In May of 1998 I had moved from Santa Cruz CA to Ashland OR. Once established there I founded The Jefferson Index, which was an attempt to network the Pagans living in the mythical State of Jefferson (basically, Northern California from Garberville and north to Southern Oregon (Roseburg). This proved to be too great in scope, so we redefined it to just the area south of Grants Pass to the California border, and named it Southern Oregon Pagan Network (SOORPANT). This group still exists today: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/soorpant/info I was also an active member in the former Index of Santa Cruz. So that’s my background in Pagan networking.
Ceridwen and I were living in Grants Pass Oregon. We were leaders (I was a founder) of the Order of the Mithril Star (OMS), a Reformed Druid group (see http://mithrilstar.org). Because the sacred tree of OMS is the Coast Redwood, we decided it would be best if we moved to where the Redwoods grew, so we planned on moving to Humboldt County. To establish friends in that area, and as a recruiting ministry for OMS, we instituted the Sequoia Pagan Alliance (SPA) on Yahoo Groups. By the time we actually made the move to Eureka CA, (March 2004) SPA was well established with around 100 members.
There were other local Pagan groups that had lived and died prior to SPA. There was the Humboldt Pagan Network. All that we know of them is of signs on US 101 that indicated a group of that name was conducting clean up operations on a portion of US 101. There was another group on the Meetup website that had also died from lack of interest.
The first SPA gathering was held in May 2004 at Chapalas restaurant in Olde Towne Eureka. Two more meetings followed, with about 25 – 30 in attendance. Following that, more meetings occurred in the food court of Bayshore Mall, as Chapalas had proved to be a little too expensive for regular meetings. The food court likewise proved to be too noisy and a little too public, and attendance dropped to around 5- 10.In September 2004 we began meeting monthly at 321 Coffee, in Olde Towne Eureka where we met with upwards of 50 people in attendance. Frequently though, it was Ceridwen and I and one other. Attendance picked up when we began listing the meeting in The Northcoast Journal.
The weekend nearest Beltane in May 2005 we held a picnic at Sequoia Park in Eureka. I think it was myself and Ceridwen and one other. This occurred again in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Ceridwen received the vision to establish the Reformed Druids of Gaia (RDG) (see https://reformed-druids.org). We held the first ever West Coast Gathering of the Reformed Druids at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Mabon weekend. In attendance were Druids from Oregon and elsewhere, but the predominant attendees were members of SPA (who also did most of the work for the weekend campout). It was at this gathering that the RDG was established formally. It should be noted here that most SPA members did not join the RDG.
2007 – 2008
We found out (I think in late April) that 321 Coffee would be closing. It was time for us to find another home for the SPA coffees. It happened that WL, a spa member and ceremonial magician, had just lost his job as a welder. He had once worked at the famous Ancient Ways (in Oakland) and had decided to open up a Pagan/Occult bookstore (Pathfinders) in Henderson Center. He offered SPA space to meet monthly in his store. Ceridwen began working at Pathfinders as it’s manager. This gave WL leave to pursue fun and games with his girlfriend J1 (a Satanist who was married to WL’s best friend, M). In fact, WL was rarely seen at the store, except on Ceridwen’s days off.
During the entire time that Ceridwen was employed there, she was never paid. Oh, she received commissions on items she sold, but no hourly wage or salary. WL kept saying that as soon as the store started making money, she would get paid. The SPA coffee’s at Pathfinders were well received, and attendance stayed well within the 30 – 50 range. For that matter, a new meeting, Left Hand Path, (LHP) was also enjoying attendance at the store. It should be noted here that I had no idea what LHP even meant, nor did I particularly care, so things that would later develop astounded me to no end. The 2008 West Coast Gathering of the Reformed Druids went off without a hitch, this time closer to Lughnasadh. But after that, something strange happened. WL did not attend, as someone had to mind the store. His closest friends, most were members of the LHP group, also did not attend. So I was surprised when WL informed me that he had heard that I had made disparaging remarks regarding the LHPs at the Gathering. I told him that was poppycock, and that I really knew nothing about the LHP nor had reason to disparage them. But this accusation would come up again and again.
One thing that we noticed about this time was that the book section at Pathfinders was taking on more and more volumes regarding Santaria, Voodoun, Hoodoo, and manipulative magic (attempts to acquire love, sex, and money, etc.). Further, books about (and by) Aliester Crowley, black magick, Satanism, and other dark topics. The character of the SPA coffee’s also changed, and more of the people who were into the dark side were in attendance. Other folk were being chastised as being fluffy bunnies, and Wiccans and light workers were being disparaged.Some folks who had been regular SPA attendees told Ceridwen that the store was too dark and foreboding.
There indeed was a presence at the front door, and we later learned that rather than invest in advertising, WL instead was invoking beings to draw people in to the store. Another anomaly was that WL had offered to take over the advertising in the NC Journal for the SPA coffee’s. But in his version, SPA was not mentioned at all. ‘Pagan coffee” was how the event was listed.
On the weekend at the end of November Ceridwen and I moved to a new place. I took her to work on Monday morning, and she immediately noticed that the alarm was not on when we went in. From out of the dark came WL who announced that Ceridwen was fired (how you fire someone who has never been paid is beyond my comprehension), and demanded her key. I said, fine, but this store no longer has the SPA seal of approval. And I removed the sign above the register which stated, “Sequoia Pagan Alliance meets here,” from the wall. Our coffee was supposed to meet that week, so when we returned home I announced to the SPA Yahoo group, that coffee’s were temporarily suspended. A flurry of messages followed from WL’s friends saying that that was not true, which led me to kick a bunch of people out. But what I found had happened was that a great many people from the group had become LHP. By the end of December Ceridwen and I were exhausted. So we made what we thought was a wise decision but which turned out to be a major blunder.
One of the Druids from our local Grove was a Gemini. She had been very faithful to us for years. Sometimes when we held a coffee meeting back at 321 Coffee, she was the only member to show. We decided to turn the SPA Yahoo group over to her. We thought that she understood that SPAs sole purpose was to act as a recruiting arm for our RDG Grove. But she had other plans. Once she had control, she proceeded to reinstate all of the people I had unsubscribed.Then the attacks began. WL (under the name Ludwig Prinn) and his girlfriend and her husband went on a disinformation
campaign against Ceridwen and I. It still exists on the internet. You can read all the lies here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.spirituality.druid/XU_rbDV_-5c
Gemini was a student at Humboldt State University, and her four years would be over in May, so she passed the SPA onto her friend J2, who was also her housemate and an LHP. SPA basically died at this point and never recovered. The old Yahoo group still exists, but is dead. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/sequoiapaganalliance/info
Our online store, Avalon Risen ( https://avalonrisen.com ) was also hacked. Not really. Ceridwen would sometimes work on our stores site when at Pathfinders and she made the mistake of leaving login information on the computer at work. So WL was able to go into our server and delete our store. It was probably down a week before we discovered it, but we did manage a full recovery. Another couple attempted to resurrect SPA under a new name on Facebook, but that never really bore fruit.
What happened to Pathfinders? The store closed in February and it reopened at a location in Olde Towne the following Spring. In August WL arrived at the store to find the utilities were shut off, consigned merchandise, a computer, and other stuff had been removed (by their owners) and WL was forced to close the store for good. He then accused all his former supporters of pretty much the same stuff he accused Ceridwen and I of. He was kicked off most of the groups on Usenet where he had posted his BS about us. SPA also kicked him out, as did the subsequent group.
What did I learn?
LHPs, Satanists, Black Magicians, are NOT to be trusted. If you have a Pagan group, keep these people out at all costs. they will attempt to take over eventually, and will damage the name of Pagans in your area as a result. The late Issac Bonewits, founder and Archdruid of ADF, wrote two missives about the Left Hand Path that are well worth reading today: http://www.neopagan.net/Enemies.html and http://www.neopagan.net/SatanicAdventure.html
What I find more disturbing that anything is this: LHPs, Based on the nature of the attacks on Ceridwen and I, are really just demented Christians. The accusations against us were exactly what you would expect Christians to accuse us of. Exactly.
May you Never Thirst for the Waters of Life!
Rev Druid Ellis “Sybok” Arseneau, OMS
-Clerk, Cylch Cerddwyr Rhwng y Bydoedd Grove, Eureka CA USA;
-Clerk and Co-Founder, Order of the Mithril Star, RDG;
-Co-Founder, Reformed Druid of Gaia