Secret Style Icon: The Source Family

Clothes for afternoons on the Astral Plane.

“Why seek any further without for that which lies within?” –Father Yod

Image via Drag City

When you say the word cult today, most people think of the Manson family and Helter Skelter, which is a bummer because murder sprees were not the norm for the culty communes of the ’60s and ’70s. Take, for example, the Source Family, the legendary Los Angeles “spirit commune” founded by James E. Baker, a decorated World War II soldier and jujitsu fighter who briefly worked as a Hollywood stunt double. In the late ’60s, Baker restyled himself as a spiritual guru named Father Yod (also known as YaHoWha) with long white hair and a pretty serious beard. Father Yod began tooling around L.A. in a chauffeur-driven white Rolls Royce, preaching his own personal gospel of mysticism and spiritual enlightenment through the holy hippie trinity of meditation, vegetarianism, and rock & roll.

Image via Process Media

Even though Father Yod looked like a hippie Santa Claus and his religion was a confusing stew of New Age-y ideas (with lots of talk of “pyramid mirrors,” “sacred shins,” and “moon chakras,” maaan), he eventually amassed more than a hundred followers and lived in “The Father House,” a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, with most of them (rumors flew that the house was bought with bank robbery money, but the rumor-mongers didn’t take into account Yod’s fortune, which he amassed by starting a series of organic restaurants in Southern California). They called themselves the Source Family.

The Family was a common sight along L.A.’s Sunset Strip in the early ’70s. Groups of strangely serene young men and women would wander up and down Sunset Boulevard in long gauzy gowns and velvet robes, street-preaching and recruiting new members to their self-proclaimed “Aquarian tribe.” An enterprising bunch of hippies, the Family also opened one of L.A.’s first totally vegetarian restaurants on Sunset Boulevard. The Source Restaurant served “vibrationally pure” cuisine to John Lennon, Marlon Brando, and other diners not freaked out by a bunch of glassy-eyed long-hairs serving them dishes like the “Aware Salad” (lettuce, grated beets, and alfalfa sprouts). By the way, the Source Restaurant is where Woody Allen filmed the breakup scene in Annie Hall:

The Father House in the Hollywood Hills was like this spiritual boot camp where music and meditation were a part of everyday life. Each day, the musicians of the Family would rise at 3 AM (because that’s when the “ascending currents” were best or something), take a three-minute cold shower, meditate, then gather in the soundproof garage that served as their recording studio for long psychedelic jams with Father Yod on lead vocals. Under names like YaHoWha 13 and Spirit of ’76, the Family released more than 60 limited-pressing records of chants, prayers, and instrumental riffs, which they sold for a dollar each at their restaurant. Those records became legendary among collectors of obscure ’60s rock—the first time I heard about them, a friend of mine just said, “This is some of the most kick-ass psych of all time.” He was totally right.

Drag City has been doing an amazing job reissuing the Family’s transcendental psych records over the last few years. I recommend Children of the Sixth Root Race’s Songs From the Source and Father Yod and the Source Family’s Magnificence in the Memory. There’s also a new documentary film, The Source, that tells the whole crazy saga of the Family. It premiered at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, is currently playing on the film festival circuit, and will hopefully have a wider release soon. You can check for release dates here.

Images (L-R) via Source Family Page and Freshjive Blog

Father Yod passed away in a freak hang-gliding accident in Hawaii in 1975, but a small tribe of his followers keeps the flame alive, with members like Isis Aquarian spreading the word of Yod through books and her seriously gnarly YaHoWha website. A huge number of the Aquarian tribe were women, and while their devotion to Father Yod may have bordered on creepy, you cannot deny that the Mother Angels of the Family looked AMAZING:

Image via Process Media

Father Yod was not above throwing off his guru robes for the occasional custom-made three-piece suit—as in this photo, where he looks about as gangster as a spiritual guru can get—but the ladies of the Aquarian tribe kept it simple and ascetic in long flowing cotton dresses, center-parted hair (or “cosmic roots,” as the Family called it), and makeup-free faces. Accessories were usually simple hippie headbands, arm cuffs, or jewelry adorned with the Egyptian ankh, which the Family believed to be a symbol of love with a “female polarity.” Oh, and the Family also wore LOTS of white…

Image via Vantasea

…that is, until one day when Father Yod had a vision and commissioned Family fashion designer Galaxy Aquarian (who now goes by the significantly less fun name Dawn Hurwitz) to design an entire rainbow of velvet robes. You gotta love a cult that appreciates the power of fashion as well as fluid condensers, right?

Image via KCET

Get in touch with your inner moon maiden in long broomstick skirts and shiny shoes the color of a mirror pyramid. It’s a perfectly ethereal Mother Angel look that would make the White Magician proud.

Clockwise from top left: vegan lip balm, $3, The Merry Hempsters; Spiritual Sky patchouli musk oil, $4, The Shed; Healing Crystals by Michael Gienger, $9, Barnes & Noble; lime-rimmed sunglasses, $32, Topshop; tortoise shell sunglasses, $32, Topshop; tube necklace, $31, Asos; ankh necklace, $32, Buy Egyptian Costumes; market basket, $37, The Sheepherder; sandals, $170, Topshop; jersey dress, $50, Topshop; maxi skirt, $50, House of Fraser; crop tee, $16, Topshop; metallic sandals, $140, Topshop; A Thousand Shadows by the Seeds, $13, Music Stack


  • Kathryn June 27th, 2012 11:10 PM

    That awesome girl towards the middle of the top picture sort of reminds me of Petra, but with longer hair. hahah

    • Kathryn June 28th, 2012 3:02 PM

      quick, someone agree with me so I don’t look nuts

      • Aurora June 28th, 2012 3:25 PM

        *kathryn is now officially not nuts*

  • tankgrrrl June 27th, 2012 11:45 PM

    I hope they didn’t preach anything about the evils of money or material possessions, cos at least one of the ladies in the picture of the Mother Angels is wearing a designer dress…

  • llamalina June 28th, 2012 12:22 AM

    this is why i love california. as soon as i’m legal, i’m moving down to hollyweird.

  • steph.anie11 June 28th, 2012 1:19 AM

    so much fun to read!!

  • sherbert June 28th, 2012 1:22 AM

    man, i am loving CA story time, this goes good with that earlier post about *mysterious* celebrity deaths

  • caro nation June 28th, 2012 1:36 AM

    Astral plane, or I’ll go insane.

    • MechaMech July 2nd, 2012 10:25 PM

      High five for the Modern Lovers!

  • fdanielle June 28th, 2012 2:07 AM

    DUDE. I am good friends with Djin Aquarian, he was an original Source Family member and part of the YaHoWah 13 band! He lives in my town! He is legend.

  • mayaautumn June 28th, 2012 2:24 AM

    ahh i love this article! cool stuff:)
    there’s a boy in the year above me who wears a hat that says ‘cult’ and for the sort of ‘wrong meaning’. everyone loves it but it winds me up!
    plus i love the name ‘father yod’ it sounds

  • ivoire June 28th, 2012 3:15 AM

    oh my god marlon brando.

  • Lucille June 28th, 2012 6:52 AM

    Damn I need white long lace or whatever dress!
    California ftw!
    xo, L.

  • Pixie June 28th, 2012 9:29 AM

    cool , I’m in love with the shoes and sunglasses :)

  • HollieLillian June 28th, 2012 10:14 AM

    There’s a girl in my form at school that goes to the summer solstice festival at stone henge every year, thousands of modern day pagans/druids/sun worshippers/hippies/people that haven’t left the 70s gather there for this huge spiritual event. These pictures reminded me of that a bit. Cults like this look awesome, so does Father Yod.

  • Yayo June 28th, 2012 1:10 PM

    Wow this is just amazing. I love the image of them all standing along the beach.

    Although the ratio of pregnant women to men seems very off to me which I sort of find uncomfortable.

  • all-art-is-quite-useless June 28th, 2012 1:41 PM

    I really want that t-shirt on their website with the picture of the cult-members on it…

  • ColleenMorgan June 28th, 2012 1:42 PM

    in love

  • mwong1025 June 28th, 2012 1:52 PM

    That sounds like the sort of place I would want to live in. Rainbow velvet robes tsufjoa. By the way the girl on the far left reminds me of Daenerys Targaryen aka DA KHALEESI.

  • Adrienne June 28th, 2012 3:26 PM

    Omg this was a crazy good article!!! I’ve never heard of the Source Family. There’s actually a cult relatively closeby to where I live, and they’re called the Purple People. NO JOKE. They live on a little hill in this purple house and have WATCH TOWERS to guard the place for trespassers!!

  • Ben June 28th, 2012 3:38 PM

    I love cults! They are so interesting. I really like these pictures and stuff and I want to learn more. I also love LA and plan on moving there when I finish Highschool!

  • Skylar June 28th, 2012 11:14 PM

    What did father yod do? Get all the women pregnant?? Why are they all pregnant?

  • Emma S. June 29th, 2012 8:07 AM

    Wait, this: Father Yod passed away in a freak hang-gliding accident in Hawaii in 1975. Amazing.

  • Dylan June 29th, 2012 10:42 PM

    This rules, Leeann, RULES.

  • feralman June 30th, 2012 1:58 PM

    Thanks, Leeann, for this post. Though totally well-intentioned, it’s incorrect in a number of ways. You can get the full and correct story from this book:

    This is the credited source material for the documentary you mentioned. The book also has a CD with archival music, interviews and other things.

    Many thanks,

    Adam Parfrey
    Process Media / Feral House

  • Galaxy July 1st, 2012 4:41 PM

    Thanks for the memories! Yes, as Adam states some of your “facts” are not, but don’t worry, most don’t get it all correct either.

  • isis July 1st, 2012 7:54 PM

    this was an awesome adventure we had 40 years ago and it is still working its it is 2012, who knew :)
    our website is if interested