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:

Stella Iris

Originally published in a Friends-only Facebook post 6 February 2018 -- posted here with permission 20 April 2018

Hi. So, in August 2017, I quit all of my associations with Yeshe Rabbit Matthews. I haven’t spoken to her since, nor do I wish to ever again. I was frequently suicidal for the last several years as I tried to balance the publicly stated good intentions of my organization with the intensely wrong private behavior that just kept escalating.

I can’t apologize enough for the years in which I followed her instruction, stood by and witnessed or facilitated her wrongdoing, and apologized or covered for her. My own experiences of gaslighting, manipulation, and abuse at her hands (as well as acts of actual kindness and friendship intermixed) are no excuse for enabling her. She kept me isolated from friends and associates with lies and threats, there were constant loyalty tests.

I thought there was good in what we did. That I was serving people. I thought I was helping people. I thought there was purpose behind what I did, and I can only say that I tried.

Seeing now what the real wake of these actions has been, is devastating. Moreso than losing title and friendships, knowing the long term harm I helped perpetuate is awful.

I’m sorry. I’m trying. I don’t ask forgiveness.

I’m seeing a therapist. I’m working with community that I trust. I’m grateful for the chance to live free. We all deserve that.

See also:


Originally posted to Twitter by @primal_heart 4 February 2018

I don't know how many of ya'll follow me for pagan/polytheistic reasons, but for those that are & those that might be interested im paganism/witchcraft/Goddess Spirituality please know that I do not reccommend any of the teachings of Yeshe Matthews/Yeshe Rabbit

I trained under her for 8 years and I witnessed a pattern of behavior that is not healthy. Her leadership style can be harmful, includes yelling, and she has several acquisitions of emotional abuse that I am aware of. Her previous coven (CAYA coven) recently issued a statement

On her leaving. For my part there are better, healthier, alternatives to the classes and trainings she offers. If you are in the SF Bay and would like recs I am happy to try & point you to people I know.

Bonnie Hoppa

Jessica “Yeshe Rabbit” Matthews, while in the role of High Priestess of CAYA Coven, abused, gaslit, manipulated, and victim blamed me. She used her role to attempt to force unquestioned following of her orders, even when they were in direct violation of CAYA doctrine. To this day, she denies any wrongdoing, and claims she is being wrongly persecuted.

This is not the first time. I am not the only one. I will not enable her pattern by remaining silent, anymore.

(This post is shareable. I have her blocked. I have zero interest in interacting with anyone defending her, or trying to coerce reconciliation.)

My first interaction with Yeshe, then known Rabbit, at the infamous ZBudapest ritual of checking genitalia at the door. I didn’t think much of her, then, or on the next few brief interactions we had. The one thing I do remember is that she always felt...wrong. I couldn’t ever put my finger on why. She smiled. She seemed nice and genuine enough. Yet, something about her always made a part of me want to hiss at her and run away. The only other substantial initial memory I have of her is the one time I visited the Sacred Well. Being in that shop put me on the verge of having a manic episode, passing out, and vomiting, all at once. (This will be relevant, later.)

The early days of CAYA, I wanted nothing to do with them. They didn’t resound with me, and seemed a little too...focused on female power for my taste. It wasn’t until about 2012 that I began to see them as more than just some coven at PCon. As they began doing more public rituals, and more of the people I cared about began to get involved with them, I became more interested in them as an entity.

The premise was awesome; Come As You Are. No discrimination. No judgment. The rituals were incredible experiences. I felt so safe, so accepted, so at peace, and so joyful. I ended up deciding to become a distance aspirant in 2014. Some life happened, and I ended up dropping out of the year. I reapplied for 2015, and along with my two closest friends, entered the year with great excitement for what might be. 

Prior to aspirant training, I had participated in several distance rituals with Yeshe and CAYA. Most notably: Kuan Yin, 21 Taras, and Tea and Chanting. I wanted to connect more to hose things, and yet found myself continuously running into resistance. Though she often reference her training in the tradition, I found myself often feeling like we were crossing the appropriation line, and this was not mine to have or do. I also got a new year tarot reading form her, as a perk for financially backing The Wild Hunt. The tarot reading came at the beginning of 2015, and after Yeshe had given me personal guidance and mentorship on trying to save my struggling marriage. 

The reading is notable because it was a lot of telling me how I essentially needed to be a better woman and housewife. There was a lot of push to find mentors to help me learn to do these things better, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that Yeshe wanted me to come to her for more mentorship. Just for the record: I’ve reviewed the notes I took, and absolutely everything discussed either didn’t happen, or the polar opposite happened.

Having been part of the initial distance aspirant program, I thought I knew what to expect for my second time through. Good gods, was I wrong. First of all, year two was mostly being run by the (very few) Dedicants from year one. There was an occasional guest appear appearance from Yeshe or other members of CAYA, but for the most part, we were on our own. It felt so different from the first year I had gone through, and I was rapidly frustrated with it. We were working through Covencraft, and sort of comparing it to CAYA’s doctrine. We were told that we were going to be learning more about CAYA, but we didn’t. It hurt, especially as we watched the local aspirants have training sessions and meetings that they positively raved about. We felt abandoned, uncared for, and irrelevant. 

I began to dread our monthly meetings. I didn’t want to. Why bother? I kept going because I hoped it would get better, but it didn’t. Privately, I began using the meetings to have private snark sessions with my friends who had joined me on the adventure. The levity helped keep us moving toward, with the intended end goal being that we would help fix shit, once we were dedicants. 

And then November happened. 

A male clergy member of CAYA attended our meeting, and started injecting his opinion all over the session. We were asked for our feedback on how our aspirant year had been, and made the mistake of being honest. It was awful. I ended up rage quitting as he was shitty and invalidating. 

After the meeting, I sent an email to our aspirant CAYA email list and requested a meeting with the aspirants, Yeshe, and CAYA clergy/board members, and no others. The main theme that had come out was that the aspirants didn’t feel safe to honestly communicate with the dedicants and other CAYA members in the conversation. Yeshe told me no, and said it was CAYA policy to not allow accusations without the accused present. I rebutted, because her response indicated she had been given information/a summary by others. We argued over several group emails. The end result was she said that we could either participate in a “forgiveness ritual” or walk. I chose to walk. 

I’ve heard about the “forgiveness ritual” in which Yeshe talked shit about me, even though the rule was supposed to be that no one present was to be discussed. My feeling that she had already made a decision on what had happened, and how to handle it, was reinforced by other aspirants telling me that she seemed surprised to hear their version of events. In the end, she pressured everyone to consider the issue resolved. When all was said and done, only one aspirant chose to stay. The rest of us left. It was a drastic reduction from even the first year, where only three or four of the original dozen or so of us stayed. 

The only good thing that came out of the whole debacle was that the distance program was indefinitely suspended. Too bad the damage had already been done. I was told that if I wanted any further follow up, I needed to go to Yeshe and apologize, because I was wrong for being confrontational and fiery. I felt SO invalidated that I quit everything, and put distance between me and everyone I knew who was affiliated with CAYA. It hurt friendships. It hurt me. 

In 2016 I tried to at least return things to an amicable place, but the reality was that I couldn’t shake the hurt. I ground my teeth and dealt with it, but it hurt seeing people find joy in something I had been thrown out of. How could I tell anyone what happened? They deserved their happiness. Maybe me, the person going through a lot of therapy, and with a lot of PTSD, was the one who fucked up. 

Then I started asking questions. A trans person and their partner gave me a rundown on the *awful* forgiveness ritual that happens post the ZBudapest ritual. They felt forced, coerced, and simultaneously rejected. Gods, did I relate to that. I found solidarity. I wasn’t crazy. Holy shit. I wasn’t crazy. 

That made me both angry, and ready to see what I could do about it. I began watching. Yeshe accepted me as a friend, and was cordial, but kept her distance. Any questions from others were responded to that I had left, therefore *I* needed to be the one or come back. Never mind that I left because I had been wronged and made to feel unsafe and invalidated. Never mind that the tradition Yeshe kept claiming caused her to end up in the hospital, every time she tried to go on the pilgrimage. Never mind that there is a line of people behind me that have been hurt even deeper than I have. 

I watched Yeshe preach matriarchy, and snarl at me when I said that swapping the patriarchy for that would just mean changing the rulers of a paradigm causing pain. I watched as there was pressure to acknowledge labia, the vagina, and everything traditionally CisWoman was preached as the bing we needed to reclaim and proclaim. I listened as I was told stories of lesser men, of women who plotted to use men to get pregnant and then leave, because they were truly lesbians, surfaced. I watched as the cult of personality formed. 

“Yeshe” Jessica Rabbit does not follow the rules she forces on others. I have been told of more than one instance where victim blaming and running out of those who opposed her and her tactics occurred. I’m not the only one. I’m devastated because I was too damn hurt and scared to actively challenge the involvement people I love had with her. I should have done more. I should have said more. 

I was shamed and gaslight and shut out to the point that I thought I was having a manifestation of my mental health issues hat made me need to compromise and forgive and resolve someone who actively abused me. It’s something that still makes me viscerally react to even the mention of CAYA, even though I know she is gone. I have shed so goddamn many tears over being shut out of the only coven I ever tried to pledge to...

I’m not crazy. Oh. My. God. I’m not crazy. FUCK. She did this to other people. I should have stopped this. Fuck. I should have stopped this. 

I’m sorry for not fighting harder. I saw you are happy and I felt like it was my problem. I knew better. I was afraid. I’m sorry. 

IRT: The Sacred Well: Apparent Yeshe has a practice of putting spells and other things to get people in the stores to buy things. Under the paint. Under the rugs. Yeah...I’m an empath. Whatever was in The Sacred Well hit me so hard I couldn’t function. I remember feeling an overwhelming pressure to buy things, and not seeing anything I wanted. It was commented on by others. Coercion. UGH.

CAYA Coven

Originally published on the CAYA Coven website 2 February 2018

A Public Statement from CAYA Pagan Congregation

February 2, 2018

Come As You Are (CAYA) Pagan Congregation is a matriarchal, eclectic, interfaith, open, drop-in congregation in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our mission is to create safe, loving, magical space for those who wish to participate in our community rituals, public service initiatives, and social events.

The CAYA Council of Elders recently followed up on allegations of abuse by our former Presiding High Priestess, Jessica Matthews, aka Yeshe Rabbit. Jessica resigned, and as a result of her choice to resign while under investigation, she has been given the status of “not in good standing” within our community. CAYA Pagan Congregation has continued to actively examine and engage in open discussion around the issues that have arisen as a result of these allegations.

We would like to state clearly that CAYA has a Zero Tolerance Policy regarding violence, violent or threatening speech, harassment, or sexual assault by members of our Clergy. As a community, we will continue to collectively review and actively explore opportunities for improvement in our organizational culture, policies and processes.  Our exploration and review will help us to ensure that we honor our commitment to providing a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for our members and the public. We are committed to co-creating a culture where people feel safe, heard, and empowered to come forward with any issues or concerns, regardless of anyone's individual role or position.

Blessed be.