MICHELE NORRIS, host:

One of the country's leading elders in contemporary Paganism died yesterday. Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits was an expert on ancient and modern Druidism. He was an author, lecturer and songwriter.

NPR's Margot Adler knew Bonewits, and has this remembrance.

MARGOT ADLER: Isaac Bonewits had a sardonic wit. His first book, "Real Magic," had on the back cover his diploma from the University of California at Berkeley. It said: A major in magic. And his diploma was signed, as all Berkeley diplomas were in 1970, by Governor Ronald Reagan.

Through his career, he maintained a skeptical view of much of the occult, but believed there was a real psychic reality. He always used humor.

In a lecture in Canada in 2009, he said tribes for thousands of years used magic, and developed rules around it for the good of the tribe.

Mr. PHILLIP EMMONS ISAAC BONEWITS: There wasn't really a whole lot being said about magic being done to people who belonged to other tribes because, as we all know, people who don't belong to our tribe aren't completely human.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BONEWITS: That's the entire history of our species, unfortunately.

ADLER: Bonewits was founder and the archdruid of Ar nDraiocht Fein, a Druid fellowship. Most Druid orders are secret. The ADF was committed to being a public tradition of Druidism. The religion emphasizes harmony and respect for nature.

For over 40 years, Bonewits influenced the growing Earth religions movement, and he had no patience for some of the lies and exaggerations that certain leaders of Paganism and Wicca made about their origins and history. He influenced these movements to end claims of an unbroken lineage to the ancient world.

He understood that groups can easily turn into cults. And after the Jim Jones massacre in 1978, Bonewits created a way to measure cult dangers. It uses a scale of one to 10 to evaluate any group. For example, looking at an organization, you could ask: How much internal control over members does it have? How much censorship of members' access to outside opinions? How grim and humorless is it? The higher the score, the more dangerous.

Bonewits was also a songwriter. His "Hymn to Bridget" is a fitting sendoff.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

(Soundbite of song, "Hymn to Bridget")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing in foreign language).

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

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