SSW: I would like to start off by having you tell us a little about yourself? 

 

OZ: Wow, that’s a tall order! I’m nearly 65, and have been very active in many venues throughout my entire life.

 

As for education, I attended Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, from 1961-’65, majoring in Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology and Pre-Med. I went on to graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis, with a USPHS scholarship in Clinical Psych. After that, I completed a DD program at Life Science College (a small Christian seminary in Rolling Meadows, Illinois). I got a Teacher’s Certificate from Harris Teacher’s College in St. Louis. I worked for many years as a counselor, social psychologist, and programs supervisor for the Human Development Corp. in the “War on Poverty,” and also taught public school.

 

But my main claim to fame in the early years was in the founding (in 1962) of the first legally-incorporated Pagan church—the Church of All Worlds (www.CAW.org). I seem to have been the first person to adopt the word “Pagan” as a religious self-description, and by promoting it widely through my magazine, Green Egg, I played a major role in the development of the entire worldwide Pagan movement, which is now ranked as the fastest-growing religion in all English-speaking countries. In this context, I also formulated and published the earliest version of what has come to be known as the “Gaia Thesis”—that all life on Earth comprises one single immense planetary super-organism: Mother Earth, or, as the Greeks called her, Gaia.

 

I’ve been involved in many other projects over the years, including several significant social and family experiments that got some media attention in their day. I spent nearly a decade living in a Hippie homesteading community in Northern California. In 1985, I mounted a diving and underwater video expedition to the Coral Sea in search of the basis of the legendary Mermaids (see the book!). I’ve traveled throughout the world, and have made pilgrimages to numerous sacred sites and archaeological digs. I’ve also conducted huge public rituals and other events—such as the 1979 solar eclipse rite at the full-scale Stonehenge replica in the Columbia River Dalles, attended by over 3,000 people.

 

I’m an artist, in several formats--graphic, painting, sculpture and jewelry--which is what supports our family. You can see some of my work at our website: www.MythicImages.com.  Most currently, I’ve been writing books, starting with Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard (New Page, 2004) (see reviews at Amazon.com). An outgrowth of this entry into the literary field was the creation of the online Grey School of Wizardry (www.GreySchool.com), which is sort of a real-life virtual “Hogwarts,” teaching authentic “Wisdom of the Ages” kinda stuff (over 200 classes currently available, in 16 Departments!). My current writing project—which I think everyone reading this will really get a kick out of—is A Wizard’s Bestiary, due out in Dec. of this year from New Page.

 

 

However, I know that the aspect of my life that is certainly of the greatest interest to everyone here is my re-creation, starting in 1980, of several genuine living Unicorns, which became widely known to the world through the 4-year exhibition lease we arranged with the Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus.

 

SSW: You are certainly correct about our interest in your real-life Unicorns.

When and how did you become interested in Unicorns?

 

OZ:  In the mid-‘70s, after my beloved lifemate Morning Glory and I read the charming fantasy novel by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn.

 

SSW: Did you use the same methods that Dr. Franklin Dove used in his 1930’s experiments?

 

OZ: Yes, I used essentially the same procedure as Dove, based on his published research notes. But he didn't give some of the important details in any of his writings, and I had to figure them out myself.

 

SSW: How did you come across his work?

 

OZ: I came across his work while I was doing research for a book back in 1976, at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where I was teaching at the time. Of course, after discovering that Unicorns were once actually real, and that I could potentially recreate them, I shelved the book for the next 30 years and instead took up Unicorn-raising and going on the road with the show!

 

SSW: You said, “discovering that Unicorns were actually real…” could you explain that statement?

 

OZ: Well, the book we were intending to write was (and now is, as I’m finally doing it!) on the true stories behind the myths of all kinds of mythical and legendary animals. Like nearly every other researcher who has written on this subject, we started out assuming that “unicorns” were just a fanciful version of the rhinoceros, as filtered and altered from traveler’s tales from Africa and India. But our initial research method for all the critters we were studying included collecting every image we could find of them from all ancient sources, and then laying them out in chronological order according  to cultures.      

   

And with the Unicorns, we realized pretty quickly that the images were not at all based on rhinos, but on clearly identifiable species of horned ungulates, depicted according to the artistic conventions of various cultures and eras—but remarkably accurate (far more so, in fact, than depictions of any other non-domestic animals). But they were not just a typical specimen of their species with only one horn instead of two. No, they were all like “super” avatars—like Arnold Schwarzenegger compared to the average man. And this exalted physique, it turned out, was a factor of the Unicorning process itself.

 

Take a good close look at the famous Unicorn Tapestries from around 1500 CE. These are the very archetype of the classic Unicorn. They are pure white, with long flowing manes, cloven hooves, uplifted tufted tails, and little goatees. It is clear that they are caprine—from goat stock. Bull, or taurine Unicorns, are depicted in all the images from the Bronze Age—primarily from the Indus valley. Other images could be identified as antelopine, arien (ram), and even cervine (deer) (in Asia).

 

SSW: I have read and looked over your US Unicorn patent. (44279685)  Is that the procedure you actually used?                                 

 

OZ: As you surmised, the procedure I actually used is not exactly what I covered in the patent. Close enough that anyone trying to do it would have to violate my patent--but not close enough to make it quite possible from that information alone.

 

SSW: Perhaps you would share with us how the actual procedure differed?

 

OZ: Naw…you know a true showman never reveals all his secrets!

 

SSW: What was the success rate?

 

OZ: Well, we did have one early on in which the horn failed to root properly. We thought that was because we castrated the kid at an early age, so we never did that again. With all the others, it worked perfectly. However, there were a few whose horns still curved somewhat to one side, and they weren't usable as show animals. We ended up with four perfect specimens that we toured with, plus a couple that we kept at home as back-up and personal pets.

 

SSW: Did you have to bind or form the horns in any way?

 

OZ: There wasn't any particular training for the horns. If the procedure was done flawlessly, they grew perfectly. We sometimes did a bit of sanding to smooth them out, but that’s about it.

 

SSW:  What kept the horns from naturally curving?

 

OZ: The process itself caused the natural curvature of what would ordinarily have been two horns to cancel each other out, resulting in a magnificent horn growing perpendicular from the forehead, just as in the tapestries (except, of course, that these were real horns, not Narwhal tusks!).

 

SSW: What type of goats did you use as the foundation stock for creating your Unicorns?

 

OZ: Angora primarily, for the lovely long silky hair, which we groomed as a mane, tail, and leg feathers. We mixed in some Saanan to get a bit more height and longer legs, and we also created a lovely little pygmy as a family pet. But all had to be white. We set out to reproduce precisely the lovely caprine Unicorns of the famous tapestries, and we entirely succeeded!

 

SSW: Billy goats are known to be quite odorous. Did you have a special Unicorn Deodorizer?

 

OZ: No, not really. We gave them a thorough shampoo and crème rinse before each weekend show, and MG sometimes rubbed sweet-smelling essential oils into their coats. But mostly it was just a matter of keeping them really clean. Of course, most (though not all) of our shows were during the summer, not during the fall rutting season. And also, there were no females around for them to get randy over…

 

SSW: How many unicorns did you create?

 

OZ: Nine altogether.

 

SSW: Were all of the Unicorns males?

 

OZ:Yes. This was something we’d noticed historically in our research—like, all stags or bucks are male, by definition. In many horned ungulates, only the males have horns, because the main function of the horns is their use in male dominance head-butting contests. Female goats (unlike sheep or deer) do have horns, but only very puny ones in comparison with the males. Even so, horns of both sexes point backwards, which is just as well, because the does constantly butt each other in the sides—especially around the feeding station. If one of them had a single horn, even a small one, she’d be a danger to all the others—especially any pregnant does.

 

A Unicorn has a lethal weapon, which he quickly learns how to use, wielding it like a sword or a lance. If you’re keeping domesticated horned critters, you want only one male! Two or more will be constantly trying to kill each other—and with effective spears growing from the fronts of their heads, they will succeed! But we found that a Unicorn won’t try to spear the females in his harem. In fact, he is an invincible protector of his herd against predators—which seems to be why they had been developed in the first place, over 4,000 years ago in the Middle East. The earliest were taurine (bull) Unicorns, and they are shown in ancient Persian friezes fighting with lions! But ours only had to contend with dogs and (in the case of one we boarded out to a sheep ranch) coyotes.

 

SSW: Where did you book the Unicorns? And how did you present them?

 

OZ: Nearly all of our bookings were with Renaissance Faires throughout the US and Canada. I appeared as a Wizard, and Morning Glory as an Enchantress, and we took photos of people with the Unicorns. Some of these gigs ran for up to 6 weeks! We also did a few county fairs, and many special appearances at libraries, schools, hospitals, sci-fi/fantasy cons, Pagan festivals, etc. We did quite a few TV shows—including Disney’s “Wish Upon a Star,” and more newspapers and magazines than I can begin to count! During one summer, we had four different teams (two people each) out on the circuit, with four different animals! And we also had one or two animals continuously on-exhibit at Marine World/Africa USA—with a big picture on the highway billboard!

 

SSW: What was your deal with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey?

 

OZ: A 4-year lease and exhibition contract for 4 of our Unicorns. It ran from 1985-1989.

 

SSW: How did your involvement with RBB&B come about?

 

OZ: It was arranged by our agents at Mid-America Festivals in Minneapolis, who were already handling our bookings for the Ren Faires.

 

SSW: Did the RBB&B contract allow you to still exhibit Unicorns or was the contract exclusive for RBB&B?

 

OZ: It was totally exclusive. We couldn’t even give interviews during its term. It also included all merchandising, so we had to pull our own figurines, jewelry, T-shirts, coloring books, calendars, etc. off the market during that time.

 

SSW: Was the Unicorn Project a financial success?

 

OZ: Well, considering the many years during which this was all we did, we received precious little compensation for our efforts, and much of it seemed to have been siphoned off by our various booking agents. We’d have made far more money in almost any other job! But we did OK, and got enough out of the Circus lease to help finance our Mermaid expedition, and to underwrite our move out of the mountains and back into civilization…

 

SSW: That had to be a pretty heady time with RBB&B and all the Unicorn hullabaloo. 

    

OZ: Yeah--it certainly was! 

 

SSW: Did you do the surgical procedures yourself or did you hire a vet? 

    

OZ: I did all of the procedures myself. I’d been a biology and pre-med student in college, and I knew what I was doing—the actual procedure is not all that complicated, as it affects only superficial tissue. I only needed a vet to obtain anesthetics.

 

SSW: Did the Unicorn procedure change the personality of the goat?

 

OZ:  Absolutely! That was the most amazing thing to us—to discover how much the mythic qualities attributed to unicorns were in fact a result of the process itself. The actual shape of the skull was so radically different—especially the brain case. The frontal lobes were significantly larger, for instance. But the medial horn also seemed to have affected the pineal and pituitary glands as well. Everything about our animals was just…different. Many people could not even recognize them as being goats at all! And of course, that was perfectly reasonable. They were Unicorns. And they knew it! They were amazingly charismatic!

 

SSW: Do you have any Unicorn skulls?

 

OZ: We have one skull and we know where two others are. But naturally the folks who have them are very protective about them!  

 

SSW: Is the skull you have Lancelot's? 

 

OZ:  No--it's Bedivere's--Lance's brother, born a month later to a different doe.

 

SSW: Why did you stop creating Unicorns?

 

OZ: We moved off the land, and got involved in other work and projects. In order to do this, it took ALL our time and energy, and required a farm suitable for livestock. The very last one died two years ago, at the age of 17.

 

SSW: Will you ever create any more Unicorns?

 

OZ: Well, y’know, that’s kinda an open question. We’d like to, someday, but this isn’t part of our plans for the foreseeable future. Right now we just don’t have the time or facilities for it!

 

SSW: I understand you had one of your Unicorns stolen. You must have been extremely upset. Could you tell us how that episode played out?

 

OZ: Well, I know that the culprit, John Strong Jr., has himself told the tale many times to folks in the Sideshow community! Back in 1981, when we had two babies of our 2nd generation, we were away from home watching an annular eclipse when John drove up to the remote hippie community where we were living, hoping to buy one from us for his own show. How he even managed to find the place I have no idea, but when he saw no one around, he just kidnapped one of our little guys and drove off with him!

 

 As soon as we returned and found our kid missing, we contacted the police. Fortunately, someone on the ranch had noticed a strange vehicle, and provided the description. It didn’t take the cops long to trace the theft—after all, how can you hide such a thing? We had the only Unicorns in the world, and they were famous! John was showing at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, and the cops just checked backstage, and there was our little guy!

 

After reclaiming him, I went and confronted John. He seemed quite unabashed at the whole incident, but he did apologize, and invited me into his trailer for a few drinks. We talked about our mutual interest in weird critters, and he gave me the nickel tour of his show. We hit it off, and I decided not to press charges. I dunno—I guess I felt that he was an archetype in his own genre, and we gave each other a certain mutual respect. But I’d still count my fingers after shaking hands with him!

 

SSW: Could you tell us a little about the latest book you are working on?

 

OZ: Oh, I am having so much fun with this one! A Wizard’s Bestiary is the book I’ve always wanted to have, and the one Morning Glory and I were researching for way back in the mid-‘70s when we discovered the secret of the Unicorn! That took us on many, many wonderful adventures together, but we’ve always still wanted to write the book! Now, with the great success of my previous three books, New Page is almost as excited as we are to be publishing this book, and I have discovered that my reputation in creating living Unicorns already precedes it. In fact, the first chapter I wrote was the one on Unicorns, with the whole story of our work—as well as that of Franklin Dove.

 

SSW: Besides the Unicorn chapter, what other entertaining material will the reader discover in A Wizard’s Bestiary?

 

OZ: Well, of course, there is a chapter on Bigfoot, which includes information and photos of sideshow gaffs. The chapter on Mermaids covers our diving expedition to the Coral Sea, as well as Barnum’s famous “Fiji Mermaid.” There are chapters on Dragons, giant snakes, the Phoenix, Gryphons, the Kraken, living dinosaurs, sea serpents, lake monsters, gigantic birds, “Mystery Monsters,” and many other creatures. In each case, I am exploring the history, legends, myths, reported sightings, and various explanations—some of which seem to be quite original (as with the Unicorn). The entire book is profusely illustrated—with classical images, as well as much specially-commissioned art by me and others. The first part of the book is an extensive Glossary, with over 1,000 entries—including many from non-European cultures. I’m also drawing up maps showing purported locations of critters, and an index of over 250 movies featuring them.

 

Step right up! See for yourself! Only twen-ny doll-as! Get your copy now, we only have a few left...they're going fast!

 

 

SSW: What can we expect next…got some new Hocus Pocus up your sleeve?

 

OZ: Well, I have many more books in mind to write, on a number of subjects. These include a Journeyman Wizard’s Grimoire and Companion, and eventually, one for Masters too. Then there’s the Journeyman level of the Grey School to develop (the present 7-level program just covers “Apprenticeship”—equivalent to jr. high-high school; Journeyman will be the equivalent of a 4-year college), and after that, the Master’s program. Our dream is to somehow acquire a physical facility for the school (and for my own growing library/museum!)—perhaps an old monastery, or a retreat center. For that, we need to complete our 501(c)(3) process (nearly there!), and apply for major grants/donations. I’d also love to pursue my dream of breeding an exotic Phoenix/Firebird…something I feel is as timely now as the Unicorn was 27 years ago! And of course, I’m working on an autobiography—which is quite a trick, as much of my life story would probably be more believable if it was published as science-fiction!

 

SSW: Thanks OZ, and we’ll be watching for the release of your new book.

                                                       

                                            

                                             


 

Header by John Robinson copyright 2007 all rights reserved

 

Photographs: Courtesy of OZ -OBERON ZELL-RAVENHEART

1- OZ in Library

2- Lancelot

3- OZ-MG baby Lancelot-1980

4- Unicorns in Grey Dawn

5- Bedivere Unicorn Skull  The last of the living Unicorns

6- OZ Lance- Tapestry

7- OZ Bedivere-1985

8- Galahad

9- OZ Texas Renaissance Festival

10- Bedivere Bowing

11- OZ, MG, Lance-Stonehenge

12- OZ Wizard & Unicorn


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