An Opinionated Blue Star History
By Kenny Klein
This is both a history and a personal memoir about Blue Star, its background and its evolution.
I first became involved in Blue Star in 1982. I was living in a one room tenement in New York City, playing Country music for a living, and being a punk rocker as a lifestyle. I had found Wicca after a (then) life-long spiritual search, first through a British Morris dancer in Upstate New York, then through Eileen Campbell Gordon, a woman with Scottish Traditional Craft training who owned a bookstore in the East Village in New York City. I frequented bookstores and shops where Wiccans hung out, most notably Herman Slater’s Magical Childe in Chelsea, and later Enchantments on Ninth street. There I met Tzipora who was teaching a Pagan Way, (the term for a series of Pagan classes in those early days of the Craft), and I became involved in Blue Star. The tradition, the coven, and my relationship with Tzipora both romantically and professionally dominated my life for the next nine years.
Here then is a brief history of Blue Star, at first through what was told to me by Tzipora, Franque, Lucina, Pan, Kelly, Tommy, Mariah, Kali and Candle (Blue Star as it existed when I entered it), and later through my own memories and experiences.
Blue star began in the 1970’s in the Philadelphia suburbs. Franque (sic) was a member of a local coven based on Alexandrian Wicca in Norristown, PA. As I was given the story Franque and his group had no formal training. They relied on the written material that was available at the time to create a coven structure, a Book of Shadows and a doctrine. Stewart Farrar's book What Witches Do spelled out the Alexandrian doctrine and ritual and it became the group's standard.
Franque was also active in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), a society or club that recreates the warfare and crafts of the Middle Ages. It was through the SCA that Franque met Tzipora.
Tzipora reports that from an early age she was interested in all things magical. According to her account, she would frequent Occult bookstores, including Samuel Weiser’s shop on Broadway in NYC. It was there that Tzipora came into contact with an elderly British gentleman who offered to teach her the Craft. This gentleman had a wife and a home in Long Island, New York, and it was there that Tzipora would go on weekends to be taught a traditional or family style Wiccan format. This continued through Tzipora’s late teens, until the family returned to the British Isles. According to Tzipora, they made her swear to keep a good deal of her training secret, and that she would receive signs when a time came to reveal what she had learned.
In her early twenties, Tzipora had joined the SCA, and through various SCA functions had met Franque. The two discovered a shared interest in the Craft. With no formal Wiccan training of his own, Franque welcomed Tzipora into his coven as a trained Priestess. The two became romantically involved, and ultimately Franque moved to Brooklyn NY to marry Tzipora. There the two formed Blue Star coven, whose original teachings were a cross between Tzipora’s traditional training and Franques Alexandrian roots.
Early Blue Star was a standard Alexandrian style coven with little exceptional history. Tzipora told me that in order to cloak her traditional training, due to the oaths of secrecy she swore, she used Alexandrian format, took an Alexandrian initiation (from Spawn Far coven in MA), and worked with Greco-Roman deities. Early B* initiates included Pan and Lucina, Mariah, Candle and Kali.
Tzipora and Franque also operated an occult shop together, called Tzipora and the Wizard, on 33rd Street and 3rd Avenue in NYC. Through the shop they made various Craft contacts, most notable of which were Richard and Tamara James of Toronto, Canada. The James settled in NYC for a time and worked for Tzipora in her store.
Another shop worker was Michele D. 16 at the time, she became very close to both Tzipora and Tamara, as all three were trained in various Family Tradition Craft covens or families: Michelle‘s training came from the Alsace area of France, and Tamara‘s from the British Isles. Tzipora, Michelle and Tamara began spending many hours comparing Craft traditions and creating ritual and doctrine based on their trainings, and out of these many months of conversation, both modern Blue Star and the Odyssian Tradition of the Wiccan Church of Canada began to take shape.
There came a time when Tamara and Richard returned to Toronto, Michelle D. created her own coven in Staten Island, NY, and the Tzipora and the Wizard shop went out of business (largely because Tzipora would spend afternoons crafting Blue Star with Tamara and Michelle, leaving Franque to run the store, a task for which he had no aptitude whatsoever). Tzipora put all of her Craft energies into Blue Star and the local Pagan community, and in 1976, created a Pagan gathering in mid-state NY called "Panthea." It was around this time also that the Pagan movement was coalescing in the U. S. and becoming more public, Pagan groups were creating gatherings on a national level and publishing newsletters and magazines. TheGreen Egg,a journal in publication since the ‘60s, found a wider audience and went into digest format. And Selena Fox, with partner Jim Allen, left the board of Pan Pagan gathering to form Circle and create the Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) in Wisconsin. Giving the New York Pagan community a yearly gathering and retreat put Tzipora, Franque, Tina, and Blue Star on the map, and gained respect for the coven among such New York Pagan luminaries as Isaac Bonewitz, Margot Adler and Judy Harrow. Tzipora also hosted an early forum for budding San Francisco author Star hawk, and often worked with Andros and Dierdra Arthen, legends of the Boston Pagan community. This level of activity made Blue Star, and Tzipora herself, well known and highly regarded as a local coven and priestess.
Blue Star itself continued as a small Brooklyn based coven until 1982. In the Autumn of that year, Tzipora, who had been having marital strife with Franque, met Kenny (the author of this narrative), a struggling musician living in New York’s East Village. Kenny had had some Craft training from several Traditional sources, including Eileen Campbell Gordon, a Scottish practitioner and book store owner. Kenny and Tzipora began playing music together, and after her divorce from Franque, Kenny married Tzipora in 1983.
Tzipora had wanted for some time to move Blue Star out of the Alexandrian framework and into a more Traditional structure. She saw her union with Kenny, with his traditional background, as the "sign" her original teachers predicted would appear and allow her to do this. Over the next two years, 1983-85,while the couple worked together as a music duo and at various odd jobs, they began refining and redefining Blue Star to encompass the Traditional British Isles training both had been fortunate enough to acquire. Blue Star took on a new shape, with a focus on British Isles Gods/Goddesses and traditions, and new ritual protocols. While certain elements remained: the altar, the Sabbaths and Esbats, the basic ritual structure; many things changed: an insistence on British Isles worship, the addition of Traditional British ritual elements, a greater role for the priest in ritual, and certain British Isles/Craft dances and chants from each of the couples’ training.
This was not a good time for Blue Star as a functioning coven. Several well trained initiates hived from the group at this time, most notably Pan and Lucina, and Mariah. While Mariah simply went on to other things (she was not only a Wiccan Priestess but also a Kung Fu master), Pan and Lucina did not wish to embrace the changes in Blue Star’s direction and decided to form a new coven based on the B* traditions they had been taught. Their group, Crystal Blue Star, was probably the first hived coven to carry Blue Star teachings to a new generation of students, and was a role model for nearly all hives that followed (including the tradition of taking "Blue" or "Star" in the newly formed coven’s name). The couple now live in Minnesota, and continue to teach the B* rituals and traditions that they were raised in.
As far as newer students, B* had a dismal succession of flakes and junkies pass through over these difficult years. One student moved in and began stealing from the group to support her habit (not the last time this has happened), several entered sexual relationships with the priest and priestess but never quite "got" Blue Star teaching. In all (and this was largely due to Kenny’s Punk background and, at that time, his passion for weird homeless Punk girls) B* never really went anywhere for a while. But the time was used constructively to put together a new ritual format and to transition to a more traditional Craft form. Kenny and Tzipora also used this time to work on their musical act. Despite the failure of B* to attract satisfactory students, this period laid the foundation for what was coming.
In 1984, Kenny and Tzipora moved to Staten Island, New York, first into a small duplex house, and later into an old graveyard caretaker’s house (just the place you would expect witches to live). Kenny took a job as a ninth grade English teacher, and the two began finding a better class of students. Among the people who entered B* at this time, and would become very influential were: Shana, who was 11 when Kenny met her, Daniel; who would take B* initiation and live with K&Tz as their nanny for many years; and Leira, who was perhaps the first student to learn the "new" Trad-based B* and hive off to form her own coven, Starsong in Boston.
In these current days, twenty years later, people in Blue Star argue and lament over who has "real" Blue Star training. The truth is, Blue Star is a living tradition, and underwent many changes in routine and policy. This period, 1983-86, was the time when possibly the greatest number of major changes were made. The worship of world pantheons was dropped in favor of British Isles Gods. Ritual elements were changed or replaced. Many ritual elements that were clearly Ceremonial in origin, rather than Wiccan, were dropped. Leira was perhaps the last B* initiate to be trained as we crossed from the old system to the new. While Pan and Lucina are the living historians on older B*, Leira is the living historian on this transitional period.
Perhaps the greatest major change to B* was the move from a local coven to a national tradition. This happened more by chance than design. After living in the graveyard in Staten Island for a while, in 1986, Kenny and Tzipora left New York City to pursue a music career on the road (partly because the graveyard house had been condemned and was actually burned down by hoodlums the following Samhain). So K&Tz, with Daniel and their two children, took to the road. They played Pagan fests, house concerts, renaissance festivals, and basically whatever would pay them (and few paid them much, believe me!). In their travels, they met people all over the US who wanted a more traditional or more in-depth training than they had received. Kenny and Tzipora came to a decision that they could teach Blue Star while on the road by creating taped materials, a newsletter, and with frequent visits to an area where students lived (this had been tried before, with questionable success, in the early ‘80’s, when a couple studying with Tzipora had moved from Brooklyn to Youngstown, Ohio, and had wanted to continue their B* training). National Blue Star began to take shape, and B* began to shift from a local coven to a Craft tradition. Neophyte student George Marvil initiated a newsletter and began copying taped teaching materials. Kenny and Tzipora taped classes and a lesson for each Sabbath. And the duo began scheduling their tours around areas where Blue Star students lived. Pagan festivals became a meeting place for Blue Star people, and at fests like PSG and Heartland Festival, a Blue Star enclave formed each year.
A word about key initiates at this time, which included Daniel, Leira, Devyn & Dove, and George Marvil. We began living a very surreal life in these days. We encountered students in obvious places, like Pagan fests. But we also began teaching impromptu classes in odder places. We met George Marvil, who would become one of B*’s most dedicated and productive members, in a diner in New Jersey. We came upon Sabrina Chase in much the same way (and I think on the same night in the same diner, if my memory serves, which it often does not). One Pagan woman we encountered often (though never officially a B* member) was an OTR trucker who would happen to show up at truck stops we’d be eating at in places like Nebraska and Wyoming, and we would later meet a long term student at a jewelry kiosk in a Pennsylvania mall.
As K&Tz spoke at Pagan fests and convened impromptu after-concert groups in diners, people would ask to be taken on as students. We hated to turn people away, and it came to pass that we found ourselves with study groups in Massachusetts, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Minnesota and Northern California. The taped materials and newsletter held B* together during this period, and K&TZ spent weeks and even moths in areas where B* students lived, playing gigs, socializing, circling and teaching.
Winters were always a slow touring time for the musical duo, so Kenny and Tzipora began scheduling Blue Star gatherings. Unlike the B* enclaves at existing Pagan fests, these gatherings were private B* only affairs, stretching over a long weekend or a week. The first such gathering, over a Yule in a rented beach house in North Carolina, saw about 50 Blue Star students and clergy come together for ritual and classes. In the Spring, 80 people came to a campground in Massachusetts. To me, these were the "golden days" of Blue Star. It was amazing for all involved to come into a circle where 80 people joined voices to sing "Ecko Ecko" together.
By the early ‘90s, Kenny and Tzipora were semi-settled, at least over the winters, in a house in Doylestown, a suburb of Philadelphia (ironically the birthplace of B*) with George, Nick and Alex, and occasional others. Sabrina was involved heavily at this point, as were the Missouri contingent of Spiral’s group, and Diana in Tennessee, whom K & Tz visited on tours fairly often. Through B* activities in NJ, George met Cat. The two married and formed a B* Balefire coven in NJ.
A note on that: Like other traditions, B* initiates ultimately hive off, or form new covens, based on B* tradition. Many of these covens, in deference to the name Blue Star, have taken "Blue" or "Star" in their coven names, i.e. Crystal Blue Star, Ostara, Second Star On The Right, Star Song, and others. Other groups have not opted for these elements, naming themselves for some important aspect of their worship: Balefires is one, and Rose and Antler another. There is no hard and fast rule. Each B* coven, however, retains a vast amount of BS tradition, especially in the altar set up, the ritual format, the elevations toward initiation, and the worship of mostly European gods/goddesses (though this last is a big variable).
In early 1992 Kenny and Tzipora ended their marriage and their musical union. The divorce was a bitter one, with much animosity on both sides, and many people in B* felt compelled to take sides or to lay low. Sadly, this did a good deal of harm, I feel, to B*’s structure, integrity and reputation. There was some vying for leadership roles (though each coven had its priest and priestess so each could stand autonomously) and a lot of name calling, accusations and scandal. I am glad to say that when the dust cleared, B* was still there, and still a living, evolving tradition.
Tzipora remarried, and settled in NJ. Her presence in this recounting will end here, and any history of her involvement with B* from this point must be chronicled by herself or someone closer to her personal history. I will simply say, though, that though she and I had many very public differences, she was the finest, most knowledgeable Craft priestess I have ever personally known, and I learned a great deal from her.
I had met a woman in Kansas City, and I moved there to be with her. Bunny had been looking for Wicca for several years, and had been trained by a very questionable, charlatan coven. She had been going to some Pagan fests to connect with other Pagans when I met her at Heartland Pagan Festival. After establishing a romance, I began training her in B*, and she ultimately began functioning as priestess. We called our B* group Rose and Antler. We took on several students, none of whom really lasted, though one, Kristie, was an excellent student and might have gone far. She was devoted to art, though, and superb at it, and finally left Kansas City to go to the Art Institute in Chicago. She loater married and moved to Iowa.
Back to the story:
While Bunny and I established Rose and Antler in Kansas City, other B* people did essentially the same thing. Until this point, B* had been a large coven, with the common thread being Kenny and Tzipora as teachers, priestess/priest, and central personalities. With the two of us split up, and Tzipora essentially dropping out of sight (and me in KC, MO, not on the road) B* evolved into a structure like any other large tradition, i.e. Gardnerian or Alexandrian: autonomous covens led by priests/priestesses, with the commonality of training, ritual and doctrine. Of course individual covens began evolving their own doctrine, or even verging drastically away from what B* was when they learned it (while rare, this happened in two cases that I know of). With clergy trained at different times and under different circumstances, one might see two B* covens as seeming completely different today. Pan and Lucina’s group, for instance, seems like a totally different group than Balefires in NJ, with very different rituals, songs, and priest/priestess roles. But each has commonalities of the altar set up, the Wheel of the Year arrangement, certain ritual elements like the Wine and Cakes, and the singing of "EKo EKo" ("Home Again" is the actual title) as a call to worship. Other common elements from group to group include the altar set up, our Charge of the Goddess, our Wiccan Rede, and our elevations.
I stayed in Kansas City for a couple of years, and had frequent contact with the Columbia, MO group, and with the Minnesota group. I also traveled a bit, and renewed my connection with Balefires in New Jersey. Devyn and Dove were also living in NJ, and were forming the Pagan Students Group at Rutgers University. I lectured at their first meeting, and there met Megan and several other current members of Balefires.
In time, perceiving that I couldn't really make a living in KC, I went back to renaissance festivals, which put me back on the road. This brought me into contact with a large portion of B*. I was able to get a feel for how individual covens were creating their own B* niche throughout the United States. In time I settled and had a small group in Los Angeles, where I stayed on and off for nearly a decade. There I initiated Tegan, who continues to be one of my shining Priestesses. I lived with and worked for a while with Anna, who is also a Priestess, and a great resource for mythic lore.
I am currently in New Orleans, where I am teaching B* to a very good, small group. My girlfriend Lauren is also in the group (she comes from an eclectic group who call themselves The Pirates, and who dress and perform as, well, pirates). I am involved in several local Pagan groups, especially the Lamplight Circle, an open meet-up.
I do a number of Pagan festivals each summer, and see a few Blue Star people in doing so. Blue Star seems to be growing like a weed, to the point where I can't really keep up with how large it's gotten or who some of the newer initiates of other groups are... I suppose that's a good thing. I perform at Brushwood's festivals, and at Wisteria, and many B* people attend these events. B* also now has several Internet networks, including a closed BBS, a Live Journal presence and a Facebook presence. The "family gatherings," B* only camping events, continue to occur yearly.
You may contact me about B* and about my New Orleans coven at my personal e-mail. You can also track me down at various festivals and events throughout the year.