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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: 265,080  

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Times Viewed: 32,767

Reponses: 2,666

Lurk/Post Ratio: 12 to 1

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 


Why Should They Be Any Different? Jun 12th. at 1:21:00 pm UTC

Silver (USA) Age: 45 - Email - Web


Why should these people be treated any differently than their mainstream counterparts? Because we're a minority? What difference does it make if a predator is an evangelist, priest, or HP? He or she is still a predator. Letting it go, sweeping it under the rug, burying our heads and hoping somebody else takes action or that it will all blow over, is worse publicity that facing it an dealing with it head-on.

Report criminal activity to the police. That's what they are there for. In the USA, exploitation (sexual or otherwise) of adults or children can be reported to the CFC as well as the police. Their website has a toll-free number if you are not sure who to call in your satate or locality.

Report bad faith business deals to the proper agencies. I had this happen to me with a non-Pagan business that obtained my credit card info without my permission through another company. After numerous carefully documented attempts to get my money back, I've filed against them with the FTC and the state where they do business. I contacted the BBB. I posted my story at a website that deals with consumer fraud as a warning to others about this company. I also filed a complaint against the company that provided my info without my permission. I don't stop there, either. I follow up periodically to make sure everybody know that this is still a live issue, and I have not forgotten it.

Make sure everyone in your community knows that "Ravenmoonwolfshamanshadowleaper" or whatever his or her name was is no longer part of your coven or group and is no way affiliated with you. You don't have be nasty or to go into details as to why, but if somebody is claiming an affiliation with your group or organization or is promoting themselves with false or revoked credential somehow related to your group, you are perfectly within your rights to say it ain't so.

"Ravenmoonwolfshamanshadowleaper is no longer a member of [blank] and is not affiliated with us in any way. His title as High Priest was revoked at the time of our parting of ways. We cannot therefore endorse or otherwise recommend him based on any past affiliation with us." Truthful to the point, and you haven't slung mud. Just be sure to write a cease-and-desist letter to him politely insisting he stop using credentials from your organization that he no longer holds.


Suggestions Jun 12th. at 1:04:32 pm UTC

Magma II (New Milford, CT) Age: 39 - Email


Let me say first off that my experience with covens is nonexistent, but I have attended several large events as a merchant, both before and after I decided that Paganism was the path for me. I have met several "problem children" but managed not to be taken in by any of them. Smart, you say? Perhaps, but mostly I'm just too wary to trust anyone at face value (I've been burned far too many times by the "good Catholics" I was raised with, although never molested) . WHile that may be a safe way to live, it's also sad that it's necessary.

Anyway, since I managed not to get hurt by any of these people, I thought I might pass on my experiences on how I avoided the traps in hopes it will help someone else.

Most important, DO YOUR RESEARCH!! If someone claims to have degrees or training, make them prove it. They should be able to provide you with the name of the person who trained them, or a contact person for the course they took, or a diploma, or even a stack of books and research notes. If they can't, think twice about trusting them. Even if they have no written credentials (and I realize that many covens may not be able to provide such) , they should at least be able to provide references (like for a job interview) or prove that they have done research.

Secondly, if someone has committed an actual crime, REPORT THEM TO LAW ENFORCEMENT!! Don't hide them or hide knowledge of the crime or you could be charged with aiding and abetting. It didn't work for the Catholic church, and the scandal now is making them look VERY bad. Don't push us into the same light. Even if you were not the victim this time, you could be next. Or your children a few years down the road if no one stops the predator now.

If you are afraid to confront the person directly, get the help of someone who can. If you are at an event, talk to the event organizers. If you are in a coven, get the help of the HP or HPS. If it's the HP or HPS, get the help of other coven members, or contact the HP or HPS of another coven in the area (check with the local Pagan store to find one if you don't know one) . You could also get the help of a friend or relative outside Paganism; religion doesn't matter if the crime is against the laws of the land we live in (rape/assault, theft, etc.) .

If a Pagan business has taken your money and not delivered the promised goods, report them to the BBB like you would any other fraudulent business.

Amber K's book Covencraft has some good advice for dealing with problem people in a coven setting, including recognizing the problems, talking to the individual (s) concerned, and possible ways to resolve the issues (and resources for more help) .

BE CAREFUL about "spreading the word" about problem children; you could be sued for defamation of character if you can't prove your claims. That's why it's so important to follow the procedures of reporting to law enforcement or talking to lawyers if a wrong has been committed.

In short, we had bloody well better police ourselves or the "outside world" will police us for us (and ruin all our reputations in the process) .

Responses to some earlier posts:

The word "children" is used figuratively here, not meant to refer to literal children. These are adults we're talking about.

I personally don't know anyone who got into Paganism just for the sex (although I have known a few who went a little wild with it once they found out Paganism doesn't condemn you for having it) . Maybe that's because I was raised on the generally-conservative East Coast. I don't think we should introduce a category of "sexual Paganism" or we're going to encourage that sentiment. It is a valid method of raising power (or so I'm told; I wouldn't know, personally) and apparently has other uses in the Craft, but let it be a separate field of study (like divination) .

I don't see modern law as "Christianized" except where sexual mores are concerned (like the laws against sodomy being used against gays) . Most of them just make good sense to allow large numbers of people to live together in peace (no killing, no stealing, no beating each other up, no raping an unwilling woman, no abuse of children or others unable to defend themselves) . Hence I have no problem resorting to law enforcement if the situation warrants it (someone with a knife threatening others at a gathering should definitely be reported to police and taken away to face charges; the "burly guys" trying to throw him out could be seriously hurt trying, and you have no way of making sure he doesn't come back as soon as you turn away) .

And let's not get caught in the trap of blaming the victim for the crime. Greybeard, you sound like a very bitter man, and I'm sorry for whatever happened to you to make you that way, but you must not assume that all women "really want sex and only want to make trouble for the man who won't give it to them" or that the "really wanted sex even though they say no later". You WILL get into a lot of trouble that way. And you will face a miserable, lonely existence if you can't trust half the population of the world. Please talk to someone about whatever hurt you and try to get past it. May the Goddess help you see what the essence of Woman is really about so that you do not hate us all for the actions of a few. That's not fair to us or to yourself.

Blessings to all.

Magma II


Education Not Blaim And Shadows Jun 12th. at 7:33:45 am UTC

jen (england) Age: 15 - Email


children should not be a "scape goat" for problems with people in general young and old. specking from my own view i am not a child who goes about asking for money for my serves and such forth besides aren't the people who are more likely able to get the chance to chon people into giving them there money adults? sure these people might have been what u call "problem children" but it doesn't mean u should point the finger at kids after all everyone's young once,
in my personal belief none should get away with lying or coning people into sex money or anything else for that matter. i know what you say about how people are worried that it'll give Pagan/Heathen communities a bad name but these people must be dealt with. after all the law is there to protect people. why should we be let people take are money and go and take someone else?
the only way to stop people from getting the wrong idea about the Pagan/Heathen communities is to educate them. educate them about what it is and who it is. for too long now the community has been given bad name since the very start of the burning times. isn't it about time we showed people the real Pagan/Heathen community and no let the idea of witches in long pointy hats, green skin and warts go uncritisied. isn't it about time we explain that paganism is an umbrella of religions and taught them about them listed of letting people think were all Satanists or a bunch of people who drink and sacrifice animals and commit suicide.
isn't it about time people learnt what the Pagan/Heathen communities really are?
why just the other day a friend of mine thought that wicca wasn't a "real" religion since we do not believe in god. i couldn't believe people actually though that Wicca's don't. there is too much shadow around the pagan/heathen community. we should deal with those who rip people off and educate people so they know were not all like that. i am not suggesting though about people perching in the streets since personally i do not feel that is the way. i do not like anyone perching in the streets about what they believe in to people who do not wish to hear how they are going to hell or what ever. i do not believe that is the way to educate people at all. personally i believe more like explain this is what we believe in the have some time for people to ask questions.
i can understand not going too deep into talking about some pagan aspects of some pagan religions like the great rite or some aspects of witchcraft like skyclade rituals but we still need to educate people to let them understand about some aspects and how we don't sacrifice animals.
after all unknowing and stupidity causes fear.


Abuse In The Pagan Community Jun 12th. at 4:29:05 am UTC

Reverend Christine Ames HPS Three Bright Moons Coven (Tooele, Utah) Age: 44 - Email - Web


There are many people out there in the world who will use any means possible to attain what they desire ie... sex, money, fame only to name a few and unfortunantly the pagan community is often a prime target for those people. I have run several covens during my years as a high priestess and even I have ran across these people from time to time. At first they usually seem sincere enough but actions speak louder than words and if you take your time and really get to know someone they will inevitably show there true colors. The best advice I have for covens is make no exceptions to the year and a day rule also when you dismiss someone who has violated there oaths make sure that you discreetly inform the pagan community around you that this person is an undisirable.This can be done tactfully and without violating your own oaths. When someone tells you they have experience check it out. We are a teaching coven and run open classes every year none of us mind giving our credentials and or references to a new student. For those seeking a teacher ask around at open pagan events about covens or teachers that take new students and don't just ask one person ask everyone you can and see whos name comes up most then ask for a refferal from someone in contact with that teacher or organization and be ready to answer their questions truthfully. You will not impress anyone with falsehoods. As elders of the pagan community I think we need to start a newsletter for pagan clergy containing information on undesirable people. Not so that we can start a witch hunt but only so that we can protect our own. Especially when someone has been convicted of a crime against another pagan or group. Also somtimes in their desire to slap another pagan group in the face figuratively speaking other groups will take someone who has been banned from another group. I have experienced this kind of idiocy. I have never banned someone from this group unless they have commited a serious infraction but because I don't feel the need to defend my decisions in the pagan community some of these people have gone on to lie to other groups and be accepted and gone on to use or hurt others all I can say is if you know someone has been banned assume it was for a good reason.


Regarding Reluctance To Confront Jun 12th. at 3:38:42 am UTC

Sunflower (Calgary AB) Age: 41 - Email


The theory I finally arrived at about people who'd rather backbite than confront, is that our culture and upbringing often teaches us that confrontation equates to conflict, and is rude - many people would -far- rather "vent" to a close friend than be so impolite as to tell someone s/he has offended them. That's not unreasonable (provided they take responsibility for not having taken direct action) , but in a Pagan community, that can turn into venting to a whole bunch of friends, i.e., the whole community - and there ya go, gossip and backbiting. These folks don't intend to backstab, and aren't consciously seeking power (subconsciously, it's as much a power move as passive-aggressive behavior usually is) ; they're just choosing what, by all they've been taught, -feels- less rude. Don't get me wrong; I'm not condoning their choice - I feel they're especially culpable, as Pagans, for being so un-centred as to select their action by feeling alone.
This is not to say all backbiters are merely avoidant; the ones who seek, quite intentionally, to drag someone down, or who are plotting to reach a position of power, certainly exist. This is just my two cents on the subject of non-confrontation.
As for the matter of Problem Children per se - I have no answers (wish I did!!) and since I have a pronounced tendency to favor illustrative anecdotes (I'm able to be much more concise using them, than trying to explain my thoughts on a purely theoretical level) , I doubt my ability to say anything really constructive without coming a bit too close to finger-pointing... "no names, no pack drill" only goes so far.

Sunflower


* Jun 11th. at 11:54:20 pm UTC

freya (nc) Age: 28 - Email


This is why I felt glad to be a solitary.

I wouldn't have wanted the "betrayal" of a spiritual mentor/group early on. It would've nearly destroyed me...or set me back a few steps on my path at best. I see now more clearly why it is devastating this issue of sacred religious practice and boundaries, i.e. a child molested. It is because the child didn't have freewill to make the decision... The pure spirit energy of a child was taken over by a very weak willed wounded soul, etc. This like others here have said, is of utmost importance to address and protect;

As an adult, You are only a victim once and never again; after that the role is by choice, sorry to say...

BBe


Some Insight On "problem Children" Jun 11th. at 7:57:41 pm UTC

Morning Dove (Salisbury, MD) Age: 25 - Email


I have found some good sites with great advice on this issue and trust me it's not just a problem for Pagans.

How To Keep Your Coven From Being Destroyed
http://www.wargoddess.net/essay/troll.html

Dealing with Religious Jerks
http://www.neopagan.net/HaugkReview.html

I also find the best thing to do is not participate in gossip and to stay positive. For example, a woman at work gossips all the time and I keep telling her that I don't want to hear it, and that it's none of my buisness.

I have three rules I try to follow...

1) If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. (Unless it is truely constructive criticism)
2) You have to be a friend to have friends.
3) You get more friends with honey than vinegar.

In short mean people suck....

As far as pagans who comitt criminal acts, I wouldn't hesitate to press charges no mater what their religion. It would realy look bad if we were hiding something. I mean look at what the catholic church is going threw!

Dove Link to More info related to this post -- HERE


Let Me Try Odin D'Avalon Jun 11th. at 4:48:50 pm UTC

Dan Magick (Québec City) Age: 44 - Email


While I can't speak for everyone, as a recent victim of religious persecution I would like to answer you personaly the best I can.
To all of your questions I say hell yes if the reason for
the negativity is because of our or any other religious belief.
As pagans we are all subject to the fear and hatred of not only the ignorant but also of people who set out to hate us.
At the same time we have to remain true to our beliefs on non-violence and therefore we need to find new and magickal
means of defending ourselves.


It Happens.... Jun 11th. at 2:12:45 pm UTC

Ardeith Carter (Zephyrhills, Florida) Age: 60 - Email


Yes, it happens. Someone "uses" Paganism in one flavor or
another to get laid. "Come to my tent, and I'll teach you
sex-magic, " or "Your problem is that your Spirit Guide is
a female cougar and she's in heat. My Guide is a male
cougar . . . I can help!" I've heard both lines used at
Gatherings, and have always been surprised that they worked.
My personal opinion is that such people are just using Paganism
as a "meat-market."

What happens freely, between consenting adults, is no one's
business but theirs. But the innocent newbies (pardon that
word, but I don't know a better) must be at the very least
advised about such manipulations. Then, if they decide to
play, anyway, they are informed. And, yes, I will step in
and inform such persons. I don't really care if the
predator gets mad at me.

But the predator that really makes my blood boil is the
pedophile. If we don't protect our children from such,
we are making a serious mistake. I speak from experience
here. We had such a predatory pedophile, and after warning
him three times to stop such behavior, we "divorced" him,
and sent letters to the leaders of local groups about why
we did so.

If we want our Circles and Gatherings and Celebrations to
be safe places for our children, we must be ever mindful
of such predatory persons. And if we are not working to
make our Pagan Paths lasting traditions and havens for
our children and grandchildren, we are just spinning our
wheels. The children are our future......
Ardy


Protecting Those Around You Jun 11th. at 2:08:14 pm UTC

mark (us army) Age: 26 - Email


Sad to say, this does happen, before I re-entered Paganism, or the army for that matter, I was a pastoral assistant for a christian organization. Saddly enough this was something we dealt with. This is where politics enters religion. As far as sexual predators, If they left your circle and you think they may enter another, 1) Alert the police and warn people in that area (discretely) of where they may be going if to another county or state (if you dont know...the FBI.
Protect yourself...do not council anyone alone in a closed room...ask if you can tape record the session...if not take hand notes-nothing is unimportant...IF YOU ARE A VICTIM YOU ARE NOT GUILTY-HELP STOP THEM-REPORT IT... PART 2-False titles...regardless of what someone says check references. Keep files containig family, work, other personal data that may help in the future, not just tracking, this is just a good administrative procedure. Interview those who were previously involved. DO NOT Give leadership positions at first-have them teach a class, do research, put projects together etc. until you can fully vouche for them (would you trust them with a loaded gun, your home, a 13yo daughter, your car, (those in your circle are all these and more. Youre responsible for their welbeing like it or not. If they are starting a coven from the ground up, ask about their mentors and guides, research what they say, do they give names you can verify? ask if you can meet them. It is ok to be cautious.
What does your inner-self tell you? Trust your insticts, do some tarot spreads, scrying, runes, any form of divination that suits you. Seek the guidance of others. These steps wont guarntee, but they will reduce the chances. IF media gets involved express that this person will not go unpunished and that its a disgrace, for which it is. I hope that this is of some benefit. Its sad that we have to look at things like this. I ask the Gods that whoever needs this sees it and may it help them, along with stopping those who intend harm. SO MOTE IT BE.


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VoxLinks: The Pagan Web: 8,000 Listings

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