So Long and Thanks for All the Abuse: A History of Sexual Trauma in the Pagan Community

By September 28, 2018 Community Issues 138 Comments

In light of yesterday’s political events in the United States and the bravery of Doctor Christine Basey Ford, I have decided to break my silence about sexual abuse in the pagan community. I am so proud of Dr. Blasey Ford for standing up and speaking her truth despite all the slander, death threats, and awareness that her testimony will still likely be ignored by an uncaring all cis white male senate. It is heartbreaking. Even those of us in Canada are watching with anger and tears. Social media is overwhelmed with people sharing their #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport stories while people on the opposite end of the spectrum are rationalizing assault, coming up with excuses, creating fake news, calling them whores, liars, and much worse. Some people are commenting that these events are even more important than Trump being sworn in as president due to the position of Supreme Court Justice being one appointed for a lifetime.

Statistics courtesy of Fire Lyte, pie charts courtesy of Kathleen Borealis

If a narcissist like Brett Kavanaugh is approved it can mean the end to women’s reproductive rights, a backslide away from gender equality, and an end to human rights being respected in the USA. I believe Dr. Blasey Ford. She has everything to lose and nothing to gain from coming forward with her sexual assault testimony. This political nightmare has been a big wake up call for a lot of people. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to talk about the sexual abuse that has been rampant in our pagan community since its start which continues on to this day. I have no university degree on the subject of sexual assault, I am in no position to tell people what their own experience is, and there are no statistics from the pagan community specifically to draw upon. All I have to share with you is the stories of my own experiences. If you have experienced abuse within the magical community I want you to know that you are not alone and I believe you. If you are too scared or too traumatized to speak out, I hope my personal stories will clearly demonstrate that what happened to you was wrong and is completely unacceptable. Maybe it will inspire you to speak out against a predator in your own local community or group or to support a friend who is too afraid to. I hope my opening up in turn opens a dialogue within our greater community about the abuse that is so prevalent within it and how we can work together to prevent it for our future members.

These are my true stories as I experienced them.

T H E   S T A L K E R

I met her online through a big Wiccan forum I used to help administrate with one of my still best friends. She was smart, blonde, cute, tattooed, nerdy and I didn’t care that she was 32 and I had just turned 19. We used to chat for hours online. We shared our spiritual beliefs and a love of Xena. When we finally met in person she wooed me hard and pressured for sex immediately, but I sensed something wrong. She was coming on way too strong, too fast. A friend of hers confided in me that this woman had some untreated mental health issues and a habit of dating and obsessing over teenage girls. The girl she had dated before me was still in high school and her parents found out. She stalked her after they broke up. This woman never told me any of this of course. I told her thanks but no thanks. She didn’t take no for an answer. She sent me crazy poetry. She called my home repeatedly. She called and emailed my pagan friends and even my family asking why I wouldn’t talk to her or date her. I didn’t respond. It took two months but she finally stopped pursuing me. I never saw her attend a local community event again. Later she was diagnosed with schizophrenia but refused treatment. The entire experience just made me deeply sad.

T H E  N E A R  M I S S

It was only my second time attending this ritual group who held events at a beautiful private campsite in the forest. There was a handsome man with curly hair and twinkling green eyes who I found attractive and vice versa. I danced with him barefoot around the fire while the musicians played. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed me deeply. I came with a friend and late in the night while we were sitting around a campfire, my friend left me to use the outhouse. Green eyes immediately stepped out of the shadows and began massaging me without consent. Then his friend appeared and massaged my feet at the same time. I thought it was odd, but they were both handsome and I felt like I should be flattered so I let it happen. My friend came back and immediately chased them away. She told me she had seen me dancing with green eyes earlier and needed to tell me something. She told me he was hardcore into kink and was a known predator in the community who would sleep with every new person to put notches in his belt. She told me he was only interested in me because I was shiny new to the community and he wanted to sleep with me before all the other men had a chance. She also informed me he had herpes and didn’t tell his sexual partners and it wasn’t just hearsay. This would be the last time anyone, male or female, would ever warn me about someone in the pagan community. Another near miss for me.

T H E  R E S P E C T E D  E L D E R

Every year at the local pagan festival he would show up and leer at the young girls. He would wait until they were alone or naked and vulnerable after the night time skyclad ritual. He was charismatic and would tell them he was a former politician and the high priest of a Wiccan tradition and that if they had sex with him, they were initiated into his tradition (that he made up and appointed himself leader of). Some fell for it, and some saw him for the creeper he was and ran away. They would range in age from 14 to 19. Sometimes he would date them, some moved in with him for a short time before realizing what he was: a predator. Many of these women were my friends in the community. Everyone in the local community knew what he was but no one ever called him out or kicked him out. He was no evil mastermind and mostly failed in his predatory attempts. The community would mutter and he would keep on trying to prey on young vulnerable women. No one warned newcomers. No one called the police. No victims spoke out.

Thirty years passed. He had many books and articles published. Eventually he grew old, young women no longer gave him the time of day. He was slowly ostracized from every local pagan community and every group he tried to create. He moved far away one day to teach at a university and joined a new community who had no idea of his history. He rewrote his entire background and formed new groups. The female initiates he preyed on became older as he did, but being the age of consent does not mean it is okay to take advantage of your students. Today the internet and all articles about him only tell his side of the story as a respected elder, leader, and author in the Canadian pagan community. He never learned his behaviour was wrong, he learned what he says is true if no one says otherwise. The community taught him that. Our community. My community.

Edit: his name is Samuel Wagar and he was foolish enough to comment at the bottom of this post.

T H E  R A P I S T

My pagan friends vetted him. They encouraged us to date despite the big age gap of 18 years. He was well-known in the local pagan community and at the time was a second degree initiate in a respected Gardnerian coven. He was a gentleman at first, telling me he was happy to move slow. By the third date his patience ran out so I had sex with him. The first time he had sex with me without my consent we were at a large pagan festival in the US. I had never been to a pagan festival before, let alone one so large. Drugs and alcohol were forbidden on the site but two elders who were a high priest and priestess in a respected Georgian coven had smuggled in some wine and shared it with us. I only drank a little as I am not fond of wine, but he drank his fill. We went to the evening’s celebration and listened to music and danced. I started to feel sick like I might vomit so I asked him to take me back to our room and he did. By the time we got back to the communal barracks, his drunk self had forgotten why we were there and assumed me feeling ill was code for “let’s have sex”. Before I knew what was happening or could tell him to stop it was already too late. He fell asleep snoring and I lay awake staring at the dark ceiling, incredibly confused.

I mentioned it was a communal barrack, old army barracks, with over 30 people all around us. The Wiccan elders who had given us the alcohol were right across from my bunk. In the morning they told me how surprised and impressed they were I’d had sex so voyeuristically and patted me on the back for being a good pagan girl. I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing to anyone. This is the first time I’ve ever told anyone. Their comment normalized the assault for me and though my gut told me it was wrong, their voices in my head told me it was okay. That to be a pagan girl meant to be a slut and let men use me as they wished. They were respected elders after all. It wasn’t until many years later I learned they were not worthy of anyone’s respect and were well-known for emotionally and verbally abusing their coven mates, the priest surrounded with his own rumours of inappriate sexual behaviour with students.

I ended up moving in with my rapist and we lived together for over six years. Whenever he was too drunk or high he would rape me in our bed. He didn’t hear no or see tears. He took what he wanted as if I didn’t even need to be there and then he would fall asleep and snore drunkenly. No one had ever prepared me for this. It took me all six years to realize it was wrong. In that time he cheated on me constantly with any opportunity that arose and he refused to practice safe sex because “what’s the point of having a vasectomy if you still have to wear a condom?” He emotionally and verbally abused me throughout our relationship. He gaslighted me and made me feel small and ugly — like no one else would love me but him. He made me wait on him hand and foot while he never lifted a finger. He isolated me from my friends and abused me financially so I had no way of leaving him. After I realized that his best friend and (married) high priestess was actually his lover of the past ten years, I packed up all my belongings while he was at a pagan festival with her and moved out. He tried to deny all the cheating and the rape, he tried to fake tears like he was the victim, but by that point I had realized he was a narcissist and a sociopath incapable of real empathy or remorse.

I confronted our mutual friends in the pagan community after the break up. Especially the women. Why had they never said anything about his inappropriate sexual behaviour towards women? Why had they never told me he cheated on me, not just once but several times? Why didn’t they tell me what they really thought of him? Why didn’t they tell me to leave him? The women came forward and told me about all the times he inappropriately hit on them or touched them when I wasn’t in the room. They came forward and told me about even more women they had seen him sleep with or act lecherously towards. They told me he changed for the better after dating me and they liked the new him. They told me they thought I was happy. They told me they thought I was a cool polyamorous chick who knew he was sleeping around. That’s what he had told them so they wouldn’t squeal on him. My response was that a relationship is only open when both parties are aware of it and consent to it. I am still in counseling today through a women’s domestic abuse shelter to help me with my trauma and PTSD from this relationship. I still have nightmares. No one came to my defense. I was all alone.

Years later after I had moved on and had my first son, his mistress/priestess came to visit me on the pretense of seeing the new baby. After I broke up with him, her husband had put two and two together and finally kicked her out for cuckholding him for so long. She had nowhere to go so she moved in with my ex and now they are married. She had the nerve to cry on my shoulder and tell me no one understood what it was like to be with him except for me, no one knew what he was really like. After the anxiety and gaslighting she had put me through for years, my opinion was she made her bed and now she can lie in it. They are still together and she pretends she is happy.

T H E  M U R D E R E R

An elder of a well-known witchcraft tradition in the US raped and murdered one of his students, a young gay man who was only looking for training. Other students suspected the worse and reported it. The FBI investigated him, they had a body, but no proof. The investigation was open until the elder’s death more than ten years later. In that time he had many more students and potentially victims. After his death, no one said a bad word. They praised him as an elder and community leader. None of his other assault victims ever came forward. You’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead after all — it’s bad luck and bad etiquette. Instead, the different lines of the tradition started a witch war over whose lineage was more authentic. My teacher was disgusted and disillusioned. He abandoned his tradition and gave up teaching. He apologized profusely to me and told me it was not in his heart to pass on a tradition that would spawn such darkness and hate. He told me the path I naturally developed for myself would be more important to me than anything from his tradition.

T H E  C R E E P E R

It began at the local annual pagan festival. He came from a town five hours north. It wasn’t out of place for people to come from farther away to attend. He was young and not unattractive. Over the course of the long weekend he proceeded to hit on every woman in attendance under the age of 30. He struck out with every one of them. I was skinny dipping alone one morning in the lake when I caught him openly staring at me on the shore. He saw me spot him, but didn’t stop. I felt uncomfortable so I got out, wrapped myself up and walked back to my cabin. He barred my path, looked me up and down and asked me if I had a nice swim. I went around him back to my cabin. Later at dinner he came up to me and told me how sexually frustrated he was. I told him I would never be the one to help him with that and that he needed to fuck off.

A couple months went by and he showed up at another local event in my community, again hitting on all the young women. A few more months went by and he showed up at another event, this one was an overnight camping event. My female friends and I were a bit drunk and went to one of their tents to hang out and share some of my flying ointments. Men kept asking to come in, but we told them to get lost. We let in one girl’s fiancee though and the inappropriate young man took this as a sign we changed our mind and came into the tent without our consent. He refused to leave and kept hovering over our one friend who was far too drunk to think or act clearly. She was almost passed out. He kept trying to touch her and we would ask him to back off. He didn’t listen and just tried to wait until all of us left to go to sleep because it was her tent. My friend and her fiancee finally forcibly removed him and stayed with my drunk friend all night to make sure he didn’t come back and rape her. After that event we thought maybe we wouldn’t see him again as he lived so far away. We were wrong.

He came back to the festival the next year and carried out his same routine. At this point is was obvious to everyone that this man was not coming into our community with good intentions. He was a creeper and a predator. This time all the women who had experienced his creeper behaviour confided in one another and to their boyfriends and husbands. No woman at the event felt comfortable around him. The men approached him as a group and confronted him about his behaviour and what their wives and girlfriends had told them. They told him his behaviour was inappropriate, unacceptable, and that getting laid was not the point of this festival or of any event in the community. If he wanted it to be, then he was welcome to leave and never return. He cried and apologized profusely. He stopped hitting on everything with a vagina for the remainder of the event. We hoped maybe that was the end of it. Unfortunately for us there was a big scandal back home within his own pagan community over some very inappropriate sexual photos that were leaked and he ran away from his home and job and moved to our area and joined one of our local spiritual groups. They had heard rumours, but were in need of boosting their male numbers so they ignored it. His unacceptable treatment of women continues.

T H E  S O C I O P A T H

Two years after this I started dating my next partner. He too was a long-time and well-known member of the local pagan community and my friends vetted him, some of them had dated him in the past even. I thought he was a sweet man, he certainly painted himself that way. One year into our relationship the red flags started. Small bursts of anger or violence along with saying nasty things about other people and his ex-girlfriends in the pagan community. Weird behaviours and weird comments that kept adding up. As soon as we had our baby, things immediately got worse. He started lying and gaslighting me. He acted jealous of the baby and started yelling at me on the regular. So much so  that our landlady who lived above us cornered me when she knew he was at work and asked if I wanted her to take me to a women’s shelter. He lied to me about his extensive debt that he hadn’t even tried to pay off and lied to me when his paychecks were held by the bank. I lost all my savings trying to pay our expensive rent in Vancouver waiting for him to admit his wrongs and do something about it. He filed for bankruptcy after much begging from me but not until I had lost all my money. He started to have violent outbursts towards strangers. He punched out a teenager on public transit and knocked him out cold. He wasn’t charged.

We moved to a rural town in Ontario. I thought the calm, quiet life would change him and he could have a new start, but I was wrong. He only became more abusive and frightening. He started hitting our son without remorse and I knew I was next. He refused to admit his actions were wrong, he refused to admit he had mental health issues, he refused to seek help, he even refused to look after his physical health. I kicked him out. After I broke up with him I met and fell in love with my current partner. My ex was bisexual and tried to get him drunk and woo him away from me. He failed because my current partner is very much straight. So he wooed my only witchy friend in town who was also my neighbour and turned her against me as well as all my other female friends in town. I didn’t understand at first why they stopped talking to me and why no one came to my house when invited. I was removed from the local community potluck and told I was not welcome. None of them believed me that he was abusive. They would harass me and tell me I was a horrible person. They would try to make me meet up with my abuser and work things out. He would try to go through them to arrange visits with our son instead of contacting me himself or going through the court-mandated supervised visitation centre. He did many strange, creepy, and illegal things to try to get close to me and to try to hurt me. I called the local women’s shelter and they set me up with a counselor and a safety plan to protect me and my family.

He still lives a stone’s throw from me today, but the threat of the police and family court backing me up have made sure he does nothing. I couldn’t get a restraining order or get him out of my tiny village of 600 people. The courts told me there were not enough police reports or hospital reports of bodily harm to justify an order. They essentially told me I was not abused enough to help and that I should have called the police many more times than I did. The sad part is, I didn’t call them or tell anyone he had abused me because I didn’t want to ruin his life in town. I regret that now. If I hadn’t been silent I may not have been treated as I was by the local community. He hurt me badly, but it was an even more painful slap in the face to have women I thought were my friends not believe me about the abuse. None ever came to me and asked for my side of the story. I guess some people want drama over truth.

__

So here I am now, a survivor and a very angry woman. After fifteen years I am so done. One of the reasons I moved thousands of miles across the country a few years ago was so that I would finally be free of my abusers and the treatment I kept receiving in my local pagan community. It was emotionally exhausting attending events knowing my abusers would be there and knowing other men were going to touch me and talk to me inappropriately every time. It became especially difficult when my rapist joined the shamanic community I had sought safe harbor in and then the creeper joined simultaneously. It then became even more complicated when every single local pagan event from sabbats, rituals, fundraisers, workshops, and pagan concerts were all hosted at my rapist’s co-op housing community hall because it was only $15 a night to rent and every other venue was $400. The shamanic community’s hall was torn down so they too started to use the community hall. There was nowhere safe left for me to go so I simply stopped going.

I currently keep in touch with my handful of magical best friends from back home, but otherwise I quickly learned that many of the people I had viewed as friends in the community over the years were simply acquaintances in my proximity who did not really care about me and what I had experienced. I think some are happy I am gone so that I do not rock the boat. I’m sure others do not understand why I left and why I am hesitant to ever deeply involve myself in another pagan community again.

The Reality of Abuse in the Pagan Community

These are not all of my experiences or stories from the magical communities I have been involved in. My experience as a member of the greater pagan community has not been great and I do not have a positive opinion about the inappropriate behaviours and sexual prejudices of people within the community. None of this happened in a vacuum, it wasn’t just one little community. I have been involved with communities and groups on both coasts of N. America, in Canada and the United States. I have trained in different traditions and I have travelled to attend many events and festivals. My experiences didn’t get any better. Even at events touted as safe spaces men have repeatedly touched me without my consent, poly folks have mercilessly hit on me and my partners despite a clear “no thank you”, people have tried to drug and assault my friends, men have tried to trick me into sex, men have tried to tell me I had to have sex with them because pagan girls are supposed to put out, and I have even been groped by respected spiritual leaders in front of many witnesses who did nothing and said nothing.

I have watched old respected teachers chase and grope every woman during ritual and everyone treat it as normal and fun. I have watched BDSM and other sexual practices be brought into community rituals without consent or approval. I have watched men and women try to coerce and rape people at events, but instead of calling the police they are simply asked to leave. I have watched these same people return to events again and again and be welcomed with the excuses of “they were drunk that one time”, “she was leading him on”, “that’s just the way he is, oh that lovable lecherous rascal”. The latter was the most common attitude I encountered when I would comment on anyone’s actions.

In my past fifteen years in the community my boundaries have seldom been respected or heard. Not by acquaintances, not by friends, not by elders, and not even by my own lovers.

In joining the pagan community and choosing to be an active member of it, I ended up in more uncomfortable and unsafe sexual situations than I could ever have imagined with my darkest thoughts. I do not want this to happen to any of you. I do not want others to have a littany of these awful stories. We need to change how sex and boundaries are perceived in our community. It is not the 1960s hippie era anymore, we know it is not okay to tell young people that free love means having no boundaries and letting people sexually assault you at will. “Be a good girl, be a good boy, just let it happen”. What if it were your kids? Would you want them exposed to outdated, sexist, abusive, horrifying attitudes in a supposedly safe spiritual community?

Predators, pedophiles, molesters, rapists… we like to think they are not in our community. We like to think our bond of sharing the same spirituality nullifies their presence and that a spiritual person could never do harm. Time and time again, we are proven wrong. We forget that religious and fringe groups statistically attract predators as the trusting members often make easier prey. Just because someone is “nice”, pays their taxes, donates to charity, and attends church regularly does not mean they are a good person. It is not okay that a large percentage of our modern pagan community has to live in fear of predators and deal with abuse. Many assume or hope the days of Wiccan priests abusing their power to have sex with initiates are just stories from the 1970s, but unfortunately they are not. As long as we put people in leadership positions on a pedestal as spiritual gurus, we ourselves are putting them in a position of power over us and leaving an opening for abuse. Everyone, no matter who they are or say they are, is just a fallible human being. Let me say that again: EVERYONE is mortal and capable of making mistakes or doing wrong. Being a spiritual person or a spiritual leader is no exception: Buddhist monks, Catholic priests, Baptist ministers, and Pagan elders have all recently been accused of sexual assault and worse. If we confront this reality, it better prepares us when we find ourselves in uncomfortable or dangerous situations. Awareness also allows us to teach our children how to avoid predators and being taken advantage of.

Women, children, the disabled, and those who identify as LGBTQ+ are obviously more vulnerable to sexual assault than others in the pagan community (in any community), but I want to make it clear that this should not be about gender wars or “us vs. them”. Sexual assault can happen to anyone and no matter what no one deserves it and it is never okay. How about we treat each other as fellow human beings and just stop assaulting each other verbally, physically, and sexually? That would be a great start to changing the way things are.

Sexual Myths About the Pagan Community

We are all easy sluts.

No. Identifying as some type of pagan or witch does not automatically turn you into a whore with no boundaries or self-respect. Alternately, you do not have to act slutty just because it is expected of you. It is okay to tell people to fuck off. Who cares if people think you are a prude? Your boundaries should be respected by people who claim to care about you. If you get harassed about it, leave that community.

Beltane is a guarantee you will get laid.

No. Beltane is supposed to be a celebration of the spring and the return of life after winter. The only way you are guaranteed to get laid is if you bring a consenting partner with you.

Pagan festivals are a guarantee you will get laid.

No. Festivals are about fostering community, making connections, and supporting one another. Having this attitude results in coercion, assault, and rape. See above.

We are all into BDSM or open to it.

No. Many people are accepting of people’s choice to be into kink or to have a unique fetish, but that in no way means they want to see it on display at a public or private pagan event or be coerced into participating. Oh the stories I could tell of inappropriate behaviour by members of the BDSM community at pagan community events. Behind closed doors please.

We are all polyamorous or open to it.

No. There is a higher percentage of polyamorous people within the pagan community than the normal population, but this does not mean all pagans are poly or automatically have to be okay with it. If someone says no and states they are monogamous, that is their choice and they should not be berated or shamed for it. Their boundaries should be respected. If you are dating or want to date someone who identifies as poly that does not mean you automatically have to have an open relationship with this person. If they or their poly friends do not respect your boundaries, call you crazy, call you unfair, bigoted, or any other slanderous terms — I hope you protect yourself and walk away. Some people in the community are genuinely polyamorous and prefer to have more than one romantic partner at a time, but many use the term poly as an excuse to sleep with anyone and everyone while expecting no consequences. If you are interested in poly or your pagan community is heavily poly, I very much recommend the book The Ethical Slut before dipping your toes in.

Teachers sleeping with their students is normal.

No, but it happens way more than it should. Students and initiates often view their teachers and priest/priestess as a guru and we often give them almost celebrity status even though they are ordinary people with ordinary jobs and ordinary flaws. People have a bad habit of crushing on those in a position of power and this can lead to the student wooing the teacher with their obsessive love or the teacher taking advantage of a student they see is in love with them and not thinking clearly. In other cases it is straight up coercion or rape where the student is threatened if they don’t have sex or promised a reward if they have sex such as an initiation or an occult secret. Cut this shit out. Do not have sex with your students no matter the situation. Students: do not have sex with your teachers no matter the situation! If it turns out to be true love, then wait until the end of your training so the power dynamic goes back to normal for fuck sake.

You have to have sex with your high priest or priestess for initiation.

No! Never. Even if your tradition holds sex as sacred and has a sexual initiation, an ethical teacher will tell you what your options are. You do not have to have sex with your teacher or a fellow student for initiation or the Great Rite, you can have sex with your goddamn significant other in a consentual manner to complete this part of initiation if it is required and if you have no significant other, you can fucking masterbate. If anyone tells you differently, please run without looking back and tell everyone you can on your way out. Honestly, I think this belief and practice is very outdated and sexual initiation should not be a thing and should never have been a thing. Our current society is not equipped to handle it. Sex magic should be a choice, not a prerequisite. Period.

You should only have sex and date within the community.

No. Do not let anyone tell you this. Just because someone is pagan, witchy, or into the occult, does not mean they will automatically be a good fit for you or be a good person. Date who you want. Interfaith relationships are a real thing and yes they do work. I know many pagans who are married to Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, etc and are incredibly happy, compatible, and supportive of one another. My current love is a Buddhist and my most healthy relationship yet. If no one in your community appeals to you or you’d rather not shit where you pray, you don’t have to date or sleep with them anyway just because of proximity and religious beliefs. Move along. Maybe try online dating. Gods I wish I had.

There are no pedophiles/child molesters in the pagan community.

No. Wrong again. Spiritual communities are especially rampant with predators because the members are more trusting than the average person and you can build up a solid reputation to hide behind. Big name pagans such as Isaac Bonewits, Kenny Klein and Marion Zimmer Bradley have been revealed to be pedophiles, but many more remain in our communities even though people often suspect what is going on, but do not report it.

I saved the worst for last.

The community should handle these issues within itself.

Gods no! If there has been an assault or rape or an attempted assault or rape within the community – CALL THE FUCKING POLICE. Don’t argue, don’t rationalize, don’t think about sparing the predator’s family or reputation. Call the police as soon as it happens or the victim comes forward and file a report. I do not know where this “protect our own” bullshit originated from but it has to stop now with each one of us changing our thought patterns. In protecting a predator you only protect the predator but you continue harming your community. I am sick and bloody tired of seeing known predators repeatedly allowed back into the community and its events.

As a former board member of a registered non-profit festival for years I got to experience firsthand why predators are not removed. Nothing was done because some board members were afraid of the predator. Nothing was done because some board members worried what other people would think and that it would make themselves look bad. Nothing was done because of inter-coven politics. Nothing was done because it never occurred to any of them to call the police. Even though multiple attendees would report abuse and predators, sometimes more than one during an event, and even though they were willing to make a statement in writing, nothing was ever done. I was very vocal about collecting people’s statements and banning the predators. It was within our charter to ban anyone we deemed a danger to the event and its attendees. I expected agreement. Instead, the chair of the board (a woman by the way) directly opposed me at our board meetings and when I wouldn’t change my position she called me at home when I was seven months pregnant to scream at me and harass me and demand I change my mind or shut up. I told her she had no right to speak to me that way and hung up on her. I immediately quit my multiple jobs with the event and pulled the website I had made them for free and sent them the backup files to manage it themselves. This level of bullshittery was not worth my time and mental health.

Conclusion

Every garden has weeds. Ours is over run. Pull them out and don’t let them back in. If someone is repeatedly being abusive to members of the community in any way — verbally, physically, sexually — report it and ban them. If someone is a suspected child molester, call the police. If someone is a rapist or keeps attempting sexual assault, call the police. If there isn’t enough evidence or the victims won’t come forward out of fear, kick the predator out and warn other communities they may try to join. Make their life difficult. Make sure they have no safe haven to turn to. My greatest fear is that once we are done pulling the weeds out of the pagan community, the plants left behind will be few in number.

Further Reading

Responding to Abuse in the Pagan Community by Cat Chapin-Bishop (includes actions to make our communities and events safer)

Predators in Paganism by T. Thorn Coyle

Abusive Leaders, Grooming, and Seduction by Shauna Aura Knight

Pagans, Mental Health, and Abuse by Shauna Aura Knight (super detailed and helpful)

Sex, Ethics, and Paganism by Shauna Aura Knight (also great)

Killing the Sixties: Abuse, Consent, #MeToo and the Pagan Community by Mark Green

The Rise of #HimToo in the #MeToo Era by Fire Lyte

Witch Hunt: Wicca is being used as a tool for sexual predators and paedophiles by Richard Worth

Sexual Assault, Wicca, and Consent by Jason Pitzl-Waters

Silence equals complicity: making Pagan groups safe for everyone by Yvonne Aburrow

Popular Pagan Website Allows Pedophiles to Groom Children by Rob Taylor

Addressing issues of sexual abuse in Pagan communities by Terence P. Ward

WiCoM priest under fire for ethical and sexual misconduct by Cara Schulz

Resources

Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres

Learning To Recognize Abusers In Pagan & Occult Communities

National Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors (USA)

Pagans Against Abuse

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests

Author Sarah

Illustrator and weaver of words. Witch. Forest siren with talons, succubic tendencies, a love of otherworldly beauty, poisonous plants, wild places and dead things.

More posts by Sarah

Join the discussion 138 Comments

  • Rose says:

    I wish this was a community where people felt safe to name names. But it’s not.

    I wish this was a community where we didn’t prioritize book sales, charisma, and “keeping the magic alive” over the damage people do behind those masks.

    I wish this community didn’t exalt sex over the people you have it with. I wish being female coded, or emotionally passive, or “a bottom” didn’t guarantee coercion and manipulation.

    I wish this was a community that truly celebrated personal divinity, instead of following blindly at the heels of self-serving people, enabling the damage they do.

    I’m sorry this happened to you, and people allowed it.

    • G. says:

      I have never, thankfully, been assaulted. I wanted to thank you for the entirety of this article. But I also wanted to thank you for acknowledging the people who don’t want any part of the “sex stuff”. No touching, no poly, no kink, leave me alone. I’ve never seen it written. I have to thank you. I always felt most wrong when I thought about the pagan sexual stereotype that I don’t fit into. I’ve never felt less for it, but I’ve felt uncomfortable. I’m already in a crowd of “liberated” people that still can’t seem to comprehend that that might also include “modest” (or whatever) people. I feel less shame now. Thank you.

      • Carl says:

        I am similar to G. as well with regarding the “sexual stuff”.

        I live a “vintage lifestyle” and a part of that is being “proper” – none of this 60s stuff. It may be too prudish or conservative for some, but that is how I am (and monogamous as well).

        I too am glad this was mentioned, even though I have never really been “in” the circle within the Pagan/Witchcraft community (and this may be a minor reason why).

    • Crystal Shipp says:

      Sarah-thank you for your bravery and for writing this article. Your article outlines crimes of the past in the pagan community. This is still a very current issue today. You mentioned Marion Zimmer Bradley in a Facebook post from Oct 5 (“crazy twatwaffles you should know about because they are harmful”) and that made me think of Moira Greyland.

      I think it is tragic that survivors of sexual violence are not believed or told that perhaps they are mixed up. Moira Greyland’s accusations about “Pagan Pope”
      Isaac Bonewitz are patronizingly pushed aside by Isaac’s ex-wives, Phaedra and Deborah in their January 2018 statement to The Wild Hunt. Perhaps the reason that the exes are “having a hard time reconciling her (Moira’s) descriptions of Isaac with anything we know”, is because he didn’t ask to have sex with a six year old girl in their actual presence. Moira may have gotten Isaac’s first “spouse” mixed up with his second, she may have misspelled Selene as Celine, but it is clear to me that she did not mix up who was assaulting her. These statements are from the Lipp-Bonewitz statement:

      “The personal circumstances Isaac confided in us don’t line up with Ms. Greyland’s memories and timelines. Ms.
      Greyland gets a number of dates and facts wrong. This is understandable, as she’s working from memories from
      when she was quite young. For example, she says Isaac lived in a commune sometime between 1972-1975, during
      most of which period he was living in Minneapolis. He did not live in a California commune until 1977. She says his
      wife “Celine” was transgender; Isaac’s first spouse is transgender, but Selene, his second wife, is a different person
      altogether.”

      So the dates and times that Isaac confided to Lipp/Bonewitz “don’t line up? It seems impossible to these women that perhaps it was Isaac who got it wrong, and not Moira Greyland. What did Isaac confide to Lipp/Bonewitz? Isaac witnessed something abhorrent but did not actually participate? He was in the room and did not stop the sexual assault?

      In Moira’s book The Last Closet: the Dark Side of Avalon she states-

      “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.”

      That reads as a strong and very specific memory. It is Mrs. Lipp and Mrs. Bonewitz’s medical observation that

      “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. 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.”

      I do not know that either of these ladies are qualified to say that Moira’s memories are distorted. If you check Deborah Lipp’s Twitter or Facebook account, you will see that she is not at all happy with Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination or the way that Christine Ford’s accusations of sexual misconduct carried little weight. I find this virtue signalling disingenuous and odious. How can you support and defend an accused pedophile while bashing Kavanaugh?

      This is a story that needs to be heard and believed. When men in power are protected by women in power, these women become enablers of the very behavior that they claim to abhor.

      Sarah, if history is to stop repeating itself, should we not start with women believing women?

  • sami says:

    Your experiences resonate too deeply, and I thank you for your bravery and transparency in writing this post. Sending love and blessings your way. May we all heal <3

  • Thank you for sharing this Sarah, I think many people will, sadly, be able to relate to this article, myself included. I’ve shared it with my local moot because this is a topic we definitely need to speak about more.

  • Samuel Wagar says:

    wonderful, strong piece

    • Sarah says:

      Ah, the respected elder speaks.

    • Juniper Jeni Birch says:

      Fuck off Sam.

    • Samuel Wagar says:

      What on Earth is this? I have never dated or had sex with an underage woman. I have never had a teenaged woman living with me. I have never done the covening couch.

      I have no idea where these stories come from but they are completely untrue.

      I started the local Pagan festival. For quite a few years I led the skyclad ritual (usually along with my coven’s Priestess). My Tradition developed over a number of years and was made official when a meeting of the Third Degrees came together in 1991 and decided that what we were doing was different enough that we should call it a Trad. I’m not the leader of anything, except my small coven.

      After I had been working night shift for several years and had lost touch with most people I knew in the local Pagan communities, and was frustrated with my life, and after my step-father’s death, I moved to Edmonton. This was also in hopes of supporting a friend of mine who had suffered a stroke.

      I am a packrat for documents. And when I wrote my memoir a few years ago, I cited from them extensively. So, I haven’t “rewritten my background” . Any more than I lied when I said that I had earned an MA in history at Simon Fraser (one of the claims that I heard was floating around the Vancouver community at one point).

      • Sarah says:

        Allow me to help translate your reply so the other people can see what I’m reading:

        “Oh shit. Someone called me out. I didn’t ask their ages. I never lived with any of them, they just came to my house late at night for study sessions. Except that one 19 year-old that one time that I did live with…” [WTF is a covening couch? Even Google doesn’t know]

        “I didn’t think anyone would ever say anything publicly.”

        “I suggested we start a festival and probably put down the deposit to rent the children’s camp. People showed up. The festival has been running for over 20 years and I like to tell people I founded it when the reality is I was kicked off the board for being me within a year or two and didn’t have anything to do with how it evolved and grew over time. I always volunteered to host the skyclad rituals at the festival so I could stare at naked women and girls without coming off as creepy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work even though my priestess was there. The people I trained in my made up tradition agreed with me that it was a tradition. I currently lead a small coven teaching my tradition.”

        “After the local pagan community ostracized me from most events and rituals, I moved to Edmonton where no one knows me and I could start fresh. I included the other things so the reader will feel sorry for me. I left out the fact that I relocated to a different community once before in the BC interior and failed there too.”

        “I save all my papers and cited myself when I wrote my memoir about myself so I can’t be lying. I may have lied about that other thing though. Oh, wait. Why did I immortalize that on the internet?”

        __

        I mean, do you even hear yourself? It takes me two hands to count all the women in our former community who came forward to me and told me of encounters with you.

        • ED says:

          I am going to have to stand with Sarah on this one. I don’t think I have enough fingers to count how many women have shared Sam @ GFLOE stories with me. You don’t have to have sex with a woman to make her feel uncomfortable and violated. I went to a private skyclad ritual and was very uncomfortable when I discovered that all the participants were women except for Sam. Nothing happened but it was a huge red flag to me.

          When I first entered the community I was overwhelmed by the fact that so many people were flirting with me (a very new experience for me) that it didn’t occur to me to question why there was such a huge age gap and why were these men not flirting with the women their own age?

          The women of our community are speaking out because of this post and so far the only name that has come out (and by a lot of women) has been Sam’s. They are saying how he was the one person we warned new, enthusiastic young women to avoid.

        • bernard rizzo says:

          Sarah:

          Thank you for deconstructing his bullshit.

          You want to get rid of vermin? Turn the lights on. They love the dark and hate the light.

          Well done.

      • Patricia says:

        Wanna say that again to my face there mr wagner? I was underage. You Knew i was underage. Have some small iota of respect before the God’s man.. you done fucked up.. least you could do is own it.

  • Cat Carris says:

    thank you for this Sarah! Blessings, peace and love to you

  • Aniya says:

    Wonderfully written…i cannot agree more with all the points you have made.
    Its time that our communities pull the weeds!!
    Thank you Sarah!

  • James E Wilson says:

    Thanks for sharing!! It’s been a while since we discussed this in our group. An appropriate time to visit it again.

  • Renee says:

    Damn Sarah, thanks for this really powerful piece.

  • Todd says:

    This post took guts Sarah. We as a society think we have come so far but stories like yours are far too common still. The victim carries the burden of proof, which makes resolving these issues incredibly taxing. My wife’s ex was an abusive predatory monster and it took fives years of constantly watching over our shoulders and calling the police about once a month to get a restraining order. And this only happened after a attempted home invasion and attempted kidnapping of her/our daughter she had with him. He still served no time for that. It was at this point we resorted to magical tactics. That pent up fear and fury can power some real havoc in the lives of these creeps. These are the instances where cursing, hot-footing and binding are justified and dare I say good practice. I really believe that your stories are reflected in the stories of most women in these times, unfortunately. As a man I still think a large percentage of guys still don’t get it. The things said when women aren’t around by some men who put on the mask of being “woke” is disgusting and embarrassing to me. Ladies, don’t trust a man who hasn’t proven his trustworthiness, predators hunt by getting your guard down. Stay strong Sarah, you are a powerful voice for women and we need more like you.

  • Erin Gergen Halls says:

    I always say one of the main reasons I am a *VERY* solitary witch is because, for me, people muddy the water. Their drama, attitudes, personalities…they muddy the water of my work, and that doesn’t work for me. THIS tells me they also shit in the water, and that is just disgusting. Polluted. Foul.

    I am terribly sorry this has been such a long, twisted road of negative experiences for you, dear Sarah. I hear you. I believe you. If you ever want to chat with someone about cool stuff, without any worries of being served dirty water, I’m around.

  • Thanks for speaking it with truth and good intention. As a monogamous male who tries to stay within honorable boundaries with everyone, I too have seen these types of acts within our communities and events. It’s about time we stand up and hold those who do these things accountable. Thanks for sharing and writing such a great post. Those wounds run deep with me, and I thank you for what you do!

  • Anastasia Wilkie says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Sarah.
    I wholeheartedly believe you, because, like most women pagan or not, I have seen some of this first-hand.
    It is neither excusable nor forgivable.
    And the more it is called out for what it is, the better.
    Thank you again.

  • ED Johnston says:

    As I read your post my stomach turns at the familiarity of the stories. I hate that I was not strong enough to speak out in our community to help keep others safe. I am sorry that I ever believed the negative things that “respected members” of our community said about you.

    I have vowed to be a voice for victims since posting my own stories. I believe you. I hope that you can heal from your past. Other than sharing your incredibly brave post, please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

  • Ashley Bryner says:

    I cannot tell if my tears are sadness or rage, but I think they are probably both. Thank you for sharing your honest, raw experiences and using your voice where so many stayed silent or worse…complacent. The very fact that one of the people you’ve written about is so intentionally blind about it enough to *comment* is beyond infuriating. No wonder we move away from the communities to live in the woods throughout history; this is toxic and needs cleansing if any part of it is worth anything. I believe you and I’m so sorry. And angry. You remain an inspiration, for reasons which now include incredible bravery.

  • bernard j rizzo says:

    Fuck this. Name names. Let everyone know. Every person who has been abused needs to out their abuser. Yes, call the police but also let us take a hand as well. There is NO excuse. One should be at these events because one wishes to be within a community and experience our Gods together. This is not a hunting ground. It is past time for this to stop. Consent is easy. Simply ask. Simply ask someone who is NOT drunk and just ask. No is acceptable. yes is acceptable… but ASK. However, if the only reason someone is at these gatherings or in these communities is to exert power and to find sexual partners then they are in the wrong places.

    As for the abusive fucks mentioned above who were in long term relationships… out their asses. Let everyone know who they are. Let the community judge if the cops won’t.

    My head exploded from reading this.

    • Stephanie Gooch says:

      The trouble with naming names is that the community at large often discounts the victim’s accounts as “witch hunts” etc. Especially when the predator is savvy enough to select victims who will not be believed. Especially when the abuser is charismatic enough to get the community on his side (yes, I know a few are female, but the vast majority are male). And if the allegations cannot be “proved” (beyond reasonable doubt), the victim is branded a “liar” and a “slanderer” and can often face legal and financial consequences. Not to mention “doxxing” which has a much more devastating effect on the victim’s life. Case in point: Christine Blasey Ford.

      It’s important to recognize patterns of behavior and methods of dealing with predators more successfully. And definitely “naming names” should be happening with festival organizers (multiple organizers to be sure the information is disseminated properly) — if a pattern emerges with a particular perpetrator, and it’s clearly not “this couple broke up in an ugly way,” then it’s much easier to ban the perpetrator on solid grounds, even if there is insufficient proof to bring a successful case in court.

      Also to note: not all victims want to participate in a court case, especially in the current atmosphere of victim-blaming and burden of proof. Not all cases of abusive behavior can be brought to criminal court. Whether or not the police are brought into the situation should be the victim’s choice, although the community ought to support/encourage such reporting (as well as supporting the victim’s emotional/physical needs).

      When I was 18, I worked as a camp counselor and was therefore a “mandatory reporter.” The situation involved child abuse (not sexual in nature) and I explained to the child what “mandatory reporter” meant as I apologized for being required to report against the child’s wishes. I regretted it later, when the social worker came in and screamed at the child “for lying” (quite frankly, even if the kid was lying, which I doubt based on how the information was relayed, a social worker of all people should know better than emotionally abuse them for it). Since then, I have respected the victim’s wishes, but encouraged any action that would protect them. I consider mandatory reporting to be a double-edged sword.

      • bernard j rizzo says:

        Well, Sarah went and named the names. I applaud her courage and now that she has… we all need to watch these people and watch her back. Which, in a better world, we shouldn’t even have to do. It might be too late to call the police on them but it is never too late to police our own.

        Stephanie, I get your point and I understand it though only intellectually. As a male, I have the privilege of not worrying about sexual assault. As a 56 year old human, I am old enough to know when I am being “suckered”. Also, since I am married to a very much secular woman and am happily monogamous, I don’t participate in “events”. But I do get what you are saying. However, I think that the ground is shifting and sexual predators will find their days numbered. At least I hope they do. All the anger, from all the women, from all over makes me believe that things might be shifting for the better.

        In any event, men need to do a better job at policing other men. Yes, call the cops but stop it when it is at the creepy stage. Just eject them. Our communities don’t have to include sex as part of our worship. You sure as shit don’t see a bunch of Catholics at a retreat, pairing off for some late night fun. Why should we? What two consenting adults do is their own business but if this is all become a fertile “hunting ground” for predators or a place people go to find partners then we missed the mark. Hence why anything I do is generally solitary in nature.

        Ahhh… I’m rambling. I’ve been angry these last few days. Angry for all my women friends who are in such pain. Angry at the whole bloody thing.

        But I am so damn proud for Sarah for having written this and then naming the names.

    • Tzipora says:

      Maybe now after the high profile of my ex – now convicted felon – people will be more willing to come forward and share names. Maybe now more people will listen.

      But I have my doubts. People appear to be unwilling to create more gatherings that do not support open sex (in the guise of a ‘temple’ of course) nor do they wish to shield children from open sexuality that we now know leaves lasting impressions and confusion in its wake. I’ve spoken to many adults raised around the gatherings and their stories are horrific.

      I’m a cynic at best.

  • Jens says:

    This is one of the strongest, bravest and most sensible things I’ve read all year. Thank you for your honesty and wisdom. I hope people listen, I assume many victims need rolemodels like you to dare speak out and take action. And I hope you can feel better and better yourself.

  • Aline says:

    Very helpful post Sarah! I’ve always felt there’s a disguised ego and mental health issue in the pagan community, that’s why even if I don’t like it, I practice alone… Thanks from France and congratulations for your courage!

  • Julia says:

    Thank you for writing this. Just one thing, being cis has nothing to do with sexuality. I think you mean your partner is very much straight?

  • Juniper Jeni Birch says:

    Sarah and I are close in age, and have travelled the same pagan communities (though not always at the same time).
    She speaks truth.

  • Iris says:

    I learned early on in this path that you should always listen to your intuition. I had one creepy experience that made me very cautious about private coven worship. It was Ostara and my friend and his girlfriend invited me to worship the Sabbat with this group she met. I was excited because I had never done any group work and felt safe because I had friends with me. The ritual was nice, it was the feast afterwards that it started to get weird. There was 5 people in this coven, me and my friends making it 8 that day, we all ate the food that the ‘priest’ and ‘priestess’ had made. While we are the priest did ‘readings’ for everyone, but he didn’t use any tools, he just plucked them out of thin air. I started to get suspicious because he was being very over dramatic about the whole thing and was rather insensitive when it was clear that his reading about my love life made me upset (he told me that I was going to break up with my boyfriend). The last one to get a reading was the one of the women that was already apart of the coven. He pulled out a pendulum and held it over her baby and said she was pregnant with the priest’s child. Up until then it was common knowledge that the priest and priestess were married; come to find out the five of them in this coven were in a weird polyamorous relationship and I was just not about that at the time. Since they weren’t forthcoming about the coven dynamics or follow simple coven etiquette, I left as soon as I could and never went back. I’m sharing this because my intuition told me it was a dangerous situation and I felt they were going to have me join in sexual acts I did not want to join in. These kinds of things happen in every religion and it would be foolish to think Wicca and pagan paths would be different. This is a problem spanning over all beliefs and age groups and it starts in every awkward situation like the one I shared. So listen to your intuition and share your story.

  • Thank you for speaking. For the first time, I attended a festival this year where an attendee was kicked out for inappropriate behavior. It was refreshing to say the least. Change is happening. Too slowly for my taste, but it is happening.

  • Michelle says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you.

    I believe you

  • Mallory Austin says:

    Thank you Sarah. I believe you.

  • Stewy says:

    Thank you for sharing this blog post. I hope that it gets widely read. Many people come into the pagan community in an appropriate state of bliss and wonder but it is important for one to remain aware and in control of oneself. Trust others or not in one’s own time however one deems fit. Pagans are generally welcoming to new people and predators generally know how to blend in and they may even be quite knowledgeable about the craft and traditions. Predators are often con artists who can play a good con game and they do not necessarily work alone. Watch out for one another and follow your instincts. The best cons can fool most of us.

  • Temperance says:

    Blessed Be Sarah,
    I am so sad to learn of how much you endured over the years. I wondered why you dipped out and stopped offering wonderful products for practitioners at one time. Reading this makes my heart ache and fire surge in my veins. This is an important read.
    May you find peace, resolution, and justice. May our Pagan community hold predators and abusers accountable and banish them. So Mote It Be.

  • Renee says:

    I believe you. Even in my own small community, the rumour mill was rife with stories about a few male members of the community who would abuse their students or be inappropriate during or after ritual.

    I have my own discomfort about being in the company of other pagans, but there was a man in my area who was known by the moniker Creepy (name), because he always made people feel uncomfortable. He would come from behind in the shadows and start massaging you, or pull you into a very unwanted hug during ritual, or in some cases grind on people during spiral dancing.

    He was just kinda brushed off as creepy. That was it. Like it was somehow okay for him to just be like that, it’s just who he is.

    I’m bone tired of dealing with all the bullshit with the problems in the general pagan community. The rape, sexual assaults, the coercion, the racism, the sexism… it’s too much sometimes.

    Thank you for sharing this very brave piece.

  • Seamus Black says:

    Your words resonate deeply with me. I spent my first 50 years living as a woman and there wasn’t one thing I read in this article that didn’t ring true from my own experiences and what I have seen on my own journey. Now as a man I live on the other side and continue to be suspicious of most males in the community and when men open up in front of me as a fellow male I am too often reminded why I am slow to bond with them. There are some amazing pagan men out there, but there is also a terrifying amount of predators as well with the majority of them being male and an alarming percentage of the varied pagan communities continue to protect them.

  • Omg ever word, ever incident, ever emotion is reflected upon me too! And not only me but the many people I’ve protected and stood up for. You are a great inspiration for many to share their stories and demand true justices. We are can not allow ourselves to behave as the Catholic Church has, no we need to end it n call it out!
    I’ve been coordinator of a well known pagan festival and have also ran into these sick fks over the years n in ostracizing them found members supportive of them! It urks the hell out of me!
    I decided I rather stand alone than silently beside them years ago!!! One thing is for sure our pagan communities are riddle with uncared for mental health issues! How can we continue without some plan as a whole I honestly don’t know!
    I salute your efforts here today blessed be and thank you!

  • Jamie A says:

    Predators watch out. We are stepping forward to shine a thousand lights on your misdeeds. We are finding the strength and courage to speak out against the dehumanizing and abusive behavior. Soon you won’t be able to pretend you’re a beacon of the communities that you prey on.

  • Rain says:

    Everything you have stated in this post is precisely why I have been a solitary for all my practicing days. As someone who already survived molestation, assault and domestic abuse as well, I know that I am not prepared for the fallout. But I am grateful to you for finally articulating my unspoken fears. And I am grateful to you for giving hope that it doesn’t always have to be this way between me and a prospective partner or my faith and practice. Pax.

  • Via Hedera says:

    You are believed. I believe you. My heart clenched and ached as I read through your story. I don’t know what to say except I hear you and what you have to say here is important. This gives me the hope to try and speak up some day, maybe the world has changed and people will start to believe now. Thankyou.

  • David says:

    I too have experienced some horrific crimes in the pagan community- all under that same “no, don’t call police…” umbrella. They wait and wait and wait… and when it DOES come time to call the police in, it is FAR TOO LATE. Call them out. Kick those people out, Name Names, TALK to each other, BELIEVE victims, SEE and LISTEN to the red flags! Talk to each other!! I have also suffered under the “that person wouldn’t…” bullshit, and I finally walked FAR away from people I genuinely love, to escape the cloud of never being HEARD, listened to to, or believed. In one case, the elder or the nationwide group kept trying to force me to to give rides home to a man who was /clearly/ dangerously psycho, IMHO. His anger issues when talking about his girlfriend were profound. (I used to work at a women’s rape-crisis shelter, I would know!) But I was shouted down. He murdered that woman and used a vulnerable member to drive him around backroads and dump her body parts in garbage bags all over the forest roads. Yes, he is in jail, but why would no one listen when it might have been thwarted still?

    Another woman would fleece members of the group for money by the tens of thousands, and it took a decade for anyone to FINALLY listen that she has NO lethal disease but instead is touring the world on their dime, playing in conventions and theme parks and YES, as I tried time and time again to show them /posting the images online/… why does no one just LISTEN? Then they cry to law enforcement, and I don’t understand- why do they not listen in the first place? These people prey on each other because they CAN take advantage of the silence in our community- they can say ‘don’t tell them’… The woman touring the country had multiple (abused) partners who were repeatedly shunned by the community, told she would NEVER abuse a sexual partner- and yet… oh, NOW they believe… too little, too late. Too late for the murdered woman in the first example too, by FAR. We must change this. We MUST LISTEN when red flags pop up. No, not everyone is going to be the worst case scenario lifetime predator- but we cannot make them stop and change either, if we don’t LISTEN to the Victims or the people who first SEE the ill-behavior!

  • Rhi says:

    This is why I’ve avoided large gatherings/festivals. I always thought it was just ‘me’ not fitting in – Everybody pretentiously hugging people they dont know; I hate strangers coming up for weird inappropriate hugs & my personal space is invite only, which no-one seems to even consider at these places. Instead of relaxing I have to keep boosting my “fuck off or you’ll get hurt” vibe – & that’s at small gatherings with people who I trusted….. guess you can’t believe any of the hosts’ aquaintances will be like them.

    Further more, I’d like to know WHERE this idea/assumption of free pagan sexuality came from? Can it be deconstructed in some way? Have they just picked what they wanted to see & melded it to their own desires? Has it come from the modern day authors / teachers who’ve taken snippets from back in time, to reconstruct old traditions without proper perception?

    In my mind, it stemmed from the old mating traditions way back involving a year & a day trial before handfasting? & didn’t involve random strangers or semi-strangers because everybody lived & worked within a village – they already knew who they’d pick for a partner & had likely grown up with them, worked with them & the families knew each other. They also would have been through the rest of the year together, not just shown up for an orgi.

    • Rachel says:

      This. A zillion times. We know mid-20th century Wicca was partly inspired by the past but also pretty much made up to suit the Eathly desires of its creators. I’ve always felt the insistence some have on being skyclad is a red flag. Same with insisting on accepting absolutely every behavior. The hostile defenses of a few when questioned is another red flag. But this attitude of boundaries makes you “uncool” in our community and sometimes shunned. Rape culture is our culture for a reason.

      And to respond to questions in the previous comment, I agree the 60s free for all has no historical basis, for those who use that excuse. I have heard country folk might practice unmarried year and a day courtships to have confirmation the woman could get pregnant before saying I do, in a time with no divorce and marriage was for procreating. Not free love. Or there might have been a local lord who thought he was owed sex with all the women – but that tradition should die not be enshrined.

    • Carl says:

      Excellent response. I too have always thought it was just me and my “Plutonian vibes”, but after reading a number of responses, I am realizing it was my “gut” (clairsentience) keeping me away, and for good reason.

      The only community that I ever physically participated with was the WWII reenacting/living history community. Despite different political and religious backgrounds, and the community’s own little inner squabbling, I do not recall ever hearing anything like this that has plagued the Pagan/Witchcraft community. It is really an eye opener for me.

    • Sara says:

      To Rhi – Likely we have never met, but I must confess I was a long time hugger at festivals in my local area. I wish to generally apologize for never having considered that anyone would find frequent public hugs uncomfortable until firstly I started to become uncomfortable after a series of traumatic events and then I met my loving but reserved partner who has well constructed personal boundaries. This new understanding has changed me profoundly and has taught me how to express more respect to others by asking if I may hug if appropriate context and only if there is consent. I am sorry that I was so ignorant despite being well meaning. I must add, I feel greater sense of self respect by giving myself the permission not to hug as well. I think it was that I was young, affectionate, prone to touch, and very impressionable and was taught that gratuitous displays of hugging was exemplary displays of connection. It can be, but authentic respect is more so. Thank you for pointing this out as connected to this overall issue so that people can see that it’s also these things that may be considered to some as “harmless” but are really part of a culture of blurred boundaries and personal safety.

  • Kurt Unger says:

    I see you. I believe you. It’s jarring and sad and I know of and was in the community for most of these events even if I never saw or was made a victim.

    You’re super brave to share and it’s awful that you had to in the first place. I’m sad I didn’t know and wasn’t a better ally. I’m sad that I didn’t trust my own instincts about some of the alluded to individuals. I’m sad the community sheltered me from what was obvious. And I’m glad that many of this community aren’t in my life.

    Thank you for sharing Sarah. Please feel free to reach out to me at anytime if you’d like.

  • Crow says:

    I believe you, Sarah. And I’m sorry you went through all this. The community needs to get their heads out of their asses and put their foot down that this is no longer to be tolerated.

    I recognized two of the men, even before one of them outed himself, and I must say I felt sickened by the stories in their particular sections. Especially the other one, since I went through similar with an ex: sexual, emotional and financial abuse. Fortunately that relationship didn’t last long as I broke it off after he tried to rape one of my friends. That was 18 years ago, I’m now happily married, but I still get anxiety thinking back to that relationship.

    The main inappropriate thing that happened to me in my local Pagan community is about as chilling as it gets. I was 22, and was new and shiny in the community, as well as single. I was propositioned by a man who was about twice my age at the time. Even though I was legal, this struck me as creepy. On top of that, he didn’t really have the best hygiene, so even if I wouldn’t have minded the age difference, I did draw the line at that. So I refused him. His response to that was that, as a single Pagan woman, it was my duty to sexually service the men in my local Pagan community. My fucking duty, apparently. I immediately cut off contact with that one individual. I have more recently seen him comment on feminist posts by another local Pagan man, and he’s gone full-on Men’s Rights Activist and still talks like he’s entitled to women’s bodies, and like women only exist to gratify men sexually.

  • DaughterofAnpu says:

    This! This! I came from Alaska were the pagan community is so tiny, I was so happy to be part of the huge communities here in the PNW. After starting up one, I realized that ppl used these groups (mostly men) to search for gfs, poly shit, and to touch women without their consent. Admin and me had to black list a few men from our group and community due to stalking, creeping on women, and a touching situation. Even the toxic controlling bs from a lot of women is too much. I have stepped down as a leader in my local pagan community due to everything I have seen and constant predators that come out of the wood works just search for vulnerable woman. It’s disgusting and really tragic that our communities are so okay with these fucks coming in. Some ppl I have talked to are like oh just Pan energy… I’m like *rolls eyes* blaming a god due to over sexual predator ness is just no. Anyways, thanks for blog post. Sending hugs from the PNW

  • Neferbel says:

    Thanks for sharing this Sarah.
    I am from Brazil, but this kind of things happens a lot here too.
    It has happen to me. I took six months to accept and understand that I was abused, I did’t want to believe. The man who did It to me is known as an inteligent and spiritual man, he traduces books like the baghavad gita and is a poet. It was Beltane, I was very drank and having black outs, he stop other two men who was trying to abuse me and than he did it himself!
    I blame myself because my intuition said to me – go home – but It was so Fun there, I staied…
    I blocked him of my social medias and warned a witch friend in Common.
    I met my actual partner months after this and before I told him this, he said to me that a Very famous man in the occult community here try to kill him with magic attacks because they had the same Idea about something and he did’t want concorrents.
    I used to dream the man that abuse me was walking along the country reading poems for Girls…now I think the dream was real…and know why he do this, to seduce.
    I can’t tell names because the leader (who try to kill my boyfriend) are very rich and powerfull here, and has a lot of followers, and I am a nobody.
    Nobody would believe me, you know How It is…

    I wish you a lot of light in your life, and that good people crosses your Path Now on.
    And wish this kind of behaviour in pagan community disapear.

    *Sorry for my bad english

  • Kelly says:

    Dear Sarah, Thank you for your courage in writing about this. I believe you. I didn’t know this was going on with your partners. I know we lost touch when you moved but I do still care about you. I hope that you are healing. I am glad that you are home and near your family and that you have a new love and a new child. Blessed Be.

  • Todd S says:

    This is a fantastic expose of many of the long standing underlaying issues within the Pagan community. It took guts to write it and out it out there. Well done!

  • Anahita-Gula says:

    <>…

    I first joined a coven in 1971 (and no, that is not a typo). There were few books on what we now call Wicca/Neo-Paganism available – that early, “Lady Sheba” was something none of us had read yet. This is the better part of a decade before Starhawk and Margot Adler.

    Anyone who has ever believed that Neo-Paganism has no predators is an IDIOT. Not merely naive, but an idiot.

    Anyone who accepts rumour-mongering as truth is an IDIOT.

    Anyone who doesn’t realize that liberal application of alcohol at festivals (and/or pharmaceuticals) will exacerbate sexual vulnerability AND predatory behaviour, is an IDIOT.

    The post 2000 CE Paganism is something I barely recognize. I was invited to do an hour long podcast on Wicca a couple of years ago, and instead I got to listen to the hosting person rant and rave about the evils of “Trad Paganism” as outdated and stupid. I listened to the speaker hold forth about how cursing and hexing was fine, ok, and perfectly acceptable for Pagans to do. I listened as they attacked me and mine…

    I did my MA by traveling across Canada interviewing Pagans and Wiccans…and one of my horrific findings was that almost 99% of us (at that time), regardless of gender or sexuality, were survivors of extreme trauma at a very young age. MOST of those traumas were sexual abuse-related. EVEN the famous Elder Robin Skelton, fit my sad demographic.

    1) I do not subscribe to “the/our Community” as a singlular. As my old friend and colleague Dr. Sian Reid has said, this fiction of a SINGULAR community is Margot Adler’s fault. We have no thealogical training institutes. We have no real Councils of Elders. We are communities of the vulnerable, the needy, the abused, AND THOSE WHO ARE DRAWN TO US AS A LUSH FEEDING GROUND.

    2) I have had people tell me Person A creeps them out because they are “always looking at me/us”… yet the issue is exclusively a medical one. Person A has a lazy eye. They often APPEAR to be looking somewhere when they are not. Yet I have never heard anyone explain this. It’s *easier* to assume Person A is a pervert.

    3) I have FREQUENTLY seen unfounded rumours about a person fanned into out of control conflagrations. I HAVE BEEN ON THE RECEIVING END OF THIS. People eat this shit up because knowing something bad, or salacious, about a powerful person makes them feel special. Think of the 5 year old prancing around singing “I know a seeecreettt and youuuu don’t know it!”. THIS.

    4) I read Sarah’s list of “Myths” about Pagans…and was appalled. This must be a post-2000 list, because most of this is crap I never heard…EVER. Hell, polyamory wasn’t even a WORD in the first 10 to 15 years I was involved!

    5) I withdrew from “the Pagan Community” over 30 years ago because of rumour mongering and baseless accusations that I had broken my Oaths in my M.A., or the book I co-authored with Meredith. People with whom I had Circled in the early 80s started nasty rumours which continue to pop up more than 35 years later. We DO LOVE US A JUICY RUMOUR TO SULLY SOMEONE’S NAME, eh Preciousss?

    6) THE FIRST TIME I WAS SEXUALLY MOLESTED WAS WHEN I WAS TWO. I have been molested by extended family, friends of family, ex-lovers, teachers, and yes…co-religionists. I know how triggering this shit-fest in the US is to survivors, gender irrelevant. I have suffered mightily. So have most of you.

    7) We have no Elder Councils. We have no Pagan Crisis Lines. We have a huge population base of some who are victims and some who are survivors…and a few who are predators. We are predisposed to be VERY polarized – either This Person is a total great person who could/would NEVER do such a HORRIBLE THING as coerce/force intimate acts on someone, or This Person should be expelled forever, reculed and warricked, and banished from any and all Pagan Shared Spaces.

    If Sarah’s essay had stuck to personal experience and experiences of others which were disclosed WITH PERMISSION TO RESHARE, it would have been amazing. And I would have remained in the shadows, which is where I like to be. I don’t need more AD HOMINEM attacks (which my comments WILL bring upon me, as sure as the sun rises). The Pagan community(ies) have no mechanism for healing the scars I wear because of some of you. I certainly don’t need more of this shit. REALLY.

    I am a Dianic initiate. I am a Gardnerian Witch Queen and 3rd Degree, with a small English-lineage Coven in the USA. My HPs is a woman of extraordinary intelligence, compassion, and integrity, and I count myself as blessed to have her as HPS and friend.

    I have been a witch for over 45 years. I have NEVER, EVER, broken my Oaths. I have had to Banish an Elder of my Lineage because HE slept with a student (no real age discrepancy btw). That’s how these things used to be handled. If there had been inappropriate age or consent issues, I WOULD HAVE CALLED THE POLICE. Because that was not part of the situation, I spoke extensively with all parties involved, consulted with other Gardnerian and Alexandrian Elders, and then did what was required. May the Gods & Goddesses spare me from ever having to do this again.

    I read Sarah’s blog before she named the Elder she did as a creeper and predator. Not knowing her or what places she has lived, I wondered which of the male Elders I knew who might have fit her description…and some of these allegations fit 2 or 3 Pagan men in the Toronto area over 30 or so years.

    By naming her target explicitly, Sarah has opened herself up to libel charges. I did not read that she PERSONALLY was accosted or “leered at” by this Elder…so she is telling someone else’s story. See my comments on this at the start of my comments. I have had to say REPEATEDLY this week that sometimes, after we have been raped and violated, the control over who we tell (if anyone) is the only thing we still control…

    I burned in agony when a beautiful young adult woman who is family to me, was ruffied and gang-raped. I passionately wanted to tell her parents, threaten the ring-leader, and call the cops. She told me not to…and it was HER STORY, her voice. So I did not. After 3 years, she was ready to speak her Truth, and has. It was NOT MINE TO TELL.

    So go ahead and hate me. This is my Truth to tell. I am an Elder. I am a Witch Queen, and I stand by my Oaths, *particularly when I am angry and reactive*, for they serve as my reality-check. I SERVE THE GODDESSES AND THE GODS, and it is for these reasons and more,that I say this now.

    ON MY OATHS AS A HIDDEN CHILD OF THE GODDESS, I SWEAR THUSLY:

    I have known Sam Wagar since the 1970s when I lived in Toronto (as did he). I have participated in Rituals with him. I have sat on Pagan panels with him at conferences. I have known many of his Intimate Partners. I have agreed with him, AND disagreed with him.

    In all these decades he has never acted as a predator, nor has he ever been one. “Creepy” is in the eye of the beholder, but I have never found him to be such. I can attest to and swear that there are some in the Vancouver pagan communities who spread such pernicious rumors against him in the past (some IN MY HEARING as they did not know who I was). RUMOUR IS NOT TRUTH. I have never been Intimate with Sam. I have not Circled skyclad with Sam. I have nothing to gain with these Oaths. S.M.I.B.

    I am truly sorry Sarah, that no one stood with you through those years of abuse and horror. I am sorry that we who are victims do not know how to effectively support and protect each other…we never learnt those skills, if my research is true and accurate. I hear you. I acknowledge your pain. I acknowledge the inadequacy training and sensitivity of many Pagans who organize/run Rituals and Festivals, etc.

    Do not accept my words because I am a Witch Queen, because I come from a BritTrad, or because I have written books. Do not accept my words at ALL if you choose not to do so. I saw angry and legally problematic claims, and I stepped forward to defend.

    Now I withdraw.

    May the Goddesses and Gods bring healing to all of you who are in pain, to all of you who suffered in silence. May our communities formulate strategies to protect us all, for we are all in need of them.

    May the Goddesses and Gods comfort us and bring us strength.

    May the Goddesses and Gods Protect The Craft!

    • Sarah says:

      I’m sorry, am I supposed to know who you are? This is by far the craziest response I have received by far. Of all the predators I called out the highest number of victims belongs to Sam. Every time I think I have heard from the last woman, another comes forward with a horrible story of sexual abuse while they were young women or underage – which are his predilection – something you have not been in your time knowing him. Legal threats? Are you kidding me. You are trying to silence victims of traumatic sexual abuse with insubstantial legal threats? I have the fellow victims support to share these stories and you can only be sued for libel (aka defamation) in Canada if you are lying. I know my rights and I fear you not. I published your comment to make it a permanent record on the internet in case you decide to change your stance when the news articles come out.

      • Kaitlin Creed says:

        Many predatory men have female colleagues, students, family members and/or friends who will vouch for them, simply because they were never the object of that predator’s abuse. Serial abusers usually develop an uncanny ability to camouflage their true faces from most people in their lives. You may not have seen the abuse, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have happened..

    • Bard Toad All says:

      Just this: “there is no central authority in Wicca”.
      Hoax detected.

    • Renee says:

      This is a really sad response, because I had a great deal of respect for you.

      Just because a predator did not do anything to you does not mean he has not harmed others. People have many faces.

      Just because someone has done good deeds does not make them a good person.

  • Seraphina says:

    Dear Sarah, thank you so much for writing this article. I know I would feel very vulnerable and even terrified to write such an honest and necessary piece, even if I knew I had too. This took an enormous amount of courage. I know of what you speak of. I’ve had similar experiences in many pagan and shamanic circles. It’s frightening that it’s so common. Yes to pulling the weeds and tending our gardens. Thank you so much. With respect and admiration to you, blessings.

  • Amber Joy says:

    Thank you for this, Sarah. I’ve experienced much the same in my local pagan community, both at events and in my personal life. There’s nothing quite so unsettling as waking up with a strange man standing over you. Watching. I’ve been lucky at gatherings and the like, was both times I awoke like that able to run the men off, but the experiences made me much more private than I was inclined to be in my youth. This type of thing chases people out of spaces—women especially, but men too—leaving only the toxic and predatory, and the new and naïve. We need to root the predators out while we can.

  • Nate S. says:

    I don’t know you any better than I know the Sarah that lives across the hall from me, yet I think I could name half the people you discuss in this post without a lot of thinking it over. This is an incredible thing you’ve done and I intend on sharing this far and wide. Perhaps one day I will have the courage to speak myself.

  • Sophia Kelly says:

    Thank you, Sarah. I believe you. I stand with you alongside ED if there’s anything helpful I can do. May it get easier.
    BB

  • Mimi Abrahams says:

    Dear Sarah,
    Although I don’t think I know you, we can’t possibly be more than one degree of separation. Thank you for speaking your truths with so much intelligence and eloquence.

    Dear Community,
    I don’t think I’ve done a public Pagan related post previously, so please know I feel this is important:
    If you meet me an event, please consider me a safe person to report to.
    I am a social solitary, and so enjoy festivals and gatherings, while not engaging in coven or church politics.
    I will take you seriously and hold others accountable for their behavior.
    I will honor your emotions and build create safe space as best I am able.
    I will not accept shaming of my fellows for their choice on how to practice consensual sexuality and relationship, or the choice not to practice.
    I will fight whatever adversaries required to practice the above.
    So mote that shit.

  • Owl says:

    Sarah… Reading this was a punch in the stomach.
    I’m so sorry you had to live through this, that these kind people crossed your path, that you were not supported. I see you. I believe you.
    The Rapist part left me particularly vulnerable. It brought back my own story of abuse, that though a lot different, had some similarities.

    I never shared this publicly. There’s just a handful of people in which I confided it, my mom, my partner, and 2 friends. The shame, the humiliation… I still feel tainted sometimes.

    I was 17, young, stupid, naive and with a serious case of low self esteem. He was 19 and was my boyfriend. He made me believe that I should feel lucky to be with him, that no one would ever look at me or love me, I was just too ugly. When a lie is repeated enough times it becomes the truth, right?! He would brag about his previous relationships with models and his sexual life with them. He would hit on my friends in front of me and say how he would prefer to be with some of them over me to my face. He constantly threatened to leave me and how miserable and alone I would end up if that happened. When I refused sex with him he would threaten to leave me, yell how his previous girlfriends who were so much better and prettier than me would never refuse to have sex with him or do this or that, that I should do everything to please him or he would leave and spread vicious rumours. I lost count of the times I just laid there, motionless, expressionless, just tears running down while he did it. I could swear I was out of my body witnessing it sometimes, like my soul didn’t want to be there, present.
    The worst thing he ever did to me was to make his 10 year old brother grope me, because he wanted him to “know what a real woman felt like”. I was frozen, I swear I couldn’t move. I was already so desensitised at the time, every abuse was normal. I was fucking used to this. we were together for two years.
    What saved me was me doing a part time job while studying in college and a colleague falling in love with me. It was so strange to me at the time, I wasn’t used to being liked for the way I am, being told I was pretty, being treated with respect, kindness… I saw the difference and that made me rage. I was so angry. I understood I would be better alone, that I would find love, or it would find me, that love wasn’t what I was living with that person. I started to demand respect from him. If he didn’t give it to me I would reclaim it by force. He tried to manipulate me to stay with him, but I ended up leaving him shortly after.

    The vicious rumours came and I no longer gave a shit. I ended up knowing from one of his friends that he never dated those models and lost his virginity with me, at the same time I lost mine because of the pressure he put on me to have sex. He stalked me for a time but a male friend once set him straight and he stopped. He started doing to the next girls he dated the same thing he did to me, comparing them with me and diminishing them. I’m 33 now and even a couple of years ago he met a friend of mine on the street and was still obsessing, that he was unable to keep any relationship because he couldn’t love anyone like he loved me, that he still knew my phone number by hard (thank the gods I changed it)…

    That asshole is one of the reasons why I still have to do therapy.

    I have a 1 year old daughter and it scares me so much, it tightens my organs inside just to thing she would have to live through any of this.

    For years I whined about living in a small country where there are not many visible pagan communities. Your post made me set in stone that I’ll be the solitary witch at the hedge of the village for the rest of my life. Thank you for the courage to sharing your trauma and for allowing me to share mine… even though it’s not related to the pagan community, reading your made it easier for me to let mine out of a very small circle.

    I embrace you.

  • Mencandobetter says:

    Even if not assault, creepiness is in abounds. And sometimes jokes are even made about it, just because the person is a Big Name Pagan. My first exposure to creepiness was at a family friendly pagan event, with a guy wearing a coca cola style shirt that instead said something like ‘Enjoy Vagina.’ Sure, fine, wear what you want, sex is fine and nothing to be ashamed about, but that’s just creepy to wear to an event that has lots of kids running around.

    Another was when a big name pagan, who is open poly, and a VIP at an event, was walking around, and saw a woman in a towel going to the showers. He propositioned to shower with her. She said no. He said ‘why not?’ She explained because she doesn’t really know him. But wtf is that. When you are a VIP at an event, you are in a position of power. Of course, it’s all funny, because people make jokes and took photos of his sleeping area, and how women had likely joined him during the night. I’m sure microinfractions like that tend to not go reported, as one doesn’t want to to make an issue, but you have to wonder, how many women have been pressured by him, and how much goes unsaid just because he’s a ‘dirty old man’, and so popular in certain pagan circles.

  • Emma says:

    Thank you so much for this. I believe you.

    I stayed up late to read this post when it first came out, I dreamt about it. It has stayed with me since.

    It made me think long and hard about my experiences in the UK pagan community, and how literally ALL of my nasty near misses with men have been in these spaces. Like the man who walked into a moot off the street and tried to harass and grope me for hours until he lost concentration for one moment, and me and my best friend ran away. There were men present, friends supposedly, who did nothing. One even made a joke about it.

    The guy that occupied a prominent role in the organisation of a pagan pride day. I saw him every year as I was also an organiser. One day, the same ‘friend’ who made the joke above, warned me that he had heard some rumours that he was ‘sleazy’ and that he was best avoided. Sleazy is a fucking understatement. He made NATIONAL news as he got life in prison for paedophilia including raping a 9 year old. His name is Bernard redvars.

    That brings me on to the ‘friend’, a very respected elder nationally. He goes on TV and is very well connected. He left his wife for somebody 25 years his junior and she was not 18 when they first got together. After many happy years together he started up a teaching coven, where he ended up sleeping with one of his students (young) and leaving his girlfriend (now the ripe old age of 26) for her.

    My own tradition, which I believe you might well have referenced in your post above, has had a history of closing ranks instead of naming and shaming abusers. It makes me sick.

    Burn it down, all of it. I am so happy you wrote this, though sad that these things happened to you or anyone else. I sincerely hope it starts a revolution that should have happened years ago.

  • Michelle says:

    Sarah, thank you for sharing. It must have been hard. I was also in a long term, abusive relationship, and my ex used our shared beliefs to manipulate me. I have had trouble with belief and spiritual practice since. Your writing makes me feel less alone, and more hopeful for change. We need strong voices calling out.

  • Tasara says:

    As another completely solitary witch of about 30 years beginning in my 20’s, I applaud you, Sarah, for speaking out. I have my own run-in with magical, sparkly, emotionally abusive narcissists and I feel your pain. I don’t know what happened but the phenomena of being outcast of an entire community is true. I am glad that after all those years, you found some love that you can trust and rely on. It is warming to read in some of the posts, bridges being rebuilt.

    I encourage more women to speak out as well with more specifics, if they are brave enough or feel that they can. The only way to change the culture is to bring the truth out into the culture.

    It might be helpful to hear an outsiders view of your culture to get some perspective. Sarah, if you choose to delete it as off-topic, that will not make me upset.

    I remember years ago going to a Witchcamp in Northern CA where a rather attractive man flirted with me pretty seriously, only to back down and run away when something might have happened. Turns out he was in a poly relationship and just toying with me, and wanted to get back to his jealous partner. Make sense? Not to me. In my experience around the outskirts of organized pagan communities, it seems that for some, those that are not one’s regular partner else can be viewed as toys. This was pretty apparent with a pagan couple I was close to in Seattle years ago.

    Once I stopped exploring flirting with people in poly relationships and admitted to myself that I am definitely, whole-heartedly a monogamous person, it became even more apparent to me how rife with overly sexual expressions the pagan community is. It kind of sets up this expectation that to be there, you gotta compete for attention in a sexual way.

    To me, my sexuality is a private thing. A very special, sacred, private thing. Being in communities that practically dictate a level of high sexual expression makes me feel like a prude or something and that is not remotely true. I just think I have healthy boundaries for myself.

    I never felt safe around pagan events that had BDSM folks involved, (which became more and more as the years went by for some reason I don’t understand). Why? The pick-up vibe. The knowledge that something really bizarre could actually, really happen – or was happening somewhere I couldn’t see. Much more importantly, as a survivor of abuse, the last thing I want is to play a game where I give up my power to someone else. My entire body would prickle up on high alert and there was no way to have fun once that happened. No purpose in being there.

    (I actually tried it once, with a good friend and as much as I wanted to have fun, my whole system went flat and I thought, “This is stupid. I don’t get it.” and I had to leave.)

    One might read this and think maybe I am trying out the wrong communities and should go hang out where people are more like me but, where are those people? Well, I wasn’t aware that the pagan communities were the “Pagan Communities of Sexual Expression of Magic” communities. The craft is far deeper and wider than this. Not everyone expresses their magic or their sexuality or their ceremony in the same way. Artemis, anyone? Athena? If I see another good-looking man dressed as Pan, luring women to his bed, I am going to throw up.

    The original reason why I never joined the pagan groups is that there are always too many divas and not enough devotion. Too much fighting and posturing when it is the trees and the spirits of goodness on the other side that need our attention.

    The other really big reason was the hierarchy. Structures of organizations greatly define power relationships in communities and their cultures. Hierarchy is a set-up for dividing people into groups of varying levels of worthiness. I agree that in terms of magical training, there are hoops that need to be jumped before learning the next section but as far as who runs organizational things, that should be by committee in a DEMOCRATIC way.

    And it is absolutely ridiculous to see how or why people get called “elders”. I remember there being a vote and a declaration of who the elders were in Seattle in the early 90’s and I was like, “WTF. No one can tell me who my elder is. You have to earn that from me. Just like respect.” It is up to the individual to choose who to give that kind of admiration and devotion to. An elder is someone who listens, who knows how to dissipate conflict in ways that do not use magical violence. An elder is empowering to those around them. An elder is humble and is extremely aware of the power the community has bestowed on them, ever careful in their words and actions because of it. An elder is continually growing, learning from the young as well as the old. An elder never, ever, ever sleeps with those that are not his/her peers, as it is an inherent abuse of power, even if the other person is giving consent. Hell, I just formally crossed the line into friendship with a former student that had a crush on me 8 years ago.

    The reason why I spend my morning writing this for a group of people that I do not know is that I, as a solitary witch, am lonely. I long for community, really. Always have. There is so much I have to offer, especially since I came to realize that neo-paganism and neo-shamanism are two halves of an ancient whole. I would guess that a lot of other solitaries feel the same.

    I have organized public ceremonies and taught classes for the civilian population for decades, running things the way that I think it should be, which is very, very inclusive and empowering to newcomers, drug-free and safe. But people who come are not usually on a committed path. They are still seeking, whereas I have found a long, long time ago.

    Sometimes I get tired of being a leader and wish I had a magical family. I miss my kin. I miss magical communion.

    But not enough to give my power away.

    Respectfully,

    Tasara

  • Theia says:

    I am so sorry you experienced that, thank you for speaking up and warning us.

    • Erika says:

      I feel the exact same way.
      I have tried to seek out community or connection, however nothing feels right or safe or akin to my own practice.
      If you lived in Minnesota, I would definitely offer connection or community with me. From the sounds of it though, you do not.
      Still, best wishes on your venture for community.

  • Avalon says:

    I experienced this in the christian cult I grew up in. Since becoming pagan I’ve stayed solitary because I no longer trust any community as a whole ! I’m so sorry, that so many of you have experienced this.

    I just want to say that all these men feeling entitled to women’s bodies are obviously only following paganism for sexual gratification. In the true tradition women are equal and autonomous. Revered as wise women. So many changes needed across the board.

    Thank you for sharing, it’s so important

  • Samhain Superperson says:

    There was wordplay in his response. Covening Couch. Instead of Casting Couch. Google Casting Couch. The fact that this blog post is the only search result for “covening Couch” means that he or others close to him made this term up because there was shorthand needed for what was done in the community he is in.

  • Kirdi says:

    Blessings, Dear Sarah. Thank you for being so courageous and sharing your story. I believe you and believe in you.

  • Mark Green says:

    I am so sorry these things happened to you. I believe you. I think this is a tremendously courageous piece for you to publish.

    We are in very different regions and I don’t think we have much if any overlap in our communities, but I have been happy to see that at least in my local area, consent culture has become something very important. That said, I am certain there is still plenty of entitlement masquerading as “sex-positivity” and polyamory as excuses for men (and some women) to act as predators.

    Cleaning up the mess and weeding out the “elders” who use their fame and status to abuse and predate is something long overdue in our community.

  • Marcus Dyck says:

    I am so sorry you had such horrible things have happened to you. It seems you have run into issues no matter where you go.

    I know that theseems are problems. I have seen them happen around my community. We are pretty small and tight knit in my neck of the woods and we don’t have a lot of those sorts of things and do address them as they come up. I can’t say it’s always easy.

    I’d like to say I’ve over whelmingly had positive experiences. I hope you can find a coven that makes you feel safe.

  • SophiaB says:

    so sorry to read of your experiences. #METOO.

    i have other things to say but i know the terrain well enough that i would rather not.

    blessed be.

  • Davina says:

    Thank you for writing this piece, Sarah. As you know, I can relate. You are a brave, beautiful soul, and I’m so glad to see the outpouring of support in the comments. With you in solidarity. Love and Respect x D

    • Lynne says:

      I believe you. I stand with you. May you stand strong and continue to be brave! Blessings, Light & Healing Love to you and your son always.
      Lynne

  • Niki says:

    Sarah, thank you for this. I am grateful for our skype conversations several years ago. I believe you. I support you. May every blessing and healing be yours and your family’s.

  • Nyt says:

    Sarah thank you for the courage it took to come forward with this and you words carry truth for so many women.

    My first Priestess held the light for us on these issues with stern warnings about what to watch for and expect. What was more she did not just speak, she acted. Lady Teara and her husband and HP Lord Robin, ejected a member of their grove for not respecting another female members wishes. He attempted to stalk her and intimidate her into dating him. He took his anger at the rejection out on my Priest and Priestess with threats of death and violence, vandalism etc. He followed them from Washington State to Florida when they moved to get away from him. Their case became the first conviction of inter state stalking in 2000.

    You are right when you say to many people look away, in fear of a perpetrator, disbelief or worry about the optics of the situation. However, there are others who will always stand up for what is right, and protect those who can not fight those battles alone.

  • Heather says:

    Fantastic article. Bravo. While it is a sobering and sad read, kudos for your bravery and strength.

  • Chelsea says:

    I’m really glad that scumbag posted a response on here. If there was ANY doubt in Sarah’s words (which there isn’t) they are completely erased with his valiant testimonial. Amazing work. Thank you for sharing ALL of this. You make dealing with the PTSD and abuse easier, to know that we are standing up. All my Love, Chelsea.

  • Nikki says:

    Instinct? Divine guidance? Whatever …… it is for all these reasons in Sarah’s blog here that I have always been a solitary witch. I walk alone. It’s safer

  • Jay O says:

    Wow…just wow.

    Thank you for this. There isn’t enough “sorry” in the world to touch what you’ve been through…and jesus, so fucking common…

    I was turned off by the creep factor so prevalent at Pagan events that I had to keep things solitary.

    So much general laziness in the Pagan community and there is nothing worse than moral/ethical laziness.

    And really? Public BDSM? Get fucking real and take it back to your dungeon. PS: BDSM (and everything!) with absolutely YES consent is cool (ie., hot), good on ya, but please, please, please remember: not everyone wants to see your hairy ass in those assless chaps.

  • Hobbes says:

    When I was assaulted at a Pagan festival, I was told to keep it quiet and tell no one. I stupidly followed that advice, which resulted in months of sleepless nights. I eventually did report it months later, but it started me on a roller coaster of anxiety for the next six years. I’m still trying to make peace with it. The problem is that, as the victim, I am completely psychologically not capable of making the right choices in regards to the assault (reporting it, following-through). Even now, as I’ve tried to make peace with it, I’m stymied when I think about it, paralyzed with indecision. I just want to forget it ever happened, even though I know I never will.

  • Amy L Baker says:

    This is to be a safe space, you are not welcome. Fuck off.

  • C J Jackman-Zigante says:

    I was wondering why out of the blue last night there was a post in my feed saying “I did not do the things Sarah is saying I did” garnering friends support
    etc… I had forgotten that I saw this post a few days ago and saved it to read later. I just finished reading it. There is too strong a ring of truth to it for me and now I understand my reaction to the denial post when I read it. I believe you I stand in support of you and all survivors of abuse regardless. Stand strong!

  • M. Snyder says:

    I grew up in a southeastern pagan community in the usa. Boy let me tell you I have seen just about all of these people, in one form or another.

    My big issue is with mainly men in the pagan community. Its that our religion is sexually based. It’s fucked up that people use this as an excuse for they’re actions. With that being said, this is my opinion and belief.

    We have these huge gatherings, in which we preform magic with symbolized sex of the mother goddess and the father god (or whichever form they are for you) and it takes away the true meaning of our faith when some people just show up to do drugs and fuck. I grew up watching this happen ok. It’s an old hat I really get pissy and frustrated talking about because it doesn’t change. I hate how our culture is so deeply rooted in misogyny! Fucking. Hate. IT!

    I am studying for my first degree and let me tell you right now. It’s pissing me off the more I read and research older books and references. It truly is sickening how much misogynistic everything has been for so long. Your dick is not a wand so stop trying to do magic with it and grow the fuck up!

    Goddess, I feel for you and if I had a hand in any of what happend to you. I would have fought for you at every turn. I have had minor things happen to me. I fell incredibly lucky my father is a well respected elder in our community and I’m pretty sure no one would dare knowing who’s child I am.

    Blessed Be sweet Goddess, you are devine and powerful!

    • Denise Mirthra says:

      Your dick is not a wand so stop trying to do magic with it and grow the fuck up! Best statement of this whole post. And stop talking about Bonobos. You know who you are.

  • Rick Berglund says:

    Sarah, i’ve only met you a few time at some of these events, I am Kurt’s ex, thank you for being you, you made me feel friendship as someone who doesn’t meet new people well. My heart bleeds and my soul rages. Thank you for your strength, thank you for you courage and thank you for you.

  • bernard j rizzo says:

    Sarah’s last sentence in this blog post: “My greatest fear is that once we are done pulling the weeds out of the pagan community, the plants left behind will be few in number.”

    The plants left behind may be few in number but you’ll finally be able to see the splendor of the garden.

    Recently, a FB group I belong to had an issue with a member. It was mislabeled as one thing but when we dug into it, it became another. This human had fully 1/3 of their “friends” on their “pagan” FB page who were young women, less than half their age to more than 10 years younger, all with public photos, all very attractive and some of them very vulnerable. Unless you are specifically targeting, this is statistically impossible to randomly happen. I called that to light after one of our founders said they were getting a “vibe” from this person. It struck me not as “odd” but as a rather strong warning sign. There is only one way that is going to go if left alone. We plucked this “weed” and we are watching this person very carefully.

    I made a comment in a private conversation with someone about the above situation. I said, “I can understand them wanting to date within our own community, our own belief group”. I can understand that in light of being married to someone who is opposed to my belief system (which does not make for a bad marriage, indeed we have a great one). If I ever, through some “tragedy”, found myself single again I would most likely date someone who shared my spiritual beliefs. However… there is appropriate and inappropriate. Appropriate is simply meeting someone of a proper age range, who is not drunk off their ass, and courting because you genuinely like them, are attracted to them, they to you and you have some level ground with each other.

    This human we are watching is inappropriate. All of these women very young? All of them a “certain look”? Yeah, NO!!!!

    What I struggle with is that I truly believe that they “believe”. They are not using their spirituality as a beard to find young women… and yet, that seems to have come along with it. Is it a complete lack of self-awareness? Did they make themselves “believe” in order to “troll” for young women? Are they simply a very, very clever predator? I can’t tell. I’ve been in high level sales for 30 years. I know how to read people and I still can’t tell. However, better safe than sorry.

    My point is this… they are everywhere and they can appear to be quite normal. They camouflage well. So, pull that “weed” and let’s see the flowers that are left.

  • Ursula says:

    I believe you. Pull the weeds and let a cleansing fire clear the air and strengthen the remaining trees.

  • Screams in the Void says:

    The last 2 weeks, this post, the comment threads are stirring an anger in me. I am no longer pagan (occultist will work for a label), I no longer hang out with pagans and one of the reasons is all of this. Women (mostly) have been consistently abused in the area I live in. And the ‘good men’ won’t say anything. They know it happens but they address the abusers as brother and friend. When confronted they say they just want to stay neutral and not cause waves. Not. Cause. Waves.

    I was assaulted and nearly groomed by a married couple nearly 20 years ago. And yet one part of the party is said to be a moderately tolerated elder. If it hadn’t been for my future husband I cannot begin to imagine the abuse I would have endured and not realized it was until too late.

    And I am not the only person. There are so many others, so many more cases and I rage at it. I rage and I scream inside and I feel so fucking helpless because. We. Don’t. Cause. Waves. The stories of the others abused aren’t mine to tell so names I haven’t given and won’t. But I am angry and I am pissed. And I don’t think I am going to be able to hold that in any longer as we move towards a time of year that I am most active and feel the most powerful.

  • Elizabeth Doxtator-Morenberg says:

    I believe you. Thank you for writing this.

  • Mackay says:

    Thank you for writing this and for the lists of resources. I am currently working on an education project where this will be very useful.

    I’m not sure if we have traveled in the same pagan communities–I’m guessing we have not for various reasons–but I know at least one person who could be the abuser in each scenario you described. It is up to each person to stand up and refuse to allow abusers to be in positions of power that allow them easier access to their victims. It is up to each person to create a truly equal community, whether that’s a small community like a coven or practice group or temple, or a larger community like a festival or pan-pagan organization.

  • anne johnson says:

    Thank you for this very important essay, and I hope it has a wide readership. I’ve seen these types myself, and I have zero tolerance for it. Not surprisingly, I am solitary and growing ever more reluctant to attend festivals.

  • Snow says:

    This is a really great piece. Thank you for sharing your stories. They resonate on many levels. As someone who has also been on Boards, I would also say YES EMPHATICALLY to that very last point. If there is even the chance that the law was broken PROTECT THE COMMUNITY AND YOURSELVES AND CALL THE POLICE. Always.

  • Dana says:

    Thank you for writing this, Sarah. I too, have experienced much of what you have written about. It is so terribly tragic, and yet so true. If we are to change this culture, we have to speak. Thank you for speaking.

  • Kimberley Antonio says:

    Hi Sarah
    I am a relatively new member of the Pagan Community in Edmonton. I hope you are aware that your article has resonated deeply here and abuse will not be tolerated, nor will we stand by and bear witness to continued abuse. I would draw to your attention to our local CWAA has who has taken immediate steps to investigate the allegations contained in your post and has suspended the said individuals membership pending further investigation. There are many of us deeply concerned about these allegations which have permeated our community and somewhat divided it. The community has had rumblings and warnings but nothing concrete. Please know that there are so many who stand in solidarity with you. The allegations have also resulted in further consequences to this individual with another appointment as a Wiccan Chaplain which I am given to understand. I have witnessed the insideous nature of what you speak of and believe every word you and our Sisters speak of – the Revolution has begun! Blessed Be

  • Raven says:

    Dearest Sarah,

    I cried reading this for I stood up against abusers in my community and was howled down for it. I was called filthy things and had hateful comments and physical threats made against me. It got so bad I left Wicca altogether and returned to my childhood religion. Spiritually these days I’m a Buddhist with Goddess devotion. And I am fiercely solitary. I don’t trust many Pagans these days.

    Blessed be

  • Richard James says:

    While I do not want to deny or even diminish the problem expressed in this article; there are some things in it to raise an eyebrow.

    One of these things is the pie chart that claims 46% of perpetrators of rape or other abuse are “someone whom the woman was in love”. Since nobody is claiming that a large proportion of males are abusers; it seems to me that for the 46% number to be true that a significant number of women either can’t or just don’t apply good judgement about the men they choose to be “in love” with.

    Since most women used to be girls; this pie chart suggests that girls are not being raised to recognize male jerks who are latent abusers. The 46% can only come from each such jerk having multiple victims. So the point is: parents please raise your daughters to be wary.

    Sarah Lawless provides us with a litany of her past relationships and names them: The Stalker The Near Miss The Respected Elder The Rapist The Murderer The Creeper The Sociopath
    I have no reason to doubt Ms Lawless’ account of events; but the obvious question arises. What the heck led her to enter into this many really bad relationships? The only answer I can think of is that nobody taught her to be wary.

    Parents try to “street-proof” their kids to keep them safe as kids. It is time for them to put the same effort into making girls “jerk-proof”. A good job of this will give future young women the wisdom to run away from the jerks in our Pagan community before they get too involved in an abusive group.

    Incidentally; in the past 5 years in Ontario I have received exactly 1 complaint of the sort of thing Ms Lawless refers to; and the complainant did not identify herself or her abuser so the matter was not pursued.

    • Sarah says:

      I cannot believe your comment Richard, coming from a supposed community elder. Your entire unintelligent comment is based on your own gross misunderstanding of statistics and obviously having not read the entire article. Only two of the stories were about my relationships, the rest are predators. Statistically if a woman is abused once, she becomes way more likely to be abused again. You should research studies and statistics before you comment and understand that this is my personal blog and website with comments moderated by me. I chose to show Samuel Wagar’s comments and I chose to show yours.

      Your comment is misogynist and victim-blaming. Do you not hear how horrible your words are? Being innocent and believing people are good does not make it their fault when bad people do bad things to them. Their parents being good people and not expecting bad things to happen to their child does not make it okay. It does not make it okay to do bad things to someone who trusts you. They do not have to “know better”. You need to not abuse them. Only bad people are responsible for their bad actions. Are you a bad man Mr. James?

    • Bard Toad All says:

      MRA detected.

      • Bored says:

        MRA is one thing. Guilt might be another. I havent met a soul in 20 years who would have picked R. James as a leader.

        Such is a Wicca in world of arrogant self-appointed experts who sit on their perverted drunk duff all day and don’t have clue one about what really happens in his fake unregistered church of deception.

    • Pat Szkarlat says:

      Or, imagine this: parents teaching their boys to be respectful, to understand what consent means, to understand what “NO” means, to understand and recognize injustice and when someone is being hurt against their will…only then will the rest of us feel safe.

      Teaching little girls to be “wary” and claiming women, Sarah Lawless included, are entering into relationships with men and are simply not discriminating enough…is fucking garbage. Shut up with that shit.

      Sarah, you are seen and heard, appreciated and loved. This is deep moral courage.

      Anyone who says otherwise is soaking in their own fear and sweat. Stay silent, protect abusers = complicit.

    • Rebecca says:

      Why raise daughters to be wary? Why not raise sons to not be abusers?
      You’re placing all the blame on women instead of acknowledging the men (and women) that are the problem…..ok then, makes sense… -_-

    • Ravenari says:

      A person who skeevily victim-blames as grossly as you just did, is a fantastic example of the kind of jerk-proofing we need in the community. If you could just show yourself out and let the door slam on the way, that’d be great.

      No wonder you don’t get complainants, in a single comment you’ve established yourself as the kind of person who places blame squarely on the victim, or anywhere *except* the perpetrator. Why would any victim trust you? I wouldn’t. This comment would have me run in the opposite direction and have me advise others never to be alone with you. You’ll of course blame them for not being ‘wary’ enough to spot that you are, actually, at the very least, a jerk.

      A truly sarcastic round of applause for so singularly failing to be a decent human being on a thread that’s literally about helping victims, by victim blaming Sarah.

      You both denied and diminished the problem/s presented in the article with your comment. Well done.

    • Layla says:

      People don’t come to you with complaints because you are a victim blaming, misogynist jerk.

    • Juniper says:

      Didn’t you get a huge talking to for trying to force people to attend a ritual skyclad at KG a couple of years ago? Pretty sure I was a Flying Monkey (security) that year.
      Fuck off Richard, you’re a known creeper too.

    • Micheál Lóthar says:

      Victim blaming is a way of diminishing the problem expressed in the article. A point of concern I gathered is that it’d be difficult to, “recognize male jerks who are latent abusers,” because the various personality types mentioned all equate to scum that could be anyone, and wear masks to conceal their true colours at great lengths.

      Instead of trying to make people “jerk-proof” from the vile personalities that hide in the shadows of our communities, an aproach of exposing existing ones so that they may be stamped out sounds like a better start.

  • Rill says:

    Thank you for your brutal honesty. We, as a community, must do better. I have hope that the next generation *will* do better as we become the leadership.

  • I believe you. I was at my first pagan gathering in the late 70s when I was propositioned multiple times. I was 17. Most were respectful, but one asshole said “How can you be pagan if you aren’t open to sex?” Sorry, dude, I don’t boff strangers. I’m asexual, so the whole “Great Rite” as sex thing just was a big “nope” for me.

    I was around when MZB & Bonewits were active. Not a word about their predilections was ever uttered, even by people who knew them. Lots of other creepers, never any warnings. My gut knew, just not who or what. I just kept my involvement in area gatherings to a minimum, and seldom attended overnight events.

    No one ever got dumped, banned or reported to the cops. It’s a big failing in the pagan community.

  • Anna Roark says:

    Thank you so much for having the bravery to post this. I ran a non profit pagan networking group with a man who was later legally found guilty of being a pedophile and is currently serving time for habing and distributing child pornography. As a result of all of this I founded the Gorgon Network to help people who host public events stop sexual predators before , during and after events. http://www.gorgonnetwork.com Keep shining!

  • Jim Cliffe says:

    You show tremendous courage for speaking this, Sarah. Thank you.

    I was involved with the Vancouver pagan community years ago, and nothing I saw would deny what you say.

    Wether I could have said or done something to change the situation is still an open question. I regret did not do more. Eventually I’d had enough and quit associating with anyone but close friends. For anyone still in, or wanting to be a part of the community, you words are a valuable warning.

  • HeatherW says:

    At first after reading this article, my thoughts were ‘yes I’ve heard of all these things happening, but not to me personally’. But sitting back replaying some events, yes indeed, I HAVE had some of these things happen to me personally! Wow, I can’t believe my brain has pushed things away & hidden them.
    I have spoken up about the issues that happened to me (at the time they happened) and others present at the time of the incidents. For the most part, nothing was done. One incident had happened many many times over to others and eventually the person was asked to take a ‘Sabbatical’.
    It makes me so disheartened that these types of things happen in our community. Unfortunately it happens everywhere.
    Thankfully I have a ‘safe zone’ (enclave) to go to when at a large festival.
    It hurts my heart so much that things have happened and continue to happen to close friends and the community at large.
    I practice communally as well as solitary and refuse to let anyone get in my way of my personal spiritual growth.
    Thank you for speaking up Sarah. I know it must be difficult to put yourself out there for the now potential verbal assault that will ensue. Thank you for being the voice for others too afraid to speak out. Stay strong.
    We as a large community need to support one another and make must needed changes.
    I also want to note, that this has happened to many men in our community as well as women. It needs to stop…period.

  • Abbey says:

    Sarah,

    I have read much of your writing and heard you several times on podcasts and already respected your tenacity and breadth of knowledge. I am overwhelmed and so grateful for you. This is a much needed talking to and I am so proud of you for letting your voice be heard.

    I have only been to one community ritual and found quickly that questionable behavior was allowed around children and a known predator was allowed to be involved. I’ve honestly been to scared to even try to attend an event again even after moving to a new area. I am a survivor of assault outside of the community and am terrified and angry about the state of our world.

    To the other survivors- I see you, I believe you, and I lift you up.

    May our voices and hands tear down the weeds so we can all truly flourish

  • Karen Dales says:

    Sarah, I wish to commend you for the bravery you have exhibited in coming forth to share you experiences.

    I have been in the Toronto Pagan community for 30+ years, leading the Toronto Pagan Pub Moot and a coven for over 20+ years. Sexual impropriety of any level should never be excused. I have been called a prude for choosing to be in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage/relationship for 25+ years. I had to stop going to festivals because they seemed to be more about anonymous one night stands, and other reasons. The term ‘F&^k fests’ were thrown around a lot, and if one didn’t participate in such behaviour, one was called what I was called. Thankfully, I was never assaulted. My ‘spidey senses’ are sharp for that sort of behaviour. But pagan communities tend to shelter illegal behaviours in its members. This I find disgusting. I don’t abide for such in my coven, nor at the TPPM. I do not believe in second changes for people who engage in illegal behaviours. Forgiveness for the truly repentant is fine, but not a second chance. The pagan communities need to start calling such individuals out with legal actions.

    • Sarah says:

      I really enjoyed the Toronto pagan pub moot when I lived there. It was one of the first spaces I was able to come out of my shy shell and talk to people of other spiritual beliefs. Some weirdos would show up now and then, but it was mostly genuinely nice folk. Glad to hear it’s still going.

      • Karen Dales says:

        Sarah,

        I’m glad you found the Moot to be a safe place. I and my hubby try to keep it such.

        I hope you find the peace and healing you need.

  • As a former Board member of a prominent “pagan” organization–emphasis on the word “former”–I applaud this article. We made much of how safe our place was, and we investigated every allegation against other members, but the problem was within the leadership, so the problem never really went away. Verbal abuse, sexual harassment–you name it. A beautiful place has been revealed to be a toxic environment.

  • Richard James says:

    It appears that I owe a large apology to a large number of people. I am told that my previous message here was based on a false assumption on my part. I assumed that with education it is possible to develop a reliable early-warning “jerk detector”. Some women have informed me that I am very wrong about that. For me to expect women to do something that can’t be done amounts to me blaming the victim.

    Of the men mentioned in Sarah’s article and the comments that follow it; I have personally known two. In both cases it seemed to me that the potential for abuse should be manifest to all. I incorrectly extrapolated from those cases and a few others I have encountered in the past; to the idea that just about any case should be that obvious. Having had it pointed out to me that this idea of mine is wrong; I must withdraw it and apologize to those caused hurt by it.

    I want to thank the women in my own close Circle for pointing out where my argument failed. I accept that my premise was wrong and therefor the suggestion based on it was ill-considered. I am really sorry for upsetting a lot of people.

    Be well…. Richard James

    • Sarah says:

      You do realize sir, that most people reading your comments are intelligent and actually reading your meaning rather than your words? This classic shit sandwich you’ve written is taught in every English & communications class. If you don’t realize that your verbally abusive words are obvious to the women reading your comment then your own intelligence in writing these replies is in question. In your second comment you made no actual apology, aside from using the word apology, but instead have inferred that women are even dumber than you first thought and abusers are just so obvious, how could women ever not know? “Sorry for suggesting you should magically be able to know a man is an abuser or just educate yourself until you have an abuse-detector” is definitely sarcasm, but most certainly not an apology. Has your wife seen your comments? I could share them as you commented using her email address. I will no longer be publishing your replies, but if you choose to continue I will be sure to save screenshots of them before I throw them in the trash.

  • Rayyu says:

    Sarah , I am so grateful for this post , my heart is fluttering in the feeling of solidarity through shared mourning . There are few resources I’ve found describing abuse patterns in the earth~spiritual communities . The entitlement that some of the ego’s in those communities attempt to exercise is difficult to speak about , or to identify initially . Because it is a kind of escapist community anyway , defined by the fact that it is challenging reality and making its own rules , it plays out like a free-for-all . It is so easy to get lost in the abuse , when you are blazing your own path in this small new world .

    I too experienced life-gutting traumas from a few of these characters you have succinctly described , and it helps me sooo much to see you lay it out , call it out , like this . Thank you for all that you do , here and the rest of your blog , it has helped more than I can say <3

  • Emmanuel says:

    The only thing I can think about wrong in this post is: why aren’t more post by people who actually experienced sexual abuse? (So no, Sarah, you are not wrong)
    I’m a bisexual guy, and also a sexual assault survivor when I was 14, as well as a magician, a sorcerer, a mystic, a wyrdwalker and a witch.
    I was always, ever since I was a teenager, wary of…any kind of group. Creeps are everywhere, even more where, because of any reason thinkable, they can get that extra layer of legal prtection (either because of the whole mentor-student relationship, the skyclad rituals, etc).
    When I first joined a group (a witch coven) at 18, I was glad to find out that none of that crap was tolerated. It happened when an older woman was harrasing another member (also young) and the heads of the coven not only kicked this woman out, with the corresponding curses by oath, but also helped him file a report to the police station as well as provide moral support.
    Afterwards, I joined the Golden Dawn, and I was again, pleasently surprised: the Chiefs of the Order were extremely level headed and they do not hesitate to file reports and expel any member indulging in illicit activities or harrasing another frater or soror.

    I have to say, I have been quite lucky with groups, and when I hear about stuff that happens in the occult community, I really feel blessed.

    I know, dear Sarah, that posts like this takes a lot of guts, so I wanted to congratulate you on your bravery.

    We are occultists, witches, sorcerers, warlocks, wyrdwalkers, druids, magicians, mystics, or whatever we choose to call ourselves. We live both within society and also in the fringe. Our power is also within our words, so I want to take this comment to say to all our brethren in the occult: SPEAK UP! TAKE YOUR POWER BACK!

    Sincerely

    Emmanuel

  • Mike C. says:

    These are things people whisper about, but it must be difficult to compose a calm article about it. None of this is black and white or cut and dry, which I think is another reason people are so hesitant to start the discussion. No accused person is going to raise their hand in acceptance, and peripheral people on both sides are going to chime in.

    I respect your strength in choosing to do this, Sarah. In the difficult times that no doubt will follow, please know that people you’ve never even met believe you and appreciate you and recognize you didn’t throw the first stone but instead are defending you and yours with passion.

  • Diane says:

    So much of what you wrote about was familiar to me. None of my experiences were in the pagan community, mainly because I came to paganism late in life and haven’t had the opportunity to go to many festivals. Thank you so much for speaking out.

  • Willow says:

    Love, love, love, love, love this piece. This right here is why I am solitary. This right here is why I very rarely attend public pagan events. This right here is why I don’t feel comfortable in our own damn community, the one place where I SHOULD feel comfortable and welcome.

    Thank you for coming out and sharing your stories with us. Maybe it will allow other women to come forward and for action to be taken.

  • KenofKen says:

    I come at this problem from a somewhat different angle. I am a Pagan who truly is polyamorous and unapologetically very active in a variety of things on the kink spectrum.

    That being said, I see no particular linkage between my spirituality and my sexuality, and I especially reject the idea that the former should serve as a springboard or “cover” for the latter. That practice is what I see as a major driver of the problems we’ve had in Pagan events and circles. True predators cynically exploit this false linkage, as well as many others who are not necessarily evil or predatory, but who are emotionally and sexually immature and too lazy or unwilling to learn the ethical dimensions either of Pagan religion or alternative sexual lifestyles. There really are ethical and smart ways to do this and I believe the development of a positive consent culture is every bit as important as throwing out the creeps. If all we do is throw them out, we simply retain an unhealthy ecosystem more suited to weeds than healthy plants, as it were.

    We need to disabuse everyone, especially newcomers, of the notion that the Pagan community or “Real Paganism” is inherently kinky. It is not. Most modern Pagans in this country come from white, middle class suburban backgrounds.

    For all of their apparent spiritual rebellion, most are staunchly monogamous. Most will never color any farther outside of the lines than reading “50 Shades” or that one drunken clumsy experiment with a threesome that one time on spring break. Many Pagans, as has been noted, come from backgrounds of sexual or other abuse.

    Both ethically and statistically, Pagan events are really poor hunting grounds if you’re looking for people who do swinging, polyamory or BDSM in a healthy way. It is my unscientific observation that todays Pagans are, if anything, more vanilla than the general population. They often feel compelled to act as if they are kinky so as to live up to some bullshit standard of “authenticity”, but they are not fooling me, and they should not be pressured to try to fool anyone on that count, most importantly themselves.

    Every healthy kink community has this as one of its core rules: Don’t screw with the vanilla people. This , whatever “this”happens to be, is not their thing. Respect that. Don’t try to “convert” them. It will always, always traumatize them and bring you bad drama. Always. The fact that I have more than one life partner and we all have multiple sex partners does not mean we have found some enlightened higher form of existence. It means our wiring is very different than most people.

    We’re ok how we are. You’re ok how you are. I love my freaky people. I also love my monogamous people (I give them a gentle ribbing sometimes, but really do love them just the way they are). I love the asexual folks. I even envy them. A little. 🙂

    I think you will find some very willing and possibly useful allies in us. Poly folk in particular are getting really sick of people using us as cover for predatory or sneaky behavior. I can’t tell you how many people who call themselves “poly” at festivals are really just using that a justification to step out on their partners. “My wife is totally cool with this, but she doesn’t want to know the details, so if anyone asks I was at the drum circle” Yeah…..

    We need zero tolerance for predators. We need to believe victims, and we need to re-engineer our entire ecosystem so that over time we have far fewer victims to believe. The work will be hard, but the concepts are fairly easy: End the sense of entitlement, particularly among straight men. Respect people’s choices to say yes, and no. Teach everyone, and particularly young men, that positive consent culture is not a sacrifice or a constraint. It’s the liberation they’re after. The experience you will have with people who give enthusiastic and healthy consent is infinitely better than what you would ever get from someone who “goes along with it.”

  • Tris says:

    Thank you for having the courage to speak out, Sarah. Peace and blessings to you.

  • Levin says:

    Sarah,

    You have remained a constant innovator muse and educator in my life since coming across your writings some years ago and I’ve found myself deeply grateful for how you’ve deepened my craft and gave me some idea of how to frame a life as a young practitioner in my own way.
    i thank you for your wisdom, i thank you for the healing of yourself that brought you to this point, i thank you for sharing this wisdom and your own story so that others can learn and lead themselves by it. I thank you for being a voice among us unwavering, I thank you for the dedication you put into yourself and your surroundings and lastly I thank you for being able to communicate in a way that resonates with those living these kinds of experiences that we have been woefully left unequipped for.

  • Logan Greenleaf says:

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been following your writing for a while (some are even now printed out in my Craft book) and this article in particular means so much. I’ve met one of these creepers and even endured him as a part of my small folk herbalism group until our teacher forced him to disclose his whole history because he had housing troubles and wanted her to let him stay in his basement. He reportedly became erratic and angry, but also disclosed that he had done jail time for killing someone, and so was quickly ejected from our group. Prior, he also had strange stories of marrying a Russian mail-order bride who left him, and would try to friend young women on Facebook, including my sister, on whose picture from my profile he made some vague leering comment. The local witch shop also called him out and banned him for inappropriate behavior around women. I guess I’m lucky this happened in Asheville, where we were already accustomed to calling out and blacklisting predators, including the owners of a local coffee business around that time. Still, the experience and stories I’d heard from others that are almost identical to your article are the main reasons I’ve always been mostly solitary. Being a wary trans person also helps.

    P.S. I’d also heard horror stories about numerous big-name witchcraft writers like Raymond Buckland and a few others? I rarely touch that stuff, but I know some tea was being spilled among witches online about some of these folks who’ve been around for a while.

  • Demeter says:

    Thank you Sarah! If paganism is ever going to be taken seriously as a religion we need to address this head on with no flinching.

  • Trae Dorn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    It’s nowhere near comparable to any of your experiences, but fifteen years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I tried to get more involved in my local pagan community. I joined a recently formed circle, and in this group was a woman who was about ten years older than me. This woman would always try to get into my personal space, and no matter how many times I told her I didn’t want to be touched would ignore my boundaries and continue to try to get physically close to me. She insisted on hugging me, and when I said no would do it anyway. She would try to sit next to me at gatherings, continued to put her hands on me, and just squicked me out.

    She’s the reason I eventually decided to cut myself off from my local pagan community, went completely solitary, and stayed away from other pagans for the longest time.

    I’m also involved heavily in the geek convention community, and it has a similar problem with predators who have just been allowed to fester for decades. People whisper about the “missing stairs,” but nothing gets done. It’s only been in the last few years that we’ve seen that community finally take steps to deal with its predators, but there’s been massive push back. I hope the pagan community can get its shit together and finally start to deal with this too.

    But as long as enablers and defenders of these creeps won’t open their eyes, it’s going to be a struggle.

  • Little hedge Witch says:

    My heart aches and breaks.. I took the time to read each comment, both out of respect for you and respect to other victims brave enough to share their own story. I believe you, stand with you, and vow to always speak up for those around me. I guess that means it’s my turn.

    He was my boyfriend. He made me feel like shit. Abusive verbally, emotionally, and mentally. He would beg me to come over, use me as a verbal punching bag, and then send me home so he could be with his real friends.. The problem I had in realizing it was abuse, was that I did consent to sex. I was a virgin, and I wanted to do this with him.

    What I DIDNT want, was for him to hurt me in the process, not bothering to care that I told him I was in pain and I wanted him to stop. I had asked for it right? And then he was ready to finish, so a BJ it was and then I was sent home. If I didn’t agree, he made the emotional abuse worse. Made me cry, and then made me feel like it was my fault. I asked for it, right? Often times I went to him to escape my home; the only solace I found from him was the home I was trying to escape.. this was not a one time happening. This went on for months. This was still abuse.

    Though my own story does not relate to the pagan community, I AM a witch and a survivor. Please never let anyone tell you what abuse looks like. Asking for sex is not the same as asking to be hurt, used, and thrown out. Asking to be loved is just that.

    I thank the Divine for my current partner, and the love he invests in me. I wish I had your courage, Sarah. You are a blessing.

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