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aidan kelly and the crisis of faith

To: alt.magick
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Aidan Kelly and the Crisis of Faith
Date: Thu, 16 May 2002 06:39:05 GMT

Have you read Aidan's memoir of the early days of Neopaganism in
America? It is fascinating, blunt, and revelatory. I consider it an
important book. As of a few years ago, it remained officially
unublished, but was freely distributed by Kelly in the form of computer
print-outs running to hundreds of binder pages. If it has finally been
published in book form, i would gladly buy a copy, but a quick google
search turns up nothing of his beyond his already published "Crafting 
the Art of Magic," which was his earlier book on Gerald Gardner and 

In the second, apparently unpublished, book, Aidan does something that
Tom Schuler never does -- and this sets him apart from Tom (and Leo
Taxil and Diana Napolis and Joe Pyne and David Horowitz) in my opinion:
He frankly discusses his own conversions and de-conversions. In doing
this he treats unsparingly of his alcoholism and its effect on his
belief-structures; he also speaks, as perhaps only a 12-step program
member could, of his faith and loss of faith in Catholicism,
Neopaganism, theology in general -- the whole nine yards. In other
words, Aidan does not set himself apart as an observer, but serves up
the memories as a participant who was a troubled person, and remains one
still, in many ways. Some people have called the book self-serving, but
it is only marginally that -- or, rather, its value as a testament
outweighs the self-serving nature of some of its unedited statements. 

I cannot say the same of Tom's work at this point. So far, like Pyne,
and Horowitz, and Napolis, and Taxil, Tom seeks to hide the *process* of
his life and changes from us. Perhaps he is a turncoat, pure and simple
-- but even Leo Taxil took the lectern stand at last and ripped the hoax
from his hoax and wept for the friend he had lost while he was embarked
upon his hoax-within-a-hoax. 

Here's all i could find by Kelly on the web that refers to the journey
that he is undertaking to and from belief -- and to and from belief
again. It is a poem (some of his best work is poetry and ritual, as you
know) and was written for Gwydion, the student of Victor and Cora
Anderson who did so much to popularize the Feri Tradition: 


        To Remember Thomas DeLong,
        Who Wrote as Gwydion Pendderwen,
        On the Second Anniversary
        Of His Going into Eternal Life

I remember the night I first met you
On Bernal Heights, before we knew
The Craft would cross our paths.
The strident horn of your flaming car
Drew me to the street: before
The doors of Hightower, where
Lord Randall ruled his mad
Court of science-fictioneers,
Van the Dagda read an Anglican wake
Over your still-smoking engine.
I remember you, and I begin to let you go.

I remember how you sang to me and Alta
When you first visited us in Oakland,
And how you gifted us at our wedding,
Singing us new a wedding song
Worthy, I think, of the kings
We thought we were perhaps descended from.
On the first anniversary of your death
I heard Sally Eaton sing of you
A wilder music than I knew she held.
As dragonflies draw flame your voice
Has drawn and draws forth song.
I remember you, and so I try to let you go.

I remember the nights I came to your circle
Or you to ours: cautiously we reached
Toward friendship, dialog, pursuit of the chimeras
Of history.  You praised me, friend, in print,
To our friends, and to our enemies,
Whether you agreed with me or not.  In Nemeton you
And Alison published more of my poems
Than any other person ever has.  We were
Initiates in the same tradition at the end,
And no conversion or dying or any other
Transformation changes that.  It hurt, and still
It hurts, that you are gone.
I remember you, and so I slowly let you go.

I remember the nights when we drank together,
Drank and talked and talked and drank again:
The night I met Ed Fitch, the night we bombed
Hans Holzer, the Sabbats at Coeden Brith.
Especially I remember how on my last drunk
You gave me a clew that helped lead me
From the labyrinth: only a real Irishman,
You said, would carry the wine jug with us
From room to room as we rambled on
About things earthly, unearthly, and in between.
And you were with me that night,
In that car with no brakes in which I drove
Six people home, over the Bay Bridge,
Fading in and out of blackout.
I remember, vaguely -- but I've let that go.

At thirty-six I got sober;
At thirty-six you died
Of drink and drugs and dying
As surely as if you had
OD'd.  It is not
Fair, it is not
Just, it makes no
Sense: you weren't that much
Crazier than me.  I hoped
You'd get it too, and we'd be
Friends again, but that was not
Your path.  Toward the end I heard
How rapidly you were dying,
How little song was left in you.
You did not die of poetry.
Now on each anniversary of my sobriety
I remember you, and more I let you go.

Strange that the night you died I dreamed
I met George Cockriell, who'd lived with me
On Bernal Heights, who died of World War Two
In 1971.  Striding down the hill, as if
Off to something urgent, he stopped, surprised,
Saying, "I haven't seen you recently,"
And questioned me about what I'd been doing.
And in the dream all our houses were one
Communal home on Bernal Heights, handbuilt,
Complex in its textures, vast within: perhaps
Our work on the Craft will have results we could
Not know.  
      Yes, George could have been sent
      To get you from that ditch: he'd known who you were
      On Bernal Heights, had watched the Hightower crowd
      With his black Irish sarcasm, and God knows in France
      He'd walked through Hell already to rescue other men.
           ("Why you?" 
           "They've got nobody else who knew you.
           Come on, I'll explain what I've found out so far.")
So, yes, I can see George walking with you,
Quietly explaining the lay of the land,
Walking with you up the hills of Heaven that look
Much like Bernal Heights,
Much like all our hills writ large.

I can see you singing, with a real harp,
Of real gold, in a robe all of white
Except for the seven colors proper to a bard
Embroidered in its flashing: you are
Wreathed with mistletoe.  

I see your eyes:
They are clear and serene: in the distance
You can see the accommodating gods and goddesses,
Who are both one and many.  They sing to you,
Drawing you always further in
And further up.  Now you go
Singing ever higher into the hills:
You are finally, utterly healed.
I remember you, and now:
I let you go.

Written by Aidan Kelly, November 1984


So, although Tom Schuler resembles Aidan Kelly to my eyes in some ways,
in others, Aidan is a more introspective and accomplished person. Of Tom
all i see is the continual complaints  attendent upon skepticism ("send
me evidence!"); of Aidan i see a lot more, a search for values amidst
shifting tides of doubt and certainty -- but a search that looks INWARD
for answers, not to the crowd, demanding proofs of miracles. 

cat yronwode 

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