The Foundations Shake, but the Temple Stands

Jan 15th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Rev Kess

In 2018, we don’t expect much to shake us anymore. We’ve seen the Brexit vote, Trump take the White House, and even some of our beloved celebrities taken down. What is left to shake us? In the Pagan World, there is much that can shake us. Some have stepped out and talked about Christian beliefs within their own brand of Paganism, others have announced their atheistic views within their brand of Paganism, and yet others have “forsaken” the Pagan and New Age to be “born again in Christ.” So what is left to shake us now?


Since the arrest of musician, author, teacher, and prominent Blue Star member Kenny Klein in 2014, the American Pagan world has been shaking. Not in their boots, but in anger and a sense of betrayal. This week, with the recent publication of The Last Closet by Moira Greyland, the community has been once again shaken up. Ripples of the accusations around the late Isaac Bonewits may well be felt across the pond and around the world. Whether you accept them as true or false or some combination of clouded memories and true experiences, nothing will ever be the same again in the Pagan World.

First, I must admit that I have not read Greyland’s book. I’m loathe to do so for many reasons. Not the least of which being the pain and suffering that it might inflict on me. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was raped at the age of fourteen by someone who I looked up to as a mentor. To be clear, this was not a person within the Pagan world.) I am loathe to give money to the publisher of her book, someone who has a prove track record of being against the Pagan community and who may be cashing in on Greyland’s own pain and suffering to further an agenda.

Whether her account is true, is  beyond my place to say. What has been established, via court documents, has nothing to do with the most startling (to the Pagan reading it) allegations against Isaac Bonewits. The case against her father was settled in the courts in 1989. The allegations against her mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley, shook both the Pagan and SF/F worlds, but have not been 100% proven. Though there is plenty of anecdotal testimony to shed some proof on those allegations.

It is not my intent to debate the veracity of Greyland’s claims, either those against her parents or Bonewits. On the contrary, I intend to shed light on how the Pagan World can withstand this onslaught. We stood through the foundations shaking when Klein was arrested, we can stand through this shake up as well.

I feel that we need a shake up now and then. Not necessarily of this sort. But it is good for the growth of a religious path (or collection of them). Many are quick to distance themselves from the alleged abuser or even the alleged victim when such things come to light. I don’t think that is the BEST move. It is understandable.

After the horrifying arrest (and later conviction) of Klein, the Pagan community world wide looked deeper into itself and came up with some ideas and even some policies (in some cases) to combat similar preying on the young, women, and the naive from happening. (I must point out, that even the strong, the mature, and the well informed can become victims.) Even before the shocking news, the Pagan World had begun to look at our elders, living and dead, to see what they may have done that wasn’t in our best interests. Gavin and Yvonne Frost come to mind, but so does Zsusanna Budapest. The Frosts have been vilified for years, and Budapest stepped over the boundary of the modern movement when she refused transwomen entrance to a public ritual at PantheaCon a number of years ago.

It was Isaac Bonewits who laid the foundations for this larger conversation. Ironic, eh? With the creation of his ABCDEF – Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame – Bonewits established some guidelines to use to determine if a person or group was a danger to an individual or the Pagan world as a whole. This frame can be applied to both Pagan and non-Pagan groups and has been used in much of the Western world to some level of success. Can his own framework be applied to himself? Of course it can! It can be applied to Greyland, her book, and her publisher Vox Day. You decide on that end.

Let us set aside Moira Greyland and her book, the Frosts, Budapest, and even Klein and Bonewits. Let us set them aside and look at what is an important matter to focus on.

The Pagan World is not without its horrors. There is much that goes on within the Pagan World that we, even as enlightened individuals, are often afraid to speak of. There is abuse of persons, of power; there is criminal activity and corruption. We face all the things that most any other religious or spiritual movement faces. We must speak about these things to be able to overcome them, to bring ourselves above the pain and the strife, to do better.

We have to realize that these things are going to happen, are happening right now. We have to take it upon ourselves to call them out. It is not easy. In fact it is damned hard. Especially when we learn that someone we respect and look up to is the cause of the pain and strife. I’m not just talking about abuse of persons and power here. I am talking about anything that is anathema to what it means to be a Pagan or a Witch or whatever-label-we-wish-to-use. It doesn’t matter if you are Wiccan, Druid, Asatru, New Age Hippy, or whatever. If there is someone within your community, be it small or grand, that is violating the agreed upon beliefs and values, then it is your duty to call them out and to do something about it.

I must caution you, though. First, you should be sure of what you are accusing them of, or at least have a firm belief in the person(s) who have brought it to your attention. Second, you should be prepared for the potential backlash for bringing them to light. Third, you should be ready to be a part of the solution. Let me break that down for you…

1. Be sure of the allegation. For a long time we were dissuaded from believing the victim. Now, suddenly, we are told to believe the victim regardless. Both of these are wrong, in my opinion. We should listen to the victim. We should investigate to the best our individual ability their claims. Above all, we should not ignore the allegations. There is some reason for the victim to come forward. Most of the time it is a legitimate claim of abuse or wrong-doing. Sometimes it is over hurt feelers. Whatever the reason turns out to be, listen and investigate. If you are not in a position to investigate, then move it up the chain or turn it over to the law.

2. Be prepared for the potential backlash. Whether the allegations prove to be true, there will be backlash. You will be labeled a troublemaker at the very least. You may even be ostracized from your chosen community. (Believe you me! I know this first hand.) You may be vilified yourself. One would hope that your community will support you and take the time to understand the situation, but that is not always going to happen.

3. If at all possible, be a part of the solution. When you are the victim this especially hard. But it can be done. It has taken me many years to overcome some of the pain and suffering of my own experiences, not just those of rape and abuse, but I have learned to stand up and stand strong. In time, you will, too. When you are not the direct victim of the abuse or criminal behavior (fraud, theft, etc) you may more easily be able to stand up and take a part in the solution. Either way, a solution is most paramount.

Finding a solution is not going to be easy in many situations. It is a hard truth.

Bill Duvendack talks about solutions in his contribution to The Pagan Leadership Anthology, Shauna Aura Knight writes and presents workshops on handling abuse in Pagan communities, KaliSara and I have discussed these topics on our podcast series. Solutions are possible to find, but they can be hard to follow through with.

After the events at PantheaCon that brought Z. Budapest’s sentiments on transgender persons to the fore of our collective minds several people spoke out against her and many even collaborated on a book project that is available for free PDF download. After Kenny Klein’s arrest, the Pagan Consent Culture anthology came about. But do we need to wait for these earthquakes in the community to happen before we can come up with solutions?

No! We do not need to wait. We need to become more proactive. We need to drop the mentality that these things cannot happen to us, to the Pagan World as a whole. We need to realize that all of us, no matter who we are, are human (or at least reside within human bodies) and are thus subject to human foibles. Most of us just make mistakes. But there are some of us who will make bad choices and bad decisions that will lead us into something that (I hope) we do not expect. Those decisions or choices can lead us down a line that results in criminal activity or crimes against people and (dare I use the term?) crimes against nature.

Systems of framework have been established, both within the Pagan World and outside of it. There systems that we can utilize to detect harmful charismatic leaders and teachers, potential threats within our covens or circle, and way to address them before they go too far. We must look to them and use them. Perhaps they need to be adapted to fit the Pagan World better – Gods know we are a disparate group of people – but they still exist. We do not need to reinvent the wheel to travel better down the path of our beliefs.

Let us not fall into our own witch hunts or Satanic Panic, but let us not be blind to the potential for harm and hurt within our own lives and chosen communities.

Below are links to the article from The Wild Hunt, direct links to the cited statements in that article, as well as related articles and statements.

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