Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits, one of the country’s leading elders in contemporary Paganism, died on Thursday.
Bonewits was an expert on ancient and modern Druidism as well as an author, lecturer and songwriter.
Bonewits was founder and the archdruid of Ar nDraiocht Fein: A Druid Fellowship. Most Druid orders are secret, but the ADF was committed to being a public tradition of Druidism. The religion emphasizes harmony and respect for nature.
For more than 40 years, Bonewits influenced the growing Earth religions movement, and he had no patience for some of the lies and exaggerations that certain leaders of Paganism and Wicca made about their origins and history. He influenced these movements to end claims of an unbroken lineage to the ancient world.
He understood that groups can easily turn into cults, and after the Jim Jones Peoples Temple massacre in 1978 he created a way to measure cult dangers: The Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame. It uses a scale of 1-10 to evaluate any group. For example — looking at an organization, you could ask: How much internal control over members does it have? How much censorship of members’ access to outside opinions? How grim and humorless is it? The higher the score, the more dangerous.
Margot Adler is an author, journalist, lecturer, and a Wiccan priestess. She is a radio journalist and correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR).