Our Member of the Month for February, 2022 is Donald Frew of Berkeley, California.
Donald H. Frew is an Elder in the NROOGD and Gardnerian Traditions of modern Wicca, and High Priest of Coven Trismegiston in Berkeley CA. Within the Gardnerian Tradition, he is known as a historian and theologian. Working with his wife, Anna Korn, they compiled, edited, and in 2007 circulated a new edition of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, incorporating material from their research in early Gardnerian texts and resulting in a Book of over 650 pages.
Frew’s coven is a member of the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), the world’s largest religious organization of Witches. He has served ten terms on CoG’s National Board, as Public Information Officer (PIO) and as First Officer (President). As PIO, he served as a consultant on occult crimes for various law enforcement agencies. This led to collaboration with the Committee for Scientific Examination of Religion, the FBI, and the Justice Department to create a report for law enforcement on so-called “Satanic” crime – Satanism in America: How the Devil Got Much More Than His Due (1989) – credited by the FBI with reversing the tide of the “Satanic Hysteria” in America. (This is soon to be republished in an updated edition.) At the same time, Frew operated as a free-lance occultist, providing consultation for authors & others, investigating and dealing with “haunted” houses (and other places), and helping those believed to be “cursed”.
Frew is a National Interfaith Representative for the Covenant of the Goddess and has represented Wicca in interfaith work for over 35 years, on the Boards of the Berkeley Area Interfaith Council and the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, at all of the modern Parliaments of the World’s Religions (as a member of the Parliament’s Assembly of the World’s Religious & Spiritual Leaders), and as Vice-President of (and frequent contributor to) the online interfaith journal The Interfaith Observer. He was the creator & organizer of the 2004 international Interfaith Sacred Space Design Competition – incorporating 160 designs from 17 countries – and editor of the resulting book, Sacred Spaces (2004).
On top of all that, Don was a playtester for the original Call of Cthulhu RPG and one of the authors of the CoC supplement The Stars are Right!. He co-authored an essay incorporating real astrology into the game, noting the planetary configuration that correlated to the rising of R'lyeh in "The Call of Cthulhu". The founder of Chaosium - Greg Stafford - was a good friend and traveled with Don to Egypt on one of his trips.
Don says: "I found Lovecraft when I was 11 years old, in the Scholastic Book Services edition of The Shadow over Innsmouth and Other Stories of Horror. I had no idea who Lovecraft was, but the book’s cover looked cool in the little catalogues from which my 6th Grade class used to order books each month. The book included only seven stories – an odd mix of classics, one-offs, and revisions – but in addition to the titular story, it included “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”. This struck a chord with my lifelong love of Ancient Egypt and I vowed to visit the Pyramids some day and find those underground passages.
I have now visited Egypt seven times, entered and climbed those pyramids (back when that was legal), and crawled through passages beneath the Giza plateau. I’m keeping a running tally of tombs entered and it stands at eighty-three.
The gigantic tunnels of Lovecraft’s (and Houdini’s) imagination aren’t there, but there is plenty in Egypt to stir the Lovecraftian imagination in any enthusiast. My favorite such site is the baboon & falcon catacombs at Tuna el Gebil, the necropolis for Hermopolis, the city of Thoth. The first time I went there my Egyptian guide Ahmad, who was a devout Muslim, said that it was the one ancient site that he would not want to stay at after dark. It’s a very lonely place out in the desert, and the maze of catacombs underneath can be disconcerting. As Ahmad had said this, the wind was blowing across the sand accompanied by howls of wild dogs. I could see what he meant, but he would still love to spend the night there.
Back home, my day-to-day life involves work with the Wiccan community, the interfaith community, and the intersection between these two. One way this manifests is through a private Pagan library I am opening in the San Francisco East Bay – the Adocentyn Research Library. The Library has recently reached capacity with over 15,000 volumes on its shelves and has now negotiated to triple its space. In addition to the occult subjects one might expect of a Pagan library, Adocentyn has special collections in Egyptology, esoteric Islam, Central American indigenous traditions, and Arthurian Studies, and – with the expanded space – will be adding a large collection of Lovecraft Studies.
I recently went back to school at UC Berkeley to study Middle Egyptian and have completed three years of study. I have some thoughts about the “correct” rendering and translation of Nephren-Ka that I’ll share soon. (BTW, I have visited a temple dedicated to Nitocris, but it’s dedicated to a 25th Dynasty priestess of Amun, not the infamous 6th Dynasty Ghoul-Queen of legend.) I am also managing a micro-crowd-funded Egyptology project to gather small amounts of money in the US to fund small but necessary archaeological projects in Egypt. This project has built structures at Karnak and Luxor, but doesn’t yet have a name."