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Fritz Muntean Collection

Collection number: MS-150-24

Content Description

Contains electronic documents related to NROOGD, homilies given by Muntean, biographical information for a memoir, the first 18 issues of the Pomegranate, and email related to AAR


  • 1970 - 2021


Biographical / Historical

Fritz Muntean was born (as Frederick Dean Muntean) in 1939 in Western Pennsylvania. Both his parents were second-generation immigrants. His father came from a Romanian Orthodox background; his mother from Welsh Congregationalists. They attended a large Presbyterian church, giving Fritz his first taste of Gothic splendor and a yearning for the numinous. Sitting on the house roof under a full moon proved more satisfactory. Graduating high school in 1956, Fritz joined the US Air Force, working first as a radar mechanic, then as a clerk-typist. In his free time he read widely, and glimpsed new horizons on meeting students from Reed College, an early hotbed of radical style and ideas. In 1961 Fritz joined the Freedom Ride in Jackson, Mississippi, and was arrested for passive resistance. The next summer he moved to Berkeley, California, where he experienced many aspects of the counterculture, especially the enthusiasm for Eastern spiritual paths. In San Francisco Fritz met Aidan Kelly, who introduced him to the theories and poetry of Robert Graves and to the witchcraft revival of Gerald Gardner. Along with a number of like-minded friends they held seasonal rituals, enhanced by a variety of psychedelics. On a beach at Summer Solstice 1965 they cast their first spell, a conjuring of the North Wind derived from Graves, and raised a spectacular windstorm. Identifying more with the hippies than with the Beats, Fritz ran a light-show shop on Haight-Ashbury and continued practicing magic in the city, the forest, and the beach. In the winter of 1968-69 one of Fritz's friends took a course at San Francisco State University on "Ritual as an Art Form," and as her final project, led 13 friends and fellow students in a recreation of a Witches' Sabbath. In 1968, after several years developing rituals with dramatic and poetic content, Kelly and others founded the "New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn" (pronounced N'roogd). This was the first order of Gardnerian-style witchcraft west of the Rockies. The name alluded to the fact that Gardner's witchcraft was not, as he claimed, from an unbroken tradition of secret paganism, but invented by him with influence from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The next year, Fritz emigrated to Canada with his wife and infant daughter, settling in the Kootenay Mountains, with high hopes for cultivating Paganism as a nature religion. Three years of homesteading brought the realization that the Pagan tradition was, and always had been, an urban affair. With fortuitous timing, a house he had built in California appeared on the front cover of an influential book, Handmade Houses, and with that as passport he landed a job with a prominent Vancouver architect. Vancouver in the 1970s was waking up to alternative lifestyles, resembling California a decade earlier. Fritz found it a rich field for Pagans, witches, and rituals both private and public. In the early 1980s, Fritz taught carpentry and building skills in a series of remote First Nation villages. This also brought realism, rather than New Age fantasy, about the spirituality of indigenous peoples. Other realizations came with his study of Jungian psychology, including a course of analysis and a broadening self-education in history and mythology. Whereas the Pagan-Wiccan mainstream was imagining their spiritual ancestry in rural customs and beliefs, Fritz was more drawn to the Greco-Roman tradition, especially the classical mystery religions. For several years he helped organize a sumptuous re-enactment of the Eleusinian Mysteries at Fort Flagler, a WWI coastal defense site in the Seattle area. He went on the lecturing circuit with "Wicca and the Unconscious Mind," a weekend workshop including a ritual drama. His essay on the Tarot Trumps applied Jungian archetypes to analyzing styles of leadership in the broader Pagan community. A deepening respect for scholarship and truth in history came to a head in the "Great Seattle Witch Wars" at the end of the 1980s. On one side were the adherents of Margaret Murray's fantasy of a perennial pagan subcurrent, and of Gerald Gardner's claims to have discovered and revived a secret religion of Goddess worship, that had survived the "Burning Times" in which 9,000,000 witches were supposedly immolated. Some proponents on the more radical wing of second-wave feminism insisted that Wicca could only be a religion for women. On the other side were those who heeded the results of scholarly research, especially that of Ronald Hutton, a British academic of impeccable credentials, who showed the falsity of these beliefs and Gardner's fraud in claiming documentary evidence for them. As always in religious controversies, emotions ran high and accusations flew wildly. In the wake of these Witch Wars, Fritz decided to address his own lack of higher education, and enrolled in the Religious Studies program of the University of British Columbia. As a mature and serious student, he was soon writing term-papers of lasting value. After obtaining a bachelor's degree he proceeded to an M.A, with a thesis on "The Role of Saint Martin of Braga in the Moderation of Ecclesiastical Attitude toward Alternate Religious Beliefs and Practices in Sixth Century Gaul and Northern Iberia." In Fritz's summary, it contrasted the aristocratic, ascetic, poorly educated, monastery-based bishops who believed that only Christians could perform sacred acts, with the urbane, classically educated, basilica-based bishops who declared that all acts could be sacred, thus opening the door to the early Christian embrace of magical practices (which still persist in Catholic and High Church liturgies). Of a secret, underground paganism there was no trace. Another fable demolished by academic attention to paganism was the "myth of the midwife witch" and her persecution as part of a class war on rural folk. Documentary evidence revealed that the accusers of village midwives, healers, and cunning folk were not the male authorities, but almost entirely by other women. In 1990 Ronald Hutton exposed the myth of the "Burning Times" as no more true than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1996 Fritz and Diana Tracy founded the first scholarly journal on Paganism, The Pomegranate, to further dialogue between academics and Pagans. Hutton and others supported it by offering excerpts from his forthcoming books, and Pagan practitioners of many kinds made an exciting, provocative mixture. The Pomegranate was later taken over by Equinox Publishing. During this time, Fritz began attending the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion. For historians of religions, modern Paganism was a fascinating case of a new religion in the making. Fritz combined these ventures into the academic world with regular practices, many inspired by the classical Greek theater, dedicated to Dionysus; the leading thought, that the heart of the mystery religions was the enactment of sacred stories, moving the audience to a shared experience of transcendence and, at its summit, of mystical unity with the Divine. By the turn of the millennium, with his graduate degree and the Pomegranate flourishing, Fritz enjoyed the unofficial status of an elder in the Pagan community and a guest at many Pagan circles. He was considering retirement from carpentry when a new development of artisan studios opened on Granville Island (a popular district of Vancouver), and he was chosen for one of the twelve spots. For another 10 years, Fritz continued building arts & craft furniture, attending pagan events, and singing in the choir of the Vancouver Unitarian Church. Fritz as of this writing is now (at 85) enjoying retirement. He no longer considers himself a Pagan leader. "I used to be a bit of an elder -- teaching classes, writing rituals, helping organize events, etc -- but that was years ago. Now, in my 'post-elder' years, I do my best to be as low-maintenance as possible, to keep my stronger (and more outdated) opinions to myself, and to slide into curmudgeonly disrepair with as much grace and dignity as possible."


50 Digital items



Processing Information

UUID:851B7BB2-7952-EF9A-4B67-5103D058688B AQ: AQ-2021-005

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Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Valdosta State University Archives, Odum Library
1500 N. Patterson St.
Valdosta GA 30601 United States
229-259-5055 (Fax)