Jason over at The Wild Hunt called my attention to the fact that AJ Drew has seemingly called it quits as far as being a public figure. The website pagannation.com is up for sale, packaged along with witchesball.com, and therealwitchesball.com, for $10,000. I’m not sure why that figure was picked, but it is likely very far out of the reach of most pagans, and the current economy doesn’t make it any more palatable. Moreover, a quick WHOIS search reveals that PN will be up for renewal in April 2010, TRWB in July of this year, and WB isn’t even owned by AJ — which raises a lot of questions about what exactly is for sale, and why anyone would want to spend so much money for a few months’ ownership.
It is an interesting thing to see such a public figure ‘fail’. (The word ‘fail’ is in quotes because AJ himself — or the author on the text on the website right now — seems satisfied with being a goat farmer.) I know the Pagan community has had its share of flameouts and leaders who disappear, but those tend to be very localized and those of us in Seattle don’t necessarily know about who’s doing what in Tampa. A number of Pagan authors and public figures have taken a lot of heat for various statements and actions over the years (Silver RavenWolf’s ‘Teen Witch Kit’ comes to mind) but they haven’t disappeared or quit, they just get quiet or keep doing what they’ve always done.
With AJ Drew we had a lot of very public debate and ire, primarily coming from his contention that Gavin and Yvonne Frost were child molesters and that anyone who had anything to do with them actively supported child molestation. There was no alternative to his point of view, there was no discussion, no quarter given by him, no acceptance. The situation was not helped in any way by the Frosts, who insisted that every word they have produced was accurate. The situation culminated in a public ritual sacrifice of the Frosts in effigy at the 2007 International Real Witches Ball.
I was one of the presenters scheduled to appear at that event, and I was one of the people who withdrew from participating when I found out what was being planned (a friend called me after seeing a post on The Wild Hunt blog — the first I was told there was more going on than a simple gathering), which was some time after I had been put on the schedule. Raven Grimassi put it very well when he said:
“Had we known that the RWB would focus (as indicated by the importance placed on it on the RWB website) on a political protest in the form of a negative ritual wherein living people are sacrificed in effigy, we would not have accepted the invitation. In our judgment the ritual is a type of black magic and vigilantism. The design of the ritual as described to us could have a negative impact on the community and may be psychologically deleterious to some participants. As a result, we have decided to not participate in this year’s event. (from his website: http://www.ravengrimassi.net/nevermore.htm)”
Since then, AJ Drew repeatedly accused the non-participants of violating our contractual agreements and of contributing to his financial woes.
I was contacted by one of the conference organizers, Solstice, not long after. She indicated that because of my work with group dynamics and ritual, she felt that I would be valuable for them as they designed the ritual. I made an oath to not reveal any details discussed, and still feel bound by that oath, but in general . . . The ritual creators felt that public statements were being made that did not reflect actual intent or form of the ritual and they wanted someone with credibility to be the Witness to the creation, and the event. I was intrigued by this idea, and offered to work with them, as long as they would agree to hear me if I raised an objection. I further warned that if the ritual turned out to be ‘black’, negative’ or even slightly grey in any way, I would deliberately break the circle by leaving. She agreed and we made arrangements to talk again.
I never heard from her again.
The ritual was held (described as: concieved [sic] by A.J. Drew and written by a staff of survivors, this will be the first publicly performed ritual of the Familial Heathen path with the intention of drawing attention to the problem of child molestation and sex crimes within our community and stirring members of our community into action against such crimes. It is the intent of the Familial Heathen path to build community based on solid relationships between kith and kin and the mutual protection of ones imediate [sic] tribe/folk. (from the website, now defunct) Few details have been made public, but AJ himself described part of it as:
I fisted and fished the first half out of Gavin. Aimee fished and fisted the second half out of Yvonne. We then read the offensive material (the book they shit out) and then returned it to whence it came (from up their asses).
I understand that survivors of abuse also shared their stories as part of the ritual. (Note: ‘fisting’ refers to a sexual activity that involves inserting the entire hand into the rectum or vagina.) Mr Drew stated:
Concerning other portions of the rite, the sort of it is that five survivors told their stories of child molestation, incest and rape. Then I read the Frost’s book detailing what I feel are instructions to do just about exactly what was done to these survivors. Then, to lift the mood and add a bit of levity we returned what I had read to where it came; up Gavin and Yvonne Frost’s asses.
Since I don’t know what, if any, kind of psychological, emotional, and /or spiritual support and therapy was offered I can’t make a judgement about this ritual. What I read from Drew indicates that I would have been offended and disapproving, so I guess its just as well.
I find myself circling back and around one idea: how rarely we see what negativity produces. I am too young to have participated in, or even watched, the sit-in and non-violent protests of the 50s and 60s. I only know about such things from my history books. But isn’t the fear of consequences what keeps us silent in the face of injustice, unfairness, or just plain law-breaking? So, from that standpoint, I admire AJ Drew for standing up for what he feels so strongly about — he shined a light on an issue of terrible importance to him.
There may be a lesson here for us, one about taking responsibility, unintended consequences, and the hazards of losing your balance. We can get so caught up in being RIGHT that we lose sight of the larger picture. Being a Pagan fundamentalist is no better than a Christian one — both have the same lack of broader vision, and way too much tied up in their way being the only way, and all others who might disagree are the enemy.
This post lacks a title because a lot of things are mixed up in it. For now, a great shop is gone, another voice (for right or wrong) is silenced, and the Ohio community has lost another gathering place.