Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits, founder and Archdruid Emeritus of of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, one of North America’s leading experts on ancient and modern Druidism, Witchcraft, magic and the occult, and the rapidly growing Earth Religions movement, died today after a short struggle with cancer.
Mr. Bonewits first came into the public eye when he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Magic and Thaumaturgy (1970). During his tenure there, Mr. Bonewits worked with many renowned professors including Nobel Prize Laureate Owen Chamberlain. The work he did for that degree became his first book, Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic (1971).
In 1983, he founded and became the first Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) an international fellowship devoted to creating a public tradition of Neopagan Druidry. In 1995, he retired from a leadership role due to complications from eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. ADF has grown to become the best-known Neopagan Druid group based in North America. At his death, Mr. Bonewits held the title of ArchDruid Emeritus.
During his forty years as a Neopagan priest, scholar, teacher, bard, and polytheologian, Isaac Bonewits coined much of the vocabulary and articulated many of the issues that have shaped the rapidly growing Neopagan movement in the United States and Canada.
Mr. Bonewits was internationally known as a speaker who educated, enlightened and entertained two generations of modern Goddess worshippers, nature mystics, and followers of other minority belief systems, as well as explained these movements to journalists, law enforcement officers, college students, and academic researchers.
His personal papers will become part of the American Religions Collection at the Library of University of California at Santa Barbara.
One of his most influential contributions was the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (the “ABCDEF”), developed in 1979 as a response to the Jim Jones People’s Temple tragedy. It has been translated into many languages and used around the world to evaluate how dangerous or harmless an organization might be. It was the first such scale to use theories of mental health and personal growth to judge rather than theological or ideological standards.
His other books include Authentic Thaumaturgy (1979, 1998), The Pagan Man (2005), Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca (2006), Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Druidism (2006), Neopagan Rites (2007), and Real Energy (2007), which was co-authored with his wife, Phaedra, as well as numerous articles, reviews and essays. As a singer-songwriter, he released two albums, Be Pagan Once Again (1988), and Avalon is Rising (1992).
He is survived by his wife, Phaedra, his son from a previous marriage, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits of Bardonia NY, his mother Jeannette, his brothers Michael and Richard, and sisters Simone Arris and Melissa Banbury.