felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
[personal profile] felis_ultharus
On Wednesday, I went to the memorial for Isaac Bonewits. For those who don't know Bonewits, he was a neo-Druid and the founder of Ár nDraíocht Féin - an umbrella organization that supported different Pagan reconstructionist groups - Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Roman, Slavic, and Vedic. It's the largest Neo-Pagan organization I know of.

ADF has become a kind of Pagan nerve centre, developing a common body of liturgy and encouraging archaeological and historical scholarship to make sure that modern reconstructionists get it right, or as close to right as can be in the modern world with modern values.

(It's earth-focused, too, to the point that it marks out its administrative areas by watershed.)

Bonewits could be a controversial figure. He had strong opinions and didn't mince words. His attempt to bring some structure to what is a very anarchic religion was not always appreciated. But he also coined some of the key concepts and terms we use even outside the ADF. Thealogy is one of his words, and he's one of our major thealogians.

He also did more than almost anyone (except perhaps Starhawk) to push us out of small, closed, exclusive circles and into the world. There had been public gatherings before, but Bonewits insisted on frequent rituals open to the general public. He also wasn't a huge fan of solitary practice.

So all the usual caveats in place - the messiness of comparing religions, the vast gulf of differences between Christianity and Paganism, Bonewits' likely discomfort with the comparison - it's not an exaggeration to say that we've lost a Saint Paul figure for our collection of new/old faiths. Bonewits had a similar role, similar stature, and similar penchant for inspiring strong reactions of all kinds among his co-religionists.

The memorial was excellent. It was my first public ritual in ages. Some Pagans I knew from a decade ago and who themselves had disappeared from the community had come out for it. I was surprised by how many of our Montrealers actually knew Bonewits personally. We also took up a collection for to cover his medical bills - being a druid does not pay well enough to cover the costs of dying in the American medical system.

Our local ADF leader Linda performed a Celtic rite, and sang three songs Bonewits had written. I'd never seen a Celtic rite before. It's now gone into my archive of most beautiful things I've ever seen. If I weren't such a syncretist, I could easily be seduced to Celtic reconstruction.

Another thing I learnt about Isaac Bonewits is that he was a consummate geek. Not too surprising. And though he'd written many songs himself, he requested the song Annie Lennox had written for Lord of the Rings be played. So here it is:

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felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

September 2011

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