement that the Great Work (union with God) is the only true purpose of magick. Bill himself taught this in his classes, acknowledging that the progression of the practice of magick goes from simple forms, such as spells (which have a propensity to fail), to greater forms, such as illumination and the obtainment of cosmic consciousness (which ultimately work). Also, many Witches are not very skilled at magick and seldom does any spell work very effectively when cast by the untried and the beginner. This is due to the fact that few truly understand the components of magick or how it works.

Often I find that healing spells, money magick, and other magical practices are not much more than wishful thinking. Magick seems to be more a process of sending out care, compassion or moral support to others who are sick or indisposed or otherwise dealing with misfortune. Magick requires an external action in the real world on the part of the practitioner in order to ensure that it is effective. The morality of working magick on someone with or without their permission is a moot point if what is done has relatively no effect whatsoever, except in the minds of the practitioners.

I have also had to deal with many individuals who claim to have been cursed or magically attacked, and in the end, they are shown to be deluding themselves. Perhaps only two out of ten of the practitioners of the new earth based religions in our nation really know how to work negative magick, or any kind of magick, for that matter. Bill’s cute saying that “curses were flying around the air in Milwaukee thicker than a swarm of Midwestern mosquitos” is quite ridiculous, since there weren’t that many witches in the Milwaukee area and most of them were associated with our group. Keep in mind that we never amounted to more than a dozen or so faithful members of the inner core (who would have been at least competent to cast curses), so such statements are pure fantasy on Bill’s part. 

In my thirty years of practicing magick, I have only experienced two separate events where I was attacked, and both of them happened in Bill’s group. Sharon was an experienced practitioner who knew how to curse someone, so when she cursed me, it seemed quite effective, although I had a guilty conscience for leaving the group and that made me an easy target. Candice tried to hurt me with magick, but once again, I felt guilty for behaving badly towards her, and one could say that both of these occurrences were the product of my own imagination. However, both individuals also knew how to work magick effectively. I can’t say that about most of the people I have met who claim to know how to work magick. So these arguments made by Bill have to dismissed as imaginary stories, along with most of what is written in his book about magick.

Context is very important to understanding how and why things occur, and Bill delights in removing the context from his stories so that they fit nicely with his theories. But one of the most important things that anyone reading his material must understand is that the median age of the members of Bill’s two covens was around 26 years old, in other words, we were all very young adults, some of us attending college or just trying to start careers and families.

Bill states that all of the marriages ended in divorce, except for his marriage to Sharon, and this is mostly true (there were a couple of exceptions). However, the married members of Bill’s covens were young, most young marriages fail in these modern times and for various reasons. He never states in his book that he sought to have sex with all of the women in the two covens and that he encouraged a kind of extreme sexual liberality in the group. This certainly would guarantee a high divorce rate for those in the group who were married. However, all this took place during the seventies, which was a time of experimentation and liberality in regards to sex, drugs and social living situations, and this was occurring among a lot of young people, not just those who were practicing witchcraft.

An entire generation was experiencing exactly the same kinds of things. Certainly we weren’t all being seduced by the Devil, it was just the nature of the times that we lived in. Many who managed to learn and grow during that time realized later that some societal norms actually protect people from themselves. But those of us who were young had to find out about it the hard way, therefore, we had to experience the pain for ourselves and perhaps that was the folly of our generation. We didn’t blindly do what tradition dictated we should do.

Bill also states that people lost their jobs and had problems with financial stability, they had difficulties with authority figures and were being evicted from apartments. He adduced all of this to the influences of Satan imbedded in his Wiccan tradition. However, once again, we were all young and not very responsible, so those kinds of things happened to a lot of people, but also at the same time other people were quite successful. In many of the instances where Bill cites the terrible misfortunes that seemed to plague anyone who practiced witchcraft, he is just remembering much of his own personal experiences.

One of Bill’s biggest problems was that he was not inclined to work for a living and preferred to study the occult rather than attempt to build a successful career for himself and support his wife. Bill spent a lot of time and money on his occult pursuits and did not spend much time developing a means to pay for it himself. One can easily expect such a way of life to be filled with disappointments and failures, but none of these failures or disappointments can be chalked up to the Devil. They are more the results of an immature and feckless individual. Bill used his parent’s generosity to build for himself an occult empire, working at mindless jobs or part-time work in order to have the time for studying all of the various traditions that he was involved in simultaneously. When his monthly support ran out, Bill moved in with his coven members and proceeded to take financial advantage of them. Yet all the while making his victims feel as if he were doing them a great favor by living with them.

These situations almost always ended with recriminations and bad feelings between Bill and those individuals that he had moved in with, arguments over bills not paid, disputes over property ownership, and finally those individuals were either expelled from the group or lost most of the prestige that they had gained by inviting Bill, Sharon and Rick to live with them. This cycle happened several times, and at the end of each of them, Bill had to look for a new place to live.

Bill spent a whole chapter of his book criticizing several statements that were written by Laurie Cabot in her attempt to define the practice of Witchcraft, or the “Do’s and Don’ts of Witchcraft”(page 51). These definitions are very loose and do not represent any known tradition, so they aren’t really an official statement, as Bill claims, and because they are so vague and generalized in content, they are actually more confusing than helpful. There are a few points that are completely acceptable to most witches, such as the assertion that witches don’t worship Satan and that witches are concerned with ecology, but the rest of it is so poorly written that it is rather embarrassing.

Bill has chosen his victim wisely, since this list is so poorly and unprofessionally written, one could easily ridicule its arguments, and he eagerly takes up the task. Laurie Cabot is not known for being a good spokesperson for Witchcraft. Some even think that she is an overly eccentric and flamboyant witch with very little depth. The list looks like it was written in a committee where a lack of decisiveness would have omitted many details. A larger ecumenical gathering of Witches would probably have rejected some of the points presented or redefined them within a more specific context. However, a larger group of witches would probably have not been able to agree upon a single common definition of their faith, and this would demonstrate that witches are very diverse in their practices and unable or unwilling to agree to any kind of uniform theology or liturgy. Since there is no hierarchy in Witchcraft, there are no accepted official representatives to determine the cannon of the Wiccan creed. Thus anyone can consider themselves a witch, even someone who is obviously a Satanist, or someone who has just read a few books and is self-dedicated. This is an unfortunate circumstance, but one that witches have learned to deal with over time. Freedom and independence from organized religion sometimes has its cost.

Bill talks about the “Burning Times”, the period of the reformation when witches and heretics were burned or executed by the Church. Bill denies that true Christians, who would be judged by Christ for their deeds, could ever have authored such a horrible holocaust as the Burning Times. Bill’s argument is that Christian people who are evil or do wicked things cannot be “true” Christians, and of course this argument is quite false. There are numerous instances depicted in the Bible where murder is actually pleasing to God, especially when godless infidels are the targets. What Bill is really saying is that Christians who don’t worship as he does are not real Christians (page 86), so the Catholics who persecuted other Christians or witches weren’t really Christians at all, but actually pagans pretending to be Christians. The same is true of the early Protestants and Lutherans, who were still tainted by Catholicism. This absurd fact, stated by Bill, would  remove the blame from the true Christian faith for all the evil deeds perpetrated by deluded men in its name.

However, as I recall from my researches, the inquisition did not really torture and execute heretics. That was done by the civil authorities. The inquisition acted as the interlocutors who sought confessions and recantations of heresy, even if it occurred at the moment of death. The inquisition was interested in saving souls and acted for the good of the accused, or so they thought. Their motives and their faith were strongly Christian, since there is no other way to define them, and these men saw themselves as the instruments of God, doing the will of Jesus Christ in the world. In recent years the Pope himself apologized for the killing of innocent men and women as heretics, especially the Jews. That sounds very Christian to anyone who has ears to hear. Religion and politics are the affairs of men, and as for the affairs of God, who could even competently speak of such things?

We can see in Bill’s motives towards heresy the same kind of outward sincerity and goodwill disguising an extreme form of malice and evil intent as that held by the Inquisition. Although Bill says that he doesn’t hate people who practice Witchcraft and Neopaganism, that he only wants to lovingly show them the error of their ways, he does accuse them of performing immoral acts and capital crimes. This kind of inflammatory slander could potentially inspire one of his band of idiotic followers to assault and even murder someone who is publically identified as a Witch or Neopagan. The same thing has happened to doctors who perform abortions, and therefore, it is only a matter of time before someone, acting on the lies that Bill is spreading about witches, takes matters into his own hands.

We are, therefore, confirmed, that by his hateful and deceitful words, Bill is really performing unchristian like actions towards people who worship differently than he does. So ironically, Bill must be considered as much a nonchristian as he considers the Catholics to be, and this logic is derived by his own definition of a Christian. You shall know them by the fruits of their labor, indeed! Bill is really a kind of modern day Torquemada.
Bill talks a lot about the necessity of sacrifice and the use of blood in the magical practices of modern Witchcraft. Although we did use a drop or two of our own blood on rare occasions, we did not use larger amounts, and we did not ritually sacrifice animals or other people. Bill was obsessed with gothic horror and loved the image of the vampire. He even created a vampiric lineage of magick, which he called the Nosferatu; but only a few members of the group saw any merit in it and it was more of a trendy thing than a serious practice. Once again, whatever Bill did, whether in actual practice or in his vivid imagination, somehow he has deduced that all witches must be doing the same thing. But this is quite erroneous. I have not met a single witch who uses anything more than a drop of their own blood to seal a ritual, and most don’t even bother to do that any more.

Diabolic forms of magick required the use of blood when making a “pact with the devil”, but this has little to do with modern witchcraft. The adherents of Voudoun or Santeria are required to sacrifice animals as part of the traditional and customary practices of their religions. People living in the third world still kill and butcher their own animals as a preparation for food, so killing an animal for the gods is not such a big deal to them. This would have been true world-wide before the advent of modern refrigeration and mass production, and people living close to the land in rural settings would have thought nothing of killing and slaughtering an animal prior to cooking and eating it.

Today, we are far removed from the process of preparing our own meat, we instead purchase it already prepared for cooking or even purchase it already cooked at fast food restaurants. Therefore, modern witches would find it difficult to sacrifice animals, since that would not be a normal part of their daily lives. As for any form of human sacrifice, that is not at all a part of any normal system of magick, even in third world countries. Witches do not either commit or condone murder, and Bill’s arguments about a “Church of Murder” are the kind of dangerous slander that might actually cause someone to think otherwise.

Bill tries to demonstrate how absurd the Wiccan three-fold law of return is, particularly if it were used as a form of ethical conduct and the means of deriving secular justice. He goes on rather absurdly to show that if you must return good or bad three times greater than how it was received, then the world would be quite an outrageous chaotic mess, particularly if people focused on returning evil thricefold (and he states quite unequivocally that this is the mind-set of most witches). However, once again, Bill either pretends not to understand the essence of this saying or is demonstrating his ignorance. What the expression “..thou mayest ever give as thou receive it, but ever triple.” actually refers to the metaphysical concept that as everything is connected to everything else, so your actions towards others will cause a greater reaction back towards you. This means that the sowing of evil shall reap three times the intent of that evil, and sowing good will also reap three times that intent of good.

We don’t really know where this concept actually came from, but if we take it as a suggestion, along with the saying, “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”, then we should abstain from doing ill, since it will be amplified and return even greater harm to us. We should, therefore, do either good or nothing at all. Retribution has a very high price, but doing good for others causes a greater goodwill. Also, the context of the of the above statement is the Alexandrian/Gardnerian initiation ritual for second degree, where the High Priest or High Priestess who has performed the initiation must receive three times the scourging that he or she gave the candidate, and because it is under the auspices of the triple Goddess and the underworld, this might explain the nature of that triplicity. At any rate, Witches don’t live by the law of vendetta, since they know that as a minority religion, they are liable to stir up persecution for themselves as well as their community whenever they do anything unlawful and are caught.

Bill also talks about how he performed a spell against a man who was sexually using female members of the group, and caused him to become permanently impotent. Likewise, he also states that he performed a ritual to punish a young girl for stealing the jewelry of one of the coven members, and she fell down a flight of stairs and became a paraplegic. He tells these tales to represent how he practiced the three-fold law of return. I don’t remember Bill ever talking about these incidents when I studied with him, and he certainly would have talked about them a lot if they had occurred, so I must judge them to be fictions.

When Bill was really into his role as a gothic vampire, he used to read the obituaries in the news paper and would comment about all of the people that he had killed recently and whose notices had appeared that day in the paper. We thought that Bill was either being facetious or was showing us how deluded he had become. I now realize that Bill lived so much in his imagination that he had very little idea what was real or what was imaginary. It appears that Bill’s age-old problem with determining facts from fantasy still seems to have its grip on his otherwise intellectual facade.
In conclusion, Bill judges the followers of Wicca and Neopaganism in his book with the principle assumption that his deity is the one true deity, that his faith is the one true faith. All other faiths and religions are indefensibly false and all their claims and beliefs are invalid. This also includes many other Christian denominations, most notably, Catholics (by far, the largest denomination), and Mormons (one of the fastest growing denominations). What Bill is basically saying is that his denomination of Evangelical Protestant Christianity is the only true and valid religious belief in the entire world, i.e., and these beliefs include offering one’s self exclusively to Jesus Christ, the literal interpretation and absolute inerrancy of the scriptures, the imminent and physical Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, resurrection and atonement. Also, in regards to the literal interpretation of the Bible, and particularly for English speakers, the King James Version of the Bible is the only acceptable translation (all other Bibles be damned!).

So, essentially, the rest of the people on our planet are left out in the cold with their spurious religious beliefs, so they will be subjected to the wrath and eternal scorn of the one true God, cast into the flames of hell forever unless they repent and immediately accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, just like Bill did back in 1984! But really, that old line of sectarian babble has been used many times before. It is so obviously incorrect, arrogant, conceited, and also rather ignorant. In many ways, Bill hasn’t changed in thirty years! He is still a true believer (as well as a hypocrite), and he is completely “a hostage of his own PR”, just like he was when I first met him. Only this time, it’s fundamentalist Christianity that Bill is peddling, not the occult sciences, Wicca, Gnostic Christianity, Voudoun, Thelema, Vampirism, or Satanism. So, it is through Bill’s personal bias (and not the grace of God) that he has determined that all the other religions (and even sects of Christianity), are false.

Whatever arguments one could possibly make to defend one’s faith in a logical manner would have to cross the infinite chasm of Bill’s primary premise (that he is correct and most everyone else is wrong), this is impossible, of course. It makes it a lot easier to dismiss other people’s spiritual beliefs and to denounce them as a product of the wiles of the Evil One. His logic is stated simply: “This belief cannot be supported by a literal interpretation of the Bible, ergo, it is not of Jehovah or Jesus, the Holy Ghost, or from the scriptures, so it must be from the Devil.” In this manner, he is able to dismiss other religious beliefs as false, therefore, by definition, they must promulgated by Satan himself.

One could almost imagine a simultaneous conversation with Bill and Cotton Mather, receiving exactly the same responses in regards to Witchcraft and other (suspect) sects and practices, especially any form of Popery. Such heresies as these would be judged by these two men as being of the same satanic cloth. What we have here is not a “man for all seasons”, but a closed minded fanatical sectarian pseudo authority figure, who is seeking to cause division and strife between people of different religions and sects. Doesn’t that remind you someone, like Osama Bin Ladin, perhaps? Would that make Bill’s Evangelical Christian religion a kind of American Taliban? However, the greatest sin that Bill illustrates in his writings and his public rants is the sin of pride; for he assumes that he is saved by Jesus Christ and forgiven of all of his past sins and excesses. I think that he is engaging in wishful thinking (or “whistling in the dark”, as he would say).

To be continued...

Frater Barrabbas

Why All of the Biographical Writings?

Some of you may be asking yourselves why I am suddenly posting so much biographical data, particularly about things that happened over 30 years ago? I must apologize if these articles appear kind of boring or irrelevant. However, I am feeling the need to put my story out there, since it concerns a period of time where a lot of the pagan and occult disciplines have their origin. The ‘60's and ‘70's were a formative period for all of the major paths of occultism in the Western Mystery Tradition. It is a period that saw the revitalization of practices, beliefs and studies that had been neglected for decades, especially the period from the 1930's through the 1950's. Humanity was highly distracted by first, the Great Depression, then World War II, and the following cultural stasis of the early cold war era. It took the impact of the counter culture to really change the way people saw the world and its possibilities. We are still affected by that time even today, whether we realize it or not.

When I was teenager, the counter culture was in full swing, spawning a number of resilient offshoots, such as the revival of Eastern mysticism, the scientific study of the paranormal, and a revival of Western occultism. Neopaganism and wicca were brought into the mainstream of popular culture during that time. My interests and pursuits of the study and practice of ritual magick and witchcraft were nothing more than trendy outliers of a time of exploration and experimentation. So one could say that I was one of many who were engaged in a religious resurgence that has produced today one of the fastest growing religions in the U.S., and possibly Europe as well. Those were formative years, today is the net result of what they produced, and the future will probably see these new religions become more established and part of the fabric of religious life in the West. They were exciting times, but today is also just as exciting. However, by knowing what happened in those bygone decades, we may be able to understand the movement today and possibility determine where it’s going in the future.

For me, the successful performance of the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal has unlocked my past and made it more available to me than at any previous time. Many things that I had forgotten or put away as not relevant to me today have reentered my mind with a vengeance. I seem to be reliving one of the more strategic times of my life, which was the years 1972 through 1973. What happened then seemed to forge the very foundation of my spiritual and magickal pursuits today. Such a continuity would seem strange to most people, but I have been practicing intense forms of ritual magick for many decades, so it could be that events in the past have a certain power or activity if they were also periods of intense magickal phenomena. I have verified that this is the case, so those times are powerfully impacting me today.

Therefore, in sharing past events and parts of my life with my readers, perhaps they will see analogies to their own path and processes. There is something to be learned from my history, and also something important to remember. To forget and lose the past is a terrible loss for a group or even an entire culture. Our stories should be preserved, so that someday in the remote future, others will be able to trace the origins of our practices and beliefs that have their source in the 60's and 70's. So this is why I am telling the story of my life and experiences - so everyone will know where we’ve been and what we have gained in the long passage of years.

My reason for telling the story about Bill Schnoebelen and the revelation of my four year sojourn with his hellish coven is also an important way of not only preserving the past, but ensuring that the truth about such a controversial individual is known in the occult community. Bill is now claiming to have been an important member of the underground organization called the Illuminati, a claim that has become a touchstone for the popular imagination, particularly since Dan Brown’s book and the recent popular movie. The fact that this claim is not only preposterous, but that all of the high (Palladian) masonic initiations and material that Bill acquired was from a single and completely disreputable source, a man named David DePaul from Wheaton, IL. I can make this statement because I was there, I knew this David, and also knew that he was a poor misguided delusional person who actively practiced a form of raw Satanism. Bill has a made a big deal out of this connection, but the person in question had no official degrees nor was he wealthy, powerful or had connections with powerful individuals. In a word, he was an impoverished nobody with delusions of grandeur. From this source, Bill built his bonafide that he was initiated into an ultra secret cabal of the Illuminati.

Good thing there are people around like me who know the truth and can state that Bill is once again a purveyor of confabulated baloney.

Frater Barrabbas

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Descent into Madness - the Chronology of the Coven’s Fall - Part 3B

This is part three - the second half - 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 is the third part, which details the implosion of Bill’s covens and the descent of his followers into a kind of temporary madness. The covens had become a cult and what followed is typical of the failure of a cult.

The year of 1977 was the high water mark for the two covens, especially Sophia, which, due to efforts of the younger members, including myself, had drawn in a lot of new people. Our group and our way of spiritually growing seemed to be the golden way, and others wanted to be a part of it, too. But of all the new members, few of them stayed - and I was really trying to figure this all out when perhaps the first glimmerings of the fall became noticeable. I saw that when someone disagreed with Bill on some fundamental point, they were soon forced to leave the group. Few of those who left were central to the group’s activities, at first, but I did notice it, since a few of them had been friends of mine. One young woman took Bill to task for being a narrow minded tyrant, although Bill had sought her affections, she left the group, and I remember her telling me that we were all like a bunch of sheep. (Ba-a-ah!) Another long term member, who had gone to live in London for several months as part of a job related relocation, who even got to be a guest in Alex and Maxine Sanders’ coven, was cast out of the group a couple of months after he returned for supposedly practicing black magick. Bill claimed that he had tortured a cat or had used its blood in a ritual. I never knew the accused’s side of the story, but later on I kind of wondered what had really happened. The event was remarked upon in Bill’s book, as were many other stories, a few of them true, and others, false.

The downward turn began when Bill and Rick started to argue and antagonize each other, creating an environment of tension; there were also a few divorces and a few doomed weddings, too. It was a rocky time for the group. Then, two men entered into the sphere of the group mind who had a strong influence on Bill and us, both were from Illinois. This, coincidentally, represented the time when our group began its demise. We had all read Kenneth Grant’s book, Cults of the Shadow, and Bill even contacted one of the magicians highlighted in the book. His name was Michael Bertiaux. Bill and Michael began an eager correspondence,and found they both had much in common.

In the late Summer of 1977, we traveled down to Chicago to hear Michael Bertiaux orate to the local Theosophical Society (although some members of that organization had completely banned him from speaking). We had dinner with him and listened to his very strange ideas about occultism. He was an unusual man, with a full and bushy black beard and glittering dark eyes; but his head was as bald as a newborn child’s. He was squat and dumpy, but very charming in an old-world sort of way. I thought that his ideas were very creative and interesting (sort of like my own), but I also felt that he had no compassion nor any humility whatsoever. (That’s why he and Bill had so much in common!)

Bill went down to Chicago with another member named John to work magick with Michael and they received the first of Michael’s Vodoun initiations. John was terrified by Michael, but soon after Bill went down by himself to visit Michael and received more initiations from him. I even accompanied him on one of these trips to work magick with Michael. My first and last experience working magick with this man was quite unpleasant. I found myself unable to trust him. Michael attempted to terrorize me and made several sexual advances, which only made me angry. Bill did and said nothing in my defense, which puzzled me at the time. Bill was being politically astute, since Michael had a warehouse of occult material. You can just imagine, then, the kind of new occult material that suddenly made its way into our group! Rick detested this man and his magickal ideas, but others found him interesting and even participated in these magickal workings.

The other fellow who arrived on the scene (later in 1978) was an avowed Satanist who called himself Orias (David). He was a greasy, short and thin young man with unkempt black hair, prematurely balding, and the traces of a goatee. Few of us really liked this man (we sneered at his avowed sloppiness), but Bill embraced him as a brother and invited him to work with us. As expected, Rick was aggressively against the admittance of this young man into our group, but that only made him more endearing in the eyes of Bill. I myself felt some pity for this guy, because he was poorly educated and came from an obviously poor blue collar family (he supposedly grew up in a Catholic orphanage). Orias also had some astonishing delusions about his own self-importance, so he probably did fit in quite well with the rest of us, although we wouldn’t admit it at the time. Orias brought the practice of Satanism out from mere speculation and into the mainstream of our workings and Michael infected us with the metaphysics of the Qliphoth, Vampirism, Diabolism, Chaos magick (of the Lovecraftian variety) and dark forms of Vodoun magick. It is my assumption that Orias provided Bill with all of the fancy Satanic initiations and the Paladin (90̊) Masonic degree that he has later claimed to have gotten from some master in Chicago (actually, Wheaton, Illinois), although at the time I knew nothing about it nor did I inquire. Orias’s form of Satanism did not appeal to me nor did I ever feel compelled to work magick with him. Orias disappeared in early 1980 and I had heard later that he had been involved in a traffic accident that almost killed him. I guess being the “Son of the Morning Star”, as Orias called himself, did not exclude him from mortal accidents and misfortune.

This was the same guy who Bill identified in his book as the Satanist from Chicago with all of the money and political connections. I have later learned that there were some initiations and associations that took place after I left the group, so Orias must have resurfaced from his near fatal accident. It is from Orias that Palladium Masonry was derived, probably as a collaborative effort between Bill and himself, even though this system of Masonry had been publically declared as a hoax. The Rites of Memphis and Mizraim were definitely from Michael Bertiaux, who had a plethora of occult materials, which he used to extort favors from his followers. I found little useful lore from this line of inquiry, but Bill pursued it as he did all avenues of occult exploration, 20 miles wide and half an inch deep.

The year of 1978 was obviously one of decline and also stasis. We managed to keep things together, but we had lost a lot of members. People were dropping away from our group, so Bill and Sharon decided to close the group to new members. A few new members had joined previously, but we were all so self-absorbed in our little circle and so intoxicated with our power trips that we even neglected to teach them much of anything. There were new initiations to go through, since Bill had created a complete occult system based on the Nosferatu. He also had systems for Voudoun magick and developed other Gnostic based magickal systems, too. He even developed a complete system of magick, a mass and ordinations based solely on the Superman mythos. I witnessed him saying a mass, and making the sign of the “S” in the air, which he said was the symbol of the House of Jorel. Of course, he did that after seeing the remake of the movie Superman, which came out around that time.

It was a time when I matured enough to take my Catholic studies seriously and begin to study for the priesthood, which I finally earned in June of 1979. Bill had been consecrated by Michael Bertiaux as a Gnostic Bishop (on July 23, 1978 - five years after his supposed first consecration from Ely), and this allowed him to function as an autocephalus Bishop, although, I suspect that Michael had expected Bill to function as his titular representative for the state of Wisconsin. Bill’s lack of cooperation with Michael’s aspirations probably was the pretext for their later bitter parting. 

In the late summer of that year (1978), I traveled with Bill to see his parents and learned about the shared lunacy that he and his wife had derived about his origins. They both believed that Bill wasn’t really a normal person, he was actually an extraterrestrial female who had invaded and inhabited a young male body. This is why he was clumsy and kind of inept about common sense things. Bill even showed me the place where it all started, a playground near his home (where a space ship came down and sent the female alien into his body); and he firmly believed, without question, that he had an important mission on this small planet, and that someday he would return to his home in the stars, bringing his faithful followers with him.

I went along with it all and I was nice to his parents, but privately, I thought that this story was highly improbable. Later, I thought that it was definitely crazy. But it did explain all of Bill’s eccentricities in a nice and tidy manner, but the real reasons for Bill’s affectations had more to do with his humble mortality than an extraterrestrial origin. However, that summer, I believed that I was probably closer to Bill than anyone had ever been, or ever would be again, other than his wife Sharon. I could sense in him a very confused and lonely man. When he dealt with his parents, his lack of successes and accomplishments was glaringly obvious to them, and that was a source of silent shame. Bill sensed that I saw his weaknesses, too, and I am certain that from that moment on Bill become suspicious of all my intentions towards him.

The autumn of 1978 began with a period of decline that continued into 1979, with Bill, Sharon and Rick having moved several times, and they finally settled into a large old three story house, painted a ghastly shade of turquoise blue. Money was tight for them and I even had to help them get jobs where I worked, first in the security business and then at the local newspaper; but I avoided the mistake of living with them or giving them money. I was still attending college and my grades were not particularly great, especially since I had chosen a very difficult and obscure major (linguistics). Also, the occult activities of the group siphoned off a lot of my spare time. In early 1979, Astreas was disbanded and its few remaining members became a part of Sophia, which was also dwindling. We began to work some really strange magick and then, a final confrontation occurred between Bill and Rick, which had the effect of Rick being ejected from the group and from the home he shared with Bill and Sharon. No one defended Rick, and even Sharon had to let him go, although reluctantly. Bill had started rumors that Rick was being groomed as his replacement, and of course, those members who were left could not abide one of their own becoming the leader of the group.

After Rick left, the magick that we worked quickly became even darker. I remember one evening when we worked a curse on an unknown blonde woman who had breasts but no pudenda. This female apparition had been haunting Bill’s dreams, but he was certain that she was real and sending evil curses against him. Bill made a fith-fath image of her and we performed a ritual based on the seven bowls of poison and the seven seals of the Apocalypse; a formulation that I had rather jokingly suggested to Bill and one he eagerly developed. Afterwards, Bill killed the fith-fath and delivered his deadly curse. I sensed that this woman did not exist in real life, so I wondered where the curse was directed.  But this was not the only strange rite performed at that time.

We performed Luciferian Masses, where Sharon would urinate into a bowl and Bill would use it to aspurge the temple, preparing for the manifestation of the devil. We also performed a rite where Satan was drawn down into Bill’s naked body laying upon a marble altar. Sharon took a concoction of bee pollen, honey and other herbs, and poured it over Bill’s genitals. While he laughed in trance, sounding like some huge dummy, she went down on him, offering him some intense fellatio while we stood around the alter, stationed in poses of extreme pious adulation. In my mind I was wondering why in hell was I there, but I let it pass, since it did not seem as strange as anything else I had seen. I even received an initiation into the Nosferatu, with Bill licking my chest, preparing it to be cut with a scalpel (a small incision), but my wound was too shallow to bleed, and so the initiation was kind of a bust.

I was coming to the end of my tolerance for the dissonance that I felt belonging to the coven, and also the magick that we were working had little or nothing to do with my own spiritual processes. I secretly knew this, so I was building a magickal system to replace the one I was practicing with Bill and Sharon. I was feeling repressed and constrained by Bill’s huge ego. Everyone was leaving, particularly important friends of mine. They began to tell me about things that I had refused to see. The truth was that I was not important to Bill, I was only a friend of convenience. I was being used emotionally and spiritually. I had helped Bill get jobs to pay for his excesses, but the time for receiving recognition and initiatory accolades from him had ended. We began to quarrel a lot and our differences grew more irreconcilable. My friends were causing me to see Bill as he really was, which caused my dream of spiritual ascension to begin to fade as well.

I had gotten my ordination and was now a Priest. When I visited Michael Bertiaux in Chicago (to return a friend of his who had visited us), he offered to make me a Bishop. I, of course, declined the offer, but it made me think that Bill was holding back from me the one last achievement that I had aspired for, the Gnostic Episcopacy. However, that elevation was never going to be offered me, for I am certain that Bill had decided that he had to keep me down in order to control me, just as he had done to others. So it was only a matter of time before I left the group.

How I left the group was really simple, I stopped going to their gatherings and functions, starting in June, 1980. I had to see Bill three or four times a week at work, which was unfortunate, and I began to really loath and despise this man. I also saw that my coworkers made fun of his posturing and pontificating, and I joined in with them. I had lost all respect for Bill and my adulation for him was forever destroyed. It was the end for me, but I did mange to pass out of his life in a blaze of glory. I wrote him a letter that was filled with the truth, and it was quite a bitter and harsh critique and rebuke of Bill and his ways. Because of this “missive”, Sharon supposedly worked some black magick on me, seeking to protect her husband from his once close friend and now mortal enemy. I imagine that she focused together all of her anger, wrath and hurt, and forged a pretty formidable death spell that she then sent against me.

A current member of the coven who was also a close friend of mine alerted me that Sharon had announced her intention to kill me, and I on the other end did feel a great darkness descend upon me; but it passed me by after a few months, since I laid low and did nothing to aggravate it.  But my remorse and guilt for my behavior in the group and my fall from grace had far outweighed the impact of any deadly curse, in fact it made the curse darker and more bitter still. At that point I had lost my driver’s license, lost my job (I was a driver for the morning news paper), and had to move back in with my parents. I had gotten my college degree, but there were no jobs. This was because by the autumn of 1980, there was a bad recession ruining the economic landscape, quelling the buoyant economy of the late 70's, and it only got worse in 1982. Perhaps these trials were the result of Sharon’s death curse or just my bad luck. I felt sad, full of darkness and bitter, but I didn’t die. Instead I got to deal with my darkness the old fashioned way, by striving through it.

This was the beginning of the darkening time for me and also for many other former members. Yet it was also one of the most creative and productive times in my occult career. I was burned by those four years spent in the coven from hell and I spent the next couple of years paying for it, until I found my redemption and turned the corner to a new path and a new spiritual perspective. But unlike Bill, who became a fundamentalist Christian and got to walk away from all his responsibilities, I continued my occult spiritual path and took full responsibility for all my supposed sins done during those times. Where Bill can claim to have followed the path of magick and Wicca for sixteen years, I have followed it now for nigh well over thirty years. I am not a Satanist and I am not a dupe of Satan. But to prove that, I must examine Bill’s arguments, and also examine the god image of the Horned God, the God of the Witches. At least now you know what kind of people he and his wife were, so you will be more able to judge Bill’s arguments for yourself.

To be continued.....

Frater Barrabbas

Descent into Madness - the Chronology of the Coven’s Fall - Part 3A

This is part three - the first half - 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 is the third part, which details the implosion of Bill’s covens and the descent of his followers into a kind of temporary madness. The covens had become a cult and what followed is typical of the failure of a cult.

The chronology of the two covens and their social events can be easily broken into three periods, the idyllic period of progressive works and self discovery, then a period of stasis and excesses, and finally the period of decline and corruption. As stated previously, the idyllic period lasted from the time that I was initiated to first degree until the time when I was initiated to third degree. Perhaps I would have noticed that there were problems already evident in the group had I been looking carefully, but I was too happy and gleefully studied and practiced all that was set before me. At that time, problems in the group were few, the dissidence was rare, and we all got along, more or less. But as I think about it in a deeper context, the seeds of the future troubles were sown before I ever got into the coven of Sophia.

Bill liked to hold court in his home, sitting in his favorite chair with one leg missing and supported  by a cinder block. He would be fed and given drink by his loving spouse, and pontificated from his precarious throne on many erudite points of occult lore. Truly, though, Bill’s knowledge of the occult was astonishing and it seemed as if he had an encyclopedia for a brain. I learned a great deal sitting on the floor before that over stuffed chair, and I also did a lot of growing, learning and mastering of the occult arts myself. We studied the Golden Dawn, the essential folklore and philosophies of earth based religions, both past and present, the Qabbalah, Astrology, Alchemy, Yoga, the Hermetic techniques of Franz Bardon, ancient Egypt, the Arthurian sagas, the Mabinogion, classical and world mythology, religious history, and beginning, intermediate and advanced magick. There was nothing phony about Bill when it came to his understanding of these obscure studies and he loved to expound upon them, inspiring us with his zeal for these subjects. He was patient and careful in his teachings, this made them very authentic and caused all of us to respect his knowledge and point of view.

He seemed to know everything, but in fact, he really didn’t know everything. We just sort of assumed that he did and Bill did not dissuade us in that error. The whole domain of positive occultism was available to one and all to study and learn, and I was ecstatic at both the content of the classes as well as the experience gained through the various magickal workings. I couldn’t seem to absorb enough of it or fast enough to satisfy my craving. I had become something of an addict for magickal powers and abilities. I discovered far more than I had ever imagined. If this had been the sum total of my experiences and if Bill had been as humble and open, loving and giving as he pretended to be, then perhaps these covens would have been the greatest crucible for the entire tradition of Alexandrian Witchcraft; but in fact, it was a false modesty and a great power trip for him.

Bill would often say, when pursuing some perk of his office, that “rank doth have its privileges”; but he never really seemed to understand that spiritual authority is a kind of emotional opiate that ruins most occult groups. However, during this period of training and learning, we were all brothers and sisters of an elite inner court, presided over by its King and Queen. As the leader and lightening rod for the spiritual group, Bill would often enter into trance and consult with his highest guides, Ambrosius or Parlemanon, and these entities would always bolster Bill’s decisions and judgements.

Sharon was more humble in her manners, but she also had  delusions about herself and Bill, and we all became a part of that delusion as time went on. She secretly thought herself as Mary, the mother of Christ reborn, and Bill was Jesus Christ, reborn this time as her beloved spouse.

I experienced the first year of the annual cycle of Sabbats as a succession of revelations, and each full moon Esbat during that period was performed with magick that profoundly impressed me with its power. This is because each new rite was more intense than the previous one. I had entered a whole new world of magickal powers and entities unlike at any time in my previous studies or workings. I also grew very close to Bill and Sharon and they encouraged my interest in them. I was sort of the trouble maker and bad boy of the group, but actually, I was very loyal to Bill and to the members of my coven; but that did not stop me from competing and trying to out-do everyone in the group. I, of course, could not out-do Bill or Sharon, for to even think of that would be to cross the line of proper decorum.

The group was very intimate, since we practiced our craft in ritual nudity, or sky-clad, as we called it. I saw others engaged in a kind of casual sexual intimacy with each other and I felt alone and aloof. Perhaps Sharon sensed my alone-ness in the group, we started a brief affair and that only drew me deeper into the core of the group’s soul. However, before things could go too far between Sharon and myself, another man came into the group, fresh from a disastrous divorce, who fell deeply in love with Sharon and became her lover and companion. That man was Rick, who I variously loved, hated, envied and pitied. He was a remarkable man, a romantic poet and an Irish nationalist, as well as a gifted passionate warrior. Where Bill was awkward, Rick was lithe, strong, dashing and athletic. Rick believed in the principles of free love that were an integral part of our group, so he also became romantically involved with other women in the group. I continued to be a bit of an outsider and was jokingly compared to Loki or Judas, but I didn’t mind too much. I was gaining an enormous amount of lore and adding it to my burgeoning collection. However, Bill did not particularly like being eclipsed by Rick; yet at first he graciously invited Rick to live with him and his wife. They even shared the same bed and all this was done perhaps to control Rick and keep an eye on him.

I had joined the group as a solitary practitioner who had been self-dedicated a few years earlier. I had been studying for five years before I met Bill and Sharon, so I was already established on my magickal and spiritual path. I used the information provided to me to build up my own personal magickal system. This preoccupation with my own system was perceived as a kind of joke amongst the other members, who chose to work their magick through the coven; but Bill and Sharon encouraged me. To this day, I don’t know why they did that. I even went so far as to write my own version of the Golden Dawn rituals and performed them for Sharon in the autumn of my first year, at Hallows, to convince her that I was worthy to receive third degree. I had gotten second degree in around six months, but I was told that third degree would take longer to achieve, even though I did achieve it two months after my first anniversary in the group.

The first year was so magickal and beautiful that I could hardly imagine that anything could possibly go wrong. But there were indications that things weren’t going too well in the group. Bill was having a torrid sexual affair with a odd but shapely redhead who was a member of Astreas, named Candice. She had the strange habit of never locking eyes with anyone who talked to her. This was a sad defect, due to her being beat senselessly by her father when she was a child, her eyes could never focus directly on anything. But despite these handicaps, and the accompanied low self-esteem, Candice compensated by affecting a huge ego, and stealthily sought to replace Sharon as High Priestess. Bill, of course, encouraged her at first, but then would side with Sharon and they would both find a way to humble and punish Candice. Apparently, she later went crazy, and this is briefly spoken of in Bill’s book about some unnamed misfortunate woman; yet he didn’t mention that his mind games and power trips were probably the root cause of that madness.

Candice believed that everyone should respect and obey her, being a senior member of Astreas (and Bill’s lover), and this of course caused the two of us to cross swords, since I was not about to respect anyone unless they proved to me their worthiness. I had my own power trip to feed as well. It was easy for me to torment Candice, to mock and challenge her false claims of greatness. When Bill and Sharon tried to get her and I into some kind of romantic liaison, it was a terrible disaster. She even worked black magick on me when we ran afoul of each other, although it was not done very effectively. My complaints about this to Bill and Sharon went on deaf ears, since they indulged all of our ego trips, so long as we continued to indulged theirs. After a while Bill and Sharon gave up on trying to hitch me up with someone in the group, and that was probably a good thing.

In the spring of 1976, Bill asked if he could meet my father and seek entry into the Masons. I agreed and introduced him. Of course, Bill did not talk about any of the other things that he was involved in. He presented himself as an earnest candidate. I, myself, had thought about joining this organization, but I felt that it would be too confusing to belong to the Masons and also practice Witchcraft. Bill had no problem with this, being supposedly wiser and more intellectually gifted than I. The local blue lodge had a dwindling membership to deal with, so he was eagerly brought into the Masons. Throughout that year Bill went to meetings and went through the three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. Bill was also  given a role as junior deacon, but after attending some meetings, he opted out of this responsibility, saying that the blue lodge work was boring and not very constructive. My father was not pleased with this sudden decision and abdication, since he had sponsored Bill to be a member in the first place. I had nothing to say about this event, of course, since that would reveal things about Bill to my father. None of the members of the lodge ever knew what Bill did in his spare time nor did they realize that he was simultaneously treading many other spiritual paths.

In the summer and autumn of 1976, the group began to explore a new direction, and that was the gothic domain of the vampire. Bill was a crack pulp fiction writer, although unpublished for some reason, part of the time that we spent in studying the coven lore was also spent reading his stories. Then he began to write his grand opus whose characters were actually members of his two covens. The story took place in Europe, in a period of the recent past. We were painted as characters associated with a romantic and gothic notion of the vampire, and this was before Anne Rice wrote her fictional works on the subject. So the occult concepts of vampirism began to play within the group, although in a rather gothic and romantic manner, and not, at least yet, in a negative one. Of course like puppets on strings, we danced to this new strain of strange music without protest or even a thought to question it.

Later that year, Bill began to put together his vestments and ceremonial regalia for an even stranger event. He was to be ordained an Old Catholic Priest. Previously, I had met a man who was an initiated witch, but lived out of town, and he joined the group from time to time for Sabbats (he usually worked with Astreas). This man was named Ed (Edward M. Stehlik), and he was also a priest in the Old Catholic Church. We thought it quite a coup at the time having a priest in our group, not knowing what was about to happen, that he was to be subsequently elevated to the Bishopric of the Midwest diocese of the Old Catholic Church.

So in January of the next year (1977), I was asked to play my flute for the ordination ceremony that took place in central Illinois, where Bill was elevated to the priesthood by his friend, Ed, and the retiring Bishop of that diocese. It was a very strange time indeed, since I was not fond of Christianity and I found the Catholic liturgy to be quite foreign. Everyone greeted the new priest who was smiling in his satiny new vestments, tailor made by Sharon who was something of an amateur seamstress, not knowing that he was also a witch and an occultist. It was one of the strangest experiences that I had in the group up to that point, but it was only the beginning of even stranger deviations. However, I was able to appreciate the rituals and some of the very pagan theology of Catholicism. This became another avenue that I studied, as did everyone else. Then, by that spring, we were wearing our cassocks and habits like good little acolytes and nuns, and learning to decipher the breviary and say the holy office.

Of course, not to be outdone, Bill also started at this time an association with the Church of Satan, and paid his money to be elevated in that organization. I remember actually liking the writings that were produced in the monthly news letter, called the Cloven Hoof, and the books that Anton published were also interesting, but the rest of it seemed to be a kind of silly carnival act. Bill was easily able to rationalize it all, of course, but we lesser souls began to find a lot of lapses of credibility in what he was doing and saying. But I didn’t mind too much, because as a Witch, Satanism seemed more my kind of religious style than being a fake Christian, even though the two religions were really very similar in some strange way. I was receiving all of this from my most admired and beloved teacher and friend, so it must all mean something, and it would be wise and prudent to follow suit. I just hadn’t grown enough to figure it all out as Bill had. So, as you can see, I was still a loyal member of the group and a true believer.

To be continued....

Frater Barrabbas