An Open Letter to Selena Fox
                           by Isaac Bonewits
Dear Selena:
A few months ago I received a mailing from Circle in which you
asked for (a) money to finish paying off the mortgage for the land
Circle has been buying for many years, (b) suggestions for
fundraising methods, and (c) "ideas and suggestions" as to how
Circle should grow.
I also read the mailings put out earlier this year by the
"revolutionary" members of Circle, including the transcript of the
meeting between them, yourself, and your lawyer. Confused,
puzzled, and pained, I talked to you and to your supporters and
opponents, including former workers at your headquarters. The more
I learned, the more disturbed I became.
Apparently, you are an intensely private person and have always
resented people looking at what you consider your personal
business. Yet my concern for Circle is not gossip, nor is it (as
you put it to me) "sticking my nose where it doesn't belong."
Circle is large, international, and has served a unique networking
function in our community. If you don't know by now that what
happens to you matters to us all, and that you have become a
"public figure" in our community, then you've seriously
underestimated your own importance.
For many, many Neopagans, Circle was a doorway to the Goddess
and to Her people. Our community would be considerably smaller, if
it hadn't been for the work that Circle did for so many years.
That you have been one of the most widely respected, loved, and
trusted leaders in the Neopagan communi- ty, makes this letter
especially painful to write.
Circle was one of the first groups to buy land for Neopagan use.
For years I championed your cause, both because I felt that land
purchases were an inevitable evolutionary step for our community
and because of the undeni- ably good work you had done as a
networking organization. I recommended you to correspondents who
wanted contacts and pointed you out as an example of a Neopagan
group that had obtained real estate without getting corrupted.
I no longer feel that I can support you or Circle, or advise
others to do so. The change in my attitude has come about slowly,
over a period of several years, with the recent events
crystallizing my perceptions. Things add up...
After years of correctly telling folks at gatherings not to take
photo- graphs of people without their permission, especially
during rituals, you still run around during ceremonies (ignoring
the spiritual energies being raised and focussed), or even at
skyclad bonfire dances, snapping pictures for your slide
collection and Circle Network News. Some of those slides have been
shown to strangers all around the country, other photos were
published in C.N.N. and even in non-Pagan publications -- at least
some without the consent of the people depicted. This is only one
example of an apparently pervasive attitude you seem to have that
the rules you impose on others simply don't apply to yourself.
Other examples: After refusing to pay the expenses of other
Neopagan teachers to attend and speak at Circle's well-financed
events, you always demand red-carpet treatment for yourself and
your husband to attend and present workshops at events held by
others. Despite being constantly recommended by other Neopagan
individuals and organizations, you seldom recommend any teacher or
group other than yourself and Circle. After building the "Church
of Circle Wicca" as one of the most famous Wiccan churches in the
world, you unilaterally decided this year to drop "the W word" --
a position I tend to support for the community at large, but one
which seems to leave your thousands of Wiccan members without a
voice. You then attempted to declare a copyright on the
wide-spread concept of Nature mysticism.
Circle has a reputation as an all-inclusive Neopagan networking
organi- zation, yet former Circle workers agree that, for at least
five years, you discouraged them from giving networking contacts
to inquirers, instead having them sell the Circle Guide to Pagan
Groups and ads in C.N.N. Apparently this was originally because
doing referrals took too much time out of the limited number of
volunteer-hours you had available, yet you never announced to the
community that you had stopped providing local Neopagan contacts,
or what you had decided was a higher priority. Worse, after a loud
argument with one of Circle's critics, you censored his
organization's listings out of the 1990 Guide. Even if this was
done with his consent (as one witness claims), it was grossly
inappropriate for a reference work that many people believe to be
a complete listing of Neopagan resources.
You bought Circle Sanctuary with donations sent by thousands of
Neopagans, originally claiming that it would be open and available
for general use by the community, and then fenced it about with so
many restrictions that it has become essentially your private
property. A half-dozen ex-workers at Circle agreed that it was
nearly impossible for ordinary Neopagans to visit "their"
sanctuary for religious purposes without providing money and/or
free labor to you at the same time. Amazingly enough, one couple 
on the west coast claims that after donating over $5,000 to Circle
they were refused permission to visit the land because they had a
small child with them!
Circle's by-laws have never been published, so no one knows for
sure who is or isn't a "member" of Circle for voting purposes, nor
how your board of directors gets elected. You told me that there
have been and are other members of your board of directors
(besides yourself, your husband Dennis and your lawyer), but
declined to give me the current names. Your opponents tell me that
this "secret board of directors" is a story you've told for years,
but I was able to verify the names of two people who have been
directors in the past. Apparently your policy is simply to have
the board consist of you, your spouse (first Jim and now Dennis)
and one other person -- a handy way to make sure that you retain
majority control.
There are also legitimate questions about the enormous sums of
money that have flowed through your hands over the years. I have
been informed, by extremely reliable sources, that you have used
one of Circle's checking accounts as a personal one, that normal
financial books don't exist and never have, that Dennis' education
has been paid for in large part out of Circle's general funds, and
that he forbid workers at your headquarters to open the mail
because they had been asking questions about incoming bank
statements. Further, Dennis has been quoted mentioning a secret
fund that would provide for your personal survival, should Circle
ever fold.
When I brought some of these allegations up to you in our
conversation, you denied a few of them directly and evaded
responding to others. As an investigative journalist and a
concerned member of the Neopagan community, I have no way of
knowing how many of these very serious accusations against you may
be true -- but without published financial reports, neither does
anybody else! Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated
to Circle over the years, yet no one seems to know where it has
all gone, and you're not saying. You told me that neither federal
nor Wisconsin law requires you to file or publish financial
reports. Yet hadn't it ever occurred to you that sooner or later
the people who had been giving you all that money would want to
know what you had done with it -- and that they would have a moral
right to know?
When the broken-hearted people who thought they were members of
Circle tried to confront you over these issues of power and
accountability, your response was to bring in a lawyer who reacted
to all criticism and ques- tioning with threatened lawsuits. At
that meeting you danced around the issues that people brought up,
never giving a straight answer to any ques- tion. Instead you
focused on your anger towards those who had used Circle's mailing
list to share their fears and concerns. Your comments on all of
this in Circle Network News omitted most of the serious criticism
that had been laid against you and Circle, and implied that
nothing negative was happening. Your phone conversation with me
consisted of a few direct denials, dozens of evasions, efforts to
pump me for my sources, and re- peated threats of unspecified
legal and other troubles for me and my organization (Ar nDraiocht
Fein: A Druid Fellowship, Inc. -- "ADF") if I persisted in my
plans to publish the results of my investigation.

This behavior is not what we expect from a world-famous Neopagan
organi- zation run by someone many consider to be a Neopagan
saint. What has gone wrong? I am inevitably reminded of the
scandals surrounding the P.T.L. organization and the fact that no
Christian leader was willing to criticize the Bakkers until after
the media exposed them. The scandal almost de- stroyed the entire
field of televangelism. That might seem good to Neo- pagans, but
now the shoes are on our feet.
Now it's one of our leaders who seems to be behaving in an
unethical and irresponsible manner. What should we do, Selena?
Should we all be silent and pretend that nothing is wrong, while
we hope for your problems to go away by themselves? Should we wait
until Circle blows up in our faces, strengthening the biases of
those who are opposed to the very idea of large public Neopagan
churches? Should we wait until you are investigated by hostile
outside forces, making it infinitely harder for other Neopagans to
get fair treatment -- and no doubt leading to yet another
fund-raising campaign to protect you from "anti-Pagan
persecution"? Most importantly, would such inaction on our part
benefit the community or the Earth?
I'm not saying that ADF and I are perfect in regard to all these
issues. ADF's finances were confused for several years, first
because I was paying out of my own pocket for most of our expenses
(and seldom kept receipts), and later because our bookkeeper was
an inexperienced volunteer (now we have a professional accountant
on the Board). We have not always delivered on time the products
or publications that we promised our members. But, by the Gods,
when we have made mistakes, we have admitted it. We publish our
by-laws so that all our members know the rules to our game, we
print financial statements to let our members know how their money
is spent, and we make available the minutes from our Board
meetings so everyone will know how and why decisions are made.
When our members have offered legitimate complaints about how we
have handled things, we have listened carefully and then tried to
respond appropriately.
I will admit to some envy of you and Circle. When I think of all
the good that might have been accomplished by ADF (or by any of a
dozen other public Neopagan churches) if we had had one-half of
your income, I get both sad and angry. I've spent my entire adult
life, as have other Neopagan leaders, living far below the
economic level that my skills could earn me, surviving on an
income less than that of most members of the Neopagan community --
just so I could devote myself to the work I believe the Gods want
me to do. It infuriates me to see enough money flowing into Circle
to staff three Neopagan churches with full-time clergy, vanishing
into fairyland without a trace. Of course it's obvious, to
everyone who knows you, that you and Dennis are not living
luxuriously. This makes the vanishing money all the more
I realize that you are not going to appreciate my criticism and
that I am now on your enemies list for the rest of my life. It
doesn't matter. I would be betraying both the Earth Mother and my
own principles if I didn't speak out before matters get even

You have publicly asked for suggestions as to how Circle should
grow. You've said that you want to put the past behind you and
concentrate, as always, on "positive energies." OK, here are some
positive steps you and Circle could take:
Start by admitting, in your own publications, so that all your
followers will hear you, that Circle has made some serious
mistakes and that you are a fallible human being.
Adopt and publish a set of by-laws that lets people know who the
members of Circle are, and what voting rights, if any, they may
Put several more people on your Board of Directors and publish
their names, and let us all know how and why they got there. They
don't all have to be in your local area -- telephone conference
calls work just fine for Board meetings.
If you haven't already done so, open a separate personal
checking account for yourself and your husband. Have someone other
than you or Dennis write the checks for Circle. If you've both
taken vows of poverty to the church, and are therefore entitled to
be supported by it, say so. Hire a full-time bookkeeper (you can
afford the wages), and publish quarterly financial reports. Hire a
C.P.A. to run an inventory on all Circle's property and publish
the results. Publish the details on all the land payments you have
made and how much is still owed.
Design, publish and implement a training system for your clergy
so that someone other than you and Dennis can be leaders someday.
Make sure that you both genuinely qualify under the training
system standards yourselves.
If you're going to continue to present Circle as a networking
organization, put all your names and addresses into a database,
add confidentiality safe- guards as requested, update the list
frequently, and share this data with those who write in and
request it. Otherwise you should announce to the community that
you aren't doing referrals anymore, and why.
Publish a detailed explanation of your policies for controlling
access to the Circle Sanctuary so that people who have donated
money will know under what circumstances they may use the land
they have paid for.
Except for the last point, these are all things that we in ADF
have done or are now trying to do. Many other Neopagan groups have
done some of them. They are normal for most mainstream churches,
large and small. Your local Unitarian Universalist congregation
can probably give you advice on the details. Or you could ask the
folks at any of a dozen other large Neopagan groups, most of whom
have been doing these sorts of things for years.

When I talked to you on the phone, you said that you were
planning on publishing by-laws and financial reports, and making
other major changes, before the end of the year. You said that
turning 40 (as I did last year) and other brushes with mortality
had turned your thoughts towards setting up Circle to run without
you. Yet I find it hard to believe that you will take the
necessary steps without the glare of a community spotlight being
focussed on you -- hence this open letter. If you can prove me
wrong and make all the organizational changes that are necessary
to turn Circle into something we can all be proud of again, I will
be delighted.
Perhaps more important than these organizational steps, you
might consider taking a sabbatical for a year or two, and turning
Circle over to someone you still trust. You need to get back in
touch with your roots, with the ideals that brought you to
Neopaganism in the first place.
But don't expect people in the Neopagan community to continue
sending you hundreds of thousands of dollars until you have proven
beyond a reasonable doubt that Circle is open, honest, democratic,
and financially responsible.
May the Gods bless, heal, and inspire you.
A PS to my fellow Neopagans:
I'm sure that the preceding opinions have shocked and offended
many of you, especially those of you who love Selena. It is only
after much meditation and pain that I have decided to publish this
letter as widely as possible in the Neopagan community. We need to
discuss the issues in depth, both to help heal Circle and to
prevent such trouble from happening again to other groups. Perhaps
we need to develop a detailed code of ethics for running the
increasing number of public Neopagan churches. Perhaps we need a
fair and practical listing of what sort of behavior we expect from
our leaders    -- as part of a "Neopagan Common Law."
I hope that you will meditate upon the issues and discuss them
with your friends. Ask the leaders of any large Neopagan group you
may belong to whether they have taken steps similar to those I
have suggested to Selena. Then write to the publication in which
you read this. Send a copy of your thoughts to Selena at Circle,
P.O. Box 219, Mt. Horeb, WI 53572. Send another copy to me at P.O.
Box 9420, Newark, DE 19714, marked "Circle Controversy." The
editor of The Druids' Progress has agreed to publish a fair
representation of the responses in the next issue of D.P., along
with any reply that Selena may care to make.
Please don't respond to this open letter by criticizing me or
ADF. As I have admitted many times in the past, I have feet of
clay going up to my waist, have a gigantic ego, and have made many
mistakes in running ADF and other Neopagan organizations over the
years. My virtues or vices are not relevant to the situation at
Circle, nor is my rudeness in pointing matters out in public that
many would prefer to keep private.

Circle's current problems represent an inevitable growth stage,
not just for itself and Selena, but for the community as a whole.
As our population soars, we are faced with important questions
about power, accountability, and ethics. Whether or not Selena is
willing to honestly and openly address the issues, it's about time
that the rest of us started thrashing them out. Perhaps after
discussing this with your friends, you may want to make some
changes in your own groups. Indeed, the situation at Circle has
already sparked some major policy revisions and new by-laws for
ADF and other Neopagan churches as well.  I'm definately not
saying that Neopagans should stop giving money to our growing
number of public Neopagan churches. After all, large scale acti-
vities do require large scale resources. What I am suggesting is
that we boycott groups who ask for large donations (or small ones
constantly), until we see their by-laws, financial reports, and
minutes of their board meetings. This is the simple sort of common
sense that any consumer advocate would advise. If we're going to
give financial, emotional, political, or magical support to a
group, let's make sure that it's being run in a publically
accessible, honest, and responsible manner. Otherwise, we're no
wiser than the folks who kept the Bakkers in business for so
Let's all pay careful attention to Selena's response to this
open letter. Will she send out a mass mailing telling her
followers that everything is fine and to "think positive"? Will
she try to sue me for daring to voice concerns held by many? Will
she publish negative gossip about me (there's plenty available) in
an attempt to discredit my criticism and avoid answering my
questions? Will she simply ignore this letter, knowing that the
vast majority of her support comes from new members of the
community who will not have read it? Or will she deal forthrightly
with the issues involved and open Circle up to democratic
participation by its members? Only time will tell.
On a personal note, I'd like to ask the members of the Neopagan
community to stop expecting our leaders, national or local, to be
infallible, impec- cable, infinitely strong, Neopagan saints.
Almost all of us come from dysfunctional families, are survivors
of various forms of abuse, and/or have had problems with
addiction, obsession, or eating disorders. We are all subject to
depression and professional burnout. This is the same profile
shared by clergy in other religions and people in other helping
professions. As leaders, we need your love, your understanding,
and your support (financial, emotional, and spiritual). We also
need your compas- sionate and thoughtful criticism to warn us when
we start to go off the deep end. Hubris, the overwhelming pride
that offends the Gods, can be caused by uncritical followers as
easily as by our own egos, with disas- trous results for our whole
As Selena has shown us.
This open letter and PS are (c) 1990 by Isaac Bonewits, and were
first published in The Druids' Progress #7 (Fall '90). The
opinions expressed are those of the author only and do not
necessarily represent those of ADF, Inc., nor of any other
organization. Permission to reprint is hereby granted to all
Neopagan media, including electronic BBS's, if no editing is done
and this notice is included.