On Moira Greyland and the Dark Side of Avalon (Part 1)

I end up writing on abuse topics often. I don’t want to – believe me, I’d rather be posting recipes, and spells, and prayers and more of that Wiccan better homes and gardens stuff I wrote in the late 90s that got reposted without attribution in the land of 10,000 spinning pentacle gifs. It’s far more fun to write. Sadly, we live in a world where |ABSOLUTE| “Sexual interaction with kids = no” |ABSOLUTE| is still seen as debatable by far too many even within modern Paganism (among other just as culpable religious cultures) and so I have to write about this until it sinks in that Sex with Minors = NONONONONONOTOKAY NO THIS IS NOT A GREY AREA EVEN IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE MESSAGE SENDER JESUS CHRIST Do you need to be put down like a rabid animal? Good gods! SEX INVOLVING CHILDREN = NO.  Science, psychology, and decency back this up in several ways, and yet still a gross percentage keep looking for loopholes and calling it spirituality. Is this clear enough?

For those that look at that and say “there’s two sides, and men have pressures too and there are so many cultural viewpoints yada yada yada” I have to say: KNOCK THAT SHIT OFF. There are areas where asking me or anyone else to be “polite” or “tolerant” might be in order. SEX WITH CHILDREN IS NOT ONE OF THOSE AREAS.

Also, for the especially weaselly weasels, a child is someone who is not the age of consent – no matter how conveniently cognizant you find them. If they aren’t the age of consent, you’re playing with a grotesque power dynamic and IT’S NOT OKAY. To spell this out further, yes, that child may be able to report you to the police and ruin your life. Meanwhile that same child does not have any actual civil rights until the age of majority, so you’re still screwing around with a power dynamic that works against the child – and that’s before looking into the reality that even at the age of majority, most younger people have not yet completed neurological development. Also, we still tend to discount the reality of childrens’ experiences, now, in modern day.

There better not be any questions. The above isn’t arguable.

Now, on to the core of the essay.

Most people are weighing in on the “did he/didn’t he” on whether Isaac Bonewits did anything to Moira Greyland. I am going to address that in a second, shorter blog post. Ultimately speculation is a common, addictive hobby in the Pagan community and beyond, and while it can be quite poisonous, we’ve got some problems that only gossip can solve because we personality cult it up way too easily. Also, a lot of people have weighed in on the book and whether to believe her – and yes, I agree that believing the victim is of the first order, even when the victim believes terrible things about you. I generally don’t write unless I feel something that needs to be said isn’t being said, or if I have something unique to say.

This is an area where I do feel like I have something unique to say.

What I want to do here is help Greyland be understood as much as anyone in the Pagan audience is willing to understand her, because despite powerful differences between myself and her that would send Ms. Greyland screaming into the night – I am Pagan, queered, fat, polyamorous, and feminist – Moira Greyland and I have a lot in common, far more than our mutual distaste for Mists of Avalon. Many of those things I am I became when I started healing – quite in opposition to Ms. Greyland’s experience, who has been damaged by the very labels and statuses that set me on a path to real mental health. To me it simply suggests that when it comes to trauma, despite her perception, perhaps it’s the trauma and not the labels that are truly relevant.

I realized, as often as I dive into abuse topics that people probably want to know why I do it so often. You don’t jump into this fray without there being some personal stake, and yes, I have one.  I do it because, like Moira Greyland, I have a diagnosis of C-PTSD thanks to extended time in an abusive family situation. My formal diagnosis is “PTSD with a co-morbidity of General Adaptive Syndrome.” This is because C-PTSD, as opposed to PTSD, has yet to earn its own entry in the DSM. Not appearing in the DSM doesn’t necessarily mean something doesn’t exist – it’s either considered not treatable, or requires x amount of empirical data and a vote for entry. C-PTSD is still in the empirical data phase. I am flagged as “high functioning” since the majority of my abuse was emotional/psychosexual (and the physical abuse was not legally recognized as abuse AT THAT TIME) and because my brain chemistry has not been so altered by the trauma that I need medications for daily function. There are very probably periods of my life where I should have been medicated and I add this because I really want to see the stigma against taking mental health medications go away – brain or kidney, sometimes you need a little help to actually be you.

I made a point of reading The Dark Side of Avalon right before I knew I’d be seeing my therapist, and yes, I have been jumping at doors slamming and hypersensitive enough this week that both my partners are tiptoeing around me. There isn’t reading about abuse at the degree Greyland suffered, when you’ve also suffered, without triggering  something in the programmed-in neural misfires. So adding this to other stressful situations has made me slightly more of a mess than I usually am.

Greyland breaks it down pretty well, but for those of you that are not going to read the book because they are triggered by their own haunted pasts or because they’re infuriated with Vox Day’s agenda behind publishing it (or with Greyland’s clear anti-liberal/anti-Pagan/virulently anti-gay stands.) The woman has been through hell, and her best self-protective move is to reject ANYTHING espoused by her abusers. My abusers were also abused – generational trauma is a big part of abuse in general – and while Greyland doesn’t seem to be aware that her parents both showed most of the signs for Narcissistic Personality Disorder I suspect but have no qualifications to determine that this might also have been a factor. In the case of my abusers, they fully embraced just about every belief that Greyland expresses in her book – and it was very much part of my own abuse. Gay people were all evil pedophiles, my primary abuser fully believed a professor in college was trying to “force” a matchmake with a lesbian, women and men had roles to maintain and gender was cut and dried (despite one abuser actually chafing at that but ultimately surrendering to it in bitter way), and I’m not even going to repeat the “wisdom” one of them had about people of color. I’m amazed deprogramming most of that nonsense took as little time as it did.

For Ms. Greyland, despite the very opposite beliefs our abusers held, they said a lot of the same stuff. There was a lot of “I don’t want this other person to feel bad so I’m not going to let you do this harmless/enriching thing.” There was a lot of jealousy and other emotions attributed to me that I did not actually have. There was a lot of arbitrary neglect – while I have no way of knowing how dangerous the BART system was back in the day (I don’t think it’s terrible but I probably wouldn’t let a young kid go on it alone as frequently happened with Ms. Greyland)  I was left to walk home in ice storms and fend for myself in situations that most adults in my locality did not leave their kids to fend for themselves in. The beliefs expressed by her abusers are the polar opposite of those expressed by mine – but we still ended up with the same diagnosis. I highlighted and commented on my criticisms of her statements and conclusions, but there were also several “me too” moments that I added when I annotated the text that you can read here.

There are several sections of the Dark Side of Avalon where even the least critical reader will notice that Ms. Greyland is a)claiming an expertise she simply does not have or is b)analyzing something that not only isn’t useful, it’s actually locking her further into her own disorder and c)she uses the term confirmation bias, but defines it wrong. The Armchair Psychology sections of the book aren’t just terrible, they’re page for page rationalizations that abused people make for why they’re being abused.  They are a form of self-abuse we get programmed into us. Abusers gaslight you so much that eventually you start doing it to yourself – Ms. Greyland’s multiple accounts of sexual violence she suffered into early adulthood are passages that are almost word for word what someone locked in a victim loop will say, and it’s a long process to come out of that. Also, because of her parents’ absolutism in their views her response is to be equally absolutist in hers. I often do what Ms. Greyland does, adamantly insisting I’m right about something (no, the top section on this blog post is not going to budge) because I am so used to people trying to control me by convincing my my perceptions are all wrong and something is just wrong with me. I have people to lovingly call me on it; Ms. Greyland found people that love her and just let her cling to it. I am unqualified to tell you which way is better, but we both feel safer with the people in our lives now, and that’s good.

I have no interest in changing what Ms. Greyland believes, although I do hope she gets to a point where her abusers no longer live in her head because it’s clear from this book and her rebellion against all things she perceives as liberal are still informing and controlling every choice she makes, and that’s tragic. But I do have some serious concerns about how her own trauma is being used to exploit her by Vox Day, and I half wonder if there was perhaps some manipulative re-traumatizing of her to get the attention on the book as he wanted it.

As for the publisher, Vox Day, it’s fairly obvious and petty what he’s doing. For those unaware, Vox Day had his membership for the Science Fiction Writer’s  Association severed for publicly trolling other members of the organization who had different beliefs than himself, sending at least one known rape threat, and for his gleeful affiliation with Nazism and anti-woman/pro-slavery (just calling them what they really are) organizations. By soliciting the work from Moira Greyland, he is basically holding up her book and going “see, see, there are worse people than me, I didn’t deserve getting thrown out when you left them in the organization!” Yes, there are MANY people in the science fiction/fantasy world that are culpable for what they allowed happen to children and to Ms. Greyland. But ultimately, one isn’t worse than the other. A man who makes rape threats, participates in pick-up culture and advocates entire swathes of people be killed or subjugated to him online is very probably acting on these beliefs in real life and is just as bad as people that rape and further abuse their children. So Vox Day is just as bad as Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband Walter Breen.   Publishing Ms. Greyland’s work doesn’t vindicate him, it damns him. Because he is repeating back to Greyland things she wants to believe, she is ignoring that he has the same history of violence towards people with less power than himself that her parents did. If there is a hell and a special place in hell, it’s waiting for Vox Day, and Ms. Greyland’s parents will be sharing that two bedroom condo with him.

I wanted to write this here because my own neural patterning and trauma gives me a different picture than Ms. Greyland has. I do want to say, should she ever read this, that her stance on gay marriage is some spiteful shit that she needs to drop because her abuse came from a straight relationship that was just full of patriarchal values being called feminist, but otherwise, while I disagree with her I genuinely see where she’s coming from. Also, if she reads this (unlikely, because of the Pagan label) if she digs into me she might try to use my life for fodder for her arguments against my life. I would advise against it – I found healing in places she didn’t, and while my choices are unorthodox, they have been made as a fully empowered adult and no one is holding me prisoner to my situation. She was a child and didn’t have a choice about what she lived with. I didn’t have a choice when I was a child either. Opposite beliefs, but the same diagnosis. I wish her the best.

But I still am considering her words critically.

About the Author

Diana Rajchel lives at the western edge of San Francisco, where sea creatures and hippies meet, breed, and glower at gentrification. From this liminal place she runs the Emperor Norton Pagan Social, writes about magic, herbs, and human quirks, and looks to both sidewalk and sky for wisdom. She is the author of Divorcing a Real Witch, the Mabon and Samhain installments of the Llewellyn Sabbat essentials series, and a title on Urban Magic to be released by Llewellyn in 2018.

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