One of the key players in establishing the Craft in the US, Raymond Buckland has died. He was 83.
Buckland who was born in England on 31 August 1934 was also a writer on the subject of Wicca and the occult, and developed his own Anglo-Saxon version of Wicca – Seax.
In this book Witchcraft from the Inside, published in 1971, he claimed to be the first person in the United States to openly admit to being a practitioner of Wicca. He introduced the lineage of
Gardnerian Wicca to the United States in 1964, after having been initiated by Gerald Gardner’s then-high priestess Monique Wilson in Britain in 1963.
After a short stint in the Royal Air Force in 1957 he worked for a London publishing company for four years, before he and his first wife emigrated to the Long Island in United States in 1962.
He started a written relationship with Gardner, who was living on the Isle of Man and running his witchcraft museum. The two became friends, and had several telephone conversations, which led to Buckland becoming Gardner’s spokesman in America.
Both Buckland and his wife Rosemary travelled to Scotland, where, in Perth, they were initiated into the craft by the High Priestess Monique Wilson (known as the Lady Olwen). Gardner attended the ceremony, but did not perform it himself. Gardner died shortly afterwards.
Buckland returned home and established a coven he Bucklands returned home to the United States and founded the Long Island Coven. This was the first group in the US following the Gardnerian Wicca lineage of direct initiation.
Most US Gardnerians in the US can trace their origins to the Long Island Coven, so Buckland was significant. The coven was kept secret until outed by Lisa Hoffman of the New York Sunday News.
In 1974 Buckland formed his own Wiccan tradition, Seax-Wica, based upon symbolism taken from Anglo-Saxon paganism. He published everything about the movement in The Tree: Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft. He then began a correspondence course to teach people about Seax-Wica, which was claimed to have a thousand members.
The system he developed abandoned some key parts of Wicca particularly the concept of initiation. Buckland said his Seax-Wicca was an entirely new Witchcraft tradition and it didn’t require an initiation.
But Buckland’s influence was felt worldwide through his writing with more than 50 titles attributed to him. In 1969 Buckland published his first book, A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural. He followed this in 1970 with Witchcraft Ancient and Modern and Practical Candleburning Rituals. He continued to write until his death, although slowing down on occult subjects when the market dropped at the turn of the century.
One thing about Buckland is that although he was an important mover and shaker in establishing the craft in the US, he has been in many ways been ignored. As Jason Mankey points out in his bog “When discussing Buckland’s life and legacy this is an important moment that has been criminally overlooked the last 40 years.”
“For many Witches the book most associated with Buckland is not the The Tree, but Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, known by many of us as “The Big Blue Book” or “Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book.” I’m one of those Witches who grew up with the Big Blue Book, and it was one of the first “how to” volumes I ever read. I devoured every page of that book as a Witchling, and it informed my work then and it informs my work today.”
Raymond’s wife, Tara said that Ray was active right up until the very end. He walked two miles every day, ate a healthy diet, lifted weights and worked so hard to maintain a vigorous life. He far out-lived his father and brother who shared the same genetics so he did a great job at staying vibrant.
“Ray died of a failing heart on Wednesday evening but his death was painless. He was in the hospital awaiting a procedure that would have possibly been of help when he felt a flutter and then lost consciousness There was no pulse. Hospital staff worked for about 40 minutes to bring him back and then let him go. That was it. I am grateful for the ease of it but of course am deeply saddened by the loss.”