A Frosty Florida Pagan Gathering

In 1972, Gavin and Yvonne Frost published a book titled The Witch’s Bible. I read it in early 2007. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. At the time, Pagan author-turned-Catholic A.J. Drew was spearheading a campaign to have Gavin and Yvonne Frost ostracized from the Pagan community. Drew’s websites have since closed, but the Wild Hunt blog still has the story in its archives here, here, here, and here (and here is a 2009 article worth reading as well). Drew’s hostility towards the Frosts was over content in The Witch’s Bible.

The Witch’s Bible, or the Good Witch’s Bible, as it was reissued in 1976, is a difficult and problematic book. Very little in it resembles modern Wicca or even older material on Wicca and British Traditional Witchcraft. The most controversial parts of the book involve children and initiation. According to the Frosts, children may become full members of the coven when they reach puberty and initiation involves ritual intercourse with a phallic object by adult sponsors.

Lest we toss this up to the swinging lifestyle of the 70s, in his 2007 Amazon.com review, Archdruid Emeritus of the ADF and Pagan writer Ian Corrigan, said that the book wasn’t well received then.

When this book came out in the early 70s, it was considered abject nonsense by the few folks who had any actual knowledge of Wicca in those days. The Frosts came out of nowhere, appropriating the term ‘Wicca’ for their own version of what religious witchcraft might be. Their synthesis bore almost no resemblance to the traditions of Wicca, either in ritual or theology, and certainly not in the grotesque suggestions about the sexual upbringing of children. It was a different age in those days, as ‘swinging’ emerged as a lifestyle and many folks hoped for a real revolution in sexual mores – too bad the Frosts chose to add their wacky ideas to something that they chose to call ‘Wicca’. This book was an embarrassment in 1972, and it’s an embarrassment now. It should be ignored by anyone interested in learning witchcraft or wicca.

The Witch’s Bible is thankfully out of print. To say it’s an embarrassment to the Pagan community is an understatement. With its statements about the sexual initiation of children, it’s morally reprehensible and advocates an illegal and abusive practice that has no place in Wicca. No publisher would print this book if it were penned today.

As far as I know, the Frosts have never recanted these statements. If anyone has any information to the contrary, please do share in the comments below or contact me privately. It is worth nothing that, again, as far as I know, there have never been any charges of misconduct brought against the Frosts. Again, if you have any information to the contrary, please do let me know. I have spoken with some Pagans who know them personally and others who have attended workshops with the Frosts. They have all said that although the Frosts are a bit kooky, they are delightful. They are “old school,” some say.

But that’s not good enough.

We need to hold our spiritual teachers to a higher standard than this. If the Frosts are not willing to issue a public statement that they no longer hold this belief regarding children and initiation and apologize for any hurt they might have caused, they should not be welcomed as teachers or respected Elders at any Pagan event.

A spiritual teacher must not create harm through sexuality even if that is only through speech and not actual sex. A spiritual teacher should speak what is true and useful. A spiritual teacher fosters goodness. A spiritual leader empowers and inspires. They do not exploit. They do not abuse their positions. Our High Priests and High Priestesses may be representatives of the gods, but as human beings, they need to admit when they are wrong, apologize, and make amends.

Florida Pagan Gathering (FPG) is one my favourite Pagan festivals. I ignore most of the workshops and have never attended any of its main rituals, but the time I have spent there sitting around the fire sharing mead and laughter with my friends from all over Florida and beyond – well, that’s the only reason I went to FPG at all. I am deeply disappointed that Gavin and Yvonne Frost will be presenters at FPG at Beltane.

It’s not the first time the Frosts appear at FPG and they’ve met controversy before, but in light of Kenny Klein’s recent arrest over child pornography, the Pagan community is currently far more on edge. During this time of anger, confusion, and community self-reflection, having the Frosts present at your festival is, to say the least, not a very wise decision.

Pagans are voicing their concerns. They have emailed Temple of Earth Gathering Board of Directors asking it to reconsider. They are beginning to request refunds for the event. Staff members have resigned. But the Frosts will go on. A statement issued on FPG’s Facebook Page says:

We want to assure everyone that FPG and TEG never has, and never will condone assault of any nature, be it verbal, physical or sexual. When our guests and staff are at FPG we work with our Guardians and fellow staff members to keep everyone as safe as possible and we respond to threats immediately. We will never allow anyone to be harmed, or continue to be harmed while at our festivals. We have not now, nor have we ever had threats of violence made against our event and we do not expect that there will be.

It’s hypocritical and repugnant, TEG, to say you don’t condone assault and then host, as privileged and influential presenters, two Witches whose beliefs remain unaddressed. Again, until the Frosts come forward and state that they no longer hold this belief regarding children and sexual initiation and apologize for any hurt they might have caused, they should not be welcomed as teachers or respected Elders at FPG.

12 thoughts on “A Frosty Florida Pagan Gathering

  1. They have had a long time to repudiate or revise this position. That doesn’t seem to have happened. In an unreleated event, I was at a gathering some years ago where an older adult male was pointed out as someone making advances towards teenage girls. I asked if the police had been notified, and was told that what happened to Cowans was none of our concern. Our only responsibility was to our own, and they had been warned. Case closed.

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    • I don’t understand that attitude at all, this decision to stop being a morally responsible adult at gatherings. Our community needs a lot of work. Thank you for your comments, Gordon.

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  2. There was a long discussion thread attached to The Wild Hunt’s 6/29/07 posting on AJ Drew’s plan to burn the Frosts in effigy at a public ritual, “Sacrificing the Frosts.” Jason has removed the link to it, but it is preserved at the Internet Archive. I made substantial postings in that thread, debunking many of the Frosts’ claims and lies, and I stand behind every word I wrote then. https://web.archive.org/web/20071013053029/http://haloscan.com/comments/jasonpitzl/1808692917004447627/ (WARNING: that thread contains triggers)

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  3. If I had thought about the way it was considered so ordinary to have the Frosts leading, well, anything, it would have told me so much more about the culture of Florida Pagan Gathering leadership. Sadly, I had to find that out on my own .

    You see, there was another predator there a few years ago. He was with me for awhile, until I got a warning from another young woman he ‘knew.’ His days past of threats and sexually aggressive behavior, which had gotten him banned only temporarily from festival, were not in the past after all. He was getting worse, not better, and he didn’t care. It couldn’t all be blamed on a change of meds or what have you. I heeded the warning and got him out of my life, posthaste and permanently.

    Or so I thought.

    With the woman’s permission, I forwarded a screen cap of some of his text conversation, in which he bragged about a sexual violation. It wasn’t enough to get him in trouble with the law, but it should have been enough to attract the attention of the FPG board member I sent it to. I added ‘You cannot sweep this under the rug.’

    She ignored me and brought the predator as her very own guest. He drove a staff golf cart. He made violent threats toward a number of women. He threatened the fire tenders, which was still not enough to get him kicked off the premises but was enough to get him permanently banned at last.

    And yet, when I mentioned what a bad idea it was to bring him in the first place, I was banned from staff for a year.

    You should have told us privately, said another board member. ‘We would have listened.’ Well, I had already tried that, and the results were not spectacular.

    Here is my point: the current controversy over the Frosts being at FPG is really not a new issue. It’s an old one. It’s all about speaking out in favor of safety and being ignored or even punished. It’s about people in positions of leadership who don’t have a heart for the vulnerable.

    Noticing and commenting on this years-long trend doesn’t make me a Debbie Downer. Calling out the Board’s negligence is not ‘drama.’ Calling for changes doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the staff and all they have done. It means I expect better from a group I used to call my community. I could call it that again, after a drastic change in leadership.

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    • Joy, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. This is a very poignant and elegant statement. There is a group of mainly Florida pagans calling the TEG Board that plans FPG to not allow the Frosts access to the festival as headliners or presenter and to deal with predators more proactively. I hope it helps change the type of situation you faced. Feel free to post here if you want to be in touch ornti ask Cosette to put us on touch. Maybe it will help you call it your community again someday.

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  4. I agree with all of you on your views. It is important for festival coordinators and the BOD to “speak for the community”. That is one of the main roles of the BOD. It is unfortunate, but in the world we live in, I believe controversial presenters should be thoroughly researched and put to a vote, as we do it in our festival meetings. 1. Is it a presenter the community would react positively to?, 2. does the presenter have something positive to offer the community, 3 .If there is controversy and/or concerns from the community we will address them, in an open forum and highly regard their opinions. The Frosts are a prime example of what can happen if the higher ups are not willing to be the voice of the community. I do not attend FPG,but I have heard many negative comments as to how the festival is run. I hope the pagan community does not suffer a huge rift over this, but sadly, it seems to be what is happening. Hoping we can all stick together as a pagan family and love and accept those who truly are trying to protect and respect our pagan family.

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    • I love FPG and I think it runs remarkably well for such a large event, but, yes, there are some issues that need addressing, and as this issue with the Frosts gains more attention, more stories are emerging about other problems with the festival and its organizers. The procedure you describe would be an excellent start for TEG and I think the Pagan community would welcome a more thorough and transparent process. Thank you for your comments.

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  5. “No publisher would print this book if it were penned today.” Actually, the Frosts ARE the publishers of the last 2 editions, so that never stopped them.

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