n response to someone in Facebook saying (a couple of weeks back) that they hadn’t heard of “Zell, Green Egg or CAW” and wondering if they might be “Pagan communes” I wrote the following explanation of how polyamory and paganism are historically connected. (You may also want to check out Alan’s awesome research post at Poly in the News, on the history of the word ‘polyamory’ as well. If you live for the joy of lex, it’s a big O all by itself!)
Here’s a bit of a history lesson around these particular items, since you’ve said you’re unfamiliar. Please note that I am not claiming that any of this has any particular effect today on the functioning of various poly people or organizations anywhere around the world (other than the word “polyamory” existing as an organizing principle.)
Zell is the last name of Morning Glory and Oberon. [In 1992] MG coined the term polyamory and published it in the Green Egg, a now-defunct pagan magazine. CAW [Church of All Worlds] is the particular pagan organization that the Zells and others founded some time back (60’s or 70’s I believe), with a fair amount of inspiration from Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. You certainly won’t find the word “polyamory” in Heinlein’s books because his books pre-date the [common usage of the] word. However, “Stranger” and others contain concepts of multiple-partnering (e.g., “the Nest”) that are similar to those held by many modern-day polys. Some of those modern day polys got their ideas directly from those books, and some (an increasingly large number, due to the books’ receding farther from modern times, and to the rise of the Internet, which has a GREAT DEAL of power to change the spread of ideas) didn’t. It’s possible that some of the content you read might not exist without the Zells (which idea is a popular theme in science fiction time-travel stories [and therefore we’ll never know!]).
I myself have “felt poly” since before reading Heinlein, let alone encountering the word polyamory decades later. The references that you found on the internet were put there by other poly folk, some of whom (like me) probably learned the word from the Zells. “I stand on the shoulders of giants,” as a scientist once famously said. We all have been influenced, to a greater or lesser degree, whether or not we’re aware of it, by those who come before us. For me, the connection to the Zells is significant. For you, not so much. It’s all good.