The 1960s: the 9th Cultural Renaissance
As with every Cultural Renaissance cycle, at the beginning of the 1960s, many Americans believed they were standing at the dawn of a Golden Age. On January 20, 1961, the handsome and charismatic John F. Kennedy became President of the United States, evoking references to mythic Camelot. However, that Golden Age never materialized. On the contrary, by the end of the 1960s, with riots, assassinations, and the escalating Vietnam War, it seemed that the nation was falling apart. And yet, the numerous significant Movements that were initiated during this decade had a lasting and transformative impact on society: Sexual Freedom, Free Speech, Anti-War, Civil Rights, Liberal Politics, Psychedelics, Gay Rights, Feminism, Environmentalism, and, of course, Modern Paganism. Here is an abbreviated Chronology of some of the significant events of the decade:
- ?? Victor & Cora Anderson found the Mahaelani coven, named after the Hawaiian Goddess of the full moon.
- ?? The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) first meets in Ann Arbor, MI. It eventually becomes the most notable radical student political organization of the counterculture era.
- May 9 The female birth-control contraceptive, The Pill, is released in the U.S. after FDA approval. Beginning of Sexual Freedom Movement.
- Sept. Harvard lecturer Timothy Leary and assistant professor Richard Alpert begin experimenting with hallucinogens at Cambridge, MA.
- Nov. 8 John F. Kennedy wins a close election against Richard M. Nixon to become the 35th President of the U.S.
- ?? Approximately 700 American advisory forces first arrive in Vietnam.
- Jan. 20 In a powerful inaugural address, President Kennedy calls upon citizens to “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
- Mar. 1 JFK signs an executive order creating the Peace Corps.
- April 12 The Soviets send the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into outer space.
- May 4 Freedom Riders. Civil Rights activists travel on public buses and trains across the American South to personally confront and challenge segregation. Civil Rights Movement begins.
- May 25 Pres. Kennedy sets for the U.S. the goal of landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.
- Aug. 13 Berlin Wall. To stem the massive tide of emigration from the communist East into the democratic West, the Soviets begin construction of a wall dividing the city of Berlin, Germany.
- October Robert Anson Heinlein publishes Stranger in a Strange Land.
- Nov. 1 Women Strike for Peace. 50,000 women march in 60 cities in the US to demonstrate against nuclear weapons. Beginning of Anti-Nuclear Movement.
- Jan. 12 Operation Chopper. US forces participate in major combat in Vietnam for the first time.
- April 7 First water-sharing by Tim Zell and Richard Lance Christie at Westminster College in Fulton, MO; beginning of the first Pagan Church of All Worlds.
- Sept. 12 President John F. Kennedy speaks at Rice: “… we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard …”
- Sept. 27 Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s expose’ is published and the modern environmental movement begins.
- Oct. 1 Following a Sept. 30 riot which leaves 2 dead and over 300 injured, James Meredith is the first African-American student to enter “Ole Miss.” Racial integration in colleges begins; civil rights becomes a central issue
- Oct. 16-28 The Cuban missile Crisis– a near-military confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The closest we ever came to a nuclear war.
- ?? Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA) is formed at Carleton College, Northfield, MN by David Fisher, David Frangquist, Howard Cherniack, Jan Johnson and Norman Nelson. http://rdna.info/
- ?? Alexander Sanders is initiated by Pat Kopanski, and allowed to copy her Book of Shadows.
- ?? Ray Buckland is initiated by Lady Olwen into Gerald Gardner’s coven in England.
- ?? The Sexual Freedom League is founded in New York City by Jefferson Poland and Leo Koch.
- Feb. 19 Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, reawakening the feminist movement and being largely responsible for its second wave.
- May The first organized Vietnam War protests occur in England and Australia.
- June 10 “A Strategy of Peace.” JFK delivers a powerful commencement speech at American University.
- June 17 The US Supreme Court rules public school-sponsored Bible reading unconstitutional.
- July 26–28 The legendary Newport Folk Festival features Bob Dylan and fellow protest singers Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Peter, Paul & Mary.
- Aug. 28 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his landmark “I have a dream!” speech before 200,000 on the Mall in Washington, DC during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
- Nov. 22 President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, TX at age 46. He is replaced by Vice President Lyndon Johnson.
- ?? Ray Buckland brings Gardnerian Wicca to US in 1964, establishing Long Island Coven and Museum of Witchcraft in New York.
- Jan. 13 The Times They Are A-Changin’, Bob Dylan’s 3rd album, is released and the title track is soon considered to be the most prophetic and relevant American protest song of the era.
- Feb. 3 Nearly half a million public school students in NYC boycott classes in protest of segregation.
- Feb. 7-22 The Beatles make their first US visit and are showcased three times on The Ed Sullivan Show, spearheading the British Invasion.
- May 12 The first public draft-card burning is reported in New York City.
- June 14 The Merry Pranksters. Led by author Ken Keysey, an assemblage of adventure seekers departs California in the repurposed school bus Further en route to the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, NY.
- July 2 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
- Oct. 1 The Free Speech Movement begins with a student sit-in at the University of California, Berkeley.
- ?? The Waxing Moon Pagan journal is founded by Joseph B. Wilson.
- Mar. 24–25 The first major “Teach-In” is held by the SDS in Ann Arbor. 3000 attend.
- April 17 The first major anti-Vietnam War rally in the US is organized by the SDS in Washington, DC. 20,000 attend. Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Phil Ochs perform.
- May Owsley Stanley returns to the Bay Area with the first large batch of LSD for sale as a recreational drug.
- May Drop City, one of the earliest hippie communes, is founded in Colorado, US.
- Sept. 5 The word hippie is first used in print by San Francisco writer Michael Fallon, helping popularize use of the term in the media.
- Oct. 15-16 Vietnam War protests in cities across the US draw 100,000.
- Nov. 27 Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters hold the first “Acid Test” in Soquel, CA.
- Nov. 27 Up to 35,000 anti-war protesters march on the White House.
- Jan. 8 The “Acid Test” arrives at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. 2,400 attend.
- April 7 Sandoz, the sole legitimate manufacturer of pharmaceutical-grade LSD, stops supplying the drug to researchers.
- May 15 10,000 anti-war protesters picket the White House.
- May 18 10,000 students rally against the draft at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
- June 30 The National Organization of Women (NOW) is founded in Washington, DC.
- Sept. 8 Star Trek premiers on TV, portraying a hopeful vision of the future.
- ?? Julian Review published by Don Harrison, named after Julian, the last Pagan Roman Emperor.
- Jan. 14 Human Be-In, “The joyful, face-to-face beginning of the new epoch” is held in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. 20,000 attend.
- Feb. 5 The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour debuts on CBS and soon pushes the boundaries of acceptable broadcast TV content to the limit.
- June–Sept. The “Summer of Love” in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco and recognition of the Hippie movement.
- June 16-18 The Monterey Pop Festival in California.
- Aug. 2 Feraferia (“Wild Festival”) is established by visionary artist Fred Adams as a Church in California, as a continuation of Adams’ Fellowship of Hesperides. While not yet explicitly “Pagan,” Feraferia is the first of the new Nature Religions to be legally incorporated. http://feraferia.org/joomla//
- Aug. 22 Look Magazine runs a cover story on “The Hippies.”
- Sep. 7 Tim Zell proclaims the religious identity of himself and the Church of All Worlds as “Pagan,” thus beginning the Pagan Movement.
- Sept. 21 First issue of Feraferia’s newsletter, Korethalia, is published at Fall Equinox.
- Oct. 31 New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (NROOGD) chartered at San Francisco State University by Erif Thunen, Aiden Kelly, and Glenn Turner.
- ?? Delphic Fellowship founded by Michael Kinghorn; the first serious attempt to bring together all the various modern Pagan groups existing at that time. In 1969 it is absorbed into the Council of Themis.
- Jan. 22 Laugh-In, The sketch comedy “phenomenon that both reflected and mocked the era’s counterculture” and brought it into “mainstream living rooms,” debuts on US TV.
- Feb. 8 Orangeburg Massacre. Police fire on and kill three protesting segregation at a South Carolina bowling alley.
- Feb. 15 All four Beatles, along with fellow devotees such as Mike Love, Donovan and Mia Farrow, journey to Rishikesh in India to study Transcendental Meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
- Mar. 4 The Church of All Worlds is incorporated in Missouri as the first avowedly “Pagan” Church ever. http://caw.org/content/
- ?? Fred Adams accepts the Tim Zell’s designation “Neo-Pagan” for Feraferia, and they co-found the Council of Themis—the first Pagan alliance.
- Mar. 16 My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. Wanton rape and murder of innocents by US GIs creates enormous new anti-war outcry when news leaks in 1969.
- Ma.r 21 Green Egg, edited by Tim Zell, debuts as a one-page newsletter at Spring Eqiinox. It eventually becomes the vanguard journal of the Pagan Movement.
- Mar.22 3,000 Yippies take over Grand Central Station in New York City, staging a “Yip-In” that ultimately results in an “extraordinary display of unprovoked police brutality” and 61 arrests.
- April 4 Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, is assassinated.
- April 14 The Easter Sunday “Love-In” is held in Malibu Canyon, CA.
- May The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers first appear in The Rag, an Austin TX underground paper
- June 5 Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. Senator and brother of JFK, is assassinated.
- June 27 Stonewall Riots begin a new period of the LGBT rights movement.
- June 19 “Solidarity Day” protest at Resurrection City draws 55,000 participants.
- July 17 The Beatles’ post-psychedelic, pop-art animated film Yellow Submarine is released in the UK (November 13 in the US).
- July 28–30 University of California, Berkeley campus shut down by protests.
- Aug. 25–29 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The proceedings are overshadowed by massive protests staged by thousands of demonstrators of every stripe. Mayor Daley’s desire to enforce order in the city results in egregious police brutality, televised on national TV. The spectacle is a turning point for both supporters and critics of the larger movement.
- Fall Stewart Brand begins publication of The Whole Earth Catalog.
- Nov. 5 Former Vice President Richard M. Nixon defeats sitting VP Hubert Humphreyin a close race. Nixon becomes the 37th President of the US, ending eight years of Democratic Party control of the White House.
- Dec. 24 Earthrise, a striking photograph of the Earth taken from lunar orbit is called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”
- ?? Council of Themis, the first Neo-Pagan ecumenical alliance, is formed by Tim Zell, Fred Adams, Michael Kinghorn and others. It grows to 25 member groups before breaking up in 1972.
- ?? Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO); first US chapter founded by Grady McMurtry in Berkeley, CA.
- ?? Ordo Templi Astartes (OTA) founded by Carroll “Poke” Runyon; incorporated in 1971.
- ?? Psychedelic Venus Church founded by Jefferson Fuck Poland, as a successor to the Sexual Freedom League he had founded at San Francisco State University several years before.
- April US troop strength in Vietnam peaks at over 543,000
- April 4 Due to ongoing pressure over highly controversial content, CBS cancels the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
- May 15 Bloody Thursday. Alameda County Sheriffs and National Guardsman authorized by governor Ronald Reagon move to eject unlawful protestors from People’s Park at U.C Berkeley. They open fire with buckshot-loaded shotguns, mortally wounding student James Rector, permanently blinding carpenter Alan Blanchard, and inflicting lesser wounds on several others.
- May 23 Tommy, The Who’s rock opera, is a smash hit.
- June 28 The Stonewall Riots in New York City are the first major gay-rights uprisings in the US.
- July 14 Easy Rider, the low-budget, cocaine-dealing biker road movie is released and becomes a de facto cultural landmark.
- July 15 Cover story in Look Magazine: “How Hippies Raise their Children.”
- July 18 Cover story in Life Magazine: “The Youth Communes – New Way of Living Confronts the U.S.”
- July 20 Apollo 11 makes first manned landing on the Moon. Neil Armstrong is first human to set foot on another world. A plaque with the inscription “We Came in Peace for All Mankind” is left on the lunar surface.
- Aug. 9–10 Helter Skelter. Actress Sharon Tate, Tate’s unborn baby, and five others are viciously murdered by cult members acting under the direction of psychopath Charles Manson.
- Aug. 15–18 Woodstock. An estimated 300,000–500,000 people gather in upstate New York for “3 Days of Peace & Music” at the watershed event in counterculture history.
- Sept. Penthouse. The first US issue of Robert Guccione’s sexually explicit monthly hits newsstands.
- Oct. 15 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. Massive anti-war demonstrations across the US and world.
- Nov. 15 Moratorium redux: over 500,000 march in Washington, DC, in the largest anti-war demonstration in US history.
- Nov. 20 Native American protesters begin the occupation of Alcatraz, which continues for 19 months.
- Dec. Total US casualties (dead and seriously wounded) in Vietnam total 100,000.
- Dec. 6 Altamont. The Rolling Stones help organize and headline at a free concert attended by 300,000. The event, intended as a “Woodstock West,” devolves into chaos and violent death.
- Dec. Wavy Gravy’s Hog Farm hippie commune is established near Llano, NM.
- Dec. Friends of the Earth is founded in the US. It becomes an international network in 1971.
- Dec. Making of a Counterculture, Theodore Roszak’s Reflections on the Technocratic Society is published. Roszak is later credited with coining the term “counterculture” in print.
- ?? Gavin & Yvonne Frost found the Church and School of Wicca in St Louis, MO.
- ?? Witches International Craft Associates (WICA) founded by Leo Louis Martello in New York.
- ?? Pagan Way founded by Joseph B. Wilson, Ed Fitch, and Thomas Giles.
- Jan. President Nixon establishes the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Jan. 13 “Why We Need a New Religion” by John Poppy published in final issue of Look Magazine.
- March 7 Total eclipse of the sun visible across most of North America and Central America. Tim Zell takes LSD for first time.
- April 7 California Governor Ronald Reagan is quoted on college campus student unrest: “If it takes a blood bath, let’s get it over with.”
- April 7 X-Rated Midnight Cowboy wins three Oscars including Best Picture in Hollywood.
- April 10 Paul McCartney, when promoting his first solo album, announces that the Beatles have disbanded.
- April 15 100,000 gather on Boston Common to protest the Vietnam War.
- April 22 Earth Day. The first event recognizing the precarious environmental state of planet earth is held.
- May 4 Kent State Massacre. Soldiers of the Ohio National Guard open fire on unarmed students at Kent State University, leaving four dead and nine wounded.
- May 5 The International Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty takes effect.
- May 6 Many colleges across the US shut down in protest of the war and the Kent State events.
- May 9 100,000 rally against war in Washington, DC. At 4:15am, President Nixon leaves the White House to meet and chat with surprised protesters camping out at the Lincoln Memorial.
- May 12 Six African-American men are fatally shot in the back for violating curfew in Augusta by the Georgia National Guard.
- May 14 Jackson State Killings. Police kill two and injure 11 during violent student demonstrations at Jackson State College, MS.
- June Southern California Members of the Council of Themis compose a document of 7 “Common Themes of Neo-Pagan Religious Orientation.” The first-ever statement of common Pagan precepts.
- June 15 The US Supreme Court confirms conscientious objector protection on moral grounds.
- June 22 The US voting age is lowered to 18.
- Aug. 25 Church of the Eternal Source (Egyptian) founded by Harold Moss, Don Harrison and Elaine Amiro. Registered with state of CA on Oct 7.
- Aug. 26 Women’s Strike for Equality. 50 years after US women’s suffrage, 20,000 celebrate and march in New York City, demanding true equality for women in American life.
- Sept. 6 Tim Zell has a profound vision of the entire biosphere as a single vast living organism, equated with the ancient concept of “Mother Earth;” “Gaea” in Greek mythology. He publishes this in a germinal article titled “TheaGenesis: The Birth of the Goddess.” This becomes the unifying theology of the Pagan Movement.
- October The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer’s pro-feminist bestseller is published.
- October Keith Stroup founds NORML, a group working to end marijuana prohibition, in Washington, DC.
- Dec. 25 Laguna Beach Christmas Happening: Thousands gather for an extended hippie festival, featuring an airdrop of hundreds of Christmas cards, each containing a dose of “Orange Sunshine” LSD courtesy of The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, or the “Hippie Mafia,” an acid-manufacturing and hash-smuggling organization bent on “psychedelic revolution.”