Weschcke, Carl (1930–2015 ) was a magician, Tantric, Pagan and former Wiccan high priest, Carl Weschckewaschairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, one of the largest publishers of New Age body, mind and spirit books in the United States. Weschcke played a leading role in the growth of the Wiccan and Pagan religions during their formative years in the 1970s. In the late 1970s, he reduced his public role in witchcraft to devote more time to his family and his growing publishing enterprise.
Weschcke was born on September 10, 1930, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to a roman Catholic and Pagan family. Early on, he was exposed to metaphysics and the occult. He was fascinated by astronomy, religion and the occult and was most influenced by his paternal grandfather, who was vice president of the American Theosophical Society and believed in Reincarnation. When Weschcke turned 12, his present from his grandfather was his own astrological chart. Weschcke’s parents practiced mind reading, which they often discussed. And one of their houses was full of thumpings that they attributed to the ghost of the deceased former owner.
Weschcke graduated from St. Paul Academy in 1948 and went on to attend business school at the Babson Institute in Massachusetts. Upon graduating in 1951, he went to work in the family pharmaceuticals business, but found it unfulfilling. Instead, he wanted to be a publisher. He returned to school to study for a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Minnesota—which he did not have time to complete—and began looking for publishing opportunities.
During the 1950s and into the early 1960s, Weschcke was active in the civil rights and civil liberties movements, holding office in the St. Paul branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He played a major role in bringing about fair housing legislation in St. Paul.
In 1960, he purchased Llewellyn Publishing Company, a small mail-order house selling mostly astrology books, almanacs and calendars, based in Los Angeles. The founder, Llewellyn George, had died six years earlier. Weschcke moved the business to St. Paul and began publishing and distributing a complete line of astrology and occult books. He purchased books from all over the world, at one time carrying nearly 10,000 titles for both retail and wholesale distribution. In the late 1970s, he decided to completely devote the company to publishing and dropped the distribution of other publishers’ titles.
In 1964, Weschcke bought a large, stone mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul as both home and place of business. The house was reputed to be haunted, and Weschcke had numerous odd experiences. He was awakened by cold drafts coming in open windows, which had been closed when he had gone to sleep, and he heard footsteps. He saw apparitions of a man and a woman, which he believed were not true spirits, but the vibrations of former occupants that had been recorded into the psychic dimensions of the house.
A newspaper story about the haunting created an avalanche of public attention, paving the way for his media prominence in the emerging Witchcraft/Paganism movement.
Weschcke opened the Gnostica Bookstore and School of Self-Development in minneapolis in 1970. It was a popular gathering place for people interested in the occult and alternative religions. A year later, a local convention manager suggested that Minneapolis could benefit from a Woodstock-style festival, and Weschcke took the opportunity to host it.
The first of several annual festivals was held in 1971. Initially called The First American Aquarian Festival of Astrology and the Occult Sciences, and later called Gnosticon, the festivals drew witches, pagans, magicians, astrologers, Christians and others from all over the world. Witchcraft rituals and group meditations were conducted. Weschcke led meditations for peace and the healing of Earth. Some attendees came costumed. At times, the festivities got a little wild, such as in 1974, when a group of about 20 pagans leaped into the hotel swimming pool at midnight to go skinny-dipping.
Weschcke himself was initiated into the American Celtic tradition of witchcraft in 1972 by LAdy ShebA. He rose to high priest and held coven meetings in his Summit Avenue home.
In 1972, Weschcke married Sandra Heggum, a priestess in the same tradition, in a highly publicized handfasting ceremony at the winter solstice. The wrote their own vows from old witch rituals. Guests drank from a large cauldron filled with fruit, wine and flowers.
Weschcke remained open about his witchcraft faith and activities, which brought him continual media publicity. He published a popular Pagan journal, Gnostica, edited for a time by Isaac Bonewits. In the fall of 1973, Weschcke helped organize the CounCIl oF AmerICAn WItChes, then became its chairperson. For the council, he drafted “The Thirteen Principles of Belief” statement, one of his proudest accomplishments in the Craft. The statement was later incorporated into the U.S. Army’s handbook for chaplains.
In the mid-1970s, Weschcke began to wind down his public activities. In 1973, his son, Gabriel, was born. In 1976 he sold the haunted house and moved to the country and began to devote more time to his family. He restructured his business by closing the bookstore, dropping Gnostica and the festivals and increasing the number of book titles published. During the same period, he adopted Llewellyn as a middle name, to use both in business and in magic. By the late 1980s, Llewellyn published 30 to 50 titles a year, plus audio- and videotapes, computer software and a popular “catazine,” a combination magazine and catalog, The New Times, since renamed New Worlds of Body, Mind & Spirit.
The Weschckes raised their son in the Unitarian church. Gabriel, who holds a master’s degree in publishing science from Pace University, New York, became regional sales manager and then vice president for Llewellyn. His wife, Michele, also works for Llewellyn as a business analyst and corporate secretary.
The Weschckes support the Wiccan/Pagan communities primarily through publishing; many of their authors are sent to organizational conferences and activities. most of their time has been taken up by the demands of the business, which by the mid-1990s had grown to a midsize publishing house issuing about 100 new titles a year spanning a general spirituality/new age market. Fate magazine, a holding of Llewellyn, was sold in 2000. A downturn in business after 9/11 led to a corporate restructuring, followed by a rebound in 2003. In 2005 Llewellyn built a combined 80,000-square-foot office and warehouse in Woodbury, Minnesota, and publishes an average of 150 new titles annually, and employs 103 people. Llewellyn has further diversified by publishing alternative health, green lifestyle and self-help titles and has two fiction imprints: midnight Ink, publishing mystery fiction, and FLUx, publishing young adult fiction.
Weschcke sees Wicca/Paganism and indeed the entire span of Astrology, tarot, magic, kabbalah, shamanism, and spirituality, in a vital resurgence—a true “New Age”— widely influencing contemporary culture. Personally, he believes spirituality cannot be separated from daily life and that practicing magick means accepting responsibility for one’s thoughts and actions in all areas.
Weschcke holds two honorary doctorates, one in magic. He served for a time as grandmaster of Aurum Solis, an international magical order established in Great Britain in 1897, now based in Canada with affiliates in Europe and the United States.