I have been Pagan for more than 20 years now. I hold no titles. I am not a high priestess. I have not been taught by anyone except the gods and myself. I have no Pagan family history that I can claim. I am not a leader. I am not a teacher. I am simply an individual who chooses to identify herself as a Pagan. Therefore, I am a Pagan.
I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a granddaughter. I am a wife. I am a sister. I am a niece. I am an Aunt.
And I remember what it was like to first discover the Pagan paths.
I was 14, almost 15. My introduction to Paganism came from a much older man (in my case) who sought to warp the (then still relatively undefined) Pagan paths into a way for him to manipulate and abuse young women.
I (who was already a multi-time survivor of sexual abuse) recognized his manipulation for what it was….and I still went along with it because I had no idea this wasn’t how it was supposed to be and I wanted information.
In this case, “Damien” as he called himself (how original, right?), had warped the teachings of Raymond Buckland (claiming to have actually been personally taught by Buckland himself) to fit his own personal, sexual, agenda. I only discovered later that it was Buckland’s teachings. When I had made the decision to walk away, in an act of rebellion, I looked at the book he was always so sure to keep our “initiates” eyes out of….which turned out to be nothing but a copy of Buckland’s Complete Book Of Witchcraft with a custom cover. (I should point out that I’ve read that book and no where in it did I see anything that said a High Priest was required to regularly force his “initiates” into sexual acts so that they could “prove” their devotion to him/the craft. My guess is that he chose Buckland and his book for no other reason than he had that one and not someone else’s)
When I decided to walk away I tried to take the two other girls my age with me. I knew we were all being abused and taken advantage of by “Damien”, one of the other girls knew it as well, but had assumed that this was what we were supposed to go through as initiates. The other, however, had been completely brainwashed by him and would hear nothing bad about him….
The end result was curses, oaths sworn by him that I’d never be able to be a part of the Pagan community, constantly plagued by demons, blah, blah, blah. At this point, I’ll bet I don’t have to continue the story. I’m going to bet nearly every person who reads this post has experienced, or witnessed, something similar. And some stories are much worse than mine.
I know this because one of the first things you could find concerning Pagans, as we quickly took to the internet, were the countless guides explaining to first timers how treacherous these waters can be. If you’re a Pagan as old as I am, nearly 40 or older, I’m going to bet that, male or female, you’ve got a story or two of your own to share.
But we seemed to have stepped back away from that these days. The reasons why we simply started letting it slide are easy to see. We were growing and in growing we did what so many do (and what we, ourselves, have berated others for doing as well) we started “whitewashing” things. We started sweeping these things under the rug. We wanted to be taken more seriously, and having warnings posted on all our pages about the possibility of sexual predators in our midst would have just fueled the fires of a new Burning Times.
But I think we need to start talking about it again.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain amount of very valid ritual sexual practice out there.
Nudity does not automatically denote a sexual act. Nudity does not automatically imply consent. Sex, sexual freedom, and sexual acts themselves, should not be automatically vilified. But we should be able to openly discuss those things we see or experience that make us uncomfortable. We should also be willing and able to recognize when someone’s interactions or ritual practices are making us uncomfortable. And when we do encounter things that are making us uncomfortable, we should not feel, or be made to feel, that these things should not be discussed.
We have multiple outlets for reporting and combating psychic and spiritual attacks…but no process, group, or agency, for safely reporting or discussing things that cause unease on a more mundane level.
Because I’m going to be honest here, I think we give a lot more credit and license to our authors and other community leaders than we really should anyway. Which might be why someone like Kenny Klein was able to do what he (allegedly) did.
And that makes me uncomfortable.