I live in Florida, and have been a frequent attendee of the Florida Pagan Gathering for many years now – since the festival moved to the Ocala National Forest site in Beltane of 2006. I love the festival, and have had great experiences. But there was always a sour taste when dealing with staff...but I put it off to stressed-out people trying to manage 600+ attendees in 5 days.
I looked forward to attending the next one at the end of this month, but something has changed. Precisely Gavin and Yvonne Frost will be attending and giving workshops. In the past few festivales, no few would have cared, but now things are different.
Kenny Klein happened to get caught trafficking child porn. He admitted to it.
For those that may not know, the Frosts published a book about 30 years ago detailing ritual, incestuous sexual contact with minors as part of a “coming of age” for a girl's first menstrual cycle, of the appearance of sex characteristics.
And her male relatives. And there's an equally disgusting “ritual” for boys too
Now I'm not shy about sex, or dildoes, but I draw the line at anything involving minors. It's illegal and wrong because they cannot give consent to any kind of sex at the age of 10-12. And the Frosts advocated it and taught it, and have never retracted it. Now back aboutn 2007, A J Drew became aware of this and very vocal about it. He admittedly may have a screw loose or two, and decided one way to do this was to publicly burn the Frosts in effigy. Now by all appearances they are a sweet old couple in their 80's and nobody thinks they would realistically prey upon the children at any event, so a lot of big name Pagans rushed to their defense over the effigy thing. They felt it was bad magick, looked terrible for the community, and roundly criticized Drew for it. And then the allegations sorta went away...
I have to admit, that I looked at a later edition of the material, and thought it pervy and weird but didn't really think they could have actually done such a thing. I dismissed it...you know, there were Witches who were claimed to eat babies and curse cattle and stuff like that.. But most importantly, I didn't really want to believe what I read. And when I'd met them they seemed harmless, so I dismissed it too. I became complicit.
Then Klein happened, only two weeks ago. And the stories started coming out. He'd been abusive to his family, he'd been pervy at festivals, he'd volunteered to watch children. Fact is we don't know what Klein did outside of the child porn, but what we do know is there was a cirlcle of silence around the whole thing prior to his arrest.
Don't make the community look bad...
Don't draw undue attention...
It can't be as bad as all that...
So recently, I find out that a man I respect well who was a division coordinator at FPG resigned over the Frosts. They apparently were scheduled to be headliners and teach workshops and attend the festival for free. And many of his concerns were dismissed as above. And it all came back to me. I'd been complicit in something I chose not to follow closely because FPG meant so much to me. I had the same gut check, the same “shame on us” moment many in the community had. I had to act.
I realized there was a rot in the heart of it, so I began writing to them through Facebook, and to my Pagan friends. We contacted the FPG coordinators through Facebook and Yahoo Groups, and we eamiled...and silence. Our posts were removed from Yahoo and Facebook, and we were told to only email privately to the organizers. Those who got replies (I did not) were told that there was nothing wrong with the Frosts, they were guests of the founder, and the show would go on.
And then there was a second round of post removal from Facebook and Yahoo groups.
So here I sit, as a Pagan man who worships the Warrior Sovereign Queen, helping to craft a boycott that potentially can take down a festival I love deeply. I've been vocal in my contacts with FPG, supportive of those who were unsure, helped craft the Joint Resolution, all the while wishing I never had to do this.
Can we kill FPG, we Florida Pagans? Yes, because we understand that our money is the lifeblood of the event. We understand that our support keeps it alive. I don't want to, but I am pushed to go as far as the stubborness of the Board of Directors forces us to.
Because it's a fundamental question of right and wrong. It is wrong to abuse children, always and forever. It is wrong to condone sexual abuse of children. It is wrong to provide a forum for sexual abusers to preach, and to treat them as Elders of our community and with deference- because they are unrepentant,and proud of it.
The demands were simple: they may go as guests, but not teach workshops, not be treated as Elders and not do any vending. They are to neither peddle their wares or ideas as long as they refuse to renounce and disclaim any of the child sex material they published. If they did retract it, they would be welcomed back as full members and Elders.
FPG said no. They were rather condescending, refusing to address the actual writings of the Frosts, or the requests of those on the Joint Statement. They reaffirmed they are opposed to any misbehavior on site, and said they'd not ban anyone who was involved in the protest.
They just don't get it, which is the kernel of the problem in the first place. You see, Klein taught us that silence and deference and playing along doesn't work to keep us safe. We have to draw a line somewhere, and if not here then we are worse than a laughingstock as a commnunity. We can't even protect our own children if we don't stand up to what we all know is wrong.
And if our leaders won't do the right thing, they will no longer be our leaders.
If you are one who was planning to attend FPG this Beltaine, please join me and scores of others who have signed on to this Joint Resolution. And if you share our concerns, sign as well. Email, write, speak.
If FPG sees reason and agrees to the terms, then go spend money with them and have a great time. I'll be there, and we can meet up and have fun.
If FPG refuses to budge, please do not go. Do not give them money, time, or your participation. Tell them what the costs of silence are to a commnunity who is done being silent about abuse.