The Problem with a Problematic Legacy June 2020

Being Famous, Being Questionable, Being Questioned

Recently, Kobe Bryant passed away. He was not Wiccan. But he had a form of fame. He had a mixed legacy, having cheated on his wife. There is a lot that has been said about this. It is up to you to find your peace with this. I have found mine (not in an unpleasant, superior fashion, but a way to find calm in a challenging world)  and can admire people with a difficult background without approving of all of their actions. Here are some thoughts:

  • We know our celebrities better today than we ever have. Our Popes had lovers and illegitimate children centuries ago, but the Italians did not grab their stakes and pitchforks because affairs were more of an open secret than a financially driven, paparazzi media blitz. If you doubt my claims, here is one, of many, links about Papal infidelity: https://www.ranker.com/list/popes-who-wereually-active/philgibbons
  • Beautiful people, married or not, in today’s culture have women throwing themselves at them. It takes a lot of willpower to consistently reject advances. I’ve witnessed it in action in a high school setting. People react just as badly when you reject their advances as when you accept their advances. (I am not victim shaming here, rape is a different category of sins altogether.) To be beautiful and rich can be even more challenging. Celebrate the people who have legacies you respect, while realizing those that are not flawless are just more real.
    Sharing a Lie Makes you  Liar

    Sharing a Lie Makes you a Liar from South China Morning Post from April 2018

  • Charisma is its own mixed blessing. I have worked on the fringes of national politics for a long time. Having real charisma is a tough gig. People react like you are a beautiful person and when the charismatic person rejects an advance, the interested person can react with some pretty nasty vitriol. It is a Catch-22, enjoy a physical, temporary relationship to be vilified in the press or reject a person’s advances to be vilified by that person and probably the press too.

To sum up, if a person is famous and likeable, they may be worth getting to know better. We have no need to accept the spin message without digging deeper.  In the information age, we receive more information than we need. It is up to you to responsibly sort out what matters about that legacy for you, not for anyone else. It is in your best interest to research. So many people, again, in the modern era, have a challenging legacy: Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, and more, including my parents. You have to decide for yourself if the challenging nature of their crimes outweighs their good acts.

Since I have written this, we now face an even more challenging landscape in the US as we are more actively confronting systemic racism in our society. It is not my place as a white woman to speak authoritatively about Black Lives Matter or Thin Blue Line. I have friends in both walks of life. What I can do is my own private activism which is not a part of my role as a figurehead for the Church and School of Wicca.

Unpacking all this is a Challenge

And reluctant figurehead I have become since Yvonne departed. She is with her new love that she may well have nurtured a secret flame for over 50 years. Part of my parents’ marital difficulties may have been reflected in her notion that Gavin could never measure up to her cherished past love. They are back together and living a life independent of Wicca or the legacy she and Gavin created. I have my own mixed emotions to untangle about her, but I hold no ill will towards her or her beloved. We now lead separate lives with very little interaction.

The point here is that I do not wish to leave a or further complicate Gavin and Yvonne’s legacy. You can conduct your own research although there are a real pile of unsubstantiated claims available coupled with some pretty strong activism.  I do support much of their writing although I think it can be freshened up with a more modern perspective. The few active students I interact with regularly can see where I am attempting to do that for them. There is no harm in updating the courses from Gavin and Yvonne’s deeply cisgendered male-female perspective to a more open and welcoming writing. Yvonne’s deeply held bigotry, cushioned with an overwhelming superiority complex is being eradicated as quickly as I can. I have no room for racism or bigotry of any kind within Wicca, and as a voice with a platform, you can bet your sweet donkey’s rear, that I’m actively seeking out racism, superiority and other thinly veiled prejudices where I can to eradicate them. Gavin and Yvonne did grow and learn as teachers as they interacted directly with LGBTQ+ students. (Important to remember just after Juneteenth and during PRIDE month, in memory of the Stonewall Riots, among other events.) And, lest we forget, they were products of their time. Yvonne’s attitudes reflect the time period in our Western culture that gave rise to Nazism. Their ideas can stand a more polished, more modern review which is what I am doing.

 

Building a New Legacy

This year has been the first year since 2015 that I have had the emotional space to adequately tackle ideas that led to a great deal of cognitive dissonance from my childhood. Gavin and Yvonne created 50 years worth of writing that they worked at nearly every day. I experienced cognitive dissonance being raised by two narcissists, and then I experienced cognitive dissonance while being personally attacked in the guise of “Polly Pagan Do-Gooders” for being raised by Gavin and Yvonne. If home life wasn’t challenging enough, there were plenty of people more than willing to tell me I was wrong or bad or invited law enforcement to separate our family for simply existing as their daughter. (No one has a lot of control over their experiences at 8 years old, one of my earliest memories of these attacks.) I have a lot of writing to read through, a lot of writing to edit, and a legacy that is important to me. Some of my close friends will disagree with some decisions I make about that legacy, but I have prayed, meditated and sought guidance over the last 50 years to see my way clear. I am comfortable that the ideas I support are what matters (including that accursed paragraph). It is indeed a problematic legacy and one that I do not shirk.

I am still growing and learning. I want our website to be a welcoming site for all pagans, which it cannot do while there are racist or bigoted remarks. Those behaviors are not welcome because they are harm-full. If you feel I am limiting your free speech, then feel free to follow those Aryan nation/Pagan sites that are proliferating as fast as Russian coders and INCEL children can build them to sow dissent in the US. Pasty white Paganism is not my spiritual path.

Jo/Bronwyn in front of the entrance to the West Virginia State Senate, February 2018, making a joyful noise.

I do not seek out to run rituals or be an actively public Wiccan. We can all acknowledge that that is my legacy, but if you make that request of me, I would much rather teach you how to run a public ritual than stand in front of a group. My relationship with spirit is private in a way few people understand in what has been a public path for so many. I don’t mind an Instagram post where I write a few encouraging words each day, but you can find people who enjoy being public much more readily than I do. Let me teach you how to create ritual, build a green space, or cultivate your healthy inner biome and I will be a much happier human. My beliefs are supportive and nurturing (I hope), and as I move on from nurturing my sons and mother, I will be nurturing the Pagan/Wiccan community more. I hope to nurture the problematic legacy I inherited too – building it into a more whole and welcoming program for all of you.

During this time, as so much is fluid and we are undergoing a planet-wide transformation, if my writing seems tone deaf, please let me know. I would like for our Pagans of Color, etc, to be heard and respected. I would welcome your writing.

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