Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On the Road in Virginia: Looking for Gleb Botkin

Home of Gleb Botkin in the late 1960s. Photo by Chas S. Clifton

The house in Charlottesville, Va., where the Botkin familiy lived in the 1960s, also the final location of the Church of Aphrodite.

Gleb Botkin's Church of Aphrodite lasted from the 1930s to 1969. (He formally incorporated it in 1939, but I don't know just when it started.)

The church was more Goddess-monotheistic than polytheistic:

Aphrodite, the flower-faced, the sweetly smiling, the laughter-loving Goddess of Love and Beauty, is the self-existent, eternal and Only Supreme Deity, Creator and Mother of the cosmos, the Universal Cause, the Universal Mind, the Source of all life and all positive and creative forces of nature, the Fountainhead of all happiness and joy.

But Botkin rejected such formulas as "love thy neighbor as thyself" and the "so-called Golden Rule," arguing instead that love requires "two mutually responsive poles."

Some of the argument he makes in his thealogical book In Search of Reality could justify polyamory as well, although I don't know if he applied it in that way.

Some of the Charlottesville Pagans still want an historical marker on the house. I don't know who lives there now; when we stopped by, no one was at home but the cat.

Botkin, his wife Nadine and his daughter Marina Botkin Schweitzer are buried just outside Charlottesville, where his marker describes him as the Reverand [sic] Gleb Botkin and includes the astrological symbol of Venus.

The Church of Aphrodite, meanwhile, had both a personal and a literary connection with the California Pagan group Feraferia and hence to the broader Pagan revival of the late 20th century.

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Anonymous Ailia said...

This is awesome! I know that neo-Hellenists exist and all - I get emails from them all the time because of my website (paleothea.com) - but that a church to friggin' Aphrodite existed in the 30's? In Charlottesville?!? I think I'm gonna have to repost part of this on Paleothea: the Ancient Goddess blog

Thanks for the story.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

It existed in the 1930s on Long Island. The Botkins came to Charlottesville in the 1960s after having lived for a while in rural New Jersey.

11:09 AM  
Blogger CANUKER said...

I was at U. Va. 1966-1970 and knew Gleb fairly well. I can tell you he'd be quite astonished to see his name associated with "pagans" and similar New Age drivel. From one who knew Gleb Botkin, take my word for it - he'd welcome "pagans" to his house just as he did the KBG visitors who dropped by to invite him to return to Mother Russia - with a verbal swift kick in the pants!

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

Botkin's Church of Aphrodite was his unique creation. On the other hand, you can draw a straight line from it to Feraferia, one of the leading new Pagan groups of the 1970s, and they regarded Botkin as a sort of elder.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Bag said...

New Gleb Botkin letter

8:29 PM  

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