Heaven Walker

Received as email to Rabbit Testimony

There was a time when I thought JM was my best friend, maybe she thought so too. She was one of the first friends I made when I moved to the Bay Area about 15 years ago. In the beginning we were so close. We were in Oracles of the Living Tarot together, and founded Come As You Are coven together.

 The first ritual was a Samhain ritual that we did together in her living room with about 50 people, that was before the name was made public and she announced that she wanted the coven to be "open". She also mentioned that she wanted to work with a collaborative of priestesses.

Stella Iris and I were graduate school friends and I remember inviting her and her husband to the first CAYA open public ritual that was being performed by Molly Blue Dawn, another friend I had made through Oracles of the Living Tarot. I then invited my oldest friend Szmeralda Shanel to be part of our collective and others were invited as well.

After about a year Rabbit announced that "there were people that wanted to study with us" so we should take initiates. This was hard for me at first because even the open structure of the coven was new to me as I was used to practicing with smaller concentrated groups that were often invite only. She assured me that this was a good idea and that she had a system in place to protect the coven, so I agreed.

We began to have "Hives" of initiates, the first of which I was the "mother" or point person for the training which was a lot like a group skill share because every initiate came in with their own tradition and practice.

We started out as a Collective. First a collective of priestesses, and then a collective of initiates, than clergy.

During the training of hive 1, I became pregnant and was less available to the hive and to CAYA as a whole. However, the relationships stayed strong, and I felt spiritually connected to the group. Captain Jane, formerly Rowan, even helped to deliver my baby and I am the God/Gaia parent of one of the hive 1 clergy members.

When I became pregnant she yelled at me because my pregnancy was unexpected but eventually we mended our relationship. Although me and JM still remained close, I was noticing a shift in her. She became very focused on expansion and was personally wounded if anyone decided to "leave" the coven. This caused her to be very paranoid. She used to tell me that she knew when someone was going to leave because she would vomit foam, which I actually saw happen once. She would then black ball the person that left.

I also saw her appoint herself in a hierarchical role as the "presiding high priestess" who had the final say in all matters. No one ever argued with her, because they knew they would not win.

When I began to point things out that were troubling me she distanced herself and I stepped down in leadership of the coven. Our friendship became sporadic, but when we saw one another we would drop in as if a day had never passed. During these drop ins, she would fill me in on other members of the group who had left and the personal projects she was working on, expansion was always a goal. She also confided to me how hard it was that she had not been able to have a baby and how much she desired one. This desire made her judgmental and critical of any mother in the coven. She confided to me once that she needed to stop talking to one of the clergy for awhile because she was so jealous of the baby girl she was about to have.

I eventually resumed my relationship with the Women’s group and with CAYA as a whole and began to hear reports of how truly critical she had become of the mothers in the coven and the staff of the store she believed that she was co-owner of. She would berate mothers who needed to be at home taking care of their children and did not have time for 3,4,5 hour or all day long meetings.

She once confided in me that she was “so happy that I was a 'black mother' because white mothers just wanted to be friends with their children.” At one point during an argument she was having with some coven members she said to me “I guess I just can’t be friends with white women anymore.” Although I knew she was trying to bait me with these types of comments, I was very loyal and often held her while she cried about one thing or another. I was the one who held her when her misconduct was made public at Hexenfest. I was loyal until the end, although I believed my sisters, I was trying to make sense of how a woman I had known for so long could have strayed so far. I wanted her to make amends, but was willing to stay her friend while she worked on that.

However, I soon discovered that she felt sorry for nothing, and admitted no fault. I also found out that pathological lying was somewhat of a sport for her. I found this out on a personal level, when I was made aware of a pernicious lie that she told that personally involved me. JM came to my son’s birth and was one of the first people to hold him. She praised me often about being a good mother, but never could bring herself to actually spend time with me and my son. I later found out that she told a mutual friend and coven mate that “she could not believe that I had been allowed to have a baby when she wasn’t”, and that my son had been conceived in a weekend long haze of heroin use; a drug that I have never once tried. Interestingly enough, a drug that has often been associated with the black community, even if unfairly so, as there is clearly also a “white face” of heroin.

In her statement, my “best friend” who had once asked to take me home with her and her girlfriend on Beltane (I didn’t go), my “best friend” that I had comforted and held through countless tears like a mammy, had bastardized the birth of my child, the thing that is the most sacred to me; the one thing she could never have.

She preys on who she believes to be weak. I believe her to be truly psychologically unhinged and dangerous. The words narcissist, or pathological liar, do not even begin to explain what she is capable of.

Steph Ivy Whiteside

Posted to Twitter by @stephgwhiteside

Also re: Harmony Tribe. They have worked w/ Yeshe Rabbit/Jessica Matthews/Yeshe Matthews/Rabbit Matthews, who has been recently exposed as an abuser and cult leader.

(Full disclosure, I was part of her local group for a time - can verify truth in accusations against her)

Correction:  It looks like Harmony Park and Harmony Tribe are different. I'm not hearing anything negative about Harmony Tribe, and it seems they were just one of many groups taken in by Rabbit's deceptions.

I was in CAYA (and left) and there's def a lot of problematic attitudes re cultural appropriation, etc. Plus there was abuse but not of kids

Also from Whiteside:

Facebook comment 22 March

Lorelei Moon

Excerpted from a post on Speaking Of Witch 1 April 2018

I AM A SURVIVOR OF CAYA COVEN during the cult leadership of Jessica "Yeshe Rabbit" Matthews

In addition to these painful milestones and the personal stress and health issues I am grappling with right now, information has finally come to light about a spiritual group that I used to belong to, CAYA (Come As You Are) Coven. Talk about stepping off a cliff! I think I made my way through the whole journey of The Fool during that time and when I finally I made it to to the end; Judgement and The World, I did have a clearer perspective on many things. Sometimes when things come into focus, they aren't pretty.

​I left primarily because of gross abuses by the leader of the group: Jessica Matthews aka “Rabbit” Matthews aka Yeshe Rabbit aka Reverend Mother Matthews, and possibly using her husband's name, Robles. Now that everything has blown wide open and so many victims are coming forward, there is a lot more to deal with than the pain I had so neatly compartmentalized. What I did not know in the years after I left was how many other people besides myself, had been peeling away. When you left or were forced out, all your former friends, who you thought of as family, were discouraged from speaking to you. I was not aware that everything had come to a head with a huge, verbally abusive, transphobic rant last year, followed by a fracturing of the group and many revelations about Jessica's improprieties and lies. I am aware of approximately fifty victims and as is the case with any serial abuser, there are more who have not come forward. A private investigation was begun by the CAYA Council, however, given a “heads up” by an ally, and rather than face the charges against her, Matthews hastily resigned and fled the SF Bay Area.

Beware! She's Still Out There!

Matthews is now portraying herself as the victim and telling many false narratives, including saying that no one has presented her with the accusations. She got them alright but chose to leave rather than listen to them formally. She has systematically gaslighted and dismissed the people that she has abused. She is reframing things so that she can get support and new followers. She now has a revamped online presence with a “temple” and a Patreon. Her followers don't just prop up her ego, they support her financially. It is really scary to think that this clinically narcissistic, charlatan could potentially harm many more people.

There are a few well known people in the pagan community whom she has deceived that are vocally defending and supporting her. Many of these so called leaders are known TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) which should tell you something about her. I suspect others only know her public face and have been taken in by her flattery. She still has her hooks in a few original members who are acting as puppets for her agenda. One of these is someone I used to consider my closest friend. Recently a respected pagan online publication, where she used to work and where she evidently still has plenty of allies, interviewed several victims and rather than use the details given to them,  essentially gave Matthews a platform while diminishing the victims' accounts. They say they had an independent editorial review for bias but it was very disappointing. When victims talked about their experiences in the comments, some of which the publication knew about but failed to include, supporters of Matthews were allowed to respond with abusive tirades and then the comments were suddenly closed.

* I have decided not to link the article at this time because I feel it was so biased and poorly written.

Even CAYA itself, which has lost the vast majority of its membership and is struggling to recover put out the mildest most, legally covering their collective asses, statement possible but it was enough to raise questions. You can read their statement HERE: CAYA COVEN PUBLIC STATEMENT

I was heartened when several respected pagan groups: Solar Cross Temple, Strong Roots and Wide Branches, Coru Cathubodua Priesthood and Black Rose Witchcraft, put out a more definitive statement. It was the statement I would have liked to hear from CAYA.

Statement From Prominent Pagan Groups

Matthews is very good at presenting herself as a charismatic holy woman however, she is a highly  manipulative, narcissistic abuser, a bigot and a transphobe who has destroyed many lives. I personally watched her interfere with coveners’ sobriety, mental health, jobs, finances, sexuality, family connections, love lives and marriages. She abused her power. She did sketchy things financially. Her dress, practices and entitlement smacked of cultural appropriation. She is a predator who preys on the vulnerable, people who have been marginalized, abused or have low self esteem. She had inappropriate relationships with those she was in a position of power over and did not respect boundaries or care about consent if she wanted something. She used both members and others in the pagan community to gain respectability, knowledge and prestige. When she was through or when they started to question her, she threw them under the bus and got her followers to drive it over them. Under her stewardship, CAYA Coven became nothing less than a cult. The things I observed were so horrible it's going to take a long time to process them. I thought I had done a lot of this already, since I left back in 2014, but I was wrong. Now, I feel that it's really important in addition to my own healing,  to support the survivors, refute the misinformation that is out there and do my best to make sure that the harm this woman does to new acolytes is minimal.

I know I am putting a huge target on my back speaking out against this woman, but I think she is too dangerous to others, for me to stay silent, especially after other victims have spoken so bravely.

This will continue to be a lot to process. There is a reason I have been pulling the cards for myself personally that I have been: The Tower, Judgment, etc, or as you can see above, from my gorgeous new, Whispers of Lord Ganesha oracle deck, “Revelation!” So, even though I still have to deal with all of these things it's going to feel really good to get back into this discussion and introduce you to new tarot decks new interpretations ways of reading and talk about my passion.

I plan to write more about my experiences on my personal blog. For now, if you want to know more I am including links to public statements and the blogs of former members and students.

See also:

T. Drakos

Original posted on Dreams From The West Wind 23 March 2018

On my years in CAYA Coven

I first attended a CAYA Coven service in the summer of 2007. I had recently moved to the Bay Area, and was looking for a new pagan group: My partner and friend and I attended a Midsummer ritual, greatly enjoyed it, and quickly became regulars. CAYA was quite new at this point: they had only recently begun offering public circles in a public venue, and had yet to take their first group of initiates. I initiated into CAYA’s Wildflower tradition in 2009, was ordained a Wildflower Priestess in 2010, initiated as an Amazon in 2010, and was ordained a HPS in the Amazon (later Bloodroot Honey) tradition in 2011. I served, planned, organized, trained, and was in every other way a member in good standing with CAYA until I left in August 2015.

When I joined, CAYA was like many other small religious/spiritual groups: a little dysfunctional around the edges, but with a solid core of joy and excitement. I, and the other members of the group, poured our hearts and souls into it, and took our mission of worshiping the gods, providing good ritual and spiritual training, and creating an intentional spiritual community, very seriously.

In retrospect, there were red flags from early on, but it was easy to dismiss them as being misunderstandings, or over-zealousness, or the sort of gossip that just arises in small, active communities. However, as CAYA grew bigger, and as Yeshe Matthews, the main leader (yes, I know she was one of many founders, but she was always treated as the foremost authority, and held the title of “Visionholder” and “Visioning High Priestess” for the coven) went through personal events which contributed to her increasing instability, that sense of well-masked and tolerable dysfunction spiraled into blatant and systematic emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse, along with financial and sexual impropriety, which I will detail below.

Why speak out now? I didn’t speak out sooner because, frankly, I’d spent enough time and energy on CAYA, and I simply wanted to move on with my life. I expected CAYA to implode (as it has- I realize it still technically exists, but it’s lost at least three quarters of its membership over the last five or so years), and Yeshe to drift into obscurity. However, as it has become clear that she is instead still actively seeking students, and is founding a new Temple, I think it is important for the details to come out in the hopes of preventing harm to new people.

Please note that, while there are many more issues of which I was aware than what I detail below, I am limiting myself to experiences which I had myself, which I directly witnessed, or which I was specifically told about by the person to whom they happened. Anything beyond that, however truthful I think it to be, I will leave out.

Peer pressure and outside life: 

CAYA could be insidious. The core of the coven, especially in the beginning, was a close-knit group of friends and colleagues who spent a tremendous amount of time together, and who did great religious work. It was easy to want to join that, and it was easy to consent to the work of initiation, even if it was a lot. Multiple rituals a month, each with their own multiple hours-long planning meetings; mandatory monthly day-long initiate meetings, additional “encouraged” time with your initiate group; online or self-study work with your sub-group within CAYA; your assigned role (social media! newsletter! organization of events!); mentoring new initiates after you’d been ordained; multiple yearly retreats; governance meetings; conflict resolution meetings; etc. If you were a person in CAYA with a full-time job, CAYA would very quickly suck up every ounce of free time you had, and many you didn’t. And, at first, you’d likely give it gladly! After all, this was The Work.

But, from early on, CAYA began to experience problems with member and clergy burn out. There was too much work, and not enough clergy to go around. This was compounded by the fact that Rabbit was never satisfied, and pushed the coven to grow every year, to add more and more responsibilities, to take more trips and host more workshops and increase our notoriety, and framed it all as a combination of your responsibility to your higher self, your gods, and your community, and also as a moral and spiritual failing if you indicated that you might need a break. The coven did have one year, 2012, in which it did not ordain any new initiates, and in my memory, it was the only year in which we achieved real stability; it was never repeated.

The problems with this are obvious: cutting people off from their existing social, emotional, and familial networks is textbook abusive behavior, and serves to create untenable group dynamics where everyone is completely dependent on the group’s success. Rabbit in particular would pressure people to commit more, to give more, and would shame them if they didn’t.

I remember one instance in particular where an Amazon initiate who had a colicky young baby was unable to attend a mandatory meeting, and instead called in by Skype to hear the teachings. This was initially approved, but as the meeting went on, Rabbit pressured her to get off Skype and drive the 40-60 minutes with her baby  to attend the evening meeting, assuring her that all the baby needed was to be held by the circle of women, and when the initiate finally firmly refused, Rabbit castigated the initiate at length as uncommitted, flaky, and a poor mother. The initiate signed off in tears, and continued to be characterized by Rabbit and others as a “concern” and as an inadequate priestess, mother, and member of the coven until she left a year or so later.

Sexual behavior and concerns: 

There was a standing joke which was oft-repeated in the early years about how the Amazon tribe was only ever a hot tub and a bottle of champagne away from an orgy. It was funny, kind of, but also way closer to true than was ever appropriate for the leadership of a public religious organization. Let me be clear: though I am in a monogamous hetero-sexual relationship (and have been for seventeen years), I have zero problem with what other consenting adults do with each other. What I do have a problem with, and what often came up in CAYA, are sexual situations in which there is an unbalanced power dynamic which calls that consent into question.

I never directly experienced what would be legally characterized as sexual abuse, nor did I see any myself, but I have no difficulty believing that it happened. I was definitely aware of sexual pressures, particularly from Rabbit toward various people to either sleep with her, sleep with each other, or to generally “free themselves” from patriarchal sexual mores ie: sleep with people at her behest. She at least twice to my knowledge engaged in sexual relationships with people under her spiritual authority, including initiates, and routinely trivialized others’ sexual and romantic choices, particularly those that did not reflect her own. The Amazons, especially, could create problematic situations as we held our meetings and performed our rituals skyclad. If you were an initiate, you were only allowed to wear underwear if you were bleeding, and if you covered up with a blanket or shawl because you were cold (as I often was), you were lectured at length about your need to overcome your puritanical and patriarchal prudishness. (I was a nude model for years; literally hundreds of people have seen my bare ass. I was just cold.) Sex and sexual behavior was also framed as offerings to the deities (in private or in private groups, not in public ritual), especially to Aphrodite and Oshun, of whom Rabbit was a priestess, and any perceived reluctance on this front, especially from women who also dedicated to those goddesses, was treated as a spiritual failing.

Financial issues: 

As with many pagan communities, CAYA had some members who had full-time jobs and incomes, and many who did not. Those who didn’t were encouraged to become dependent on Rabbit and “her” store, or later on the coven, in the guise of the community supporting itself. However, this then led to the dysfunctional situation of many coven members being chronically under-employed, underpaid, and unable to search for or accept other work because to do so was seen as a “betrayal.” Those who did leave The Sacred Well for better financial offers were shamed, shunned, and subjected to intense emotional scenes. Meanwhile, those who worked “mundane” jobs were alternately scorned and berated for not contributing enough time and energy to the coven and yet also expected to help fund the coven through donations, the purchase of supplies, and subsidizing less fortunate coven members’ “needs” (I don’t mean things like bills or food, I mean things like coven field trips). There was also a lot of pressure to purchase all of your magickal goods through TSW, to take classes there, and to patronize the staff there for magickal work.

Much of this, on the surface, is innocuous: sure, if I’m able, I’m happy to help out my community member in paying for things, and sure, if a friend of mine owns a store, I’m going to make a point to buy things there. The issues came in the censuring that occurred if you stepped out of line, and the ways in which the organization systematically preyed on its members, both on the time and energy of the under or un-employed and on the financial resources of the financially solvent. Further,  a culture of financial irresponsibility was fostered, up to and including the broad social acceptance of defaulting on loans, declaring personal bankruptcy, and tax evasion. All of these institutional systems and responsibilities were seen as symptoms of the patriarchy*, and while it was never spelled out or dictated that we should do these things, they were presented as normal and reasonable behaviors. Meanwhile, everyone was simultaneously encouraged to line Rabbit’s and TSW’s pockets with whatever they could spare in exchange for a new trinket or a divination.

Relationship issues: 

Rabbit was famous for breaking up relationships, especially monogamous heterosexual relationships. I saw her succeed in dissolving several marriages and partnerships, cause real instability in others, and try to undermine many more. I don’t fully understand why this was a habit of hers, but it was particularly intense in the years before she herself got married. She would target the women of the coven, first making them so busy and over-committed with coven responsibilities that the quality of their relationship was strained, then suggest that their (invariably male) partner didn’t support them, didn’t see them as the goddess and queen they were, and tell them that by continuing to bind themselves in a romantic relationship with a man, they were succumbing to the patriarchy and denying the goddess. The pressure could be intense, and sadly several relationships fell, including several with small children involved. At least one of the couples went on to remarry after the woman left CAYA, and is happy to this day; others were not so fortunate. I suspect it was just another piece of creating dependency on herself and the coven, but that’s speculation. I was fortunate to escape the brunt of this, as my partner was already in CAYA, and was not seen as a “threat” by her.

Cult dynamics: 

The first big red flag for me came in my Amazon initiate year, and in retrospect, I should have left then, but I didn’t. My father , who lives several states away and whom I see maybe every other year at most, let me know that spring that he would be in my area for about 36 hrs on a work trip in the early summer. Unfortunately, his visit coincided with one of the mandatory all-day Amazon meetings. This should have been fine – in our manual, it said that we could miss one of the four mandatory meetings, provided we gave sufficient notice and made arrangements to make-up the work, so I contacted Rabbit and let her know that I would need to miss this meeting, and asked what sort of make-up work I needed to do. Rabbit, however, told me that I would not be allowed to miss it, and when I protested, cited the manual, and pointed out that I would not see my father again likely for years, she called a meeting of me, her, my Amazon “big sister” and two of the other Amazon priestesses (one of whom was another Elderflower).At this meeting, she spent hours explaining to me how in order to be a successful Amazon priestess, I needed to free myself from the patriarchy and repudiate my father. I remember having to leave the room several times so that I could be quietly hysterical in the hallway, completely overwhelmed with shock at what was happening. They were unmoved, and I was informed in no uncertain terms that if I missed even a portion of the meeting to see my father, I would be expelled from the Amazons. To this day, I carry deep regret and shame that I gave in, but I did. I did not see my father, and I attended the meeting. This is just one example of the sort of alienation from existing relationships and support structures that was practiced in the coven, and these grew worse as time went on.

The systems of the coven also encouraged secrecy and shaming: our only mediation and remediation process, called “Conflict Resolution”, took place in secret meetings between the complainant, the accused, and representatives for each as well as adjudicating Council members. No one besides those involved were allowed to know about it, and those involved were forbidden to speak of it. It was not considered finished until both parties agreed that it was resolved in full.

This sort of system, of course, is deeply flawed: what of the danger to the coven of someone who is being brought up repeatedly on ethical or behavioral complaints? What of the inherent pressure on the complainant to give in to whatever solution or redress is presented in order to not have to continue indefinitely facing the person who has mistreated them? And, most importantly, what happens when the accused is in fact the highest-ranking person in the coven, from whom all the representatives and adjudicators take their cues?

Intracoven social dynamics: 

CAYA quickly became a series of cliques. The governing body was in its own pocket, quite literally- most of them worked at “Rabbit’s” store; several of them lived in the same building, and those that didn’t lived very nearby. They had exclusive chat groups, took trips together, had regular communal meals, and saw themselves very much as the best of the coven. In addition to creating an insurmountable Us/Them dynamic, this added to the cult-like phenomenon of inability to leave: If your High Priestess is also your employer, also lives in your building, and is also one of your closest and only friends (because remember, you’ve now spent years neglecting the rest of your relationships), how are you reasonably supposed to extricate yourself? This inner circle not only was used to consolidate Rabbit’s control of the coven and validate her own personal needs, it served as a tool by which to alternately exhort (don’t you want to be as good at this as these people are?) and berate (look how much work these people are doing! what have you done for the coven lately?) the rest of the group.

Sexism, transphobia, and appropriation: 

I am a feminist. I believe feminism is crucial to fixing our society, I believe intersectional feminism is absolutely necessary, and I believe transwomen are women. “Feminism” means treating people of all genders equally, providing them with equal access, equal opportunity, and doing away with gender-based power and reward structures.

This is not what Yeshe Matthews believes. To her, men are an inferior group of people who exist to provide money, service, and children (preferably girls). To her, transfolk are out of touch with their own true self and transwomen are really men. To her, other cultures exist to be borrowed from, “resonated with”, and used as a bludgeon to prove her own superiority over others. Weirdly, she also subscribes to very traditionalist tenants of womanhood, including seeing motherhood as the ultimate expression of goddesshood- this resulted in pressure on the women of the coven to have babies, whether they were able and willing or not, and also in very unhealthy situations in which Rabbit would often publicly berate the mothers in the coven on their child-raising, particularly the ways in which they were doing it wrong.

I can say all these things because I witnessed all of them over the years I knew her. She can talk a good talk, and I think she convinces herself of whatever she needs to in any given moment so that she can play whatever victim card is called for in any given situation. But her actions – the routine disrespect, disenfranchisement, and dismissal of the men in the coven; her waffling positions and hatespeech toward transfolk (and gay men, too); and her frequent appropriation of non-white cultures to serve her own religious self-aggrandizement – speak for themselves.

Emotional abuse: 

Rabbit was always prone to dramatics; it’s part of what makes her such an effective charismatic leader. She is able to fully feel, fully emote, and fully share a tremendous range of feelings at any given moment. This, though, combined with her ever-growing paranoia, made her increasingly unstable. What started out as peer pressure and lecturing turned into systematic shaming, shunning, gaslighting, and manipulation. The entire coven was under her thumb, and she was especially awful to the Amazons/BRHP. I have seen her scream litanies of abuse at covenmates, including insults, swears, and threats; she was often petty, vicious, and cruel to anyone who showed any resistance to her, only to claim either that it was “tough love” and “for their own good” or else that she had only said it because she was in such a terrible state herself, and if they really loved her, they’d understand and forgive her. She moves instantly between invective and martyrdom, cursing members one moment while seeking their comfort and reassurance the next. As her persecution complex deepened during 2014 and 2015, you just never knew when you were going to put a foot wrong: everything was a loyalty test, and if the meeting didn’t end with multiple people crying and apologizing and professing their undying devotion to her and to the coven, then you’d better believe we’d make up for it at the next one.

Again, though, this was only ever an escalation of a thread which was always present: very early in my Amazon initiate year I remember her, in the context of discussing my purported reservedness (I’m not a big public display of emotion person) with another priestess, looking me straight in the eye and saying, “Just wait. I’ll break you.” Easy to awkwardly laugh off in the moment as a joke, but it was ultimately her goal- she wanted to break all of us, because if we remained fully ourselves, we didn’t need her the way that she craved.

The difficulties of leaving: 

It is technically true that you could leave, and many did. However, it was very difficult for many because CAYA had become your entire social circle, and often your primary, if not only, emotional and financial support. When I left, people with whom I had been close, intimate friends for years cut me off entirely. You would be blocked on social media, unfriended, emails would go unresponded to, calls ignored. This was demoralizing at best, and shockingly hurtful and depressing to many.

Though many of us “retired,” and were in good standing at the time we decided to leave, we were welcome to attend rituals, we were purged from email lists, and all trace of us was erased from the CAYA website. If you worked in “Rabbit’s” store, which many coven members did over the years, you needed to be able to provide for yourself financially in other ways before you could even consider getting out. Once you’d made the decision, you had to make a full plunge, with no looking back, because you would not be allowed to recant or negotiate your return.

Leaving was also seen very much as a punishment or a surrender, as Rabbit over the years systematically targeted individuals for abuse and eventual expulsion from the group. This, of course, served to make the remaining group even more committed, because they didn’t want to be forced out against their will, and didn’t want to undergo the losses and smear campaigns that would result from our departure. (Everyone who left got a narrative of some kind: “the one who was just in it for the attention”; “the one who wanted to steal Rabbit’s position”; “the one who was poisoned by the patriarchy”- we used to speculate while we were still in the coven about what our inevitable narrative would be.)

So, as with any cult or other abusive relationship, it’s very easy to look at it from the outside and say “why didn’t you just walk away?” The answer, of course, is that it was much harder to do so than it seemed.

There’s more, of course there’s more. Years and years of more. But anyone who’s read this far either is convinced or is not by now, and many of the stories are not mine to tell. I’m sure she will deny all of this, should she become aware of it. I’m sure I will be denounced by her and her followers as resentful, petty, slanderous, and many other things. They will produce stories of my manifold failings, claim that I was never dependable or reliable, and discredit me in every way possible. I don’t care- I know and the gods know that it’s true, and that’s enough for me.

I loved Rabbit, and CAYA, and it grieves me deeply what all of it has become. I feel deep compassion for her, and I hope that she gets the help she needs, and I hope even more that her many targets and former friends find the healing that they need. As for CAYA, it was all hers from the beginning to the end- I can’t imagine how it can continue as is, and I encourage anyone who remains to burn down the remnants and start fresh. There’s nothing salvageable at this point; learn from what was, and make something new.

Please note that while I have left comments on, I will happily delete any vitriol or victim-blaming, and none of this is up for debate. I’m happy to answer what questions I can, but this is not a court of law, and I will not be attempting to “prove” my experiences or otherwise convince skeptics.

May any ill-will directed at me for speaking the truth return to its wisher three-fold.

T. Drakos, 3/2018

*I do think that many of our financial and governmental institutions are part of the toxic patriarchy in our culture, and need to be reformed or overthrown, but I don’t think promoting personal bankruptcy and loan fraud constitutes sound financial advice, regardless of what you think of the morality of the system.

Stella Iris

Originally sent as an email to The Wild Hunt 25 March 2018 -- posted here with permission 20 April 2018 

I am writing to formally request either a retraction or extensive corrections on this article. 

This article is not representative of my testimony or my experiences in any way. I made many specific and verifiable statements, in writing and during my video interview, and none of them are mentioned here. I told Terence in our video interview that I had emails and chat history and that I knew of witnesses to various instances of abuse, and neither you nor he requested to see them or contact them. 

I never received any follow up questions. I never heard anything about any of my statements being verified nor denied by other parties. If you sought out verification, you didn’t publish that you did, or whatever the result. 

I am not sure what “objective reporting” means to you or your organization. 

I did not contribute to this story in order to see my name in the newspaper. As I said to Terence in the interview, I was hurt by this woman; I saw the interview as a chance to warn others from being hurt. Especially after years of defending her, it falls on me to keep others from harm. That was my only motivation. 

Your article lends legitimacy to the idea that these accusations are groundless. It is excellent ammunition for Ms. Matthews to use in defending herself. If you didn’t believe what I said, why did you choose to report this story? As you must be able to see in your own comments section, there would have been plenty of voices to corroborate mine. You didn’t care to ask. 

Since this story came out, I have been called petty, foolish, and overdramatizing. I can only assume that’s what you believe. Please understand, I am writing to you directly rather than trying to court public favor.  I don’t want to be a topic of conversation.  I have included witnesses that I respect because I do not trust you to treat my words as though they have any weight. 

Since participating in this story, my trauma-related IBS and insomnia has returned, and my girlfriend has been threatened with doxxing. You have made the worst experience of my life worse. 

Either print my actual account, or take my name out of your story. 

Erick DuPree

Once upon a time, a friend said to me that we could hold space in our hearts for conflicting feelings and emotions; but if we failed to recognized the root of such conflict and the blind spots to them, we were living in cognitive dissonance. That friend is Crystal Blanton.

For weeks I have sat in silence watching my closest friend in Pagan community at the heart of a profoundly personal and life-changing scandal.  I have spoken to her and I have talked to others. I wrote several drafts and wrestled between public support and silence. However, silence is an act of complicity and I am not in a dissonance. After this post, she and I will likely never speak again. I see her for who she is and who she has tried to be. I affirm her sacred right to autonomy and I forgive her.

I am distraught. To quote Devin Hunter, from a recent Disqus post "... sad, embarrassed for not acting sooner..." I am ashamed of not having the agency for myself.  There is a systemic situation that is wider than one entity. It's not just about a group, but about interpersonal connections, boundaries, and more.  Also, this issue is exceedingly triggering, and the more that unfolds on all sides, the more I am reminded how vital it is that people be empowered, heard, and witnessed in their truth. I hear, support, and affirm you. 

I chose to write this today because silence is complicity. For over five years I have been in a spiritual and professional relationship with Yeshe Matthews.  We have created online communities, cross-promoted each other's work, she wrote the preface to my book, Finding the Masculine In Goddess' Spiral, and she initiated me into a magical tradition. As a private person, I work in branding and marketing- and have helped her launch and rebrand many platforms in trade for her services.

Yeshe welcomed me to popular Pagan community. I found Yeshe in 2012 through an interview she did with Thorn Coyle's podcast, Elemental Castings. Yeshe was on Facebook; we became friends. I became a client, paying for services through her shop. The magical workings never had a rubric, but it was transformational. Yeshe also would ask me prompting questions, like "Is the Goddess real, or is it your imagination?" Those questions became blogs like "Knowing Goddess or Just Wishful Thinking" and quickly my little blog was being picked up and shared by Covenant of the Goddess. My joy in this was met by Yeshe saying "It's my light on you." 

Yeshe invited me to a private group Emerging Voices on Facebook. The premise was simple, lift up, cross-promote and share each other's work. There was a lot of triangulation between members- yet in my awe/gratitude to be there, I didn't see the web. Namely that I was being groomed to be a replacement of sorts to a friendship that was slowly becoming more and more fractious. I was also being told a lot of things from one side of a story about a community of people I didn't know but envied.  Soon after becoming part of Emerging Voices, Crystal Blanton quoted me in The Wild Hunt,  but again it was met with "It's my light on you."

I could write endlessly about isolated moments where something would happen in my magical life and Yeshe would empower the credit it as magically intertwined.  It was her light, her connections, or her idea transmitted to me. And likely parts of that is true. The serialized book version of Alone In Her Presence or Dharmapagan, all her. Things changed however for me when I decided to branch out from Yeshe the teacher and sought teaching from someone else. I began working with a different Bay Area teacher online, and that caused a riff.  That teacher was "patriarchy" those teaching were "cultural appropriation."  My perspective was I was being lured from the hive, and that new hornet's nest wanted my 'light' to bolster and take down the great work of Goddess. Writing that sounds insane, but it's a web of 'us over here, and them over there' and it was in that moment very true.  

I choose them over there instead of seeking distance aspirant within Come As You Are Coven and likely that was the real issue. By this point in my relationship with Yeshe, I no longer saw her as my spiritual teacher, but as a friend. I had also come to know a lot of interpersonal things, and I learned a long time ago your friends don't make the best spiritual teachers. You need boundaries.  I also wanted to avoid another Emerging Voices situation where there might be triangulation over whose the favorite gay priest in the tribe. There had already been one drama with someone I respect that has blocked me from their life completely.

I found myself at a crossroads, however, with that Bay Area teacher and Yeshe, because the more I learned or did on that side of Feri magic the less friendship and affection/ attention I received from my friend. I missed my friend and eventually chose the friendship over the magical working relationship.  Similarly, when someone I knew was in need of help with TERF and doxxing, instead of my gut reaction and advice - I learned on Yeshe, what I assumed would be strong feminist wisdom, and transmitted her advice instead. It cost me. 

People have asked me why Yeshe wrote the preface to Finding the Masculine in Goddess Spiral, since it's an anthology of men, for men and to men.  I had wanted Devin Hunter to write it. Devin and I are both independently "goddess guys" in different ways. I deeply respect him, even if we approach magic from a different tradition.  Yeshe advised that for the work not to be seen as patriarchy it needed a woman's blessing, it required that light. Yeshe had done so much for me. That preface should have been a foreshadowing of events to come, because the preface is an invocation, not a statement from a women on how men empower Goddess traditions and feminism, which was the point.  While in many ways it's water well under the bridge, I need to apologize to Devin for not giving him that platform.  He didn't need it, but he deserved it.  

There was a point when I was writing all the time, at PatheosThe Wild Hunt, working a book deal with Moon Books, besties with a DC witch that I loved, doing Pagan events and talking to Yeshe weekly living in that light

In 2016, Yeshe counseled that I interview a controversial figure in Pagan community and gender politics who was writing a transphobic book on Female Erasure for my Patheos blog: Alone In Her Presence. Trans issues were in focus, and Yeshe felt women, and this was not being afforded the equal space.  By this point, I wasn't sure what to believe? I had lost my closest aforementioned, DC bestie over this issue, but my main conduit in Pagan community had advocated that woman needed rights. I also was always being bombarded that gay men were misogynists, and in some way maybe I was special because she had let me into the club of matriarchy.  I was also lead to believe that I was neutral and respected, and most importantly if I didn't censor the interviewee, I would be seen as unbiased an fair.  Besides that light supported me.

I knew I was making a mistake when I hit publish, but I wanted approval. If I can give one piece of advice to a writer, always wait 24 hours, and have a Crystal Blantonin your contacts to call for editorial advice. Had I waited, and phoned a friend I would have heard "Are you crazy?"

I was. I was wrong. And there was no light. I also handled the pressure poorly, in part because my support system wasn't there. Sure there was a phone call or two, but nothing in public, because it would ruin the businesses, the pariahs of pagandom. I was alone. I stopped writing. I didn't move forward with Moon Books, I left Patheos and Alone In Her Presence. I wrote here and there for The Wild Hunt but have until today been quiet.

Yeshe and I remained friends, I was initiated into the Order of the Black Madonna along side Crystal. That too ended with me fading away, with painful emails, and learning later of sadness and disappointment from many others who came seeking connection with the dark side of the Goddess. 

I am not part of CAYA. I have been a member of a few private Facebook groups and other social media platforms. I am friendly with a few members. Like many, I've always witnessed a loving and powerful community doing inclusive work on a grand scale. I have envied that seemingly elusive big Pagan community from afar. I also knew that it wasn't for me. It saddens me that there is this fraction. In these moments especially, Pagan communities can learn from our religious colleagues in other wisdom traditions how to handle questions of misconduct.  

I take from this experience, personal accountability. I wanted spiritual community and validation, and I found that in a teacher who became a friend. She and others helped me to build a platform, and when I used it to her advantage, she promoted and praised it. I don't think that is unique, I think that is part of our capitalist culture. The trouble is the shame, guilt, and gaslighting that comes when we choose to not play in the sandbox and to hold different opinions from our teacher.  Somewhere I lost part of my own compass, and take responsibility for my action. 

I wonder, where do we as a community go from here? I do not know. I write this today because silence is complicity. I have no stake in a fractured community whose hurt is real, valid, and witnessed. May they find love, compassion, and justice.  I do know that many are living in pain, in a situation similar to this where there is a power over the model. Let us remember to step into the magic of our autonomy with grace and the love that remains the law.

Blessed Be.

If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart...

— Pema Chödrön

Rowan Nightshade

Posted as a comment to The Wild Hunt 23 March 2018

I was interviewed for over an hour by a reporter from TWH and they opted to only use a handful of my most tepid comments from the entire process. I find it exceedingly frustrating and I wonder what the point of the article was at all. Why even publish anything?

To be clear, I was a member of CAYA for just over 10 years; I was on the Council and I was the Financial Steward (treasurer). I experienced and witnessed innumerable occasions of verbal and emotional abuse, gaslighting, and cruelty that increased in severity and frequency over time. The most extreme personal case of it was in February of last year when Jessica Matthews had a couple of cocktails and then proceeded to spend 90 minutes publicly (as in, in a crowded restaurant) berating me about my parenting and how awful she thought my kids were. She only stopped when I finally broke down in tears and said that I understood that she thought I was a terrible mother.

I personally witnessed the shaming and exclusionary practices she had and promoted, I personally heard her say terrible, bigoted things about trans women and was there when she swore us all to secrecy about it under the guise of being in "sacred space."

She also sexually coerced and exploited me during an extremely vulnerable time in my life when I had just split with my husband of 17 years. It involved her, me, another clergy member, and an initiate who was also romantically involved with JM despite it being against the stated policies of CAYA. JM had kept it secret from her own husband and said to me that sisters should be able to have sex with each other whenever they want without telling anyone and outside of whatever other relationships or commitments they had. This kind of encounter happened on three separate occasions (only once with the initiate) when I was away from home with her, had ridden to the location in her vehicle, and no material means of leaving.

I have been told by multiple people that I have grounds to take legal action, but honestly I see how our "justice" system works and I have no faith in it. Plus I've already given her too many years of time and devotion and I really just want my life back.

However, I agreed to be interviewed by TWH (however uselessly in the end) because I feel it is imperative to do whatever I can to protect others from predation by Jessica Matthews (or Rabbit Matthews, Yeshe Rabbit, Yeshe Matthews, Jessica Rabbit, Jessica Yeshe Rabbit Matthews Robles, or whatever other name she is publicly using now).

I also wrote a more general blog post about it as a way of processing my own feelings and experiences and also, potentially, as a warning to others who may be in harm's way. If you want to read it, it is here:
I won't engage with trolls. I'm not interested in having further conversation about this. I just want to be done, but I won't feel done until the warning gets out there.

You may choose to believe me or not, I have no control over that. I have no property, resources, or reputation to protect. I am not "somebody" in the pagan world. I just need to do my best to tell the truth so others may make their own decisions with all the information to hand.

Please be careful and examine all the information and sources critically; beware of gurus and anyone who claims to have all the answers. Be well. Be safe.

Zafira Alexander

Posted as a comment to The Wild Hunt 23 March 2018

As a member who left this community after being emotionally abused by Rabbit and other core members at the time, it saddens me to see the victim-shaming that is occurring in the comments.

There is a collective gaslighting presently happening to the survivors as well. These are OUR EXPERIENCES. We know because we lived through it.

This isn’t a spectrum either. Abuse is Abuse. Emotional, Financial, Sexual... no mattter the ‘amount’ someone has suffered. Abuse is Abuse.

I discovered the Amazon Priestess Tribe in 2008. I left in 2011. I left because I saw the path of Coven to Cult forming. My experience. Judge me if you want or sit down with me and listen. Hear me with an open heart. I do not speak up out of malice for Rabbit. I speak up with compassion and unconditional love for those who have suffered through the abuse they experienced.

I have learned a long time ago to stop trying to get an apology out of someone who does not see their behavior as toxic or abusive. Expecting any sort of accountability from the abusive party is very much akin to getting nowhere on a treadmill. And those who staunchly defend Rabbit now may or may not come to see with their own eyes the truth of those who have dared to speak up and out about the abuse they have experienced.

I was given an opportunity to interview with someone about my experiences. It was an unrealistic expectation (and highly insensitive) to accommodate their inquiries within a short time frame. Some stories take time to tell. The ‘journalism’ surrounding the abusive experiences of the members (former and present) of CAYA seems biased at best.

However this proceeds and ends, those of us who have suffered know the truth. Your victim-shaming and gaslighting has no sway over us.

Jesamyn Angelica

Devin, I deeply appreciate what you’ve shared here. In many ways, my experiences with Rabbit have been *exactly* the same, although she and I never had any falling out, argument, or altercation.

Stephanie Ivy Whiteside

Posted as a comment to The Wild Hunt 22 March 2018

Wow. I am so underwhelmed by this article that I'm unsure where to begin.

1) There is a lot of information that was given to TWH that is not included, and this weighs very heavily on the words of Yeshe Rabbit and Molly Blue Dawn. I know a number of other survivors were hesitant to speak up, largely due to the conduct of the journalist assigned to this piece. The questions sent were 1) far too long for an initial email and 2) suggested bias in favor of Yeshe. I'm not shocked that many were willing to speak up.

2) I was in CAYA. I chose not to be interviewed for this because my story is one of the milder ones. But I can say that I was emotionally belittled, repeatedly urged to quit my job (I have no other means of support), and that my sexual activities were frequently discussed with me and others. I was repeatedly urged to engage in sexual activities I didn't feel comfortable with (not with coven members specifically, but in general) and rumors were spread about my behavior and motivations. While I was not explicitly forbid from having friends outside the group, the constantly increasing demands meant that most of my friendships were unsustainable. When I left, virtually all of the people who had once considered themselves my family stopped talking to me almost immediately.

3) I witnessed many other things. People being shamed for continuing associations with those who had left. Attempts to break up relationships, especially if the parter was not involved in CAYA. Encouraging people to work at Yeshe's store, putting them under her financial control. A relationship between Yeshe and an initiate (who I will not name to respect their privacy) in direct violation of CAYA's rules. The gradual erosion of the original collective ideal into an organization where Yeshe was the final voice in all things.

All this said, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.I kept my livelihood and had no relationships to be destroyed. I left CAYA at the same time as two of my closest covenmates, and had maintained 2 good friendships during my years there, so I was not completely alone.

I know that many will not believe this. But after reading this, I felt I had to speak out so that people considering studying with Yeshe will know what they can expect.

Also from Whiteside:

Twitter posts 5 April

Devin Hunter

Posted as a comment to The Wild Hunt 22 March 2018

Recently Black Rose signed a letter along with other local pagan organizations in support of members of our local community who were allegedly physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually abused by Jessica “Yeshe Rabbit” Mathews. We signed this letter for several reasons, not the least of which is that we have members within our Black Rose community who are also CAYA members and former students of Jessica’s who are deserving of support as they process life after religious abuse. These past few days I have been harassed, students of mine have been harassed, local community members have been harassed, and so I feel it is time to clear the air and share some of my personal knowledge of the situation. Bear in mind for the protection of the survivors, I won’t be able to share as much as I would like.

Jessica and I were colleagues for several years. We planned giant rituals for Pantheacon together, I went to her wedding, she was on my show multiple times, etc. She was one of the first allies I made after moving to the Bay Area and I really respected and valued her, recommending all kinds of people to her for services and for training.

One day we had a slight misunderstanding on Facebook about terminology that I didn’t feel was inclusive to me as a gay man. No big deal I thought, it was a discussion, we have lots of discussions about gender and sexual identity politics. However, Jessica shut down after that and gave me a list of demands for forgiveness.

Intentionally or not, I had stepped in it and so I wrote CAYA a hand-written letter which was sent to Jessica at the shop she was running, I wrote a public apology on Facebook and my blog, I also went on my show and apologized (a stipulation of hers for forgiveness.) But I never heard anything in response once I had. I reached out to friends who were in Jessica’s priestess group, all of which either didn’t respond or reluctantly told me that they were told not to respond or to communicate with me. Shocked, I reached out again to Jessica, surprised that it had all blown into what it had, and she informed me that she was off to Tibet and would see what she could do once she returned. Weeks went on and I didn’t hear anything so at a meeting for my ritual team I explained what was going on and that I was just waiting to hear back. I was then informed that CAYA had already had a meeting before Jessica left and that they agreed I was no ally of theirs.

I reached out to Jessica one last time asking what was going on and how all of this had blown into what it had. She did respond, informing me that I was unrecognizable and a “pod person” and that it was all out of her hands. I later find out that I was the scapegoat for issues that were being raised about her behavior with then current students inside of CAYA.

I learn this by getting calls from members who were jumping ship at this time who warned me about things she was saying about me all through our relationship, as well as ways she would talk down about me to CAYA members and refer to me as a “bad dog who is chained”, something I often heard say about Christian Day. People, men especially, who she saw had some future value to her but with whom she didn’t like at the moment were often referred to as “bad dogs.”

At this point the whole thing had become a nightmare. Someone who I valued and trusted deeply was calling me a pod person and telling people in the community not to talk to me and was manufacturing stories about my store to local pagans in an effort to keep customers from my shop.

Despite not mentioning her publicly and doing everything I can to avoid her, she has continued throughout the years to be someone who I have to clean up after. At least once a month I have a former student of hers coming to me with their personal stories of abuse. No less than three times have I done healing work for her former students who are so wrought with depression over their abuse that they struggle with daily tasks. No less than five times have I been called upon to perform protection work for those who she was attacking in her own community. She banned my books from the store she was running and when people would ask to order them or why they weren’t there she would tell them that I didn’t support women. She lectured people about how I “knew nothing about power” and had no business writing a book about it. She even had one of her students create a fake Amazon account so they could write negative reviews of one of my books.

For years I have been dealing with her personal attacks silently while simultaneously cleaning up after her wake. I didn’t want to speak out because I didn’t want her attention, I wanted to focus on my work. Then word went out locally that Jessica was being asked to step down from her position because accusations were mounting up internally and finally people were speaking out through a private internal investigation. The next day I found out that Jessica had stepped down to beat the leadership council to the punch, and on the wave of that news I was contacted by yet even more survivors. There are something like two dozen people who have come forward most of them I know, have spoken to about their abuse, and are deathly afraid of Jessica’s influence still over CAYA.

This isn’t online banter or frivolous accusation, these are things that happened to people in my community. People who circle with me. People who were complacent in Jessica’s attacks on me who now feel guilty for their part. These are scared people who are in counseling and seeking further legal protections. And again, not just one or two people, we are talking roughly two dozen of her former students. TWO DOZEN.

As I hear their stories I am struck by the similarities between my own experiences with her both previous to and after our falling out. As I connect with other spiritual communities in the local area, like the three other well established local organizations who signed the statement, I am discovering that there is a pattern of behavior that exceeds my own experience with her. Not only do I believe the survivors, but I also fear for those who only know her online persona or don’t know her at all, because I believe they are potentially in real danger.

I wanted to sign that letter for three very specific reasons. First, I have current students and members within my immediate community of Black Rose who say they were personally abused by her while students and I have an obligation to them to stand with them. Second, this happened locally. These are things that bring shame and regret to us locally. We all wish we had done something sooner, said something sooner, and that we hadn’t allowed her to play us against each other.

Lastly, it uses her legal name. In addition to it being the name that CAYA chose to use in their statement as time goes on she may very well drop the name Yeshe Rabbit and move onto something distinguishable from the pain she has caused. She has always talked about creating a commune on Mt.Shasta and recently she has started a Goddess Temple there. History has shown that when a spiritual leader is disgraced they will often reinvent themselves and move on to those who are none the wiser. While there may be a tradition in paganism to adopt a “spiritual” or “magical” name to hide identity and protect the members of the craft; I believe wholeheartedly that to not call her by her legal name would be a grave mistake and could potentially put others in harm’s way. By using her legal name, I believe I protecting my fellow members of the craft from a predator. I cannot in good conscious allow unsuspecting spiritual seekers to fall victim when someone could have said something.

I’m sure it all looks like a circus from other places around the world as you read posts and feeds, but I assure you there is nothing entertaining here. There is only a community that is filled with sadness and remorse that is desperately trying to find a way to move on. CAYA will repair and be stronger for this and they won’t wear the bruises from Jessica forever. The business she was part of has rebranded and will continue to thrive as a safe place for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, not just those who Jessica sees as valid. The Bay Area will continue to host the largest indoor pagan event in the country and we will gather every year to watch in triumph as our community thrives. We are sad, embarrassed for not acting sooner, and in need of your understanding as we seek healing.

The Wild Hunt

Excerpted from the article "CAYA’s public statement leaves more questions than answers" 22 March 2018

Eyewitness accounts

Reporting on the investigation was made difficult by a lack of specific detail provided on record by interviewees, both alleged victims and supporters. A lack of specifics does not necessarily mean that an allegation is false, but can result in it not being substantiated by legal and journalistic standards, making it difficult, if not impossible, to report.

While most of those contacted for the TWH investigation did not supply detail, several former CAYA members did speak with TWH and provided comment.

Iris and Rowan are two former members of CAYA who agreed to speak on record. Iris was one of the founding Elderflowers, while Rowan was among the first initiates, dubbed Wildflowers. Rowan recalled that initially joining CAYA felt like “coming home.” To Iris, creating that sort of space was precisely what she was after in helping to found the group.

Rowan said that she “threw herself into the work” of CAYA, learning and serving, and that strengthened her friendship with Rabbit. “There were little flags which are easy to see in retrospect,” she said, signs which she might have taken as warnings, but did not at the time. These included “weird expectations of unquestioning loyalty” that “didn’t sit right” with her, but she dismissed those concerns.

“I should have trusted my instincts,” she said.

One guiding motto in CAYA, Rowan said, is “more than just work friends.” She admitted to TWH that CAYA was a group of people who not only worshiped together but also babysat, helped move, and generally formed a social sphere. That was exactly what she wanted.

However, both Rowan and Iris stated that Rabbit blurred the lines between friendship and being her subordinate. That made it difficult, by Rowan’s account, to “tease out the unhealthy parts” of the relationship.

What gradually unfolded, according to Rowan, was a transition from “we are all in this together with many leaders” to Rabbit being the only voice. She said that Rabbit had an influence “born of manipulation,” rather than actual authority.

They tended not to have friends outside the group simply because there was no time for other relationships, according to their accounts. When Iris did eventually leave, she said that she found herself cut off from all of her friends.

Rowan and Iris both agreed that the situation was not always problematic. Iris said that 2016 is the time frame when this type of targeting began to ramp up.

In 2017, Rowan and Iris, who were both on the council at the time, resigned from CAYA. According to both of their accounts, it was due to that “unhealthy” relationship. Iris was the first of the pair to resign, and Rowan said that she was then witness to what she called a smear campaign against Iris by Rabbit. This is one of points that led her to bring up her concerns to the elders council, she said.

Rowan and Iris also state that CAYA has no established protocols for addressing the type of abuse of which Rabbit has reportedly been accused. They said that they are skeptical that she has not been advised of the internal allegations. Rowan said that she gave specific permission for her emailed list of infractions to be shared with Rabbit.

Both Rowan and Iris have been speaking publicly about the situation, but they said that speaking publicly elicits strong feelings of guilt, and Iris explained that guilt is the reason it took her so long to leave.

Part of the guilt, they said, comes from the fact that the rituals and work done in CAYA did benefit people, and those individuals were getting the short end of the stick without having done anything to deserve it.

See also:

Lorelei Moon

Originally published in a Facebook post by Lorelei Moon 22 March 2018

I just read the piece of "journalism" that was published today by, The Wild Hunt, about the exodus of Jessica Matthews aka Yeshe Rabbit Matthews, former head priestess of CAYA coven's exodus and public statements that have been written by CAYA and Solar Cross about the situation.

I debated for some time whether or not to participate in interviews for this piece. I chose not to because I felt very uncomfortable about the questions I was being asked. They smacked of bias toward Matthews who was integral to the publication in the past. The questions also had a tone that smacked of victim-blaming. I was extremely uncomfortable with that. When I brought up concerns to the reporter he was extremely defensive. The Wild Hunt claims that this piece was given to an independent editor before publication and they have acknowledged their previous connection to Matthews, however I find it disturbing that this poorly written piece of twaddle:
  • Quotes mostly people with a biased towards Matthews and Matthews herself
  • Paints CAYA and victims as totally uncooperative, largely for refusing to out victims by giving names or identifying details
  • Quotes comments on a Facebook post that are dismissive of the accusations while ignoring the comments on that post that countered those comments
  • Even though several people allowed their names to be used and evidently spoke at length to the Wild Hunt's reporter, only the mildest quotes were selected and not everyone was quoted.
  • On top of it all, I've seen tabloids with better writing. It smacks of brown nosing and cronyism.
Of course, in the comments, Matthew's supporters immediately praised the good work of TWH, launched their support of her and squabbled with any critics. This included Big Salem Mass, muckity muck self proclaimed psychic wonderkund, (and well known pagan drama queen) Christian Day, getting into a squabble with a commenter, comparing their use of Jessica Matthews legal name (which she still uses, in addition to her self ordained title of Yeshe) to purposefully misgendering someone. I find it ironic that people try defending a well documented transphobe like Matthews in one breath then spewing transphobic propaganda in the next. Using someone's legal name, which they also use, instead of the pretentious title they have given themselves does not compare to misgendering someone. It does not.

I can tell you that I witnessed some horrendous abuse and manipulation during the time I was involved with CAYA coven. I also was the target of abuse. I believe the victims. I can corroborate much of what happened during the years I was involved with them and even some of what happened after I left. Because of Matthews' comnection to so many online pagan publications, I suspect it would be hard to find any that would truly investigate this in a fair way. It is unfortunate that this is unlikely to be something a main stream media publication, which has more journalistic integrity would be interested in investigating. Also, because, legal charges will probably not be brought and because CAYA is trying to repair and rebuild itself, (I think they need to disband) chances are good that this will quickly be swept under the rug and Matthews will reclaim her "reputation" and start over with new victims. That's a shame.

See also:

Shauna Aura Knight

Originally published as a public Facebook post 19 March 2018

I have been waiting to be able to speak publicly about this for quite some time. I posted vaguely about this situation in the Bay area over a month ago, but I heard allegations of abuse almost four years ago. I stand by this statement, and I intend to have no professional dealings with Yeshe Rabbit, not support any events that host her.

I know that some of you reading this may not want to believe that someone who has done so much to help others could also engage in this level of harm. Some of you may continue to work with her. All u ask of you is that you go in with eyes open. Watch for manipulation, watch for gaslighting, watch for emotionally pressuring situations. Learn about the process of grooming and love bombing. Be aware and be safe.

Open Letter from multiple groups

It has come to our attention that numerous members of the Come As You Are Coven community have come forward with substantiated allegations of abuse -- ritual, financial, emotional, physical, and sexual -- regarding their former presiding high priestess, Jessica "Yeshe Rabbit" Matthews, as well as allegations of volatile displays of bigotry, particularly in the form of transphobia. In the time since these allegations became public knowledge, they have been corroborated and added to by many more former members of that community, and others who had pas associations with her.

These are serious allegations and merit a serious response. As community leaders, we have watched with concern as word of this misconduct has spread without any public acknowledgement or accountability from Ms. Matthews. Though an internal infestation was conducted by the CAYA Council of Elders, no consequences were imposed; Ms. Matthews refused any accountability process, and resigned before the investigation concluded, with a letter impugning the character fo the dozens of survivors -- primarily women -- who came forward to report abuse.

Responsible religious leadership must be accountable to those it serves. This dismissive response constitutes an unacceptable breach of the trust place in us as spiritual leaders, and allegations of clergy abouse are also a matter of public safety. Ms. Matthews' reported predatory, abusive, and bigoted behavior presents a danger to the greater community, particularly to current and future students in her care. The lack of public clarity and accountability regarding this situation both deepens the wounds of those already harmed and exposes those who may approach her in the future to harm. Indeed, Ms. Matthews is already taking on new student san has schedule public appearances, with no word whatsoever regarding the many people she allegedly abused and left behind.

We, the undersigned, believe and support those survivors who have come forward. We strongly encourage the larger community to do so as well.

In trust,

Solar Cross Temple
Strong Roots and Wide Branches
Coru Cathubodua Priesthood
Black Rose Witchcraft

Divine Spiraling Rainbow Tribe

Posted to the organization website 5 March 2018

Retraction of Statement of Solidarity with Yeshe

We, the undersigned, had previously supported Jessica Matthews aka Yeshe Rabbit, with this Statement of Solidarity which we now retract. We have recently received information concerning multiple allegations of transphobic actions on her part that have caused us immeasurable concern. We believe those who have shared their experiences with us. We will protect their confidences and their safety. 

Accountability is important to us. We recognize the harm that our initial Statement caused and extend our sincere apologies. If you feel you need further information or would like to discuss accountability with us, please contact us at  divinespiralingrainbowtribe@gmail.com.

Let this be our public declaration that we will fight to protect our trans, enby, agender, intersex, gender questioning, gender abolitionist, and other beautifully gender diverse kin with our hearts, souls, minds and guts. We are stronger together.

In solidarity,
Rainbow Melissa ra Karit, Baba Jaina Bee, Ravensong Phoenixfire, 
Kitsune Hearthweaver, Shell Selvans

Stella Iris

Originally sent as an email to a reporter for The Wild Hunt 12 February 2018 -- posted here with permission 20 April 2018

Thank you for working on this story. I'll answer your questions in this structure, but honestly, it isn't going to give a full picture. The two of us were quite possibly the closest people to Yeshe Rabbit Jessica Matthews in the last ten years or so. There's more than a decade of relationship that eventually became more and more toxic and then fell apart.

Further, since I have worked (and currently do work) for the company that used to employ Ms Matthews, I want to be certain that this story does not comment on the business and her work there. I need to be certain of this, since the livelihood of many innocent people may be put in danger if there is any retaliatory legal action taken.

It's important to me that I speak out, because I was so much a part of the structure she used to hurt people.  I want people to know that she's unsafe,

  1. What is, or was, your relationship with CAYA? -
    I was one of the first group of priestesses that began CAYA; myself, Yeshe Rabbit, and 4 other women. We began as a collaborative group of witches, and developed a training program for others. I was a High Priestess in multiple traditions, a member of the Council of Elders, and Secretary of the Board. I held multiple roles and duties over my 11 years of involvement, including overseeing Public Service projects, Pastoral Care work, training of initiates, and many many public rituals
  2. If you did not come to know Yeshe Rabbit through CAYA, how did you get introduced? -
    I was introduced by a mutual friend who became part of that original group.
  3. What was your formal relationship with Yeshe Rabbit in the context of CAYA? -
    I was originally a collaborator in the formation of the coven. I worked closely with Yeshe Rabbit, sometimes under the title of executive high priestess, sometimes as board secretary, usually considered her second-in command.
  4. Did you have contact with her outside the context of the coven? -
    She called me her best friend. We socialized together, worked together and spent holidays together. I was in her wedding. She came to the hospital when my son was born. In the most recent years, all of my free time became spoken for by her. It became all-encompassing.
  5. What transpired between you that you consider abusive? -
    What started as collaborative quickly became hierarchical. I found myself carrying out orders, and reporting in, rather than contributing ideas. The amount of work I was expected to do was many times what the stated ideal amount was for members of CAYA. When my son was born in 2010, instead of being granted a sabbatical, as most new parents were, I was given a "promotion" in duties and made responsible for facilitating more activities. By 2016, I was spending 8-12 hours per work on CAYA work, plus I worked full-time. When I expressed concern to Yeshe Rabbit about my stress levels, about taking too much time from my child and marriage, I was either praised for being very committed and not giving up, or scolded for being lazy and not doing enough. She told me that I was raising an entitled and spoiled child who needed to get used to feeling that my time and praise would be rare. She advised me on how to control my partner, and our relationship. I was publicly scolded for being slower than she wanted to fulfill tasks on multiple occasions. During 2014, Yeshe Rabbit had a relationship with an initiate in the coven, and during that time, she began a somewhat coersive sexual relationship with me. I just did what I was told, again and again. I was expected to keep that secret from my partner, so that she could rely on it being secret from her own partner. Throughout the years, as people turned away from the coven, whether through life changes or strong disagreements to policy or personality conflicts with Yeshe Rabbit, I was expected to cut off contact with those that left, and to abandon those friendships. Also, ongoing, I was expected to publicly defend Yeshe Rabbit from attacks on her character and her political views. It is very very difficult to be open about this now, after constantly being told that all my time and effort was never enough support for her personally, or for them mission of CAYA. In 2015-2016, Yeshe Rabbit became more and more outspoken about her feelings on trans gender people, trans women in particular. She used private "oath-bound" space to vocalize her dislike, mistrust and disgust of trans women. When it came to light that I had begun a relationship with a trans woman, she repeatedly shamed me for that.  In the context of coven board meetings, in the context of spiritual sharing, I was called "slut" and "sex addict" and in private conversations, I was told that soon enough, I'd grow into understanding that I was participating in another person's fetish, not having a true relationship. I was also told that I could not be trusted until I ended that relationship, which I did, for a few months. Once it was discovered that I had returned to it, I was called a liar and a threat, both privately and in the witness of one of CAYA's groups.
  6. Did you share anything about these experiences with anyone we might contact to corroborate what you've shared? -
    Jenny (who is on this thread), and my ex-partner, and many members of CAYA, past and present, are aware of all of this.
  7. What steps, if any, did you take to advise CAYA leadership about this abuse? -
    I was a part of the leadership. I had seen many so-called "conflict resolutions" take place, and they all involved proving that without Yeshe Rabbit's approval, there was no place in CAYA for anyone.  I tried to write policy that was egalitarian and allowed for true discussion. But it all fell down when Yeshe Rabbit was involved in the conflict. Finally, in August 2017, I left the coven and cut off all contact with Yeshe Rabbit.
  8. Were there other persons in position of authority that you chose to inform about the situation? -
    Many members of CAYA's Council of Elders knew about the amount of work I'd been expected to perform. In 2017, as an initiator and trainer in the PNW, I told my East Bay counterparts about the sheer amount of work I was being asked to do, and how I couldn't keep up. Many members of CAYA's Council also were present for name calling and shaming me for my relationship choices.
  9. Do you believe that persons in authority or with influence acted timely and appropriately?  Why or why not? -
    I don't know. I myself was a person of authority. I feel as though everyone was held hostage. I cannot claim that I would have done better, because only after I separated from Yeshe Rabbit and CAYA, did I begin to see that I could choose to do otherwise.
  10. Are there any persons in authority you elected not to contact, who might have had an impact? -
  11. Are you familiar with others who were in a similar situation who might be willing to speak about their experiences?  Would you be willing to contact those individuals and ask for permission to share their contact information? -
    I can put it out there that you are looking for more people to talk to, but I don't know who would be willing.

After trying to stay in the structure, I can see that this is a big mess, leaving out years worth of the story. I also don't know what you hope to focus on in your story. Please contact me with further questions.

See also:

Stella Iris

Originally published in a private Facebook group 11 February 2018 -- posted here with permission 20 April 2018

Hello everyone. I'm here, and I'm sorry for lurking. I cannot claim to have read everything that's been said. I'm trying to keep up, but I'm struggling. I don't want to be here if I'm a trigger for anyone. I feel that in a lot of ways I was used as a weapon against some of you. I also realize that I don't actually know the true facts about how and why some of you left CAYA, about what was real and what was Jessica telling me what would keep me in line, keep me separated, keep the whole thing going.

What happened and why I left is a very long story. I was there from the beginning. It was 11 years of my life, encompassing everything. It involves some of the same incidents you read in Akasha's and Jack's and Rowan's accounts. I was also coerced into sexual relations with Jessica, on multiple occasions, with others or with her alone. I was also verbally berated for hours on end about my personal life, about how I conducted my relationships, about how I raised my kid, for years. When I requested sabbatical (unofficially, multiple times), I had duties added on. I was expected to attend to everything, to make the coven a priority above all else. Many of you saw how I was treated when falling short on 8-10 hours per week of volunteer time, plus around 45-60 hours per week of work at my job. I was publicly shamed as unreliable and uninterested in the success of the group. And I was expected to attend to Jessica's well-being, never being supportive enough, never being giving enough. Being Board secretary, Executive High priestess, leader of the public service track, leader of pastoral care, whatever various titles I held, second-in-command was not a position of power, at least not after about 2010. I had gone from being a respected collaborator to being treated like a foolish child. Since she was also my boss, all my life became subject to her scheduling and her say so. She'd give me the day off and then plan my activities. In addition to encouraging me to shun contact with those that left, Jessica made sure I simply didn't have the time to attend to mending fractured friendships.

In Glastonbury, Jessica treated the Mothers of the New Time like a jury, to decide if my ongoing relationship with a trans woman was a betrayal of their trust. While it was vindicating that the women in that room stated that they had no concern about who I chose to be with, it was also made clear to me that I had no recourse to address my concerns. The conflict resolution process could not hold her accountable. the Council could not hold her accountable, no path was open to me.

I left, everything, on August 30th, 2017, with no warning to anyone. I'm sorry if that action hurt you. Once I'd come to see how far out of control I was, I needed to sever all ties immediately. I was on the brink of killing myself; I made several calls to suicide hotlines and reached out to very old friends who had never met her. I needed to stay here for my kid. I needed my life back so I had something to offer him.

I'm sorry this is so long. If anyone wants me to leave this group, I will. I'm so sorry for participating in causing you pain.

See also: