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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: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 146,468  

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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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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

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

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.


Don't Be Afraid To Communicate! Jun 8th. at 12:20:48 pm EDT

Jess B (Lake Wylie, SC) Age: 24 - Email

In my opinion, alot of the problems in dealing with this issue come from a lack of communication. As the article says, "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’." . It's time to start taking the upper hand in this issue and to not be afraid to stand up and point out what we see as discrepancies, dishonesty, and scams. I'm not advocating we become the equivalent of a witch trial or an inquisition, but we do need to start taking a stand for the truth. That also means being honest about ourselves.

To protect ourselves, our groups, and our faiths, the best step to take may be a no-tolerance policy of sorts, and to communicate. And it all starts in the community and on the individual level. With so many Pagan and Heathen groups being family oriented we can't afford to have people like this being around our children or being active in our groups. Worried that someone in your group may be exhibiting behaviours not quite up to snuff? Talk to them. Or, talk to your Elders/HP/HPs. Get them to speak with the individual. Encourage them to get help if necessary, and while they are doing so, limit their activities within the group. If it becomes a necessity to have the individual leave, then let them go. Concerned that someone may be hiding something about their past of a serious nature? Screen them carefully before letting them into your group. If they're already in your group, again, talk to your Elders/HP/HPs and let them know how you feel.
Were they stripped of a degree and banished from their coven? Well, if they were it must have been for something serious, and you should let other area covens and groups know. Don't give this person the chance to wreck another group. Are they using sex/drugs/mental & emotional abuse in "teaching" others as a way to gain control over them and achieve power? You guessed it, warn people about them, and notify the correct authourities. People like that are not only a danger to the Pagan/Heathen community but to the community in which you live in general. Is someone charging exhorbitant sums and claiming to be able to teach you everything you need to know about being a shaman in a weekend? Inform people in your community about what it really takes to be a shaman; hold a discussion that's open to the public. Maybe even find someone who is a bona fide shaman to come in and field questions. And don't be afraid to let your metaphysical bookstore/shopowners know your concerns! I've done it before and it works! They are there to not only provide goods but services, and they wouldn't want to have their name linked with a blatant fraud anymore than you would.

I know that this won't solve problems overnight, but as with most things, it begins with the individual. And the more individuals we have that aren't afraid to speak out and let folks know that something's not clicking the more control we can begin to have over keeping negative folks out. I've provided a link to an excellent site that details some warning signs of "problem children" (she calls them "trolls") and ways to deal with the situation. Link to More info related to this post -- HERE

Caution Jun 8th. at 1:20:31 pm EDT

Lupa (Pittsburgh, PA) Age: 24 - Email - Web

I believe that a balance must be struck when dealing with "problem children." On the one hand, when someone is a known danger to others, physically or psychologically, s/he should be dealt with. There is NO excuse for abuse of others of any sort.

Regarding lying about one's lineage, well....caveat emptor if you're seeking a coven. Those who don't do their research deserve everything they get. Those who lie eventually get found out when they don't have the experience to back up their words.

As far as using witchcraft to get someone into bed---as long as the person isn't coercing minors--be careful, but you've no one to blame but yourself. If they're going after minors, all rules go out the window. Get the bastich any way you can.

I've yet to have a problem with pagan merchants. I myself am a pagan artist, and although I assure my clients that I will get their custom orders done, I do let them know that because I have a 40 hour a week job and other inconveniences it may take a little time to get the project completed. I never take money until I'm finished. Occasionally I get a buyer who backs out, but that's a rarity. On the other hand, I've been shafted a few times in my more naive years by pagan "buyers" who ended up being thieves....

On the other hand, we MUST, MUST, MUST get ALL sides of a story, especially when possible prosecution is at stake. It is too easy to accuse someone who has jilted you in love or other non-criminal ways of something illegal. In addition, you have the busybodies who have nothing better to do than nitpick someone to death for things that while technically are illegal, aren't worth ruining a person's life for ("Yes, officer, there's a marijuana STEM on that person's porch! Look! You'll find it!") And prison WILL ruin someone's life. Not only is it NOT rehabilitative, but it will ruin that person's chances at getting a good job, destroy their credit, and generally dissolve their reputation. Make sure before you go spreading rumors that you have all the facts and that the person is indeed a danger to someone else. (If they're a danger to themselves, let them be. It's no one's responsibility to take care of a person but him/her self.)

It's the same thing I keep saying on all sorts of issues--do your damned research!!!

Pagan Problem Children Must Be Dealt With Jun 8th. at 2:01:51 pm EDT

Sage (Newark, Oh) Age: 28 - Email - Web

As a woman who has lived with a Pagan Problem Child for two years, it is my firm opinion that something must be done with the Problem People right away and not let things escalate. The man I lived with I have loved and still love dearly. He claimed to be a Wiccan when I met him but when we moved in together, he became extremely physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically abusive. I stayed with this man with the firm belief that being a man of the Goddess, somehow the behavior he was displaying was my fault and that I drove him to do the things he did.

You have to learn to set boundaries from the beginning with people. Whether it be your friends, coven mates, lovers, or whoever. Pagan or non-Pagan. When these people overstep the boundary, disassociate yourself with them right away. Don't try to change them, don't try to work with them. Don't misunderstand me, I know people make mistakes. Boundaries are uncrossable lines such as physical abuse, abusive language, sacrificing animals during ritual, etc.

Truly honest mistakes that are made can be dealt with and forgiven. However, when a person does the same thing over and over again that they know is wrong, a boundary has been crossed. Don't wait until 2 years down the line when you are in counseling, in court, and in a messy hand-parting situation to try to deal with problem Pagans. It's not worth it.

If any woman, or man for that matter, is in an abusive relationship, please feel free to email me for emotional support. I would be happy to give you Pagan friendly resources for your situation.

Goddess Bless,

Trolls Under The Bridge Jun 8th. at 6:45:53 pm EDT

LaGaeLa (Nashville) Age: 43 - Email

If I were new to a village & a troll lived under the bridge, I would definitely appreciate the courtesey of being given a heads up.

Unfortunately most psychological/sexual predators often prey upon those who are new to their spiritual path. They often extoll how they are a "Holy Shaman" with great mystical knowledge to impart.....

The 2nd most common mistake...... we hear of "guilty by association" but we often assume that those who keep the company of those whom we deem to have integrity will also have "integrity by association". Not true.

Don't know the answer.....unfortunately if we assume innocence until proven guilty...... it may be too late.


No Place For Huge Egos Jun 8th. at 7:13:24 pm EDT

Toni Silvano (New Jersey) Age: 47 - Email - Web

Often times people who claim to have been "a direct descendant of the original Salem Witch who was initiated under the Scorpio Full Moon with Isis by her side, etc..." is speaking from Ego rather than knowledge. The good thing is it is often easy to see.

By asking a few questions, you should be able to tell whether the person has the knowledge and/or experience he or she is claiming to have. Pagan groups, organizations, and Covens are no place for huge egos!

As for the sexual abusers, well if it happens between two consenting adults, who am I to judge. If an adult seduces a kid, that is a different story altogether and I say, castrate the bastard.

All of us started somewhere. All of us have lineage, of sorts. The key here is -- who is knowlegeable? I don't care if you are a direct descendant of Gardner, or the farmer's daughter - if you know what you are doing, have studied hard, and are true to your path, you are welcome wo be where I am!

Good Grief Jun 9th. at 12:07:54 am EDT

The Sweeper (OK) Age: 49 - Email

"Problem Children" are out there everywhere, in every organization, club, group, klan, party, religion or any other assembly of people.
The idea that we can weed them out or do something about them is to imply we have abilities greater the all of the rest of the world in dealing with crime.
Con men thrive every where, that they are firmly imbedded in the Pagan Community just shows that it is a perfectly “normal” group of people.

The Sweeper

If you folks come up with the “Answer” you might let the Attorney General know.

The Fault Dear Brutus.... Jun 9th. at 1:35:24 am EDT

Cath (Los Angeles, CA) Age: 39 - Email

I am afraid for the very best of our intentions, the lady or gentleman called "the Sweeper" is basically correct--human nature for good or ill, is what it has always been--good, bad, and indifferent in turns, regardless of religious affilitation.

As I understand the rede, we are all individually responsible, and answerable for our own actions. We acknowledge that through spellwork we are forbidden from attempting to force our will upon others, and understand that there will be consequences if we DO attempt such a thing. We cannot effect the nature of a being be it good, bad or otherwise--one is accountable both to the gods and rules to which we mutually agree under law.

In our faith we haven't the convenience of a devil on whom to blame our faults. We tend (as I understand the matter) to believe that evil generally takes place in the area between an individual's ears.

To conceal an illegal act is in itself an ethical violation. Our personal responsibility is to report those actions of which we have actual knowledge, and only those actions. Malicious persecution would be in opposition to the rede as much as omission I would think. All other judgements are subjective and probably should be viewed as such.

Face it, we will never be accepted by certain "mainstream" sectors of society--but who really cares? My father used to say that no matter how good one is, someone will find fault. The best one can do is maintain integrity and belief in oneself and in one's faith.

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