Raymond Buckland (born 31 August 1934), whose craft name is Robat, is an English American writer on the subject of Wicca and the occult, and a significant figure in the history of Wicca, of which he is a High Priest in both the Gardnerian and Seax traditions.
According to his written works, primarily Witchcraft from the Inside, published in 1971, he was the first person in the United States to openly admit to being a practitioner of Wicca, and he introduced the lineage of Gardnerian Wicca to the United States in 1964, after having been initiated by Gerald Gardner’s then-high priestess Monique Wilson in Britain the previous year. He later formed his own tradition dubbed Seax-Wica which focuses on the symbolism of Anglo-Saxon paganism.
Buckland was born in London on 31 August 1934, to Eileen and Stanley Buckland. Buckland was of mixed ethnicity; his mother was English, but his father was Romani. He was raised in the Anglican Church but developed an interest in Spiritualism and the occult at about age 12, after encountering it from a Spiritualist uncle.
When World War II broke out in 1939, the family moved to Nottingham, where Buckland attended Nottingham High School. It was here that he became involved in amateur dramatic productions.
He went on to be educated at King’s College School. In 1955 he married Rosemary Moss. From 1957 to 1959, he served in the Royal Air Force, and then went on to work in a London publishing company for four years, before he and his wife emigrated to the United States in 1962, where they lived on Long Island, New York. Whilst living in the United States, Buckland worked for British Airways.
In the US, Buckland soon read the books The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray and Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner, which gave him an insight into the Witchcraft religion, or Wicca as it is now more commonly known. Some sources relay that Buckland had established a relationship with Gardner when he was living on the Isle of Man and running his witchcraft museum; it seems this relationship was by correspondence.
The two became friends, and had several telephone conversations, which led to Buckland becoming Gardner’s spokesman in America. Buckland also met and befriended Margaret St. Clair, author of the occult classic Sign of the Labrys.
Both Buckland and his wife Rosemary traveled to Scotland, where, in Perth, they were initiated into the craft by the High Priestess Monique Wilson (known as the Lady Olwen). Gardner attended the ceremony, but did not perform it himself. Gardner died shortly after, having never met Buckland again.
The Long Island Coven
The Bucklands returned home to the United States following their meeting with Gardner, bringing the Gardnerian Book of Shadows with them. That same year they founded a coven in Bay Shore, known as the Long Island Coven. This was the first group in the US following the Gardnerian Wicca lineage of direct initiation. Virtually all fully initiated Gardnerians in the US can trace their origins back to the Long Island Coven, which was a centre for neopaganism in America for twenty years.
The Bucklands tried to keep their identities secret at first, due to concern about unwanted and negative attention, however journalist Lisa Hoffman of the New York Sunday News published a news story on them without permission.
When Buckland and his wife separated in 1973, they both left the Long Island Coven.
First Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in the United States, 1968-
In 1968 Buckland formed the First Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in the United States, as influenced by Gardner’s Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. It started off as a by-appointment-only policy museum in his own basement. After his collection of artifacts grew he moved the museum to a 19th-century house in Bay Shore. The museum received some media attention, and a documentary was produced about it.
In 1973, following his separation from his wife, Buckland moved his museum to Weirs Beach in New Hampshire. In 1978, he moved to Virginia, disbanded the museum, and put all his artifacts in storage.
In 2008, the artifacts of the Museum were entrusted to the care of The Covenant of the Pentacle Wiccan Church (CPWC), based in New Orleans, Louisiana, and led by Arch Priestess Rev. Velvet Rieth. CPWC plans to raise funds to display the artifacts once more, either in a New Orleans area building, and/or as a traveling exhibit in select US cities.
In 1969 Buckland published his first book – A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural. He followed this in 1970 with Witchcraft Ancient and Modern and Practical Candleburning Rituals, as well as a novel called Mu Revealed, a spoof on the works of James Churchward, using the pseudonym Tony Earll (an anagram for ‘not really’). By 1973 he was earning enough money with his books that he could take over running of his museum full-time. He has published a book almost every year since.
Buckland formed his own Wiccan tradition, Seax-Wica, based upon symbolism taken from Anglo-Saxon paganism. He published everything about the movement in The Tree: Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft. He then began a correspondence course to teach people about Seax-Wica, which grew to having around a thousand members.
Buckland married his first wife, Rosemary, in 1955. They separated in 1973. In 1974 Raymond married Joan Helen Taylor. In 1992 Buckland and his third wife, Tara, moved to a farm in North Cental Ohio, where he continued to write, and work as a solitary Wiccan.