I’m now in West Plains, in the bottom of MO three miles from the Arkansas border. I’ve been here since Tuesday, staying with Alfred Willowhawk and Willo Wellspring of the Wite Rayvn Metaphysical Church. Everyone is busily preparing the 4.9-acre farm for the Three Gates Gathering, which starts tomorrow. I’ve been so busy since my last entry that I haven’t had time to catch up in this journal until now.
I left Moria’s Monday afternoon, the 27th, and drove 4 hours back to Nashville to stay with Kadira for a few days. On Wed. the 29th I drove 1½ hours to Summertown to visit my dear friend Alayne at The Farm. The Farm was founded by Stephen Gaskin, who led a caravan of 300 hippies in 60 buses, vans, and trucks from San Francisco back in 1971—a year before Greenfield Ranch was founded in NorCalifia. Stephen’s wife, Ina May, is known throughout the world as “the mother of authentic midwifery,” which has been a major aspect of The Farm since its founding.
Stephen died in 2014, and Ina May no longer lives on the land, but The Farm continues as a well-organized utopian village community, with approximately 200 members and residents on about 1,750 acres of common land. An additional adjoining 2,000 acres have been acquired by Farm friends over the years, including a land trust, Big Swan Headwaters Preserve.
When I first visited The Farm eight years ago, Alayne was married to Jay-Sun, with a delightful 10-year-old daughter, Alexandra, with whom I really hit it off. They broke apart a few years ago, and Alayne recently re-married a very cool dude named Thai in a big ceremony. We had a fine dinner and evening getting acquainted, getting high on Farm sacrament, and listening to the hippie music of The Farm Band.
Thursday morning Xandra showed up. She is now 18, beautiful, brilliant, and working in a marvelous 30-year-old program called “Kids to the Country,” which brings city kids (5-14) out to the land, along with counselors (12-22) and adult helpers. Xandra has become an excellent artist, and is marketing her vividly colorful paintings as posters, cards, bookmarks and stickers, which she gets produced by stickermule.com.
Xandra drove Alayne and me on a wild golf cart ride around The Farm to visit various sites of interest, including the innovative playground and the beautiful graveyard, with around 200 green burials and headstones. Stephen, of course, has a major cenotaph, but he is secretly buried elsewhere.
Xandra’s breakneck buggy driving seldom followed roads or even paths, but careened madly through the woods, swerving between trees and gullies, like a crazed Disneyland ride without the rails. When it started to rain, we just kept tearing along, getting drenched. An exciting follow-up to my white-water rafting of a few days previous!
Thursday evening we all went to a talent show at The Farm’s gathering hall, which was such an archetypal commune experience. I loved it.
Before leaving The Farm Friday morning, I visited a bit with my old friend Jay-Sun. Then I drove six hours to St Louis to stay with Kendal Gravitt and Bryant Biek at their lovely home on Park Ave.—the same street Martha and I had lived on when we landed in St Louis for graduate school at Washington University back in 1965 and watched the Arch being built down the street.
The weekend of June 1-2 was the 27th annual St Louis Pagan Picnic, in Tower Grove Park. I was the “Special Guest.” My previous visit to St Louis for the 17thPagan Picnic was ten years ago. When Morning Glory and I left St Louis for the West Coast in June of 1976, there were maybe a couple dozen Pagans in the area—mostly members of our own Church of All Worlds. Now this event was attended by over 5,000 people, with 95 vendors, music, rituals, belly dancing, workshops and general merriment! Paganism has certainly come a long way regarding public acceptance in the past 43 years!
As always when I visit my old stomping grounds, my oldest friends Don Wildgrube and Tom Kullman showed up to hang around my vendor’s table, helping out and catching up. So many reminiscences from those thrilling days of yesteryear! It was in St Louis over 50 years ago—on Sept. 7, 1967—that I first claimed the term “Pagan” to describe myself and my new religion (CAW) that was just going public after five years as an underground secret “water-brotherhood” (Atl—eventually incorporated as the Association for the Tree of Life).
We incorporated CAW on March 4, 1968, rented a 5-story Victorian on the corner of Gaslight Square, and began publishing Green Egg at Ostara—using it to contact other newly-forming groups I’d hear about, and encourage them to also identify as Pagan. That was the beginning of a religious movement that now encompasses millions of adherents worldwide. And it all began here!
Saturday evening after the Picnic closed the core organizers went to dinner at Sqwires. The party consisted of Kendal (Autumn Moon), Bryant (MoonHawk), Karen Ladyhawk, River Higginbotham, Jasmine (Lisa Bruce), Stag (Sean-Thomas), Liz Rohret, Ambiaka Maupin and me. Our waiter, Mark, recognized our pentagrams, and told us he was really interested in Paganism. We invited him to join us at our table when he got off, and he totally merged in. The next day he showed up at the Picnic with his lady, and spent some time at my booth, buying a Grimoire and a Millennial Gaia statue. One more homecoming!
It rained fiercely Saturday night, with lightning and high winds. Despite putting my merchandise in boxes under the table and lowering the canopy, my table was soaked and several books became sopping bricks. Welcome to the Midwest!
The theme for the Pagan Picnic this year was “Seeds of Hope,” and this was reflected in the rituals and workshops. Jasmine’s opening ritual was a powerful enactment of the myth of Pandora. I presented my talk on “Awakening into Quantum Consciousness.” I was also asked to create and Priest the main ritual Sunday afternoon, which I did with Liz Rohret as Priestess. We worked really well together, staying up late Saturday night with other participants to plan and assign parts.
The main ritual was well-attended, and went really well. First, everyone took a handful of compost and filled it with all the negativity of their darkest fears, anger and frustrations. Then, with a circling chant widdershins, we deposited it into a cauldron. Next, each person took a handful of seeds and filled them with their hopes and 2020 Visions. With another circling chant deosil we placed the seeds into the cauldron of compost and charged them to grow…
Sunday I drove up to Florissant to see Carolyn Clark at Christian Hospital. Ordained by CAW at Beltaine of 1973, she was the first Priestess in the western world to be ordained by a legally-recognized church since Emperor Justinian closed the ancient Pagan temples throughout the Roman Empire in the 6th century CE. Carolyn served as CAW’s High Priestess from 1973-1979, to be succeeded by Morning Glory (ordained at Lughnasadh 1974). Now she is very ill, and can barely move—though she says she’s getting better, and she looks forward to writing the story of her life, with a ghostwriter to help. We talked for several hours, and I fed her lunch by the spoonful. So many sweet memories!
After leaving Carolyn, I drove to University City to stay the night with Pendragon. A highly-trained academic artist—sculptor, painter, and art historian—she came into my life shortly after I met Morning Glory in 1973, and the two of them became best friends and sisters. We modeled for each other, and my drawing of her as Lilith appeared as the cover of Green Egg #74 (Samhain 1974), and on the back of her Pendragon Tarot deck. We had so much to talk about!
And Tuesday afternoon I drove four hours to West Plains, where I’ve been relaxing and catching up before the Gathering begins tomorrow. A number of people are here already fixing up the facilities. In the evenings we’ve been playing “Magic the Gathering” and watching movies: Stardust, Bruce Almighty, and Addams Family.