Pagan Community Notes: Tragedy at Fort Hood, Florida Pagan Gathering, The Unnamed Path, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 3, 2014 — 37 Comments

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Fort HoodYesterday, a shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas killed 3 people, and injured 16, before the shooter took his own life. This tragedy comes after the 2009 base shooting that claimed 13 lives. I mention this here because Modern Pagans in the military and Fort Hood have a long history, and that history became controversy back in 1999 when several politicians made an issue of Wiccans and Pagans having religious gatherings on-base. Today, Pagans are an accepted part of military life at Fort Hood, and there is a regular open circle held there, with military spouse Michelle Morris serving as Distinctive Faith Group Leader. Circle Sanctuary, which has supported the Pagan circle since its inception in 1997 and is currently its sponsor, released a short statement calling for prayers of healing and support. Quote: “I, along with others with Circle Sanctuary, are networking support for the Fort Hood Open Circle as well as all in the Fort Hood community & beyond who have been impacted by today’s shootings.  We are encouraging Pagans and those of many paths to send prayers, rituals, meditations of healing, strength, and support.” We will be following up on this story next week, and speaking with Pagans on-base. For now, our prayers go out to them.

Florida_Pagan_Gathering_58705The Florida Pagan Gathering’s Beltaine festival is coming up at the end of April, and concerns are being raised over the event allowing Gavin and Yvonne Frost to present there. The Frosts, founders of The Church and School of Wicca, have had controversy follow them for decades over material published in their “Witch’s Bible” that included instructions on ritually deflowering underage youth. While a disclaimer was added in a later edition of said book, their sexual politics have often seemed very out of step with the rest of the Pagan community. I think it would be fair to say that their reluctance to remove or recant the material first published in 1972 have kept these controversies alive over the years. Now, a joint resolution signed by a number of Florida Pagans, plus supporters outside of Florida, has called for the festival to not let the Frosts teach at FPG. Quote: “We stand together, as modern Pagans, to urge the FPG Board to listen to our concerns and to help host and foster discussion about this critical issue. We call for a removal of the Frosts as presenters at FPG and a ban on any distribution or vending of their materials.” Meanwhile, the board of FPG seems to be, for now, standing by their decision to allow the Frosts to present. Quote: “Over the last 24 hours there has been several emails sent to the Board and many messages on Facebook in protest of the attendance of Gavin and Yvonne Frost as guests and workshop presenters at our upcoming FPG. At the same time we have gotten a flood of emails supporting FPG and its staff and guests. Our attendance numbers have not been affected and we are confident that this Beltaine will be well attended by the people who were truly meant to be there.” We will have more on this story on Sunday.

unnamedpathsquaresAfter the unexpected passing of Eddy Gutiérrez (aka Hyperion) back in January, there were questions as to what would happen with The Unnamed Path, a shamanic path for men-who-love-men that he had founded. Now, with the blessings of Hyperion’s family, the Brotherhood of the Unnamed Path has pledged to carry on the work of their tradition. Quote: “Hyperion has left a legacy and although nobody can replace him, we The Brotherhood recognize that we have a calling to continue this legacy and reach out to other Men-Who-Love-Men through the teachings of the Unnamed Path. His vision has become our vision and will continue to flourish despite his recent transition. This path WILL continue for Hyperion and for our selves. Classes are continuously forming for Men-Who-Love-Men seeking apprenticeships that lead to initiation by wonderful teachers who have gone through teacher training under his loving and knowledgeable guidance.” The Unnamed Path has an open group on Facebook, and you can also keep an eye on the official Unnamed Path website for further updates.

In Other Pagan Community News:

The Sigilic Tarot

Draft from The Sigilic Tarot

  • Hey tarot lovers! There’s a new tarot Kickstarter, this time it’s The Sigilic Tarot by Olivia Cox. Cox, who runs the popular The Living Wiccan Tumblr, says the deck emerged from extensive craft work using sigils. Quote: “The Sigilic Tarot is unique in its design, with 50 cards made up of 5 suits of 10 instead of the traditional 78 of major and minor arcana. Each suit represents a different aspect of our lives.” Do check it out, the designs seem very inventive!
  • Pagan elder, and avid Second Life user, Circe (also known on Second Life as Nepherses Amat), is terminally ill and raising money for home hospice care. Quote: “Circe has no money to pay for professional care. Over the last two and a half months wonderful friends and family from around the country have come to spend a week or more with her as she cannot live alone and needs assistance.”
  • For the third year in a row, The Norse Mythology Blog has won the Best Religion Weblog category in the Weblog Awards (aka “The Bloggies”). Quote: “THANK YOU to everyone who voted & asked others to vote! I hope that this groundbreaking win will send a message that the Old Way still lives in the modern world. However people approach the myths – as simple stories, as exciting adventures, as ancient truths, or as sacred writ – there is something for all of us in this wonderful tradition.” The blog now enters the hall of fame of this contest, and will no longer be eligible to run.
  • Immanion Press has issued a call for papers to be collected in an anthology on Pagan leadership, group dynamics, community activism, and healthy boundaries. Quote: “This anthology will explore leadership for real Pagans and real groups. We’re looking for essays and articles that detail leadership success stories, best practices, and ways you have worked through challenges and obstacles. Our specific focus is on techniques to help Pagans build healthier, stronger, and more sustainable groups and communities. We’d like to see a combination of hands-on how-to, personally-inspired, and academic pieces that will offer readers tools they can use in their own groups.”
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be participating in a Peace Ambassador Training lead by James O’Dea. At this gathering once can, quote, “learn from the world’s top peace visionaries, and become an impassioned ambassador for inner and outer peace.”
  • Pagan Spirit Gathering has announced its featured presenters for this year’s festival. They include Byron Ballard, T. Thorn Coyle, musician Arthur Hinds, and several others.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

    The Frosts have become a lightning rod for this issue of child sex abuse and sexual abuse in general. I respect the Florida Pagans who chose not to go to an event where the Frosts are speakers.

    But I wonder this: will ostracizing the Frost, in the manner of A.J. Drew, protect children from sexual abuse in our Pagan community? Perhaps. But I also wonder if our energies could be directed to more practical things we can do to curb abuse, such as teaching our children good touch/bad touch, and how trust is earned rather than simply given, and to run and scream for help when an adult acts inappropriately. And we need to educate our leadership on the way to respond to abuse allegations, that covering it up will always bite you in the ass later, and how to deal with false allegations as well. We also desperately need to learn how to support those who have been abused.

    I must confess that I would *never* be the slightest bit interested to see the Frosts for a number of reasons, including their views on sexuality. And I think that declining numbers at their workshops would send a message. But certainly there is more we can do to make our community safer for our children.

    • Charles Carpenter

      Teaching our children “good touch, bad touch” is all well & good, but isn’t it our responsibility as parents to keep these kinds of threats away from our kids?
      The Pagan community has been too accepting for way too long. It’s way past time to stop saying “who am I to Judge THEIR path?” & start screaming “Hey, you’ve crossed the line!!!” at the top of our lungs.

      • Charles Carpenter

        PS.
        The main problem with AJ Drew’s protest was his ritual “sacrifice”. While my brother-in-law meant well, too many people focused their anger at him instead of where he meant to guide the discussion. Maybe this time, we can focus on the real problem of sexual abuse of children.

    • Hecate_Demetersdatter

      I think we can multi-task and do both

      • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

        I do not disagree. We can do all of the above that I mentioned. I just don’t want to only do one thing and think the problem is solved.

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

      Drew’s ritual sacrifice put the focus on inflicting a punishment on a man and a woman who have never been convicted of a crime, something many of us who are strong advocates against child sexual abuse found inappropriate.

      Not, however, as inappropriate as I believe most Pagans feel it is to continue to recognize the spiritual leadership of a couple whose unretracted published works call for ritual actions which, if they were ever actually performed, would be a form of child sexual abuse.

      There’s a difference between punishing individuals for what they have written and turning away from “leaders” whose own words advocate abuse. I don’t need them to have been convicted of a crime to know that this is not “leadership” we need.

      • kenofken

        It shouldn’t be about punishing the Frosts. It should be about taking an opportunity for our movement to make an unambiguous stand against child abuse and predatory behavior.

        For decades, we’ve struggled to overcome the evangelical narrative which conflated neopaganism with ritual child abuse. A pace and a half out from under that shadow, and THIS is the public face we present to the world, and to the emerging second generation who want to raise children in our traditions?

        FPG is going to make these tradeoffs to showcase people whose seminal (and modest) contributions to modern paganism came and went with the Vietnam era? They really couldn’t find some more relevant and truly sex-positive prenters? I don’t think festivals should get into the business of banning book sales, but I see no upside at all to giving these people a paycheck and a platform to promote themselves.

    • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      I really wish that the Pagan community would divorce itself from Geek Social Fallacy #1. Sometimes there are very good reasons to ostracise people from the rest of the group –like the safety of its most vulnerable members. Why is this so hard?

      • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

        I totally agree.

  • T Thorn Coyle

    I had a wonderful two times at the Florida Pagan Gathering. I appreciated and enjoyed the board members, staff, the volunteers, and the other community members I met there. Plus, the land is pretty special.

    I support the community in this important dialogue. I am glad to see it happening.

    For those who want to read the contested text for themselves without buying the Good Witch’s Bible (formerly the Witch’s Bible) I found it online. While the latest edition has a brief chapter disclaimer saying that no one under 18 is to be initiated, the Frosts have still not retracted or changed these chapters that clearly advocate sex with minors:

    http://tuecaa.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/protecting-pedophiles-and-holding-wicca-accountable-quoted-text-post/

    Below is the three part series I wrote on sexual ethics, community responsibility, and the Frosts after I presented at FPG in 2009:

    http://www.thorncoyle.com/blog/2014/04/01/feet-clay-part-1

    Part one sets up the conversation. Part two directly addresses the text and the fact that the Frosts still stand by the text. Part three asks the Frosts and our communities some questions. There is also a link at close to the podcast I mention – a panel with the Frosts at FPG.

    Thank you.

    • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

      Thorn’s comments are excellent. She is direct, concerned and keeps the door open to dialog for everyone. Her sex-positive thealogy which values consent is a powerful answer and a challenge to the Frosts. But she also challenges those who would take AJ Drew’s path of burning people in effigy.

      • Charles Carpenter

        No effigy was burned, instead AJ stuffed a copy of “Good Witches Bible” up the effigy’s ass, symbolically placing it back where Gavin pulled it from.
        Before you try to correct me on this, I was there, AJ is family.

        • Charles Carpenter

          Here we go, focusing on the protest again instead of the problem.

          • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

            Charles, as you know (and is public record) your brother-in-law suffered brain damage and his obsession with the Frosts is far from normal. I would not trust his judgment just like I would not trust the Frosts’. So, if you want to keep focusing on defending his actions, feel free. But the more you do, the further we get away from the issue at hand, which is how to help our community become safer for children.

        • kenofken

          I don’t think I’ve ever met AJ, but I like him already!

          • Nakhtbasterau

            That’s exactly what I was thinking!

          • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

            Well, if you want your witches ball turned into a hatefest, by all means.

    • Ursyl

      Read that excerpt from their book, and all I can think is “Holy Cow! Intrusive much???”
      Not to mention controlling as all get-out!

      Where would that whole ritual process, particularly in terms of the age of the initiates, fall on the Bonewit’s Cult Evaluation Frame?

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        A Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF) 2.6 has this red flag (one out of 18):
        Sexual Manipulation of members by leader(s) of non-tantric groups; amount of control exercised over sexuality of members in terms of sexual orientation, behavior, and/or choice of partners.

  • 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 FPG 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.

    • kenofken

      The events of late are forcing us to acknowledge that we have a culture of abuse withing the pagan movement.

      This is not a problem of the occasional bad apple here and there. It is a culture of excusing and enabling predators and abusers and psychopaths and garden variety creepers. Much of it, I suspect, arises from cowardice and the go-along-to-get-along culture of organizations.

      Some of it I think comes from a very warped and unhealthy interpretation of modern paganism’s “mandate” of tolerance, diversity and aversion to dogma and hierarchy. All of those are good instincts, but taken to absurd extremes, they reduce us to nothing more than ritualized nihilism. We see this in areas beyond sexual harassment.

      We see it in the subculture of people who feel that our community’s openness exempts them from all requirements of basic decency, ordinary social courtesies, the obligation to take any responsibility for their mental illnesses, finances, substance abuse or their conduct in any venue of adult life.

      We are saddled with all of these creepers and freaks and moochers and abusers because we advertise for them, we fall for their manipulative charisma, and we demonstrate that we simply don’t have the backbone to stand up to them.

      Kenny Klein’s arrest has had one silver lining. It has created a space for people like Joy to tell their stories. We might discount any one of them, but in the aggregate, they speak to an undeniable problem. We have a window of opportunity to engage this problem in a real and substantive way.

      If the actions of FPG are indicative of the wider community, I suspect we will not seize that opportunity. We will punt it and sweep it under the rug until Nemesis comes calling, as She did for the RCC. When that day comes, the victim’s attorneys and state’s attorneys and media will come for blood. When they do, you can bet I will be cheering them on, not circling the wagons around the institutions responsible for enabling abuse.

      • Nick Ritter

        “… taken to absurd extremes, they reduce us to nothing more than ritualized nihilism.”

        Oh, well put.

      • Crystal Hope Kendrick

        Absolutely. We need to clean our house, badly. Thank you for putting it so well.

      • Nakhtbasterau

        The local Pagan community where I live just had Kenny Klein up for its Summer Solstice festival last year, and was bringing him up again this summer when the news broke. Since discovering I was pregnant with my first child late last summer, my husband and I (who are Thelemites) have really done some soul-searching about whether identifying as Pagans made any more sense for us and our family. While the issues that have made us leave the Pagan community in the last few months were in no way directly related to issues of abuse or fear for our children’s safety, it was the deeply ingrained lack of standards, clear morals, rampant and completely unexamined and unapologetic appropriation of other people’s religious traditions, and ultimately the extreme aversion to conflict that prevented the community as a whole from -ever- having serious and sorely needed discussions and decisive action on anything. Impending motherhood has brought me the greatest spiritual clarity I have ever experienced, and it made me realize “Holy hell, I do not want to raise my children in this intellectually and largely ethically bankrupt miliil

        • Nakhtbasterau

          …milieu. (Oops computer hiccup). As far as I can tell, despite the community’s recent welcoming of KK, and their recent intention to do so again (before quietly deleting him from the festival lineup) his arrest has prompted zero larger discussion on the issues he brings to light, and I think this is shameful (if unsurprising). It has however confirmed my that my instincts about my families need to leave this community was the right one.

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

            I think you are not reading the same Internet I am reading. There has been a good deal of consideration of the larger issues. I have been particularly impressed with Shauna Aura Knight’s Pagans and Predators series and with Thorn Coyle’s Feet of Clay series.

            Of course, you are the best judge of what your family needs. I don’t mean to second guess you. But I think there’s a good deal of soul searching going on–for which I am grateful.

            (Sorry no link– Disqus seems to have eaten them, twice. A quick Google search would bring them to light, though.)

          • Nakhtbasterau

            I’m not talking about the internet, however. I am talking about the local, in-person communities needing to talk these issues among their membership, and I am not confident that many are or will.

          • kenofken

            Keep in mind though that “the community” is what you make of it. By that I mean that one can participate or not at different scales, and you can always build an intentional community of healthy and like-minded people. In the context of this overarching problem, I tend to refer to the “community” in terms of the big public festival circuit. The community that matters to me starts with family and the people I circle with. Festivals are ancillary. I may or may not participate for a variety of reasons, but they are not why I am pagan, and they will not drive me from the relationship between me and my gods.

          • Nakhtbasterau

            Perhaps I should clarify that I as a Thelemite and a Kemetic, my relationship to my gods is intact, but I have found that identification as a Pagan and participation in that community was not what deepened this understanding or relationships – if anything it was a distraction and a serious energy drain. The husband and I are planning a big move when baby is born in search of a better life. This includes better work for him and close proximity to other Thelemites. While the Pagan community was all we had access to here, and while it served for a time, it was also four years of banging my head against a wall trying to be understood and trying to organize us into something better. I was a -very- active member of the local community – so it is not as if I hadn’t tried. It just took me a few years to realize why most Thelemites and Kemetics do not identify as Pagans, and only engage with that community in limited ways.

          • kenofken

            Defining what an overarching “pagan” identity means, or whether it’s even useful to speak of such a thing, is a debate that has come to the fore in recent years.

            I’m not a Thelemite in the true sense, although I did my Minerval in the OTO some years back, and agree with many of the precepts of that path. OTO’s place on the pagan spectrum has always been uncertain. The way it was explained to me is that OTO/Thelema is not pagan per se, but neither is it incompatible with that identity. I would say most of the brothers and sisters I met identified as pagan, though others claimed no religious identity at all and some were Christian.

            I saw the whole spectrum of wisdom and foolishness among OTO as I did anywhere else in the pagan community or in life for that matter. I have found that “Do what thou will” in the better circles of Thelema and Wicca is understood as an imperative to full and balanced self-realization. It can also be taken simply as a license for libertine behavior, and the two are not necessarily exclusive.

            It can of course also be read as a license to what I’ve described as ritual nihilism and outright predation. The bright line, which our communities sometimes try hard not to see, lies in respect for each other’s True Will.

            I think much of the problem that you described with “the community” in terms of the local meetup culture is that it’s not really an intentional community. A coven or grove or lodge, when well cultivated, is built around a set of well articulated and shared values.

            The “communities” built around bookstore meetups and pan-pagan events tend to be a catch-basin for people whose only real commonality is a lowest common denominator sort of identity. People who all identify as pagan and hang out together because they don’t fit in anywhere else. Don’t get me wrong, you can meet some wonderful people in the mix, but many well-meaning people have gone buggy trying to marshal that rabble into a cohesive cause or spiritual family.

          • Nakhtbasterau

            Yes, that has definitely been my experience and the root of my frustration. The local “leaders” talk about the “community” but as far as I can tell what they are talking about doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, I think the small numbers and isolation are used an excuse that prevents the building of the communities we actually need. Micro house churches exist in Alaska, and there is at least one heathen kindred I am aware of. I think the narrative of a “community” that we have going up here is quite toxic and prevents real community-building. I’m encouraged to hear that others have had other experiences, however. Just being able to go to a Gnostic Mass every week or two would improve my life immensely. Or being able to get in on the ground floor of the work being down by the Comittee for the Advancement of Thelemic Families. Whether Thelemites are considered “pagan” or not is kind of beside the point – but yeah, up here identifying as pagan has ultimately meant sacrificing a lot of time and energy toward some lowest common denominator non-community and if you don’t expend that time and energy your not listened to, and then ultimately if you are not Wiccan or very similar you ultimately aren’t listened too. So yeah, just not worth it.

          • Nakhtbasterau

            Blargh. Apologies for all the typos in that post.

          • Nakhtbasterau

            I should also say that being in an extremely remote part of the country (Alaska) our “festival” community and our “circling” communities are largely one and the same. It was a big deal when S.J. Tucker and Kenny Klein were brought up here from “outside”. Because, yeah, that’s literally what Alaskans call the rest of the world… :)

          • Deborah Bender

            I have a few friends and acquaintances who put a lot of effort into creating and supporting pagan community in various lightly populated, semi-rural areas. They ran into difficulties similar to yours, and were unable to attract the participation of enough stable, intelligent adults to keep the communities going when the founding leader is not there.

            I might be overgeneralizing, but the long-lasting, reasonably functional pagan communities I know of in the US are located in places that contain at a minimum a medium sized city and a couple of colleges or universities.

            With patience, luck and a lot of hard work, an individual or a couple can build up a small, highly selective, committed group such as a coven, grove or lodge almost any place. If and when “pagan communities” are a thing of the past, such groups will still be around. Such a group has the potential to seed a community if it attracts enough competent people who have time and inclination for outreach activities in addition to the internal work of the group.

            IMO, groups that are all about outreach and have no internal work are too shallow to be of spiritual use. Also IMO, a real and healthy pagan community contains several groups of committed practitioners, not all of them stemming from the same tradition or founder, plus some public or semi-public activities that are open to the uncommitted and the inquisitive. Multiple centers of religious and spiritual authority that tolerate and respect each other are necessary to prevent nasty pecking-order politics and to accommodate the different sorts of seekers who turn up.

            One needs a substantial population base to support all of this, particularly these days. There may have been times and places when rural areas contained enough hard working, public-spirited, well read people to lead and support a non-mainstream religious community, but the USA of today isn’t one of them.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    I’m very glad that Pagans are having this discussion. I wrote a few years ago about a recent book by the Frosts and I stand by what I said then: http://hecatedemeter.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/coercive-sex-has-no-place-in-paganism/

  • DRShorey

    Thank you for your coverage of The Unnamed Path.

    David Shorey
    Brother Initiate
    The Unnamed Path

  • http://thelivingwiccan.tumblr.com Olivia Cox

    Thank you for covering the Sigilic Tarot Kickstarter! I guarantee it’s going to be the most unique deck you’ve ever held in your hands.