IMPORTANT:This page has used Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia in either a refactored, modified, abridged, expanded, built on or 'straight from' text content! (view authors)

Template:Citation style Template:Copy edit


Isaac Bonewits (right) interviewed in Mondo Pagan June 1999 by Rock Savage at Camp Ramblewood.

Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits
Born October 1, 1949(1949-10-01)
Royal Oak, MI
Died August 12, 2010(2010-08-12) (aged 60)
Valley Cottage, NY
Spouse Phaedra Bonewits
(since 2007)
Children Arthur Shaffrey Lipp-Bonewits

Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits (October 1, 1949 – August 12, 2010[1]) was an influential American Druid who published a number of books on the subject of Neopaganism and magic. He was also a liturgist, singer and songwriter, and founded the Druidic organisation Ár nDraíocht Féin, as well as the Neopagan civil rights group, the Aquarian Anti-Defamation League. Born in Royal Oak, Michigan, Bonewits had been heavily involved in occultism since the 1960s, prior to his passing in 2010.

Personal life

Bonewits was born in 1949 in Royal Oak, Michigan as the fourth of five children; his mother and father were Roman Catholics. Spending much of his childhood in Ferndale, he was moved at age 12 to San Clemente, California, where he spent a short time in a Catholic high school before he went back to public school to graduate from high school a year early. He enrolled at UC Berkeley in 1966; he graduated from the university in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in Magic[2], becoming the first and only person to have ever received any kind of degree in Magic from an accredited university[3].

Bonewits was married five times. He was married to Rusty Elliot from 1973-1976. His second wife was Selene Kumin Vega, followed by marriage to Sally Eaton (1980–1985). His fourth wife was author Deborah Lipp from 1988–1998. On July 23, 2004 he was married in a handfasting ceremony to a former vice-president of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Phaedra Heyman Bonewits. At the time of the handfasting, the marriage was not yet legal because he had not yet been legally divorced from Ms. Lipp, although they had been separated for several years. Paperwork and legalities caught up on December 31, 2007 making them legally married.[4] Bonewits had one child, Arthur Shaffrey Lipp-Bonewits (born 1990), from his marriage to Lipp.

In 1990, Bonewits was diagnosed with Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. The illness was a factor in his eventual resignation from the position of Archdruid of the ADF.

On October 25, 2009, Bonewits was diagnosed with a rare form of colon cancer[5], for which he underwent treatment. He died at home, on August 12, 2010, surrounded by his family.[1]


In 1966 while enrolled at UC Berkeley, Bonewits joined the Reformed Druids of North America or RDNA. Bonewits was ordained as a Neo-druid priest in 1969. During this period Bonewits was recruited by the Church of Satan,[6] but left due to political and philosophical conflicts with Anton LaVey. During his stint in the Church of Satan, Bonewits appeared in the 1970 documentary Satanis : The Devil's Mass.[7] Bonewits, in his article "My Satanic Adventure", asserts the rituals in Satanis were staged for the movie at the behest of the filmmakers and were not authentic ceremonies.[8]

His first book, Real Magic, was published in 1971. Between 1973 and 1975 Bonewits was employed as editor of Gnostica magazine in Minnesota (published by Llewellyn Publications), established an offshoot group of the RDNA called the Schismatic Druids of North America, and helped create a group called the Hasidic Druids of North America (despite his life-long status as a "gentile"). He also founded the short-lived Aquarian Anti-Defamation League (AADL), an early Pagan civil-rights group.

In 1976 Bonewits moved back to Berkeley and rejoined his original grove there, now part of the New Reformed Druids of North America (NRDNA). He was later elected ArchDruid of the Berkeley Grove.

In 1983 Bonewits founded Ar nDraiocht Fein (also known as "A Druid Fellowship" or ADF), which was incorporated in 1990 in the state of Delaware as a U.S. 501(c)3 non-profit organization. He made the organization's first public announcement in 1984, and began the membership sign-up at the first WinterStar Symposium in 1984. Over the years Bonewits also had varying degrees of involvement with Ordo Templi Orientis, Gardnerian Wicca, the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (a Wiccan organization not to be confused with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) as well as others.[3] Bonewits was a regular presenter at Neopagan festivals in the US.

Although the illness curtailed many of his activities and travels for a time, he remained Archdruid of ADF until 1996. In that year, he resigned from the position of Archdruid but retained the lifelong title of ADF Archdruid Emeritus.

A songwriter, singer and recording artist, he produced two CDs of Pagan music and numerous recorded lectures and panel discussions, produced and distributed by the Association for Consciousness Exploration. He lived in Rockland County, New York, and was a member of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS).

Bonewits was encouraging charity programs to help Neopagan seniors,[9] and in January 2006 was the keynote speaker at the Conference On Current Pagan Studies at the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA.[citation needed]

Contributions to Neopaganism

In his book Real Magic (1971), Bonewits proposed his hypothesis on the Laws of Magic. These "laws" are synthesized from a multitude of belief systems from around the world, and were collected in order to explain and categorize magical beliefs within a cohesive framework. Many interrelationships of these areas exist, and some are subsets of others.

Bonewits also coined much of the modern terminology used to define and articulate many of the conceptual themes and issues which affect the North American Neopagan community.

  • Pioneered the modern usage of the terms thealogy, "Paleo-Paganism", "Meso-Paganism", and numerous other retronyms.
  • Possibly coined the term "Pagan Reconstructionism", though the communities in question would later diverge from his initial meaning.[10][11]
  • Founded Ar nDraiocht Fein, which was incorporated in 1990 in the state of Delaware as a U.S. 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
  • Developed the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF)
  • Coined the phrase "Never Again the Burning."[12]
  • Critiqued the Burning Times / Old Religion Murray thesis (in Bonewits's Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca)




  • Be Pagan Once Again! – Isaac Bonewits & Friends (including Ian Corrigan, Victoria Ganger, and Todd Alan) (CD) (ACE/ADF)
  • Avalon is Rising! – Real Magic (CD)(ACE/ADF)

Spoken word

  • The Structure of Craft Ritual (ACE)
  • A Magician Prepares (ACE)
  • Programming Magical Ritual: Top-Down Liturgical Design (ACE)
  • Druidism: Ancient & Modern (ACE)
  • How Does Magic Work? (ACE)
  • Rituals That Work (ACE)
  • Sexual Magic & Magical Sex (with Deborah Lipp) (ACE)
  • Making Fun of Religion (with Deborah Lipp) (ACE)

Panel discussions

See also


  • Berger, Helen A. (2005) Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America. University of Pennsylvania Press ISBN 081223877X, ISBN 978-0812238778
  • Berger, Helen A. (1998) A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States. University of South Carolina Press ISBN 1570032467, ISBN 978-1570032462
  • Berger, Helen A. & Helen H. & Evan A. Leach, Leigh S. Shaffer (2003) Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States. University of South Carolina Press ISBN 1570034885, ISBN 978-1570034886
  • Bond, Lawrence & Ellen Evert Hopman (1996) People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out. (reissued as Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans & Witches Today in 2002 Destiny Books ISBN 0-89281-904-9) Interview.
  • Clifton, Chas S. (2006). Her hidden children: the rise of Wicca and paganism in America. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. ISBN 0-7591-0202-3.
  • Lewis, James R. & Shelley Rabinovitch (2002) The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism. C Trade Paper ISBN 0806524065, ISBN 978-0806524061
  • Pike, Sarah M. (2004) New Age and Neopagan Religions in America. Columbia University Press ISBN 0231124023, ISBN 978-0231124027
  • Urban, Hugh B. (2006) Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism. University of California Press ISBN 0520247760, ISBN 978-0520247765
  • Vale, V.; Sulak, John (2001). Modern pagans : an investigation of contemporary pagan practices. San Francisco, Calif.: RE/Search Publications. pp. 70–77. ISBN 1-889307-10-6.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Obit: Isaac Bonewits
  2. "Berkeley Student Will Graduate With Bachelor of Arts in Magic". New York Times: p. 24. 1 June 1970. ISSN 03624331. "BEREKLEY, Calif., May 31 (UPI)—Among June graduates at the University of California is Isaac Bonewits, who will receive a bachelor of arts in magic."
  3. 3.0 3.1 A Brief Biography of Isaac Bonewits
  4. Views from Cyberhenge
  5. Isaac Bonewits Diagnosed with Cancer, Jason Pitzl-Waters, The Wild Hunt
  6. My Satanic Adventure
  7. Satanis at the Internet Movie Database
  8. My Satanic Adventure
  9. Adopt an Elder
  10. Bonewits, Isaac (2006). Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism. New York: Kensington/Citadel. pp. 131. ISBN 0-8065-2710-2. Author is unsure whether he "got this use of the term from one or more of the other culturally focused Neopagan movements of the time, or if [he] just applied it in a novel fashion."
  11. McColman (2003) p.51: "Such reconstructionists are attempting, through both spiritual and scholarly means, to create as purely Celtic a spirituality as possible."
  12. "The Aquarian Manifesto"

External links


es:Isaac Bonewits it:Isaac Bonewits

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.