Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Farewell Steve Wilson

The funeral took place in Beckton on February 10th of Steve Wilson (1955-2017), who died recently after nearly two years of serious illness.

A man of multiple enthusiasms including Leonard Cohen, Crystal Palace FC, and folklore,  it was in the pagan/occult scene that Steve was most active. Among other things he was at various times an Archpriest in the Fellowship of Isis,  Archdruid in the Druid Clan of Dana, and SE London regional co-ordinator of the Pagan Federation, as well as working for a spell in the famous Atlantis bookshop. In his druid capacity, he was involved in the campaign for access to Stonehenge, and as described in this 1996 article in the Independent, helping conduct summer solstice ceremonies at Parliament Hill and watching the 'sunrise at Plumstead Common Burial mound'. I have seen mention of  his involvement too in the delightfully named Plumstead Occasional Druids.

In his book 'Robin Hood: The Spirit of the Forest' (Neptune Press, 1993), Steve mentioned another important campaign from that period, the successful fight to stop the construction of a major road through Oxleas Wood 'where once the King of England and his Queen, along with the Guilds of the City of London, once watched Marian and Robin in their Mayday Revels... By involving ourselves in these battles we can let the spirit of  Robin and his band live on in ourselves'.

I met him through his involvement in the South East London Folklore Society. SELFS was established in the early 1990s (I believe), starting out at Charlton House, and Steve was active in it from early on. In its first incarnation it was primarily a regular meeting (moot) of local pagans and fellow travellers. Although it has subsequently broadened out to include a wider range of folklore, local history and fortean themes, the format of a speaker on an interesting topic followed by beer and discussion has continued down to the present. Steve himself gave a number of SELFS talks over the years, including one on  'Chaos, Conjuring and Combat' at a 1999 SELFS conference in Charlton House ('Thee Event -Thee Last Magickal Conference ov thee So-Called Millennium') and another entitled 'The Brockley Thing' at a SELFS event at the Brockley Jack during the 2005 Brockley Max Festival. The latter touched on another of Steve's interests - the history of the Woodcraft Folk and associated youth groups such as the Kibbo Kift Kindred and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry which he saw as linked to the 20th century neo-pagan revival - and in whose story SE London was an important focus.

Steve was a driving force and frequent MC at similar occultural 'moots' including Talking Stick, Secret Chiefs and The Moot with No Name (which he founded in 2003). He was thus a key contributor to the great London alternative university of esoteric talks in pubs - as well as organising and speaking he could always be guaranteed to have a question at the end of anybody else's talk! The debating and public speaking skills he no doubt first polished at Dulwich College were frequently put to use. He was a big man with a big voice.

Steve was an enthusiastic participant in the annual Deptford Jack in the Green/Fowlers Troop procession, including sometimes taking turns in the toughest job on the day, carrying the Jack - a heavy frame covered in foliage. The photos here are all of Steve in his May Day costume, the two below by Sarah Hannant.


Oriondruid said...

I knew Steve Wilson from my time attending the old Talking Stick Moot at Holborn and other Pagan and similar events. He was a great raconteur and polymath, able to talk knowledgeably about a vast range of subjects and also had a great sense of humour. In particular I remember one freezing Winter Solstice morning waiting with him for the eventual (and as usual late) arrival of several fellow Pagans to a planned Open Ritual that day, to be held at the top of Primrose Hill.

Whilst waiting for their eventual appearence we amused ourselves by devising a new version of the Druids Vow. Ours went...

We swear by peace and love to stand
Down at the bar with pint in hand
Or a glass of spirits and plate of chow
The pubs will all be open now.

Steve was a great guy and his death is a loss to all who knew him and leaves a large hole in the London Pagan scene.

Yewtree said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I was very fond of Steve, and he once travelled all the way across London to meet up for a drink and try to dissuade me from a bad decision that I wasn't actually planning on doing - so instead we spent a couple of hours drinking and reminiscing about old times and mutual friends, and rambling on about the occult.

I first met him at the old Talking Stick moot in London, when I travelled to give a talk on my book, "The Enchanted Forest". He was such a great MC - he created a bubble of bonhomie and goodwill for the speaker to step into and inhabit - amazing.

We then knew each other online back in the days of Wicca-UK which became the Pagan Network, and he gave a memorable talk at their conference in 2004, on his proposed foundation of Archaic Witchcraft, which he was planning to base on folkloric themes, much like the folkloric witchcraft which is now gaining wildly in popularity. How he would have loved the Nameless Arte conferences!

Also had a good chat with him at the funeral of Harry Greenfield, the former editor of Pagan Dawn when it was still called The Wiccan.