In 1968, Gavin and Yvonne Frost formed the first Wiccan church, the Church of Wicca, and continued lobbying for their cause until, in 1972, they gained federal recognition of witchcraft as a religion. In 1985, their persuasive arguments convinced a federal appeals court that Wicca was a religion equal to any other recognized as such in the United States. The Frosts' School of Wicca, also established in 1968, became the first craft correspondence school and continues to publish Survival, the longest-lived Wiccan newsletter in circulation. The School of Wicca has brought more than 200,000 people to the craft and has handled as many as one million requests for information in a single year. Authors of the controversial Witches' Bible (1975), the Frosts have coauthored 22 books and have appeared on hundreds of national television and radio shows to promote Wicca. Since 1972, Gavin and Yvonne have lived under a vow of poverty, turning over all their material possessions to the Church of Wicca.
It was in his final year at the University of London (King's College) shortly after the close of World War II that Gavin grew interested in the prehistoric peoples of the British Isles and in the reconstruction of their spiritual beliefs. At London University there were several people of the English upper middle class or lower aristocracy who wanted to form a witchcraft coven. Through contacts with Thomas Lethbridge, an authority on witchcraft who worked at the university, Frost and his friends got in touch with a group of witches in Penzance, who agreed to initiate a few students if they met certain conditions. Frost was among a group of four who were blindfolded and taken out to a place they later identified as Boskednan, a Nine-Maidens Circle. (The breath of nine maidens heats the celtic goddess Cerridwen's cauldron of inspiration.) They went through an initiation similar to the initiation that would appear many years later in The Witch's Bible and it was on that occasion when Frost got the scar on his wrist, the spirit-through-fire scar that is still visible. Roots of that coven's practice have always intrigued Frost because they seemed to owe nothing to Gerald Gardner's work and because the order of service (the same as that shown later in Gavin and Yvonne Frosts' The Good Witch's Bible) did not resemble that of most other groups.
After earning an honors degree, Frost was requested to work for the Department of Atomic Energy and offered the opportunity to work on a doctorate in pure research. He completed his doctoral thesis on research into the separation of potassium and sodium ions by filtration, and moved on into research on the detection and classification of alpha waves. Then an old school friend contacted him and asked him to work on research in the infrared spectrum. Frost and his significant other, Dorothy Whitford, moved to de Havilland Aircraft in Hatfield near London. Here the research concentrated on investigation of long-wave infrared radiation for the British equivalent of the Sidewinder missile. Much of the testing of that missile was carried out on Salisbury Plain, and it was necessarily done at night. This gave Frost daytimes to explore nearby ancient monuments such as Stonehenge, and time to talk with local historians on what may be called the pagans of Stonehenge.
Gavin and Dorothy married and elected to emigrate to Montreal to work on the Canadian missile program. Upon arrival they learned they would immediately be assigned to Quebec City, site of the Canadian Missile Research Institute. Frost declined, joining instead Canadair's Training and Simulator group. His son Christopher was born in October 1954 in Montreal, and his daughter Sandra in April 1957, also in Montreal.
On one assignment Frost visited Chile when an F-86 had landed on a jungle strip near a remote mountain village, and its engine refused to start. The group needed about four days to locate the problem and get the plane flown out of there. In those four days in the village, Frost got his first taste of religion and healing as practiced by shamans. The villagers could not believe that an outsider, especially a Caucasian, would have any interest in their procedure or would be receptive toward it. But Frost saw many parallels in what they were doing to what he had been taught in the coven in England and had put on his mental shelf with the move to Canada.
When Frost moved to California, he became senior project engineer on the radar system in the F-104. This gave him the opportunity to travel extensively world-wide and achieve high-level contacts in many countries. When the opportunity arose to become the firm's European representative, Frost took it and moved his family to Munich, Germany.
Although the hours and work expectations were still high, there was more free time in Munich to investigate the fascinating subject of German sorcery. Gavin Frost studied for initiation with a group of German sorcerers in Geiselgasteig, the old Bohemian artists' colony south of Munich, but because Dorothy had no interest in the occult or in writing for a living, the family was beginning to fragment. Upon their return to the States, Gavin and Dorothy divorced.
It was here that Gavin Frost and Yvonne Wilson began the long process of establishing the spiritual path they called Wicca as a religion.
Yvonne's parents moved from rural Kentucky to California in 1930, and nine months later in March 1931 she was born in Los Angeles, the oldest of four siblings. She grew up in the hard-shell Baptist matrix, trying hard to conform and cause no trouble, but she felt bewildered inside. As the eldest of four children, she lived in silent obedience, wondering why she did not fit in. Qualifying for Mensa, the international high-IQ society, helped explain the feelings of alienation.
A 10-year marriage ended in divorce, and Yvonne began eight years of living as a self-supporting single woman. She enrolled part-time in a junior college and earned an Associate in Arts in 1962 with the highest GPA in her class. Yvonne also started to explore spiritual options. Buddhism was popular then, in the early 1960s, but she could not get comfortable with it. Spiritualism entered her awareness, with its darkened
In a Spiritualist seance in 1965, a voice came to her through the medium's trumpet: "Can I be your little girl?" Single as she was, Yvonne was taken aback. Still she managed to answer, "Yes. You come when it's time." Bronwyn Frost was born in 1969. In an apport seance Yvonne's spirit guide at that time, Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, brought her a green cabochon stone. She had it set into a bracelet but has never been able to get it identified.
Yvonne's career at that time was in aerospace, and Gavin Frost was her boss's boss. She formed her first impression of him when she saw how fellow workers yielded plenty of room to Dr. Frost as he strode the firm's halls. During Gavin's stint in Munich, he began work on a novel entitled Pagans of Stonehenge and asked her to edit it for him at long distance. Thus began Yvonne's career as a coauthor.
"One thing led to another," Yvonne Frost recalled. "We two became an item. I became interested in Gavin's path. The teachings of Spiritualism and Buddhism overlapped some aspects of the Craft, so learning the Craft was a natural step. After his divorce we moved together to St. Louis. There his work as international sales manager implied even more travel and longer hours away from home. I used my time to type all the School's lectures and the draft of The Witch's Bible." (1972)
Yvonne said that Gavin's witnessing Bronwyn's birth brought him an epiphany. He gave up his career in aerospace, though he worked intermittently for a year or so as a consultant, and committed his life and energies to the Craft. "No more gold credit cards, no more first-class flights world-wide, no more captain of industry and management matron for the two of us," Yvonne said. "We traded all this in for a vow of poverty and full-time commitment to living and teaching the Craft."
Continuing her remembrance, Yvonne observed, "In retrospect, our shared life begins to show a pattern. A couple of years remodeling a derelict building in St. Charles, Missouri; three years of raising pigs on unimproved rural Missouri acreage and an abandoned schoolhouse; 20 years in New Bern, North Carolina (site of the First Amendment guaranteeing religious freedom in this nation); all these chapters served to fill in gaps in our respective learning. What we did not already know about humility from the discomforts of rehabbing buildings and from raising pigs, we have learned well and thoroughly from the pagan/Wiccan community and the negativity of its reception. After the theological work, my greatest accomplishment is the establishment of the Church of Wicca as a federally recognized church, not only with regard to its tax-exempt status, but also in federal appeals court. The church's official letter of determination arrived from the IRS in 1972, making ours the first Wiccan Church (despite the resentful claims of others) to earn federal recognition. The key to such recognition of Wicca—the Craft— as a religion has been its well-defined theology."