Bradley, Marion Zimmer (1930–1999)
Marion Zimmer Bradley, popular writer of fantasy fiction
with occult themes, was born on June 3, 1930, in Albany, New
York. Her literary skills manifested in her childhood, and at the
age of 11 she founded an alternative school newspaper. The
choice of themes in her works was heavily influenced by her
early interests in magic, mythology, and Arthurian legends.
She attended the New York State Teachers College for three
years, during which time she married Robert A. Bradley (1949).
The Bradleys moved to Texas, where he worked on the railroad
and she bore their first child. She also joined the AMORC Rosicrucians,
from whom she received her initial occult training.
Bradley began her serious writing during the early 1950s.
She published a few pieces of short fiction and finally in 1955,
her first novel, Seven from the Stars, appeared. In 1959 she separated
from her husband and moved to Abilene, Texas, where
she finished college at Hardin Simmons University. By the time
she graduated, her novels were selling so well that she was able
to become a full-time author. In 1963 she moved to Berkeley,
California. The following year she divorced her husband and
married Walter Breen. In 1963, Breen had been consecrated
as a bishop in the Evangelical Catholic Communion, an independent
liturgical church, in which he was named Bishop of
Berkeley. Bradley and Breen joined in the formation of a new
occult group, the Aquarian Order of the Restoration, dedicated
to restoring worship to the Goddess. The group, which at its
height had less than 20 members, continued until 1982.
In the late 1970s Bradley joined with a number of other
women in the Bay Area to form what became known as The
Dark Circle. Though primarily a women’s group and not a
witchcraft coven, it did include Wiccans among its members.
Bradley withdrew after several years, but her participation fueled
speculation that she was a Wiccan, a fact that she vehemently
denied. Speculation peaked following the publication
of her most successful book, The Mists of Avalon (1983), a retelling
of the King Arthur legend from a feminist perspective. It
has appeared on many Pagan reading lists and reviewers suggested
that much of it must have come by way of channeling. In
response, Bradley asserted her Christian beliefs (though of a
somewhat feminist and unorthodox variety), and the lack of
any channeled material in her work. She also believed that a return
to an agricultural religion in an age of high technology did
not make sense.
Bradley emerged at the top of her profession in the 1990s.
In 1988 she launched a periodical, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy
Magazine. She continued to write bestselling novels known
for featuring strong women characters; edited an annual anthology,
Sword and Sorceress; and left several unfinished manuscripts
in the works at the time of her death in Berkeley on September
25, 1999.
Sources
Bradley, Marion Zimmer. Lady of Avalon. New York Viking,
1997.
———. Mists of Avalon. New York Del Rey, 1983, 1987.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and
Witchcraft. New York Facts on File, 1989.

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