Ten Questions with Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

1. What brought about the creation of The Grey School of Wizardry, of which you are the Headmaster?
Perceiving the need for providing a basic and universal magickal education for the “Harry Potter” generation, many of whom will presumably come looking for the real thing after being turned on by the HP books and movies. Actually, I’d been talking about this issue in workshops and articles for many years, as I was concerned that virtually all magickal training programs and groups refused to admit anyone under 18, and I was watching generations of our own kids growing up reliant entirely on what their own families could provide in magickal home schooling, and a very few books which seemed to me to be woefully inadequate. In 1989, I created a kids’ magazine supplement to Green Egg (called H.A.M.—“How About Magick?”) just to address this issue.

And over the years I’ve been making notes as to what information I wish I’d had when I started out on this path—say, at age 11 (the age Harry Potter is when the books begin…). And the idea that came to me was a kind of “Boy Scout Handbook” (or “Junior Woodchuck Guide,” for all the Carl Barks Donald Duck fans…) of Wizardry. New Page books agreed to publish such a book if I put it together, so in 2002 I convened the Grey Council, bringing together a number of the mages and sages, elders and teachers, of the worldwide magickal community to serve and a body of contributors and an advisory council, and with them all looking over my shoulder and offering counsel and input, I compiled the Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard (2004), and its sequel, Companion for the Apprentice Wizard (2006).
The book was designed in the form of a textbook for a real-life version of a Wizard school like the fictional “Hogwarts.” And inevitably, this required the creation of such an institution in reality, which I began doing as the book was being completed. The Grey School of Wizardry (www.GreySchool.com) opened its virtual doors on Aug. 1, 2004. As of this date (Nov. 1, 2007), the Grey School offers over 270 classes, in 16 Departments (with Majors and Minors), at 7 “year-levels.” We have over 30 teachers, and nearly 1,000 students!

2. Do you have any thoughts about the public outing of Albus Dumbledore’s, another wizard school headmaster, homosexuality?
Well, in a series of books written for teenagers, in which sexuality and sexual relationships of adults are never mentioned, and don’t come into the story at all, I think that proclaiming anything involving the sexual activities or inclinations of any of the adult characters is entirely inappropriate. In the first place, we’re not talking about flesh-and-blood people here (as we might do if we were discussing the private lives of the actors in the movies). We’re talking about fictional creations on paper, who have no existence at all outside of the pages of the books. And pre-teen readers really don’t need to be told about the private (and imaginary) sex lives of these fictional characters, as it is entirely inappropriate for kids to be exposed to the sexuality of their school teachers—whatever it may involve. I don’t discuss my own personal sexuality with the students in the Grey School, and I believe that’s as it should be. I shudder to think what comes next: Severus Snape outed as a BD/SM dungeon master and leatherman? Minerva McGonagal as a dyke dominatrix? Sirius Black into wild orgies? Such matters are outside of the scope and context of these stories, and should stay there, in my opinion. Whatever anyone may imagine in their own private little fantasies, I feel that such “revelations” (or speculations) are inappropriate in stories intended for kids.

3. Is there any chance of me getting on the Grey Council?
Well, lessee: Are you old enough to have some grey in your hair? Are you a widely-recognized Elder and teacher in the worldwide magickal community? Have you founded groups, written books, and/or done other things of significant service to the community at large? Are you well-enough known to the other members of the Council to garner a nomination, sponsorship, and approval? People are invited to join the Grey Council by members thereof. Prospective nominees are discussed at some length before they are extended an invitation, and any opposition among extant Council members constitutes a veto until/unless it can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Although fairly exclusive, the Council is open-ended, and new members are invited to join from time-to-time, as the Council comes to feel they should be. Let’s get to know you…

4. Let me list these, and I’m sure I’ll miss some. At some point you have been or still are all of these things: artist, clergy, teacher, publisher, headmaster, author, public speaker, and unicorn breeder. What haven’t you done yet that you would like to try?
Astronaut; hang glider; hot-air balloonist…
And you can add to the above list: editor, publisher, husband, father, SCUBA diver, adventurer, homesteader…and of course, Wizard.

5. To me, and I’m sure many others, you are a living legend. I imagine you day and night in your full wizardly glory. Do you do normal stuff? Do you ever go, well today I need to do the laundry, hit the grocery store, and pick up the house?
Well, sure! I go to the Post Office and grocery store nearly every day. I spend hours at my console answering e-mail. About once a month I stop by my favorite comic book store and pick up my subs. We go to all the fantasy/adventure/sci-fi movies as soon as they come out (often we dress in costume for movies involving pirates or wizards). We record and watch a few favorite TV shows (Heroes, Pushing Daisies, Smallville, Stargate, Eureka, CSI…). We put on DVDs of our favorite movies, from our huge collection. I read—a lot! And every few months we completely redecorate our home for the seasonal parties we throw for our friends. We attend parties our friends throw. Folks come to visit, and we put them up in our guest rooms, and take them around to our favorite places. We manage the day-to-day work of running our family business, Mythic Images (www.MythicImages.com): taking orders, shipping, billing, creating new designs, etc.

And last night—Hallowe’en—we took our 15-month-old granddaughter trick-or-treating for her first time! She dressed as an adorable little Witchlet, MG was the “Fairy Grandmother,” and I just wore my normal Wizard regalia—which everyone seemed to think was a costume.

6. I’ve started asking people this question and I’m keenly interested in your thoughts. What challenges do you see facing the Pagan community? How can the community resolve those issues?
I think our biggest challenges revolve around our exponential growth in numbers, as we are now a worldwide phenomenon, and said to be the fastest-growing religious movement in the English-speaking world (and also beginning an explosive growth in many other countries). And yet, inexplicably, we still remain almost entirely invisible to the mainstream world. But at some point they will inevitably notice us. How will the magickal and the mundane worlds adjust to each other? Especially the churches who have actively persecuted us for centuries as they attempted to wipe us from the face of the Earth? As far as I know, they have not repented or apologized to this day, and we cannot assume their benign acceptance as we claim our place at the table of world religions.

For such a large religious movement—and such a high level of general education and intelligence—our economic status compared to other religions is dismally low. Why is this? We own very little property, and have very few temples or other religious buildings. One cannot help but look at other religions and wonder: where are our Pagan churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages, monasteries, retreat centers, seminaries, food banks, halfway houses? We do have a large number of bookstores and occult shops—which is good—but little else to show for ourselves in comparison with other religions. I strongly believe we must seriously support our religion the way others do—with tithes, bequests, and charitable donations. Until we achieve parity in this regard, we will remain marginal.

Nor do we provide much in the way of services to our surrounding communities, such as public weekly worship services, soup kitchens, day care centers, etc. A few Pagan groups are beginning to do some of those things, which I applaud, but we’re way, way behind most other groups—such as the Moonies, Scientologists, or Krishna Consciousness—that originated around the same time (the ‘60s).

Another thing, of course, has been the embarrassing competitive jockeyings for pre-eminence among far too many of the supposed leaders of our community—who should know better. Thankfully, I believe that the worst of that is over, having achieved epic and disastrous proportions in the notorious “Witch Wars” of the final decades of the 20th century. The single greatest antidote to those internecine power struggles has certainly been the amazing proliferation of gatherings and festivals.

And finally, I would address our raising up of the next generation—to which I am devoting the current phase of my own life and work.

7. What book are you currently reading?
At the moment, having just finished writing my latest book, A Wizard’s Bestiary, I’m taking a little break from research and re-reading Time Enough for Love, by Robert A. Heinlein. Wonderful!

8. Thanks to a big celebrity push, everyone these days seems to be talking about our relationship with the environment. You were thinking about this well before the first celeb drove their hybrid to the Oscars. Would you share with my readers the Gaea Thesis?
Simply stated it is this: The entire biosphere of Earth is one single vast living organism. It is all descended from a single original cell, fertilized 544 million years ago in the “Cambrian Explosion,” and all shares the same DNA. Just as we as human individuals begin our existence as a single fertilized cell, or zygote, yet retain our identity as single organisms even when the proliferation of cells in our bodies becomes trillions—so has the entity we humans call Gaea, Hertha, Pachamama, or Mother Earth, retained her identity as a single organism whose trillions of component “cells” are her myriads of plants and animals; including ourselves. And as every living organism is by nature sentient, so is the living Earth: Anima Mundi, the Soul of Nature, the Great Mother Goddess revered by all Pagans.

I received this revelation on Sept. 6, 1970, and it has profoundly shaped every aspect of my life and work ever since. You can read my original thesis, “TheaGenesis: the Birth of the Goddess” on the Church of All Worlds website at: www.caw.org/articles/theagenesis.html. While I still intend to write an entire book on this topic, the best realization of this Vision that I have produced to date is my sculpture figurine of The Millennial Gaia: www.mythicimages.com/product_page.php?product_id=1

9. I understand that you create sculptures of goddesses, many of which I see on the Mythic Images website. I’ve been trying to find a unique Kali statue, any chance we’ll be seeing one from you?
No. I’ve focused on creating images that are not available elsewhere—just because I wanted to have them myself! Beautiful Egyptian, Chinese, and Hindu votive figurines are widely available. I could not possibly duplicate these—and certainly not at a competitive price! Nor would I want to, as I have plenty to do that no one else is doing already. Just go online and look for a figure of Kali—our major competitor, Sacred Source, would certainly be a good place to start.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
Sure. What is your own Mission? What are you here for? I feel this is the most important question that every one of us needs to ask ourselves…

I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Brief bio:
Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (1942- ) is a modern-day Wizard, and a leader in the worldwide magickal community. Oberon is a true “Renaissance Man:” a shaman, psychologist, metaphysician, naturalist, theologian, artist, sculptor, teacher, author, and Priest of Gaia (Mother Earth). He has earned college degrees in sociology, anthropology, psychology, education and theology.

Inspired by Robert A. Heinlein’s 1961 visionary science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, Oberon co-founded the Church of All Worlds in 1962. (www.CAW.org) An initiate in several different Magickal traditions, he has created and participated in many interfaith groups and projects, including the Council of Themis, the Council of Earth Religions, the Universal Federation of Pagans, the Pagan Leaders Summit, and the Grey Council.

Oberon has played a major role in the unity of the magickal community and in reclaiming the spiritual heritage of pre-Christian Europe. In his award-winning magazine, Green Egg (1968-) (www.GreenEggzine.org), he was the first to adopt the words “Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” to describe the newly emerging Nature religions of the 1960s. In 1970, he first developed and published the thealogy of “deep ecology” which has become known as “The Gaia Thesis”—the premise that all life on Earth is a single vast living Being, known as Mother Earth, or “Gaia” to the ancient Greeks.

Oberon met and fell in love with Morning Glory, his soulmate and wife of 34 years, at the Gnostic Aquarian Festival in 1973, where he was a keynote speaker. From 1977 to 1985 they lived in a 5,600-acre intentional community in the mountains of northern Califia, creating a rural homestead and magickal retreat center. In February of 1979, they created and led a ritual with other Pagan leaders to celebrate the solar eclipse at a full-scale restoration of Stonehenge in Washington State, a transformative event attended by over 3,000 people.

Oberon and Morning Glory’s research into arcane lore and ancient legends resulted in the “Living Unicorn” project, begun in 1980 and culminating with the leasing of several of their authentic Unicorns to the Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Zells also traveled around North America exhibiting their Unicorns at Renaissance Faires.

Continuing to explore fables and mysteries, in 1985 Oberon organized a video diving expedition to Australia and New Guinea to solve the mystery of the Mermaid. Other legendary journeys have taken Oberon to Peru, Hawaii, Alaska, and ancient oracles and archaeological sites throughout Europe and the Aegean. In 1999, he visited England for the final total solar eclipse of the Millennium, which he celebrated with local Pagans at an ancient stone circle in Cornwall.

For over 40 years, Oberon has written and published many articles on history, Gaian thealogy, magick, shamanism, mythology, anomalies, archaeology, cosmology, and related topics. His Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard (New Page Books, 2004) is an essential basic reference work that will continue to serve as a resource throughout the reader’s lifetime. This book was followed by Companion for the Apprentice Wizard (New Page, 2006) and Creating Circles & Ceremonies (with Morning Glory; New Page, 2007). His latest book is A Wizard’s Bestiary (with Ash DeKirk; New Page, 2007)

As a follow-up to the Grimoire, Oberon founded the online Grey School of Wizardry: www.GreySchool.com. The Grey School provides authentic classes and lessons on myth, magick and mystery, as presented by dozens of highly-qualified teachers, and Oberon, as Headmaster, has been called “the real Albus Dumbledore to aspiring Harry Potters!” (Lee Prosser, Fate Magazine)
Oberon’s favorite art project is his ongoing sculpture series of Gods, Goddesses, and mythological creatures, presented as “The Mythic Images Collection.” www.MythicImages.com His masterwork is “The Millennial Gaia”—a visionary representation of Mother Earth.

Grey School of Wizardry www.GreySchool.com
Church of All Worlds www.CAW.org
Mythic Images www.MythicImages.com
Green Egg magazine www.GreenEggzine.com
Oberon Zell www.OberonZell.com