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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: 264,245  

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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 


Well... Jun 10th. at 11:18:51 am UTC

Marius (Bandera, Texas) Age: 19 - Email


I just do my best to ignore them. They often get the idea that they can "impress" me with knowledge, or books, or names, or lineage, but I know something most of them don't - a true Pagan is one who radiates goodness and, for lack of a better word, impresses me without opening their mouth. Their deeds do all the talking for them.


No More Perfect Love And Perfect Trust? Jun 10th. at 10:52:55 am UTC

Rowanwise (Colorado) Age: 34 - Email


It is unfortunate that the idea of "perfect love and perfect trust" cannot be expressed in this day and age. Or can it? The most beautiful thing about Paganism/Wicce is that there are so many different ways to express your spiritual beliefs. There are as many different practices as there are beautiful souls on this earth. I feel that to suppress these practices with "official labels" is really not the answer. I have received my second degree, but really have no way to "prove myself." Does this mean that I did not earn my two degrees? The fact that there are individuals out there that prey on innocents by not being truthful about their standing in their spiritual life then they are not being true to themselves. They will have to answer to this dishonesty in other forms (threefold) as well as with the local authorities.

But what about those that wish to learn? I feel that life is a learning experience. The more we experience, the more we grow. I'm not saying they should scatter their vulnerabilites to the winds, but I also don't think that they will find there true selves (strengths and all) without going on their intuitions when finding teachers. If they don't trust what a teacher is doing or saying then maybe that teacher is not for them.

My last comment is about what this "thieves" are doing to the reputations of the rest of us. They may give us a bad name, but this is not just something that occurs with Pagans. A few examples: Jim Jones, Charles Manson, David Keresh, Osama Bin Laden, etc... Bad people are bad people. It's a part of the natural balance.


No Children Without Problems No Problems Without..... Jun 10th. at 10:26:58 am UTC

Dan Magick (Québec City) Age: 44 - Email


I think the best way to deal with problem children is to let them have the chance to heal while not letting them keep you from doing what you have to do.
A good example of this is the new and very surprising relationship I have with some neighbors I have lived next to for the last 2 years and who knew about me since much longer.
You see the younger folks in the house are active members of the Liberal party while I used to organise for the Parti Québecois in the same area.Furthermore they also made the mistake of listening to gossip going around about my being a pedophile on medication. (A situation I have tolerated far too long and for which I will be taking legal action because I can prove that I am innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt) As you can imagine my having opened some kind of wierd pagan temple accross the street from their house did not make them very happy in the least. (Wicca is not well known here at all)
In the same house (on the second floor) however lives the grandmother of these people's kids who decided to invite me over for coffee to my great surprise.At first I thought she was curious about Wicca or my peace activism but I soon realised that she just wanted to make a friend. (I think she is a real sweety)
When I asked her about her return visit in front of her daughter however (I had unfortunatly presumed she had talked to her family about out new friendship) I was greeted with a 1 very dirty look and another reaction of "oh non'
Since then however I have been seen to have been the person who has been making life dificult for the sexual predetors who cruise my neighborhood (an area with lots of prostitution) soliciting women and girls of all ages for sex.
Now the whole family have promised to come visit my house and my coffee buddy just gave me a beautiful gift.


A Discouraging Problem Jun 9th. at 7:08:54 pm UTC

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


It's a difficult topic, too, because there is a powerful reputation both among some Witches and Pagans and among the general public that people become Witches and Pagans because they're over-sexed and that sex is what "it" is all about. This has led at least a few "new" people to behave really, really badly at gatherings. And it really honestly was this myth.

I attended one workshop led by one of the "it's all about sex" afficianodos. She's a lovely person. She's dedicated to helping people get past ugly socially induced inhibitions and finding the magic of sex. But she's blind to the realities of pushing an agenda of sex sex sex. As I told her, the reason people have problems with sex is because there ARE problems because of sex being abused. It is irresponsible to teach an ethic of sex as a First Cause of the Old Religion. Sex is one of the lovely potentials given us by our Ancient Ancestors and can be one of the joys which connect us with the Gods. But it is only a potential. The relational realities and the inner spiritual state are actually a precursor to sacred sex.

That's one piece of the picture which supports inappropriate behavior. However, as a person who likes people I often know people who turn out to have psychological problems.

This last year I fear I destroyed a relationship with one such person. Not because she is evil but because she was using magic and various coercive psychological tactics to try to change a kid in his late teens who is a kleptomaniac. I apologise for that term. I hope I learn a better. She wanted to help him but what she did was frighten him half out of his wits! And she didn't "get" it. So, coward that I am, I wrote her a letter and laid out in detail what she had done, what the karmic recoil was and why what she did was not acceptable. This was not a Pagan community kid. This was a kid from a small mill-town. What she did wasn't ethical because he wasn't in on it in the first place but it was very bad karma because all we need is for the "natives" to get it into their heads that we Witches are trying to control their children's minds with magic!

Talk about how difficult it is to step forward and call a person on behavior! It would be easier to call down another member of our community whom we have to keep tabs on because he can't distinguish the sex-sex-sex afficianados from the ordinary girls who like to flirt. A nice guy. Honest. Not everyone who acts inappropriately is actually sick sick sick.


A Complex Matter Jun 9th. at 5:22:19 pm UTC

Dark Moon Panther (Rolling Hills of NJ) Age: 40 - Email


This question taps into the very heart of human-to-human relations, especially the interactions of humans in groups. What do you do with the "problem people"? How do you even define the "problem people"? As the Sweeper noted, spoilers can be found everywhere in society. Sometimes, these folks are the conflict-junkie "trolls" mentioned in the Wargoddess site. Sometimes they are actual predators/criminals. Sometimes, they are the ones doing the accusing, as Greybeard and Draconis mentioned. Doing your research, as Lupa recommends, can help protect you, as can "troll-spotting", but neither is foolproof.
First of all, when it comes to criminal activity, especially violence and theft (whether direct or through fraud) , it is best to report it to the authorities. Which is worse for the movement -- a few criminals being known to be pagans, etc., or being known as a community which habitually hides the criminal activities of its members? I know that reporting can be VERY HARD, especially in cases of rape or being conned, but by keeping it to yourself you are allowing your victimizer to harm others. Although I disagree with Odin on other points, I agree with him on this: report criminal activity.
When it comes to faking credentials, perhaps the coven-ing traditions can handle it the same way professional organizations and universities do. If you become aware that someone is making false claims about being credentialed by your organization, confront their claims publicly. Don't let them get away with it.
Then there is the very thorny issue of spoilers and other difficult people. I feel that this issue cannot be dealt with adequately in such a short essay. Entire books have been written about the subject of dealing with difficult people. Small-group politics is a common subject for undergraduate and graduate-level courses in the social sciences. However, it might help some people to consider that a disagreement, even a very strong disagreement, does not make the person one disgrees with BAD, and worthy of being publicly run through the mud. It may, however, be prudent to avoid that person if one cannot "agree to disagree". This is also a reason to get more than one side of a story when someone starts casting aspersions about an associate or former associate (exception: criminal activity, in which case you should encourage the accuser to report it to the police) .
As a psychologist, I could go on about this subject (literally) for days, but I think I've expressed myself adequately for now.

Dark Moon Panther


Disagree With Odin On One Point Jun 9th. at 5:20:03 pm UTC

Ann (Orange County, CA) Age: 31 - Email


Like it says, there's one specific point Odin mentioned that I wholeheartedly disagree with, and his statement disturbed me greatly. He said, "The majority of pagans were drawn into paganism not for true religion of the inner-person, but as a sexual stimulation of group nudity and sexual intercourse amongst their fellow coven members." I'd like to know where he gets his info. Sounds like he's been reading some of the fundamentalist Christian writers who really do believe that Wicca/paganism is all about sex. The people in the pagan community that I have had the pleasure of getting to know most assuredly did not come to their paths for sex. Maybe a minority of people feel the same way as Odin, but I really want to see actual numbers. The people I know, as well as myself, all came to their paths for spiritual reasons, not sexual. Besides, if one is solitary it's difficult to achieve that "sexual stimulation of group nudity and sexual intercourse amongst their fellow coven members."

That said, as a solitary I'm not sure how to go about dealing with HP and HPS who lie about their degrees/credentials/training, etc. I know that some trads are very good record keepers, so it's easy enough to check the credentials of one claiming to be a Gardnerian or Alexandrian HP/HPS. Criminal activity, however, should be reported when discovered. When it comes to abuse - physical, sexual, emotional, psychological - religion doesn't matter. It needs to be reported to appropriate authorities.

Bright blessings,
Ann


Re: No Place To Hide Jun 9th. at 5:11:01 pm UTC

Lauryl Stone (Chapel Hill, NC) Age: 35 - Email


Joy from OK wrote:
> Predators thrive where there is an atmosphere of secrets
> and fear. If you do not report a predator, especially a
> sexual predator, you are creating a habitat for that person
> to thrive within. People who exist to attempt to gain power
> over others should be called down and held accountable for
> what they do. No one should be afraid to tell.

I agree, predators should be held accountable, and "no one should be afraid to tell." Have you ever worked with rape or assault survivors, though? A lot of us were too afraid or embarrassed or humiliated or stunned at the time -- afraid to tell ANYONE, much less go to the police.

I'm a very different person now than I was when the assault happened 10 years ago; I'm stronger, more confident, less likely to be victimized in the first place. But when it happened, I was scared, lonely, vulnerable, insecure, easily coerced, and afraid no one would believe me -- in short, a perfect victim. :/

Honestly, I don't even belong to a coven or organized group, and haven't for the past decade. At first, it was because of fear of running into my perp again in one of the other local groups. Now I actually enjoy working alone.

But I'd like to think that if I were at an open circle or festival and saw someone trying what was tried on me, I'd step up to stop it. But not having been in that position yet, I'm not sure.


No Place To Hide Jun 9th. at 4:39:48 pm UTC

Joy (OK) Age: 30 - Email - Web


Predators thrive where there is an atmosphere of secrets and fear. If you do not report a predator, especially a sexual predator, you are creating a habitat for that person to thrive within. People who exist to attempt to gain power over others should be called down and held accountable for what they do. No one should be afraid to tell. If we do not act because we are afraid of the backlash or what others will think, we are no better than the religious institutions many of us have left. We should feel a moral obligation to protect ourselves and do what is right. Isn't that part of walking a good spiritual path? We are learning to do the hard things.


Great Minds Think Alike! Jun 9th. at 3:56:50 pm UTC

Lauryl Stone (Chapel Hill, NC) Age: 35 - Email - Web


I address the question of sexual predators in our midst, who have been ALLOWED to stay in our midst, in the next issue of newWitch, hitting the stands sometime in late June.

As I was researching my article, I found one group, Out of the Dark, Inc., that has a program that I'd like to see more groups use.

They created and maintain maintain a list called "The Event Ban List, " which lists Pagans who are known to attend festivals and circles, AND who have been *convicted* of a physical crime (rape, assault, etc -- not things like pot possession) or crime against a minor.

If you want to put someone on their list, you must provide legal documentation. This is not a "he said-she said" list. This is a list of known, Pagan criminals.

That's all well and good, I hear you say, but what about the ones who got away with it, the ones who have no criminal records, the ones who float from group to group, perpetrating the same frauds and crimes?

And that, my friends, is where the problem is. If you take away the requirement for legal documentation, any self-policing we undertake has the possibility of turning into, shall we say, a witch hunt.

Consider this scenario: coven member A doesn't like Coven member B, so she points a finger at him and cries "rape!" Coven member A is then banished from the group and his name put on a list, effectively blacklisting him. His reputation is ruined and his hope of ever joining a coven again is shattered, all thanks to one person's vindictiveness.

I'm too young to remember Senator McCarthy, but I sure don't want to be around for a repeat.

I'm also looking at this from what's sadly an all-too-common perspective. I was sexually assaulted by someone I met at a Pagan group. This guy was making the rounds, trying his schtick on all of us young, naive women -- but NO ONE in the group made a move to stop him. Not the group leaders, not the guys whose girlfriends he was trying to feel up, no one.

And I'm partly responsible too because I didn't speak up. I was too embarrassed that I'd come within a hair's breath of being raped by this creep, and I was ashamed. It would have been his word against mine, and we're back to "he said-she said" again.

Several of the people I talked to for my article expressed fear that if the mainstream press ever got wind of any of these incidents, it would tar us all with the same brush and send the fundies into an ecstacy of "I told you sos!" Well, we can't afford to push this under the rug any more. It's just going to fester and fester, until it pops in an ugly way, just like with the Catholics.

It's a thorny problem. Aside from making a list of known perps, I'm not sure what else we can do. But I'm glad you've started the discussion. Link to More info related to this post -- HERE


All Agendas Must Be Considered... Jun 9th. at 3:40:03 pm UTC

Draconis (Grand Rapids, MI) Age: 35 - Email


I have experienced this type of situation from a few different angles. First, I have seen some Christian and other religious groups dealing with many types of predators and those who take advantage (not to point too many fingers…look at the Catholic Priests….) .
Everybody has this problem….because you are dealing with human beings.

I have also seen someone who was dealing adult relationships, and had an ongoing situation where he had no interest in the High Priestess (although she had made it painfully obvious that she had a lot of interest in him) , and he was dating someone else in the Coven. He had disagreements with the High Priestess, and had shown no interest in her other than to be "friends". From then on, from what quite a few had seen, she decided he was a “troublemaker”, and was just interested in having sex with members of the Coven (except, notably, she was not included in his forays) …he basically left this group before he was banned.

While he is now quite in love with someone (as am I, as I look to handfast in the next year or so) , and has been with other groups and has had no problems, and he has taught me a valuable lesson (no relationships with someone you meet in a Coven) . I have a woman I love very much, but I learned quickly that someone could be labeled a troublemaker (I was by this same High Priestess – even though it was due to my JUST disagreeing with her) . However, I have excellent relations now with the group I am in, and am open to talking and be confronted about anything that would seem to be “corrupt”.

Now, there are a few of us who may be, according to one person, a “troubled” individual, going around “rabble” rousing and causing trouble…..however, like I said….I now have my own group, and my friend is deeply involved in another group…neither one of us has problems…nor do we want to abuse others….however, I know that if this particular person (the High Priestess in questions) starts to broadcast that we are such “troubled people”…well, the question will come up…and, it may cause us problems (just because there are some Catholic Priests who have done some awful things, does not mean that we should group them all together….) .

I have no doubt that there are “those” types of people…causing trouble, in to Paganism because they want to get laid, get money….get fame…..whatever. However, I would caution the whistleblowers too…..watch to make sure that you have more than one source…from a whistleblower...they can have a hidden agenda as well.

Draconis


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