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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Ernest Thompson Seton




Written and compiled by George Knowles


Ernest Thompson Seton was a British born Canadian and later U.S. naturalized citizen.  He was a prolific author of animal fiction, a wildlife artist and naturalist who founded “Woodcraft Indians” in 1902, one of the first “back to nature” youth movements in America.  Seton greatly influenced Lord Baden-Powell who founded the worldwide “Boy Scouts” movement from England in 1907, and similarly influenced and boosted the fledging “Boy Scouts of America” movement founded by William D. Boyce and incorporated as a national youth organisation on 08th February 1910.

Seton was born Ernest Evan Thompson on the 14th August 1860 in South Shields, England, the eighth of ten brothers and one sister who sadly died at age 6.  His father Joseph Logan Thompson had owned a small fleet of merchant sailing ships but was forced out of business when faster ‘steam-powered’ ships began competing for trade.  In 1866, seeking a new life as a farmer, he and the rest of his family immigrated to Canada and settled on a farmstead near Lindsay, Ontario.  It was here that Seton developed a keen interest in animals and nature.  However, his father proved an indifferent farmer and in 1870 moved the family to Toronto where he took employment as an accountant.

Seton was educated in Toronto’s local schools and quickly showed his aptitude for art.  He also attracted the attention of a lady in the Toronto art community who became his mentor funding extra art studies for him, including lessons from the Toronto portrait painter John Colin Forbes, and night school classes at the Ontario School of Art and Design. 

In 1879 he returned to England and won a two-year scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Art in London (but didn’t complete it because of ill-health brought on by poor food and living conditions).  Later he changed his given name to Ernest Thompson Seton, a prominent name from his family’s ancestry, as he believed his father was a descendant of Lord George Seton, the 5th Earl of Winton (c.1678–1749).

Returning to Canada in 1881, he joined two of his older brothers homestead farming in the small town of Carberry, Manitoba.  However he proved to be of little help to his brothers for he would wander off for days on end researching wildlife and sketching animals, during which time he developed a keen fascination for wolves.  On one sojourn he made his first contact with Native Indians, and later became known as Black Wolf, a name conferred upon him by the Sioux whose language was just one of several he learned to speak.  He also began writing scientific articles and corresponding with other naturalists.

In 1883 he moved to New York City to further his career as a writer and artist, and to meet with and learn more from other naturalists and ornithologists.  He spent much of his time studying at the American Museum of Natural History and wrote his first book “Mammals of Manitoba” in 1886.  Later he was appointed the Official Naturalist to the Government of Manitoba, a title he held until his death in 1946.

In 1890 he traveled to Paris to complete his art studies at the Académie Julian.  While there met Grace Gallatin, a wealthy daughter of a San Francisco financier.  She was also a widely published travel author, a Theosophist, a leading suffragette and a Patron of the Arts.  Romance blossomed and they were married in New York City in June 1896 before moving to live at Wyndygoul, a grandiose house and estate he had built in Cos Cob, near Greenwich, Connecticut.  In 1904 Grace bore him a daughter Ann (later Anya Seton, a best-selling author of historical and biographical novels).




Grace Gallatin  -  Wyndygoul


After a spate of vandalism caused by youths in Cos Cob, Seton visited the local school and invited the culprits to camp at his estate for a weekend, during which time he told them stories about Native Indians and how they lived and worked in harmony with Nature.  As a result he founded “Woodcraft Indians” in 1902.  His aim was to educate and empower young people to improve their lives and that of others through active participation in society and to give them the skills needed for open-air living in close contact with nature.  The stories he told were later collated into a book The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians (1906).  From an initial tribe of 42 members in 1902, as the concept of Woodcraft Indians spread across America, by 1910 membership had grown to an estimated 200,000 members.

In 1906, Seton again visited England this time to promote his books and artwork, during which time he met with Lord Baden-Powell, who was particularly interested in his Woodcraft Indians youth group.  After corresponding and sharing mutual ideas, in 1907 Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts movement in England, which included many of Seton’s ideas and concepts.  However, when he announced his intention to bring the movement to the USA, Seton and his Woodcraft Indians together with the “Sons of Daniel Boone” founded by Daniel Carter Beard, joined with the YMCA to boost the fledging “Boy Scouts of America” (BSA) founded by William D. Boyce.


Ernest Thompson Seton (left) with Lord Baden-Powell (seated) and Daniel Carter Beard (right)


The BSA was later incorporated as a national youth organisation on 08th February 1910, and a national executive committee was created with James E. West elected as their first Chief Executive.  Seton became their first Chief Scout, a position similar to that of Baden-Powell in England, during which time he wrote most of the first edition of the U.S. Boy Scouts Handbook.  However with the approach of World War I, Seton did not like the militaristic emphasis being put on Scouting, particularly by Baden-Powell in England.  He was also constantly clashing with James E. West and Daniel Carter Beard over the contents of his Handbook and so resigned from the BSA in 1915.

After leaving the BSA, that same year Seton revived his original Woodcraft Indians, but not just as a youth group, more as a co-educational organization serving all ages.  As well as containing the main practical aspects of Woodcraft aimed at youths, for adults, Seton introduced a more mystical element to the Craft based on Native American spiritual beliefs.  This took the form of a “Red Lodge”, which included three degree’s of initiation, and some similar practices as can be found being practised in today’s contemporary Witchcraft.  Seton laid down the rules and structure of the Red Lodge in a little known limited edition pamphlet, inside which he states:






Red Lodge pamphlet N0 34 (c.1912)


I have been able to locate and obtain a full PDF copy of this rare pamphlet which can be read here.


Later his Woodcraft Indians group became known as The Woodcraft League of America and was incorporated in 1917.  The League prospered until 1922 when it merged with other groups to become the Woodcraft Rangers.  Seton in the meantime continued to run Camps at his home in Cos Cob until 1930.  He then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he had purchased a 2,500-acre plot of land with the idea of building “an academy of outdoor life.”  A year later in 1931 he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. 

In 1934 Seton divorced his first wife Grace, and a year later on the 22nd January 1935, married Julia Moses Buttree in El Paso, Texas.  Before they met, Julia was an author in her own right, having written her first book Rhythm of the Redman, which Seton later illustrated.  After their marriage she worked as Seton’s assistant and secretary, and together they performed lectures all around the United States, Canada, France, England and the Czech Republic.  Back home in Santa Fe, they founded the Seton College of Indian Wisdom (later known as the Seton Institute of Indian Lore), from where they conducted courses in arts and crafts, outdoor activities and leadership skills.



Seton and his wife Julia


Having no children of their own, in 1938 they adopted a baby daughter, Beulah (Dee) Seton (later Dee Seton Barber).  By this time Seton had designed and built a 30-room Castle on 100 acres of his land in Santa Fe, around which a small community called ‘Seton Village’ evolved as friends and colleagues settled on surrounding lands.  Over time the village grew large enough to warrant a museum, library, art gallery and lecture hall.

In 1945, Seton wrote his last animal storybook “Santana, the Hero Dog of France”, and on his birthday the 14th August 1946 gave his last lecture at the University of New Mexico.  On the 23rd October 1946 he died at his home in Seton Village and was later cremated in Albuquerque.


During his lifetime Ernest Thompson Seton wrote more than 75 fiction and non-fiction books, some of which have never been out of print.  He also wrote thousands of scientific articles on animals, nature and conservation in the environment, while his major artworks have graced the walls of galleries and museums all around the world.  Much of his literary work and original art have been collected and preserved in the Seton Memorial Library and Museum at Philmont Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.

After his death in 1946, his adopted daughter Dee Seton Barber and her family continued to live in Seton Castle and carried on the work of his Institute of Indian Lore.  In 1960, to honour what would have been his 100th birthday, (which happened to coincide with the 350th anniversary of the founding of Santa Fe) Dee, together with his grandson Seton Cottier (the son of Anya Seton), scattered his ashes over Seton Village from an airplane.

In 2003, Seton Castle was sold to the ‘Academy for the Love of Learning’ a non-profit educational organization based in Santa Fe.  The sale included a large number of Seton’s personal artefacts, books, artwork and other things that had been of great personal value to him while alive, and which provide a unique insight into the private life of the man.  Fortunately, most of these items were archived and moved into storage before renovations began on restoring the Castle.



Seton Castle before and after the fire


Sadly, on the afternoon of November 15, 2005, when two-thirds of the buildings restoration was complete, an accidental fire destroyed most of the Castle leaving only the skeletal remains of its stone walls and chimneys.  With the Castle in ruins, a decision was made to preserve what was left as an outdoor meeting space and meditative garden.  In 2010 the Academy for the Love of Learning opened a new ‘eco friendly’ Centre of Learning close to the former Castle site, which includes a gallery and archive featuring the artwork and personal artefacts of Seton as part of its ongoing Seton Legacy Project.


While Seton’s life as an author, writer, artist, naturalist and conservationist is pretty well documented, there is a mystical and spiritual side to Seton, which from my initial research, have not yet been fully explored.  I refer to his creation of the ‘Red Lodge’, mentioned earlier; about which little is known except for the small limited edition pamphlet he produced in 1912.  What is known, is that his teachings influenced a number of later ‘Pagan oriented’ groups, which in turn played an important role in the prehistory of Gerald Gardner’s Wicca!  These I shall be exploring later.






The New Encyclopedia of the Occult  -  by John Michael Greer

First published on the 24th February 2011  ©  George Knowles

Edited on the 18th June 2014 after receiving addition information from Pamela Cottier Forcey (Seaton's granddaughter).

My grateful thanks Ma'am.


Best wishes and Blessed Be



Site Contents - Links to all Pages


Home Page


A Universal Message:


Let there be peace in the world  -   Where have all the flowers gone?


About me:

My Personal PageMy Place in England / My Family Tree (Ancestry)


Wicca & Witchcraft


Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick


Traditional Writings:


The Wiccan Rede Charge of the Goddess Charge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches Chant The Witches Creed Descent of the Goddess Drawing Down the Moon The Great Rite Invocation Invocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality


Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /   


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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