The Fish Rots from the Head Down: Squid Eye and Sexual Exploitation

I have been thinking long and hard about parenting this past few weeks. I have a wonderful son who is growing into manhood. The path that seems the best for him is certainly non-traditional, as non-traditional has his parents are, to be sure. He is a child who excels at one-on-one interactions and self-directed learning and, in accordance to society, fails at the cut-throat business of high school. I have given thought to all the good parents who raise horrible children and all the horrible parents who raise wonderful children, despite the horrors imposed upon them by their childhood. All this swirled in my mind when following a dream about asteroids falling in my neighborhood, an asteroid exploded within the pagan community.

Honestly, my personal stress meter was already off the charts. I am terribly behind on finishing edits to my book. My husband has been having serious back issues that have required multiple trips to the spinal doctor with medical outpatient procedures. My wonderful son has been faced with tough life-altering decisions around school and his future. My work is rolling out a new process and software that I have been implementing. I dedicated two new students last week, hosted a high priest and high priestess from out of state, and after the lull of winter inactivity, my community is gearing up again, having just celebrated its formal formation after over a year of planning and discussion. My personal goals and expectations are disproportional to my physical abilities and time constraints.

Then I saw my sister was in distress. I dropped everything and called her to discover the source of her discomfit. After my sister explained the situation, to her surprise, I simply said, “Oh.”

While she talked about the stress, I looked up things on the Internet, verified the story, and calmly listened to what actions had or had not been taken. When she was finished, my only response was, “Well, unfortunately I’ve been in the heart of something just like this before, and it’s a T-shirt I never want to wear again.”

My sister was surprised by this revelation, because it is a painful time in my past I do not discuss openly or often. After hearing about what can best be described as the Pagan community’s total freak out, I hung up knowing I would be writing about this issue immediately.

Those who have read this article so far, may be wondering what has happened. On March 26, 2014, the Louisiana State Police issued this Facebook News Release regarding a man who is a prominent elder in the pagan community and his alleged downloads of child pornography. Now factions of the pagan community are pointing fingers at other pagan Elders and Leaders claiming a guilt by association even though the arrested man has not been tried or pled guilty. There seems to be a general message by part of the pagan community that this single person’s choices somehow reflect upon every other person who knew or supported this particular man’s works. That reaction is also coupled with a general feeling of, “What? I can’t believe this has happened!”

Are you kidding me?

I have long run with elders who knew many “famous, big name pagans” and listened to the stories they have to tell of arguments around the exploitation of teenagers and “initiating” them into the sexual aspects of life as a “rite of passage.” Gerald Gardner has often been describe by many who knew or met him as being a “dirty old man” (to be clear a dirty old man when it came to adult women).  Allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against most of the cornerstone names in paganism today. Gavin and Yvonne Frost literally wrote the book  (now out of print) on sexual initiation that allegedly includes minors. When I personally asked them about this at a gathering, the response I got was, “Well, we are still around and still selling books.” The Frosts run with wild support of the general pagan public and teach through their church and school. If they have retracted or clarified their comments around sexual initiation of minors, I have yet to hear of it (if so, by all means, please let me know).

The Frosts aside, several years ago, I attended Pantheacon where a discussion around what elders, leaders and high priests and high priestesses were bound to reveal or not reveal when persons come to them in confidence. I specifically brought up my personal experience of a man and woman who had utilized pagan groups to exploit minor children and explained that when I tried to warn other leaders, I was ostracized and reprimanded. As I was doing research for this article, I found a link to a Wild Hunt article. I believe the couple I had had experiences with in Tennessee moved and were later arrested for similar behavior in 2012, years after I had initially worried that I may have helped run them out of my community only to unleash them into another unsuspecting community.

We, as a pagan community, are suffering from what my favorite author, Susan Scott, calls a serious lack of Squid Eye (Fierce Leadership; Susan Scott; Broadway Business; NY, NY; Kindle Edition, location 195). Squid Eye is the learned discipline of being able to see things others do not see, the ability to see the tells that will reveal where the squid, using his superior art of camouflage, is lying in wait to spring into action and blindside everyone else.  Scott contends it is an organization’s ability to ascertain and face potential threats and address them that enables longevity and grace in the face of unforeseen issues. In essence, Squid Eye is the antithesis of “You get what you tolerate.”

The other issue Scott identifies as a problem for organizations is the practice of anonymity (Fierce Leadership; Susan Scott; Broadway Business; NY, NY; Kindle Edition, location 825), the idea that it is easier to keep quiet than to speak. Scott suggests that those who speak up about difficult issues are shunned in organizations because they have broken the unspoken rules around anonymity.

An Example

When I was involved in a large group in the south, I began to notice incongruences in word and deed. The leaders of this group had known each other a long time and had adopted a protective stance toward one another. I admired that they seemed to have each other’s backs no matter what. Then I noticed behaviors unbecoming High Priests, High Priestesses and Elders. The elders would preach about the inappropriateness of having sex with students and engaging in sexual conduct that made others feel uncomfortable. Yet when faced with the commitment to monogamy that my husband and I share, a High Priestess approached me and told me she was going to have my husband to prove to me that she could. At the time I was considered a neophyte, as was my husband.

This particular High Priestess’s behavior continued to be incongruent with the words and alleged teachings of the group. When I confronted another elder the response was, “Oh – that is her sacred spiritual path, so we have to make allowances for her behavior.”

It wasn’t just sexual misconduct that concerned me. Drugs were explicitly forbidden at these events. One morning I woke to find a group of people spilling out of a tent filled with marijuana smoke. All were drunk and/or high. These were volunteers for the group, and everyone laughed about the incident. I began to feel like the “rules” were more the “*wink & nod* rules.” The rules were applicable only when the persons in charge wanted them to be. Poor and unethical behavior was often whitewashed by “sacred spiritual path working.” Persons who professed deep love for one another simply put up with abusive and dangerous behavior in the name of love.

Then I was brought before a council of elders to answer charges that as a neophyte, I did not display the appropriate reverence for my elders. The lack of consistency between written rules, professed teachings, and application had bothered me prior to this, and after my dressing down by persons I believed were unprofessional at best and unethical at worse, I made a heart wrenching decision. Despite the fact that I had volunteered to lead a series of gatherings, I finally decided that I could no longer tolerate being part of the group. My only source of Wiccan/Pagan teaching, my place where I had learned so much, had become rotten. In my letter of resignation I wrote, “I believe that to say all behavior is acceptable if it is someone’s ‘sacred spiritual path’ is to begin a slow descent on a slippery slope from which there may be no return.”

I was labeled an oath breaker by this group. I was disavowed by teachers. The love I had was crushed under the overwhelming force of condemnation I received. I was emotionally devastated. Still, I walked away because my Squid Eye told me something wasn’t right.

A few months later, I received a phone call from a High Priestess who had long been associated with that group. She told me through tears and anguish that the leader of the group I had just left had done something horrible. Ten years prior, a man who was a convicted child molester allegedly came to her and told her of his conviction. The High Priestess gave him permission to attend the family-friendly events held by this group while allegedly posting secret guards to follow this perpetrator when he was at the events. She did not notify other elder members of the group. She did not get any input or direction from anyone else.

It is my understanding that after participating in the group for years, this man decided that pedophilia was his sacred spiritual path. Since the group was accepting everyone else’s sacred spiritual path, he was tired of hiding his path and wanted the same acceptance as everyone else. He posted this missive on the group’s Facebook page in an open letter to the community. For a letter from an objecting former elder of this group – read this post.

“Looks like you got out just in time!” the High Priestess said to me.

Squid Eye

Crystal Blanton’s words resonated with me: “We as pagans excel at attacking the micro issues and fail at attacking the macro issue, the systems that enable the micro issues to exist.”

Squid Eye demands a look at the macro issues around sexual misconduct and paganism. Here are some guidelines that the pagan community might want to consider.

No One Gets A Pass

“The fish rots from the head down,” a Turkish proverb exclaims. The meaning for the Turks is that if a servant has unethical conduct, it is because his or her master is unethical.

It is far past time that we start holding all pagan elders accountable for their teachings regarding sexual initiation and children. We must demand that they teach in accordance to the law. Laws clearly state that it is rape if a child under the age of 18 has sex with someone over the age of 18.

Then we must hold them to an ethical law, a law that says that coercion in the name of “spiritual enlightenment,” “initiation,” “dedication,” “magic working,” “rite of passage,” and/or “coming of age ritual” is a far worse type of rape. The coercion into sexual intercourse by holding promotion of degrees, joining into a group, or as a rite of passage is a rape of the spirit, soul, mind and body. It is the same ploy used by sexual predators and should be categorically excised from pagan practice.

Elders like Gavin and Yvonne Frost who have allegedly upheld these practices as right and proper should receive the same treatment as persons who are caught in the act. These leaders and elders’ teachings are green lighting the behavior and disparaging the name of paganism and Wicca. If you wouldn’t invite a convicted child molester or someone who collects child pornography, then you cannot invite elders, teachers, high priests, or high priestesses who wink and nod that sexual initiation of minors is okay. If you wouldn’t buy a child molester’s books, then you must not buy these elders’ books. If you wouldn’t patronize an elder’s ministry after his conviction, then you cannot patronize the ministry of elders whose teachings include a normalization of sexual predation.

There must be a unanimous and clear disavowment of anyone who supports, creates, and cultivates a pagan view that this behavior is acceptable. No one gets a pass.

The Time for Silent Objection is Over – Now We Must Act

In all the uproar around the current issue, has anyone stopped and wondered what would happen if we really talked about these issues? A panel on sexual misconduct and paganism where elders really talk about ethical and legal ramifications of harboring persons who have been convicted of child molestation? A webpage where persons can post warnings (not anonymously, but openly) about sexual predators that have come across their paths?

Could we have elders more willing to reveal those whom they know are sexual predators, no matter how famous or well known those persons may be? A willingness to say not only to those persons, “That is not ethical,” but a willingness to warn other elders about those persons who travel and teach unethical sexual conduct in the name of paganism?

Could we have a committee that gets together and spends time looking into the research and the statistics around pagans and sexual misconduct? A group that conducts a study to find out the depth and breadth of sexual predation in the pagan community and then issues a list of recommendations for groups and gatherings to address the issue at the grassroots level?

At the grassroots level, could we have people willing to give a Safer Sex practices class at the beginning of any convention or event, coupled with a dedicated “Sex Fairy” who keeps free condoms and is available for counseling or the reporting of misconduct that may take place at an even?. Rites of Passage that discuss with those coming of age the legal and spiritual ramifications of sexual intercourse and other acts of sexual intimacy? Rites of Passage classes at large pagan events geared toward teenagers to discuss the issues of sexual predation, empowering sexual experiences, and ethical dating and coupling practices? Better guides to parents about understanding that pagan gatherings can never guarantee an entirely “safe environment,” so children should not be unattended? Better education to parents about sexual education at the appropriate ages and social skill levels?

When We Act, We Must Proceed Ethically

If our history of witch hysteria has taught us nothing, then we are bound to create further hysteria. I refer to Lady Spider’s letter again. She identified the facts, chronicled both sides of the issue and then laid out clearly what she would do.

Lashing out at an elder because they know someone who is a child molester is irrational, hysterical and counterproductive. I was born to a pedophile and rapist, and I am no more responsible for his behavior that other pagans who may have known or circled with the most recent offender. The question is, did an elder, high priest, high priestess, or pagan leader KNOW someone was a danger to the pagan community and not WARN that community?

Further utilizing a shocking revelation like this to further a personal vendetta is unethical. Squid Eye would insist that behavior that takes advantage of this type of opportunity to disparage other people, further divide the community or whip up hysteria should be a sign, a warning to everyone that something isn’t quite right with a leader who engages in such behavior.

Proceed with caution and compassion and transmute personal pain, anger, and fear into empathy. Be cautious when information comes forth. Ensure that you utilize only credible sources. Employ compassion that springs from an understanding that molesters, rapists, and abusers generally come from a history of molestation, rape and abuse. Although such a past cannot justify such violations, it can soften your angry heart and avoid allowing fear, anger, and bitterness take root, destroying all that is good within you.

Compassion also helps us better direct the fear, anger and bitterness of others. It allows us to see those in the immediate scandal zone as victims. People who have been caught by the shrapnel of a world they thought was one way, exploding in their faces causing damage to their feelings of safety and sanctity and trust.

Above all, we are pagans who transmute energy. Now, at this moment, we have an opportunity to transmute this pain, anger, and fear into empathy and understanding. We can develop Pagan Squid Eye and start identifying the little breaks in ethics, the inconsistencies in a person’s words and deeds that may notify our community that something is wrong. We can transmute our feelings of betrayal and helplessness into solid action.

Call to Action – What Will You Do?

I have written and mailed a letter to the Frosts via snail mail asking for a renouncement, if they haven’t already done so, of the chapter on sexual initiation of minors from the book published in 1972 and securing an agreement that should the book republish, that chapter be omitted.

I am going to find out who has supported them in the past and write letters to them as well, asking that they not support any teacher or elder who promotes pagan teachings that legitimize the victimization of children in the name of pagan spirituality or the use of sexual intercourse as a manipulation by withholding degrees, dedications, initiations, magic working or coming of age rituals.

Once these efforts have resolution, I will determine how best to fight this continued acceptance of the link pagan spirituality seems to have with sexual exploitation. My efforts will continue in workshop suggestions, writings, letters to leaders and presentations.

What Will You Do?

  • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

    I wrote to Obern Zell Ravenheart and he forwarded me this reply:

    “Certainly. Here it is again; and you have my full permission to publish it anywhere! If you wish, you may leave out the line: “We neither acknowledge nor worship the Christian devil, “Satan,” who is not in our Pagan pantheons.” It’s rather outdated now, as this is no longer the issue it was in 1988!

    I am all for your petition; as I couldn’t agree more! I’ll sign it, and also pass it on to Ariel to announce in Green Egg.

    The Earth Religion Anti-Abuse Resolution was written by Morning Glory Zell on May 22, 1988 and subsequently adopted by virtually every Pagan and Wiccan Path and Tradition, starting with the Church of All Worlds. Re-affirmation may be a purposeful act for us today:

    Earth Religion
    Anti-Abuse Resolution

    We, the undersigned, as adherents of Pagan and Neo-Pagan Earth Religions, including Wicca, or Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, practice a variety of positive, life-affirming faiths that are dedicated to healing, both of ourselves and of the Earth. As such, we do not advocate or condone any acts that victimize others, including those proscribed by law. As one of our most widely-accepted precepts is the Wiccan Rede’s injunction to “harm none,” we absolutely condemn the practices of child abuse, sexual abuse, and any other form of abuse that does harm to the bodies, minds or spirits of individuals. We offer prayers, therapy, and support for the healing of the victims of such abuses. We recognize and revere the divinity of Nature in our Mother the Earth, and we conduct our rites of worship in a manner that is ethical, compassionate and constitutionally-protected. We neither
    acknowledge nor worship the Christian devil, “Satan,” who is not in our Pagan pantheons. We will not tolerate slander or libel against our churches, clergy or congregations, and we are prepared to defend our civil rights with such legal action as we deem necessary and appropriate.”

    Perhaps it is time for Oberon and Morning Glory to rewrite and update this piece. Thank you Oberon for your prompt and courteous reply!

    • KhalilaRedBird

      So, who is taking the action item to post this statement anew, without the Satan line, and let us all start signing it?

      • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

        I have written to Oberon Zell and Brendon Myers asking both of them if they are interested in renewing updating and then hosting a signing at Pantheacon in 2015… I am will to host a website for the effort. – a Place where people can sign officially. I will continue to update the effort on this thread and on my home blog at Confessions of Being – lydiamcrabtree.com

    • D. M.

      I love this. I would love to see covens having this or similar pasted on their website as a way of knowing who or who not to get involved with.

  • kenofken

    I think we should all at least think about revisiting the statement on sexual abuse compiled by Brendan Myers a few years ago.

    http://www.brendanmyers.net/wickedrabbit/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=33%3Afinished-the-community-statement-on-religious-sexual-abuse&catid=11%3Anewscategory&showall=1

    This was a fine effort at the time, and I feel like that sort of went by the wayside because of the usual political reasons – people felt like this or that section didn’t reflect the exact nuance of their tradition etc. I don’t think we necessarily need to have everyone sign onto it like a treaty, but it’s an excellent way to frame the problem. It lays out the issue for what it is: We don’t have a problem with sexuality, even of the most unconventional varieties. The problem is predation and criminal behavior.

    This is not Millenium Prize level mathematics, folks. It’s boundaries and respect for one another. The former has a bright line in the law. The age of consent. No adult has any business engaging in sexual behavior or flirtation or innuendo with a minor. It doesn’t matter if he/she seems “mature for their age” or seems to reciprocate, or even initiates it. No gray area there.

    The rest comes down to respect and ethical leadership. Regardless of age and legality, no one in a leadership role should be leveraging that position for sexual favors or involving themselves in an intimate relationship with an initiate or student or lower ranking member of any sort. It is almost always inherently manipulative and even when it is not, it is unprofessional and toxic to coven/community dynamics. That does not mean there cannot be nudity or elements of sexuality in practice or initiations, but it has to be entirely of the person’s volition, and should be done in regular ritual space and among the group, not in some “private initiation” by the pervy middle aged priest.

    While I’m on that riff, let me explain that I am a 43 year old man and a priest. While it may well be legal for men my age or older to date/seek women as young as 18, and it may be technically ethical if it’s someone outside your “chain of command”, it’s kinda “oogie”, at best. This should really be a warning flag of unhealthy behavior in the community. Old guys who always gravitate toward very young women are emotional cripples, pure and simple. They may or may not be criminal, but they’re going to create an unhealthy and toxic dynamic for young women in the community, and they’re not fit to lead anything, whatever their charms and charisma may suggest.

    We need to learn to police our own behavior with respect as the guiding ethic. One of the best things about being a pagan, I find, is that we acknowledged the legitimacy of enjoying one another as animals and embodied beings. But that mutual enjoyment can only happen where we first engage each other as people and respect one another’s will and personal autonomy. All of us, but men in particular, need to learn that consent is something much more than lack of resistance. You must give your potential partners the safe space to say yes or no, without repercussions, make sure your intentions are actively reciprocated, and err on the side of caution.

    We need to realize that these conditions will not constrain positive sexuality. They will create the safe space needed for it to flourish. Guys, if I can’t appeal to a sense of empathy or decency, let me put it in simple economics. Men who treat women with respect always get more and much better sex, in the long run, than creepers. I cannot over-emphasize this last point: Anti-abuse is sex-positive. Abusers in this community have long tried to foster the idea that attacking their predation is prudish or attempts to force alien Judeo-Christian hangups onto pagan freedom. Nothing is further from the truth.

    We need to define what we’re about, at the tradition and coven level, but even in the bare minimum consensus of the “community”, whatever that is these days. We need to articulate our values, build healthy guidelines and festival rules around them, but above all, we need to cultivate a culture of accountability and ownership of the problem. We need to demand of leaders, and of ourselves, that allegations of criminal abuse are reported to authorities. We need to have the stones to bar people from festivals for inappropriate behaviors, even A-list pagan celebrities.

    This is a watershed time for us people. We are in some ways where the Catholic Church was 40 or 50 years ago. The collective decisions we make today will come to make or break the moral authority of this movement. Unlike the Catholics, we will not be able to blame a secretive cabal of bishops and institutional insiders. We are an egalitarian and decentralized movement. We will all hold roughly equal shares of the outcome.

    • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

      Thank you for such an insightful comment. I will go and look at the recommended reading. I agree with you. The important thing is to keep the conversation going and hold leaders accountable for what they teach.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven

    How do I go about signing your (included above) document? (you can reach me via FB message at Witches&Pagans, I’m not sure Disqus will let me include my email here.

  • FreemanPresson

    Sorry I’m late replying, I nodded so much my head hurt.

    For purposes of wider applicability, your reference to age 18 should probably say “age of consent” instead, as that varies by jurisdiction.

    • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

      Freeman, You are correct. When I teach families about teaching safer sex practices with their children I encourage that know the law of the state and county in which they live. In GA, age of consent is legally 16 if the partner is also 16 years of age but under 18 years of age. No matter the age of the minor anyone who has carnal relations with someone under the age of 18 is considered having raped that person, period. Along those lines I think all parents have a responsibility to understand lots of different laws and how they impact their children from what constitutes assault and if your state is a “first punch state” – GA is. I hope your head has recovered.

  • Shaun Miller

    Sadly – I was initiated into the craft via the Frosts in New Bern – but I WAS not a Minor – Legal age – But I would also request of them “A Retraction” of that stand on things – Sexual Initiation with Minor’s is simply Wrong – it is a Diseased manipulation – I aggree – it MUST be Excised out like a “Cancer” Should be !.Sadly -many perhaps have already been “Damaged” and I sincerrly wish they find the “Peace” they so intensly deserve.

    • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

      One of my sisters had a similar issue with someone, not the Frosts. I appreciate your candor and I hope that you continue to find peace with the Gods and Goddesses upon your path.

      • Shaun Miller

        Thank you Sweet Lady – since that time – my path has evolved and Become so very enriched – at 55 years of age – my understanding and comprehension has been added to so very much – I honour the Goddess and the God- I have accepted her Soverginity into my life, while I continue to maintain a sollitarry status – and I am happy with that ! – I have always maintained that All Paths are Valid – and that we take our lessons from EVERYTHING around us ! – Thank you for your Reply !

  • JasonMankey

    “The Frosts run with wild support of the general pagan public and teach through their church and school.”

    I’m not sure I’d characterize the Frosts as having “wild support” within Modern Paganism. My guess is that the average Pagan has probably never heard of them. They are a footnote in Pagan history, and perhaps not even that. Their books are not influential or on anyone’s “must read” list. In histories of Modern Paganism their names are usually absent. They exist far outside of the mainstream, and when they pass from this world their “Witchcraft” will likely pass with them.

    • Anna H.

      There was a time when the Frosts were a very Big Deal, up through about the mid-1990s, because of their correspondence course, which was hugely popular. There are lots of old “Frosties” around the country who just do not talk about it. There was a time when, if you lived in a place that did not have a coven, you turned to the Frost material. The Internet took a lot of that away, as witchcraft information became so much easier to find, and as more people began to understand that you did not need a formal initiation to practice the Craft.

      I came into the Craft a few years after their heydey. I know a lot of people who studied and volunteered with them, including my husband, and people who worked for them. Thousands of lesson envelopes went out every month for years.

      It’s very important not to ignore this because they are much more than a footnote in Pagan history. It’s important to learn about them, and their beliefs, and their culture, because they thrived in a greater Pagan culture that was really toxic, where all kinds of abuses could thrive because there were certain key concepts and assumptions that almost everyone bought into.

      Bad psychology, bad history, and bad anthropology played a huge role. After the sexual liberation movement of the ’60s, the “enlightened” notion in the 1970s and beyond was that everyone OUGHT to be having a lot of sex all the time, and if you had qualms about casual sex with strangers, then *you were still suffering the bonds of Christian sexual oppression.* I encountered this attitude at college; it was widespread in liberal secular culture.

      That was an underpinning of the Frosts’ attitudes (and still is). No one wanted to be thought of as oppressed, and of course, a “true Witch” would want that even less! You’d be surprised at how many coercive and toxic practices were accepted in the name of “throwing off the shackles of Christian oppression.”

      Bad anthropology contributed to the widely held and firm belief that Witchcraft power can only legitimately be passed by sexual intercourse.

      Bad anthropology and history came into play when the past was retrofitted with the notions of the Great Ancient Matriarchy, where “of course,” gentle people made sweet love to each other all the time every day in the name of the Goddess. In order to avert the trauma of first-intercourse sexual pain, loving older men ought to work with adolescent girls to gently introduce them to the wonders of sex — so they won’t be traumatized, of course. This is even part of the plot of one of Jean Auel’s books – “The Mammoth Hunter,” I think. The Frosts believe that thousands of objects found around the world are really “batons de commandement,” or ritual dildos designed for a girl to stretch her hymen out so the first time won’t be so painful and scar her for life. Again, bad anthropology, and also the key notion that we still adhere to so firmly in Paganism – the notion that it is worthy to mimic the ancient past.

      The culture of occult secrecy, of sworn loyalty and fealty to “elders,” and of rigid occult hierarchy were prominent in this toxic mix. The culture was to accept what your elders and experts and high muckety-mucks stated without question. Why? Because this was what protected us in the Burning Times – again, widely-held persecution beliefs due to bad history helped create a toxic contemporary culture.

      This is stuff most people in the Pagan scene simply accepted without question up until around the turn of the millenium. If you were a Witch, this is how it was done. Feminist witchcraft began to smash some of this, and so did the burgeoning eclectic movement. Good priests and priestesses bought into this as much as perpetrators. What a hot mess. Thank Gods we have evolved so far since then, with thousand (including myself) who came into Paganism, took a look at what was going on, said “oh HELL no,” and challenged the crap.

      With all the crap, however, many of the thousands who studied from them, or who studied from similar teachers in the ’70s and forward, did gain benefits. It was certainly not all bad, all the time. They and their peers led a lot of people into the Craft and that has to be acknowledged.

      We have to know where we came from if we are going to Craft a vibrant and healthy future.

      • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

        Anna H.,

        I agree and I am often surprised more people aren’t aware of the inluence of the Church of All Worlds (CAW) on the North American pagan movement (Canada and the US). The interrelations between CAW and some of the traditions, including Blue Star are interesting. And reading Stranger in a Strange Land, I feel strongly, should be required of all first degrees and then placed in context of the North American Pagan Movement.

        Further, T. Thorn Coyle noted that despite knowing about the misogyny of Picasso, his paintings are still beautiful. I think that even as we understand the personal history and predilection, we should understand that, especially in religious teachings and in self help books, the writers write from a place that is their ideal. In a perfect world and in a perfect society then XYZ is.

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      Interestingly, though: on one of the final exams in my Religion 101 course this last quarter, one of the students wrote (based on five minutes of internet research, I’m sure) that Gavin Frost “founded” Wicca! Now, of course, we can laugh at this (and, as needed, also cringe), and yet if that’s the only name someone uninformed can come up with in terms of Wicca’s foundations, it does kind of suggest that it might be more important than we think to take this aspect of the Frost’s repertoire more seriously than many have been thus far.

  • Xerophyte

    Sadly, this is why I’m pretty much a solitary practitioner. As a rape survivor (which was unrelated to any pagan activities) being in that type of environment is really terrifying and soul-killing for me. I also think that it’s important for us to embrace Starhawk’s concept of power-within as opposed to Crowley’s power-over. (Crowley — there’s another predator whose nasty views make paganism a hostile place for those of us recovering from trauma.) I truly feel that I have no community because of this phenomena, and it would be really wonderful to have a faith community that I can love and trust; I feel like I’m missing a part of myself without it.

    • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

      Xerophyte,

      I am recovering from trauma (not of the pagan variety) and hear and acknowledge that for trauma victims especially, the pagan world can be a scary place. I think you are not alone in taking solitary practice because of the fear of those whom you deal with.

      The Frosts teachings and arrest of Kenny Klien, should however be put into perspective of statistics. In the macro community as in the micro community there are things we know about predators, where to find them, the signs and signals that indicate predation. I encourage you to learn about those and then place your perfect love and trust in the Gods and Goddesses you serve. In doing this you can move forward in the public pagan arena with a sense of safety and competence, assured of your ability to protect yourself.

      Blessings!

      • Xerophyte

        Honestly, I’m not at a place in my life where I’m really willing to take that chance, and I don’t feel I should have to be. I’ve explored the pagan community in my area, and there are simply too many people in it who I don’t trust. That’s why I’m solitary — it’s not out of irrational fear; it’s out of experience. Also, signs of predators aren’t always obvious to all of us, and some of them disguise themselves extremely well, especially since we live in a society where predatory behavior is normalized and often rewarded. Every time I think I’ve learned enough to protect myself, I find out otherwise. And honestly, I’m sick of trying and adding another trauma to the list. I just can’t do it anymore.

  • Joy

    If I had thought about the way it was considered so ordinary to have the Frosts leading, well, anything, it would have told me so much more about the culture of Florida Pagan Gathering leadership. Sadly, I had to find that out on my own.

    You see, there was another predator there a few years ago. He was with me for awhile, until I got a warning from another young woman he ‘knew.’ His days past of threats and sexually aggressive behavior, which had gotten him banned only temporarily from festival, were not in the past after all. He was getting worse, not better, and he didn’t care. It couldn’t all be blamed on a change of meds or what have you. I heeded the warning and got him out of my life, posthaste and permanently.

    Or so I thought.

    With the woman’s permission, I forwarded a screen cap of some of his text conversation, in which he bragged about a sexual violation. It wasn’t enough to get him in trouble with the law, but it should have been enough to attract the attention of the FPG board member I sent it to. I added ‘You cannot sweep this under the rug.’

    She ignored me and brought the predator as her very own guest. He drove a staff golf cart. He made violent threats toward a number of women. He threatened the fire tenders, which was still not enough to get him kicked off the premises but was enough to get him permanently banned at last.

    And yet, when I mentioned what a bad idea it was to bring him in the first place, I was banned from staff for a year.

    You should have told us privately, said another board member. ‘We would have listened.’ Well, I had already tried that, and the results were not spectacular.

    Here is my point: the current controversy over the Frosts being at FPG is really not a new issue. It’s an old one. It’s all about speaking out in favor of safety and being ignored or even punished. It’s about people in positions of leadership who don’t have a heart for the vulnerable.

    Noticing and commenting on this years-long trend doesn’t make me a Debbie Downer. Calling out the Board’s negligence is not ‘drama.’ Calling for changes doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the staff and all they have done. It means I expect better from a group I used to call my community. I could call it that again, after a drastic change in leadership.

    • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

      This goes back to the idea of having a watch dog group of some sort. What would that look like?

    • http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/ Kenaz Filan

      Joy: I’ve sent you a Facebook friend request and would be happy to hear from you through Facebook or via my Gmail account (kenazfilan @ gmail.com). I’ve been working with several others to … ahem … encourage a bit more openness among the TEG/FPG crew. If you’d be willing to offer more details on this, I’m working on a package of past incidents which I plan to send to any new campground they find until and unless they get their feces consolidated or run out of places to hold their festivals, whichever comes first.

  • Pat Smith

    We condemn (rightly so) the Catholic Church for leaving pedophile priests in place. While the Pagan community does not have nearly as much control over who calls themselves priests or priestesses of our religion, we can at a minimum make it clear that pedophilia is not a behavior we condone or will tolerate. This behavior is not just wrong, it is also criminal. Harboring them in our communities puts us in the same situation as the Catholic Church finds itself. As individuals and citizens, regardless of our path, we should report these predators to the police. For those of us whom the law requires it, and for those who feel they can (I do understand the kinds of conflict, both personal and public, that this can cause) the case should be reported to Child Protective Services. To do less is to leave not only those who deserve our protection, but also our community vulnerable. I, for one, do not want the karma that would obtain from remaining silent while another suffers on account of it.

    • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

      Pat,

      Thank you for your insight and I think when we talk of liable we should talk about what our ethical and moral liable is when dealing with known predators in our communities.

      What happens when our justice system fails? It has failed so many… how do we as a community deal with that then?

  • Spyderdiva

    In addition to knowing your state laws, you should brush up on the consequences of libel.

    I am all in favor of having a petition, or 3, stating that a group will not tolerate illegal or predatory behavior. But remember, having a person, or a group, sign such a petition does not make them a safe person or group. Anyone who would abuse others is probably perfectly capable of lying as well. In addition, I am not in favor of a website, where people can make unfounded accusations about others. I have a lot of experience with such things, having worked for DCF for 9 years, and having been on the BoD of several Pagan organizations.

    Many of the accusations against the Frost’s that I have seen over the last week are both unfortunate, and possibly actionable. They were investigated by local law enforcement, Child Protective Services and even had an Ecclesiastical Tribunal sit in judgement on them back when this book first came out, and were found by all 3 to not be guilty of any illegal behavior. Bad taste is not illegal. Offensive speech is not illegal. Not changing your attitudes with changing times is not illegal, it just makes you irrelevant. And that is the crux of the matter.

    I agree that they have outlived any tolerance or perceived gratitude for their actions on behalf of Wicca that anyone may have once had due to their attitudes, writings, and beliefs, and should not be invited to events to present workshops or sell their hokum. But we are, as a community, indulging in a public display of moral panic over this that is hurting us, not the frosts. This feels to me much like the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” accusations in the 1980′s.

    Let us go forward in the spirit of healing and cooperation to make sure this public feeding frenzy never happens again.

    • https://www.lydiamncrabtree.com/ Lydia M N Crabtree

      Spyderdiva,

      I hear and acknowledge your comments regarding liable. I am encouraged by an idea of healing and cooperation. What steps would you suggest to avoid such a “feeding frenzy” in the future?

      if we were to move away from a “panic” what would that look like?

      How do we protect the general pagan public from coercive sexual initiations?

      How do we disseminate information across state and country lines about people who have abused? What about teachers who abuse? Should silence be the preferred method of recourse? Is that working for our communities?

      I do not believe that inaction is appropriate – now or later – with or without the revelation of Kenny Klien – with or without books out there promoting the idea that sexual initiation of minors is part of Wiccan/Pagan/Witch practices for coming of age – with or without a silent acceptance that even coercive sexual initiation is agreeable because it is part of the “path.”

      We are not a community with built in mechanisms for protection as the general public is. There is no pagan DFCS. There is no pagan place for victims of ritual sexual abuse to seek shelter, understanding and counseling. There is no pagan place to identify known and convicted sexual predators so they cannot serve time, move and predate again. There is no way for someone to go to any gathering and know if the persons presenting have any qualifications, background, craft training or equivalent mundane training regarding what they are teaching. There is no way to know that teachers and leaders who present at events aren’t convicted sexual offenders.

      Given all of this – is there a solution? If so what is that solution?

  • Feisty Amazon

    Thank you for your honesty about the Frosts’ and others’ hisyory. This is precisely WHY I don’t work in the mixed Craft and exclusively in the Dianic/ Amazon/Lesbian/women’s spirituality Craft/ movement. I’ve heard other stories and female refugees from abuse in the mixed traditions. The sexuality on of Females in the craft in particular really bothered me and alot of the power over male pagans got into.

    and sexuality is a big part of my Path and Being as a Leatherdyke Witch. But consent comes first and foremost. Women as a whole have endured too much sexual degradation worldwide and at the hands of patriarchs and patriarchal religions. Kids have been exploited as well like the whole horrible Catholic Priest debacle. I’m not up for a purge of those who are Lesbian or Gay or into fully consensual, meaningfully and enthusiastically consensual sex practices. I’ve had enough of those arguements with some other Dianics…”All acts of love and Pleasure are My rituals”.

    But having sex with minors or pressuring them into sex for “initiation” OR ANY OTHER REASON is NOT CONSENSUAL, proper or legal. Nor should it be quietly swept under the table. Anybody doing so should be immediately condemned. ..first quietly confronted if not reported. If they don’t retract their statements and actions (and yes reliable proof/witnesses) then ratchet it up to public exposure after getting all the facts straight.

    As a DykeAmazon who teaches Amazon mysteries which includes teaching martial arts, self defense and self protection and intuition awareness as well as sexual and spiritual empowerment I’m all for keeping women and children safe from.predators on ANY LEVEL!!! we have had many breakthroughs in those rituals as womyn told their stories and broke through their victimization and claimed their bodies and sexuality once again!!!!

  • Shauna Aura Knight

    This is a fantastic post and you bring up a lot of points that are very important to me. There aren’t easy answers for this, but I have to believe that if we work together we can find ways to reduce the number of predatory leaders out there. I run into them–or stories about them–whenever I travel and teach leadership.

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