Isaac Bonewits

Isaac Bonewits bigraphy, stories - Neopagan leader, author, and neo-druid priest

Isaac Bonewits : biography

October 1, 1949 – August 12, 2010

Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits (October 1, 1949 – August 12, 2010) was an influential American Druid who published a number of books on the subject of Neopaganism and magic. He was also a public speaker, liturgist, singer and songwriter, and founded the Druidic organization 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. He died in 2010.



  • 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

  • The Magickal Movement: Present & Future (with Margot Adler, Selena Fox, and Robert Anton Wilson) (ACE)
  • Magick Changing the World, the World Changing Magick (with AmyLee, Selena Fox, Jeff Rosenbaum and Robert Anton Wilson) (ACE)

Contributions to Neopaganism

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

Bonewits also coined much of the modern terminology used to articulate the themes and issues that 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. 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."McColman (2003) p.51: "Such reconstructionists are attempting, through both spiritual and scholarly means, to create as purely Celtic a spirituality as possible."
  • 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."
  • Critiqued the Burning Times / Old Religion Murray thesis (in Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca)

Personal life

Bonewits’ only child, Arthur Shaffrey Lipp-Bonewits, was born to Deborah Lipp in 1990.


Early Years

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, the 18 year old Bonewits was recruited by the Church of Satan, but left due to political and philosophical conflicts with Anton LaVey. During his stint in the Church of Satan, Bonewits appeared in some scenes of the 1970 documentary Satanis: The Devil’s Mass. Bonewits, in his article "My Satanic Adventure", asserts that the rituals in Satanis were staged for the movie at the behest of the filmmakers and were not authentic ceremonies.

Author and Druid

His first book, Real Magic, was published in 1972. 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 lifelong status as a "gentile"). He also founded the short-lived Aquarian Anti-Defamation League (AADL), an early Pagan civil rights group.