A sample from Peg Aloi's
Oberon Zell is probably best known as the founder of the Church of All Worlds, a Neo-Pagan religious organization with Nests and Proto-Nests worldwide. He is also publisher of
Green Egg, A Journal of the Awakening Earth. Green Egg
has been a mainstay in the Pagan community since it was first published in 1968.
In 1979, Oberon published his "thealogy of deep ecology," theorizing the concept of planetary sentience and bioecological balance for planetary survival. This theory, minus its more spiritual implications, later became popularized by Dr. James Lovelock and Dr. Sydney Epton as the Gaia Hypothesis.
The Ecosophical Research Association, a subsidiary of Church of All Worlds, was founded in 1977 by Oberon's partner of 21 years, Morning Glory Zell. The Ecosophical Research Association exists to investigate the roots of legends and myths, and among its projects have been the breeding of unicorns, and the search for mermaids off the coast of New Guinea.
Oberon and Morning Glory have long practiced and advocated what they term "polyamorous relationships."
Our interviewer, Peg Aloi, is a writer, singer, actress, calligrapher, and sensualist. She is a freelance book reviewer, and has published articles, stories, poems, and reviews in a number of publications, both pagan and mainstream, including
Paramour, The Herb Companion, New Age Retailer,
FireHeart. She teaches classes in writing, literature, film, and calligraphy. At any point in time, she is either working on or thinking about (or thinking about working on) three books. Her favorite tree is the apple, her favorite semi-precious stone is rhodochrosite, and her favorite time of year is a toss-up between apple blossom time and apple-picking time. She writes:
I first met Otter Zell at Kraft Kall: a little Pagan conference held in Meriden, Connecticut, in the spring of 1994. I was performing one night at a hedonistic feast fit for Henry VIII, and felt Otter's warm and twinkling gaze on me more than once. The next day this charming, lusty man said he'd been "admiring me for days." I'd only been there since the previous night, but I guess he thought I must have been at the conference all weekend. I was flattered that someone I'd long admired showed an interest in lil' old me.
I saw him again at Starwood that summer and asked if we could talk together for an hour or so. After fondling and exclaiming over my silver mermaid earrings, he agreed. So, in the middle of a torrential downpour, we sat in the cozy motorhome of a friend and talked of Otter's world: of mermaids and manatees, of unicorns and tapestries, of witches and faeries, of the phoenix as a symbol of the Apocalypse.
These days, nearly a year after our conversation, Otter is known as "Oberon." From fun-loving denizen of mud and water, to King of the Faeries: quite a transformation. Shakespeare's Oberon is fiercely loyal, occasionally hard-hearted, always mischievous, and will do anything to protect his kingdom. In this case, "kingdom" is not an enchanted forest, but the entire wondrous world we call Terra, Gaia, Earth. Oberon is her thoughtful protector, sentinel, lover.
As I plumbed the depths of the Pacific, and of our planet's mythology, with this clever and gentle man, I was struck again and again by his optimism -- an optimism anchored not in fantasy, but in a willful vision. Oberon has much to teach the children of the Nuclear Age, the Neo-Pagans (a term he coined), as we journey towards our future.
So when I think of Otter, I think of five things; first, unicorns and mermaids; then, Green Egg; then, I think of one of our founding fathers of the modern Neo-Pagan movement, one of our elders; then, in recent years, polyamorous relationships; and also this "among the missing" kind of feeling... there were those years when you and Morning Glory were travelling and then you came back and started up the magazine again. Why don't we start with the polyamorous thing, since you just gave a workshop on that today... What do you see as the beginning of when this lifestyle became an organized set of ideas, with its own common lexicon and set of rules, as compared with other groups who follow similar ideas, like the Mormons...
So many of these things have been a part of the path that I've been on all along, for over thirty years, with many of the ideas implicit in
Stranger in a Strange Land, for example, from 1961. We've just continued to follow the path. Somehow, throughout a lot of this, we've missed the public notice of all this stuff. Not that we've tried to be obscure -- I mean, we've given interviews and lectures and published magazines, and we've written a book, but somehow we've missed the circuit.
I came up with what is now known as the Gaia Thesis three years before Lovelock. It was widely published in the Pagan community, in magazines, including
Green Egg. It was written up in books, too, but somehow it didn't reach into the public arena.
The same thing with the polyamory; we've been doing that since the early '60s -- living this way, developing this process. We learned a lot: what works, what doesn't work. But the advantage most of us had was that we started off at an early enough stage in our own personal lives that that was the operative model. We didn't start off from someplace else and then have to relearn and experiment.
PA: So how does it make you feel when you've been practicing this lifestyle for so long, and just in very recent years, some books come out and another group of folks seem to sound like they're the only ones doing it?
OZ: It seems weird. A couple of years ago, for example, there was a whole flurry of major media stuff that came out, in the New York Times and stuff like that, about the new Goddess religion, and it was all treated as if this was an outgrowth of the women's spirituality community. It was like, wait a minute! Where's all of us guys who were in there pushing for this when the women's community didn't want to hear anything about it? I was there! Where's Gerald Gardner? Where's Robert Graves? There were a lot of us who fell in love with the Goddess, and with passionate devotion, and we were completely shut out. It's a difficult position: on the one hand we're extremely glad that it's being noticed by the media, and we're delighted that these women who deserve attention, like Z Budapest and Starhawk, are getting the attention they deserve and that they've worked for. But this was developed as a partnership thing; we were all in here together, you know? If anything, part of the irony of the whole Goddess movement has been that it was the men who started it first, by falling in love with the Goddess: it was that relationship. The women didn't get involved until the Seventies.
PA: I'm glad you said that. I think there is some small awareness of that, but it's somehow not polite to say it...
OZ: I know, and I think we have largely, at least me personally, fallen victim to this politically correct type of element.
PA: In terms of the Gaia Hypothesis; what about the fact that it's not only gaining all sorts of scientific and philosophical credibility, but there's all sorts of papers and books being published, and academic conferences...
OZ: I know, and they've never invited me!
PA: Well, exactly.
This is a portion of the interview with Oberon Zell from
Obsidian's Issue No. 1.
Oberon Zell can be reached through The Church of All Worlds, P.O. Box 1542, Ukiah, CA 95482
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