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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: 108,702  

Vox Q Stats

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

Sunfell (Arkansas) Age: 43 - Email


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

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

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

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

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

http://www.geocities.com/pagan_bullies/

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

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

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

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

http://www.wyrdweavers.org/files/cashi.html

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

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

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

Pax et Lux
Sunfell


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

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


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

Bright blessings,
WyntersBride


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

Sage (Victoria, Australia) Age: 21 - Email


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


A Problem Child...moi? *Flutters Eyelashes* Nov 19th. at 8:59:39 am UTC

Taenn (England) Age: 17 - Email - Web


Although problem children are very, very real, it's important for people to remember that not all of us under-18's are like that! I made the choice to enter into this religion at a very young age and I've paid the price thourgh that - almost everywhere I go my reputaion preceeds me. I'm emma, taenn, that WITCH.

The problem is that when I arrive at a place, I'm not what people expect. So yes, I wear my fair share of BLACK clothing and I DO wear a pentacle around my neck, but I don't mutter things in latin, carry a magicians wand around with me, have black - or any other coloured - cat tucked under my arm and much to my dismay my broomstick doesn't fly. Add to this he fact that I'm well mannered, well behaved and only recently joined a group of wiccans and I'm a down right disappointment! How dare I?

OKay, being serious now: my age has greatly affected what I can and connot do with regards to the craft. People perceptions of me have always been either 'rebel' or 'fluffy' - there doesn't seem to be anything inbetween. And that's ok with me because I ahve met the rebels and the fluffies - the extremes of every religion who take their beliefs, or the 'cool' values behind them, and create something dangerous to both tyhemselves and those around them.

And even worse, I've met people willing to take advantage of that.

But what can we do? Lock all of us youngsters in the broom closets until we hit 18? Individually screen anyone who wishes to embrace paganism or wicca? No. We can't. All we can do is take everyone in, treat our own people as we would wish to treated. We say that the mdia misprtrays 'the craft' and it does, but by keeping ourselves to ourselves we are only making things worse.

My opinion is this: yes there are predators and problem children in wicca. There are whatever religion you choose. All we have to do is face them.

All we have to do is face oursleves.


: (: ( Dec 1st. at 10:33:04 pm UTC

KIKI (Canada) Age: 16 - Email


I know what some of you guys are tlkin about. I've been a witch for almost 6 yrs now, and I've gotten quite a few lectures and rude comments. I've seen people glare at me, gotten awkward questions and heard very nasty whispers and comments.
However, the same people who seemed to protest the most, have now made other pagans and wiccans for friends, and have either apologized or never said anything like that for over a year and a half.
People just accepted me after putting mr through such a hard time. I guess when i didn't break, and calmly explained to them that it is as much a religon as the one they follow, and that it's not evil. they just decided they didn't want to descriminate.
What bothers me is that people have so many accusations and problems towards witches because of those problem children. There is so much a witch has to go through to be openly pagan/wiccan. and it's because the occassional problem child fits thier childhood discription of a witch.


Are You A Good Witch Or A Bad Witch??? Dec 3rd. at 12:55:03 am UTC

Juniper (Wisconsin) Age: 44 - Email


The best we can do is be "good witches" ourselves. Be a "role model" for lack of a better word. Really examine our own motives, drives and morality. Like attracts like and the "bad witches" soon become bored by those they cannot con, charm, impress or otherwise manipulate. As far as public image goes, if your comfortable being "out of the broom closet" share your feelings, ideas and values with others, again be a role model, especially to youth. Let them know that being a pagan means honoring the ideal of "harm none" by living that truth in all aspects of your daily life. There are plenty of good people out there, don't lose faith!!!!


Problem Pagans, Problem Muslims, Problem Christians... Dec 4th. at 10:29:27 am UTC

Sybil DeSoul (Tulsa, Ok) Age: 32 - Email


Every religion has its bad eggs, and no community, religious or not, likes to have them exposed to the world. Residents of Waco, TX probably cringe every time their hear their towns name in the news. Catholics face jokes, slander, and condemnations everyday for the priest scandals. Muslims in many small minded communities throughout America are being harasssed or treated differently because of 9/11. But these communities go on.

If a pagan commits a crime, he/she should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, just like anyone other person would be, for the crime they committed not for being a pagan. And we as a pagan community should support that. Not jump on a soapbox and immediately assume such said Pagan is innocent and only being prosecuted because his or her faith.

As far as the "I'm a third degree Grand Poo Bah, master of celestial bullfrogs, and won the hot dog eating contest at the state fair five years in a row!" people. Treat them like any other jerk or annoying person you would meet. Ignore them. They thrive on attention.

Blessings,

Sybil DeSoul


A Quick Word... Dec 16th. at 1:35:27 pm UTC

Dameon Martyr (Berlin, WI) Age: 19 - Email


"Negetive people are not raciest. They do not care what color, sexual orientation, religion, wealth (or lack of) or education. Age is not a factor if a person is just plain bad. Culture and interests do not mold people into harming, hurting, lying or stealing."
There really isn't anything we can do, for we cannot raise everybody else's kids. Even with the standard proper enviroment and such does not guarentee that a person will grow up to reflect that immage.
What we need to do is protect our brothers and sisters from this person (s) . We must do this by first finding the cause of the problem. Next, if thier actions are less than ethical, we need to stand up in our community and explain to society that thier behaviour is not acceptable by society as well as Wiccan morals and ethics.
If, by chance, what said negative person did was illegal, it is your responcibility to report them into the appropriate law inforcement agency. I also try to get together with the victim and have a crying time and explain that that is NOT who we are.
Blessed Be!


Well....... Dec 22nd. at 7:04:17 am UTC

Amber (aberdeen scotland) Age: 13 - Email


People seem to tell me that im 1 of those 'Problem children' as u call them because i have a behaving problem but i am also told that i have wisdom over my ages and i understand things that others never will and to me their is no such thing as a Pagan Problem Child because every pagan has a problem about telling the world they r a pagan or witch...so on. so to me this is a stupid question because we all have a problem no1 has normal behaving abilities because their is no such thing as a normal person or pagan.


Hmmmm Dec 25th. at 8:26:22 pm UTC

Annwyn (Christchurch, New Zealand) Age: 32 - Email


I could well be challenged as being a problem child in the pagan world. I have my name & contact details here on the WOTW pages, and when people do contact me with questions or whatever, I simply give them as much information as I can, or direct them to someone who does, and then say that I'm only interested in maintaining email contact, thank you. I intend to put this on my profile as soon as I'm done with this post. I feel certain I have disappointed a few seekers, and to those of you who have contacted me and have been, I apologise.

By the same token though, I don't lie, represent myself as something I'm not, or prey on the young & inexperienced. It's not my way.

With regard to the other problem children - of all faiths - that are out there, doing exactly what I refuse to do on principle, we should challenge, and if necessary prosecute, those that are playing the powergame. That's what it boils down to, in my opinion, and feel free to disagree with me! :) They are seeking power over people, by seeming to be more knowledgable, more advanced, knowing the one & only true way to salvation etc. Even by discussing them, we give them power. The power of having attention directed at/on them. True, most of it's not good attention, but it's still attention. I'm not advocating we ignore them and hope they go away, but we need to stop them without it becoming national news in 30 countries. When stopping the powergame becomes national news it only gives the (insert your religion here) bashers & detractors more fuel for their oft-misinformed crusades.

ALL paths have their problem children, and to each path's immense disappointment and fear, the probbies are the ones grabbing the attention and making the everyday (insert your religion here) person's life misery. It's time to take the power back from the probbies, and to use that power for the good it was given to each of us by (insert your deity here) for.


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