Veiled Issues #1B – In Defense of Bunny Hunting
Over the past several weeks, there has been a lot of talk online about bunny hunting. That’s good; talk needs to happen and debate needs to happen. But it’s when talk stops that things go bad. And in this case, talk stopped and attacks began.
I am casting no aspersions. There are a lot of people to share the blame here, no one person more so than any other. This article is not to point fingers or say “you were wrong.” This article only gives the other side of the argument, the one drowned out by the strident voices.
A lot of people have made uninformed comments, judgment calls, snap diagnoses and pop-psychology psycho babble feel-good nonsense. I have seen people call all bunny hunters bullies, mean, hatemongers, guardians of morals and craft dogma, and other names. These aspersions include me, since I have been actively hunting bunnies.
Over my time practicing Wicca and Witchcraft actively, I have been seeing people say, “There needs to be someone who will speak out against these idiots,” for the last 13 years. It started with Laurie Cabot and her insistence on wearing all black, all the time, and it continued into wanting to distance Witchcraft from the excesses of Stevie Nicks. It has continued right up to present day and such people as Kevin Carolyn (and his spells to protect the Loch Ness Monster), Silver RavenWolf (and her books), Fiona Horne (and her infamous appearance on Mad Mad House), right up to the Wiccans and Witches who appear on reality TV and shows like Tyra Banks. But somebody should do something about it, right?
Back in the days of the infant online networking between Witches with America Online, Prodigy and Genie, there was a certain amount of fluff that had to be tolerated. Information was scattered and dispersed between multiple groups and communities, with few books available. Everyone was referencing the same three-dozen text articles, and reading the Riders of the Crystal Wind book of shadows (in fourteen volumes). Finding non-fluff information was very difficult, especially since most bookstores didn’t carry anything that was relevant, and when they did it was in their “Religious Studies,” “Self Help,” or the “Philosophy” sections.
It became imperative to spread the best information you could find. Books like the Big Blue Book or Cunningham’s were about as good as it got, then Doreen Valentie got into publishing her works, and the Farrars wrote their works. [Editor’s note: The Farrars started publishing their works in 1981; Valiente in 1962. They predate Buckland and Cunningham as well as being their contemporaries.] Things started turning around.
But with these autonomous isolated communities, a problem started occurring. It was whispered about in the chat rooms, referenced in one paper, shared with a few communities, and that problem was the predator. The predator would come into a community and tear it apart simply for the joy of watching it burn. They would use and take advantage of others who didn’t know any better, under the guise of the tolerance of Wicca, to take the money, the self-respect and the sexual energy of the people they were supposed to be guiding. The insular nature of the covens only reinforced this, because other covens who didn’t have that problem would look at what was happening and say, “well, that’s not my coven, I can’t do anything about it. But somebody should do something about it.”
If questioned when the different leaders got together in a community networking event, they might say there should be a council that would keep track of predators like this and warn people, a “database of the shunned.” Everyone would agree that it was a good idea and nothing ever came of it. Stories would be shared, object lessons passed on to others, the injured might be taken to those who could help them, and everyone would shrug and move on until the next time. Again, people would say that somebody should do something about it.
And in every case, the community would be ripped apart. There were coven leaders suggesting that it was okay to do illegal drugs in the magical operations and who would make those drugs a mandatory part of the ritual (if you didn’t do it you would be expelled from the group in a time when just finding a group was a monumental task). Famous authors advocated in their books on Witchcraft that it was okay for a father to carve dildos and to use them on their pre-pubescent daughters in a public ritual, or show them how to use them (by hands-on training), or to give that same virginal daughter to the head of the Circle, even if that head was her father, to be used sexually.
Every time a story like this came to light, nothing was done. Suggestions of going to the police would be met with cries of “we police our own,” and nothing would happen. There was no kind of magical or societal retribution at all. If the community moved with one accord to shun the person in question, the one who was shunned simply packed up and moved to another area and started again, destroying the new community they met and using the new seekers they found there. Everyone would agree, again, that somebody should do something about it.
I have been a victim of these kinds of actions; it has taken me ten years to recover, and my daughter still has nightmares about it. My wife and I nearly committed suicide because of the abuse of such a leader. That leader is still in her position of power, using new members of the Craft, destroying communities and moving on. She is even lauded in publications and books as a major force for good in her area. But every story I have heard about her has been negative, such as allowing rape to occur on her covenstead grounds, which she knew about, and doing nothing either before, during or after except to blame the victim.
With the widespread use of the Internet, there is absolutely no excuse for bad information. Yes, the new seeker needs guidance, and there are groups online that will help aplenty. There are multiple people they can turn to and get good resources and information from. There are hundreds of websites that have accurate history, frank discussions about the inner workings of the Covens and the Mysteries to satisfy the curiosity of any seeker. There are websites that are the gold standard for those seeking more than just basic 101 information on how to be a Witch or a Wiccan.
Those going into the forums where new seekers are, who still claim that nine million women died in a 100 year period in Europe, or that all Christians are exactly like the fundamental bigots you see in extreme cases, or that all Wiccans are vegetarians might be uninformed, but are more likely trolling for flames and people to use.
When someone like this shows up in the typical forum or e-list, three or four people will counteract their information with accurate information, decent resources and good historical facts. Normally this is ignored or knocked down with, “Well, I don’t believe that so it can’t be true.” When more good information is made available through references online and off, and it is ignored and dismissed again — when it is decried, and the person trying to give true information is repeatedly attacked, there is a problem.
It absolutely stuns me that there are still people who consider this kind of baiting to be innocent ignorance. When multiple attempts to educate are shot down and deflected and dismissed, even when they are proven as facts, it stuns me that there are those out there who still think that it is no big deal.
I recently reviewed a book that was published by a Christian Publishing house that was about Wiccans and Witches and what we believed. It was designed to be a primer for those who didn’t know who we are and how we came to be. One of the biggest criticisms that I saw over and over in this book was that “Wiccans tend to be ignorant of their own history,” and “They believe in myths that fly in the face of all factual evidence, both archeological and anthropological.” If this problem is so bad that Christians are seeing it, then something is dramatically wrong.
As a whole, society views us as freaks, fools or predators, mainly because of people like this. Because they shout the loudest, those who spread inaccurate information, those who live in dream worlds of escapism, those who perpetually are the victims of something, and who have to find other people to blame for all that is wrong in their lives — these are the public faces of Neopaganism.
There is nothing wrong with believing in fairies, unless you insist that every single houseplant has a colony of fairies living in it and you must feed them all when you have people over. There is nothing wrong with casting spells to help in your daily life, until you only cast spells and do nothing else to bring what you want to you. Acknowledging your cat as a familiar is fine, but calling your cookbooks “grimoires” probably isn’t. And there is still nothing wrong with that until you go on TV on Wife Swap or Trading Spouses, or a show to get a new house, or a talk show, and spout that as what all Wiccans believe.
I’m tired of my religion and my way of life being trivialized and demonized by insane practitioners simply to get their 15 minutes of fame. I’m sick to death of people who have less time in the Craft than the age of my roll of toilet paper telling me what I must believe and do to be Wiccan. And I’m sick of those people who play up to those stereotypes.
I had this conversation at one point, and it made me physically ill when I was done:
“You think you are a witch?”
“Yes, I am a witch.”
“You really think you are a witch”
“Yes, I am a witch.”
“You really believe that stuff?”
“What stuff specifically?”
“You know, that witch stuff.”
“Yes, I do, because I am a witch.”
“You really believe you are a witch?”
And it went on like this for ten minutes, back and forth. I wanted to ask her, “Do you really think you are a Christian?”
This trend trickles over to every aspect of life. Out in your workplace as a Wiccan? Beware that your boss hasn’t watched Mad Mad House, or they may question your competence to fix that car, because Fiona did a spell to make her car run.
These kinds of attitudes keep being replayed over and over in the community and society at large, and they are affecting everyone.
This is the stereotype that is being perpetuated by these fluff bunnies. Not the typical stereotype of the nose-wiggling, green-skinned, broom-riding, black-wearing witch who eats children. But the stereotype of the ripped T-shirt, sullen, antisocial, angry and depressed emo kid who hates everyone, is under the illusion s/he can float over the ground, who is amoral and kills without a thought simply because they can.
I’ll admit it — I had my time as a fluffy bunny. I also had my ass handed to me multiple times by Elders who did know what they are doing. I’m a better person for it. I got so tired of what I was stating being criticized that I started looking up every little fact before I posted it, and I discovered that most times I was totally wrong about what I was saying. I stopped trying to teach others since so much of my basic information was wrong at that point. I have also spent time finding those Elders who kicked my backside and I’ve made amends to them, thanking them for their patience.
Please don’t misunderstand me. New people to this path are not fluffy bunnies. Let me state this again because it doesn’t seem to penetrate the brain. New people to the path are not fluffy bunnies. They are simply new. They are ignorant. They can be educated and they are desirous of education. They come seeking education and the get it for the most part. They also get advice and a support structure.
Fluffy bunnies are willfully ignorant, they are perpetrators of lies and inaccurate information, and they take articles and information from others without ever crediting the people they got it from or even asking if they can use it. They are those who have patterns of behavior including posting something that causes a negative reaction and then continue stoking the flames with more posts, deliberately trying to keep the fight going. Once it stops for various reasons, they start it again. Or they simply pack up and move to another forum and do it all over again. Anyone who disagrees with them on factual grounds is a fascist who just doesn’t understand them. They have rights and you do too — until you disagree with them. And somebody should do something! Right?
New people to the craft will never be targeted as fluffy bunnies unless they exhibit these symptoms.
Because of the spectacular failure of various education tools, the only tool left is showing these toxic bunnies as their true selves to the public. This means exposing their hypocrisy, their opinions on others, what they are teaching, their mood swings and insanity, and basically embarrassing them off the Internet. Everybody agrees somebody should do it.
As one toxic bunny complained at one point, this could ruin his/her reputation. To which I say, “Good.” Maybe the threat of having a ruined reputation will force them to actually start researching and teaching accurate facts. Somebody needs to open their eyes.
The supreme irony here is that if they would reform, all the persecution they hate would stop. But as long as they continue to attempt to teach, spread false information, tell lies and continue to be a danger to those who are truly new to the community, this kind of behavior from the bunnyhunters will continue.
Recently there has been an escalation of sorts. A group on The Bunny Trail (dot) Net has started putting up profile information on the worst of these. Once the last tool of embarrassment fails, the only step available is to enter that person in a database and warn others away from them. That way, when others go searching for information, it will be available.
Just as others in various communities have stated, it’s been needed for some time. Somebody should do it after all.
Frankly, I hope the members of The Bunny Trail succeed in their goal: warning people away from those toxic bunnies. The Gods witness I have tried my best and failed with some, and after countless attempts to communicate, even I realize when there is no use trying any more.
As someone who worships a God of Hunting, as a significant percentage of Pagans do, it is surprising how many people object to hunting online. I realize that the Lord of Hunting is supposed to be He that helps us get food, but isn’t the King Stag, as He is oftentimes called, also the protector of the Herd? Doesn’t He also drive off predators and make sure the new babies and the oldsters and those who are educating the next generation are safe to continue on their duties? Does the doe that has lived in peace, thanks to the King Stag, object to the blood on His hoofs and horns from the wolf He killed?
His mandate to us is to protect each other, to succor each other, and those who would willfully violate the directions and oaths they swore as Wiccan should be punished. They should be driven off. And if they continue to be a problem after being given a second chance, they should be driven off and not allowed to return. After all, somebody should, right?
So I call these idiots on their insanity, and I get told I’m a bully, that I’m mean and worse than they are.
I have been hunting in this manner for several months. There are those who are absolute threats to not only Wicca, but those who will be studying Wicca in the future. There are those who sully the name “Elder” and who claim things that no member of any tradition of Wicca should ever try to pass off.
There are those who, even though new on this path, “know” more than some of these teachers, and while most of their information is laughable if you have good references, in most cases, the new and innocent can be sucked into their cult of personality. The damage done, the dupe can take years to heal, and sadly sometimes they simply don’t recover. In the meantime, the toxic fool damages others, and the cry of “Something must/should be done! Somebody must…” continues to no avail.
I have made sacrifices personally. I have had my life threatened and my wife’s life threatened and my daughter’s life threatened by one of these toxic bunnies. I have had legal action threatened multiple times, and I have been told that if I ever meet these toxic bunnies that I will have my ass kicked.
It would be nice to be told, “thank you” by those I’m trying to protect from these predators. Instead, I’m hated. Instead, I am told that I am mean and that I’m no better than those I’m hunting.
Well, so be it. If that is the attitude of the group, I can live with that. It is not going to stop me, and I will use the tools at hand to succeed in this goal.
To paraphrase The Operative from the movie Serenity: “I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. There’s no place for me there; I’m a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.”
I look in the mirror every day and I wonder if what I am doing is right. I wonder if I am going too far. I check with others who are also hunters to give me a reality check, and I also slap those other hunters who are going too far. We keep checks on each other as to how we are behaving. We don’t want those who we are protecting to be hurt by us; we don’t want the innocent to be harmed. We work very hard to prevent that.
It is still a job that somebody needs to do.
For every toxic bunny that stands up and starts posting all over the Internet about how evil Christians are, there will be 500 Evangelical Christians who will see it and use that as proof that all Pagans are evil and hate them, and that we as a group should be put down and shot or put in concentration camps.
I don’ want to live in that world. And if it takes pissing off a few dozen toxic bunnies and a section of the Pagan world as well, I’m ready to make that sacrifice.
I’m somebody — Care to join me?
©2007 by Daven. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Eric “Daven” Landrum is a Seax Wiccan and the author of Daven’s Journal.