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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author: Pagan Community    Posted: Sep. 7, 2002   This Page Viewed: 318,649  

Vox Q Stats

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Reponses: 2,666

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Question of the Week: 113 - 6/8/2003

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

Let’s be honest. There are some people who inhabit our Pagan/Heathen communities who are clearly ‘problem children’. They may lie about their experience, lineage, credentials or intentions. They have been banned, banished or fired and yet they resurface and unabashedly continue on their merry ways. Worse even, we may have sexual predators, charlatans, thieves or con artists working their scams amongst us.

It seems that we are reluctant to confront them (or even to prosecute those who exhibit actual criminal behaviors) lest ‘it make us all look bad’. Well, they DO make us all look bad and we won’t look any prettier if they are eventually exposed (or indicted) by those outside of our own communities. But what can WE really do?

What does a Traditional coven or group do about former members who resurface still claiming to be a ‘priest or priestess of such-and-such degree’ after they have been banished by that group? What if these folks never earned or were stripped of those same degrees that they claim to hold?

What should we do about those known to use the lure of ‘teaching witchcraft’ in order to take advantage of others or coerce them into sexual relationships? What about Pagan merchants who take our money and then never produce the product?

CAUTION! This is a hot topic and so this is where I start placing notes of caution and related disclaimers all over the darn place: Please do not name names or point fingers at any specific person, persons or group here. {If a person committed a crime (sexual assault, theft, fraud, etc.) against you, please report him/her to the proper legal authorities. And yes, we know that this is a very difficult thing to do.} This is not the official Pagan Hit List. We are not the Pagan Police.

What we are looking for here (Help us, O Wise Elders/Leaders/Guides from all Traditions, Paths and Religions!) are examples of successful techniques or procedures from those who have experienced the ‘Pagan Problem Children’ or ideas about how the Pagan/Heathen communities can better cope with -- and reduce the havoc resulting from -- the actions of the ‘problem children’ amongst us -- and do so without resorting to ‘witch-hunts’ ourselves.
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 Reponses:   There are 2,666 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

Banishing Your Neighbor. Witch War And How. Jun 8th. at 11:42:31 am EDT

Greybeard (Albuquerque, NM) Age: 57 - Email - Web

I've seen more witch wars than I care to. This question treads dangerously close to supporting witch wars. Most of the situations I've seen it was the "community leader" shouting to banish someone else who ought to have been shunned. A lot of the time the real reason is some personal jealousy, lost lover, former lover, didn't get to be lover, etc. Often it's coven or community power politics. Another common excuse for stirring up hate in the community is that someone isn't toeing the PC line, and I'm about as non-PC as any pagan you'll meet. Problem children? How about problem pagan leaders?

Let's look at the criteria stated in the question.

Lying about lineage or credentials? I guess that would put them in the company of Gardner, Sanders, and many of the other pagan leaders you have met. Credentials are often invented. Does the person complaining about phony credentials have a Gardnerian lineage? Are their credentials beyond question?

Sexual predator? Usually that is a description of the man she couldn't' get to bed fast enough last week, or the man who's taking someone else to bed and not her. The term also implies a high level of misandry by the speaker. Isn't this like calling a woman a "slut" or "whore"? It sounds like the personal problem of the accuser to me.

As for a charlatan or con artist again we look to Sanders and other respected founders. Remember witchcraft was illegal under the False Mediums Act because the majority of people think the whole religion is a con. No, I don't think we want to go there.

Prosecuting "actual criminal behavior"? The Ardanes prohibit Wiccans from taking our problems to law enforcement. Much of "criminal law" is codified christian commandments and morality. The claim that the "bad" pagan did "actual criminal behavior" is not a reason to banish her or him, and in truth it may only show that he or she may be more pagan than christian. The Ardanes prohibit taking disputes to civil law enforcement because it will make us look bad, and cause irreparable psychic damage to the community. As an excuse for banishing another pagan, the "actual criminal law" of a christian culture doesn't suffice.

What about a Traditional coven who banishes a former member does if they claim their initiation? That description probably includes about half of the former members of most Traditions. By the time members leave a Tradition there is likely to be sexual jealousy, ended relationships, or personal power struggles with the former group. A banishment by the former Tradition is almost a recommendation. If they never earned the degrees they clam they earned in your coven you can be honest and say so, but you can't take back the degree you awarded someone last year when she or he was sleeping with the HPS.

And using witchcraft to lure someone for a sexual relationship? Come on. Men and women have been using every conceivable pickup line to lure partners for sex since before Lucy's grandmother started developing enhanced breasts. If pagans started "doing something about" everyone who lures someone else for sex there wouldn't be any pagans left. This excuse sounds like sour grapes of a passed over prospect combined with misdandrist dogma that always blames men for being normal men.

I have only once encountered a pagan merchant who didn't produce the product promised on a special order. I have had more problems with Office Max. I deal with Office Max by never buying from them again and spreading their reputation. Isn't it nice that we don't have to buy from Ma Bell any more.

So what can WE really do? First WE need to look long and hard at anyone who suggests banishing someone else. We need to ask what his or her problem is, and what our prejudice is that causes us to want to banish that person. We need to ask if the banishment ought not go the other way. Most of the time, in my experience, the one who ought to be banished is not the one being accused. For example, the blackmailer who threatens to send someone's pagan documentation to his employer unless he leaves the group quietly and never comes back is the one who ought to be banished from the group, along with the HPS who's behind the blackmail. But that's not the story that you will hear in public. Likewise the woman who changed her mind the next morning and accused the man who "took advantage of" her own admitted "heightened sexual feelings" and engaged with her in mutual groping is not the kind of responsible person who we need at a pagan gathering.

There are occasions when someone is really doing wrong. The drunk with the knife who tried to cut up someone else at a Beltane gathering is an example. That kind of misconduct we deal with by getting several men together and throwing him bodily out of the gathering. Even then we need to be very sure to know if the fight was not provoked or started by someone else.

Perhaps a Council of Elders can work, as required by the Ardanes. It needs to be Elders who are acceptable to the parties involved and not the coven/community Elders who are half of the problem under discussion. The Elders need to focus on making things right, finding a way to make restitution, not on punishment of the guilty.


Raising Awareness And Integrity Jun 8th. at 11:06:29 am EDT

Wolf's Voice (Singapore) Age: 28 - Email

Like what Starlight has said, I would agree on educating ourselves. Raising awareness of the problem (children) and informing ourselves about their behavorial patterns/methods.

I don't think we can run away from the problem. We cannot turn away and say "Oh, it's not my problem." It's our problem, because these people are part of the community and what they do will reflect on us as well. I know that it's always the bad hats who will make us look bad, but I think we need to really tackle/confront the issues.

Call them out. Raise people's awareness what they have done. Of course, we have to be careful not to turn it into a witchhunt. As a community, we need to be accountable for each other and be responsible. Confront them. Point out what is wrong and should not be done. At the same time, emphasis on the need to be people of integrity as well.

Integrity is what is needed in a functioning community built on personal accountability. We need to know what is truly right and wrong. And we cannot tolerate scam/con artists and bullies. We have people who go around pretending to be someone they are not. They have also created personas, hiding their own negative behavior. And for people who have been affected by these characters, they are often left with a bad taste in the mouth. The same goes for pagan bullies. I would suggest -again - to call them out on what they have done.

Sometimes, we need to be brutally frank and honest. The way to remove the cancer is to attack it directly.

I know the need for tact here. Emotions and tempers might get out of control. I would caution for the need to be tactful and impartial.

Wolf's Voice

Education Is Mightier Than The Sword Jun 8th. at 10:14:50 am EDT

Starlight Bunnybutt (FL, USA) Age: 26 - Email

Every community has problem children, not just ours. We see bullies, charlatans, abusers, corruptors, the vicious the stupid and the cruel all around us every day.

The best weapon we can use to combat these problem children, the best way to arm ourselves, is to inform ourselves. Not about individuals necessarily, but about the behavior in general.

We should own up to the fact that we have these problems, that yes, they DO make us all look bad. Whether we want them or not, these problem children are our responsibility. We should take it upon ourselves to educate people inside and outside of the community about behavior patterns that indicate a problem child. Or, in the case of merchants and non-delivery of goods, actually name names as well as filing a BBB report against them.

The Llewellyn 03 Witches Alamanac (I think its that one, yes I'm a Llewellyn reader, so sue me) has a wonderful article on "Magical Bullies". It points out classic problem child behavior such as kissing up without doing any real work, claiming to know more than anyone, always making others feel small, etc. It also briefly talks about what to do with these folks. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about.

We should always let anyone who wants a "teacher" know what warning signs to look for in a manipulative and destructive teacher as well. We have a responsibility to protect those just starting out, whether they are young or old. Daven's Journal as well as Witchvox, has some great articles on finding a teacher. Never be too busy to give a newbie sound advice, no matter how inane their questions sound to you.

And yes, our responsibility for our bad seeds extends to educating the public at large about them. If we have abusers amongst us, we should let anyone who will come in contact know about them. We cannot be silent about abusers in our midst, just look at what that is doing to other groups. While we can say "This person certianly does not represent me!" we can't say "This isn't my problem."

Be sure though that we don't stoop to malicious character assassination when we do our educating. Say your piece and move on, don't pound the person into the ground. Only small people want others to feel smaller. Link to More info related to this post -- HERE

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