Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Warlock's Open Letter To Wiccans Concerning "The Magical Warlock"

It has taken a great deal of effort on my part not to go to comment threads regarding child abuser James Irvin--called "The Magical Warlock" in a lot of headlines--and tell every Wiccan there to just fuck right on off.  There really isn't a nice way of putting it:  I'm really pissed off.  I'm pissed off because the response to this by Wiccans and other Pagans is painfully ignorant, victim-blaming, and loaded with denial.  Content warning:  This essay talks about child sexual abuse in the Pagan community, my own descriptions are not very vivid but some of the links are moreso.

Some people reacted with indignant confusion:
Screenshot of Facebook post saying "Warlock????"

This person decided to say warlock was "the right word" because apparently we're all "enemies of witches and any other decent human being."  Great conflation, Al.

Screenshot of Facebook comment saying:
"I think warlock is the right word here, his actions
and an ignorant media cause a [severe] misrepresentation of
our culture. He is truly an enemy of witches (and any
other decent human being)
 This person claims that he isn't a Pagan or Wiccan because warlocks don't exist by parroting some Wiccan 101 book, double-dosed with the assertion that maybe it was some other religion that is to blame:

Screenshot of comment saying:
"First of all, this person is inhumane. What he has
done is just plain wrong, no matter what religion
he "claims" to be. Secondly, to say he is a
"practicing pagan and wiccan" is incorrect. Warlocks
do not exist in the wiccan/pagan religion. We are all
considered witches. To blame a religion for this person's
actions when the information is incorrect, is just plain stupid.
I am sure, if researched further, his other religious
upbringing could be blamed, as well.
Don't worry, though, I saved the absolute most appalling for last:

Screenshot of Facebook comment saying:
"Well the fact that he called himself a warlock should have been
a dead giveaway that he was a fake. So sad for the kids, and the mother."

This last one seriously just fucking burns me, and I feel like (or at least hope) it would piss me off even if I didn't identify with the word "Warlock."   I'll get to the very deeply problematic nature of this sort of statement a little later, but first, is somebody identifying as a "Warlock" a red flag or ignorant?

No.

When somebody identifies as a Warlock, it is not indicative that we are abusive, evil, newbies, or ignorant.  I have been a Pagan for going on seventeen years.  We choose that label for a wide variety of reasons, most of which are quite unique to ourselves as individuals.  I've already written why I reclaim "Warlock" so I really don't need to get into the word "Warlock" and how Pagans and especially Wiccans are so ill-informed about it.

However, it's important for me to make clear that this is not the primary reason I'm so fucking pissed off at this response.  Yes, it might have been what first drew my attention, but the reality is that Warlocks are usually well-aware of how controversial our choices of personal identity are, and it's also worth mentioning that this is much less controversial now than it was when I first started practicing Witchcraft.  Part of the reason for this is that Pagans and Witches are becoming much better at sorting out Pagan creation myths from actual historic fact.  You just don't see that many Witches anymore who believe things like that the European Witch Trials were a mass persecution of Pagans, because it's well-documented that they weren't.  In the same way, a lot of Pagans are starting to realize that there really isn't any evidence that "Warlock" ever meant a coven traitor--not before modern times, anyway--so it's much easier to explain to people that our reputation is sorely exaggerated.

While it's important to recognize that saying these things is hurtful to Warlock-identified Pagans and Witches, it's more important that I fucking bold and double-interrobang this statement here:

Why should this have been a dead giveaway that he was a child rapist?!?!

No, seriously.  Give me one good fucking reason the fact that this guy called himself a "Warlock" should have been a red flag to a 13 year old let alone a 3 year old.  You did read that part, right?  The kids he abused were 3, 9, and 13 and he was telling them this would cure their ill mother.  If you're a Wiccan whose entire study has revolved around people who have no concept of the history of the word, maybe it's a red flag for you.  Children who have not studied Paganism at all and have not studied Wicca at all would not consider a word that practically every non-Pagan out there knows simply means "male witch" a red flag.

But it goes deeper than this one badly-reputationed word.  It has to do with the idea, spouted off by so many people, that there is some handy list of red flags that will tell you if a man is a rapist or child abuser.  Over and over again when a person is raped or a parent leaves their child with an abusive babysitter people say ridiculous bullshit about how some trait about them should have been a "dead giveaway."  People remain so convinced that if they'd seen this person they'd know right away that they were an abuser, thinking that abusers are automatically skeevy, dirty old men who hand people candy from inside vans.  People don't leave a place in their personal mythology for the more average abuser who everybody seems to love and respect and who is coddled by everyone when it's revealed they are abusers because they won't be able to play football anymore and they had so much potential.  I know a repeat rapist who no women he's raped want to report because he's an "upstanding community member," a special ed teacher, ridiculously friendly to everyone he meets.  If you didn't already know he was a repeat rapist, there isn't a red flag on him.  I knew him for years before I knew he was a rapist.

This is like 101 shit, too.  This is stuff I feel like everyone should know, but they don't.  There is no reliable set of red flags.  There is no book of things people can look for that will tell them if a person is a rapist or child abuser, and if there is, not only is it bullshit, it's fucking ignorant to think a child would have read it.

Finally, what the FUCK is it with people who maintain that this guy "isn't a real Pagan" or "isn't a real Witch?"

I'm going to tell you something that may or may not rock your mind:  There are Pagans and Witches who harm children or promote it.  I'm not going to not say that just because you think it'll make our community look bad and you'd rather sit there in denial throwing No-True-Scotsman fallacies around instead.  When you do this, you are pretending this is not our problem.  You are assuming that these things don't really take place in our communities, that they only take place among outliers, weirdos who have no connection to our communities who just pretend to be Witches to harm people and who totally can be picked out because they do weird fringe things like calling themselves "Warlocks."  What's worse, when we do wind up with prominent members of our communities getting busted or criticized for harming children or promoting the harm of children, Pagans are no better than any other group when it comes to victim-blaming popularity-contest bullshit.

Recently Kenny Klein, a famous Pagan musician, was arrested for possession of child pornography.  After this was made public, many people came out and said that he had made unwanted advances toward them when they were minors but that festival organizers didn't treat it as a problem.  We need to recognize that these are things that happen in our communities and that we can't just get away with saying "they aren't really Pagans."  We need to question the idea that people being made uncomfortable at our festivals is just them being prudish or not sexually liberated enough and we need to understand that it is OK to chuck people out the door who repeatedly make people uncomfortable with unwanted and minor-focused sexual advances.

I mean, people still invite the Frosts places despite having written a (ridiculously popular) book describing how to "sexually initiate" children into Wicca (the link is the text of the chapter in question from the Wayback Machine and it's very descriptive).  If anything is a red flag, it's that, and yet people shove it into the realm of the "controversial" instead because of lack of evidence that they actually did any of the things they wrote point-by-point instructions to do in a well-loved Wiccan manual.  And no, we don't know if they actually did any of these things, but the fact that they wrote about it is indisputable even if since then they've added the cop-out disclaimer of only allowing 18+ aged members.  I've seen more people piss and moan about gatherings being clothing optional than I have people seriously objecting to involving themselves with the Frosts.

Again, although I've mentioned this from time to time, the vast majority of cases where a Pagan or Witch either writes descriptions promoting child abuse, hoards pictures of it, or commits it themselves, they are not calling themselves "Warlocks," and even those that are are also calling themselves "Witches" and "Pagans."  It's mind-boggling to me that so many people are quick to say "Well, yes, this man is clearly a warlock" because he fits your ignorant, historically-inaccurate idea of what a "Warlock" is and then turn around and say "...but he's clearly not a real Pagan/Witch/Wiccan" as if there's some natural law out there that says all Witches must be good people.  This is an excellent recipe for shirking the responsibility we all hold as members of a religious community that does include abusive, terrible people.