I am a Blue Star Wiccan High Priestess. It’s a huge part of my life, my identity, and my mission in this incarnation. I would like to make clear that no one person speaks for the Blue Star Tradition, and I certainly don’t approach any topic as a spokesperson for my Tradition. That said, I am a person who teaches and passes on the Tradition of Blue Star, as I have been taught it. I love my Tradition, stand by it, and consider it to be among the most academically and energetically cohesive Trads out there. It is because of this and because I am a survivor of egregious domestic abuse and sexual abuse, both of which occurred many years before my introduction to the Blue Star Tradition, that I am writing this now. That, and I tend to write about stuff.
It is all over the Pagan world that one of Blue Star’s former High Priests, and an influential one at that, has been convicted in New Orleans of possessing child pornography with intent to distribute that material. It has also been a topic for some time, however “hushed,” that Mr. Kenneth Klein, the person of whom I speak, was sexually inappropriate with young or youngish people at Pagan festivals and in other places. I happen also to know that his ex-wife and his now adult children tell tales of Mr. Klein’s controlling, violent, and otherwise toxic treatment of his family, which was concurrent with the spreading of the Blue Star Tradition throughout the US by the same. The painful and explosive nature of the divorce of the two clergy people in question (1992) had deeply wounding effects in the Tradition of Blue Star, and people who were present at the time often have very strong feelings regarding both people involved, Tzipora Katz and Mr. Personality Himself, Kenny Klein. I was not present for this painful chain of events, and was, coincidentally, enduring my own domestic abuse hell zone during the same years. I am now typing with a partially paralyzed hand, a gift from my abuser, who intentionally severed my tendon because I dared to leave him and then come back to him when he promised that he would get the help he needed. The fact that I was experiencing literal torture at the hands of my abuser at the same time as the High Priestess who was abused by Mr. Klein was enduring her trauma is something I have discussed with her, although she left the Tradition many years ago. I have that in common with her, and it is something which only survivors of the most extreme domestic abuse will ever understand. That said, her story is her story, and my story is mine. I was not there for the events which she describes, nor for her and her ex’s resulting behavior as their divorce threatened to blow apart the Tradition which I love deeply, now as a 4th generation High Priestess and steward of our form of Craft.
I have some very strong things to say, and I’m going to do my best to explain WHY I am saying them. I am here to speak as a trained victim advocate, a survivor, a priestess, and a person who has a BA in and decades of work experience in social services. And this is a long article, so strap in and get some coffee or tea.
“NOT ONE OF US”
The first topic that I want to visit is one that has been discussed before, which is the tendency in Pagan community to do what is natural for humans to do. When we discover a “monster” among us, we have a very strong desire to argue that he “isn’t one of us.” This is as damaging as it is understandable, and I’ll keep this part brief. The “monsters” ARE PART OF PAGANISM, and while it is true that “Paganism done right” should result in no one hurting anyone else, the idea that then it won’t happen or “should not happen if we all just do the right thing” is immature and it HELPS THE ABUSERS. Let me explain.
When we go off about how “no real Wiccan/Pagan would (insert horrible thing here),” we are perpetuating a false sense of security which allows perpetrators to target our communities, grow within our communities, and yes, even shape our teachings to allow them to abuse with impunity. Unless and until we cop to the FACT that our communities ALLOW THESE PEOPLE IN and ALLOW THEM TO ABUSE OTHERS, we cannot begin to deal with how to stop this shit from happening when we can, and control our responses when the inevitable “monster” gets by our defenses and harms people in our own covens, our own festivals, our own circles, and our own living rooms. We should NEVER stop talking about power dynamics, abuse, red flags, and a conscious effort to keep people who tend to abuse others from taking powerful, or even just opportune, positions within our communities. This leads me to my next topic.
“Monsters Are Eeeeeviiiiilllllll”
We have a tendency, largely supported by fiction of all sorts, to believe that people who do horrible things are categorically different from “regular people.” And this, my friends, is bullshit. No person in history who did epically monstrous things was 100% “a monster.” As a matter of fact, MANY people who harm others (and let’s face it, we ALL harm others some time, don’t we?) are also talented, brilliant, nice, even magnetic in their demeanors. This is not a “cover,” but is really a part of who they are. Such is the case with Kenny Klein. Mr. Klein was a brilliant performer, a very talented Priest, and a genuinely likable dude. He still is. He also hurt kids. Lots of them, apparently. And he beat his wife. And do you know what? I will bet you my favorite wand that he had well-constructed ideas about why what he was doing was OK to do. All abusers think they are doing OK things. My own abuser used Christian scripture (twisted, of course) to justify raping, beating, and literally torturing me for days at a time. And he straight up believed that what he was doing with well within “God’s law.” I am betting that Mr. Klein is no different. And because abusers believe that what they are doing is OK, they are very sincere in manipulating, twisting, and justifying their behaviors. And that means they can and do hide in plain sight. This is the nature of abuse, my friends. It is sly. It is untrue that you would “see him for what he was.” Real people reported Mr. Klein’s behavior and were shut down. You know why? Because Mr. Klein was A NICE MAN. He was our friend, our Priest, our rock star performer with the killer wit and great smile.
If a savvy abuser targets your teenager, and you are not educated about what to really and truly see that is NOT OBVIOUS, even to brilliantly intelligent people, you will not only not see him for what he is, you will willingly give him your mead to drink while he’s fondling your 8th grader in the woods after you go to sleep in your tent at fest. Be angry with me all you want. When you’re done, you will be ready to protect people, and not one second beforehand. Just an aside, a little truth about me: I said, “No man will ever hit me,” and I have an IQ in the 97th percentile. I didn’t see it coming, and neither did Mr. Klein’s very intelligent ex-wife, and neither would you if you were targeted by such a person and did not have the benefit of specific abuse education. Periodo, the fucking enderito. Zero exceptions. Abuse awareness and education is the ONLY hope we have of dealing with abuse in our communities.
Using Correct Terminology: Why it Matters
OK, I’m about to say something that is going to be upsetting. Are you ready? Here it is. We need to stop using the word, “pedophile” when the word should be “molester,” or “abuser.” This is absolutely key to creating a culture in which abusers will find it difficult to hide. Hear me out.
“Pedophile” means “a person who is oriented toward sexual attraction to under-age, often pre-pubescent people.” IT DOES NOT MEAN “someone who sexually harms children.” There is a big hairy-assed difference between these two things, people. “Molester” means someone who SEXUALLY HARMS CHILDREN. All molesters of children are pedophiles but NOT ALL PEDOPHILES ABUSE CHILDREN. Why is this important? The reason is that being attracted to children is an ORIENTATION, and it is largely unchangeable. HOWEVER, this does NOT MEAN THAT SUCH A PERSON MUST MOLEST. People with this orientation (causes unknown, but there are theories) can and do learn not to harm real kids, given an environment where they can safely admit this orientation and seek help. They must be ALLOWED TO COME OUT in order to receive the education and therapy that keeps them from harming actual, live children. I know one man who struggles with attraction to children. He is not a member of the Pagan community. He is deeply aware that he must never, ever sexually act out with children. He is tortured by nightmares of harming children and he works very hard not to hurt anyone. He deserves to be treated with dignity, as he is committed to being a good person. Can you imagine how it would be to be attracted to people with whom acting on our sexual urges will cause irreparable harm to the very people to whom we are attracted? It must be horrible to live with that. Let’s take a moment to differentiate between “pedophiles” and “molesters.” I cannot know, but I suspect that if Kenny Klein had had access to education and treatment without shame, he MAY have sought it, rather than choose to hurt children.
It is natural for us to be horrified at the idea of someone sexually molesting children. It is natural for us to be angry at such a person, and to think of them as “a pervert.” But only when we make it OK for people to admit that they suffer from this harmful orientation will we be able to let them get help so they don’t hurt our (or their own) kids. Let’s be adults about this and create what needs to exist so we can protect our children in real time, rather than standing by and creating a shame-based culture in which people cannot safely get therapy if needed. Being outraged AFTER your kid is molested isn’t the answer. Typecasting all people who do such harm as “monsters” feeds our OWN emotional needs, but it does squat shit to protect the vulnerable. Time to grow up and smell the coffee. No, you don’t have to let these people into your coven, but they exist, and there needs to be practical answers, not pitchforks and torches. At least then we can say that we have done everything we can do to prevent such abuse.
A Victim is Complex, and ONLY a Survivor Understands Abuse
Victims of domestic and sexual abuse are as complex as perpetrators are. A victim can be a well-loved, endearing person, or a victim can be a reprehensible puke. Most are somewhere in between. But let me tell you this in absolutely concrete terms, and if you disagree and are not a survivor, you can kindly shut it and continue to do so until you breathe your last. IT IS PART OF THE ABUSE SYNDROME TO APPEAR TO BE COMPLICIT IN ABUSE SCENARIOS. That a victim “took part in” the abuse of other victims is part and parcel to being abused, and it happens A LOT. The idea that a victim can or should be able to stand up to the very abuser of whom they are deathly afraid is completely illogical and simply will never happen. And abusers make certain that they force their victims to do reprehensible things as a way of controlling them. My own abuser forced me to commit check fraud and have sex in public places, something that I would NEVER have done otherwise. This is part of abuse. Yes, a family can “abuse one another,” but make absolutely no mistake, what you may think you can judge from the outside is not your right to judge. More than one well-meaning, intelligent person has said to me that I and people like me, including Tzipora Katz, were complicit in the abuse of their children. Ms. Katz, Kenny Klein’s ex-wife and domestic abuse victim, was in a horrible situation with her children, living out of a van, and yes, she herself has admitted to me that she “did crazy things” during and after the abuse. This is part of the horror of being a survivor. You not only get to be traumatized by what was done to you, you also get to berate yourself for “failing to protect your children.” And the cherry on top of that shit sundae is others thinking they can rightfully judge you too.
Abusers torture their victims by causing their victims to look for all the world like perpetrators and guilty parties. And often we are. But the reality is that we were convinced at the time that if we didn’t do what we were doing, something worse would happen to ourselves and others, and we were correct in that awareness. I have taken responsibility for my complicity in my daughter’s abuse, but it was still part of what my abuser did to me. It is still part of the abuse dynamic. When we understand this, we will be one step closer to actually helping victims instead of reinforcing the abuser. If you know a victim who seems complicit in abuse of others, know that this is part of the abuse dynamic. Don’t fall for the abuser’s posturing and posing. They paint themselves as nice people and their victims as pieces of shit. Can you actually BE a piece of shit and be a victim? Yeah. But unless you are a survivor, you don’t know who is who. We survivors need to take responsibility for our actions, but what it looks like from the outside is NOT what is really going on.
Unfit for Leadership
Even the most talented Priest or Priestess, leader, clergyperson, or whatever label you wish to use, is unfit for leadership if they are involved in a family crisis, and domestic and sexual abuse is certainly that. There are other crises too, of course, from medical diagnoses, deaths, accidents, to acts of the Gods. I am guilty myself of trying to hold my then-new coven together during a family crisis. My now healthy and totally clean 23 year old daughter was dealing with addiction to drugs a few years ago, due to a combination of factors. Abuse in her early childhood was one factor, and being targeted by a predator who was twice her age and handed her a meth pipe so he could rape her was the other. She is out with this story, so it’s OK for me to tell it. She now helps others choose life instead of addiction. We are warriors, we are, in my family. But nevertheless, I was unfit for leadership during that time, and if I had it to do over, I would have handed the reins to someone else, dealt with the crisis, and then resumed leadership of the coven when the crisis was over. Hindsight is 20/20.
I think we need to talk about how it’s OK to be unfit for leadership for a time. I think we need to write these things into our by-laws. It’s OK to step down for a time, or forever, if necessary. But what happens when, as with Tzipora Katz, and other victims of Kenny Klein, your abuser is actually using the religion itself as a cover for abuse?
I posit that if we not only talk to our students and one another about what constitutes religious abuse, but also make it OK and even mandatory for a leader to step down during times of crisis, we will strongly mitigate the creation of environs that support abusive behavior of leaders.
Even an ethically sound leader will unfairly impact their group’s dynamics when they are experiencing personal crisis. My own coven suffered from my attempt to stay strong and lead when I should not have been leading. We survived. We made it. But really, my students paid a price, in energetic terms, and in terms of the quality of their ritual and educational experiences. I certainly had a strong sense of needing to appear capable when I was not. I certainly was under the impression that I would be judged for stepping down, for “giving up,” as it were, if I didn’t continue to lead in the face of tragedy. This is something that was not directly taught to me, but it was something that I imbibed during my student years, and assumed that it was expected of me, even though it was not expected in actuality. I wonder how many other Priests and Priestesses feel that way.
It has been discussed a lot in Pagan groups that cults of personality are breeding grounds for abuse. Kenny Klein was, in fact, a person who led like a celebrity, and a person who actively sought celebrity in Pagan community. And the fact that we, in our Tradition, are a degreed, mystery tradition makes us both more and less vulnerable to what actually happened to us. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all our celebrities are abusers. Far from it. I’m just saying that the shiny nature of Pagan celebrity is attractive to abusive types, and we should consider this moving forward.
One thing that I know I have learned is that I am strongly against elevating and teaching a lover. I know that Uncle Gerry said it was desirable, but he could not have known the future of his Craft. Tzipora Katz taught and initiated Kenny Klein as her lover and her Priest. She was doing what was very common to do, even seen as preferable. But the fact that he was her abuser meant that she was unable to hold Kenny to the standards that she would otherwise have held him to, in order to be made a High Priest. This is problematic, and therefore I strongly propose that we refuse to teach and elevate lovers, in an effort to hold students seeking priesthood to the impartial standards which allow the teacher to consider whether a person is “a proper person, properly prepared.” I think we would do well to at least consider this.
Leaders Must Heal Themselves in Order to be Fit
There is absolutely no shame in being a survivor. HOWEVER, we survivors MUST actively and diligently heal ourselves from our traumas in order to be fit to serve and lead. Some survivors will never be able to adequately assemble themselves in order to be ready to lead a group of Girl Scouts let alone a coven. That’s OK. There is no shame in that. Some abuse is so egregious that no person could possibly recover from it. But those of us who are survivors MUST learn to be honest with ourselves and our communities about our readiness to lead. Simply being a great ceremonial Priest or Priestess is NOT ENOUGH to be a leader. You can be the most talented priest or priestess who ever lived, but if you are not healed from your own trauma and actively and currently and continuously engaged in your own healing, you are not fit. Full fucking stop. Recovered survivors can make great leaders. But we must regularly monitor ourselves and our symptoms. PTSD is a real thing, folks. So is depression. These things are manageable much of the time. But do yourself a favor and be realistic about where you are at on any given day. Let’s take the shame out of recovery from abuse. Let’s take the shame out of mental health conditions and be honest about the ways in which we can serve. I see a therapist and think it’s absolutely my responsibility to do so if I’m going to lead a coven and be a 3rd degree in my Trad. Willingness to accept help makes a strong leader. Accept help if you need it; seek help if you need it. Make it OK for priests and priestesses to be fallible and vulnerable.
What Sex Positivity Means
I am dead-assed tired of hearing that if I won’t (insert something here…walk around naked at a fest, participate in no-strings adult fun, be polyamorous, allow myself to be touched, whatever), I’m “not sex positive,” or I’m “hung up” or “need to heal” or whatever. Being sex positive is NOT equivalent to being whatever YOU decide it should mean. It means respecting ALL SEXUAL CHOICES that do no harm, even the choice to be celibate until a person dies. It means respecting people’s boundaries, decisions, and right to change their mind because it’s Tuesday. It means respecting someone’s right to say no even in the middle of a sexual act. It means being without judgment and honoring someone’s personal wisdom where no harm is being done. And the definition of “harm” needs to be talked about and explored ad nauseum in our communities. The discussion is worthwhile. Let’s not assume that we all understand one another when using the word, “harm.”
A thing that happened: I was at fest, and I was with a newish student. In my coven, we do not do skyclad ritual until after initiation, and those circles are initiates only. So this student was a dedicant, pre-initiate student, and therefore there was no need to do any skyclad ritual with this person at that time. Some of the priestesses in our Tradition were dancing naked in the rain. I was invited to join in. I stated that I wasn’t going to be naked in front of my student, and one priestess snorted and side-eyed me as though I was clearly fucked up in the head (we are Pagans after all, right? Nakedness is cool). She shamed me, straight up. Later that year, the student, no longer with my coven as I write this, admitted to having fantasies of murdering mom aged women. I was old enough to be his mother. My instinct was SPOT ON. Don’t be that person. Shaming is immoral. Moving on.
We need to have conversations regularly about consent culture, sex positivity, and how this can be and is twisted to cover for inappropriate behavior and for pressuring people into doing things that are not right for them. I, for one, will now require a set of classes and papers on the subject for initiation to even be considered. I strongly suggest that other teachers do the same. Sex positivity is easily twisted by abusers to make it seem like the vulnerable should not or cannot say no without compromising their Pagan education or group affiliation. It’s a problem. We need to talk about it, repeatedly.
It’s Gonna Happen Again, Guys
So let’s say that we do create an intentional culture of consent, education, and abuse awareness. Let’s say it often, until it’s true. This stuff is still going to happen. We will have abusers. We will have molesters. We will have the people who slip in under our radar, who say what they know we want to hear, just to be elevated or welcomed or trusted. There is no absolute failsafe. We will deal with this, despite even the best possible changes going forward. But make no mistake…diligence will catch a lot of problems. Education will catch a lot of problems. We can and will make the changes we can make to create a better, safer future. I will do my part. Please do yours.