We are celebrating the life, contribution and legacy of R.G. Bennien, known to the world through his well-known writings on Witchcraft, spell-making and occult shop sorcery under his pen-name, Tarostar. Born: March 25, 1942, Passed: April 27, 2022.
Each level we reach in the Craft must be earned and demands self-discipline. It follows the laws of cause and effect, within the tenet of Reincarnation. All this in order to develop the acquired abilities in the Art. Tarostar had wrote in 1984,
“From infancy to old age and beyond, the Initiates of this path develop into forces for good, whose minds and spirits are capable of directly affecting the world around them.”–Book of Beginnings, Tarostar
In this lifetime, Tarostar had risen to the degree of Philosophus V* in the tradition. At this stage, it is the time when an Elder retires from active participation in the Craft and serves as an advisor, mentor and teacher. Most of the time, this step is taken due to age, as long as they have risen on the planes and have furthered the Craft. During this time, a Craft Elder sets out to write out and document all of their occult knowledge and wisdom to pass on to the next generation what they have learned from completing each ordeal they have taken. This is exactly what Tarostar was able to do for us. He served as a guide, mentor, Craft-Father and teacher to our coven here, the Wolfa Coven, and the many covens that have hived from our own coven. Also, by the publication of the five-volume set of The Sacred Pentagraph: A Craft Work in Five Volumes, he was able to give further of his teachings to the world for anyone in the Craft who would like to pick up the book and see what our tradition and path is all about.
At this time, as Tarostar has begun the process of Crossing the Veil, he now enters into the final degree within the tradition, which can only be obtained when you pass from this lifetime. We walk the path of humility and realize that when in body, none of us are grand Talking-Heads, for a complete system of initiation must start with birth and end with death in order for progression onward. His cycle now begins fresh. The path of humility and simplicity is the path of the wise.
Tarostar had expressed some of his final wishes to those around him, including to us, his pupils, in the Wolfa Coven. Some of what he wished to accomplish before he passed:
- That five volumes of The Sacred Pentagraph be put in publication for others in the Craft to be able to learn from the tradition’s wisdom and have a taste of some of our methods and ways of Craft application. This, he was able to do, and we give much gratitude to his publisher and also to Lady Kate and a few others that helped make this a reality for him. For this wasn’t about just him, but he saw that a Craft Elder’s responsibility was to leave behind writings not only for those that have learned from them, but for others in the Craft as well to benefit from.
- That the magical legacy that he was a large part of implementing, of what became Sacred Pentagraph, be carried on and that our coven and the covens that came from it would be able to grow the system into full embodiment over time and be able to help others rise on the planes who sought this path. This, he was able to accomplish as well and we gladly accepted the role as the instruments in making that happen.
In so many ways, we are all so grateful that he was able to see his visions realized. How many of us are able to leave this earth plane, when our own times come, with our deepest wishes completely fulfilled? Tarostar, was absolutely able to do that. Even with his breathing issues he suffered from for years, he fought like hell to stay alive until these things were completed.
His vision was not one of wealth and fame. His vision was only that which the Craft teaches. I thought these two quotes from The Book of Beginnings, Book II of the Sacred Pentagraph would be a great way to emphasize, in his own words, his vision:
“…..present the traditions of Wicca as a total life-style and discipline which demands commitment and responsibility of its members.”
and to teach Wicca as……
“It is an initiatory process elevating the total person from birth through death in a series of successive grades to master the ordeals of life by application of Craft religious ideals and philosophical outlook.”–The Book of Beginnings, Preface written 1984. Tarostar V*.
Now we come to the time of “Crossing of the Veil“. In this, we are assisting him as a Craft Elder to progress onward and not be held back on the Earth plane. In Wicca, we do not expect public shows of mourning and grief, but instead send them off with love and honor.
After the Ritual of the Sin Eater occurs within the tradition, we would perform the Ceremony of the Elder to the best of our abilities. After that, the High Priestess of the coven will perform a Vigil on the 30th, 60th and 90th day of passage. These procedures were important to Tarostar and we intend to honor them to the best of our ability.
Also, a celebration of life ritual and vigils will most likely happen as well in Toronto later this Spring.
A little background info on Tarostar …..
Born in 1942 in Ohio, Tarostar was originally raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He had served in the military as well at the Army Security Agency as a Voice Intercept Analyst. He attended the Defense Language Institute at Presidio of Monterrey, Ca., trained at NSA at Fort Mead, Maryland and deployed to West Berlin in the Cold War Era.
He found his way to the occult via the occult supplies trade in 1967. This led him to working for Charmaine Dey (June Day) at her occult shop, the Bell, Book & Candle and also at the Psychic Eye in Las Vegas. Charmaine Dey considered Tarostar her golden boy for sure as he was younger than many of the other folks around him.
Like most witches of his generation, the first book written by a witch that he really loved was Sybil Leek’s, Diary of a Witch, published in 1968, whom he had come to meet and learn from through Charmaine.
Charmaine and Sybil Leek became very close friends when they both lived in Houston in the 1960s and they both moved to Las Vegas so Sybil could start her astrology school and Charmaine could open her occult shop. When they first moved to Las Vegas there were fortune telling laws on the books that prevented the occult businesses, so Sybil had engaged the city legally and won which allowed the way for other occult businesses to eventually be able to open up.
Tarostar became a founder then, with Sybil Leek and others, of the North American arm of the Horsa tradition.
Back in Houston, Sybil had a restaurant at the time that was called Sybil Leek’s Cauldron where you could receive psychic readings and dinner. You could have astrology, palmistry, tarot, rune readings and more with your dinner, along with “sandwitches”, steak and seafood. At one time it was also renamed to The Witches’ Cauldron and Club and was located at 2531 University Park & Kirby. There are today a few covens that have hived off of our coven in Pennsylvania and are in the Houston-metro area. Folks that remember what it was like at that time said that the area was well-to-do and the restaurant catered that crowd.
At The Witches’ Cauldron and Club other activities went on, such as rituals. One ritual for example, in 1970, led by Nan Carol was probably the earliest and first public “Witchcraft Weddings” and occurred on New Years Eve.
Back to Las Vegas … Tarostar worked in some of the hotels at the time and would work in the occult shop in the evening. I remember him saying how he always knew when Sybil was in because Charmaine would end up with tons and tons of notes on the practice of Witchcraft, in which, he would work with her on to help flesh out additional rituals and practices in their coven in Las Vegas which was called: Circle of Starmeadow. What we would call the Ancient Order of the Bell, Book & Candle or Sacred Pentagraph today.
Tarostar, Charmaine and Laura had also incorporated together a legal church at the time in the state of Nevada called, The All Saints Church of Mystic Science, Inc. They had a building in Nevada at the time they used for this and a number of speakers would come in as well to speak on occult subjects. The main use of it was it was the legal church name of their coven within the tradition, which was called Circle of Starmeadow.
Laura LaTegis that I mentioned earlier was an early member of the coven. She was formally a remote viewer through a psychic research program in those early days.
Besides Sybil Leek, who helped start and foster the coven through her teaching, other celebrities would come around. One for example was Jim Criswell of Criswell Predicts fame who would often give readings. Charmaine was also good friends with the famed actress Mae West. Dr. Guilley from the Phoenix, Arizona area also would frequently visit.
After Sybil passed in 1982 and Charmaine’s passing in 1983, Tarostar opened up his own occult shop in Vegas called “Ye Olde Herb Doctor” for a while. After the economic downturn that happened in the late 1980s, he applied for a job managing the Occult Shop of Toronto, taking his many years of experience in the occult supplies trade to a new city where he lived out the remainder of his days since his move there in 1989.
Tarostar would comment to me how much he hated the snow and the cold of Toronto, but he loved the fact that there is a thriving Occult-community in Toronto. There was a lot more occult activities in Toronto than there was in Las Vegas. He told me enjoyed working there and sometimes would help out at rituals held at the Wiccan Church of Canada. While he was not a member of the tradition or WCC of Canada, he did value the folks there and would sometimes help teach certain topics and participate in rituals.
In the later years when he retired from running the Occult Shop of Toronto, he still loved going in and doing astrology and divination for clients to stay active in that type of occult-shop work. The Occult Shop is still around today in Toronto and can be visited for purchasing occult supplies.
Wicca is a religion, but the magical arts are used as well to help solve everyday problems. For the initiates of Wicca, the progression of initiation allowed you to rise on the planes, and the craft of the witch was rooted not just in the philosophy of the Tenets of Witchcraft, but also in helping to solve every day issues with the arts of magic and sorcery.
For those of the Priesthood of Witchcraft, I asked him one time what was the most important quality for a member of the Witchcraft Priesthood to have. His answer was a simple, but profound one: Patience and Understanding.
What about for an Elder? I asked him one time what was the most important quality for an Elder of the Craft to possess? His answer was also an important and illuminating one: Knowledge and practical Craft experience. Mistrust for the power hungry.
Both of these answers tell a lot. He also lived and breathed the Tenets of Witchcraft. Humility was important. A good way to explain this is in the fact that so many others would ask him questions about the colorful characters he had known in Witchcraft over the years – including the people that helped to found these practices. He was always very short in his answers and quiet about not only their own involvement in the process, but also his own involvement at times. Folks definitely wanted to know the history and his response was to always DOWNPLAY the involvement he and others had. There was a very specific reason for this that he and I talked about:
If you have read his books he published in the 1980s or even the recent five-volumes of The Sacred Pentagraph, you will barely find mention or biographies of the people involved. He had explicitly told me that was on-purpose. He repeatedly had said their were a lot of “big fish in small ponds” in the Craft in the 1960s and 1970s and it felt like so many wanted to be the Grand Poobah of all Watchdom. There was so much “one-upmanship” going on amongst those in other covens, constantly fighting for the spotlight. In response to this, they all truly wanted to keep the work about the Craft, ABOUT the Craft itself, and less about the personal egos that were behind things. He would tell me many detailed stories of their involvement and the people associated with the coven and what they did – but to others who would ask, he would mostly keep his answers very brief. He didn’t want there to be “Cults of the Personality” and hero-worship surrounding the witches behind the tradition.
I struggled since his passing to even write all of this here, because I know talking about him so much, he would say in his strong and harsh voice, “Stop worrying about this and get on with carrying out the rubrics and rituals of the Craft. I don’t want to be a stuffed shirt!”
So to bring this back to the Craft itself, there is something else important that I think is worthwhile that the Elders had done:
In the early 1970s, they had laid out Laws of the Craft in The Covenant – Book I, for the tradition. They were early advocates for not denying access to members of the Craft because of discrimination and were quick to point this out not just in theory, but importantly, documenting this so it could never be lost:
“The Craft shall not exclude any of the gods children for reasons of Race, National Origin, Sexual Orientation or Previous Religious Background.”-The Covenant, Book I
Also, this inclusion was documented in the Esbat cycle, with the following:
“Nothing in the Manifested Universe comes into being without a masculine-feminine, or positive-negative polarity to contribute to its existence.”-Book IV Book of Esbat – Tarostar V*
I had brought these two things up, because for us in our coven, we didn’t emphasize the ideas of “gender roles” nor did we worry too much about it and didn’t have restriction on whom can initiate whom depending on their birth-sex. Even above, he separates the difference between masculine and feminine birth sex and polarity – since gender and polarity are not exactly the same thing. At the time, I wanted to write an article and tell others that we were one of the earliest older traditions to say this hasn’t been a problem for us since 1971 and wanted to make sure I wasn’t speaking out of turn. His exact words to me were:
“You got it right. Lady Charmaine, Lady Laura and myself didn’t want to shut out talented people due to old prejudices. Masc/fem polarity? A giver/inspirational and receiver/manifester. Gender irrelevant.”
I was proud to then write the article for us. It wasn’t for the purposes of telling anyone else what they should do, but in sharing who we are and what we do.
I wrote the article to let others know that change can happen within personal Covendoms if it is welcome. It is never required for another coven from other places to do anything different if they didn’t want to, but just wanted to show that from early on members of the tradition were able to make a change for us without destroying or undermining any integral part of the tradition. For us – initiation into our coven is gender irrelevant.
Another important point to emphasize – the movers and shakers of our traditions that we practice was mainly spearheaded by women. Sybil being the first female celebrity witch, Charmaine Day (real maiden name was “June Day”) was Cherokee by heritage and a former known burlesque dancer, Tarostar was a gay male, and Laura LaTegis. Tarostar’s role was to write, through his pen, the teachings he learned from them, mainly because he spent a good deal of time, when not at the occult shop, working in the Las Vegas hotels on night shifts. In his spare time when it was slow and all his work completed, he could spend some extra time fleshing out what these incredible women taught. Tarostar had remarked how he always knew when Sybil had been in the store teaching Charmaine because when he’d come in for work, Charmaine would have a pile of notes there, as she had been writing as fast as Sybil spoke. Tarostar would say, “Ah, it looks like Sybil was in again” and they would proceed to put the teachings in order to implement in their coven and flesh out the additional rituals and practices to add to and grow the tradition.
Because Sybil was the world’s most famous witch, there were some that didn’t like the amount of fame and success she had at the time. It never stopped the group from holding dear the ideas and integrity of the Craft they had practiced. Tarostar wrote about this publicly in a 1989 issue of the old classic Green Egg magazine:
“My tradition comes down through Sybil Leek and Lady Charmaine Dey, so perhaps I am not properly orthodox for some Crafters.”-Green Egg, 1989
He also believed we shouldn’t be only stuck in time, trying to re-create the past of famed occultists – that we should be moving forward and it was the greatest tribute we could do for their legacy.
“I feel the greatest tribute one can pay sages is to use them and their systems as foundations to grow beyond to bigger and better things, whereas to emulate sages by practicing their system letter-perfect, without deviation, reflects the world of fifty years ago, not that of today.”-Green Egg, 1989
For my own philosophy, I believe that the greatest success I could have as an occult teacher is that those I have taught or initiated surpass me in wisdom and skill.
Today, we maintain the old ways without losing one bit of them, but at the same time, that doesn’t stop any of us from experimentation and finding new and better ways that are based upon the foundation passed to us. Doing this honors the legacy of those in our line – we honor them by our growth. Tarostar encouraged us to continue and grow the system and we continue trying to live up to that.
With that in mind, I am going to end this memoriam about my reflections for now, before in spirit, he shakes his head at all of this, so I leave you with this:
He was definitely an old curmugeon – astrologically, a frank Aries through and through….at the same time, that frankness contained the strongest ethical integrity that I have ever met in the Craft. He accepted no bull-shit and was quick to point out bull-shit. Being in the occult supplies trade and the Craft for so long, he heard every fanciful tale you could imagine and his response was an “Okay then, show us the goods!” If you read this, The Witches Challenge, that he wrote and that we put on our website under his direction, you can see what I mean. In all of that, I never once was on the wrong end of his curmudgeonly stance. He was marvelously kind to me and shared and taught Craft-lore to me freely without any reservation and had an immediate trust in me and our coven. His trust did not come easy, so I accepted that as a complete honor.
Tarostar, we will carry out the rituals and teachings you left us. I’m glad that I have had the honor and privilege to learn from your wisdom and teachings and I honor the trust you put in us. From the bottom of my heart, I will miss you deeply and I know that even death will never shut you up or stop you from bettering the Craft in all ways.
With love & Blessed Be, Thorn Nightwind
P.S. – One last edition. Lady Kate, who had the tough-job of calling all of us and notifying everyone, wrote up a lovely succinct write-up and obituary to emphasize his life and contribution and has given the okay for us to memorialize this obituary here as well:
In joy to have known this great man I share the news of his passing.
R.G. “Rod” Bennien – Tarostar
March 25, 1942 – April 27, 2022
Rod Bennien, known to the world as Tarostar, passed peacefully onto his next adventure overnight on April 27, 2022 in his 81st year.
A beloved curmudgeon and longtime fixture in the Toronto occult scene, Tarostar was a well-known astrologer, author, tarot reader and magician with over 50 years in the occult supply industry under his venerable belt.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1942, he was a raised in the Re-Organized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, where his many curious questions raised eyebrows to say the least. As a child he moved with his family to Las Vegas.
In 1967 he got into the occult supplies trade at the Bell, Book and Candle and The Psychic Eye Shop, both of Las Vegas. He was a founder, with Sybil Leek and others, of the North American arm of the Horsa tradition. This tradition was revived after the publishing of its foundational materials and is carrying on with several covens now extant in the United States.
Tarostar published many books with Original Publications, including The Witch’s Spellcraft, The Witch’s Formulary and Spellbook, A Book of Shadows and Spiritual Worker’s Handbook. His “spake in rhyme” poetry on historical figures was featured as Curmudgeon’s Corner in the magazine Wiccan Candles for its many years of publication. A well-read historical scholar, he had much to say about pagan history and comparative religion to those who asked the right questions.
He worked at the Occult Shop in Toronto for many years and up until recently was still reading tarot and doing astrology charts for patrons there. When he led or participated in rituals with the Wiccan Church of Canada, folks were generally in for a divination, traditional observance or a classic ritual, sometimes complete with chorus and theatrical storytelling.
In 2015 his book The Sacred Pentagraph: A Craft Work in Five Volumes – Books I, II, & III, was published by Left Hand Press (a subsidiary of Black Moon Publishing LLC of Cincinnati, Ohio). In 2020, a second, The Sacred Pentagraph was published by the same company with all five volumes.
Representing the culmination of his life’s work, this collection offers a plethora of Craft teachings and spells from his own personal tomes of shadows, gathered through years or practical working and readings for individuals. As a venerable North American Craft Elder, Tarostar had much to offer the modern Occult community. His legacy survives him and will feed the curiosity and craft work of sincere seekers in perpetuity.
As he wrote, in the epilogue of The Sacred Pentagraph:
“It is a complete path of occult attainment for those seeking spiritual advancement in affecting the Great Work for Self-transformation. It is not for everyone, nor does the system itself maintain that it is the only way, but it offers a path toward Occult Adepthood which is not complicated, nor abstruse, as some other systems, but difficult, requiring sincere effort.
It has been offered for those who feel they can profit and gain thereby, in advancing the Self on the path of esoteric Wisdom. It holds an ideal for the individual and/or group to strive for and embody as best they are able.
If the ideas and organizational methods recommended by the Sacred Pentagraph are able to assist and give deeper insight in the Coven and initiatory aspects of the Old Religion, this work is well served.
Finis. This is my legacy for the Craft. Blessed Be! Tarostar.”
According to his wishes, Tarostar will be cremated. A memorial service to celebrate his life and works will be planned for a later date this spring.