It is a kingly thing, O Cyrus, to do well and to be evil spoken of. — Antisthenes, founder of the Cynic school of philosophyIt isn’t easy being Gardnerian. As if we don’t catch enough flak from misinformed skeptics outside of our Tradition who claim Gerald Gardner made up Wicca, many of us Gards also weather attacks from the inside by misguided fundamentalists who insist their particular “praxis” (set of practices) is the one true and only “legitimate” Gardnerian way. Recently Coven Oldenwilde, Lady Passion and *Diuvei, and our California Line Gardnerian lineage have been the target of lies and libels by a small clique posting on (and apparently running) a site called RealPaganNetwork: RealPagan — Paganism for the Real World. We don’t know these folks, but their motivation seems to be the usual one — to build up their own status by tearing other people down. Online smear campaigns are all too common nowadays, and anybody’s reputation can be targeted and tarnished by enemies you didn’t even know you had. We’ve pursued the following course of response, which a consensus of experts recommends if you are a victim of Internet libel:
- Reply promptly and directly. A fair, ethically operated online forum should allow someone who’s being accused to reply to their accusers, as a matter of basic justice. In hopes of being able to post a factual response, *Diuvei applied to realpagan.net for forum membership. Result: Realpagan.net administrators not only yanked *Diuvei’s membership almost immediately after it was approved, but installed a censorship cookie on his computer that prevents him from even viewing realpagan.net. (When he tries to access the site, a screen appears saying he has been “suspended from RealPagan- Paganism for the Real World”.)
- Contact the site administrator. Ethical web forums give a way for the public to contact a webmaster or administrator. Realpagan.net does not, but by “following the money” *Diuvei tracked down the e-address through which the site’s creator, one “Sangraal”, solicits PayPal donations. He notified Sangraal that the libelous and defamatory content of the thread overtly violated realpagan.net’s published Terms of Service, and that he was being prevented from posting a reply. Result: No response to *Diuvei’s email.
- Contact the site’s host or server. Responsible Internet companies that host public websites and forums honor their own Terms of Service by investigating and acting on clear TOS violations. Ning.com, which hosts realpagan.net, claims to abide by an especially comprehensive and restrictive TOS, so *Diuvei sent a complaint about the libelous and defamatory thread to Ning.com. Result: Ning told *Diuvei they would do nothing unless compelled to as the result of a lawsuit. They did, however, consent to his request to forward his complaint to realpagan.net’s administrators. No response from realpagan.net (unless you count ratcheted-up name-calling and attacks against us and our lineage on the forum thread).
- If going through channels gets you nowhere, push back. Post a response on your own website or social media, and encourage your fans and friends to do the same on the offending site and elsewhere. Result: …
Our responseto the false, defamatory lies that RealPaganNetwork: RealPagan — Paganism for the Real World has published about the California Line of Gardnerianism, Coven Oldenwilde, *Diuvei, and Lady Passion at:
- “Stories of abuse”: It’s bad enough that this malicious post is erroneous … it’s also embarrassingly ungrammatical!: “There are stories of abuse towards students and seekers that have be laid at the foot of Oldenwilde and Lady Passion.” Fact: The only such “stories” about us were fabricated 15 years ago by a small group of students after we ejected them from our Coven for having lied to and thieved from us. Indeed, thousands worldwide call Lady Passion one of the wisest, most compassionate, and genuinely Witchy people they’ve ever had the honor of communicating with (many writing so in their Amazon.com reviews of The Goodly Spellbook and at http://oldenwilde.org/consult-lady-passion/.)
- “Skeevy”: Asdea/Jasper’s characterization of Lady Passion as “skeevy, weird, rude” reeks of misogyny. Fact: *Diuvei’s review of Asdea’s e-mails to Lady Passion and her responses to him found that Lady Passion simply denied, politely, the veracity of Asdea’s unsolicited “energy sensing” of her, and patiently explained to him the reasons why tradition associates the Four Elemental Humors with bodily fluids, which he had disparaged as “unseemly.”
- “NOT a Gardnerian coven”: RealPagans’ assertions are wrong that Coven Oldenwilde is “NOT a Gardnerian coven…” and “Lady Passion is not a Gardnerian. Her working partner, a CalGard with questionable training and lineage, raised her to [Third Degree] in a circle he cast without a HPS present or casting the circle.” Fact: The names of Lady Passion’s and *Diuvei’s initiators and elevators to the Gardnerian 3rd Degree, and the dates when these ceremonies took place, are publicly posted at: http://oldenwilde.org/oldenwilde/members/PandD.html. The California Line of Gardnerianism (called “CalGard” in the above quote) is unquestionably legitimate, and *Diuvei’s Gardnerian training in Coven Tobar Bhride and elevation to the Sublime and Ultimate Degree by Lady Maeve and Niklas Gander of Coven Triskell are above reproach. The California Line originated in the 1980s with Gardnerians on the West Coast who declared their independence from the dictates of the New York-based Long Island Line. The California Line’s founders, who included *Diuvei’s Elders, had become fed up with the then-current Long Island Line Elders’ homophobic refusal to acknowledge same-sex initiations and covens; with their rigidly literalist, Bible-like adherence what proved to be a flawed, incomplete Book of Shadows; and especially with their arrogant, very un-Witchy self-appointed role as arbiters of Gardnerian orthodoxy. Amazingly, nearly 30 years later nothing has changed, to judge by the condemnations of Calfornia Line Gardnerianism’s supposed heresy on realpagan.net. California Line Gardnerians use the same initiation and elevation rituals as other Gardnerians, but allow males to cast circle without a Priestess, either for same-sex initiations or in case of necessity. To the best of our knowledge, no Gardnerian HPs lived anywhere near our area many years ago when, with his Elders’ approval, *Diuvei legitimately cast the circle and elevated Lady Passion to the 3rd Degree. “Honi soit qui mal y pense!” Incidentally, our upline Gardnerian Elder Raymond Buckland, the respected Craft author and original founder of the Long Island Line, expressed no concerns about our California Line Gardnerian lineage when he gave our The Goodly Spellbook a glowing review. (Already by the 1980s, it should be noted, he had distanced himself from the Long Island Line.) And speaking of books, California Line Gardnerian scholars, particularly our Elder Morgann, have spent many years carefully researching the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, tracking down and re-incorporating lost, variant, and excised materials from every known Gardner-descended line to create a much more complete and useful edition than any individual Gard line possessed up to that point. It is thanks to these California Gardnerians’ assiduous scholarship that Gardnerian initiates can now see plainly for themselves that Gerald Gardner was telling the truth when he said he was publicizing and passing forward a very old — and very diverse — continuous British “Witch cult”.