Born in London on August 31, 1934, Raymond Buckland emigrated from England to the United States in February 1962 and was responsible for the introduction of contemporary witchcraft into the United States at that time. Buckland's father was Stanley Thomas Buckland, married to Eileen Lizzie Wells. His father was a higher executive officer in the
At the age of 12, Buckland was introduced to Spiritualism by his father's brother, George, a Spiritualist. This led Buckland, an avid reader, to investigate that subject and to move on to such related subjects as ghosts, ESP, magick, witchcraft, voodoo, and the occult generally. Over time his interest focused on witchcraft.
Buckland was educated at Nottingham Boys High School, then at King's College School, Wimbledon. He holds a doctorate in anthropology from Brantridge Forest College, in Sussex. He served in the Royal Air Force from 1957 to 1959. His first job was as an engineering draftsman; then, after his stint in the R.A.F., he went to work for a London publishing firm. He taught himself to play the trombone and, for several years, led a Dixieland-style jazz band called "Count Rudolph's Syncopated Jazz Men," in his spare time playing regularly at the Piccadilly Jazz Club, Baker Street Jazz Club, and other venues.
In 1955 Buckland married Rosemary Moss and they had two sons—Robert and Regnauld. The family emigrated to the United States in 1962, settling in Brentwood, Long Island, New York. Buckland went to work for BOAC (now British Airways), which enabled him to travel extensively. He stayed with the airline for 10 years.
The Buckland family—nominally Church of England—was not particularly religious, but Buckland's reading drew him to witchcraft. He was greatly influenced by Margaret Murray's books The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) and God of the Witches (1952) and by Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959). Entering into a mail and telephone correspondence with Gardner, Buckland eventually was introduced to Gardner's high priestess, Lady Olwen (Monique Wilson), who initiated him into Wicca in Perth, Scotland, in December 1963. Buckland had finally got to meet Gardner just prior to that, before Gardner left for what was to be his final voyage to Lebanon. Buckland had become Gardner's spokesman in the United States, with Gardner forwarding to Buckland any mail he received from the U.S.
Buckland's craft name was Robat. With his wife, who became the Lady Rowen, they established the first contemporary witchcraft coven in the United States, building and expanding on it slowly and cautiously. With Gardner's books going out of print, Buckland took it upon himself to write his first book on the craft, Witchcraft from the Inside, which was published by Llewellyn Publications in 1971. Buckland then dedicated his life to straightening the misconceptions of witchcraft, speaking on the subject and writing articles. Initially he tried to remain anonymous but a newspaper reporter went back on her word and published his name and address. Despite the resulting physical and verbal attacks on him and his family, Buckland continued his work.
Inspired by Gerald Gardner's museum, Buckland gathered artifacts over the years and, in 1966, opened America's first museum of witchcraft and magic, first in the basement of his home, then in an old Victorian building in Bay Shore, Long Island. The museum was successful; being featured in numerous national magazine and newspaper articles, and was the subject of a television documentary. At various times a selection of artifacts was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to other museums.
Buckland had his first article published when he was 12 years old. In 1969 A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural, his first book, was published by Ace Books. By the mid-1970s, with the breakup of his marriage to Rosemary, Buckland handed over leadership of the Gardnerian coven to a couple on Long Island and moved, with his museum, to Weirs Beach, New Hampshire. There he married his second wife, Joan Taylor.
By 1973 Buckland had determined that Gardnerian Wicca did not totally fulfill his religious requirements. He founded a new branch of the craft, taking nothing from Gardnerian (because of his oath to that tradition) but writing all new material. He based it on a Saxon background and called it Seax-Wica, or Saxon witchcraft. Contrary to reports by various misinformed writers, Seax-Wica was not started as a joke but as a serious branch of witchcraft—a branch to which Buckland then dedicated himself. Today the Seax-Wica tradition is found worldwide. Buckland moved from New Hampshire to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Aware that many people were unable to join the craft because of geographical location, among other reasons, Buckland started a correspondence course that he ran successfully for four years. The course was focused on Saxon witchcraft; a non-secret tradition.
In 1982 Buckland met Tara Cochran and, separating from Joan, married her in 1983. They lived for a couple of years in Charlottesville, Virginia, before moving to San Diego, California. The museum was placed in storage, where it remained until it was eventually passed on to Monte Plaisance, who reopened it in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 2001. In San Diego the correspondence course had to be phased out, since Buckland felt it took away too much of his writing time.
In 1992 the Bucklands moved to a small farm in Ohio and, after more than a quarter of a century of coven work, Buckland gave it up to work, with Tara, as solitaries. After 30 years of public activity, he retired from active involvement in the craft, settling for only occasional lectures, workshops, and book-signings. For his solitary practice, he drew mainly on Seax-Wica rites, together with aspects of PectiWita (a Scottish tradition inspired by Aidan Breac and developed by Buckland). In Ohio Buckland's writing developed to include novels, a number of divination decks, and saw a return to Spiritualism with the publication of Doors to Other Worlds (1993) and The Truth about Spirit Communication (1995).
A prolific author, by 2001 Buckland had more than 30 books published, with more than a million copies in print and translated into 12 foreign languages. He has written a number of screenplays, numerous newspaper and magazine articles, and has appeared on many radio and television talk shows in the United States, Canada, England, and Italy. Buckland served as technical advisor for the Orson Welles movie Necromancy (1972) (The Witching on video), appeared in small character roles in movies, and has lectured at many colleges and universities across the United States. Among Buckland's best-known titles are Practical Candle-burning Rituals (1970), The Tree: Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft (1974), Doors to Other Worlds (1993), Scottish Witchcraft (1991), The Witch Book (2001), and the Buckland Romani Tarot (2001). Other books are Advanced CandleMagic (1996), Anatomy of the Occult (1977), The Book of African Divination (1992), Buckland Gypsies' Domino Divination Deck (1995), Coin Divination (1999), Gypsy Dream Dictionary (1998), Gypsy Fortunetelling Tarot Kit (1998), Here Is the Occult (1974), The Magick of Chant-O-Matics (1978), Mu Revealed (pseudonym: Tony Earl; 1970), Practical Color Magick (1983), Ray Buckland's Magic Cauldron (1995), Secrets of Gypsy Fortunetelling (1988), Secrets of Gypsy Love Magick (1990), The Truth about Spirit Communication (1995), Witchcraft from the Inside (1971; 1995), Witchcraft…the Religion (1966), and two novels: The Committee (1993) and Cardinal's Sin (1996). He also produced the video Witchcraft Yesterday and Today (1990).