Don’t rush to burn Bonewits
Don’t rush to burn Bonewits

Don’t rush to burn Bonewits

When I first became interested in magic, I was 17 and the only book I could find in the library was “Real Magic” written by Isaac Bonewits. While in hindsight it was not what I would end up as believing magic to be, but it fired up my imagination enough for me to start. Decades later I wrote to him and thanked him for that, and he politely replied.

This week Bonewits’ name has been named in a paedophile sex scandal which he cannot fight because he has been dead since 2010. Many of the associations he worked hard to create have rushed to distance themselves from him.

But the people who knew him are bewildered, two of his wives and his son say the allegations are not the man they knew.  But they stopped short of saying the allegations were made up.


Because in this case the victim is extremely credible and what she says is so terrible.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland made the allegations, and her previous tellings of the story put her own father, Walter Breen, in jail. I do not doubt that Greyland is telling the truth about the systematic abuse by her Breen and her mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley.

In these circumstances, no one wants to victim shaming the accuser. However what people are not keen to understand is that because someone is a good witness to a terrible crime does not make them automatically credible for all her accusations.

I cannot help but feel that people have rushed a little too quickly to burn Bonewits on her allegations. When I was a tabloid journalist, I was taught that there needed to be enough evidence for the story to stand up in court.

In this case, there is not.

Bonewits lived in the basement of another writer Diana Paxson while he was writing Real Magic. Paxson was friends with Greyland’s parents, co-wrote books with Bradley.

However, that is the only confirmable fact in Greyland’s story, the rest is shakey and uncohoborated.

Paxson did not recall a time when Greyland’s family and Bonewits were at her house at the same time. Of course, this did not mean it did not happen, but it was the only period where Greyland and Bonewits could have shared the same scene.

Other facts become are even more difficult to quantify.  Greyland refuses to provide any details of the abuse because it is a side issue to her main story. Some would say this is because the events were alleged to happen when Greyland was six, but equally, there might be something else happening here.

Bonewits is introduced to the story as a “Pagan Pope “which seems an odd thing for a six-year-old to understand. At that stage of Bonewits’ life, before the publication of his book, Bonewits was hardly recognisable on the esoteric scene.  While he later became a “pagan pope” for some pagans, Greyland’s perception of him being a “Pagan Pope” is something she must have understood much later, long after any alleged abuse.

So what other perceptions did Greyland have after the event?  Reading her book, you see that she slowly comes to reject and hate the lax left-wing hippy lifestyle which she identified with her parents and abusers.  Writing in this blog   she says:

“What they did to me is a matter of unfortunate public record: suffice to say that both parents wanted me to be gay and were horrified at my being female…. I have begun to speak out against gay marriage, and in doing so, I have alienated most of even my strongest supporters. After all, they need to see my parents as wacky sex criminals, not as homosexuals following their deeply held ethical positions and trying to create a utopia according to a rather silly fantasy.”

Is it any wonder that Greyland’s book is published by the alt-right figurehead Vox Day. This is exactly the sort of story that the Christian right wants out there with a spokesperson who no-one will dare question.  After all who on the left would dare question the memory of a six-year-old victim of child abuse who had the bravery to come forward?

No one appears keen to defend Bonewits because they will be seen as a defender of paedophiles and have to say that Greyland made everything up.

I don’t believe that Greyland made everything up, but I am equally unsure that her Bonewits allegations are valid.  The Christian alt-right might be rather keen to knife another “pagan pope,” as Greyland might be, as part of her anger against the leftie family and its surrounding pagan society which created her parents and resulted in her abuse.  Bonewits is a good target, he is dead, can’t sue, can be linked to Greyland and is still a pagan community icon.

The same people who point the finger at Bonewits are doing so with the same level of spectral evidence seen at the Salaam witch trials. What is worrying is how quickly the pagan community rushed to pretend that a person who had dedicated his life to forming their organisations had nothing to do with them.  If it were true, then that would be fair enough, but there has to be enough proof before you turn on people and in this case simply isn’t.

Who are the winners of this sad story?  The Christian alt-right members who have convinced the pagan community to burn one of its own founders at the stake on rather weak evidence come to mind. Some have already pointed out that they believe that Greyland is being used. writer River Devora wrote, “It’s heartbreaking and enraging because the part about the abuse is genuine […] She’s been taken in by alt right folks (a very long time ago, I might add), who have exploited her story and her trauma for their own political reasons, and that part is despicable.”

All this generates enough “reasonable doubt” in my mind to say the following:

I do not have enough evidence at this point to say that Bonewits sexually abused Moira Greyland in 1970, and I don’t think anyone else has either. Unless new information comes forward, I will not be rushing to distance myself from my first Real Magic book.