Thursday, August 12, 2010

Passing of a Giant 08/12/2010

This morning, Isaac Bonewits passed away from the world of the living to the place of our honored ancestors. Although I was not a great fan of his writings, his books often encapsulated the very essence of issues within the pagan community, both small and great. I met him several times in the course of the years, and had many interesting and engaging conversations with him. He was supposed to be at this year’s Heartland Pagan Festival, acting as one of three keynote speakers, along with Oberon and myself. Alas, he was too sick to attend, and that was the sad truth. Isaac had been one of the keynote speakers at the very first Heartland Pagan festival, ironically pairing him up with Star Hawk. I will always remember that first event, and the wonderful wit and grace that motivated Isaac in his dealings with the mass of attendees, all 275 of them.

I recall being the facilitator for all workshops, lectures and discussion groups, and in that role, I required all of the presenters to fill out a form. That form was used to describe the workshop and the presenter, which we used in the festival brochure. It didn’t matter how well known any of these presenters were, I still requested and got the information from each on this form. Isaac had demurred to fill out one of these forms until I cornered him and made him complete it while I waited. Later, when I was examining the form, the one question that I had in it to help me determine the qualifications of the presenter was worded like this: “What experiences, training or education do you have that qualifies you to give this presentation?” Isaac put down his answer in quite a humorous fashion: “I am Isaac Bonewits” That seemed to be all that was required by Isaac to present his credentials to me or anyone else. I laughed and almost fell off my chair when I read it. I had never intended for that question to be an issue, and I guess that Isaac had sort of thought the same thing.

I also remember talking to Isaac one year at pagan festival about the recent apostasy of Bill Schnoebelen, probably some time in the late ‘80s. He wanted to understand what had motivated Bill to write all of his screed, condemning witches and pagans alike. I believe that I helped him understand the nature of the source of that criticism, so that he was able to readily dismiss Bill and his diatribes.

There were other times that I met Isaac at some gathering or another. He often showed up, representing his brand of paganism and druidism to the public at large. Isaac was probably only five or six years older than me, so I had assumed that he would be around for a long time to come. I never thought that he would get sick and die while I was just hitting my stride as a writer, witch and ritual magician.

Isaac Bonewits was a controversial figure and often both delighted and infuriated his peers. However, his contribution to our movement is both singular and profound. He will be greatly missed by all of us who are pagans and witches. Whether you agreed with him or hotly disagreed, his loss is irreparable for our community.

May the gods assuage his spirit and may he live in our hearts and minds forever.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. “I am Isaac Bonewits!”

    ::sporfle:: That encapsulates Isaac's personality so succinctly. Thank you so much for sharing the anecdote.

  2. Thank you for this lovely tribute. May I point out that "Bonewits" ends in an "s" not a "z."

  3. @Deborah - spelling has never been my specialty - Oops!