[This is part two of a two-part series that will deal directly with the issue of the Frosts' writing, and what to do about pedophilia, and writings that the community feels supports pedophilia. Yesterday's post updated you on the fallout of A.J. Drew's decision to "sacrifice" Gavin and Yvonne Frost in effigy at his "International Real Witches Ball". All comments are being moderated, so please be civil.]
I think it is fair to say that no sane person advocates or encourages pedophilia. While our culture has become ever more permissive to a variety of once taboo subjects, the sanctity of children has (for the most part) remained non-negotiable. So it is always a serious matter when accusations of not only promoting, but actively participating in the abuse of children are raised. In this most recent eruption within the Pagan/Heathen community I believe that it is fair to say that more heat than light has been generated, and that the protection of children within our community has become an almost abstract point as emotions have risen and rival camps formed.
Do Gavin and Yvonne Frost promote pedophilia and child abuse in their literature? It has been an issue that has plagued the Pagan community since the book in question was first published in 1972. In the eighties the Frosts were “put on trial” by Carl and Sandra Weschcke (who run Llewellyn publications) for their controversial “initiation” chapter. Isaac Bonewits and Oberon Zell acted as the defense team, while Herman Slater and Lady Sheba were the prosecutors. The Frosts were found “guilty”, though I have no idea what the sentence was, or if any real ramifications emerged from that trial (they even attended a Llewellyn-run event after the trial). It is notable that this “trial” was done internally within the community and that no-one considered contacting the law on the matter. But according to Ian Corrigan, the book was mostly seen as nonsense and not taken seriously by many in the community.
“When this book came out in the early 70s, it was considered abject nonsense by the few folks who had any actual knowledge of Wicca in those days. The Frosts came out of nowhere, appropriating the term ‘Wicca’ for their own version of what religious witchcraft might be. Their synthesis bore almost no resemblance to the traditions of Wicca, either in ritual or theology, and certainly not in the grotesque suggestions about the sexual upbringing of children. It was a different age in those days, as ‘swinging’ emerged as a lifestyle and many folks hoped for a real revolution in sexual mores – too bad the Frosts chose to add their wacky ideas to something that they chose to call ‘Wicca’. This book was an embarrasment in 1972, and it’s an embarrasment now. It should be ignored by anyone interested in learning witchcraft or wicca.”
The Frosts have been attacked for so many years on this subject (with no legal ramifications), that they see the controversy as a selling point.
“An old cliche points out that all advertising is good advertising. The most recent spike on the sales graph of The Witch’s Bible has once again proven the accuracy of the cliche. Our thanks, then, to people who attack any of our published works!”
Though, despite their claims of being impervious to criticism, they did add a disclaimer to the chapter in the most recent (1999) edition.
“No formal initiation into a group that practices the great rite should be done before the candidate attains the age of eighteen.”
But for some (including A.J. Drew) such measures are too little, and too late. We also live in an age where child predation, abuse, and molestation are an ever-present issue with shows like “To Catch a Predator” and online groups like Perverted Justice encouraging an almost vigilante mindset. The law and government-supported social services are often painted as ineffectual at catching predators or protecting children, and in this atmosphere it is little wonder that self-appointed Pagan activists would go for the most apparent target, the Frosts and their chapter on child-initiation.
But has any of this helped protect Pagan children, or done anything to isolate the Frosts if they are indeed as guilty as Drew claims? Pagan academic Christopher Chase voices the skepticism some feel at this recent “De-Frosting” campaign.
“I do not see how any good can come from this “witch war.” I don’t know of anyone who has actually been harmed by their teachings, or anyone who would be rescued or helped if those teachings disappeared. The magickal burning of someone in effigy seems like such an extreme tactic, perhaps surpassed only by attempting to involve Charles Colson in this matter. Having kept up with Mr. Colson and his writings, I can say that no good for Pagan communities can come from drawing Mr. Colson’s attention. That seems tantamount to an unacceptable act of political and cultural brinksmanship.”
If A.J. Drew’s methods are counter-productive, what should the Pagan community do with literature they feel promotes pedophilia, and what should the community do about persons they feel endanger children within their community? Here are some suggestions.
Know what the Federal and State laws dictate for each situation, and if you feel a piece of writing or a person(s) have violated them, do not hesitate to report it to the appropriate authorities that are going to do something, not to friends or associates who have no power over the situation. To know what various State laws are concerning child welfare, you can search from this governmental web site. You can read a run-down of all applicable Federal laws as well. More specifically, Federal Public Law No: 108-21 stipulates that there is no statute of limitations for the sexual or physical abuse of a child. So if there is indeed proof of abuse, no matter how long ago, it should still be reported.
If the person(s) or literature doesn’t break any applicable laws (or if you have no proof that they have done so), but you feel their writings/person(s) are dangerous to the community, voice your concerns but avoid defamation. In the case of public figures any form of “actual malice” should be avoided. You can read more about libel law, here. An article discussing the emerging field of online libel can be found, here.
When promoting your concerns to the community, avoid demonizing those unconvinced by your claims, those reserving judgment, and those who criticize y
our methods. The logical fallacy of “guilt by association” should be avoided (I believe Person A. supports pedophilia, Person B. criticized my methods, therefore Person B. supports pedophilia).
In a final note, I think a pan-Pagan effort to deal with predators is needed. Sometimes those involved in a subculture can be hesitant to speak against fellow members or to seek help outside the community. Drew’s methods should be a wake-up call to the fact that a vacuum has existed in our inter-connected communities and that we should work towards forming an effective and accountable place for victims and those worried about possible predators to turn. Educational campaigns can be put in place, and national and local groups can be networked in a responsible way to avoid gossip, misinformation, and vigilantism. We can make our community a safer place, but only by working together in a calm and rational manner. I hope those of you who read my blog and are involved in national groups or hold leadership positions in local communities take this to heart and work toward building a safer community.