Green Egg Omelette. Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (ed.) 2009. 286 p. New Page Books, softcover, $15.99. (978-1-60163-04609).
Once upon a time, you could tell what "generation" a Pagan was by their first encounter with the Pagan magazine Green Egg. (I'm from the early Darling years, myself, though my teachers shared with me stacks of their original, mimeographed and hand-stapled Zell years, along with stories of legendary feuds in the Forum--the letter column of the zine--and of rivalries lost and found between one tradition and another.)
Green Egg held an importance to the forming Pagan community that nothing in recent years, with the possible exception of The Witches' Voice website, could hope to rival. We found ourselves and came to understand ourselves through the community we found in those pages.
Oh, there were exceptions. Some of us encountered Circle Network News first, or The Crone Papers, or Harvest. But, before the tidal wave that is the Internet swept most of them away, the first contact most Pagans had with the wider Pagan world was with zines, like Green Egg (often in the form of tattered stacks stored under their HP/s' bed). And if this is news to you, well, then, you must be a member of one of the new and rootless post-Web Pagan generation.
But even if there are no dog-ears or coffee spills to mark the pages, the new Green Egg Omelette anthology should help close the communication gap between generations.
Though it would be untrue to say that it's all here--the sometimes combative forum letters are not represented, for instance, which is perhaps just as well--there is a wide selection of articles that show how American Paganism came to define itself over the four decades of the Green Egg's publication. Some of the ideas in these essays became so important in themselves, like Tony Kelly's "Pagan Musings" or Morning Glory Zell's "A Bouquet of Lovers," that it is almost startling to find them here, in their original forms.
Other articles reflect a zeitgeist that peaked and ebbed over the years. It gave me a nostalgic thrill to find "witchcraft" [sic] referred to as "low-magic" by Brother Khedmel in a 1972 article on ceremonial magick; the rivalry and one-upmanship between "high" and "low" magick seems to me (mercifully) to be mainly a thing of the past at this point. So, too, I found myself chuckling at satires of the Robert Bly men's spirituality movement, and at half-forgotten icons like Pagan Cowboy Joe.
Christopher Penczak and Chas Clifton have contributed a forward and an introduction, and Clifton's chapter introductions provide some structure to what could easily have seemed like a jumble of articles.His chapter headers do a great job summarizing the main trends in areas such as Ecospirituality, Worship, Pagan Culture, and Gender and Sexuality--exactly as you would expect from the author of Her Hidden Children (the definitive history of the evolution of modern Paganism in the United States). Oberon Zell and the other primary editors also contributed to an introductory section which traced the evolution of the magazine over forty years of Pagan history, in terms that will probably be of interest to those who remember the different stages in Green Egg's development.
Overall, the book has a particularly professional layout, reflecting the original magazine while smoothly integrating old and new material in a way that is clearly not simply a cut and paste of old files. Lots of old illustrations and photographs are included, and they are generally of a high quality.
Unfortunately, there are some glitches, too. As is not unusual from small press publications, there are more typographic errors than there should be, and some of the biographies seem curiously out of date. (Chas Clifton's, for instance, seems to date to the time before the publication of his 1994 volume on Witchcraft and shamanism from his series Witchcraft Today. This oversight is especially odd given the important role Clifton played in helping to weave together the chapters of this anthology.) And, most seriously, an index would have been a wonderful addition to the book.
These are minor concerns, of course. Truth to tell, I enjoyed my tour of the Green Egg Omelette, and I enjoyed sharing it with my friends over the holiday. I urge everyone with a streak of either nostalgia or curiosity about the past four decades of the modern Pagan movement to order a copy. I suspect you will enjoy it--maybe even as much as we used to enjoy those tattered old copies from under the bed.