In his brief, “immodest third-person” biography, Isaac Bonewits called himself, “articulate, witty, yet reasonably scholarly.” I never knew the man, but I hear he was a bit cantankerous, too.
In the early part of 2009, a year before Isaac’s passing, I was encouraged by T. Thorn Coyle during an intuitive reading she gave me to make my way to a Druid gathering in California to meet Issac. The event would be a Lughnasadh celebration at the Pema Osel Ling Retreat Center in Corralitos, California, organized by the House of Danu, an alliance of California OBOD groves and seed groups. In attendance would be Phillip Carr-Gomm, Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, John Michael Greer, Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, and Issac, the articulate, witty, yet reasonably scholarly Founder and Archdruid Emeritus of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship.
At the end of the reading, Thorn looked at me and said,
You really should go to this.
I didn’t quite understand her urgency, and she explained that Isaac wasn’t well and may not live much longer. This was also an unusual intra-faith gathering; it wasn’t often that ADF, AODA and OBOD representatives came together to celebrate their commonalities.
I felt such a pull towards the Pagan community at the time, and a real sense that Druidry would provide me the spiritual and religious tools that I’d been missing. The three leaders in attendance at this gathering had each made an impact on my early introduction to Druidism, and I knew that meeting them in person would pull me in deeper; seal the deal, so to speak.
But I didn’t go.
In 2009 I was gearing up for the release of an album, one which had been in the making for years. In preparation for the release I’d become hyperaware of my public image. Druidry, and Paganism for that matter, seemed more a little difficult to work into the marketing plan. I was afraid that if I went to the Gorsedd, I might wind up on a YouTube video in some compromising Pagan position — naked around a fire, perhaps — and that the work that I, and so many others had invested in would fall by the wayside before it had a chance to live in the world.
I’m not an advocate of regret, but if I were, this would be a moment I might indulge.
I didn’t go, and I didn’t meet Isaac. He passed the following year — two years ago today (August 12). On October 13th of that year I would join ADF and begin exploring my religiosity through the tradition he founded in 1986.
Someone asked today on Facebook whether or not Isaac would have wanted to be remembered. They wondered if, in death, he might still want that today. I read the question, and I thought back to my last few posts here on Bishop In The Grove. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering about the origin of gods, the evolution of consciousness, and all sorts of difficult-to-know things. There’s a time and place for the philosophizing — I like to imagine that Isaac would agree — but there is also a time to put aside the musings and simply do your religion.
I didn’t go to the Druid gathering because I was trapped in my head. I was over-thinking the implications of every little action, avoiding any choice that might interfere with my career goals. And while I was in my head, the Druids danced around the fire and celebrated the earth.
I’m choosing not to be in my head today.
Today I will remember Isaac. I will pin on his “Druid” name-tag, hold up my pants with his belt buckle, and I’ll be a Druid.
So I leave you with this video of Isaac. Enjoy it. Share it, or share this whole post. Then, share your memories of Isaac here in the comments. I’d love to know how you knew him.