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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 9,873,106  

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Question of the Week: 25 - 1/22/2001

What Are The Boundaries?

Different Pagan groups and schools have different concepts of accountability and boundaries of behavior. Some may feel that they are only accountable for what they do to themselves alone or to their family/group and perhaps to their Gods. Others perceive that they are accountable for their actions to the larger Pagan community and society in general. There ARE abusers out there whom probably no one would defend. But what do we DO about them? Anything? Nothing? Some groups have personal internal 'blacklists' and others seem willing to support a public listing of this sort. How could we ever agree on just what should not be tolerated under the name of Pagan beliefs? Should we just 'live and let live' and 'let the buyer beware'? Or do we have a greater obligation to somehow defend and protect the reputation and good name of the Pagan communities by drawing the boundary line at some point?

 Reponses:   There are 26 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 


Well, This Is An Interesting Speculation, And One That's Right Up My... Jan 21st. at 9:46:07 pm UTC

simona elda (duluth, Minnesota US) Age: 30


well, this is an interesting speculation, and one that's right up my alley recently (as recently as august, 2000, anyway). i was at a pagan festival, (i won't say which one), when i was accosted by a young man there who seemed unable (or rather, unwilling) to keep his hands off me. now, i am normally an agreeable person, but i *do* have a temper when i feel that i, or others around me, are being taken advantage of. i threw an *extremely* large fit, esp. in lieu of the fact that i am not the first person that he had tried (and in many cases succeeded) to victimize.
needless to say, the next morning, the young man in question had been excommunicated and "blacklisted" from appearing at anymore festivals in our state. he chose to mess with the wrong person when he chose to mess with me. still, he *did* manage to sexually seduce (abuse) another young lady (who is much younger than i) the previous night. i seriously hope that the jarring circumstance with me forced him to see how self-destructive he was being and sought some counseling. if i could reach him today, i would tell him to do so. i would also warn others about him.
i think that because modern paganism is such a new religion, we may have a tendency to be more "self-involved" for lack of a better fitting word, than a more accepted religious group like christianity. this is for the simple reason that we are still frowned upon (unfortunately) in many facets of society, and so we cling to each other for dear life in hopes that we can "lift each other up, " as the song goes. i *do* try to give my fellow pagans of all stripes love and encouragement, but i also extend this love to all of my many friends who are *not* pagan, and to the non-human animals as well.
fortunately, this is changing slowly but surely, and we will once again become accepted religions like it was in the old days, but with a "new" face.
peace be with all my sisters and brothers, human and non-human, pagan and non-pagan, alike.


I Believe The Main Thing That One Can Do Is To Be... Jan 22nd. at 5:13:35 am UTC

Skye Cat (Edinburgh, Scotland UK) Age: 27 - Email


I believe the main thing that one can do is to be very clear about personal boundaries and morality when dealing with others. People who self-define as "Pagan" are a diverse bunch, to put it mildly. Being clear about one's own point of view, without belittling others can surely do nothing but help explain some of the confusion. This is particularly important if you're running an event.

I remember the complete confusion of the first few months of study - the variety of paths I could take, the number of philosophies. We are not homogenous - that's part of the strength of this movement.


Pagans Need Not Be Proverbial Pansies. The Feel-good, Huggy Idea Is Fine... Jan 22nd. at 7:55:53 am UTC

Trish Telesco (western, New York US) Age: 40 - Email


Pagans need not be proverbial pansies. The feel-good, huggy idea is fine within limits, but sadly "perfect love" often isn't perfect, and it certainly doesnt mean being wishy-washy and letting people walk all over us, our loved ones, our community and things we hold sacred.

Sometimes love means laying it on the line and being brutally honest. Sometimes it means standing and fighting boldly to honor that love. When people misuse power or titles and we stand by idly, we become as guilty as they. To do nothing in the spirit of "live and let live" -- when people are being hurt or the community as a whole is being misrepresented -- is nothing less than fickle. It is also part of the reason why pagans are often perceived as "flighty" and why our religion is painted as a fad.

That is not to say there isn't inherent dangers in being willing to speak out. Some will call it a "witch war" or politics, not knowing all the details. Others will get fired up about a purported cause only to find a rumor was wrong. This means that before we go jumping on a condemnation bandwagon we should be very sure of our facts, and be willing to back up that information with word and deed, bearing in mind the responsibility that goes with our actions and words. Do not become what you hate in your battles.

There are times in all of our lives when we will be called upon to be warriors. It is part of our personal "priest/ess" duties to fight the good fight. But we also should pick our battles wisely. A good fighter recognizes when someone is just goading and looking for a reaction, and when there's real danger. A good fighter does not fight in anger, but stops and thinks, plans, then acts. A good fighter does not take innocents into the line of danger, sacrificing the very thing for which they fight. All of these things apply to our community when we decide we must draw a boundary.

Tolerance is a very good ideal, but like all ideals must be measured against realism. The reality is when freedoms are threatened we need to stand and be counted; the reality is when my family or friends are being harmed I WILL fight with all the means I have within me; the reality is that our community has users like any other community and they need to be handled so other people do not get hurt. All this is a sacred duty and should be approached with similar reverance.


I Think That Someone Should Monitor All Communications No Matter What Setting... Jan 22nd. at 10:27:48 am UTC

Candace Ryan (SAN YSIDRO, California US) Age: 50 - Email


I think that someone should monitor all communications no matter what setting for those of us who are new to wicca or are novices and seeking knowledge. If someone does not take the right, the ANY forces can stepup to the microphone and cause damage to us either physically, mentally or physicically and errepairably. None of which would be disreable. So be the watchdog.. If you have the expert knowledge of the particular subject then filter and correct then do a search and destroy mission in a blacklisting arena so that the damage inflected will to nuetralized or illimited. And I thank you for doing it.


I Highly Doubt I Would Ever Support A "blacklist" At The Community... Jan 22nd. at 12:32:05 pm UTC

Brighn (Ferndale, Michigan US) Age: 32 - Email


I highly doubt I would ever support a "blacklist" at the community level. Such things invariably create Us and Them mentalities and, at worst, Star Chambers. I feel that, to a certain extent, certain Pagan groups are already acting like Star Chambers, by creating a dominating presence in a particular community and then publicizing their blacklists, or (at least) making those individuals who are not wanted at that groups' events unwelcome in the community as a whole.

First of all, there's a greater society out there, one that has a formal system of accountability. Case in point, one poster spoke of a rapist at a Pagan festival. The implication of the post is that the rapist was barred from Pagan festivals, but no attempts were mentioned of legal action against him -- now he's unwelcome at Pagan festivals, but free to galavant about raping anywhere else it pleases him. I would say that one degree of accountability that we have is to exploit (as much as we can) the legal resources of the greater community. [And if the response to this specific case is, Well, he wasn't really *raping, * per se, he was just excessively pushy, then then answer is, why blacklist him?]

Most cases are less extreme. Another example may be that of an individual misrepresenting "accepted" Paganism (or some aspect thereof) to the general (non-Pagan) populace. My wife was in a foreign country where, the previous year, a Wiccan had told the locals that Witchcraft was a widely accepted religion in the U.S., and that Samhain (not Hallowe'en) was a major American holiday. My wife corrected that perception -- not by attacking or "blacklisting" or otherwise belittling the Wiccan, but simply by stating that, no, that's not the way things are. That's where I think our obligations lie, in cases where we perceive misrepresentation taking place: Not by blacklisting, but by stating what our own views are, and how they differ.

Similar to that are cases where individuals use magick to scare, manipulate, or injure others. It is our right and obligation to inform anyone who doesn't know better (non-Pagans and beginners, among others) that that's not the way things are generally done, and that it's not acceptable to the general Pagan community. It is our right to inform others who may be heading down a certain path of any rocks that we may be aware of -- so long as we present it as our experience and interpretation, and not hard, true, undeniable fact. It is not our right to block any person from their actions, or to use our community to "gang up" on them through black-lists and other means -- like it or not, trust it or not, that's what the police are for; and if it's not bad enough for the police to intervene, it's not bad enough for us to intervene (to the degree of fully blocking action).

The best we can do is make our own views freely available, and yes, to a certain degree, caveat emptor. We can't intercept every newbie and every communique and white-wash... nor SHOULD we. By doing so -- by creating organizations whose purpose is to define "Paganism" and "ethics" [a fine goal, it's the next part I'm objecting to] and to use those definitions to decide which actions and which people are acceptable -- we're assuming that WE are the ones who CANNOT err, who KNOW the truth [even if we accept certain tolerances/parameters to that truth].


Does Jim Jones Ring A Bell? Or How About Ol' David In... Jan 22nd. at 1:34:26 pm UTC

Wolf (La Grange, Texas US) Age: 46 - Email


Does Jim Jones ring a bell? Or how about ol' David in Waco. Every religion has it's share of kooks and very dangerous people. The bad thing is that as pagans, the majority of the world sees us as kooks and very dangerous people to start with. I am very open about my religion at work and in my community, and learned a long time ago how much to be open about and how much to save for the deep woods. We are a people of secrets. All the better to make the magick work.

This area is very pagan, and we are growing daily. I keep waiting for the locals to say "enough" and start working against us. Recently, one of our large pagan groups bought a tract of land nearby for private festivals. A friend of mine overheard some of the locals talking about the Satanist and nudist moving into the area. This group has already given funds to a burned out town and helped several other times in the area, but the locals only remember that we are Satamist.

What I am saying is that we have to be very careful about the face the locals and the world sees. I know... but it took hundreds of years for the followers of Jesus to come into power. The new age starts in 11 years, and we are going into a new realm of spiritually. Already, the pagan religion is the fastest growing religion in the world. The people are ready for a change.If we are to grow the way we want, we have to be very careful of watching what goes on, and try to top what is not healthy for our religion, or our world. I took an oath to procet the mother, and procet her I will. No matter what face that danger wears. If I see a high priest that uses only 12 year old little girls for all of his High Rites, I will lead the police to his door myself. The Goddess has several faces that are of the warrior and the protector of innocents. Anyone fresh into the religion I consider an innocent. They should have the right to expect to be able to find good info and be informed about what to be learn about and what to watch out about.

The internet in such a wonderful creature. We have been an underground religion for many years. What a better way to get info to each other. A site listing what and who to watch for is imparative. People can make up their own minds once they get that information. If I read over a hundred people from all over the world telling me that a certain person is dangerous, I would tend to be very carefull. If I then read someone telling me that this is all bullshit, I can at least use that info to try understand the opposite side of the issue. Judgement by your peers. Even the old temples policed their own.

I agree that we have to be very careful in this. The Goddess has many faces and deserves Her Rites. Just because it isn't for you doesn't mean it isn't right for some one else. I can't stand alot of exact ritual, but someone else might need it to get in touch with what they seek. The more info available, the easier to make informed adult decisions. If someone doesn't have any followers, they can't do much damage.

And Harm None! Be That the Law! Every one of us has set up at nights pondering this before taking action. Every one of us has made a wrong decision at one time or another. Some times we just need another opinion.

Go trish! I met you at a festival, and have always liked how you think.


In Response To My Post. Being New To Witches Voice I Only... Jan 22nd. at 3:26:51 pm UTC

wolf (La Grange, Texas US) Age: 46 - Email


In response to my post.

Being new to witches voice I only now found The advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame. This is exactly what I was talking about. Now all we need is a nice, easy to find, big web site to tell us of the results. If it is out there please let me know where.


Our Community's Ability To Flourish Depends On Each Individual Doing His/her... Jan 22nd. at 5:09:12 pm UTC

Dragon Hawk (Mesa, Arizona US) Age: 24 - Email


Our community's ability to flourish depends on each individual doing his/her part to create a safe atmosphere in which we can express our unique spirituality.

Who's to decide that one person is a danger to novices, our public image, or our work toward building a cohesive community? We all know the answer: no one. Not one person or group of people should be able to determine an individual's acceptance status within the entire community unless the person in question threatens the physical safety of him/herself or the safety of others in the group. When physical safety is involved, no questions or stipulations can be asked; we must act for the protection of self and those around us. There will be charlatans and manipulators who always take advantage of other people, but who am I to say that this is the case with one particular person? People who cause damage to us in other ways, emotionally, mentally, magickally, have their own black tidal wave of karma to deal with.

At the same time, this does not mean that we need to sit idly by. Of course we should be vocal about people who violate our Rede, and we need to guide the members of our community with compassion, safety, and clarity of purpose. We throw a banquet for our novices, and they weave among the tables looking at the food that is most appealing to them. They love cakes, but they're diabetic. They drool over fried chicken, but they have dangerously high cholestorol. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to accumulate the information presented and make an informed decision on his/her own. Decision making is essential when walking the spiritual path, and as long as there are people ready to manipulate someone into traveling a dark road, there will be people at the side lines prepared to lead the wayfaring stranger back into the light.


An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will... What Other Boundry Is... Jan 22nd. at 10:05:54 pm UTC

Winter Wind (Dover, Delaware US) Age: 46 - Email


An ye harm none, do what ye will... What other boundry is there? Should anyone, who takes the Rede to heart feel that there is a need for other boundries? Two of us could sit down and write a list of what we think is moral and what is immoral and likely our list will be differant. Maybe, through discussion we would come to terms on some of our differances. Maybe not.

But as a people, as Pagans, as witches we know when we have hurt others and when we do we should make amends as quickly as possible. I, would also hope that forgiveness would be as quickly forthcoming. But, who can blame a person offended for being slow to cool off.

When I was a christian I found that my simplest thoughts could be enough for some to damn me to hell. I guess that really, it was my fault for thinking that I was a christian. You see, they had all these personel rules and boundries that I quite naively tended to cross. Well, maybe some of them were not personel. Some of them the church actually taught. You have no idea how relieved I was on the day I discovered that I was not a christian.

What I am getting at is, for this reason I have a tendency to fear too many boundries. (An ye harm none, do what ye will...)

What other boundry is there? Cross this one, and you deserve what you get.


I Once Knew Someone Long Ago, Who Said That They Went To... Jan 23rd. at 7:56:25 am UTC

Raindancer (Christchurch, New Zealand) Age: 52 - Email


I once knew someone long ago, who said that they went to witches circles because it was a good way to get laid. There are people out there who prey on us and on one another. There are users and abusers. What is the solution? Its a hard one to say. But any solution that we collectively arrive at will have a lot to do with shaping who we are in the future.

In some ways, we are in a similar position that Christians were 1800 years ago. They were still underground, but were growing. The real test came when they were no longer undergound and had temporal power. When they finally had it, they set about using it to crush out opposing viewpoints that differed from their agreed upon "Party Line".

If we are to cope with the unfortunate existence of these people, but not destroy that beautiful and liberating diversity that is our real strength, we must take great care how we resolve this dilemma. There is a vast difference between being few and without the power to physically restrain and punish wrongdoers, and being many and having a police force to back us up.

If the power exists, there will be the possibility of its being used and abused. To me, this would be a great argument for continued separation of church and state. I know that it can't always be done, but in extreme cases, such as rape, and behavior that is disruptive, harmful to others, and which persists despite all efforts to stop it, there should be no hesitation to call the cops.

Its a secular crime, so the enforcement should be secular as well. Otherwise, if we're talking about allowing people to follow their own paths, we have to also consider how they interact. If my path prevents you from following your path, then who has priority?

Many have said that its covered by The Rede. It works for me, although thats not why I wouldn't harm anyone intentionally, I wouldn't because I know pain all too well, but the Rede is Wicca, and not all pagans are Wicca, and would never want not necessarily subscribe to it.

So its a dilemma. What do we do? How do we protect ourselves without destroying the way we are? From what I can tell, people's problems with others seem to arise at public events. When I'm alone with Goddess and God in my Sacred Space, I don't have problems with interruptions or people trying to take advantage of me. I've never been in a coven, but I would hope that if a person didn't like the vibes in one they were part of, they could go away, join another, start their own if they desire.

So, its public events. What I would suggest for that case, would be to consider who we are. If we subscribe to The Rede, then when a circle is held, or some other celebration or ritual, then it could be made known from the outset that its taking place within the Rede. ( Like the medieval idea of Sanctuary) If anyone does not feel that they can honor that, then they should go to another place where it is not the order of the day.

We would not be comfortable having outsiders watching or disrupting a religious ceremony, and if someone won't abide by the Rede, then they are, by definition, an outsider. That individual has a right to his or her path, but so have we a right to ours, ours may not always be open to someone who won't honor it.

I am particularly concerned by the incident that Simona Elda posted, of the sexually aggressive young man. He was abusing and creating harm to others through disregarding their right to their own persoanl space, and to be left alone. I don't like the idea and precedent of excommunication, but do feel that our actions are a big part of what we are. When that person forced himself, he violated the Rede, and became an outsider.

If someone enters an event, knowing what standard of behavior is expected of them, and agree to abide that, then break their word, they are violating the space of the rest of the people who are honoring the "rules" and in a secular sense, thats trespassing. If they continue to disrupt and refuse to stop or leave, then there is a secular remedy to that.

We don't want to harm, but we do have a right to protect ourselves. The trick is to do that and not harm ourselves as a people in the long run. If this has been too much waffling, then I apologise. Its more of a tricky question than first meets the eye, and the answers the pagan community arrives at have a lot to do about who we are, and what we want to be. How do we solve the puzzle without losing ourselves in the process? May the Lord and Lady guide us to wisdom.

Blessed Be
Raindancer


Word Of Warning! I Am Dyslexic, So Please Bear With My Mistakes... Jan 23rd. at 11:29:51 am UTC

Satai (Dublin, Ireland) Age: 21 - Email


Word of warning! I am dyslexic, so please bear with my mistakes - I'm not being lazy.
~~~~
This is a question of anarchy vs. order in many ways. I have to admit to being pro-anarchy (not that I can spell it!) where anarchy is defined as being harmony without law. However, most of the world doesn't agree with me and as they are very often pro-democracy anyway, they get what they (the majority) wants!

Realistically, the human race still seems (to me) to be in their adolescence. We won't be ready for true anarchy until we collectively do an awful lot of maturing. We are all too often too cliquey, too judgemental. Even those of us who recognise this (by asking themselves the above or similar questions) don't have a perfect solution. And maybe we are trying too hard. Anyone who has younger siblings will know that despite our warnings and experience they will still go out and make the same huge mistakes we cried ourselves to sleep over.

But aside from letting the problem 'fix itself' - slowly and with some guidance here and there, what can we do?

I don't know. I can only give you the answer I came up with when I first took up the pagan path and the ideals of the third age.

If I act anarchicly - and allow others to do so, to permit them to be free to do *anything*, to make *any* choices, what happens when one of them decides to hurt me or someone else? Well I am also free, by this logic, to do anything and make any choice - and free to try to stop them.

Its far from perfect, but to my way of thinking, I am allowing them the same freedom I expect for myself, and giving myself the same permission I allow them.

Personally, I do think we have a responsiblity to each other to try and prevent harm. Not necessarily by a black list - its too dogmatic and very often people (let us remember that most people think that they are nice people, tolerant people) make judgements based on, or for, belief systems they hold too but don't necessarily really understand.

I don't think its wrong to warn others away from people we think are dangerous - if we geniunely believe that, it would be callous and irresponsible not too - but I think our warnings need to be clear. Clear enough that the reciepent knows you are not joking, but also so that they know that it is your belief, and that there exist others who don't agree. Let them know that they have to make choices for themselves - the more informed the better.

The way I see it, this is only way we will all ever truly be free.


What A Broad Topic! Pagan After All Means Any Religion Not Of... Jan 23rd. at 10:42:57 pm UTC

Nighttiger (Liverpool, New York US) Age: 16 - Email


What a broad topic! Pagan after all means any religion not of which are of the top 7. Not too mention, with so many pagans still "in the broom closet", so many different traditions of beliefs, and everything else how are we supposed to put out "blacklists" on people. There will always be abusers in society. They are in every religion, every city, every family... There are things we can do about them, but not through blacklists. Warn friends and family possibly. If you see something, report it. There are many public and federal organizations set up to help with different types of people who abuse others. There are types of magicks which will seperate you from a person or ask for their due karma to come onto them quicker which leaves no repercussion on the caster. Honestly we have to accept that humans have free will to choose if they wish to be abusers. I feel there isn't much more we can do but keep our eyes out. Bright Blessings all


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