Yesterday I heard the news about Susun Weed: that she was arrested for choking one of her students, that her abusive behavior is apparently nothing new. I've never really followed her work, so I didn't know about her reputation for hostility; when I followed the news and read all the accounts, old and new, of her mistreatment of students--when I saw that behavior justified and rationalized on her very own website--I immediately thought of other abusers in witchcraft, pagan, and earth-based communities. (Ahem.)

Some abusers are very good at crafting public personalities that mask their behavior in private. "What?" people claim when the allegations come out. "So-and-so would NEVER do that! They're so warm and kind and gentle!" Other abusers, though, lack that skill. They can't help but engage in very public, very visible abusive behavior: lashing out when they're challenged, screaming at people in rituals and classes, belittling their followers, enforcing corrosive hierarchies. Yet what should be obvious red flags are explained away. "Well, she's very passionate about her work." "He's calling someone out because he cares about justice." "They've got a warrior's spirit!" "Oh, she's a crone, don't take it personally." And here's the thing: even if, for some reason, you're okay with violent behavior in public, public abuse is usually only a taste of the abuse that's occurring in private, where power dynamics can be twisted in the abuser's favor. Think of 45: was anyone really shocked to learn that he's a violent rapist when we all heard him bragging openly about grabbing pussies?

Now, everyone acts unwisely sometimes; we all say things we regret, or hit Publish when maybe our righteous blog post needs another set of eyes, or act out of anger instead of compassion. That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about leaders with consistent, reliable track records of hostile behavior. Leaders whom you feel you can't question, lest you get attacked. Leaders whom you know to steer clear of at public events.* When I read account after account after account of Weed's appalling treatment of her students, I thought wearily of the leaders who are still celebrated by our communities as I write this post, whose disturbing behavior has been whispered about in back channels but never openly questioned. (I don't feel safe naming names, but feel free to contact me here  or DM me on Instagram  if you want to talk.) Perhaps earth-based spirituality needs its own #MeToo moment.

Perhaps this is the beginning.

* I use the term "leader" here loosely, of course.

Image by Louis Prado.