Chronarchy (chronarchy) wrote,

Remembering Isaac Bonewits: 1949-2010

On Thursday morning, Isaac Bonewits, founder of ADF, passed from this world. It's old news to nearly everyone I know by now, but not posting about it has given me time to watch the reactions, read the obituaries, and do my own spiritual work around his passing.

And now, I feel it's about time for me to comment, to speak what I want to speak.

Most importantly, the overwhelming notion I have of his passing is that it's sitting very heavily on me. It's not so much that I feel "emotional" or "upset" or anything like that. It's just that it's deeply affecting and ever-present.

Before his death, I posted in response to others who were new to ADF and who had never met him. Many expressed a wish to have met him before. My reply was this:
I, too, wish that all our newest members could meet him.

One thing that I've come to realize, though, is that we in ADF do meet Isaac, whether we will ever meet him physically or not.

We were drawn to this thing that is ADF, which he founded.

We sing songs he wrote in ritual, use language and images that first sprang from his mind, and occasionally provide bad puns on his behalf.

We hold ritual for the public and engage in community service in order to be the neighbors he wanted us to be with other faiths and with our communities.

Most importantly, our Groves live his Vision when we pray at our hearth fires, and when we make offerings in ritual space. We bring his Vision of ADF to life daily, and we continue to work toward it.

I have met Isaac, though I didn't know him particularly well. But I find a lot of comfort in the fact that each of us in ADF will experience the work he did, and that the fire that burned so brightly in him has brightened each of us as well.

I look forward to carrying that fire forth with all of you.

We in ADF don't suffer under illusions that Isaac was a perfect man, or that he's worthy of some sort of "Pagan Sainthood." But we do recognize his contributions to our lives: some of these have been broad and affected the lives of those outside the Pagan community by showing the world through open, public ritual that Pagans aren't people to be afraid of; others have been more deeply and penetratingly personal, driving us toward an internal vision and a deep fire that spills over with piety and joy in the Old Ways.

For those of us in modern Neo-Paganism, Isaac's work has benefited us all, especially here in North America. Many of us have had issues with "Isaac the Man" and what he chose to use his skills for (I remember, particularly, poking fun at a workshop he did where everyone bought lottery tickets, did money spells on them, and then scratched them off. . . the fact that I never heard about the outcome tells me it probably wasn't successful), but the things that "Isaac the Visionary" built have been of benefit to all of us.

It was with mixed emotions, then, that in the last days of his life our Grove fulfilled a key component of his Vision. While ADF has always done public ritual that was ostensibly open to everyone, and while ADF has participated in many interfaith projects before, something different happened at the Dublin Irish Festival this year.

Isaac had always seen modern Paganism as a mainstream religion: as acceptable as any other faith, from Christianity to Unitarianism to Judaism. He saw us performing ritual alongside these groups, not as parts of interfaith services, but on a fully equal footing.

The ritual at DIF was different, because we were given our own space, our own billing, and we were treated entirely as equals in the Sunday Services project. Dublin not only gave us the respect, but also the responsibility that the other churches had: we had to solicit donations for the local food bank, bring in the crowd, and run in the time allotted. We did all these things.

When the money we collected for the food bank was sent, the letter included our name with the names of the other churches: prominently displayed and specifically mentioned. We brought in the crowd, over-packing the tent they provided us. We were organized and ready right on time, and we finished with plenty of time to re-set the stage for the next group.

I could not think on Isaac much during the service; indeed, I couldn't think on much at all other than the task at hand. But there was a moment when I looked out onto that crowd of people of many faiths and said, "Yes, this is Isaac's Vision come to life." It was a powerful thought.

Isaac and I never sat down and had a heart-to-heart, never really spent a lot of time one-on-one. Sure, I can say that I showered with one of the luminaries of Neo-Paganism (and he asked to borrow my shampoo), and we exchanged e-mails and the occasional packet of articles, but I'm not given to hero-worship nor did I feel that I'm personally important enough to try and take control of his time. I never even had him sign my copy of any of his books.

But my memories of him are still quite fond. I sat with him in ritual, helped develop the connection ADF has to the Ancient Wise (of which he is now one), and did magical work with him. He once attended an Erisian High Mass that I put on at Wellspring, and we ate Krispy Kreme donuts and drank orange juice together. Always bright, always funny, and always just serious enough to get the job done: that was Isaac. He didn't demand agreement with him (he pioneered the only ADF dogma: The Doctrine of Archdruidic Fallibility: "The Archdruid is human and will make mistakes"), and he was ever excited to see the things that had grown out of his work, even (or perhaps especially) if they weren't quite in his vision of what ADF or Paganism would be.

I am sad that he never saw the video of our Dublin Irish Festival rite, but I am happy we did it before he passed.

Safe passages, Isaac. As you pay the boatman and tip-toe past the dog, remember the right path. You know the path, and you know where it leads. Take your place among the Ancient Wise who wait for you around the fire in the mound, and tell the story of how you brought the Old Ways back to the Folk.

Because you did it.
Tags: adf, death, friends, reflections

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