Raymond Buckland wasn’t the first writer about Paganism that I read; that designation goes to Margot Adler. My early teachers didn’t use books, and by the time I was starting a library, I already knew that I was not a really a Witch. While I knew his name, I didn’t actually pick up one of his books until I found the one on coin divination, which fits my work.
That said, when he consented last year to let me interview him, it was a big deal for me. This is Raymond friggin’ Buckland! It doesn’t matter what Pagan or polytheist practice one feels called to; in the United States he was one of the trailblazers who made it possible to openly practice and share information about it.
Our impetus for wanting that interview was practical: he was in his 80s, had eliminated public appearances from his schedule, and had recently suffered a heart attack. As a journalist, the best thing I can do to serve this community is elevate our elders before they become ancestors. Was it really necessary to get an interview with someone who had already written millions of words about his tradition? I certainly think it was. If nothing else, what we know about people in their own words — and the recollections of those closest to them — informs our ancestor practice.
Regarding honoring Buckland’s life now that it’s over, there has already been a “cyber-wake” on Pagans Tonight, Selena Fox will also be dedicating her show to him tomorrow night. Participating in that first podcast, I was joining people who set the foundations of contemporary American Paganism, including Fox and Oberon Zell. It was humbling, because these are the people who got it all started, the people whose lives I’d like to help chronicle. Even having lost another of their number, that brain trust inspired awe in me.
I really only talked about one way that Buckland inspired me, his Coin Divination. Readers of my occasional book reviews know that I take some of the more extreme suggestions as challenges. In this book, Buckland references a set of small gold coins minted in Singapore late last century, each with a different animal associated with the Chinese zodiac. What a wonderful divination set those would make, he mused: “For the serious practitioner, this provides beautiful divination tools and is also a wonderful investment.”
Challenge accepted. Using solely the money I earn writing for the Wild Hunt that I saved for more than a year (because saving money is my most powerful magic), once I finally chased down what these coins were called (not an easy task in itself), I have tracked down and purchased all but one of those coins. That wasn’t a stretch, because even if it doesn’t work out for divination I still have gold which can be sold should my family need the money.
Based on the ideas Buckland offers for divination boards, I’ve designed a cloth which I am embroidering when the cats allow. Telling him about my plans was the one fanboy indulgence I allowed myself, but since the work is as yet incomplete, I wonder if I should ask Buckland if he’d like to aid in readings I do with this set. He can always say no, after all.