I was an enthusiastic young man who had found religion, and I put that youthful energy to work almost immediately creating Moontides, The Magazine of Witchcraft, with the help of a girlfriend (Lady Orenda), her mom, and a few like-minded friends. From the first issue, Lughnasadh 1983, to the last issue almost two years later (Beltane 1985 or Lughnasadh 1985?), it grew into a national magazine, with nearly 20 locations carrying it from coast to coast, including NYC, NY; Woodstock, NY; Salem, MA; Lexington, MA; Columbus, OH; Wilmington, DE; Atlanta, GA; Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Denver, CO; Houston, TX; National City, CA; and, Pasadena, CA. While I am a card-carrying agnostic no longer actively participating in the Old Religion, my experiences during this time continue to inform me.
My parents weren’t religious people. Mom was 2nd generation Russian Jew and Dad was of a Lutheran background, half Irish, but raised namely by his grandparents, Swedes. Both of my parents believed in God, or at least, belief in God seemed a given. My father, I suspect, was more convinced by the premise than my mother, but neither of them brought up the subject very much. Mom lit Yahrzeit candles in the memory of her parents. We celebrated Christmas and Chanukah, Easter and Halloween, but not with any of the religious overtones. They were family fun days, annual rituals like birthdays, Thanksgiving, 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. Our Christmas tree was topped by a Star of David my father artfully made for my mother out of masking tape and aluminum foil. We had Christmas lights, Santa stockings and a Menorah. I made out like a bandit, an only child raking in the stocking stuffers, Christmas presents and Chanukah gilt. I never went to Sunday school or Hebrew school, although my grade school, Alexander Robertson, was Presbyterian, and every morning the Reverend Spence presided over Chapel to all the students. But my family never attended church or temple ever, unless there was a special occasion to, such as a wedding, funeral or Bar Mitzvah; which meant travelling out of town to family. Out of town family, on both sides, Christian and Jewish, always seemed like a more religious bunch than us Cottingham’s.
Still, I gave the subject of God a lot of thought as a child. Until college, the Bible seemed like an unapproachable bore, but God didn’t. That idea was pretty fantastic, and we had lots of conversations, or, at least, as an only child I played at having lots of conversations with God, which might be the same thing, really. Sometimes God seemed like a given to me, other times, not so much. As now, I waffled between belief and atheism, a devout agnostic. The one thing I became convinced of was the majesty and wonder of nature. The oceans, the forests, thunderstorms, the sun, the moon; out in nature it felt as if there were something to become one with, a place to close ones eyes and connect to a higher power than humanity. When I came across those first books about Wicca and Paganism, like so many other Pagans report, it simply clicked, it jived with what I had already come to believe.
From my late teens through my early twenties, I actively practiced Wicca and identified as a Witch. I was initiated into a Welsh Traditionalist coven at the age of 18, and was a weekly regular at the Pagan Way meetings both at The Magickal Childe, formerly on West 19th Street as well as at Enchantments, formerly on East 9th Street. I tried to attend the classes before I was 18, but my parents refused consent, hoping that it was a passing phase and fearing that their son was joining a cult. But it did not pass, I read about Wicca voraciously, and came to publish Moontides before turning 19. I drew the covers, wrote the editorial page, responded to all letters to the editor, wrote an article and a poem for each issue, did the layout, managed the subscriptions and the delivery; in short, I exhausted myself. Did I mention I was in college at the same time? The relationship with Lady Orenda ended, and I soldiered on for a little while, but eventually it all became too overwhelming for me, my interests were shifting, and Moontides ended unceremoniously even as it was continuing to healthily expand.
I don’t have any surviving copies of the last issue or two, unfortunately, and thus, I’m uncertain what issue was actually the last. The memory has fled me. I do know that the logo had been reimagined by a talented professional and looked unbelievably slick, but I am unable to demonstrate it, having not found a copy. But, you never know, I have a few leads to follow and the internet is a big place. While additional covers may or may not be unearthed, please enjoy the covers which have survived; early examples of my attempt as an artist to create meaningful art.
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