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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 17,165,374  

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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 

It Was Asked...should We Just 'live And Let Live' And 'let... Jan 28th. at 8:44:32 pm EST

Elizabeth (Springfield, Missouri US) Age: 36

It was asked...Should we just 'live and let live' and 'let the buyer beware'?

It appears to me that the majority of the concern about abuse and protecting others centers on newbies and seekers. The incredible variety of Paths that all name themselves 'Pagan' seem to have at least one point in common; Self-knowledge, which leads to Self-confidence. IMO, those that are vulnerable to the most common predators do not posess these invaluable resources.

The vast proportion of abuse that I have heard of involves a person being 'burned, ' in a variety of ways, within the first few months of joining up with an abusive teacher or group. The threat to the larger pagan community, IMO, is that these poor individuals often leave all pagan paths and run scurrying back to their 'original' faith, bearing tales of "what paganism is REALLY like."

The problem then is to protect the ignorant from their folly and the experienced from joining them in paying for it. To provide a platform that is fair to all and "Gets The Info Out!" I would suggest something along the lines of the Better Business Bureau, where individuals report to the Bureau their 'personal' experiences, good AND bad, and the groups are rated accordingly. This would allow for all opinions to be heard and no single point of view to prevail. As a previous poster stated, if you hear 100 people from all over warning about a particular individual and very few defending, then that would be a good indication of a potential problem.

Of course this could lead to larger organizations sending out lists to their members to call in as a group without having personal experiences themselves, thus burying some poor soul under a huge number of "personal complaints." Think of the mass hand-written mailings of the organized religious right on specific campaign issues. ANY system that can be thought up will be vulnerable to those to whom power and influence is all. We can't do much about that.

No matter how many warnings though, some people are too desperate to "Belong" to heed anything. I have seen with my own eyes teens sucked in to abusive groups with FULL knowledge of what was in store. They are often so lonely and afraid and confused that being 'In' is all they care about. I have to assume that some of them come from home lives that make these problems seem trivial. These people are over 18 and, often, have been warned; they still go ahead and that is THEIR choice. Is it an abusive situation? Yes, IMO. What do we have "the right" to do about it? Nothing, IMO.

The long term solution is the further growth of availabe, stable and healthy groups to give alternatives to those desperate people. I don't think that that can be rushed. Time will help ease the crush. In the short term - almost every group out there is already doing a tremendous service in offering beginning classes to all comers. Most such classes plant just the characteristics needed, Self-Knowledge and Self-Confidence. There is only so much we can do as independent individuals.

BTW, I do not wish to appear to be down on teens, and teens are by no means the only ones vulnerable to abuse. Any one who has lost their Self is vulnerable.

It's People Like You That Help The World Open Its Eyes To... Jan 28th. at 7:30:48 pm EST

Andrew Blocher (highland springs, Virginia US) Age: 16 - Email

it's people like you that help the world open its eyes to the truth on witchcraft. and i just wanted to say thank you

Well Since You Picked A Touchy Subject That No One Wants To... Jan 28th. at 2:21:49 am EST

Raven Wind (Shakopee, Minnesota US) Age: 20 - Email

Well since you picked a touchy subject that no one wants to ever think about I'll give my full opinion, the one that no one wants to hear.
THe awnser to your question is that we should have boundries and we should enforce the rules when those boundries are crossed. The problem is that it is impossible to enforce a law when the law has no backing. We can all shout about how harmful magick is wrong and how there should be a way to punish those who abuse there gifts, but with out a central organization to back what we say it is impossible to enforce anything. Even with a united neopagan organization it would be very difficult to enforce anything without Govt. backing, and as you already know if you follow politics, it is a lost cause to try to get the govt. to back anything. Also keep in mind that the law of Karma effects everyone. Do we really need to enforce that which is already being enforced?

Personal Accountability Is Not An Issue That We May Ever Be Able... Jan 27th. at 2:43:13 am EST

Beige Allen (Phoenix, Arizona US) Age: 32 - Email

Personal accountability is not an issue that we may ever be able to resolve. Path accountability however, is another matter. There are some paths that do have "governing bodies" (for lack of a better term) that attempt to encourage, by virtue of their existance, the members of those paths to take accountability for their actions according to the tenets of that path. Examples of this are the tribal councils of the Native American tribes and the Kris Romani of the Roma peoples. Granted that these councils govern ethnic groups, but these groups do share a commonality of path (for the most part). I wonder if rather than "McCarthy-esque" blacklists, that a Pagan Council and Court might be more effective. Such a council would have to be carefully planned and executed in such a manner that no path could be excluded but that any path on it would have to have enough organization inherent in it that they would be able to decide on a representative (possibly more than one) of their path. Though some would claim that Paganism is an "all-tolerant" belief system, this plainly is not so. There are some things so heinous, so terrorizing, that no people would defend them, and Pagans are no different in that respect. However, by creating such a council, and by requiring representatives of the myriad belief systems that are classed as Pagan, would it not ensure a greater level of fairness for all pagans that what might be created if this is left up to non-Pagans? Simply put, we may have to face the unpleasant choice of "policing" ourselves, or being "policed" by outsiders

Boundries Must Be Set On All Things Otherwise We Have Chaos And... Jan 26th. at 4:51:36 pm EST

Crystal Hoggatt (magical name; Crystania) (Stillwater, Oklahoma US) Age: 22 - Email

Boundries must be set on all things otherwise we have chaos and evil residing. There must be a balance, and those who upset the balance must be dealt with. If they are ignored and not punished for thier actions, than it will reflect baddly on the rest of us. We are already hated and feared by the Christian community, why give them more wood for the fire. We want for them to understand us and abolish thier hatred and fear, so that we may live together in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, we cannot accomplish peace when there are abusers of the craft lurking in the shadows ruining our good name. In closing I will say that they must be dealt with immediately.

Personally, I Think We All Should Work To Better The Public's View... Jan 26th. at 2:30:38 am EST

Randall Stracener (Leesville, Louisiana US) Age: 18 - Email

Personally, I think we all should work to better the public's view of the various Pagan religions we all practice. This is especially true in light of the new presidency, which I feel will once again raise the issues of religious freedom to the public eye.

I, personally, get very annoyed with "trendy pagans", as I call them. Black Metal Mages, Vampyres, and their ilk. I've spoken to many different members of these "groups" and it seems to me that they very rarely really beleive what they practice. I mean, who in their right mind would invoke the spirit of chaotic slaughter if they actually beleived it would come?

Of course, I'm biased. I admit that. But for every "psychic black-metal vampiric meta-mage Servant of Cthulu" out there, there are about 30 people who equate them with the whole of the Pagan community. I find it appalling. Yes, there is a side of me who laughs, who finds it amusing to see people shocked to find out there are "witches" among them, but I take responsibility for my actions, and that responsibility includes not sinking the proverbial boat for the rest of us.

In summary, I can't say where to place this line, or even if one should be made. But I can say that one is NEEDED. I love my faith, and it angers me to see someone casting it in a negative light, but who am I to say what someone else should and shouln't do?

I am me. That should be enough. Their actions affect me, therefore I feel I have to stand up and say "Step back and look at what you are doing to the rest of us". Their actions affect us all. Isn't that enough reason to stand and say our piece?

We Are Accountable To The Entire Universe For Our Actions. Personally We... Jan 25th. at 1:22:55 pm EST

iko (Chicago, Illinois US) Age: 36 - Email

We are accountable to the entire universe for our actions. Personally we should be strong and vigilant; where a wrong is committed we should point it out, talk about it, do something about it, and attempt to remedy it. We should not just sit back and wait for karma to take its course. That said, 'blacklists' are a BAD idea. I am too young to have lived through McCarthyism - but I know people, good people, who had their lives destroyed by those "witch" hunts. Santa Clause, McCarthy (perhaps some unnamed, faceless division of our government) and Iron Curtain era governments are the only modern day "list keepers" on a massive scale of which I know. I am not fool enough to think that there are not likely others as well. Of this list only Santa Clause seems to see the world through rose colored glasses (I have never heard of anyone really getting a lump of coal in their stocking), so he doesn't count. McCarthy used his lists for political gain, and for nothing else - destroying all those that did support him or his crazed views. We all know what the Iron Curtain governments did with their lists, and what people would do to please the keepers of those lists (not good). Who the heck knows what our government does with its lists, but at least they know not to advertise that they are keeping such lists, but it still gives me a queasy feeling to think there is a file with my name on it in some cabinet that I will never see. Such lists for the overwhelming majority of uses are bad, but knowledge is good. If there is a rapist in our midst we do need to first and foremost have him removed by the authorities. Should we broadcast his name to all the festival leaders? Should we have FBI top 10 most wanted type lists posted at the entry gates to our festivals? If somebody is sexually assaulting people he should be in jail. If he is in jail, I don't know why we would need to "alert" the entire Pagan community of his existence. If he is not in jail, then maybe there is another side to the story and we should be very careful to level the charge of rapist against him. I am not saying that there would never be a circumstance where it would be wise to circulate such information, but I think those instances will be relatively few and far between. When it is done it should be done with much planning and clear thinking. Here is not an area for rumor or hearsay. Of course there are always going predators who call themselves Pagan. (It happens in all religions.) Our first and foremost duty should be to the children (all children, not just Pagan children). Here is the only area where I see that we should have some sort of ongoing and constant community-wide notification of all offenders. Child molesters must register as such when they are released from jail. I have no problem with this, and I have no problem with we as a community being vigilant when it comes to these people who are 'members' (whether we like it or not) of our Pagan community. I would have no problem with festivals or gatherings (where children are present) barring such individuals from attendance for life. I have no problem with convicted sexual predators being exposed as such. As for any other sort of community wide 'blacklist, ' we should be very careful. If your group wants to create such a list, that is between you, your gods and your karma. I, for one, will not be part of any community that as a matter of routine creates and passes blacklists for anything or anybody other than CONVICTED sexual predators.

Jeez, This Is A Hard One. I Mean, A Single Person Cannot... Jan 25th. at 11:22:54 am EST

Kaicielia BlueDragon (Madison, Wisconsin US) Age: 24 - Email

Jeez, this is a hard one. I mean, a single person cannot control what others do, and so they should have no personal responsibility for the actions of others. However, sitting around and doing nothing while someone else is hurting others or defaming what you believe, that is not acceptable either.
I don't know how I would handle this one. Having a blacklist may be a good idea in some respects, but then how can we have the right to tell others not to believe what they say because we think it is wrong? Isn't this type of thinking the very thing we are trying to do away with. Of course, if you are charged with the care of others, your own children or anyone else, you have more discretion in this area.
I suppose all we can do is encourage people to do a lot of soul searching when we see someone getting mixed up in something that may be destructive. Provide them with enough information to make their own, informed decisions, and there is nothing else much we can do.

I Believe This Question Can Best Be Answered In The Words Of... Jan 24th. at 6:38:03 pm EST

Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 19

I believe this question can best be answered in the words of Aleister Crowley, "And love shall be the whole of the law." Love. Therein lies the entire answer. Love usually is not too difficult to spot, so when you encounter a certain person or group within the pagan community, be sure to recognize the love in their words and deeds, or the lack thereof. The so-called "blacklists" can serve a purpose, for instance to warn followers of the Norse Tradition about certain Neo-Nazi-dominated Asatru groups they should probably steer clear of, but the only people or groups who should appear on these lists are those who lack love in their hearts and in their words and deeds and spiritual practices. I think we do have a responsibility to defend the reputation of the pagan community, to counteract any sociological slide back towards the mentality of the persecution era, and to battle the massive unspoken conspiracy to establish the Christian Church as the foremost and only religion in this nation. We must indeed draw the line within our own religious movement, by saying that those values we embody shall be prerequisite, and we shall not associate ourselves with anybody who calls themselves by our name yet represents everything we decry and struggle against.

In Addition To The Rede, We Should Consider The Rule Of 3... Jan 24th. at 5:47:20 pm EST

Webweaver (Clyde, New York US) Age: 52

In addition to the Rede, we should consider the rule of 3--What ever the alleged abuser does returns to that one three-fold. Whatever we do in spreading the word, black listing, discrediting, warning returns to us 3-fold. I am proud of the responses here which show a shared value of personal responsibility, openness and trust. I would not want to set myself up as judge and jury, and then find myself there in the seat of the accused (x3) at some point in the future.

I also do not believe we are paralyzed by the thought of our words and deeds coming back to haunt us. If I intervene on a 1 to 1 basis because I responsibly own my beliefs or feelings and reflect them back to someone I think is messing up than I accept that someone, perhaps the same someone will return the favor. Feedback is a good thing, even when it says you screwed up. So a vigorous disagreement is welcome.

However, it is important to speak our truth so it can be heard, not accusatory, nor cruel, nor cold. We are each others teachers, lovers, friends in this life. Who would the enemy be? Just some one playing a role for us to bounce off of and learn something from. Something like personal shielding, protection of our loved ones, better dream interpretation, quicker reflexes. Please. no more witch wars.

I Dislike A Notion Of "a Few Bad Apples.." Of Course The... Jan 24th. at 3:56:32 pm EST

Bal (Ferguson, Missouri US) Age: 40 - Email

I dislike a notion of "a few bad apples.." Of course The Rede should be followed and I don't like violence anyway. However, I also think being afraid of "looking bad" is for the spinally-challenged and inherently unpagan. If I have a problem with a person I like to deal with that person - personally. I don't need the mob backing me up.(covens, naturally, may be the exception)
I think We're misleading ourselves in light of the latest coup - I mean election - that We're ever going to appease the far right or complacent middle. We need each other now more than ever.(or since the 1600s anyway) I don't think witches should join in on witchhunts, unless we want another iffy episode of Judging Amy.
Light, Laughter and Blessings

Greetings Pagans, Why Not Try An Eccentric Idea And Allow Each Group... Jan 24th. at 3:45:53 pm EST

Nightstar (Joplin, Missouri US) Age: 29 - Email

Greetings Pagans,

Why not try an eccentric idea and allow each group/solitary to fry its own fish and not broadcast it to the world, as some have done. The Fundamentalists love it! Perhaps Pagans are just a group of Baptists at heart?


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