I chose to read, “In the Midst of Avalon, Casualties of the Sexual Revolution,” by Katessa S. Harkey, because I had only recently heard about the Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) story of abuse a mere few weeks before the Isaac Bonewits accusations surfaced. Though this may be painful, I wanted to know more. The author writes from a historical perspective, citing many sources and leaving biases and conclusions out of the narrative, for which I am grateful. There are several points she raises that intersect with my current state of mind:
First, Katessa S. Harkey (2008) points out the difficulty in digesting accusations against a prominent individual posthumously (p. 204), because in most cases, there is "insufficient evidence to determine whether the posthumous claims are justified" (p. 205). This, from the commentary I have read, is where most of us lie in terms of Bonewits. Much like MZB, context from other areas of his life have added much fuel to the fire. Individuals have come forward revealing conversations they had with Bonewits directly expressing his views on Greek Love and “intergenerational relationships,” as MZB and Walter Breen called it--a practice that gives modern neopagans pause. This is definitely where many of us have stalled in our processing of the information.
Secondly, she discusses the apparent necessity many folks feel for separating an artist from the works, if this is possible. Do we now throw away all the work Bonewits has done to build this church to which we belong? Do we rebrand? Do we set the whole thing on fire and go our separate ways? These are the typical reactions readers had to MZB's works. It seems ADF members are experiencing a "psycho-spiritual tainting by association," and we are not entirely sure how to handle this (Harkey, 2008, p. 207).
Third, in Harkey's example of the underlying current of MZB's worldview as seen in Mists of Avalon, I am reminded of the underlying content in Bonewits', The Pagan Man, in which Bonewits himself muses on the mistakes he had made in his past regarding sexuality. Knowing a bit more about his personal life outside of ADF definitely informs the interpretation of his words in this title.
Finally, I completely agree with Harkey's (2008) conclusion that "we need to tell our history truthfully so that the mistakes of the past need not be repeated" (p. 212). It is in the spirit of transparency that we will heal from this. He must look at our flaws and the flaws of those who have gone before us, for these, too, hold lessons that will help us to evolve. If we deny or hide the ugly parts of our past, much like the accusations against MZB and Bonewits, they will return to haunt us and discredit us without us having the ability to engage in conversation, to right wrongs where possible, and to move forward with healing and dignity and a plan to keep these types of things from happening again. After all, that's why we're all here right now.
Harkey, K.S. (2008). In the Midst of Avalon, Casualties of the Sexual Revolution. Pagan Consent Culture. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press. pp. 194-212.