TWH – Now that the season has turned and we are nearing the end of the 2017, we look back, one last time, to review this historic year. What happened? What didn’t happen? What events shaped our thoughts and guided our actions? In our collective worlds, both big and small, what were the major discussions?
TWH –In recent years, allegations of sexual misconduct within Pagan and polytheist communities have become increasingly visible. The arrest and conviction of Kenny Klein led to a number of public allegations of abuse levied against the musician, and the ensuing wider conversation around these issues tended first toward recrimination before focusing on the challenges of consent culture in a sex-positive community. Yesterday’s Wild Hunt article on abuse allegations in one Wiccan church is evidence that working through these issues can be difficult, particularly for leaders who lack professional training around abusive relationships. To that end, several experts were asked to provide guidance as to what mistakes amateurs are likely to make, and what resources should be tapped into for support and guidance. While this advice was solicited in the context of the decision reached by board members of the Wiccan Church of Minnesota, the challenges faced in that organization are not uncommon in Pagan groups, which tend to be small and tightly knit.
[Trigger Warning: This post discusses the sexual abuse of children.]
When I first embraced modern Paganism I read “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and it was considered essential reading by many Pagans I met at that time. Plus, in the pre-Internet age this revisionist Arthurian drama that introduced feminist and Pagan themes was widely rumored to be written by someone who was, if not Pagan herself, deeply enmeshed with individuals from the Pagan community (and this turned out to be true). So, as a consequence, Pagans widely considered Bradley to be “one of us.” This was further reinforced more recently when I started interacting with the West Coast Pagan scene, and various individuals would privately tell me about their own interactions with the author. When Bradley died in 1999, few could deny the huge impact she had, down to the individuals who tattooed themselves as the priestesses and priests did in “Mists.”
In the wake of recent discussions about security and safety at Pagan events, a new organization has formed to directly handle such issues. The Council of the Phoenix is a group of professional counselors, abuse survivors, and concerned individuals who are “motivated to keep the sex-positive community of Pagans safe through educations and guidelines.”
The Council of the Phoenix was initially created by Green Egg Magazine editor Ariel Monserrat. For 16 years, Ariel has worked as a professional psychotherapist for abuse survivors, pedophiles and families experiencing the harrowing affects of abusive situations. When news of Kenny Klein’s arrest was made public, Ariel began formulating a plan. For days she combed through articles and comments on the subject.