Collection of essays, newsletters, and items of interest to SouthEastern Druidry
We in the Grove of the Red Earth, ADF would like to speak about the recent accusations made against Isaac Bonewits, founder and former Archdruid of Ar nDraiocht Fein.
We will not focus on whether or not Isaac Bonewits was guilty of the acts of which he has been accused. The man passed from this world several years ago, the event happened decades ago,and persons who were present at the reported time give contradictory statements of the moment. Because of this, the truth or falseness of the accusations will never be fully known.
We offer sympathy to the woman whose life has been damaged by these events. No one should ever have their childhood tarnished by this sort of assault and abuse.
We also make it known that we are opposed in all ways to any and all forms of sexual abuse and violation. No matter the circumstances, no person has the right to force him/herself onto another. Consent is among the most vital of considerations in any and all sexual contact, no matter who is involved. Further, as children are unable to knowingly and willingly give such consent, any molestation or abuse of children is utterly and unfailingly condemned.
We state that our grove will always be a place of safety for all who attend our rituals and events. No harassment or any other unwanted attentions will ever be tolerated in our midst. A precedent has been set in the grove by a member who does not feel comfortable with hugs, and the membership of the grove has been accommodating by asking if a hug would be accepted. While
this is a simple example, it shows the importance of consent in all contact. We, as a grove, must and will embrace the idea of consent in all situations.
The title of the post suggests I have some idea, but in reality I am as confused and swirled about as anyone right now. A few days ago The Wild Hunt published an article outlining some nightmarish accusations about Isaac Bonewits. The accusations stemmed from a book published some months ago by the daughter of Marion Z. Bradley. I was floored. I think most of ADF was floored. And saddened. And angry. And disgusted. And skeptical. And anguished. And confused. And defensive. And broken-hearted. Did I miss anything?
Some folks were quick to speak up and speak their mind. Some immediately jumped to defend Bonewits-they knew him, he would never do such a thing, the author hates Pagans, the publisher is a known alt-right Christian nationalist huckster with an agenda, the timelines don't match up, child victims don't always remember things clearly, it all happened way before ADF was founded. Others were equally swift in applauding the bravery of the author for telling her story, condemning the heinous suffering inflicted on her from a young age by so many of the adults around her. Then came the voices denouncing the dismissal of victims of abuse, calling for compassion for their suffering and calling for ADF to stand in solidarity with them. There were voices that called for Bonewits to be stripped of his priesthood and to be scrubbed from ADF history entirely. People yelled. People cried. People left ADF because they felt it was not a safe space for families, they left because they were disgusted anyone would condemn a man solely on the basis of an account from a biased source, they left because they were disgusted anyone would defend such a man.
Where was I? I was swirling around in my own shock and disbelief. What I did know was that regardless of what Bonewits may or may not have done decades ago, regardless of who he was, the ADF that has been my religious home for 20 years was facing a defining moment. The question wasn't whether Isaac was the man any of us believed he was, good or ill. The question was "who are we today?" Are the spaces offered by ADF inclusive and safe? Does ADF have a culture in which people respect one another's personal sovereignty? And should someone be harassed or, gods forbid, abused, is ADF a place where their story will be heard, believed, and honored? If it wasn't now, I was going to do all I could to help it get there!
But, what to do?
A suggestion was made, I think by Rev. Dangler, that clergy and leadership could take advantage of a course in Pagan Consent Culture taught by Cherry Hill Seminary. He and a few other priests had completed the same course a few years ago. I began advocating for that. There was some resistance. Some folks wanted all of leadership; clergy, MG, RD's, SD's, GO's all to be able to receive training at the same time. That just clearly wasn't feasible, so we kept agitating to send as many as we could now, to ask for a group discount, ask for a special session, something!
Worried that the MG would continue to look for alternatives, several priests began the process of contacting Cherry Hill about group discounts and special sessions. The course isn't cheap so many of us turned to our communities to ask for support. I was overwhelmed by the support my local community offered. Financial support was pledged from ADF folks and those not affiliated with the church at all but who wanted to invest in our community. I ordered my book and was prepared to enroll along with the other DIY priests.
In the meantime I turned to the planning committee for the Trillium Festival, our Regional festival and the first of the ADF festival season. I recommended we invite someone with experience with such things to help us craft an anti-harassment clause for the festival. I also approached the people who had completed the Cherry Hill course in the past and asked them to come and give a workshop on Consent Culture. All of these things are now in the works!
An hour ago the MG announced it has agreed to enroll Clergy, MG members and RD's in the Cherry Hill course. This is good! This is great! This is an investment in creating a positive and safe environment within Our Druidry.
I am looking forward to the training. I am looking forward to bringing back the information to share with our Region.