Raymond (Ray) Buckland is a prolific author and Witch who was responsible for bringing Gardnerian Witchcraft to the United States in 1964. Additionally, Ray was the founder of Seax-Wica, an egalitarian tradition of Witchcraft. Because of his tenure and breadth of knowledge, Ray has been a leading spokesman for Wicca in the United States for more than five decades.
An Englishman by birth, Buckland was born in London on August 31, 1934, being the youngest of two sons born to Stanley Thomas Buckland and Eileen Lizzie Wells. Ray’s father was of Romany Gypsy heritage and a highly regarded Executive Officer in the British Ministry of Health. With Europe plunging into war and the consistent bombing of London, Stanley Buckland moved his family to Nottingham, where both sons attended Waverly School. Ray continued his education at King’s College School in London.
After Ray completed his studies at King’s College, he took employment as a draftsman at an engineering firm. It was in London that he would meet his first wife and magical working partner, Rosemary. After marrying Rosemary (and having two sons), Ray served a short stint of two years in the Royal Air Force, moving on to become a retail manager in a London publishing firm. By this point, Ray had a more than passing interest in the occult, reading with great interest many books, amongst which were two that would inform his participation in the occult. In the late 1950s Ray read Margaret Murray’s The Witch-Cult in Western Europe and Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today.
Following up on his interest, Ray began to correspond with Gardner, the “father” of the modern Wicca movement who was living on the Isle of Man. Ray continued his correspondence with Gardner even as he moved his family to the United States in February of 1962, settling in Brentwood, Long Island, New York, in order to take a job at British Overseas Airways Corporation (the predecessor of British Airways). Ray’s friendship with Gardner continued via mail and with occasional conversations on the phone. While not being formally initiated, Gardner made Ray the contact for Wicca in the United States.
Ray began his study of Witchcraft in earnest when he flew back to the United Kingdom in 1963 to receive initiation into Wicca by Gardner’s last High Priestess, Monique Wilson (Olwen). Gardner was present at the initiation, however, he did not act in the official capacity of High Priest of the ceremony, leaving that to Olwen’s working partner Scottie. This would be the first and last time Ray would be given a chance to meet with Gardner face-to-face.
Ray’s time with Olwen, Scottie and Gardner was a short but intense time. Ray would copy the ritual book known as the Book of Shadows and be schooled on how it was to be used. This training time lasted a mere two weeks, but it would not be his only opportunity to interact and learn from the Wilsons. On his return to the United States, Ray initiated his wife Rosemary. They would in short order begin the first known Wicca coven in the US. As magical working partners, Ray and Rosemary returned one more time to the United Kingdom to finish their training with the Wilsons.
Unlike his Wicca Elders, Ray would go about his new life as a High Priest in a private manner. The Coven that he and Rosemary founded (known as the New York Coven) began to attract interest and would grow at a steady pace. In some manner, the existence of the New York Coven caught the eye of a journalist. Lisa Hoffman of the New York Sunday News wrote a feature about him and the Coven. While this did bring some benefit to the coven, it also served to focus negative attention on Rosemary and their two children for a while.
Buckland's career as a Witchcraft author would began in 1969 when he published A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural. He followed this the next year with the publishing of Witchcraft Ancient and Modern as well as Practical Candle Burning Rituals. Ray’s writing was not confined to the subject of Witchcraft, he also published Mu Revealed under the nom de plume of Tony Earll, which displayed his humor in as much as this is an anagram for “not really.” Ray continued to write to support his family, as well as opening a small museum of witchcraft in his basement. This was so successful that these became the sole means by which he supported his family. Since this time, Ray has averaged a book a year, which continues to this day.
Eventually Ray and Rosemary’s marriage would wane. In the wake of their divorce, the Coven they had headed for a number of years would receive new leadership in 1974 under Lady Theos and Phoenix. Due to conflicts and the need to blaze new trails, Ray left the Gardnerian community shortly after handing the Coven over. He went on to found a new tradition called Seax-Wica. Based on a Saxon theme, it has an egalitarian structure and lacks the oath of secrecy so integral to Gardnerian Witchcraft.
Ray would go on to be married twice more, all while continuing his prolific writing career. In 1992, a good 38 years after he brought Gardnerian Witchcraft to the United States, Ray decided to retire from public participation in a coven, instead choosing to be very private about his practice.
Features contributed to The Witches' Almanac:
Gerald Brousseau Gardner, The Witches’ Almanac 1972, p. 75
A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural Ace Books, NY 1969
Practical Candleburning Ritual,s Llewellyn Publications, MN 1970
Witchcraft Ancient and Modern, House of Collectibles, NY 1970
Mu Revealed – using the pseudonym Tony Earll, Warner Paperback Library, NY 1970
Witchcraft from the Inside, Llewellyn, MN 1971
Amazing Secrets of the Psychic World - with Hereward Carrington, Parker/Prentice Hall, NJ 1975
The Tree: Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft, Samuel Weiser, ME 1974
Here is the Occult, House of Collectibles, NY 1974
Anatomy of the Occult, Samual Weiser, ME 1977
The Magic of Chant-O-Matics, Parker/Prentice Hall, NJ 1978
Practical Color Magick, Llewellyn, MN 1983
Color Magick: Unleash Your Inner Powers, Llewellyn, MN 2nd edition 2002
Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, Llewellyn, MN 1986
Secrets of Gypsy Fortunetelling, Llewellyn, MN 1988
Buckland Gypsy Fortunetelling Deck, Llewellyn, MN 1989
Gypsy Fortunetelling Layout Sheet, Llewellyn, MN 1989
Secrets of Gypsy Love Magick, Llewellyn, MN 1990
Secrets of Gypsy Dream Reading, Llewellyn, MN 1990
Witchcraft Yesterday and Today – video, Llewellyn, MN 1990
Scottish Witchcraft, Llewellyn, MN 1991
The Book of African Divination - with Kathleen Binger, Inner Traditions, VT 1992
Doors to other Worlds, Llewellyn, MN 1993
The Committee – novel, Llewellyn, MN 1993
The truth about spirit Communication, Llewellyn, MN 1995
Ray Buckland’s Magic Cauldron, Galde Press, MN 1995
Buckland Gypsies Domino Divination Cards, Llewellyn, MN 1995
Cardinal’s Sin – novel, Llewellyn, MN 1996
Advanced Candle Magic, Llewellyn, MN 1996
Gypsy Fortune Telling Tarot Kit, Llewellyn, MN 1998
Gypsy Witchcraft and Magic, Llewellyn, MN 1998
Gypsy Dream Dictionary, Llewellyn. MN 1999
Coin Divination. Llewellyn. MN 2000
Buckland Romani Tarot Deck & Book, Llewellyn. MN 2001
Wicca for Life – Hardcover, Citadel, New York 2001
The Witch Book Visible Ink Press, New York 2001
The Fortune-telling Book, Visible Ink Press 2003
Signs, Symbols and Omens, Llewellyn 2003
Cards of Alchemy, Llewellyn 2003
Wicca for One, Citadel 2004
Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications, Llewellyn 2004
The Spirit Book, Visible Ink Press 2005
Witchcraft - Rebirth of the Old Religion – DVD, Llewellyn 2005
Mediumship and Spirit Communication, Buckland Books 2005
Face to Face with God?, Buckland Books 2006
Death, where is thy Sting?, Buckland Books 2006
Dragons, Shamans & Spiritualishs, Buckland Books 2007
Buckland’s Doorway to Candle Magic, Buckland Books. 2007
The Torque of Kernow, a novel - Galde Press/Buckland Books. 2008
The Weiser’s Field Guide to Ghosts, Red Wheel/Weiser. 2009
Buckland’s Book of Gypsy Magic, Red Wheel/Weiser. 2010
Ray's website can be found here
Ray's Wikipedia entry can be found here