Court Hears Witch Coven Sexual Abuse Allegations

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 28, 2012 — 25 Comments

Two men, Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp, are currently standing trial in Cornwall over the alleged abuse of “a number of young victims, the youngest aged somewhere between three and five.” According to testimony, the two men, and other unnamed members of a Witches’ coven, would ply the girls with alcohol, have them undress, then involve them in ritualistic sex-acts.

peter petrauske

Peter Petrauske

“Pagan ceremonies with a coven of white witches in mid and west Cornwall were cited when the trial of two men accused of sexually abusing children over a number of years began at Truro Crown Court on Monday. In the dock were 69-year-old Jack Kemp, of Grenville Road, Falmouth, and Peter Petrauske, 72, who at the time of his arrest last December was living at The Beacon, Falmouth. Petrauske has denied raping one girl and three charges of assault. Kemp has denied aiding and abetting attempted rape and 15 charges of assault.”

Kemp has a previous charge of child abuse, both men deny the charges against them, which involve alleged incidents that reach back to the 1970s. The Pagan Federation, one of the oldest and largest Pagan advocacy organizations in the UK, released a statement which reiterated its stance regarding sexual ethics in modern Pagan religions.

“The Pagan Federation believes that sexual activity between consenting adults is a matter only for those consenting adults. However, in no way is any sexual activity engaged in with children or vulnerable persons ever appropriate. Such activity does not form a part of any Pagan path and, should any Pagan be found to be engaging in sexual activity with a child, officers of the Pagan Federation would not hesitate in communicating those concerns with the appropriate authorities.”

Sadly, a number of individuals have used the largely decentralized and non-hierarchical nature of modern Pagan faiths in order to abuse young men and women for their own gratification. From Colin Batley’s pseudo-Thelemic sex cult, to pathetic individuals like Daniel Hess or Kenneth James McMurray. Even the John Friend scandal, which involved nominally consenting legal adults, shows how some warp our rites in order to satisfy a particular urge for control, power, or sex.

Let me be clear, sex scandals, and abuse scandals, are not some unique Pagan problem. All religions where power and trust are in play fall victim to those who become blinded by their power, or attract those who would exploit the trust of adherents. The Catholic sex abuse scandals are well known, but there are Buddhist and Hindu sex scandals as well. For Pagans, what we need isn’t to explain away these horrible incidents, but to be clear and forthright about what our sexual ethics are. To regularly express our values in a public way, so that when stories like the one in Cornwall emerge, reporters can know that they are aberrations.  During the John Friend scandal, I said that these are powerful moments for outreach and clarification.

“Wicca’s roots, its core, is in sacred union. Many over the years, both detractors and adherents, have called it a “sex cult” or a “fertility religion.” This can lead to some taking liberties that ignore our ethical base, our commitment to sacred trust, our belief that “as above” is at one with what’s “below.” It can lead to people like Friend misusing the currents of both Wicca and yoga for his own gratification. […] This is not the time to hope it “blows over,” but a time for our leaders to engage in powerful outreach on what Wicca is, what its ethics are, and what our stance is on Friend’s behavior. If we don’t, we run the risk of others doing it for us, quietly, with whispers, insinuations, and misinterpretations.”

Later, during the Daniel Hess abuse scandal, I noted that speaking out isn’t merely about media spin, but about protecting those who might be in dangerous or abusive situations as we speak.

“This call to outreach isn’t for the sake of media outlets in Ohio, but for the young people who may be out there being “groomed” as we speak to believe their route to power, to control, to acceptance, comes through sexual activity with a coven, grove, circle, or kindred leader. Those who blur the boundaries of power and responsibility to engage in sexual gratification with minors are repugnant, and we have a special responsibility to speak out against those who sully the names of our sacred traditions, who twist the psyches of those they hold spiritual authority over. I hope this latest incident act spurs us into reiterating what our sexual ethics are in a manner that leaves no excuse to those who would twist or abuse the decentralized non-hierarchical nature of our faiths and community for their own purposes.”

My hope is that every significant Pagan organization reiterates its sexual ethics, and places them in a place easy to find by all. That they do outreach to their own members, and have dialogs concerning sex and abusive situations. Whether Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp are guilty or not, this won’t be the last allegation, or sexual abuse conviction, we’ll have to collectively deal with. Pagan faiths aren’t immune to these tragedies, but we can deal with them in a more open, honest, and accountable fashion than the more hierarchical faiths.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Vision_From_Afar

    I was literally about to send the Guardian’s link on this to TWH. It’s been simmering for a couple days, but coverage has really taken off now that the trial has begun.

    As always, a coherent, disciplined reasoned response from TWH and JPW. Couldn’t ask for anything more (except less excited sensationalism from the media, but if wishes were horses…).

  • It’s disgusting how such action can ruin the ‘real image’ that pagan organisation are trying to fight for. A single case like this can cause more damage than many years of work could ‘heal’. Thanks a lot for the article!

  • Zan Fraser

    Nasty story (it maybe would help if the guy didn’t have Baphomet on the wall behind him, as “Baphomet” is a really hard concept to sell to the uninitiated.) Absolutely, the last thing that Wicca or modern Witchcraft or Paganism needs, is a perception is we are some sort of sexual anarchists, seeking more lurid sexual “thrills” and sexual “powers” thru the abuse of kids. Gods forbid.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    You know, it could be as simple as English courts perceiving nudity as sexual. As such, going ‘skyclad’ could be enough to have a case brought.

  • We have to remember that we are not immune to predators in our community. Sexual predators who prey on the vulnerable are drawn to positions within organizations where they will have access to victims. If we turn a blind eye to this activity we are no better than any other group. To reply to another poster i doubt it is a case of courts viewing nudity as sexual, more to the point is that predators who see nudity as sexual are drawn to our practices. I understand many in the community feel we shouldn’t judge, however that does not mean we should not be vigilant. We do not wish to go down the path the Catholic Church took after all, do we?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I read, on this blog, a similar case recently where the judge did not make the defendant go onto the sex offender’s register, because “Sheriff Noel McPartlin said it was ‘hard to escape the view that him being naked in the room with the girl might suggest a sexual element […] I am a bit hesitant but I do not think the sexual element is significant enough to justify placing him on the register.’”

      I am doing as the courts should be doing and not branding the individuals guilty until proven such. Let us all avoid another Satanic Panic, eh?

      • Zan Fraser

        Yeah, see, the thing is: I’m kind of not “getting” how “just” being naked with someone else’s underage kid is any better; if you’re alone with someone else’s underage kid, and you’re somehow naked: that just “reads” a little pervy.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          With our wonderful British weather, I don’t really get how being naked too often is all that great.

          I am not, personally, an advocate of nudism/naturism, but would not knock anyone that does enjoy it. I believe Gardner incorporated nudist aspects into Wicca as it was something he enjoyed.

          I am not saying that this was all fine and innocent, but I’m not going to say that being nude (underage or otherwise) is necessarily ‘pervy’.

      • Isabel

        About that other case, how incredibly stupid do you have to be, to ever allow yourself to be alone with a naked minor? Even if you have no evil intentions, that should just never happen. Not for appearance’s sake, not for your own sake, and especially not for the child’s sake. He/she should never grow up believing that this is appropriate.

        The case the article is about shows exactly why children should be protected against such a situation, and learn to never accept it as normal.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Stupid, perhaps, but are we to legislate against stupidity?

          Why should being nude in the presence of a minor be ‘wrong’? Not a nudist, personally, but I am not going to say that nudity is always sexual, because it really isn’t.

          • Isabel

            Of course it isn’t. But teaching children that it is OK to be naked with relative strangers, adults, makes them vulnerable to predators, and could even be used (or construed) as the kind of grooming the article talks about. We should always be careful about what our children are taught is acceptable. Even if you mean no harm, the next person they get naked with might take advantage of them. Even if this chance is slim, why take the risk?

            And even if your intentions are innocent, as this man’s seem to have been, not everyone will see it that way. He is very lucky to have a Sherriff with a brain.

            So no, nudity in itself isn’t wrong, but it could definitely lead to complications when you neglect taking proper precautions. If for instance (one of the) parents had been present, giving full consent, things would likely have gone differently. But if I had a kid, and she came home telling me in all innocence that she and the local wizard got naked together, I would have this man’s balls on a plate, no matter how good his intentions were.

            Child abuse is everywhere, unfortunately, and there is no good reason to make children more vulnerable to it, no matter how well-meaning you are. Nor should we make ourselves vulnerable to suspicion of child abuse.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I would really like to disagree with you, but I can’t.

            Trust died along with the close knit community.

  • Nemo


  • Nemo

    Niggas is going to JAIL. And they be all like “I’m a pagan” and be proud as shit, and then the black man HAS THEIR FUCKING WAY WITH THEM!

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    For Pagans, what we need isn’t to explain away these horrible incidents, but to be clear and forthright about what our sexual ethics are. To regularly express our values in a public way, so that when stories [such as] the one in Cornwall emerge, reporters can know that they are aberrations.

    What JPW said.

  • Zan Fraser

    Yeah, this is definitely one of the more unpleasant Wild Hunt stories in a while. Got no real understanding of the facts of the case, but at a minimum:

    (1) If you’re some sort of single, older guy, and you want to do Wicca 101 Outreach to neighborhood youth (including, I guess, some of an alarmingly young age), and if this Wicca 101 Outreach might include “Skyclad Practice”: for your own sake, and those of your fellow Practitioners- make sure that there are informed, consenting parents, and responsible other adults, on the premises.

    (2) If you find yourself in some sort of “Ritual Child Sex Abuse” scandal and you want to pose for an apparently self-justifying “Oh, the Sacredness of Wicca” photo, while you hold up the Sacred Pentacle: take down any pictures of Baphomet on the wall behind you. As Baphomet tends to “read” as the “Demon Goat-God of Witches,” and therefore as a symbol of utmost depravity- you are actually undercutting your message.

  • Many cases are now beginning to surface regarding this evil act against the innocent children. This is why children should be protected from strangers and most importantly they should not be part of any Occult teachings until they are of L
    EGAL AGE and able to know how to defend themselves. This is not an act of any person with values or morals let alone one of any religion. This is an act of pure evil nothing more, nothing less. This is not what the Old Craft is about at all, it is about love and respect and honouring self and the Gods as we do the work for the others. It is about the Heart. May Nemesis and Hecate devour them both and any who do such harm to any child in this manner.

    • ” This is why children should be protected from strangers and most
      importantly they should not be part of any Occult teachings until they
      are of LEGAL AGE and able to know how to defend themselves.”

      Your argument can be made for any kind of organization which has the capability of having children abused by adults. Religion, schools, everything. Keeping kids out of “occult teachings” isn’t going to do anything.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Define ‘legal age’.

      • Mia

        It refers to age of consent and/or legally determined adulthood. In the US that’s 18 for most situations, and I’m sure the UK has similar laws.

        • “Most situations” is still a very obscure variety. Emancipation can occur as early as 16, depending on extenuating circumstances. Several states have varying degrees of age of consent, where the individual is deemed old enough to consider for themselves in regards to sexuality. In my state that’s 17, there are some that are younger (about thirty for it as 16). Two years between 16 and 18 is an enormously large time for maturity to develop.

          My issue with the original comment is that it’s specifically saying Occult studies should be kept from people until they are some indeterminate “legal age”, whatever aspect of the law that would fall under (16, 17, 18, 21, whatever). So many activities which have fallen under scrutiny for misconduct and inappropriateness with children (Other religious groups, sports, various organizations, etc), don’t have people crying out for an actual legal age limit set to them, why should occultism/alternative religions/etc?

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          We have several legal age laws, along with several ages. Which was kind of my point.

  • Holli Emore

    Cherry Hill Seminary has for a number of years had a formal policy about sexual abuse or impropriety, and all our faculty are required to turn in a signed copy which we keep on file. Every graduate or certificate student is also required to take a course in boundaries and ethics (I highly recommend it, by the way).

  • Pitch313

    I don’t think that Paganism and Craft has to be adults-only. But I prefer that our rituals are. Nearly all of the Powers and energies seem to be greater than grown ups can deal with, let alone children. Or children in the company of adults.

    (OK. I did have a different opinion about such things when I was a kid myself. Times change. Practitioners grow and mature.)

    • Nick Ritter

      I would argue, on the other hand, that not including and incorporating one’s children into one’s religious life is a good way to ensure that they have no connection to it later on, and therefore no personal desire to continue it. I am actually trying for passing my religious tradition on to my children, who will hopefully pass it on to their children, and so forth.

      I do think there are certain things that should be the sole business of adults, from which children should be kept away until they are initiated into adulthood (being a grown-up should have *some* privileges, otherwise I don’t see why most people would bother with it), but religion as a whole is not one of those things. Some parts of it, some rituals, some mysteries, yes; but children have a place in religion, too.