The Pagan Community is often troubled by rifts in opinion and rocked by the kinds of controversy that comes with the growing pains of a new family of religions. There is currently a tempest brewing on the internet between two Wiccan authors AJ Drew and Raymond Buckland.
Composite photo: AJ Drew and Raymond Buckland
To explain the current conflicts we have to travel back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when Wicca was barely twenty years in the public eye and still planting roots in America. Back then there were no reliable networks to find a way to be taught Wicca and few books published (all of which at that point advocated coven initiation as the only way into the religion). Enter The Church and School of Wicca founded in 1968 and offering mail-order courses in Witchcraft on the back of comic-books and in magazines. In 1972 they published “The witch’s bible” which caused a huge amount of controversy, mainly for it’s depiction of ritual deflowering for underage girls.
“The final three days before the initiation are a time of fasting. Ideally, only honey, water, and homemade bread should be taken.Throughout the fast the female novice wears her phallus, and at some time during the fast the novices are given a demonstration of introitus by a couple selected by the coven. The novice makes her own decision on contraception or lack of it. If she needs advice or help, the sponsor is the one to give it. (The IUD is the recommended Wicca preventative.)” – from “The Witches Bible”
Gavin and Yvonne Frost the founders of the school were (and for the most part still are) considered the looney fringe of Wicca (in recent years they have tried to reform their image distancing themselves from past statements to varying degrees of success).
The other thing to know at that time is that Wicca was very split on the role of homosexuals in the religion. Many believed that gays couldn’t participate in a “fertility religion” and that their energy in a circle would “unbalance” things due to their orientation. This has since completely evaporated for the most part, but back then it was a major issue and the Frost’s (and others) at that time felt that gays didn’t have a place in Wicca.
Which brings us to the present and to a book called “Wicca For Couples” written by AJ Drew, specifically a chapter entitled “The Sterilization of Our Fertility Religion, and the Witch War of 1971” in which he talks about the conflict over gays in Wicca and lists The Frosts and Raymond Buckland as those who took the view that gays didn’t belong in Wicca, he specifically points out a quote from Buckland in 1971.
“A ‘gay witch’ would be an absolute contradiction in terms. Being a religion of nature the witch is very much heterosexual; there must be a male and a female, equal numbers of each, in a coven.” – Raymond Buckland, “Witchcraft: Ancient and Modern” (Buckland recanted these views in 1973)
After the publication of Drew’s book Buckland wrote Drew a letter about the matter defending his positions and that Drew “has absolutely no concept of the situation of the Craft in those early days, preferring to take cheap shots at Gardner, myself, the Frosts, Scott Cunningham, Sybil Leek, Starhawk, Silver Ravenwolf, and on and on. “. Drew, feeling that Buckland was saying he shouldn’t criticize The Frosts lashes back in response “you sick bastard. How dare you insinuate that I should not attack people whose work has included what I find to be Child Molestation, Rape, and torture of children as parts of my religion. You come out and attack me this way while defending them? My book included exactly why I oppose those sick freaks and you say I have taken cheap shots at them.”.
Since then Drew has started a domain at “www.raymondbuckland.com” to take his case against Buckland and The Frosts to the public sphere (he also talks about Buckland’s appointment of a homophobic “speaker” for his Seax Wicca tradition). He has also been discussing the issues between himself and The Frosts on the pagannation.com message boards. To say emotions are running high would be fair, because of the argument another Wiccan author Trish Telesco has dropped out of participating in Drew’s “Real Witches Ball”.
The main contention at this point seems to center around The Frosts and the material in their book. From the messages Buckland seems under the impression that the offensive material was removed partially due to his urgings. While Drew points out that the material remains and calls for Buckland to join him in condemning the work.
“I spoke out against that, as did many others. In fact, I was eventually effective enough to get them to remove that section from their book! It is not in later editions of ?The Witches Bible.” – Raymond Buckland
“Yes it is. A disclaimer was added to the front of the chapter. That disclaimer took some grand stance on fathers bathing their children and having trouble with Children?s Services as if bathing one?s children is kin to raping them. Then they defended the practice by reference to a work of fiction called Clan of the Cavebear. A great book, but it was fiction and as I recall was not talking about human beings in those references.” – AJ Drew
Drew has also invited Buckland to his “Witches Ball” to work things out, so what the final outcome may be is in question. Welcome to the world of internal politics, Wiccan style.