A self-described wizard and founder of the neopagan religious movement the Church of All Worlds, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart has been involved with neopaganism since its beginnings in the ‘60s. He is the editor of neopagan magazine Green Egg and is also headmaster of Grey School of Wizardry, a Hogwarts-style institution dedicated to training students in the magical arts.
Based out of Sonoma County in California, this fascinating institution has captured the hearts and minds of many interested in the topic of magic — or “magick,” as Zell-Ravenheart refers to it.
The Peak spoke to Zell-Ravenheart to learn more about how he became involved with magick and what people have to say about his school of wizardry.
Interview has been edited and condensed for print.
The Peak: For the magically uninformed, what is the essence of magick? What is its source? And how does one start to become a wizard or witch?
Zell-Ravenheart: In its essence, magick is probability control through non-material means. Wizardry means wisdom, and wisdom can be summed up through considering the consequences. The function of who we identify as a wizard is someone who knows something others don’t know and someone who is wise. A professor or philosopher is the most comparable thing to a wizard today.
P: When did you first develop an interest in the arcane arts and begin on the path to becoming a wizard?
ZR: My interest has been lifelong and my first readings on the subject as a child were the Greek myths. This interested me in both theology and mythology and this led into an interest in fantasy. I noticed the recurrence of the wizard in these stories. I became further interested in superpowers and psychic abilities. Professor Xavier from X-Men was my archetype when I founded the school.
P: Does one need to be a Neopagan to be a wizard, or is magick something that connects multiple different cultures and religions?
ZR: Magick is universal and you don’t need to be a pagan to be a wizard; a wizard is not like a priest. The founders of all religions are all identified as great wizards and were referred to that way by many people. I am a pagan; that’s just my religion, but in the Grey School we have Christians, Jews, and Sufi Muslims.
P: What do you have to say to critics of the Grey School of Wizardry or the Church of All Worlds, who may see it as a commercial scheme or as an attempt to create some sort of reality out of what many consider to be fantasy?
ZR: We charge very little and we only charge for what we need. Harry Potter makes more money than we do. The popularity of that series gives people a handle to understand what we are doing.
P: You’ve spent a fair amount of time searching for what are considered by many to be mythical creatures. What types of fantastic creatures have you encountered in your journeys as a wizard?
ZR: I was the one who rediscovered the lost secret of the unicorn. I raised unicorns and exhibited them; they were real creatures in ancient times and we recreated them. We made a four-year exhibition license with the Ringling Brothers Circus to exhibit them. We also went searching for mermaids in New Guinea. I do a column and blog every three months called Creature of the Month.
P: How often do you receive comparisons to Dumbledore and Gandalf? Of the two, which wizard do you prefer or feel much more of a connection to?
ZR: I get that comparison quite a lot. I get more connections with Dumbledore as a headmaster of a school of wizardry. For most of my life, I have identified with Gandalf.
P: Finally, what is a basic spell or magical ability you can teach me right now over Skype that I can do to gain a basis in magick?
ZR: The most universal spell everyone does at least once a year is the birthday wish, where you make a wish. Most of spellwork is making a wish through intention and you don’t want to screw up what you want to say. You want a spell for love, you want it on a Friday dedicated to Frigga the Goddess of Love. If you want a spell for gold, you light it on Monday and you state your intention and you burn the candle while meditating. These are the ways you activate a spell. It gets more elaborate as you bring in more associations.
To learn more about the very real Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, check out his website: http://www.oberonzell.com/