Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The view from the locomotive in the train wreck.


So it's all over but the body count, and just now the Muggle Media is starting to take notice. Good, party's over. Nothing to see here.

In the whole row about the Frosts, I was in the thick of it. Helping to craft the Resolution, responding to the trolls, and and keeping on message. But something really surprised me about the way the bulk of the FPGers responded. Not the BoD, not the PfC, but the large swaths of attendees. It was either silent, or mildly annoyed. Some were violently abusive about us “killing the festival” and “airing our dirty laundry”. But it's those silent masses that confuse me, and make me stop to think.

I take it for granted that we all have a moral compass, and that if I show a reasonable person something so unarguably wrong like the Frosts' Chapter 4 of the Good Witch's Bible, they will draw the reasonable conclusion. Stuff like this has no place in our religion, or any other. Their insistence on standing up for it means they are not welcome to teach in our polite society.

But why be silent?

I believe a lot of it has to do with Muggle life. You see, I happened upon a quote from Aldous Huxley that made me think.

Paraphrasing: The rational man struggles with modern life, because it is so counter to the way human beings evolved and lived for millions of years. Too much changes too quickly. Beauty and truth are replaced with convenience and comfort. Meaning falls away in the noise and rush of our lives, and any same person would quickly develop neuroses over it. Adjustment is impossible, only a desperate keeping-up. Only the truly sick and depraved, who have no defined mental archetecture, are suited to “adjust” to modern life.

And honestly, I think that's what the Pagan movement offers so many people who come to it. It offers the opportunity to disconnect from their tortuous “keeping-up” and be pretty wild and least for a short time. The prospect of Pagan festivals is just that, general abandoning of the Muggle values and problems for a few days.


I wrote that right after the Camp became involved in the conflict, and decreed to FPG the Frosts would not be in attendance. I thought it was over, it wasn't. I thought I understood the position of people involved, I didn't.

The backstory

I use the terms FPG to describe the festival itself, TEG (Temple of Earth Gathering) to describe the legal company/church/non-profit that runs the festival, and the BoD (Board of Directors) who oversees FPG. Also PfC (Pagans for Change) is the group that crafted the Joint Resolution (JR) to the BoD asking that the Frosts not teach, vend or be called headliners or elders at FPG. Ch 4 is the fourth chapter of The Witches Bible, renamed the Good Witches Bible.

I have to give a little backstory: I was part of PfC, and still am. What I write in my blog I do as myself, my words are much stronger out of my own mouth. But I think its important to make the distinction.

The JR can be found at the Facebook page, do a Google search “Joint Resolution to the FPG Board”. At no point did it say the Frosts should be banned from FPG, simply that until or unless they make a full unambiguous retraction of Ch 4. They were welcome to attend as guests, even as guests of the Founder of FPG, as FPG's public response to the JR stated. The only request was they not teach workshops, vend or be referred to as headliners or Elders.

If you've been following the issue, you know FPG said no, at which point over 250 people had signed on to the JR. The next step was to organize a boycott. We would not attend if the terms of the JR were not met, and would encourage others not to a well. Then someone contacted Camp La Llanada, the host, via Twitter and claimed that Fpg was hosting pedophiles. And the camp stepped in. They spoke with TEG, TEG spoke with the Frosts and the Frosts weren't coming.

The fight online was nasty, many layers of people calling each other names and many calling for calm. But it all kinda quieted down because TEG offered something

FPG decided to host a round table discussion.

The festival

It rained. A lot. All festival. I had to move part of my camp as it was under 3” of water until we made offerings to the Sidhe of the land. Then it was just annoying, but my camp space never flooded again.

The air was thick with tension. Veiled comments about “the trouble”. When I met with friends who were part of PfC, and privately told me they'd been talking with staff who were friends. Those staffers were told not to interact with us, very specifically. Something was brewing.

The night before, I made my sacrifices and renewed the vows I'd made on Samhain at that very spot. Later I was given a very clear message by a trance prophetess: No mercy.

And when the Morrigan tasks you, you do it.

The Round Table

It started ten minutes late. Announcements were made; the rules were no recording, no electronica, each speaker would have 90 seconds, and a talking stick was to be passed around by a staffer. No personal insults, you could report about what was said on media, but not use names in the interest of privacy.

But first the Founder Himself was going to speak. As long as he wished. And he did, for nearly 15 minutes.

He told how FPG got started in his legal battle with the city of Palm Bay. He framed the whole discussion as one on a backdrop of the first amendment. And that got loud praise.

The moderator made more announcements, asked for a grounding meditation and then opened the floor. Two women complained for 5 min a piece about cabins their disability and sharing showers with attendees. At which point I and another person were shouting points of order. I demanded to know since we were 40 min into a scheduled 1 hour meeting, if they were actually going to enforce the 90 sec rule. They assured me they would, and they would go over if needed.

Then the fireworks started.

I am supposedly restricted from naming names, unless they decide to represent themselves somewhere. The headliners, all but one, came out pro-Frost.

Their whole argument came down to two points:
1. This was a first amendment issue. Regardless of what they wrote the stood behind their right to teach and publish.
2. This was a Witch hunt based on fear, and who would be next? A writer who'd written or done something that could be interpreted as salacious?

Aaron Lietch was by far the most confrontational pro-Frost. On his blog he detailed his Four Points, but I will tell you from being there, his retelling is a lot milder and more coherent than it actually was.

To paraphrase:
1. He was mad that some internet troll had hijacked his name and claimed he was opposed to the Frosts. He did not clarify who it was, but implied it was someone either sympathetic to or on the JR.
2. He claimed to have known the Frosts personally, and felt they represented no threat.
3. He believed it was a Witch Hunt and that he or anyone there could be next.
4. He accused anyone of doing this sort of thing was “not Pagan”. He did not clarify that he meant anything about spreading rumors or lies, as he later claims on his blog. The understanding I got was anyone attached to the JR.

And then I laughed at him. When he finished he was looking directly at me as he said “not Pagan”. Irony tickled me...You see my wife and I contributed to his eye surgery that saved his sight. And to use that sight to cast insults wily-nily around the room was, well, the height of irony.

More speakers echoed the witch hunt or the 1st amendment. I listened to a man who claimed to be a soldier and police officer imply that if he caught an actual pedophile he “couldn't tell you what would happen to them in the back of the squad car”. Then after implying he'd beat a pedophile, he assured us he knew the Frosts were no pedophiles.

I got the talking stick shortly afterwards. 90 seconds is not a long time. I said the following things.
-My name is Edward G Rickey and I was one who helped craft the JR
-To anyone who thinks they can defend chapter 4 of the GWB, there is something wrong with you.
-To the point of whether this issue is the cause of Kenny Klein, and that this is anger about him, I say a little bit. Klein taught us that a culture of sweeping things under the rug doesn't work anymore
-This isn't really a discussion about the Frosts either. This is really a conversation between attendees and a board of directors hat has repeatedly ignored us and censored us. This board is both unresponsive and irresponsible.
-We are co-creators of FPG, we give our time and money to make it happen. We have no choice but to withold money and support if FPG refuses to do the right things. We don't want that. Read the JR.

And that was it. My 90 seconds was up. Part of it was people yelling at me after I told them there was something wrong.

Another man stood up. He said he travels the festival circuit, and this is no longer a local problem, but a National one. He told us, either we can solve it here, or the greater Pagan community will solve it for us, and we won't like the results.

Finally some other PfC folks got to speak. More measured but still on message. Roundly they were ignored.

The Founder got the last ten minutes to reiterate what he said before, and close the meeting.

My take:

A farce. Like Aaron said, this is coming from someone who was actually there. The meeting was an opportunity to close ranks around TEG, but it showed some serious flaws.

First, there are folks who want to turn this in to some argument of freedom of speech, but no one questioned the “censorship” the camp used.

Secondly, the Big Name Pagans tipped their hand by making the Witch Hunt argument. The concern was that the same kind of mob that they saw come after the Frosts would come after them for something they wrote or did. One man who claimed to be a clinician discussed fear, but the real fear is that you had a community who was angry at lack of leadership. It seemed to them the pitchforks and torches were out and the peasants were revolting. It never seemed to occur that there was a reason to riot.

Third, to the Pagan community, there are places where the leaders don't care about you. FPG is a big venue, and this means book sales, vending, and power. And when you have a group asking legitimate questions of standards, the reaction is to accuse of a Witch Hunt. I think in all this we know who has real standards and who does not. Who is motivated by truth and a sense of community and who just thinks of it as a playground or a party and a venue to sell goods and services or a chance to be a Little Caesar.

Make your choices Pagan nation. I made mine.

Next post I want to explore what's really all behind this, what is psychologically and spiritually the basis of this whole problem and how we go forward to treat it.


  1. Well said, Ed! I was at the "Round Table Discussion" as well. Not much was accomplished, except maybe to learn a lot more about people I did not know well.

  2. A good post. I didn't get or understand why so many said there was "fear". I saw no fear from the P4C. Only standing on our ethics.