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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: 318,602  

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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.
POST YOUR Response to This Question

 Reponses:   There are 2,666 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

Hmmm Nov 17th. at 12:02:40 am UTC

Sage (Victoria, Australia) Age: 21 - Email

I don't know how relevant my opinion really is, I'm studying paganism at the moment and so far I like the things I've read, however this Problem Child thing isn't just restricted to pagans, indeed there are problem children in all religions take Islam for example, we have terrorists running around spouting verbal diorhea about how Islam is being mistreated, I don't believe they were until those 'Bad Eggs' reared their ugly heads and give the religion a bad name and set others back years in the process. I believe that the best we can do is just to blow these people off.
Blessed Be

Misery Loves Company Nov 13th. at 4:13:42 pm UTC

WyntersBride (Sault ste Marie, MI) Age: 31 - Email

I enjoy being a pagan.
I do not enjoy meeting other pagans, or going on line to pagan boards/chats. It is for the very reason we are discussing. I am also known as PoysonApple on line. I join pagan disscussions and groups on line, then drop the group after I see a flame war start. Most of the time I lurk and say nothing because my position is going to be declared "UNpagan" . I usually end up being called a fake or a newbie. I will admit this bothers me. It makes me afraid to ask questions about things I don't know. It turns those just beginning on the path into herded sheep pretending the do know so they don't get chastised by so called experts.People who have practiced for years to earn the knowledge they have gathered by hard work and open heart aren't willing to teach others because of these problem children. I think background checks (perhaps even drug test depening on your veiw of herbal use and its legalization) should be required for coven initiates.They should be mandatory for anyone working with children. I think it is a must in our covens, groves, and to provide a safe environment at our gatherings. I urge anyone who has been sexually harrassed or assulted under the guise of a healing, or wiccan training to press charges. Being open about sexuality, or celebrating your sexual being with a lover/s is much diffrerent than being led to believe you can't be a realpagan if you don't want to have sex with a person or persons. Do not feel pressured into doing things that aren't right for you because you've been manipulated into buying the Goddess will value you less if you don't. Don't buy the line that goes something like "I can feel that you really want to I sense it. I can feel the energy.It will take you to a whole new level."
Engaging other pagans is not a pleasant expieience. I would very much like to see that change. I would like to go to a gathering and feel welcome, not like fresh meat. I've come very close to choosing another path to follow because of Problem children. I am a daughter of the Goddess no other path would come close to being as satisfying for me.
The only suggestion I can offer is to draft a code of honor for our individual groups, covens, groves and especially for large gatherings. I hate to say it, but I think we have to have consequences for misconduct by members of our orders.
It is a hard thing to do since we are such a diverse community, but I'm sure the Lord and lady will grant us the words in some way that it won't strip away our individuality.

Bright blessings,

Community Crashers Oct 31st. at 11:10:07 am UTC

Sunfell (Arkansas) Age: 43 - Email

This is an interesting and timely topic- because my own community has been having problems with 'problem children'. It has gone as far as totally shattering our community and driving the more sensitive and legitimate members totally offline and underground- for now. Happily, you can't keep a good community down, and we are slowly reassembling away from the purview of our problem children and rebuilding our trust and fellowship.

I am not going to go into the specifics of my own community's difficulties. Instead, I am going to list a series of warning flags that might help you to spot your own problem children and do something about them before they get out of hand.

1. Coming out of nowhere. If your Problem Child (PC) just suddenly appears in your community and is vague or cagy about their pasts, this is a big warning sign. Most likely they've been run off by another group, and have 'remade' themselves in order to prey on fresh meat. They tend to have a blinding charm that puts their new communities off guard. By the time people start asking 'how come' questions, the hooks are set and the blight is seeded. The Pagan community has a lot of interconnection- especially among the older members. It doesn't hurt to ask around about a person. If they do just materialize out of thin air, and no one's heard of them before (but they claim all sorts of experience) treat them with caution.

2. Claiming titles. If a person insists on using titles like "Reverend", "Lord/Lady", or other distinguished things like D.D. or D.Th., be wary. Bitter experience has taught us that these titles are more commonly used by people who have little or no real experience, and simply wish to have power over others, or build a false sense of security. "She's a Reverend/Third Degree- she'd never do that", goes the assumption- and predatory people count on this little subterfuge to get their hooks in. Thos of us who can legitimately claim titles (or initiations) rarely use them- we prefer to walk our talk. Not talking about our titles or degrees (unless with thoroughly vetted peers) is a bit of old-school Craft etiquette that seems to have gone by the wayside. We need to bring it back.

3. Bullying tactics. A member of a community creates a lovely ritual that gets a lot of positive talk. PC then claims that the ritual was their idea. Same for any subgroup formed that becomes anywhere successful, or any person who might outshine PC in any way, shape or form- PC will lay claim to it, and say that it was their idea all the time, but the other person 'stole' it.. Bullying can range from subtle to overt, and the bully can be nice to your face, and have you tarred and feathered in private. This site is an excellent resource to use to identify bullies and deal with them:

4. Disparaging genuine Teachers, Leaders, and Elders. Problem Children don't want to be revealed as fakers, and if they are in a position of power, they will seek out those who would identify them as false and either try to charm them into their thrall, or if that fails, use disparaging tactics to run them off or underground. PCs of this particular sort have a big anti-intellectual streak in them, and any talk of training, or formalizing credentials makes them run scared. They often ride the coattails of a legitimately trained person, and use the bullying tactics mentioned above to steal 'credentials' that they have not truly earned.

Problem Children have an unhappy habit of spreading their blight throughout a community. If the PC is a leader, then people who are newbies and are in thrall to the PC will take the examples that the PC sets as 'gospel' and unwittingly perpetuate the nastiness, because they think this is 'normal'. So, eroded ethics, gossip, slander, and other unfortunate spiritual illnesses spread through an immature community like a spiritual cancer, and it takes a long time to clean up the mess.

When such a person has crashed a community, trust and love go right out the window. People become afraid to speak their minds, and the online communities fall silent. A black cloud hangs over the place, and it takes a long time to heal.

Experienced Elders and Leaders must be vigilant for the symptoms that signal a PC in their midst. And they must be prepared to deal with this person's machinations and the consequences of their actions. If the PC is spotted and contained early on, the damage to a community can be kept minimal. But if the PC gets out of control and runs rampant through a community, the consequences can be fatal. They are like trolls and viruses- infecting and corrupting the good will of all around them, seeding discord and unhappiness. Another website has ways to spot out and contain such people:

We must be vigilant. We must be willing to examine our own motives. Community is not about what Starhawk calls "Power Over"- it is about Power Within- each person a Light of their own, each individual making the community better by their presence. If a person's absence improves a community, then you know that you have a definite problem on your hands, and must take steps to contain it.

Let me leave you with a small prayer to offer up for those communities who are plagued and troubled by Problem Children. If your community is stable and thriving, send a prayer of gratitude to your Patrons. Then, with that gratitude in your mind and heart, please light a small white candle or tealight and place it on your altar or shrine. When you light it, offer the following prayer to Spirit:

May our troubled communities be made whole.
May discord be made into harmony.
May Healers and Teachers come forth to heal and teach.
May Spirit in its many forms bring healing and comfort and insight.
May gossip cease, and genuine dialogue begin.
May the good wishes of All smooth over the rough places and the Path be made clear.
May this now come to pass- for the Good of All and according to the
Will of All. So Mote It Be.

Pax et Lux

My Thoughts.. Oct 21st. at 12:59:04 pm UTC

Mathair Cat (Clarksville, TN USA) Age: 30 - Email

I've had a run in with what I preceive to be a "bad apple." There was a lot of mulipitation and power play. It was a rude awakening, and it has me jaded when it comes to approaching pagans in my area or pagans in general. I wish I could offer up helpful information to weed out the so call "bad apples, " but since I didn't do a good job myself. I don't know what to say...except listen to your instincts (which I ignored mine for what I thought was the better for others.") Trust your instincts on not just the pagans you meet and greet, but everyone.
Take Care
Mathair Cat

Here We Go Again... Oct 19th. at 11:04:06 am UTC

Lansana (Leeds) Age: 16 - Email

The 'bad apple' and 'people who give paganism a bad name' argument is back again. I personally cannot stand people like this but we mustn't forget that every religion is blighted with them. We aren't alone in this hate of people who give our chosen religion a bad rep.

These people wouldn't be so bad if others would stop looking at things on face value and look behind this curtain of people and look into the real people who are truthful in there religion and feel no need to lie about their lineage or experience. I personally think that half the problem lies with the people who are quite prepared to glance at something and from that quick image that they capture label something good or bad.

Most of these people who blight Paganism and its fight to become a religion in its own right not just a belief or alternative something-or-other etc (as anyone who buys a Pagan Book at any mainstream store will know...Mind Body and Spirit?!...why can't they go under religion?!) will eventually grow tired of their games but when one leaves there is always someone else ready to jump into their shoes and start the whole thing again. These people will never be completely got rid of but it we can make people look properly and see the fakes among us before making a judgement then things would be so much easier.

Smack Them Down? Oct 9th. at 8:50:06 pm UTC

Cassandra Avallon (New Orleans) Age: 15 - Email - Web

I do think the Pagan community ought to expose and discredit people who are using Paganism to profit in less-than-pleasant ways or who "give Pagans a bad name."
However, try a moment's reflection, or even meditate for a while, on just how you should accomplish ending the problem of a renegade Pagan. Leaping into the fray without a thought for what may or may not happen is pretty much guaranteed to go badly.

Today Sep 24th. at 10:25:08 am UTC

kathy (kentucky) Age: 43 - Email

the world today plays an important part on how we get
these bad apples, theres always one that make another and etc .be there for your apple and teach them right they will grow up to be a find apple

What A Good Way To Come Back Sep 21st. at 12:45:54 am UTC

Perrin (5th circle of Hades) Age: 26 - Email

Merry Met,
I see that the "bad apple" question has reared its' ugly head again. There are a large number of ways to deal with this type of problem, but most do not work. The basic problem is that there are lots of people whoose only point to life is to break all the rules. In all my travels I have not stumbled upon a way to deal with this problem, but at least our little corner is not the only one with this problem. We can not ignore the "bad apples", but we might be able to limit the damage they do. Stripping the titles is not perfect, but provided it is enforced in some limited situations it night work. A method that might work is to put all the "bad apples" on an involentuarily donor card, where their organs could be donated to a "normal" person. I hope it never comes to that, but who knows. In the meantime remeber that what goes around comes around.
Blessed Be,

Two Cents (or Is It Worth More?) Sep 14th. at 11:49:19 am UTC

Jenna (Northern Virginia) Age: 30 - Email

(Time to stop lurking)

I have been a solitary for years. The reason why I am is because one of those said 'problem children' defrauded me out of the copyright of several of my poems, and defrauded other members of the internet networking circle she ran out of literary and musical copyrights and a total amount of money into six figures. This person then vanished, changing her name and has not been caught.

What do you do about somebody like that? First, if you want to 'follow' somebody, make sure you check, know and confirm who they are. Trust me...this kind of fraud does not just cost money, it also costs trust. There's a reason people like this are called /confidence/ artists. For a while, I went around warning everyone I met about this person.

Then I realized something important. People can change. Some people, perhaps, are hardened criminals...I know this person has run scam after scam after scam and, perhaps, she is lost to us. But although I would never suggest to fully trust somebody who has run a scam (And certainly not somebody who's a sexual predator) , the only way people like this will change is if they have the motivation, and the motivation can come best from the attitude of 'If you want to change, we will help you, if you truly do change, we will accept you.' But the person has to /want/ to change, they have to come back with humility and the recognition that they were wrong. They have to be willing, perhaps, to go back to the bottom of the totem pole and start over. They have to be willing to tell the truth. They have to be willing to accept their knocks from what they did. I have seen in other communities people be 'branded' forever as wrongdoers, sometimes over the stupidest things. We have to be careful not to do that. And, when necessary, we have to be ready to forgive. Because if somebody is 'branded', then they have no reason to change.

Whats A Witch To Do? Sep 13th. at 12:10:52 am UTC

Kat (GA) Age: 14 - Email

Well, now, that is a hard one. How do we, as honest creatures of the Earth, rid ourselves of these posers and con artists without leaving the borders of our pagan morals and values? Well, what did the some countries do to them? Make examples, hang them, show what happens to you when you do this. In one way, this sounds almost good, but in so many ways is it wrong. It presents fear to anyone who truly wishes to follow the ways, and also presents brutality. We could do what America does, banish them from one place and warn other places of them. One way that would help us, I think, is to warn pagans of these kind, allow them to regonize them before it's too late. When they are found and brought publicly, we could forbid them to ever come back and warn other places and people of them. Since many other religions are already afraid of us, It may not be wise to drag them into something large, like court. But if the wrongdoer should do something that bad, maybe, maybe. As a child we are taught there is good in everyone, which is sending out teh wrong message to everyone. Though I am peace lover and one of nature, I cannot erase facts simply because I ignore them. Teach us to recognize these people, maybe I can stop it before it's too late, or maybe I can warn others. One cannot jump to conclusions about everyone though. Wow, this is confusing....I think is best to keep your wits about you and though you do look down upon those who exploit us in these ways, keep a civil tounge and try mediating for a while.....that is advice, though not good advice, it is advice.

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