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HomeErin's Journal, Personal, Posts, Updates An Interview with sapphoq


An Interview with sapphoq

Erin

A few days ago there was a long and involved incident with a gentleman who calls him self “Elder RavenFire”. I won’t go into all the details here, but he has been causing problems on various forums and it has started to spill out of the forum areas and into individual websites.

This is an interview that I wound up doing for another blog website.

Hi Daven. I understand that you are involved with druidry, tarot, and teaching others. Can you explain please what qualifications that you had to reach and how long you worked on attaining those qualifications? How many years have you been involved with these things?

Hi sapphoq, It’s good to be here.

Yes, I am involved in most of those and I have taught them at one time or another along with many other topics. My qualifications are that I have been studying metaphysics, philosophy, New Age belief, and the theoretical side of magick through the writings of Alice Bailey since I was 4 years old. It was my grandmother’s fault, she was a New Age Christian and had been studying this since the New Age Revolution in the 60’s. She taught me things like religious philosophy, how to spot a fake, and that I need to read everything I could. She studied graphology (handwriting analysis) on her own when she was 70, and solved several murders for the police in the area.

I guess that technically makes me a “granny trad” kid. But, she taught me things like how to think, what an aura is and what it meant, how to use my empathy and how to simply sit and be, listening to the trees and the wind. Important stuff and things that I was able to keep my own personal sanity when I was growing up. Even though I didn’t keep studying with her, and she never directly taught me Witchcraft or Magick, she taught me the principles of such.

I started actively studying Wicca and Witchcraft specifically about 22 years ago. I was studying gems and different religious paths from my (then) Mormon religion simply to round out myself. I wanted to know what made people believe those as strongly as they did.

Recently, I have been an initiated Wicca in the Seax-Wica tradition for the last 15 years along with my wife, I have been reading and studying Druidism for the last 8 years, reading everything I could on mythology and Druidic thought and tradition. I learned about the tarot some 20 years ago while I was in the Army, but my wife taught me the tarot in a week of intense study and meditation. I’ve read professionally for a psychic line for two years. I have been interviewed for television as an expert on magick and cults.

Seven years ago I started Daven’s Journal, my website. Through there I have had better than 90,000 unique hits of those who have found use in my words. I started the site for my daughter, to teach her all that I knew she needed to know, when it was still fresh in my mind and when I could take the time to be thorough and complete. So I started distilling my knowledge that I learned over that 34 year time period into a format for her, and for those others who wish to read it. I’m very gratified that I have had as much success with it as I have.

Is it ethical for an adult to teach any of these things in the usa to a teenager who does not have parental permission?

This is one of those grey areas of ethics. According to the law of the land, it is illegal for some outside agency to interfere with the upbringing of a child. Because of that most teachers would secure permission from the parents to teach, and in the absence of that, they would not teach. For me, I have made a determination that I will not actively teach a child under the age of 18. I will not prevent them from reading my site, nor will I give them false information. I do think it is important to make sure the children who are going to be continuing Wicca forward in twenty or thrity years have access to the information we had when we were learning. But it is necessary to note that while I will not actively (one on one teaching and tutoring) teach, I will passively teach by having the information available to them if they expend some effort by reading. At that point it is up to the parent to monitor their Internet connection for what they are doing.

So, while I have made a decision not to personally teach a child, I do make sure that the information I have is available to them to get a start in.

What ethics shape your own teaching and tarot-reading? Not all witches follow the Rede or the Law of Three? In terms of the responsibility you undertake in teaching others, are there specific ideas or morals that you go by?

(Please look at the Blog entry, this is a long article)

Personally I see nothing wrong with being the instrument of “threefold retribution”. While I had followed the Rede in the past, I feel that it is an over simplistic worldview that is an impossible standard to keep. I do follow the way it was intended to be followed. “An it harm none, do as you will” means to my mind that so long no one is hurt that you should feel free to do whatever that was. If someone is to be hurt, one MUST decide if it is still an action that should be undertaken. At that point it may still be an action that is undertaken, but it should be done with an eye to being ready to accept the consequences of the actions.

Besides your website and on-line classes, what else are you involved in on-line?

Currently I only have my online life as my daughter is not interested in studying Wicca. I’m involved in two different forums where I offer advice and it was on one of those that I first met RavenFire. I have a LiveJournal presence and some people I correspond with.

I do reviews of books, to the point where publishers are sending me books without my asking for them. Those reviews are published in various places around the Internet, including the Witch-Pagan Times. I have written articles for other websites, but currently I have writing articles for my site and for “Rending the Veil”, an online magazine for Magickians and Witches. The first issue is due out sometime around Yule.

How did you first become acquainted with Elder Ravenfire? Was it on various proboards set up for witches, wiccans, and others?

I first met RavenFire on a web forum called “WitchFourms.net” He came on there and posted many things that were very “out there” then admitted that he had read Douglas Monroe’s book “21 Lessons of Merlin” and that it was his bible, and that he would undertake to teach everyone the Truth of Monroe.

Considering that I am a Druid and I have literally been studying this all my life, I challenged his ascertations and asked him to cite
sources. There was a series of confrontations between him and friends of mine, finally culminating in him insulting me to my face and running off when he was told to put up or shut up.

What initial concerns did you have, if any?

The same concerns I would have with anyone who is setting themselves up as a teacher without any qualifications. He had skimmed a book by Silver Ravenwolf and Douglas Monroe. He admitted that later when pressed. Get that, he didn’t read it, just skimmed it. The source I had refuting the book by Monroe which has held up under all kinds of scrutiny was a letter written by Ellen Evert Hopman, the then head of the OBOD. He hadn’t read the article at all, because he kept confusing me with the author, despite that I say on the article in question that I didn’t write the article at all. But he was “debunking” the article and speaking with authority on a subject he had very little knowledge of.

Then there is a 21 year old Elder. The title of Elder is one that is earned after many years of study and effort. While it is not outside the realm of possibility that there is a 21 year old that holds that much knowledge to be the equivalent of an Elder, RavenFire displayed none of that knowledge or wisdom to be considered in my mind as an Elder.

What was most concerning to me was that some of the kids on the forum were listening to him. He played to every insecurity they had, he offered an easy path to their desires and he would teach them without expecting them to do work. Which is impossible to do. Which he would know if he had studied ANY of the traditions or paths he claimed to know all about.

Have you ever posted on Elder Ravenfire’s now defunct board The Summerlands? If so, what do you remember about your experiences there?specifically with any responses of Elder Ravenfire to your posts? Do you recall any specific examples of suspected plagerism by Elder Ravenfire?

Yes, I remember that board very well, since I was one of several people responsible for getting it shut down.

When he announced that he had his board, i initially signed up just to see what was going on. A friend of mine told me that he was again insulting me and her, so I came back and saw that he was spouting the same idiotic crap that he had been spewing before. I commented that I was not the author of the article critical of 21 Lessons of Merlin, and gave him evidence about who was the author and so on. He completely ignored it and continued with his diatribes. When I protested again, I was banned from his forum.

And at that point he went from “ignorant idiot” to “fluffy danger to others” and I decided to take action.

I used some tools I have available as a person who works with computers every day, and I signed back into his forum under a different name. Over the next two months I continually signed back up for his site, posted and would be banned by him again. This happened over about a month, and I had approximately a dozen different identities on that board. There were times he would seem to get tired of the repetition, but then he would get some sort of stick up his backside and go through it all over again.

During all this time we (the members of his forum and I) did everything possible to warn him about the copyright violation he was committing. We cited articles and warned him about it. His response was to close threads and to ban members, and there were several others he was persecuting like this. I was the primary target because I kept being “in your face” about it, so he came after me the worst.

Multiple people reported his board. My report just went to the correct people and they closed the board within hours.

I have several backups of the boards, one of them is a thread where he admits that he didn’t have permission of the author and brags about it and defiantly says that he doesn’t care about copyright that the authors should be flattered that he was using their work.

Mostly the board was 100 threads of which only about 5 were active. The rest were one post threads where he ripped off other’s works to make himself look like he is a good teacher and knows all about other traditions. But when asked basic questions about those traditions, he was unable to answer them, he got defensive about it as well, finally telling people to shut up and to stop questioning him.

Elder Ravenfire has claimed in his e-group that you and sapphoq were responsible for getting his proboard shutdown. sapphoq has denied any responsibility in that as she had just joined the board a day or so before shutdown. Did you report his proboard for copyright infringement or for any other suspected TOS violations? What concerns, if any, did you have about the Summerlands proboard?

Yes, I got his board closed down. I’m very proud of that fact. But I was the instrument of that shutdown, not the means. Had he not been putting up copy written material on his website and bragging about the fact that he was violating copyright, nothing would have happened to him. I reported the board and I was only one of several reports.

My concern was the copyright violations and also the fact that he was trying to teach with no knowledge of what he spoke on. I have no problem with what he believes and what he feels is right. But when he passes off fiction or false information as fact, THEN I have a problem. That was the ultimate motivation for the report, but the fact of the matter is that the copyright violations were what got it closed down.

Elder Ravenfire has posted a letter from the “American Council of Witches” warlocking him on at least three proboards claiming that it was from you. It came through on his e-group. Did you respond to his posting on any of the proboards?

No, none of them.

Were you, in fact, in his yahoo e-group briefly?

Yes.

Elder Ravenfire later claimed that the author of the letter apologized, admitting that it was a hoax? Did you write that letter? If so, what motivated you to write that letter? If so, did you apologize later on?

I sent him the letter. I did not author it.

You must understand a basic fact, there was a group of myself and several friends who do feel that RavenFire is a danger to paganism in general. Collectively we think that we can reform him and get him to see the error of his ways, but failing that we can marginalize him. In a moment of frustration, the letter was written by a friend as a way to poke RavenFire again and make him react as he normally does.

I sent it to him as a frustration and sat back to watch the fire. It was about a day later that those of us who had a hand in this prank started regretting the lie, and it was a lie. Since I was the one that sent it to him, I sent him another email saying that it was a hoax that there was no council, but that he was being watched. I apologized for the hoax, but not for anything else.

He got worse for a while with that admission and spread the “council” letter around claiming that we thought it we had it in us to enforce this stuff. And things kept degenerating.

Elder Ravenfire claimed in his e-group [I hesitate to call it “coven”] that you have a split personality disorder. Also he referred to your friends or followers as drones. Any reaction to that?

Well he is free to believe what he wants to in my case, but I am not a schizophreniac, nor do I have Multiple Personality Disorder. But if that idea brings him comfort, then whatever.

As to my friends being “drones”, I wouldn’t have anyone around me who couldn’t think for themselves. I want to be a leader because those around me feel that I am the best person for the job, not because they can’t put 2+2 together or think critically.

Elder Ravenfire claims that he was taught by Silver Ravenwolf [author] apparently through her books rather than any personal contact. Silver Ravenwolf has been called a “fluffybunny.” She also suggests to teens in at least one of her books [see citation at the end of this section] that teens lie to their parents or be wreckless with the truth. In your experience, what is the policy of the teaching covens or groves or groups that you are familiar with concerning teenagers who do not have parental permission to become involved with wiccan, witchcraft, druidry etc?

Teaching through books is one medium to teach a teen without parental permission. Then there are the millions of people who have read Silver Ravenwolf and while most will say that they learned from her, credit her with some of their knowledge (whether it is right or wrong is another story), I doubt many would consider that she is their teacher because they read a book. And in fact, the “I read a book” that he is claiming impeaches his credibility even more.

As far as the teens and under studying, I already said in a prior part that it is important that they feel they can learn and study. But if someone is going to actively study with a teacher, the teacher should go to extremes to make sure the parents are involved, if only because while the stories of predators may be exaggerated, there is still some truth to those stories. I still remember one waste of skin “gentleman” who actively preyed for young nubile virgins to “initiate” as a witch. As far as I know the FBI is still looking for him.

(the citations you want are in Teen Witch, pages 231 to 233. She alternatively states that the teen should tell their parents and also not tell their parents and keep it secret.)

Elder Ravenfire has offered to teach at least one teen wicca himself. What is your reaction to this?

I find it fast and lose, questionable in the extreme. First he has no qualifications as a teacher of any kind, and he has no knowledge in Wicca of any kind.

What is your understanding of how one achieves the title of “elder” in various witch traditions?

An elder is usually a term of respect given to one who is a Third Degree initiate but who is not a leader of the coven. Usually they are retired High Priests or Priestesses of the coven, responsible for teaching the new Wiccans of the coven. They are the wisest of the wise, the ones who probably trained the current leaders of that coven. They are humble and they don’t call attention to themselves, but they are a presence in the coven and the community.

Those who scream loudest about being called a specific title, be it Elder, High Priest or Reverend, are normally ones who deserve it the least. Normally they also are the ones who seek titles only for the fact of having a title, and they are the ones who need the guidance of real Elders the most. I would run the other way.

I’ve been called an Elder and a High Priest multiple times by others. Know which title is my favorite? “Daddy”.

Where would you send someone on-line who wishes to learn more about druidry? learning how to read tarot cards?

I would send them to books and mythology. There are groups out there who can and do teach, but there are REAMS of books out there that are good and which would fill the void much better than the 21 Lessons of Merlin. Steve Belarmes is just one example of many.

“What feels right” is good if you are talking about purely subjective topics like what the Goddess feels like. But when you are talking about the documented history of a people, a culture, a religion, “what feels right” doesn’t even come close to cutting it.

Mostly where I send them would depend mostly on the person. I have taught many and each student is different. While a classroom style format is convenient, the student gets the most out of the lesson when it is directed to THEM, not to the least common denominator. So depending on many factors, like how the student learned, what they already knew, and what they had experienced, that would determine where I send the student.

From your understanding, what distinguishes a healthy group from an unhealthy group? What are some signs that someone can look for in evaluating a coven or grove?

Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame is still the standard for dangerous cults and dangerous groups. I advise EVERYONE to look at that first when determining how dangerous a group is.

I would say that warning signs to look for, that will IMMEDIATELY send up a flag would be these:

* A reluctance to disclose where the information comes from
* A demand that the student believe the teacher unquestionably
* Demanding more and more from the student while the leaders give less and less
* Extreme punitive measures for minor disagreements (such as banning for questioning or asking for information)
* Blaming others for problems the “leader” caused
* An unwillingness to admit that they MIGHT be wrong, much less admitting they are wrong
* Advocation of any illegal activity, such as drugs, underage sex and more.

Any of those by themselves would cause me to question that group, two or more would have me running the other way.

And before you ask, yes, RavenFire exhibited each of these multiple times in his forum. He even banned his own cousin for questioning him.

I hope this helped clear a few things up.

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One Response to “An Interview with sapphoq”

  1. spike q. says:

    Hey Daven,

    The search on blogger has already picked up the interview on both our sites.

    You did well!

    spike q.

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