Leaving a Group - Part 2: Leaving, Healing and Moving Forward
Article ID: 15566
Age Group: Adult
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Author: The Redneck Pagan
Posted: December 8th. 2013
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Welcome to Part II. Last time we were talking about the reasons why one would leave a Pagan group. As you may recall, there are many reasons, some of which are very serious threats to mental and physical well being, such as incidents of abuse or assault; others tend to the more mundane (and most common) such as job or family commitments, changes within the group structure, changes in your own path and just plain growing apart. So for the sake of this article, let's say you have joined a group and are now ready to leave. What do you do? Well, I would have to say that it depends on the reason you are leaving. There is no "one size fits all" solution to this.
Let's start with the most serious case: a member of the group has sexually or physically assaulted you. There are a few options available for you, but my advice in every case is: run! Get out of the situation; get away from the abuser right now! The very next thing you must do is go to the police. Not an easy thing to do, but that person has committed a crime and will do it again if not stopped. Criminal behaviour is habitual, meaning that the people who assaulted you are far more likely to have done it before and will not stop until we, as a society, step in and stop them. This is why we created laws and law enforcement in the first place.
I would also advise that once you are safely away from the abuser you inform the other members of the group about this abuse. You might not be the only one, and the leaders of the group must be made aware of this person. I am not a fan of keeping something this serious hush-hush between you and one or two other people. This is a situation that requires lots and lots of sunlight to disinfect. Any group worth the wands they are waving would immediately step up to resolve the problem. If they do not, then you do not want to give these people your trust! And in the case of the greater Pagan community, I would wait and see what the rest of the group does. Then, if you are asked and are comfortable sharing some of your experiences do so. This will keep others safe!
After you have left the group, gone to the police, and told the rest of the group why you left, it's all over. Right? Well, not really. Trauma like that does not go away overnight. This was never your fault, but it’s hard to forget it and how it makes a person feel inside. In cases of assault, I cannot stress the importance of seeing a professional psychologist or psychiatrist, especially one who specializes in victims of trauma. These people will be able to help you process this event and find your way to healing. Take the time to find the right therapist for you. some therapy techniques may not match your needs. I would also recommend that you consider performing some rituals and, due to the nature of this event, I strongly advise you get a trusted Pagan friend to help you with this.
The first ritual might be a good cord cutting ritual to rid yourself of any psychic ties you hold to the group and to this individual. From there, cleansing and grounding rituals to help cleanse yourself and help you keep your feet on the ground. At some point in time, you may feel the need to do a ritual of release. Again, get a friend to help you here. A great resource on rituals I have found is Steven Farmer's "Sacred Ceremony: How to Create Ceremonies for Healing, Transitions, and Celebrations". Mr. Farmer has a background in Shamanism and psychology and I personally found this book to be a valuable tool in my ritual arsenal.
As for the groups that seem to have some shady dealings (such as the pressure to be at every event, "you are so dumb you’re lucky we took you in", the disappearing group money trick, or the "you must do the Great Rite with me to advance in your training" trick) , these are other batches to run like heck away from. These can be a bit tricky to leave. The situation may be a bit murky. There is often no overt criminal activity (or it is so veiled that it is really hard to see it and even harder to prove it) . But if you are suspect their activities are criminal then take whatever evidence you have to the police. They have the investigative abilities to look into the matter further and the experience to determine if there is criminal activity.
Even if the activities are not criminal but make they still make you incredibly uncomfortable -- get up and leave, and do not look back. Once again, do a battery of cord cutting rituals and cleansing rituals. You might also want to look into seeing a psychologist or other counselor because even though this is a less serious case than an assault, it still could involve a serious breach of trust that will make you feel very hurt and vulnerable. Again, a good licensed therapist is trained to help you work through these issues.
I would still advise that you tell the members of the group why you left, with either a letter or an email. They have a right to know why you could not longer stay and, again, you might not be the only one who is having these problems. What to tell folks outside of the group can get dicey. My personal advice would be that if you have some pagan friends you trust, you could let them know. If others who you are unsure of ask, you can very easily say, "I was very uncomfortable with the way things were running and so I left". It’s up to you if you want to speak further or not. This area is a fine line because it has the potential to save others from harm, or it can open the floodgates of harassment towards you. You are going to have to decide if the level of harm you are keeping people from will outweigh the harm that you could be exposing yourself to.
In the case of the group changing their dynamics or their focus and no longer lining up with your personal motivations, morals or direction… feel free to gracefully bow out. This also goes if you physically are moving from the area. Go to the leaders of the group and tell them honestly that because of the proposed (or actual) changes, you resign (or conversely, you can state that "because of the changes in my own living and/or work situation, I can no longer live up to the commitments and needs of the group and therefore I wish to resign") . Tell them that you wish them well and if they ask you to return anything, such as books or tools that belong to the group, do so politely.
Stay positive and friendly with the other members as you leave and be sure to thank them for the time and effort they spent working with you. . You will once again want to take the time to do some rituals to cleanse and cut the psychic ties to the group. This will free both sides to move forwards. You might even want to talk to the group about having some kind of a final ritual together to help both sides heal from the move forward.
Once you have exited, give yourself a break! This can be a very sad time in your life and so treat yourself with kindness. Give yourself time to grieve this loss. Do not join or form a new group right away. This is like going on a rebound date and that would not be fair to you or the others in these groups. Also, keep the secrets of the group you left. Do not share their rituals and spells with pagans you see on the street. These are still sacred to that group and doing this would disrespect them and annul all the trust that you once shared with them. Continue to be respectful to the members and the group at all times.
Last, but not least, what if the group itself decides that it needs to fold? The first step, obviously, will be to make sure that this is a step your group really wants and really needs to make. Does the group want to completely dissolve and go their separate ways? Or do they want to dissolve for a time and then reform with a new direction and focus? If you decide to completely dissolve and go your separate ways, don’t just vote on this at a meeting and then all walk away! This is going to cause you more headaches than it's worth. All your ties to the group, as well as the group identity you have created, are still going to be there. So you need to shut this down and cut your ties. As a group, design a closing ritual where you lay the group identity to rest, gently cut your magical ties to each other and take the time to say whatever you want to say (respectfully of course) . Once again, do not join a new group for some time after. Let yourself grieve properly and take the time to practice your own way and reaffirm your personal connection to the Gods you follow.
If the group decides to start back up in a different format, still have the closing and cord cutting ritual to make sure that you are not bringing the old group into the new. After this ritual, decide as a group a time in the future to meet. Give yourselves a few months to make sure that there is a clean break from the old group. After this time has passed, meet together to decide how you want this new group to run, and make sure it is completely different from the first group. You closed down that first group for a reason; don't start up as if nothing has happened!
The bottom line is that leaving any group is hard. it takes an emotional toll on anybody. You need to take the time to do whatever you need to do to heal. You want to make sure you cut the psychic ties you have to the old group and thoroughly cleanse yourself so that you are able to move forwards with a fresh start. Finally, the biggest step is going to be mental. You have to want to heal and move forward in order for any of this to be successful. You have to want to take whatever steps necessary to move forward and be successful in your magical life.
The Redneck Pagan
The Redneck Pagan
Location: Alberta, Alberta
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