Convicted paedophile Robin Fletcher has hit the headlines in recent days, with a judge recently handing down a decision to revoke a supervision order against him and the subsequent appeal against its revocation by the Department of Justice. What makes this case even more remarkably horrifying is that Fletcher is justifying his behaviour as being part of his “Wiccan” beliefs. To date, the appeal is pending.
The Pagan Collective of Victoria have released a statement, with several prominent figures in the Pagan community declaring no affiliation with Fletcher and condemning his actions. Pagans across Australia have also expressed their concern over his pending release. For the record, I have never met Fletcher, nor do I want to. The guy is scum, and he is not representative of the Wiccan/Pagan community.
Fletcher is a lot of things, but a Wiccan he ain’t, despite his assertions to the contrary. First of all, he has broken the Wiccan Rede, an it harm none, do what thou wilt. He manipulated his victims in order to facilitate his crimes, and in doing so, interfered with his victims’ free will (interfering with another person’s free will is also a huge no-no in Wicca). Let’s put it this way, Fletcher is to Wicca what the Westboro Baptist Church is to Christianity and ISIS is to Islam. He is twisting the interpretation of a religion and using it as an excuse for his actions.
Wicca is certainly more liberal in matters concerning nudity, sex and sexuality, but consent is paramount. Whether or not the witch works skyclad (the witches’ term for naked) during ritual work in the privacy of their own home is their own business. There are dickheads in any group, and unfortunately, Wicca has its fair share too. Trust your instincts. If you have recently started working with a group, building a mutual trust, only for a member of the group trying to pressure you into doing anything you’re not comfortable with, speak up. Anyone worth their salt will respect your boundaries. If they disregard your concerns, give them the flick and find another group. No one should be pressuring you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. If they start harassing or intimidating you (or worse, physically harm you), go to the police. No group is worth the trouble. You may have seen the movie The Craft? The scene where Nancy threatens Sarah with bad things happening to her should she leave their coven? Prime example of unacceptable behaviour. You should be free to leave any group if you no longer feel comfortable with the direction the group takes, or if you feel you’ve outgrown it. If you are a member of a group and someone leaves, it’s okay to let them go. If you took an oath not to divulge any details of ritual workings within the group, be sure to keep your oath, but if any of those “workings” broke the law (for instance, sexual assault or aggravated animal cruelty), report it. No one should be able to conceal their crimes under the guise of an oath.
Just in case you’re a young person who’s only just discovered Wicca and your parents are probably worried that you might become a victim of someone like Fletcher, here is just a basic outline of what you’ll find in the pagan community.
Public rituals – As the term suggests, public rituals are conducted on public land (in a park, for instance) and generally family-friendly. Anyone can attend, but there is a general requirement for minors to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Casual clothing is fine, although you’ll find a plethora of hooded capes and robes – just make sure you wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll likely spend a majority of the time on your feet. Alcohol is forbidden at public rituals due to liquor licensing laws and laws against consuming alcohol in a public place. Juice and cookies are usually on offer after ritual for “grounding”, brought in by either the organisers or other attendees, or both. If there is a donation jar, it is prudent to offer a donation, preferably gold coin, to help the organisers cover the costs for the food and for ritual items used, such as incense and candles.
If anyone in attendance at a public ritual behaves inappropriately towards you, speak up. The organisers can tell the offender to leave, or call the police if needed.
Private covens – private covens usually meet in a private residence or other private venue by arrangement. Unlike public rituals, private rituals run by covens may be more in-depth, hence an oath of silence. All covens require new members to undergo initiation rites to varying degrees. Some covens may have age restrictions, or at the very least will require parental consent from minors. They may also have various prerequisites that must be met before being initiated. They want to make sure that you will be a good fit in their group, and that your joining them will enhance not only your own workings, but the overall workings of the group as a whole. Be patient, if there is a group that you really want to work with, they will grant you admission. I am an initiated member of a ceremonial magick group, and it took a good nine months before I was initiated into that group.
Workshops – New Age/occult retail outlets such as the Esoteric Bookshop in Vermont, Victoria, and The Modern Witch based in Sydney, regularly run workshops in relation to all things witchy. Some organisers will have regulars that attend several workshops through the course of the year.
Social gatherings – There are social gatherings for young and old alike, organised by various pagan and Wiccan community groups. If you are at least 18 years of age, there are Pagans in the Pub meetups in various cities across Australia. (If the venue is at a pub where minors are permitted if accompanied by a parent or guardian, and you can get your dear ole’ Mum or Dad to tag along, all the better.) A Google search of “Pagans in the Pub” with your city should point you in the right direction. Some occult/New Age retail outlets will even organise the occasional open day, with the purpose of socialising and also having items available for purchase. House of Hexenn is one such retail outlet.
The Mind Body Spirit Festival is the most widely known gathering of Wiccan, Pagan, New Age retailers, herbalists, psychics, tarot card readers, health food vendors and natural therapists, among others. View their website here. They also have seminars conducted by prominent figures in the Pagan/New Age community. At past MBS festivals, I have attended seminars by Stacey De Marco (The Modern Witch), tarot reader Paul Fenton-Smith and Rose Inserra, author of Dream Reading Cards: Discover the Purpose of Your Dreams and other books on dreams and dream interpretation, among others.
Security guards are on duty at all times during the MBS Festival, which in itself should act as a deterrent for any unsavoury behaviour, and deal with such behaviour should any problems arise. In my 5 years (2017 is going to be my 6th year) attending the Mind Body Spirit Festival, I have found the MBS festival generally safe, especially since I often go on my own. Ultimately it is up to the discretion of young people and their parents to decide whether to go – Melbourne MBS is at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, near the Crown Casino, with plenty of cafes and a gelato bar along the Yarra River.
If you’re a young adult who has discovered Wicca, Paganism or other like path, exercise caution, trust your instincts and you will find people in whom you can put your trust. I discovered Wicca at age 14 and was lucky to have trustworthy mentors – and I want the same for you.