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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: 318,618  

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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 

Educate Without Coercion Jun 11th. at 12:46:10 pm UTC

Isabel Pinenut (Bloomfield, NJ) Age: 49 - Email

I am a public librarian. This gives me the opportunity to suggest the purchase of quality books on witchcraft and paganism. I also try to steer questioners away from the sensationalistic junk and toward accurate information. Recently, a young man asked questions that indicated an interest in pagan subjects, so I recommended several books and websites. Later, a co-worker mentioned that this boy had been caught trying to steal some of the books! The next time he came in to use the Internet, I suggested he research the Rule of Three and emphasized that it was VERY important for anyone studying the craft to understand the principles involved. He still comes in, but he hasn't spoken to me since! Did I reach him? Did I convince him to be a better pagan? Did I help him understand that the craft was not his true path? Or did I fail to provide leadership? I may never know in this lifetime. All we can do is try.

Why Are We All Surprised? Jun 11th. at 8:45:47 am UTC

Deb Hall (Yorkshire England) Age: 42 - Email

I agree with most of what has been said, but I still sit back scratching my head and wondering why all the surprise. We are all still individual people. We all belong to society with social tendencies and the lure to what is common within the human nature were are all born with. Just because we choose to follow a different belief then our neighbours does not make each of us immune to human natures traps. Some of us use what most of us hold sacred for personal gain and to destroy those that we believe have turned their backs on us. We are all children and some tend to act more the child then those of us that have grown and moved on to that higher plain within ourselves. We can do nothing about those amongst us that rebell other then continue in our ways and cast our prayers to the winds that protect us against them. We remain true to ourselves and our followings. To act out against them in public would only draw attention and make it seem that we are all (bad witches) rather then those that bring good and life to those around us. I for one feel sorry for those that have lost the light, for they are like abandoned children with no hope of finding their way.

Thanks RuneWolf Jun 11th. at 7:11:33 am UTC

Dan Magick (Québec City) Age: 44 - Email

That was one of the best thought out postings I have read on the internet.

Light 'Em Up! Jun 10th. at 4:54:02 pm UTC

RuneWolf (Reston, VA) Age: 44 - Email - Web

I am one of those Pagans who thinks of himself as a “Dark Pagan.” I love the night and all things associated with it – the Moon and Stars, the Dark between them, the deeper shadows-within-shadows that can only be found during the Witching Hour. But even so, I have to admit that Light has its uses, and it’s Powers. Particularly when it comes to exposing the “Problem Children” amongst us.

This topic reminds me of (geez, here he goes again!) what happened in the martial arts world back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when commercial schools were springing up as fast as floor-space became available. The list of offenses that headline this topic could as easily have been applied to that venue: teachers lying about credentials, ripping people off for their hard-earned money, and even taking sexual advantage of students. And, as in the Pagan community, many of the really heinous crimes were hard to expose, because it always sounded like sour grapes from a student who couldn’t cut the mustard.

In the end, what helped the most was the broader community exposing the charlatans and predators to a relentless campaign of “spotlighting.” The truly reputable schools and teachers made themselves open books to the rest of their community and the general public, and relentlessly challenged those who did not. The down side of this was that a certain amount of unintended tension developed between good teachers and schools, but the greater good was served, I think, because the criminal scum couldn’t endure the un-winking glare of continuous scrutiny.

(The problem hasn’t completely gone away in the martial arts community, but it is better than it was 30 years ago.)

The problem with this approach, in the Pagan community, is that it does take an awful lot of chutzpah and aggression: you’ve got to be willing to challenge people face-to-face when they are dishing out hooey to unsuspecting newcomers or outsiders. In the proper venue (Wren is absolutely right about not doing it here) , you’ve got to BE willing to point the finger and cry “Foul!” You’ve got to be willing to take someone by the arm and say “You really don’t want to talk to him, my dear. Several of his former students have accused him of molestation.” You’ve got to be willing to step up to the plate, as they say, and risk being wrong, being embarrassed, being ostracized, snubbed and put-down for being a “narc.” Personally, I’d rather be considered a boorish ass with no interpersonal skills than watch someone walk away at a festival with an alleged predator.

To be sure, this isn’t a fool-proof solution, particularly in a community that loves “living in the shadows.” And yet, how long can we let the predators and charlatans use our love of secrecy against us? That’s a real tough question, and one we won’t answer here.

In Their Service…

Live In The Light Jun 10th. at 3:59:57 pm UTC

Joy (OK) Age: 30 - Email - Web

I cannot stress how important it is for those of us who have chosen to follow a path that will, hopefully, lead to some kind of "enlightenment" to live in the light. Things that are dangerous, victimizers and liars and all nasty brands of persons who run loose in the world do so because they are able to hide in the shadows of our fears and our shame. We must work to heal the damage done by our societies philosophy of victim blame. As a survivor of abuse at a young age, I understand the fear and shame that accompanies a violation, especially a sexual violation. (Not that all baddies are sexual predators) I took me years to speak out and "tell" what had happened to me, I held an incredible sense of shame and honestly, a lot of the secrecy surrounded me because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I did nothing wrong. I was just a little girl. My point is that (again) these people count on every one else's shame and fear and SILENCE, whether they be perverts or power hungry lunatics. I, of course, am not talking about personality conflicts within groups and all of the childishness that can follow, I am talking about real threats. We simply cannot have the attitude that "hey, evil exists!" because that is a posture of avoidance and opens us all to being violated. If a person wants to lie about their credentials, fine, because they are building their own Karma and harming themselves, but that does not mean that people have to pretend that the person is telling the truth. I personally have suspected even some of the top authors in paganism of not exactly telling the truth. But when someone runs the risk of truly hurting another person, that is different and we have a moral and spiritual obligation to intervene. And as for the idea that pagans become pagans to have sex, that person just simply doesn't get "it".

Me Again :) Jun 10th. at 3:13:52 pm UTC

Lupa (Pgh) Age: 24 - Email - Web

Lots of interesting responses to this question. I do tend to agree with most of what has been said, though I do want to address a few points.

First, several mentions have been made regarding the Wiccan Rede. Just a reminder--not everyone who is pagan is Wiccan, and therefore does not always follow that code of ethics, or even a similar one. Even at gatherings I find a plethora of beliefs, and it is this diversity that is not only the strength of the community because we are constantly learning (if our eyes and ears are not closed) but also our weakness, because we cannot always pin down for mainstream folk what exactly paganism is. For example, some people would consider those who practice animal sacrifice "problem children, " and yet there are traditions for whom the practice is integral. It is hard to explain this even to some other pagans, let alone John or Jane Q. Public, who's never seen anything beyond one or two episodes of "Charmed."

Second, keeping in mind the diversity of traditions, it is important to realize that sex, in and of itself a highly controversial subject, is even more controversial for us as has been mentioned because of our tenuous place in society. I believe a balance *must* be struck--while I don't believe we should market ourselves as 24-7 cluster****s, I don't think we should regress into the harmful repression that so many religions and cultures have fallen into. One of the reasons I love the pagan community is that I can be open about my sexuality with the majority of folks I find. Pagans tend to be more accepting of alternative sexualities, polyamory, etc. OTOH, pagans also have this nasty tendency to jump on the negative sexual bandwagon--that is, assuming that someone who is pagan and free with their sexuality MUST be a bad influence. Despite the fact that everything is consensual, there always seems to be some prude who trashes the reputation of anyone who ever had a one-weekend stand at a gathering or hopped into bed with a good friend (or two) . The person in question could be a newbie or an elder, and the reaction would be the same. We *need* to get over our fear of sex and dealing with it as an issue. We're much further ahead than many groups, but we still have a lot of hang-ups. I'm not saying everyone has to participate in orgies; I'm simply saying, as long as it;s all adult and consensual, live and let live. It isn't your business what the people in the next tent are up to, and it isn't your job to be the Morailty Police.

As far as confronting others....I also see a trend in the pagan community to NOT confront people openly. Most of what I've seen has been behind-the-back snipping and snapping, gossip and rumormongering. There is a streak of cowardice that prevent many pagans from saying what they really think, especially in person. Oh, they might huddle in a corner and whisper to eachother about so-and-so on the other side of the room, but to actually cross that room and confront the target? Heavens forbid--what will the neighbors think?! Of course, direct confrontation gives the target a chance to explain his or her actions, and well, that would take all the FUN out of being nasty to one another. Human beings in general seem to prefer one takes a truly mature person to open up lines of communication and find out the other side (s) of the story.

Finally, those who like to attack others for their wrongdoing ought to look at their own issues (I'm just as guilty as anyone on this, BTW) . Many pagans like to take their own issues and negativities and project them onto convenient targets. If they have a stessful lifestyle, rather than trying to fix it through daily changes, meditation or magick they instead ignore it and wallow in their misery. Everyone knows it's easier to drag someone else down than to build yourself up. When someone shows signs of any sort of success s/he must deal with the naysayers who, in their jealousy, belittle the progress because they feel they themselves can never attain it. I've been on both ends of this, and I can tell you from experience it's much more *effective* to work with one's own issues first--by the time you're done, you no longer feel the need to kvetch about someone else's.

Communication is crucial. Until we stop the petty B.S. that flows through the community and start talking openly to one another---even if it hurts--we will continue to have the same problems we have always had since forming as a community.

What Level Are We Worried About? Jun 10th. at 2:19:56 pm UTC

Penny J. Novack (Berkshire Mntns, MA, USA) Age: -62 - Email

Some of us are worried about straight-forward situations. Inappropriate behavior at festivals, dangerous behavior by people we know well and care about, how to steer interested would-be trainees toward healthy "teachers" rather than the sometimes more glamorous con-men/women. These are important, too. And what about the person you have trained who has taken it into their heads this has made it their right to behave arrogantly toward others? When I saw "Problem Children" I wasn't really thinking of some of what I'm seeing. I was thinking of common community problems. Which are certainly problems!

To me, certain expectations which rightly well-respected members of our community may have can become the sourse of problems when they are misinterpreted. Isn't that one of the Problem Child issues?

My solution to the "Perfect Love and Perfect Trust" issue is that I love perfectly the inner psyche of each coven member, which is worthy indeed, coming directly from the Source, and I trust each person to be themselves. In accordance with that, I try to hold a mirror of what their best Self is to them even when I point out they've made mistakes. And if there are "betrayals" I interpret them to be only proof that I am not all wise or I would have realised this is, indeed, implicit in the current pattern of this person's nature. So, I try to express my disappointment but I realise it is my own level of understanding which failed. I'm sure they're doing the best they can. We all have to learn.

Notes From An Elder Jun 10th. at 1:15:58 pm UTC

jcldragon (Los Angeles) Age: 52 - Email - Web

I've read in historical material that this problem has been around in Western Occultism for the last 1000 years. AND, I've certainly seen it many times in the last 36 years. The Karma that is created by taking advantage of the gullible, must certainly be horrendous. I once attended a large meeting of one very prominent cult & could not mistake that their world reknowned leader, had an inner aura that was pure black...

OK. So there isn't much we can do about a large & powerful international organization, but we can deal with the small fry. If you have evidence or proof that someone is either a sexual predator, a thief, or running a con scam, you can give this information to the police. We will get less bad press, if we are the ones assisting law enforcement, than if someone else does it.. or if no one does it.

Let's Be Sensible Jun 10th. at 11:59:31 am UTC

Silver Raven (Nottingham, England) Age: 21 - Email

This is a very diverse topic and difficult to deal with. Rather than running around like lunatics, hunting down any of these not-so-nice people would be easy to do and seem like the right idea. But as witches should know, this is WRONG. Very wrong. The religion suffered at the hands of people who jumped on the bandwagon, finding the easy way to deal with trouble makers - let's not turn into those same people. These people were sent to test us, so the best course of action I can think of is to not rise to their taunts, but catch them out on the quiet. Teach that those looking for a mentor/coven/teacher etc take the proper precautions and use their common sense and inner guidance to find the right path. OK, some people will still fall for the tricks of such people, but that can't be helped. We cannot change the life-path of others after all. The concept of karma is well known among us - what we do/don't do affects the whole universe and all levels of existence, so perhaps those who become the prey of theives, abusers and the like are learning a valuable lesson according to their karma. Bear in mind, that according to Pagan view of what happens after death, these unsavoury characters may return in their next life and learn the lesson of why what they did is wrong. Due to belief in this concept of karma, there will always be people on this Earth who want to cause harm to others. It's a fact of life...not a nice one I admit, but then how many are?

How To Energetically Approach The Issue- Jun 10th. at 11:42:57 am UTC

TishMaran (Pittsfield) Age: 27 - Email - Web

Humans who offer magickal degrees or initiate others, are recognizing the spiritual (etc) efforts of the person they are initiating, as well as channelling power into the initiate. If the human-world initiation is appropriate and right, the soul of the person, and the Gods themselves, should have already initiated the person, or at least made them very ready for it. A grossly premature initiation, which can only be made by non-divine-embodied humans, and others, will rarely yield benefits, long or short-term, for the initiate, rather it will often scar and stunt them (and even make them resentful) and make it even harder for them to correctly receive the teachings in the future; this kind of banished wicce is no energetic problem, though they may be a social one. But if said initiate is initiated by the humans on correct par with the level of their soul's self-initiation, then that initiate has grown, and nothing short of "cutting down" that "tree" will stop it from growing or excerising it berth/girth/derth. This wicce has power which they have earned, some is from the group, some from themselves, and they can pose an energetic and social problem if at odds with the group.

You can essentially strip a degree from a person in word only; you would remove their wiccey authority and reputation in the social world. If the Gods gave the degree in addition to that given by the human initiators, then the person's soul has truly come to a certain level of power and understanding, the only thing that will get rid of that degree is the individual - the individual's decision; it is not the Gods and not fellow humans who will get rid of it. Only if the individual surrenders up their degree (perhaps becuase of guilt or duty) , will that person no longer hold the power (etc) inherent in that degree, which the Gods conferred/the soul self-conferred. Now, a coven can say "that person does not hold the 2nd degree, no, we stripped him of it", but does that person lose all the work they put into their soul?! The coven can take their degree appelations away from the banished person, but that person may still have the power that they developed on their own.

The ancient method is for the coven to erase the memories of the group's past workings (etc) from the mind of the banished one, so as to effect a forgetting, rather than the proposed "stripping". This is the coven's prerogative, and is quite effective to lesson a person's harmful effects. A full-coven spell, this will remove the channelled power and knowledge given by the humans to the initiate. I believe the key lies in this forgetting spell, and this is how many of our forebears stopped the "tree" from growing, this and extraordinary guilt which has been conditioned into the frontal-lobe of the person - the guilt spell has been a favorite of large religious organizations to stop unwanted behaviors from groups and individuals (I won't say more) . I would consider these two methods to be virtually the only kosher and ethical forms of "stripping", the first is obviously ideal, while the second seems too weighty to be ethical in most cases; there seems to be many more unscrupulous methods to stop a "renegade covener", for lack of a better term, and these a coven would use at their own "expense"; many have been discussed concerning european-inquisition-era wicce practices.

Anyway, this forgetting is exactly what happenned to the conscious past lifers who know that in the very remote 'past' they 'were' living in a much more harmonious and centered way than in incarnations 'afterwards', or even now; they were functioning at a higher, more masterful vibration, purpose and effect, as compared with 'later' times or now. The question is, "how could I have known more and been at a higher degree than I'm now - shouldn't I be 'going up';how can I be at a lower degree now, than when I started [my incarnations all the way back then]?"

In this paradigm, which shows how degrees are stripped or lost via natural evolutionary earth processes, (ie, forgetting because of the incarnation process which occurs with gravity and our souls after we die physically) , not just through a human-enacted forgetting spell, we see that degrees which have been conferred at one time or another are constantly being lost to ignorance and "the spiritual process of sleep" which occurs through our many physical lives. This suggests that perhaps the only real method (without 'wasting their life-force'/killing them) to get rid of a renegade's power, is to remove the teachings YOU once gave them with your "sinister, non-dexter Rowan finger".

In order to avoid as many "renegade" situations as possible, Balanced and Healthy Covens should stress

1) the sanctity and divine nature of their teachings-how
their misuse is illegal
1.5) the oath of secrecy
2) the importance of a degree of obedience and honor to the
directives of the HPs/HP/Elders, so that when a
good/reasonable HPs asks something be done, it be done
with good conscience, regardless.
3) the making of healthy community relations with hived or
other individuals. Granted, a banishment is never
usually a happy thing for the banished. But, we
say "...ever it
has been the law that if conflicts arise...the dissenter
is free to avoid group conflicts at
innapropriate times..." or soemthing to that effect (lol)
4) The fact that there are rules in the coven, if you break
them, you may be chastised to various degrees. Many
wicces may think that the eclectic nature of wiccraft
should make it also a lawless WAY, where almost anything
goes, but the fact is that many craft laws are necessary
to keep our magick and intent uncorruptable.
5) Remember that everyone in the coven wants something, and
is there to fulfill their needs. Try as a coven to allow
everyone's needs to be met as best they can over the
years-everyone needs to feel that they get what they
came for, and will be dissapointed to angry if they don't.
Not everyone in the coven should "get" everything they
want...their wants should be talked over with the HPs/HP
and the reality, succinctly granted to the
inquirier..."yes, that can happen", or "no, that can
never happen, I'm sorry, but this way it WILL work...".
6) So the Children shall come, so the Children shall go.

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