My spiritual community was recently rocked with news on allegations of sexual misconduct by our late founder, Isaac Bonewits. While the initial accusations occurred before ADF was founded, others have come forth with more experiences. Like others in ADF, I’ve felt a mixed bag of emotions. Mostly, disappointment, sadness for the victims, confusion, listlessness, and even anger.
Despite it all, I continued to drag myself to my altar in the mornings to perform my daily devotionals. The first time was difficult. I hesitated as I called to the ancestors. I had to consider my words carefully.
I never met Bonewits, but his ideas have had a major influence on my life. One of my dear friends lent me his classic Essential Guide to Druidism. I eagerly read about, then joined, ADF. It clicked with me, and the community was already widespread and active compared to the still small and fragmented Celtic Recon community that also interests me. As I worked my way through study programs, I found myself learning more from his other works, especially NeoPagan Rites. He inspired me.
I remembered hearing a story about Bonewits bringing a bag full of condoms to a festival, but I didn’t really think much of it at the time. It made me chuckle. It reveals my naivety about sexual relations in the past. I’ve been lucky that my sexual experiences have all been consensual. Back then, my idea of rape was that it was always forced, either through violence or the imposition of mind altering substances. My mother taught me to fight – kick, bite, scratch, and do anything necessary to get away. Reading about other peoples’ experiences would later teach me that it wasn’t always violent. It could simply involve fear, an imbalance in power, coercion, etc. I hadn’t thought of the condom story for years, but I recalled it with each new allegation, and it was no longer amusing.
Like many in my community, I’m still processing everything. I’ve read reactions from people who have been friends with Bonewits, victims of sexual harassment and abuse, people who worry about due process, and people who work with convicted sex offenders. We are experiencing something that the rest of my country is also grappling with. Change is afoot, and transformation is often messy. Mistakes will be made, but hopefully, lessons will be learned. My hope is that ADF, like the rest of the country, can move towards something better for the next generation.
I want to help make the world a better place for my own child. I’m pleased with the Mother Grove’s responses to this, and the work they’re doing to strengthen our sexual misconduct policy with training on creating a culture of consent. As a senior druid, I look forward to future training and bringing it back to my own grove.
As others have said, I believe that ADF is more than Bonewits. We cannot ignore or hide our past, but our roots go even deeper than our founder. The ideas that he organized were inspired by older teachings. He stood on the shoulders of others, just as we all do. We each contribute but none of us represents the whole picture. And beyond it all, the gods and goddesses themselves stir the cauldron of wisdom and ignite the flames of inspiration. We have more to draw on than the work of one man. My brothers, sisters, and teachers at Muin Mound Grove shared their hospitality with me for years, helping me grow on the path. My dear friend in Ithaca who is now starting her own grove continues to grow with me. All the fellow Dedicants I’ve worked with as a reviewer have shared their own perspectives with me. The priests, priestesses, initiates, solitaries, bards, artisans, warriors, flamekeepers, and many, many others who have played a part in my own spiritual journey. And, of course, my own grovemates who are a spiritual family to me. I’m so proud of the work we have done to grow, not only in developing our liturgical style and traditions, but in creating a safe, family-friendly atmosphere. It’s a lot of work, but it’s been more rewarding than not. I intend to keep up the work, not for the sake of our flawed founder, but for the sake of my community, and the spirits who called me to do the work, to persevere.
May Brighid wrap her healing mantle around the victims.
May she bless us with the warmth of compassion.
May Lugh bring justice as it is deserved.
May he teach us the skills we need to improve and build.
May Morrighan wake our inner warriors with her mighty call.
May she grant us the courage to continue the hard work ahead.
– Grey Catsidhe, 2018