Raymond Buckland (31 August 1934 – 27 September 2017) born in London, England.
In the Gardnerian tradition was known as Robat and in the Seax-Wica tradition was known as Ravenwolf.
He was responsible for introducing Gardnerian Witchcraft into America in 1964, which spread like wildfire across all States. A decade later he founded his own tradition of Witchcraft called Seax-Wica and for a time operated his own Museum of Witchcraft. He was a leading spokesman for the Craft in America for more than five decades.
Buckland’s interest in Spiritualism and the occult had continued up until this time, but he was still without a religion and felt there was something missing.
In February of 1962, Buckland with his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Brentwood, Long Island, New York. Shortly after his arrival in the States two books came into his possession that would greatly influence his life and beliefs, The Witch-Cult In Western Europe by Margaret A. Murray (1921), and Witchcraft Today by Gerald B. Gardner (1954).
Until reading these two books Buckland had never looked upon Witchcraft as a religion, but now realized he had found what he felt was missing, an old but new religion that appealed to his own beliefs and sense of history “Wicca”. For more information about Wicca he contacted Gerald B. Gardner on the Isle of Man, and soon began a long-distance mail and telephone friendship with him. As their friendship matured Buckland became Gardner’s spokesman in the United States, and whenever Gardner received a query from the U.S., it was forwarded to and answered by Buckland.
In 1963 Buckland and his wife Rosemary flew back to the UK to be initiated and raised in Perth, Scotland by Gardner’s main High Priestess Monique Wilson. Gardner joined them for the initiation ceremony, during which Buckland was given the craft name “Robat” and Rosemary named “Lady Rowen”. This was the first and only physical meeting between Buckland and Gardner, for shortly after, Gardner left the UK to vacation the winter months in the Lebanon. On the 12th February 1964 while returning on board a ship called The Scottish Prince, Gerald B. Gardner suffered a fatal heart attack and was buried on shore in Tunis the following day.
In America interest in Witchcraft was catching on quickly, but Buckland built his coven (known simply as the New York Coven and located in Bay Shore, Long Island) slowly and with caution, and stuck to the traditional intensive screening program and “year-and-a-day” probationary period before accepting new initiates. However, many people who wanted to become Gardnerian Witches felt that Buckland was being over cautious, and those who didn’t want to wait for initiation simply went away and started their own. Buckland persisted; he wanted only those people with a genuine interest in the craft as a religion. Initially secretive, he strove to keep his name and address from the press, but eventually his name was published by journalist Lisa Hoffman in the New York Sunday News, and this focused attention on him as a leading authority and spokesman of the craft. On the other hand it also led to a deal of negative persecution on himself, his wife and two children.
The First Museum
In imitation of Gerald B. Gardner’s Museum of Witchcraft and Magic on the Isle of Man, and perhaps inspired by it, Buckland also began collecting artefacts and pieces for his own museum. He called it “The First Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in the United States” which was formally opened to view (by appointment only) in 1968. His collection started in a bookcase and then as it grew it took over the basement of their home. Eventually it grew so large that in 1973 he was forced to move it into an old Victorian house in Bay Shore. The museum proved a popular success and was featured in numerous national magazine and newspaper articles; it was also the subject of a television documentary. At various other times a selection of his artefacts was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other museums.
The “Collection”, comprising of over 500 artefacts from broomsticks to torture devices is said to chart the History of Witchcraft, Ceremonial Magic and contemporary Paganism through the ages. Among the items are a 200-year-old mandrake root used in magic to bring wealth, love and fertility, a broom (circa 1850) used to sweep away misfortune and bad luck, a herb collection and many aged bottles said to be used by witches for the making of spells. The past fear and hatred of witches is evident in some of the European torture devices it contains, such as nail pullers, thumbscrews and tongue extractors used to force confessions out of witches during the hysteria. Historical documentation also sheds light on the “burning times” when women were burned at the stake for being suspected of witchcraft.
The Buckland Museum Collection
Eventually a suitable space to house the museum was found and made available inside a building occupied by “A Separate Reality Records” (a store that stocks Vintage, Rare and Collectable vinyl records) located at 2678 West 14th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. The new museum was renamed and called “The Buckland Gallery of Witchcraft & Magick”. Finally after all the hard work of relocating and restoring the collection, and then furnishing the new premises, on the 29th of April 2017 some 300 people attended the venue as Raymond Buckland cut the ribbon and officially opened the Museum to the public.
While Toni Rotonda and Kat Tigner remain the official owners of the Buckland Collection artefacts, the management and day to day running of the museum has been turned over to professional museum curators Jillian Slane and her husband Steven Intermill as Directors of the business (Jillian has worked at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, while Steven is the curator for A Christmas Story House & Museum). Steven explains that currently only about 40% of the total Buckland Collection can be displayed at any one time due to limited space, and Jillian explains that they plan to rotate things on a regular bases to show the full Collection. They also plan to hold contemporary art shows, classes, and lectures in the museum as well as special events. In October 2017, the Columbus-based medium Susan Rawlings will be hosting a séance in the museum to start the ball rolling. The summer opening hours of the museum are currently Tuesday & Thursday: 5pm – 7 pm, Friday: 5pm – 8pm, Saturday & Sunday: 12pm – 5 pm, or you can email the museum at: “email@example.com” for a special appointment. Admission to the museum has been set at $5. In the meantime the search for larger premises continues.
Buckland started to write about witchcraft in 1968, and in 1969 published his first book A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural. He followed this in 1970 with Witchcraft Ancient and Modern and Practical Candleburning Rituals. By 1973 when his collection of museum artefacts had grown large enough for him to occupy a rented building in Bay Shore, he quit his job with BOAC and opened the museum full-time to the public. Running the museum himself while at the same time concentrating on his writing, writing became an occupation that lasted his lifetime producing an average of one book a year.
That same year in 1969 his marriage to Rosemary broke up and they parted company after first handing leadership of their Long Island coven over to Lady Theos and Phoenix (Judy and Tom Kneitel), who became the High Priest and Priestess of the first and original Gardnerian coven in America. Since its inception in 1964 other covens had hived off the original and slowly but surely began spreading the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca/Witchcraft across America. As other traditions began to appear with their own varying styles of practice, so the craft became a viable alternative religion in America with legal status.
After the break up of his marriage, Buckland moved to Weirs Beach in New Hampshire where he reopened his museum in a new building and continued with his writing. He then remarried in 1974 to Joan Helen Taylor. At about this time he decided to leave the Gardnerian tradition altogether feeling it no longer met his religious needs, he was also fed-up with the egotism and power trips exhibited by others within the craft. To fill the gap he developed and founded a new tradition called “Seax-Wica” which he based on a Saxon theme. Leaving behind the degree system of Gardnerian witchcraft he made Seax-Wica more open and democratic and published its rituals in The Tree: A Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft (1974). Today the Seax-Wica tradition is practiced worldwide.
Buckland moved again in 1978, this time to Virginia Beach in southeastern Virginia. There he became the Educational Director of the Poseidia Institute, but sadly without suitable premises to house the museum he was forced to place all his artefacts into storage. While still in Virginia, Buckland started a Seax-Wica correspondence course, which soon grew to over 1,000 students worldwide. Initially he had plans to build a campus for it and turn it into a physical school, but these fell flat due to a lack of funds.
Into the early 1980’s he and his second wife Joan began to drift apart and were divorced in 1982. Just a year later he married again to his third and current wife Tara Cochran of Cleveland. They lived for a couple of years in Charlottesville, Virginia, before moving to San Diego, California. There they re-established the correspondence course and also set up a publishing company called Taray Publications, using this to published the Seax-Wica Voys, a Wiccan magazine. Eventually running the correspondence course took to much time away from his writing, so Buckland decided to close it down and phased it out. By this time however the Seax-Wica tradition was well established worldwide.
Raymond Buckland passes over
Sadly on 28th September 2017 it was announced by Tara Buckland that her husband of 34 years Raymond Buckland had passed away in hospital at approximately 22.30 hrs on the evening of 27th September 2017. He had been recovering from fluid in the lungs that was affecting his breathing (perhaps a residual effect from the pneumonia attack he had suffered in 2015). As she explains it:
“He passed last night around 10:30 pm. “Buck had a bit of a hard time breathing yet was in no pain whatsoever. He had gone into the hospital as precaution and his lungs were filling with liquid. Again, no pain. He was talking and cracking jokes as usual. He got up last night and took two steps, turned to the nurse and said, “My chest hurts”, and that was it.”
A few days later as tributes and remembrance statements flooded in, Tara appeared on his FaceBook page with this to say:
“This is Raymond’s wife, Tara. I have just come onto Ray’s Facebook site and am totally overwhelmed by the kind and loving thoughts of everyone. Thank you so much. I know it would mean a lot to Ray (and it certainly does to me).
Ray was active right up until the very end. He walked 2 miles every day, ate a healthy diet, lifted weights and worked so hard to maintain a vigorous life. He far out-lived his father and brother who shared the same genetics so he did a great job at staying vibrant.
Ray died of a failing heart on Wednesday evening but his death was painless. He was in the hospital awaiting a procedure that would have possibly been of help when he felt a flutter and then lost consciousness. There was no pulse. Hospital staff worked for about 40 minutes to bring him back and then let him go. That was it. I am grateful for the ease of it but of course am deeply saddened by the loss.
I know that Ray loved to come onto Facebook and read all the comments by people. He wasn’t the best at keeping up communicating this way but he did read the posts and was always touched by them. Thank you so much to each and every one of you. I will try to post more soon.
It has been stated elsewhere that the family is keeping his funeral and memorial service private, and further that they plan to hold a memorial celebration of his life sometime in 2018, this to be held at the Lily Dale Spiritualist Assembly in NY, a camp for spiritualists and freethinkers, and a place to where in his later years he reconnected with his spiritualist roots and became a frequent visitor and presenter.
Finally of all the tributes and remembrance statements I have seem and read, one in particular stands out as a fitting end to this bio-brief, and with permission from it’s author I append it here:
A remembrance tribute by Anthony Murphy
The moon is half, and so are our hearts, for the great Raymond Buckland has been laid low. I pen here now a remembrance in his name, that he may be honored in his passing. Fare you well, kind sir, and may the ghosts of days past welcome you to the ethereal with warm embrace.
Wisdom, legacy, imparted well
Before the tolling of your bell
Secrets, knowledge, teacher, sage
Now the door closes, we turn the page
The Witch through portal, steps at last
And now belongs to ages past
We who remain shall not forget
We carry on the mantle yet
Of Merry Meet and Blessings Bright
Till we too follow some distant night
Thank you Sir for all you did
That those in shadow, need not stay hid
© Anthony Murphy 28th September 2017
If you chatted with him by facebook chat and do you want remember it, only click in this link: https://www.facebook.com/messages/t/100001331704986