When “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynki And the Rise of the New York Pagan” (Asphodel Press, Hubbardston MA, 2012), Michael G. Lloyd’s incredibly detailed 700-page tome, the product of eight-and-a-half years of research and writing, was still a work in progress, I mentioned to the author that, in February 2009, I would be having a reunion with pioneering gay activist Arthur Evans, late author of the history “Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture,” during a trip to San Francisco, and Michael asked me if I would ask him if he had known Eddie and, if so, would he agree to be interviewed for the book. When I broached the topic to Arthur, I prefaced my questions by asking if I had ever told him that, in the late 1970s, I was part of a gay male witchcraft coven. He hadn’t known Eddie, but his response to my intro was, “Who wasn’t?”
Eddie Buczynski (January 28, 1947, Ozone Park, Queens, New York to March 16, 1989, Augusta, Georgia) was the lover of Herman Slater, with whom he founded the Warlock Shop at 300 Henry Street, in Brooklyn Heights in 1972, forerunner of the legendary occult supply and book shop and, essentially, pagan and witchcraft community center, the Magickal Childe, at 35 West 19th Street, in Chelsea—a place that was, for a long time, central to Eddie’s life—which was opened by Herman, by then Eddie’s ex, on February 13, 1976, and remained there, run by Herman’s former employees, until February 1999, six-and-a-half years after Herman’s death from AIDS and untreated syphilis.
I got to know Eddie early in 1977, when, with his then lover, Bennie Geraci, he was starting the Knossos Grove of the Minoan Brotherhood, a Mother Goddess-worshiping coven for gay men, after experiencing homophobia in more traditional witchcraft circles. A later lover, Gene Muto, had no interest in witchcraft, but helped Eddie continue his education, which led him, with his fascination with antiquity, to pursue a Masters degree in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr, in Pennsylvania, which he acquired on May 15, 1988. He had already experienced his first opportunistic infections, shingles and thrush, associated with AIDS, by March 1987, and contracted Pneumocystic carinii pneumonia (PCP), later called Pneumocystis jirovecii, in November 1987. Toxoplasmosis, which would paralyze him and cause severe loss of weight and muscle—the ‘wasting syndrome’—was diagnosed in May 1988.
Gene moved Eddie to Augusta, Georgia, where Muto had been living then, and arranged for home hospice care, through a Catholic hospital, for his ailing partner. Befriended and assisted by a priest, Father John O’Brien, and nun, Sister Josephine Slevin, Eddie, who always “saw [a parallel] between Mary and the Great Mother Goddess” “expressed a desire … [for] rapprochement with the religion of his childhood” early in 1989. On March 14, 1989, he slipped into a coma and, by two days later, he breathed his last and, as Lloyd puts it, “Edmund Buczynski, Jr. had returned to the Mother.”
In this life-and-times volume, Michael G. Lloyd puts these and numerous other facts of Eddie’s life, in great, painstaking detail, into the context of Stonewall and the rise of Gay Liberation, the increasingly public visibility of paganism and witchcraft, the AIDS crisis, and other pertinent political, social, and community developments. A chapter on homophobia, entitled “Perverts in the Craft,” with a first section headed “Some Acts of Love and Pleasure Need Not Apply,” is particularly riveting, and the description of Eddie’s illness and last days, in the chapter called “A Bull at the End,” is especially painful to read. If you lived through and remember a time before there were any promising or effective HIV and AIDS medications, try reading this section without tears coming to your eyes.
The tangled story of contemporary witchcraft is, unfortunately, like the history of other minorities, marked by infighting and backbiting, about whose roots and rituals are or aren’t more historically-based and more authentic than someone else’s, and it is to his credit, that Lloyd works hard at sorting it all out. “Bull of Heaven” is surely destined to be an invaluable research tool to those seeking more information about competing covens and pagan beliefs in the 20th century, but the casual reader, looking for a more, I daresay, magical experience in these pages may be flummoxed by confronting so much data in the process.
In an undertaking this massive, there are bound to be some minor errors and perhaps these can be corrected in later editions. Mart Crowley was not merely “the screenwriter for [the film] ‘The Boys in the Band’,” but primarily the playwright who penned the early, influential and controversial, gay play. The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) firehouse, the early Gay Liberation organization’s headquarters at 99 Wooster Street, did not burn down, but still stands, absorbed into the Soho art scene. In the section about Bryn Mawr, Lloyd writes, “dedication to a higher moral principle … is the birthmark”—and I’m sure he means hallmark—“of an institution that prides itself on an Old World style of education.”
While Eddie was at Bryn Mawr, he revived the then quiescent—but still extant in parts of the United States and Canada—Minoan Brotherhood by starting a Knossos Grove, “a gay men’s coven,” in Philadelphia, in 1986, and advertising it at Giovanni’s Room, the venerable LGBT book store, opened in 1973 in what is now called the Gayborhood, just as, in 1977, he had posted notice of its predecessor at the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop—not Oscar Wilde Bookstore—at 15 Christopher Street, where it moved in the mid-1970s, and where I worked fulltime, as assistant manager, from 1975 to ’78, not 291 Mercer Street, where it first started in 1967 and where I worked part-time in the 1972 and ’73. I joined the staff of GaysWeek newspaper (February 1977 to June 1979) in April, not May, ’77 and, in response to Eddie’s request that I write an article about the craft, advertising the Minoan Brotherhood’s existence, I asked him to write it himself, and Eddie’s “Witchcraft Today and the Homosexual,” published on June 13, 1977, and cited and quoted in “Bull of Heaven” was the result.
A Minoan Sisterhood, spearheaded by Carol Bulzone and Ria (Lady Rhea) Farnham, later Rivera, soon followed, and Carol and Ria opened their own occult shop, Enchantments, Inc., in the East Village, when Herman reneged on a plan to sell the Magickal Childe to them.
Lloyd writes about bisexual Knossos Grove member “Kim Schuller” (craft name Sky) and about “Lisa Marie,” Eddie and Bennie’s neighbor in Middle Village, Queens, whom Sky married, without ever mentioning that these are pseudonyms, undoubtedly requested by the couple, who moved to Connecticut. But this and other matters are, as I’ve said, all minor cavils and detract little from the biography of the most charismatic, well-loved, and influential figure that Eddie assuredly was.
I lost touch with Eddie by the late 1970s, and with Bennie, as well, until Michael got us together for a reunion on April 29, 2006. There is no end, however, of familiar names, besides that of Arthur Evans, from gay, Fire Island, and other circles, in these pages, including Cherry Grove’s Kay Flagg; Leo Martello, GAA’s resident gay witch; writers and activists Jack Nichols and Lige Clarke; the Radical Faeries; playwright, leatherman, and gay activist Doric Wilson; John Wojtowicz AKA GAA’s Little John Basso, on whose botched bank robbery “Dog Day Afternoon” was based; and opera reviewer John Yohalem. Celebrities who passed through the doors of the Magickal Childe—since 2004, site of Sala One-Nine, a Spanish restaurant, where the “Bull of Heaven” publication party took place in August—are mentioned, from former Beatles Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon, with Yoko Ono, and singer Debbie Harry, to writers William S. Burroughs, Allen (not Alan) Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, and Quentin Crisp, and filmmaker Kenneth Anger. I took my late lover, born Catholic and converted to Greek, later Russian Orthodoxy, to the Magickal Childe sometime in the mid-1980s. He hesitated and then crossed himself before entering, as he also did when we went into sites associated with voodoo and Marie Laveau—who makes a cameo appearance here, on page 466—in New Orleans, but proved taken enough with it to buy a pentagram ring before we left. So, while many will likely come to use “Bull of Heaven” as a source book, for the wealth of information it contains, for others, it will bring back many memories of a magical, or magickal, time and a handsome, winning man, Eddie Buczynski, who personified it.