"Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes. " ~Henry David Thoreau
"If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?" - "Free Bird" Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do." - att. Oscar Wilde
I began this journal not quite ten years ago, in October of 2001. In it I have recorded my frustrations, triumphs, hilarities, tragedies, hopes, and confusions for the better part of a decade. I have made good friends. I have won the Internet several times, so I am told. I pissed some people off. I learned that is sometimes a badge of honor, and sometimes not, and how one might try to avoid it when it isn't, and not worry too much about it when it is. I learned many, many things, and got some very important practice and encouragement in the art of expressing my thoughts.
And, I'm done. My life has changed dramatically...in some ways, my involvement in online communities was its own undoing, because I began this journal during a very difficult and isolated time in my life and it sustained me through some traumatic life changes. These included witnessing my mother's final illness and helping to care for her during it, which I still consider the hardest thing I have ever done. I received support and empathy from others, and a willingness to read my agonized ravings, for which I am still grateful.
But partially because of that support, I have become less isolated in my daily life. I am more involved in face-to-face communities, which require time, and there's only so much of it in the day. The biggest change however is that my writing has gone from a hobby to something approaching a career...I am in a completely different place in terms of work and what I am doing with my life than I was ten years ago. As my career develops, it requires more and more of my time and especially my writing energy. I haven't posted much in this journal of late, partially because I have so much else going on. Including publications right and left, and more in the works. Plus a full time job doing something I frankly love even when it tries my patience.
So, then. It's time to move on. I appreciate all of the people who have read what I've written here, and responded to it...with encouragement, with ideas I hadn't encountered, with new ways of looking at it, even with acrimony. Every time you see my name in print somewhere, I want you to realize that you helped get me there.
That's probably enough, right there. I should end on a high note, good feelings all around, that sort of thing. Everything I just said is true and sufficient. But if you've been paying attention, you know there are other, possibly lesser, reasons. And if you know me by now...and I think you do...you know that I just can't let a parlor pachyderm go by me without pointing it out.
I've been a Pagan for nearly a quarter of a century. More than half my life, at this point. And I came up in the middle of a local Pagan community which is no less prone to drama, shenanigans, and ass-showing than any other, and more so than some. I was just as loud-mouthed and even more tactless in my early twenties than I am now, and I have done my share of provoking people. They've also made me so angry I could spit fire. I have witnessed behavior that was callous, childish, short-sighted, unethical, and just plain mean. I've had people kick me out of a group behind my back, I've had people threaten me, and I've had people spread rumors that I'd been arrested. I thought I'd seen it all.
Apparently not. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought that a member of my community would attempt to damage my livelihood and put me and my son in physical danger by revealing my legal name, work place, and where I live, I would have said no. Talking smack is one thing, but there are some lines you don't cross. If you'd asked if a member of my specific religious tradition would do it, I would have said doubly no; because most of us swear an oath "to protect and defend our brothers and sisters in the Craft" and the ones who don't say those exact words still adhere to it as a moral concept. No matter how much we may hate each other's guts, I would have said, we take that seriously.
Evidently, I was wrong. Perhaps it was naive of me to think that someone who had previously shown a serious lack of boundaries or moral compass would suddenly develop same, but then I had considered all of the people involved to be friends, once upon a time. They had talked a good game (and still do talk it, apparently, though it's hard to see once the glamour is broken why you were ever fooled). But when you look at what they do, rather than what they say, you start noticing discrepancies.
The ethical principle of not "outing" people is a widespread standard...one shared not only by all of the Witchcraft traditions I am aware of, but by the larger Pagan community, the LGBT community, and the online community.
The choice to post my name, town of residence (which is quite small), and place of work on the Internet along with some rather muddled "refutations" was made in response to my criticisms of a couple of Feri initiates, written up as a series of articles and also stated in an interview with The Wild Hunt. Those criticisms included fostering an atmosphere where abusive behavior could flourish, and plagiarizing the work of other initiates while claiming it as their own. Apparently my criticisms stung. As my father used to say, "the bit dog hollers."
Two justifications are currently given for this: One, that I previously made connections between my legal name and the Feri Tradition (even though those pages are all defunct), and two, that I was "attacking" under different names and therefore it needed to be revealed that "all" of the names were the same person.
The first one may be dispensed with by this quote from the Judy Harrow article I linked to: "The way to know how public a Witch is willing to be is simply to ask them. In very rare circumstances where you are truly not able to ask them, follow their example. Be careful not to rely on old statements or behaviors. The right to choose implies the right to change one's mind. Perhaps she was open in the freewheeling atmosphere of a college town, but now is struggling to establish a professional career. Perhaps he's in a new relationship, and his new lover has a stronger sense of privacy than the last one. Saying that somebody who had their legal name in the letter column of some obscure publication twenty years ago has yielded all right to privacy is about like saying that only virgins can ever say no. "
The second is simply a flat-out lie. I made the connection between "elorie " and the "Sarsen" of freeferi.org and in the Wild Hunt article explicitly myself here. I named this journal after a D&D character, and the fact that I chose to use the Craft name I've been known by for over a decade rather than my LJ handle for the articles and interview is indicative of nothing more nefarious than the fact that I don't ever go by "elorie" as a name. More importantly, I never wrote anything about the individuals in question under my legal name, or any permutation of it. There might be some reason to emphasize the connection between "elorie" and "Sarsen" (though not to insinuate that I tried to hide it). There was NO reason to include my legal name, except pure spite.
The real motive was actually stated in so many words in a previous version of the web page: to impose "consequences" for my criticisms. That is, to punish me for speaking out. It should be noted also that another consequence of connecting this journal to my legal name was to out me as a bisexual...something I had never done myself in so many words. The reason being that things like this still happen. Moreover (as noted in the Geek Feminism article) I used this journal to talk extensively about my sexuality, both past experiences and what it meant to me.
If you are prone to assume that because one of the people involved is a gay man that he didn't intend that consequence or that he didn't mean it maliciously, I think you are wrong about that. In any case, he and his partner have both made statements in my presence which I consider biphobic.
I did not address this openly before now for two reasons. One, I didn't want to compound the problem by drawing attention to it. Two, I was told by mutual acquaintances that they would "talk to" the people who did this (it was more than one) and see if they could be made to see reason. I was giving them time to think it over and back down without losing face. Somewhat predictably, they haven't; in fact, they have doubled down on it. I was also giving myself time to think it over.
I don't live in the same place any more. I don't work in the same place. I feel...somewhat...safer. After a good deal of consideration, here is what I choose to do:
Fare thee well.
"But there you are: Hobbits must stick together, and especially Bagginses. All I ask in return is: take as much care of yourself as you can, and bring back all the news you can, and any old songs and tales you can come by. I'll do my best to finish my book before you return." - Bilbo Baggins
Be well. And more than that, be fulfilled. Keep posting, keep writing, because that is what you do, and the world needs you to do what you do.
I hope my comments have always been supportive, and I hope that I'll continue to see your online presence.
Having only recently 'met' you I am sad to see you go. I know I've learned a lot from you, even in so short a time. Plus, I just love strong, opinionated, smart women.
A couple of questions: what will happen to Dead Mad Poet? Will you be shutting that down? Will you be retreating even more from the Feri/Faery world?
Anyway, thanks for leaving me on for just a bit longer. I wish you every success in other writing venues. Thankfully, we are connected in other places than just here so I look forward to continuing our relationship.
I won't shut down Dead, Mad, or a Poet, because it was always meant to be primarily a literary magazine rather than a venue for talking about "how to be Pagan." I may realign it somewhat.
Part of the point of the split, and of my ceasing to identify myself as a "Feri initiate," was to distance ourselves as much as possible from what one of my students calls the P-Feris. I, frankly, don't want someone to see "Feri" associated with my name, Google that and then find a whole bunch of masturbatory fantasies* and garbage. Which is what you do find.
"Faery" is personal and mostly off-line, except a few things to let people know we exist. And that's it.
*Neither a metaphor nor an exaggeration.