Sam Wagner

Sam Wagar

Born: November 20th, 1956, Toronto, Ontario
Residence: Whalley, Surrey, BC
Children: Two sons

Sam Wagar has been active in the fight for human rights and religious freedoms for Canadian Wiccans, as well as being a political activist and the founder of many Pagan and Wiccan organizations in Ontario and British Columbia. He is a published author and legal clergy.

Life and Times

Born on November 20th, 1956, at Women's College Hospital in Toronto Ontario, at 1:30 in the morning. In 1982, following the death of a close friend and mentor, Wagar sought out a spiritual connection through a friend and Priestess of the Wiccan Church of Canada. His strong feminist leanings predisposed him to a Goddess-centred religious path and he became an initiated Wiccan Peiest of Reclaiming Wicca in 1985 while spending time in New York. A year latter on Mother's Day 1986 he founded his first eclectic coven. Wagar lived in various locations in Ontario before relocating to British Columbia in 1989. Sam was married in April 1987, had two sons, and was divorced in September 1999. He has collected a personal library of approximately 1300 books along with access to a few hundred more from his housemate. A self-described packrat, in 2005 Sam donated several thousand Pagan magazines from his personal collection to the New Religious Movements collection at the University of Alberta, through Dr. Steven Kent.

Education and Achievements

A close friend of Wagar describes him as "highly intellectually competitive" from his enjoyment vigorous debate within the Pagan and Wiccan communities. Being well-read, thoughtful, and keeping a personal diary since 1982, Sam will often site published sources for his arguments and documentation from his journaling. His formal education is a Masters in Arts in History from Simon Fraser University (2006) with a final research paper on the links between theosophy and socialism in the 1920s in British Columbia. Sam also wrote the introduction for and editted The Secret Ritual Manual of the Knights of Labour. Wagar has nine academic publications, most on occultist history or religious studies including "An Explanation and Understanding of Wiccan Ritual: Approaching a Deviant Religious Discourse in the Modern West" published in Volume 4, Number 1, 2005 of Illumine. He considers his paper on the Great Rite as hieros gamos in the 2009 Summer issue of the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture to be his best work to date. As well as publishing newsletters for Pagans for Peace (1982 to 2002) and "Page of Pentacles," the internal newsletter of the CWABC (2005-2007), Sam has in excess of a hundred articles published in small Pagan magazines. He has been featured repeatedly in magazine, radio, television and newspaper reports as a spokesperson for Wicca. Wagar has also edited and published seven issues of the Directory to Canadian Pagan Resources (1988-1997), the Pagan Teen Survival Guide (1998), and three chapbooks of rituals and theology (1997-2000).

Wagar keeps involved in his community through volunteerism having founded the John Maclure Community School (1996), a branch of the Gifted Children's Association of BC (1997), and the Pagan Students Association at University of the Fraser Valley (1999). He has also served on the executives of three NDP riding associations and the Green Party of BC Provincial Council (1996-2000). Sam considers himself to be a “genuine democrat” turning his projects over to the community with no strings attached once they are established and organized.

Wagar founded the Pagans for Peace network for left-wing Pagans in 1982 and published its newsletter for twenty years until shutting it down in 2002. He was also the founding HP of the Pagans for Peace Tradition of Wicca (British Traditional Wicca in form, with a Reclaiming heart) - proclaimed officially in 1991 and currently having over a dozen 3rd degree priesthood that Wagar is aware of. Sam was also the founder of the Gathering For Life On Earth religious retreat in 1991 which is still running as of 2009, the Congregationalist Witchcraft Association federal church in 1991, and the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of British Columbia (the provincial branch) in 2004, all of whose bylaws he wrote and all of which are now legal non-profit corporations now owned by their membership and not Wagar. Sam is also an ordained Priest with CWA-BC and has been leading the Vancouver-Burnaby Temple since 2004. He has established several covens and taught numerous Wicca 101 classes (1985-present), and acted as Secretary of Board for the CWA-BC. Wagar has developed the CWA-BC clergy training process and supervised the establishment of three Temples and the training of their founding clergy (2005-7). He coordinated the Canadian National Pagan Conference (2009) in Vancouver and served on its National Board (2007-2010). Wagar also hosts the local Pagan coffee meet-up in his area.

As of 2009, the projects that Wagar is most involved in are his local Temple, which he felt had become somewhat neglected during the build-up to the CNPC, starting a new coven, and writing a paper on ritual theory and the Inner Court / Outer Court structure. The proudest accomplishment of Sam’s life has been obtaining the legal right to perform marriages. He professes himself to be a hopeless romantic and finds a great love in performing baby-blessings as well. Wagar’s positive impact on his community has included saving the lives of three friends during his life: during his childhood he pulled a friend out of a hole in the ice of a frozen pond and as an adult he prevented two others from committing suicide.

Political and Pagan

In 1994, Sam was a NDP candidate for election for Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia but was subsequently stripped of his candidacy after it became public that he was Wiccan. Wagar took the BC NDP, the then governing party, before the Human Rights Council and won a full apology in 1995. He retains several books of newspaper clippings from this experience and gained notoriety for his successful fight in advancing the fundamental legal rights of Canadian Wiccans. Wagar’s legal battle has been included in various university textbooks on human rights and he takes great pride in his advancement of the human rights and religious freedoms of Wiccans in Canada. In 1996 Sam ran for election as a Green Party candidate and has continued as an active Green since that time.

Wagar has had three political arrests but no criminal record; he “pie-killed” the Minister of Education in Ontario in 1980, was arrested for trespass at a nuclear power plant in Ontario in 1980, and was arrested for obstructing the street in front of the US Consulate in Toronto in 1986. When asked regarding these arrests, Sam jokingly reflects that “a few political arrests are really signs of character and should be required for candidates for office, at least in the Green Party.”

Wagar was inside the Morgantaler Clinic in Toronto when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion law; a coven-mate of Sam’s was well-known at the clinic and he was present to go in with her to support the legal victory. Clinic staff sent Wagar out with the original fax of the Court decision to photocopy as he was male, six feet tall, and therefore unlikely to be bothered by protestors.

Sam was a member of the briefly existing Feminist Party of Canada (member #83 as he recalls) and tried to organize a branch in Kitchener, Ontario. Wagar recalls being on the high school quiz kid show Reach for the Top two years in a row, noting that “it was great fun being an intellectual jock and it gave me a taste for being on TV I've never gotten over!” Sam was at the Parliament Hill protest with thousands of protesters on the one day general strike against wage and price controls. On that day, Wagar and his friend Karl Amdur went inside the Parliament Buildings and wandered around for a couple hours before a security guard finally noticed and threw them out.

Academic Publications

  • Review essay on recent writing on women in the early Christian movements: Reviews of Ross Shepard Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven (New York: Doubleday, 1990); Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent (New York: Random House, 1988); A History of Women in the West, Volume I, From Ancient Goddesses to Christian Saints series editors Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot, vol. editor Pauline Schmitt Pantel, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, (Cambridge MA: Belknap-Harvard University Press, 1992); Maria Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria translated by F. Lyra. (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1995) Canadian Woman Studies/ les cahiers de la femme 17.1 Winter 1997, 125-127
  • Review of Robert A. Campbell, Sit Down and Drink Your Beer - Regulating Vancouver's Beer Parlours, 1925-1954 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001) American Review of Canadian Studies Autumn 2003, 425-6
  • Review of Joy Dixon, Divine Feminine -Theosophy and Feminism in England (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2001), Canadian Woman Studies / les cahiers de la femme 23.1 Fall/Winter 2003, 187
  • Review of James Doyle, Progressive Heritage - the Evolution of a Politically Radical Literary Tradition in Canada (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002), Labour Studies Bulletin (Centre for Labour Studies, Simon Fraser University), Fall 2003, 8
  • Edited and provided an introduction and recommended reading appendix to Adelphon Kruptos - the Secret Work of the Knights of Labor 1886 for publication online at http: www / labour, Fall 2003.
  • Review of Alex Owen, The Place of Enchantment - British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), Past Imperfect (University of Alberta) Vol. 11 (2005), 93-96.
  • Review of Ann Suter, The Narcissus and the Pomegranate - An Archaeology of the Homeric 'Hymn to Demeter' (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), Canadian Woman Studies / les cahiers de la femme 24.4 Summer/Fall 2005, 176-177.
  • "The Explanation and Understanding of Wiccan Ritual: Approaching a Deviant Religious Discourse in the Modern West" Illumine (University of Victoria) 4.1 2005, 26-34.
  • “The Wiccan Great Rite – hieros gamos in the Modern West” forthcoming in The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture (online) summer 2009.

Non-Academic Publications:

Wagar has written in excess of a hundred articles for publication in a range of small presses, including book reviews, theology, political theory, reportage, and reviews of tarot decks. In addition he compiled and written seven editions of a Directory to Canadian Pagan Resources, edited A Pagan Teen Survival Guide (Obscure Pagan Press 1998). He wrote A Witch's Seder and Other Family Rituals (with Ramona Elke and Alice Ratzlaff) (Obscure Pagan Press 1996), Toward A Theology of Witchcraft Book One (Obscure Pagan Press 1997), Organizing in the Pagan Communities (Obscure Pagan Press 1997) and two chapbooks of poetry Larry Smylie is Dead: this is my mourning song (Obscure Anarchist Press 1982) and A Gift of Love! (Obscure Anarchist Press 1982).

On the Web

Biographical information provided by correspondence with Sam Wagar (2009).