TWH – In her newly-published book The Last Closet: the Dark Side of Avalon, author Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland, offers a tell-all account of her harrowing and abusive experience growing up, including how she eventually came forward and put her own father, Walter Breen, in jail. Included in those detailed and difficult accounts are accusations that ADF founder Isaac Bonewits, who died in 2010, participated in the sexual abuse.
“When I was at Greyhaven I had some unfortunate run-ins with an individual from the Pagan community someone named Isaac Bonewits,” Greyland writes. “Some people called him the Pagan pope […] I hated Isaac, and refused to be in the same room with him, even if the only way I could articulate my objections to him was to say ‘he tickled me.'” (Chapter 13) Greyland recalls being six years old.
Greyland then goes on to recall in non-specific terms the sexual abuse. She writes, “I do not like talking about what happened with Isaac, and so I am going to say as little as I possibly can.” In another paragraph, she shares what she calls “the barest outline of one event.” (Chapter 13)
“I smelled things, I did not want to smell, and tasted things I did not want to taste […] I couldn’t breathe. I hated him with every fiber of my being.” (Chapter 13)
Greyhaven, the locale mentioned above, was the name of author Diana Paxson’s home during that period of time. Paxson was friends with Greyland’s parents, co-wrote books with Bradley, and eventually married into the family. In a recent email interview, Paxson told TWH that Bonewits did live in her basement at Greyhaven while he was writing his own book, Real Magic.
“At that time Moira’s family was living on Staten Island in New York,” she says.
Paxson recalls, “[The family] returned in October of 1972 when [Moira] was six, and she and her brother stayed here for a few weeks while their parents house-hunted, watched by their grandmother, who lived with us. Isaac was no longer here.”
She did not recall a time when Greyland’s family and Bonewits were at her house together. “During the ’70s the children came to Greyhaven for family holidays. We saw Isaac at Pagan gatherings held elsewhere.”
Although Greyland does mention Paxson and Greyhaven throughout the book, she never implicates Paxson in any of the abuses that she experienced from her parents or otherwise. In 2014, she reportedly said that Paxson knew nothing about what was taking place.
Greyland’s family did live close to Paxson, buying a house just a mile away from Greyhaven, which they called Greenwalls. According to the book, it was in that home where the abuse and family “dysfunction,” as Greyland labels it, took place.
“When we were very little, [Bradley] discouraged anyone from visiting our house unless we were throwing a party,” Greyland writes, “That meant that nobody saw the day-to-day-chaos[sic].” (Chapter 9)
Greyland then goes to share a shocking account written by an author who was invited into the family home. Dirty diapers were reportedly stacked waist high on the floor; children were left crying, unfed and unclean; dishes were left in the sink. Greyland says that Bradley was furious that someone saw how they really lived. However, the police were not called at that time.The allegations against Bonewits only make up three pages of the entire book, which, in its entirety, details repeated abuse and neglect at the hands of her parents. Most of the book’s story will not come as a surprise to many after Greyland went public in 2014.
However, she actually began revealing her experiences long before even that point.
In 1989, Greyland spoke to the police after witnessing her father sexually abusing Kenny, an 11-year-old boy. In chapter 33, she recalls breaking her silence.
Greyland’s testimony led to Breen’s arrest and conviction. He died in prison in 1993. At the time, she did not indicate that she herself was a victim, nor did she reveal Bradley’s involvement in any of the abuse. That came in 2014, fifteen years after Bradley’s death.
In a 2014 blog post, Greyland explains why she didn’t initially reveal her own abuse, and more specifically she explains why she didn’t say anything about Bradley. “The reason I have given, and stand by for not talking is this: I know many people found value in my mother’s books, and I did not want to harm them or disturb their lives.”
In The Last Closet, Greyland also notes that she kept her own story quiet because “it wasn’t about her,” but about saving others.
However, her mind was changed in 2014 after blogger Deirdre Saoirse Moen protested Tor’s celebration of Bradley’s work. Moen approached Greyland about the rumors concerning Bradley, and it was at this point that Greyland decided to begin opening up about her own experience
“It is a lot worse than that,” Greyland told Moen. “The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was twelve, and able to walk away.”
Moen published Greyland’s testimony, which made headlines across the world and shocked Bradley fans everywhere. In her own 2014 blog post, Greyland wrote, “I am going to keep right on speaking out. I have been silent for entirely too long.”
In the book’s acknowledgement she thanks Moen for “breaking her story” and encouraging her “to tell the rest of it.”
The “rest” is what makes up in the new book, and it includes various stories detailing interactions with members of the then-fledgling Pagan community. This includes her participation in her mother’s Darkmoon Circle coven and the Aquarian Order of the Restoration during the 1980s before her parents turned to Christianity, as well as the many experiences, abusive or not, that she had as a small child at Greyhaven and Greenwalls.
In light of the recent allegations against Bonewits, current ADF archdruid Rev. Jean (Drum) Pagano said, “We abhor and condemn any acts of sexual aggression against any person, whether they are members of ADF or not. Such actions are incompatible with our virtues and our understanding and our practices. These allegations are extremely disturbing.”
The alleged acts recounted by Greyland took place long before Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) was founded in 1983.
“ADF, as a spiritual organization, is the result of the contributions of hundreds of members over the course of its more than 30 years [of] existence,” he writes. “While Isaac Bonewits was one of the founders, the organization is deliberately designed not to hinge on any one person, and no one person can represent ADF.”
In his statement, Pagano then goes on to demonstrate the structures and systems in place that make ADF a safe organization, including policies governing sexual misconduct and a new organizational position, called the human services specialist. His full statement is available here.
Also speaking publicly concerning the allegations are Phaedra Bonewits, Isaac Bonewits’ last wife, and Deborah Lipp, his fourth. In an exclusive statement sent to TWH, Bonewits and Lipp said that they read the excerpts with “a mix of heartache, sorrow, and a host of other emotions.”
“Our hearts truly break for Ms. Greyland’s tragic experiences. We are having a hard time reconciling her descriptions of Isaac with anything we know,” they wrote.
“The personal circumstances Isaac confided in us don’t line up with Ms. Greyland’s memories and timelines,” they continued. “This is understandable, as she’s working from memories from when she was quite young,” wondering if perhaps her memory of Isaac’s abuse was completely correct.
“Given this, we think it’s possible that Isaac’s presence, in sexual situations, around people who did sexually assault Ms. Greyland, may have led to additionally distorted memories,” they wrote. “We do not believe that Isaac said or did the abhorrent things stated and implied in Ms. Greyland’s book, they are entirely inconsistent with the man we knew.”
Neither Phaedra Bonewits nor Lipp knew Isaac at the time of the alleged acts. Lipp married Bonewits in 1988, and Phaedra Bonewits met him a decade later. While they both do question the details of her memory, they added:
Isaac wasn’t perfect, but we knew him as gentle, loving, good-hearted, a wonderful father, and a tender husband. We honor and cherish his memory. It is in the spirit of honoring this good man who is not here to defend himself, that we reluctantly break his confidentially. Whether Ms. Greyland was hurt by Isaac himself, we have no direct knowledge, nor does she state so explicitly. But unquestionably, her life was one that no child should ever have endured, and we extend to her our deepest sympathies. [Their full statement can be read here.]
In addition, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, Bonewits’ son, supported that statement, simply adding:
All I wish to add to Phaedra and Deborah’s statement is that my father was a kind and loving man who cared deeply for me. I am deeply troubled by Ms. Greyland’s remarks. I understand that Ms. Greyland has undergone a great deal of trauma, and I sympathize with her pain. However, the accusation against my father is totally inconsistent with the man I knew, who was never violent with me or with anyone else. He was a remarkably gentle man and a caring presence in my life throughout our time together. I hope those who knew my father can recognize this about him.
In social media, members of the greater Pagan community are expressing both shock at the news and support for Greyland’s bravery in coming forward. Some people are also saying that they aren’t surprised.
At the same time, there is another concern being voiced. The book’s publisher and author of the foreward is Vox Day, a self-described “Christian libertarian” who has been tied to the so-called alt-right movement. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal called him “the most despised man in science fiction.”
Several Pagans have expressed concern that Greyland’s testimony will be discredited due to that affiliation. “She continues to be abused and exploited,” said Jhenah Telyndru, founder of the Sisterhood of Avalon. Others agreed.
River Devora wrote, “It’s heartbreaking and enraging because the part about the abuse is genuine […] She’s been taken in by alt right folks (a very long time ago, I might add), who have exploited her story and her trauma for their own political reasons, and that part is despicable.”
Adding to that particular controversy is what Greyland herself calls her own “unpopular” political ideas. She is openly anti-LGBT, which is expressed plainly within the new book as well as in her blog post quoted earlier. In the final chapter of her new book, Greyland discusses meeting Katy Faust, a blogger who is openly against gay marriage, and how she finally “stopped be[ing] willing to pretend that [she] agreed with things that [she] did not.” (Chapter 42)
In fact, the title of the entire book takes its name from this last chapter; coming out against gay marriage is coming out of the “last closet.”
Moira Greyland’s book The Last Closet: the Dark Side of Avalon is not easy to read, filled with the pain that comes from years of neglect, abuse, silence, and bearing witness to other similar horrors. While much of her account, such as the allegations against Bonewits, are built on Greyland’s memory and experience, she does also include testimony, letters, and research from other sources where possible. Those are listed at the back of the book.
In the final chapter, Greyland says, “I will be criticized but I nevertheless hope to give strength to other people who need to speak out,” and she ends with: “And I want you all to be able to tell your stories. God bless you. Moira Greyland.” (Chapter 42)
Correction: The original article said that Moira Greyland’s statements about her mother occurred in 2014, five years after Bradley’s death in 1999. The mistake has been corrected and now reads fifteen years.