Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (born Timothy Zell, November 30, 1942, St. Louis, Missouri; formerly known as Otter G’Zell) is a co-founder of the Church of All Worlds, as well as a writer and speaker on the subject of Neopaganism. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri in 1965. In 1967, he received a Doctor of Divinity from Life Science College in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, then a teaching certificate from Harris Teacher’s College in St. Louis in 1968. He also attended graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis.
In an interview with Natalie Zaman in 2008, Zell described himself as a “wizard”. Distinguishing his practice from the wizards of fiction, Zell used the alternative spelling “magick” (with final “k”) and claimed that his interest therein began at an early age with the reading of Greek myths and fairy tales. As a child, Zell had visions, which his mother told him were derived from the life of his grandfather.
An early advocate of deep ecology, Zell-Ravenheart claims to have articulated the Gaia Thesis (using the spelling “Gaea”) in 1970, independently of Dr. James Lovelock, who is usually credited therewith. Along with his wife Morning Glory and the other members of his group marriage, he has been influential in the modern polyamory movement.
Zell-Ravenheart co-founded the Ecosophical Research Association in 1977, an organization that explores the truth behind myths. This group was known for the “living unicorns” they created by minor surgery to the horn buds of goats. One of their unicorns, Lancelot, toured with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Church of All Worlds
With R. Lance Christie, Zell-Ravenheart formed the Church of All Worlds (CAW) on April 7, 1962, by the ritual of “sharing water”. This foundation ritual was practiced by a fictional church of the same name in Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Zell-Ravenheart and Christie attributed their inspiration to Heinlein’s novel. From the 1960s through the late 1990s, Zell-Ravenheart served as High Priest and Primate of the church. He returned to lead the Church of All Worlds, Inc. in 2005 and currently serves as First Primate.
Role in Neopagan community
A sculptor as well as an author, Zell has created numerous images of Pagan deities—some based upon historical images, others his original creations. With his family, he runs Mythic Images, a business through which his artwork is distributed.
As the creator and original editor of the Neopagan magazine Green Egg in 1968, Zell-Ravenheart was an early popularizer of the term “Neo-Pagan”. When Green Egg began publishing as a spirit-duplicated newsletter, Zell used the term “Neo-Pagan” to describe the new religious movement he was helping to create. Green Egg later grew to be a semi-glossy magazine with international distribution and, in an era before the Internet, its letters column provided a widely distributed public forum for discussion and networking. From 1994 to late 2001, Green Egg was edited by Maerian Morris, a former High Priestess of the Church of All Worlds.Green Egg is currently published as an e-zine, edited by Ariel Monserrat.
Grey School of Wizardry
He is a founder and the current Headmaster of the Grey School of Wizardry, an online school specializing in the teaching of a wide range of esoteric magic.
The Grey School incorporated on March 14, 2005 as a non-profit educational institution in the State of California. The school grew from lessons originally created by the Grey Council, a team of two dozen practitioners, who with Zell-Ravenheart, wrote the Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard and later the Companion for the Apprentice Wizard. While initially conceived for ages 11–17, the school accepts adult students. The school comprises sixteen departments of study, various clubs and organizations, a forum area, a prefect/captain system, opportunities for awards and merits and a house/lodge system for adults and youths in which they can communicate directly with each other. Youth (under 18) students are sorted into four houses: Sylphs, Salamanders, Undines, and Gnomes. Adult (18+) students are sorted into four lodges: Society of the Four Winds, Order of the Dancing Flames, Coterie of the Flowing Waters, and Circle of the Standing Stones.
Speaker and teacher
Zell-Ravenheart regularly presents workshops, lectures, and ceremonies at Neopagan and New Age events, as well as at science fiction conventions and renaissance fairs. He and his wife Morning Glory have appeared at more than 20 Starwood Festivals and WinterStar Symposiums over a quarter century, maintain a Church of All Worlds presence at Starwood, called the CAWmunity, for over a decade.
Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart currently live in Sonoma County, California, where they are members of the Sonoma County Pagan Network. He is a frequent speaker at the organization’s local activities, and has contributed articles to its website.
During a routine colonoscopy, doctors found a cancerous growth attached to Zell’s colon, and removed it laparoscopically at Petaluma Valley Hospital. Following surgery, he underwent a six-month course of chemotherapy and has continued a reduced schedule of travel and teaching. Another surgery repaired a hernia at the cancer surgery incision in August 2009, but was otherwise not cancer-related. Zell regards himself as cured of the cancer. He resided in Sonoma County, California with Morning Glory until her death at age 65 from multiple myeloma on May 13, 2014.
Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart
Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart (May 27, 1948 – May 13, 2014), born as Diana Moore, subsequently known as Morning Glory Ferns, Morning Glory Zell and briefly Morning G’Zell, was a Neopagan community leader, author, lecturer, and priestess of the Church of All Worlds. An advocate of polyamory, she is credited with coining the word. With her husband Oberon Zell-Ravenheart she designed deity images.
Morning Glory was born as Diana Moore in 1948 in Long Beach, California. She was raised an only child in a strict Christian household by her Pentecostal mother, though she switched from attending a Methodist church to a Pentecostal one around age 10–12. At age 14 she broke with Christianity after arguing with her Methodist minister grandfather that animals had souls and went to heaven. She was strongly influenced by the Sybil Leek book, Diary of a Witch, which she read during high school. At the age of 17, Diana began practicing witchcraft. At the age of 20 she changed her name to Morning Glory because she did not care for the chastity requirement demanded of followers of the goddess Diana.
While en route to join a commune near Eugene, Oregon, in 1969, Morning Glory met a hitchhiker named Gary who joined her. The two were soon married, and the next year she gave birth to a daughter whom she named Rainbow. As a mother she was known as Morning Glory Ferns. Although Gary and Morning Glory conducted an open marriage, the union was broken when she met Timothy Zell after he gave the 1973 keynote speech at Gnosticon in Minnesota. Morning Glory divorced Gary and brought her daughter to St. Louis, Missouri, to live with Zell. Morning Glory and Zell married at the Gnosticon of Easter 1974, the well-attended ceremony performed by Archdruid Isaac Bonewits and High Priestess Carolyn Clark.
Church of All Worlds
In St. Louis, Morning Glory studied and was made a priestess of Zell’s Church of All Worlds. She helped him edit the group’s journal, Green Egg. In 1976 the two began almost a decade of traveling, adventure, and living in various retreats and in a school bus they converted to a mobile home. They founded the Ecosophical Research Association in 1977 at Coeden Brith, a ranch in rural Mendocino County, California, northwest of Ukiah, to investigate arcane lore and legends of cryptids such as Bigfoot and mermaids. Their wandering years ended in 1985 when they took up permanent residence at Coeden Brith, initially for the purpose of raising “unicorns” created from horn surgery on baby goats.
In 1979 Timothy Zell changed his first name to Otter, and for a short time the couple styled their surnames as G’Zell, a contraction of Glory Zell. In 1994 he changed his name to Oberon.
For Morning Glory, the ideal marriage has always been an open one, and her relationship with Zell developed into a polyamorous one made up of three people from 1984 to 1994, including Diane Darling. When this arrangement ended, Zell and Morning Glory bonded with others to make a marriage of five and sometimes six. The group took the collective surname Zell-Ravenheart, and lived in two large homes. Morning Glory’s May 1990 article “A Bouquet of Lovers”, first published in Green Egg, promoted the concept of a group marriage having more than two partners. The article is widely cited as the original source of the word “polyamory”, although the word does not appear in the article—the hyphenated form “poly-amorous” does instead.
With Darling, Morning Glory revived Green Egg in May 1988. The journal had been defunct since 1976. In 1990, she established the business Mythic Images, offering for sale reproductions of goddess and mythology sculptures crafted by Zell. Morning Glory ran the business in addition to lecturing and writing.
In 1999, the Zell-Ravenhearts moved to Sonoma County, California, where Oberon started the Grey School of Wizardry.
Morning Glory went to the hospital in 2005 to treat broken bones suffered in a fall. There, she learned she had multiple myeloma. She received surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and also entreated her friends to form a healing circle. She experienced a great increase in health in 2007. She lapsed in taking her medications in late 2011, and the disease returned in early 2012. During a period of remission in August 2012 she was filmed for a documentary about polyamory for the Destination America television channel, the show called Hidden in America, the segment titled “Polyamory in America”.
Her husband Oberon and his long term marriage partner Julie O’Ryan appeared together on screen to talk about their practice of polyamory. In reporting about the upcoming broadcast, Alan M of Polyamory in the News wrote that Morning Glory and Oberon, both battling cancer, looked “hale and hearty” in the preview available online.
In adolescence, her daughter Rainbow left to live with her father Gary, taking the name Gail.
Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart died at her home on May 13, 2014, two weeks before her 66th birthday, after a long battle with cancer.