Isaac Bonewits caught in Mists of Avalon scandal

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One of the key movers and shakers in the US pagan movement, Isaac Bonewits has been named and shamed in a sexual abuse scandal centred around Marion Zimmer Bradley.

In her book “The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon” Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland, offers an account her childhood of sexual abuse of how she came forward and put her father, Walter Breen, in jail.

It is all a bone numbingly distressing true story which Watcher of the Dawn has covered before. It has killed off any chance of Zimmer-Bradley being fondly remembered as a top feminist writer who influenced pagan thought with her books. But what is new is that the book includes a three-page mention of Isaac Bonewits.

Bonewits, who died in 2010, is identified as a “pagan pope” who was involved in the sexual abuse when Greyland was six years old.

Greyland said how much she hated Bonewits and refused to be in the same room with him. She said the only way should articulate her objections to him was to say ‘he tickled me.”

Greyland talks vaguely about the sexual abuse from Bonewitz. She writes, “I do not like talking about what happened with Isaac, and so I am going to say as little as I possibly can.” In another paragraph, she shares what she calls “the barest outline of one event.”

“I smelled things, I did not want to smell and tasted things I did not want to taste. I couldn’t breathe. I hated him with every fibre of my being.”

There are some details of the story which ring true. Greyhaven, the which was the location of the alleged abuse was Diana Paxson’s home. Paxson co-wrote books with Bradley, and eventually married into the family and Bonewits did live in her basement at Greyhaven while he was writing his book, Real Magic. Greyland has made it clear that Paxson never new what was happening.

The book has shaken the pagan community as well as the people who knew Bonewits who find it difficult to reconcile the story with the man they knew. However, any indignation is also muted by the fact that no one wants to call out Greyhaven on the allegations because the rest of her statement was true and so harrowing.

Phaedra Bonewits, Isaac Bonewits’ last wife, and Deborah Lipp, his fourth, told The Wild Hunt  they read the excerpts with “a mix of heartache, sorrow, and a host of other emotions.”

“Our hearts truly break for Ms Greyland’s tragic experiences. We are having a hard time reconciling her descriptions of Isaac with anything we know,” they wrote.

“We think it’s possible that Isaac’s presence, in sexual situations, around people who did sexually assault Ms Greyland, may have led to additionally distorted memories,” they wrote. “We do not believe that Isaac said or did the abhorrent things stated and implied in Ms Greyland’s book, they are entirely inconsistent with the man we knew.”

They added that Bonewits wasn’t perfect, but they knew him as gentle, loving, good-hearted, a wonderful father, and a tender husband.

“We honour and cherish his memory. It is in the spirit of honouring this good man who is not here to defend himself, that we reluctantly break his confidentially. Whether Ms Greyland was hurt by Isaac himself, we have no direct knowledge, nor does she state so explicitly. But unquestionably, her life was one that no child should ever have endured, and we extend to her our deepest sympathies.”

Others in the pagan community were a lot blunter and assumed the worst.

ADF archdruid Rev. Jean Pagano seemed to go into damage limitation mode trying to distance the organisation from its founder.

“While Isaac Bonewits was one of the founders, the organisation is deliberately designed not to hinge on any one person, and no one person can represent ADF. These allegations are extremely disturbing.”

There is something else which is odd about the story. The book’s publisher and author of the foreword is an alt-Right activist called Vox Day.

For those not familiar with his quotes they are the sort of thing that a sexist racist might have come up in the Stone Age so he is rather with it.  He once said that the answer for those supporting Western civilisation, regardless of sex, colour, or religion, was to embrace “white tribalism, white separatism, and especially white Christian masculine rule.”

Some feel that Greyland’s testimony is being manipulated by those who have an agenda see paganism replaced by old-style Christian fundamentalism.

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 political reasons, and that part is despicable.”

Greyland herself is openly anti-LGBT, which is expressed plainly within the book.  In fact, the book could be seen showing her transition to the Right-wing conservative ideas. The book’s title takes its name from the last chapter where her coming out against gay marriage is coming out of the “last closet.”



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  • MZB *will* be remembered as “a top feminist writer who influence pagan thought with her books,” because she was and did She will also be remembered as a vile human being. People are multifaceted. It’s now up to the individual whether they can read MZB’s work, see her public face, without reading between the lines and seeing her private face leering through. Few can. I can’t.

  • And Isaac Bonewits may be remembered for one very unfortunate incident that he perpetrated in his youth and which caused him untold distress, regret and soul-searching through the rest of his life and career. While that cannot be ignored, in the context of his later life and the scope of his acts and influence, it must be put into perspective in the sense that no one is perfect and a thing once done cannot be undone. It can only be regretted, used as a means of growth and betterment and measured against other acts and achievements.

  • “which caused him untold distress, regret and soul-searching through the rest of his life and career.” What evidence do you have of this?

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