John C. Sulak, The Wizard and the Witch: An Oral History of Oberon Zell and Morning Glory (Woodbury, Minnesota; Llewellyn, 2014.
My partner Jo said to me on Sunday, “We can do anything we want.” This wasn’t in response to figuring out what to eat. She was talking about our lives in general. It was a powerful statement. And true! We can decide how we want to live and do it, not that it’ll happen instantly or without risk or labor.
This is exactly the attitude expressed by Oberon Zell and Morning Glory, two important leaders of American neopaganism since the 1960s. They were/are the major leaders of the Church of All Worlds. John Sulak edited interviews with the two of them and numerous acquaintances of theirs, weaving it together into a remarkably coherent biography of the two.
I am awed by the fearlessness of these two. They epitomize the openness and creativity of American counter-cultures from the 50s through the 70s. Keep in mind that these two were polyamorous pagans at a time when neither was part of pop culture, understood, or accepted. In some places of the country, these things could even be dangerous. And they started doing it in St. Louis of all places. Side note: Morning Glory coined the term polyamory.
They, with many other people, built up a neopagan religion, not from scratch, but from disparate bits and pieces and their own experiences and imaginations. They did all of this before the internet, when connecting with others was harder and slower. So they were forced to grab what bits they could and make up all of the rest to achieve their vision. To overcome the isolation, they created Green Egg, one of the more important American neopagan magazines in the history of the religion. Through this magazine, they could find other people who were working in similar directions.
I recall grand promises about the internet going back to the early 90s. It was going to, for one thing, unleash unbounded creativity. That, like most of the promises, never happened. I suspect that it was inability to instantly find people and information, forcing people into periods of reflection and thoughtfulness, that helped foster the creativity of people like the Zells.
Fearless and profoundly open, they created organizations and magazines, they abandoned monogamy and adopted open and fluctuating sexual and romantic relationships, they created unicorn goats (poor goats), funded an expedition to find mermaids, built intentional communities, and more.
One of the things I like about the book is that Oberon and Morning Glory recognize and admit to many mistakes, organizationally, financially, with child raising, and sexually. Mistakes were, I suppose, inevitable with the sort of experimentation they were doing. And we can ask if anything of value came of it all. Afterall, their organization has died several times and I have not been impressed with most of my experiences with neopaganism. On the other hand, I have no doubt that their efforts were of great value to themselves. They lived they way they wanted to. They said they could do anything they wanted to do and then did it. Extraordinary. Inspiring.