Pagans are unorthodox but they do have their limits, apparently, and rumors that some of their number have crossed the line by advocating pedophilia have cast a cloud over the Florida pagan community's big annual May Day shindig, the Florida Pagan Gathering.
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Now in its 20th year, the FPG -- "one of the top 10 Fire Festivals in the world" -- was founded by the Palm Bay-based Church of Iron Oak and is now overseen by the Temple of Earth Gathering Inc. This year's, in Lake Wales, a Beltaine celebration "will honor Aine, the Celtic Queen Under the Mound, and Aengus mac Og, the Celtic God of Love." For an admission charge of about $100, attendees will "pass through one of four gates of their choice (North, East, South, or West) and be smudged and asperged as they enter."
The pedophile kerfuffle concerns Gavin and Yvonne Frost, two senior-citizen pagans who "founded the Church and School of Wicca, the oldest Wiccan school in the universe." (On their blog, they promise to "tell you what is going on in [their lives]" and "help you numerologically predict your own future.")
According to the Pagan Newswire Collective, the Frost flap (the latest one, it seems) broke out after organizers of the FPG announced that the Frosts would be attending the event and leading workshops as "guests of the staff and the festival's spiritual advisor."
On April 2 the newswire reported:
Members of the Pagan community voiced concern about the Frosts presenting, citing their 1970s published work which included sexual initiation of under age girls and other ritual practices, which they, to date, have not only never recanted, but reaffirmed on several occasions. Members of the Board stated that the Frosts had been convicted of no crimes, that they are presenting workshops as any festival attendee is welcome to do, and dismissed concerns voiced by the festival attendees. Several FPG staff have resigned as a result.
With the pagan community nationally already been shaken by the recent New Orleans arrest on child porn charges of one of their more prominent figures, the FPG's organizers opted for discretion over valor. On April 4, they wrote:
It was brought to our attention this afternoon that certain fringe members of the movement to prevent the Frosts from attending FPG left disparaging and callous remarks on the camps social media pages. This in turn caused panic for the parents of the children who attend the camp during the summer months to believe that their beloved campsite was home to a group of Pagans who supported pedophilia. It wasn't just FPG or its board who was painted with that brush, it was all of us.
Our hearts goes out to the children and the families who were inadvertently affected by our community's issue. They did not deserve that, nor did the owners and governing body of the camp which graciously allows us to call their land our home. For that we are truly, truly sorry.
Originally, we had a resolution where instead of hosting workshops there was going to be an open discussion with the Frosts where the stance they have held for 40 years regarding the contents of their book would be addressed. Its purpose was to allow the community to address them in person, face to face and promote communication with between all parties concerned.
Unfortunately with the attack on the camp, and its owners, we cannot, in good conscience, allow the Frosts to come, even as private guests.
On April 6, the Frosts posted this reply to their critics, accusing them of misreading one of their key texts:
Good Witch's Bible, that most-quoted and least-read book, has again become the basis for a flap and a furor in the Wiccan community, especially in Florida... For many years the book has served as a pretext to demonize the Frosts nationwide -- served people who have wrought precisely nothing in furtherance of the Craft, much less read GWB carefully with an open mind. In recent weeks we Frosts have been accused (yet again) of pedophilia and sexual misconduct. There is no evidence to support either accusation. No social-services agency (eg. child protective services) or civil authority has ever accused us of any pedophilia. In fact, we say again: We are not pedophiles; nor do we endorse, encourage, or condone pedophilia in any form; nor do we support any pedophile who attempts to use Wicca as an excuse for any form of illegal behavior in any form.
While noting that their Church of Wicca has "a strict no student under 18 policy," the Frosts still advocate that female initiates to "the Great Rite" have their hymen "broken surgically by a physician rather than being a cause of pain during a first sexual experience."
The Frosts claim to be simply "memorializing as a part of Craft heritage a practice considered to be 20,000 years old." "We do not know why originally a phallus was used to break the hymen," they wrote. "Perhaps those ancient peoples were smart enough to know that young women tend fall in love with -- to imprint on -- the mail [sic] who shares their first sexual experience. Whatever the reason, it is clear that a baton de commandment was historically used."
The Frosts concluded with this suggestion:
...why not turn your anger and frustration towards building community and helping others?... Here is a short list we came up with in a 5-minute brainstorming session: 1) Volunteer at the local animal shelter; 2) Foster a child or children; 3) Volunteer with the elderly; 4) Volunteer at hospice; 5) Adopt and clean your local roads; 6) Recycle; 7) Spend time reflecting on lunar cycles; 8) Teach children about the sun, the moon, and the stars -- help them learn to read a compass; 9) Begin a community watch program; 10) Dance! 11) Support local artists and artisans, and 12) Support a living, unsigned musician.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers public affairs and culture in Palm Beach County and elsewhere. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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