[Editor’s note: This story contains references to sexual abuse.]
TWH – The Druid organization Ár nDraíocht Féin has released a statement repudiating its founder, Isaac Bonewits. Bonewits founded ADF in 1983 and served as the organization’s archdruid until 1996, after which he was named ADF Archdruid Emeritus for the rest of his life. Bonewits passed away in 2010.
In a statement posted to the ADF Facebook page, the organization’s Mother Grove said the following:
In 2018, the late founder of ADF, Isaac Bonewits, was accused of sexually molesting a child. Just recently, allegations have been raised from among our membership that are similar in nature.
The Mother Grove publicly denounces Bonewits’ alleged actions toward children. We cannot and will not abide such actions. Children are our most precious asset, as they represent our future, and we have a sacred duty to protect them from harm, including teaching them about their own soveriegnty [sic]. For that reason, we also reaffirm our commitment to creating a culture of consent within ADF. The Mother Grove will work with our Human Services Specialist to create a consistent consent training program.
ADF may have begun as a single tree planted by Isaac, but in the years since, each new member has planted and tended their own tree. Some have chosen to plant a single tree, while others have together planted entire groves. Together, these trees make up the forest of Our Druidry. We stand now together, a forest of trees struggling in the darkness and shadow cast by that first tree.
There comes a time in the life of a grove where such trees must be felled, to allow for the growth and health of those which remain. This is such a time.
To preserve the health of our organization, we must cut out the blight that is Isaac Bonewits’ legacy. We sever the ties both historical and spiritual that bind us to him. For his actions against children, Isaac Bonewits will no longer be named as a beloved ancestor of ADF, nor is he welcome at our sacred fire.
May his memory and his dark actions fade with the rising of the sun.
We pray that those in need of support and healing find that swiftly, members and non-members alike, and remind members that they may reach out to the Members’ Advocate (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Human Services Specialist (email@example.com) for support.
The Mother Grove
The statement follows a series of resignations last week from its priesthood alleging a variety of concerns, including accusations of poor responsiveness to the accusations regarding Bonewits.
Those revelations gained public attention in 2018, when Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland, described abusive experiences from her youth, including how she came forward and brought her father, Walter Breen, to justice, in her book The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon.
Those difficult and detailed accounts included accusations that ADF founder Isaac Bonewits, who died in 2010, participated in the sexual abuse. As TWH reported, Greyland wrote, “When I was at Greyhaven I had some unfortunate run-ins with an individual from the Pagan community someone named Isaac Bonewits.”
“Some people called him the Pagan pope,” Greyland added. “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.’” Greyland recalls being six years old at the time of these incidents.
Responses to the statement have been supportive, with many individuals stating their gratitude to the Mother Grove. Several responses added that, while they recognized Bonewits’s contributions to ADF, in light of the unquestionably unacceptable behavior of which he has been accused, he could no longer be venerated as an honored ancestor or a community elder.
Almost all comments acknowledge the sadness and difficulty of the topic. One ADF member, who requested their name be withheld, noted that as a survivor of childhood sexual violence, they found the statement was necessary and critical to begin a healing process.
Others were less convinced about the need for the statement. Some individuals publicly commented that ADF’s actions were unwarranted, especially as Bonewits is unable to defend himself against the accusations.
On the public Facebook page for Isaac and Phaedra Bonewits, some commenters asked about the veracity of the claims against Bonewits. “There is credible testimony, I am sorry to say,” Phaedra Bonewits, Isaac’s widow and the administrator of the Facebook page, replied. “He used to say, don’t look up to him as a spiritual mentor because he had feet of clay going up to his waist.”
[This story has been updated to reflect comments from Phaedra Bonewits.]