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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson



 Written and compiled by George Knowles

Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson was the founder and publisher of “The Waxing Moon” (1964), the first influential Craft newsletter in the United States.  In the early 1970’s, Wilson together with Edward Fitch and other Craft practitioners he founded the “Pagan Way” tradition in America.  Later in 1974, based on his brief correspondence with Robert Cochrane in England, he laid the foundations for the “1734” Tradition in America.  He also founded “Metista” an American shamanic tradition, was an initiate of a Cabalistic Lodge, and President and High Priest of the “Temple Of The Elder Gods” (TOTEG) in California.


Joseph Wilson was born on the 11th December 1942 in St. Johns, a small town in Clinton County, Michigan, where during his youth he spent much of his time playing in the woodlands out back of his family home.  During his annual summer vacations spent at his grandparent’s home in Sabinsville, county Tioga, Pennsylvania, he often attended Puritan meetings with his grandmother.  Having no formal Church buildings most Puritans met for worship and bible studies in each other’s homes, or during summer months would gather for large tented “revival meetings”, which left a long and lasting impression Wilson.

Back at home in St. Johns, Wilson was a regular visitor at his local library where the librarian introduced him to books on Mythology and Science Fiction.  Such reading led him on to the study of mysticism, and the existence of good and bad spiritual forces.  Up until this time Wilson’s only religious experience had been from the Puritans he had visited with his Grandmother, but while at High School a friend called Wayne Hunt invited him to services at the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church.  In many ways he found their teachings similar to those of the Puritans, but the preacher Henry Parish was an animated speaker and while his sermons were full of typical hellfire and damnation he was also fun to watch and listen to.

Wilson soon became involved in church activities; he started a bible correspondence course and taught junior boys at Sunday school.  He was made a junior Deacon and led the “Youth For Christ” group on Sunday evenings, he also preached at the Rescue Mission in Lansing on Saturday nights.  Shortly after his 18th birthday he was ordained a Lay minister, and had future plans to train for the Priesthood after finishing High School.  However, things didn’t quite work out that way.

During his final year at High School in 1961, Wilson had been dating a girl called Daisy, the younger sister of his friend Wayne Hunt, and naturally he invited her to his Senior Prom, at which time he asked her to marry him.  Just a few weeks later in August of 1961, Daisy telephoned him with the news that she was pregnant.  As a result they were married later on her 17th birthday.

After finishing High School, Wilson found himself with something of a dilemma, he was now unemployed, with a pregnant wife to support, and in the middle of a deep recession.  Fortunately his Uncle Roy, a recruiter for the US Air Force stepped in with a solution and in September of 1961, instead of entering the Priesthood, Wilson joined the Air Force.  

Initially Daisy lived with his parents while he completed his basic training, and on the 22nd March 1962 gave birth to their first child, Marian Sue.  After completing his basic training Wilson was assigned to the McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, and there his wife and new baby joined him.

It was here that Wilson met his first spiritual mentor Sean.  In the autumn of 1962, they had both auditioned for parts in a play being performed at the base theatre, a production of the “Bell, Book, and Candle”.  The play was a comedy about modern Witches in New York City.  Sean who claimed himself to be half Cherokee and half Scots/Irish was about eight years older than Wilson, and a political science student at the University of Wichita.  After the show ended and as their friendship deepened, Sean introduced Wilson to nature-based spirituality and the “Old Religions”.


To start him off, Sean recommended a number of books for him to read, which included The White Goddess by Robert Graves, The Magic Arts in Celtic Britain by Lewis Spence, and The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazier.  However, no matter how much theory he learned from these and other books, it was the practical aspects of magic and communing with nature that Wilson was more interested in.




Robert Graves  -  Lewis Spence  -  Sir James George Frazier

Sean’s family owned a horse ranch in northeastern Oklahoma, and there located in the wooded hills of their property was a cave.  Occasionally they would go out there to enjoy some quiet time in touch with nature.  On one trip in September 1963, Sean left Wilson out there without food or water for four days telling him to spend his time praying and listening for answers from nature as an act of initiation.  In some ways it was similar to the vision quests done by Native American tribes.  He kept himself warm at night by making a heaped shelter of dry leaves and fallen branches (learned from watching squirrels), and collected enough water to quench his thirst from the dew on the plants in the morning.  It taught him to be grateful for the gifts of Mother Earth.

Wilson next decided to seek out other people with similar interests in nature-based religions.  Reading one day he discovered in Fate magazine a classified add for The Pentagram, a Craft newsletter published by the Witchcraft Research Association in England, UK.  Wilson immediately sent away for a copy and found it to be full of information about Witchcraft, the Goddess, Nature Religions and the Old Ways.

Inspired by The Pentagram, toward the end of 1963 Wilson started to self-publish his own four-page newsletter called The Waxing Moon, the first Craft-related newsletter in the United States.  He placed copies in a bookstore near the University of Wichita (now Wichita State University), and advertised it in Fate magazine.  He even offered it for free, simply asking those who wrote for it to send him a donation to help cover his costs.  Soon he was receiving about 50 requests for it.

By the start of 1965 Wilson had made contact with a number of people who would play significant roles in his later life.  Among those in the US were Bill and Helen Mohs, Edward Fitch, an Air Force captain; and John and Jay Hansen from Chicago.  In the UK, he had also started corresponding with Ruth Wynn-Owen, a Welsh actress who practiced a hereditary form of witchcraft called the Y Plant Bran, and who later became a major influence on his own practice.  Another UK contact was John Score; an English Gardnerian, who had formed his own group called the “Order of the Golden Acorn” (OGA) practising what he called “the Old Religion of Wisecraft”.  Score later started his own newsletter publication called The Wiccan.


On the 2nd April 1965 Daisy gave birth to their second child Bryan Devin.  By this time the United States was getting more and more deeply involved in the Viet Nam war and hundreds of troops were being sent out from McConnell Air Force Base to Southeast Asia.  Later that year he was re-assigned to Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan and ordered to report for duty early in January 1966.


Toward the end of 1965 after placing an advertisement in The Pentagram newsletter in England, Wilson received about 30 letters back from people around the UK, among them one from Robert Cochrane (real name Roy Leonard Bowers), who he recognized as a regular contributor.  Over the following six months they engaged in an exchange of letters, in which Cochrane passed on some of his cryptic and mystical teachings.  Sadly on the 21st June 1966, the eve of the Summer Solstice, Cochrane died in what some believe was a ritual suicide.


Robert Cochrane


Shortly after their arrival at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Wilson received orders for a one year overseas posting to Da Nang in Viet Nam.  However by this time, Daisy was pregnant again and he was able to get the orders delayed until his next child Monica Lynn was born on the 17th August 1966.  Unable to delay the inevitable, six weeks later Wilson received orders for a 12 month posting to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon in Thailand.  So over the next few months, he made arrangements for the Waxing Moon to be taken over by Bill and Helen Mohs in Los Angeles, and then moved Daisy and the children into a small house near St. Johns, closer to where his mother and father could help with the children while he was away.


Wilson arrived at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base on the 7th December 1966.  During his tour Wilson had a live-in relationship with a local Thai girl called Som, and also spent time during his R&R in a Buddhist Wat (a Thai Buddhist monastery) training and meditating with the monks.  Throughout his tour of Thailand, Wilson had kept up a steady correspondence with Bill and Helen Mohs while they handled the Waxing Moon for him, and although they had never met in person, their friendship had continued to grow.  When his posting back to the US finally arrived he arranged to meet with them for a few days on his way home, and in late December 1967 left Thailand for the United States.


In 1969 Wilson formed a loose association with Edward Fitch and a number of other known and established Craft members to created “The Pagan Way”, a nature-based non-initiatory Wiccan tradition in America.  The need for such a tradition came in response to the proposed publication of a book by Susan Roberts called “Witches USA” (1971).  At that time in America there was already growing interest in Wicca and Paganism, and existing covens with their traditional “year-and-a-day” probationary periods, were struggling to accommodate the large number of applicants wishing to join their ranks.  As such The Pagan Way was created to provide an alternative tradition without the need for a formal initiation.


Later during a brief posting to England in the early 1970’s, Wilson left the practical aspects of setting up the Pagan Way to Ed Fitch and John Hansen, helped by Gwydion Pendderwen and his networking group “Nemeton”.  In the meantime while in England, he met up with Ruth Wynn-Owen, and another woman he called “Lady Alice” who initiated him into “Gardnerian Wicca”.  Another contact he made was with Norman Giles, an old associate of Robert Cochrane who explained more about his teachings, and Tony Kelly in Wales who urged him into natural themes.  He also liased with John Score, an earlier contact and the founder and editor of “The Wiccan” magazine from which a similar movement to Pagan Way in America emerged as the “Pagan Front”.  While each initially worked together with the same aims, as the advancement of Wicca and paganism progressed, each evolved separately.  After returning to the US, Wilson retired from the Air Force in 1973.




Ed Fitch  -  Gwydion Pendderwen  -  Ruth Wynn-Owen




Norman Giles  -  John Score


After retiring from the Air Force, Wilson moved to Los Angeles where he continued to work in various circles.  Later he was initiated into the Ordo Templi Astartes, a Cabalistic Lodge, and created the 1734 tradition based on his correspondence with Robert Cochrane.  He also participated in the formation of the Covenant of the Goddess until their insistence on the acceptance of the Wiccan Rede forced him out.  He was President and High Priest of the “Temple Of The Elder Gods (TOTEG)”, and founder of “Metista” an American Shamanic tradition.  He was also a periodic contributor to the Gnostic News publication.



Joe Wilson - the Shaman 



The bulk of Wilson's later life was filled with his shamanic work, first with Metista, a spiritual system for non-native people which introduced the concept of interaction with the spirits of ancestry and land in which they belonged, not to an indigenous tribe, but to the actual familial stream and current geographical location of the practitioner.  This then evolved and developed into the Toteg Tribe, which is a fully-enabled spiritual system consisting of interaction with Mother Earth, Father Sky, the genus loci of a person's geographical location, one's own familial ancestors, and ancestors of culture, heritage, and artistic and intellectual teachers.

Much later as a result of Wilson sharing his letters from Robert Cochrane with others, several lines of the 1734 Tradition have sprung up in the US. Two of the better known are the Coven Ashesh-Hekat in California and the Coven Dragonstar Rising in the Midwest.  In 1976 through contact with one of Cochrane’ initiates Evan John Jones, the Americans Ann and David Finnin recreated an experimental form of his tradition, which they called the Roebuck, and later the Ancient Keltic Church.




Ann and David Finnin  -  Evan John Jones



Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson


In his final years, Joe Wilson was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). As the disease slowly progressed, he was put on morphine to help cope with the pain, against which he struggled much longer than his doctors had expected, but sadly on the 4th August 2004 (sometime between midnight and 7am), he succumbed and passed into the Otherworld.




(Article by Ann Finnin and Dave Finnin)


Plus so many more??


 Written and compiled by George Knowles © 11th March 2020




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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