Numinous and Concrete
Predators in Paganism
Author's Note: The following article contains references to sexual abuse.
"If we were starting over, we wouldn't call it child pornography," says Ernie Allen, president of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "This is different. This is not pornography. These are crime scene photos. These are photos of the abuse of a child." From "He Was Supposed to Take a Photo," by Nicholas Kristof
Many people are writing about author, musician, and photographer Kenny Klein. I'm not going to. Not specifically, anyway.
There are issues surrounding dangerous and abusive behavior in our communities. I've written on this topic before, and hope you read my three-part essay on the Frosts and sexual ethics. There is a lot there, touching on questions for communities such as:
What are our responsibilities to ourselves and to one another?
What are our sexual ethics?
What are our ethics around consent?
This piece is now about to get long, so I hope you have a cup of tea or take breaks when you need to.
I have two stories that relate to Kenny Klein, one that is about a leader and teacher, and one that is about a predator.
There was a teacher in one of my communities who had sex with his students. He had sex with me when I was eighteen and only two years into studying the Craft. He was my first formal teacher. I left off studying with him when my skin literally felt like it was jumping away from his touch. Was the sexual relationship consensual? I certainly said yes to it, but there was a skewed power dynamic, both because of age and because I was student to his teacher.
He didn't understand that. Years later, we had conversations about it—there were many years when I refused to talk with or deal with him, and other times when I would feel more generous. I won't get into the ins and outs of either my compassion or my anger toward him. There were good reasons for both.
One time, we were arguing on the phone about him having sex with his students when I got it: He felt unlovable and not sexy. Therefore, these people—mostly men, but sometimes women—that he was having sex with were in the power position in his mind. I tried to talk to him about the fact that he was the one in power. I think he died not getting that.
How did I deal with this in community? I talked with his students if they came to me for help. When people asked me about studying with him, I would tell them that he and I had very different sexual ethics and that he sometimes had sex with his students.
For me, he crossed ethical boundaries. In other people's minds, he did not. Did I err on the side of not doing enough? Perhaps.
Abuse can happen anywhere. To anyone. It is up to us to not give in to fear or complicity. To be aware. It is up to us to listen, and let others know it is okay to speak.
The Charming Man:
A young man came to a workshop I was co-teaching in a small town in the middle of Illinois. He was around sixteen, and had a permission slip from his parent to be there. He was precocious and charming. After he turned eighteen, he studied with me for a couple of years, at a distance. At our weekend classes together, I never sensed anything wrong.
T. Thorn Coyle is an internationally respected visionary and teacher of the magical and esoteric arts. The author of Make Magic of Your Life, Kissing the Limitless, and Evolutionary Witchcraft, she hosts the Elemental Castings podcast series, writes the blog Know Thyself, and has produced several CDs of sacred music. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!