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

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