Articles/Essays From Pagans
July 13th. 2016 ...
What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses
Magic With A Flick of my Finger
Banishments, Conjurings, and Hexes for a Modern World
An Open Mind and Heart
Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum
June 13th. 2016 ...
Pollyanna Propaganda: The Distressing Trend of Victim-Blaming in Spirituality
Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia
My Father, My First God
Life is Awesome... and the Flu
May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
How to Bond with the Elements through Magick
Magical Household Cleaning
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
An Alternative Conception of Divine Reciprocity
Becoming Wiccan: What I Never Expected
Rebirth By Fire: A Love Letter to Mama Maui and Lady Pele
The Fear of Witchcraft
Blowing Bubbles with the Goddess
The Evolution of Thought Forms
Magic in Sentences
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
Lateral Transcendence: Toward Greater Compassion
Spring Has Sprung!
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Energy and Karma
Community and Perception
December 20th. 2015 ...
Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
The Dream Eater--A Practical Use of Summoning Talismans
Native American Spirituality Myopia
A Dream Message
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
August 6th. 2015 ...
Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
July 9th. 2015 ...
Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The Magic of Weather
June 7th. 2015 ...
A Pagan Altar
A Minority of a Minority of a Minority
The Consort: Silent Partner or Hidden in Plain Sight?
Why I Bother With Ritual: Poetry and Eikonic Atheism
May 6th. 2015 ...
Sex, Lies, and Witches: Love in a Time of Wiccans and Atheists
Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism
I Claim Cronehood
13 Keys: The Crown of Kether
March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
Historiolae: The Spell Within the Story
My Concept Of Grey
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
The Three Centers of Paganism
Magick is No Illusion
The Ancient Use of God/Goddess Surnames
The Gods of My Heart
January 1st. 2015 ...
The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
Pagans All Around Us
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
A Microcosmic View of Ma'at
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
Abandoning Expectations and Remembering Your Roots
September 28th. 2014 ...
Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
Creating a Healing Temple
September 20th. 2014 ...
GOD AND ME (A Pagan's Personal Reply to the New Atheists)
September 7th. 2014 ...
Deer Man- A Confounding Mystery
August 31st. 2014 ...
Coven vs. Solitary
A Strange Waking Dream
August 24th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
The Pagan Cleric
A Gathering of Sorcerers (A Strange Tale)
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Personal Boundaries and Social Norms
Article ID: 13898
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,279
Times Read: 4,265
RSS Views: 14,218
Author: Chirotus Infinitum
Posted: May 2nd. 2010
Times Viewed: 4,265
It’s something that we’ve all noticed. A disproportionate number of pagans seem to be, well, socially awkward. Many a pagan – and not only the younger ones – seems to have a bit of a problem with social skills, particularly with personal boundaries. This awkwardness can make pagan networking a little tricky sometimes, not to mention interactions at pagan festivals. It can also make the awkward among us seem that much more unusual to those outside of the pagan community that only have pop culture and media stereotypes as the basis for their expectations.
Sure, some people have problems adapting to social norms. I’ve heard allegations that a higher number of pagans have Asperger’s Syndrome than non-pagans (although I haven’t verified this at all) . Paganism also has a reputation for being more open and accepting to unusual people, which can easily make it seem more inviting to people who are less socially aware. Sometimes, however, social awkwardness is tolerated unduly from individuals who should (or do) know better – the famed pagan tolerance could keep some from correcting socially inappropriate behavior. In a worst-case scenario, that tolerance may be taken advantage of by people who are simply too rude or self-absorbed to be bothered with respecting other people’s boundaries.
The Occult may offer an attraction to people who lack or have difficulties with social skills. The socially awkward may hope to use magic as a substitute for social skills, either to more successfully interact with, or even manipulate, other people. The study and mastery of magic is also associated in popular culture with images of seduction, charisma, and power, which may lead the awkward to believe that magic, or the association with those versed in it, can provide them with the charisma needed to overcome their social deficiencies.
Many of those involved in areas of the occult or paganism often actively choose to rebel against mainstream societal norms. I’d wager that most pagans out there have encountered (or once been!) the “rebel pagan, ” who seeks to reject utterly the xtians, along with every aspect of society and culture deemed to be somehow associated with them. This can range from standards of dress and hygiene (I practice a nature religion! Bathing isn’t natural!) to sexual mores, to political associations. Rebelling can be a great and liberating experience, if done with forethought and for the right reasons – unfortunately, things like forethought and having right reasons for doing something are often among the Christian-like cultural values that get unthinkingly rejected.
In some cases, conventional social norms may be rejected due to a pagan’s perceived status as an “outsider.” Indeed, if you felt rejected by society, why would you support society’s norms? Historically, many pagan religious movements have embraced this outsider status, even cultivating it, which doesn’t bode well for adherence to mainstream social conventions. In some cases, the more extreme rejection of conventional norms can be taken as a “badge of honor, ” and eccentricity can be used to cultivate status in the pagan subculture. The more distance one takes from the “Christian values” of mainstream society, the more highly one can be regarded by those taking pride in their outsider nature. Ironically, this attitude only further alienates such a person from mainstream society, which will respond with confusion or mistrust to one who so blatantly relished violating social norms.
In some cases, individuals may purposely cultivate the outsider image to create a sinister glamour, generally to insulate themselves from forming legitimate social relationships. This phenomenon applies to the occult in general, as well as related subcultures such as the Goth and vampire milieus. Unfortunately, wearing all black and sitting in the corner of Denny’s all night whilst quoting obscure Crowley texts doesn’t do much to anyone more sociable, and in the end run only reinforces negative stereotypes.
One of the difficulties in maintaining personal boundaries in the pagan community is related to the notion of trust in magical or pagan settings. Tradition tells us to enter a circle only “in perfect love and perfect trust, ” without really establishing what that means. Too often it is taken to mean that a real pagan will trust another pagan implicitly, even with his or her innermost secrets. I don’t know about you, but I’ve met plenty of untrustworthy pagans, and honestly I’m slow to open up even to people I know well. Yet somehow the bond of a common religious affiliation (if there can be said to be such a thing in paganism) is supposed to transcend such concerns, and I’ve encountered many people in pagan settings and gatherings that not only see no problem with asking extremely personal questions, but who actually becomes offended at a reluctance to answer.
The trust issue is closely related to a general expectation of “openness” of all things from fellow pagans, especially at pagan gatherings and festivals. Stereotypes of pagans as sexually open are not limited to the non-pagan community, and I’ve encountered a few individuals that were affronted by the fact that I am not interested in same-sex coupling, not to mention the fact that my partner and I are quite happy in our monogamous arrangement. The sentiment that I’ve encountered is that such attitudes are somehow prudish relics of my Christian upbringing, and that if I were truly open to my pagan path I would reject them and joins in one big open, happy, pile of love. While I admittedly have only encountered this on a few occasions, the assumptions and implications bother me, not the least of which is the fact that my relationship to the gods is called into question because I expect others to respect my sexual choices. Sexual boundaries are too often assumed to be permeable and flexible in pagan settings, and I’ve heard many anecdotes on problems stemming from those assumptions.
One major problem that I have noticed in the pagan community is the unwillingness to correct social inappropriate or intrusive behavior. The pagan community prides itself on it tolerance and willingness to accept alternative or unconventional views and practices, and this can often manifest is a reluctance to critique the behaviors of others. Telling someone “no” or “stop” in certain situations can end up becoming a faux pas in its own right, and explaining that you don’t wish to share or that something is not someone else’s business can result in chastisement. While openness and tolerance are important values to pagans, the ability to establish your own values and boundaries are just as important, and decisions of those types should be respected.
Social norms and personal boundaries have developed and been employed for a reason – they allow people to develop a space in which to feel comfortable and to better establish their own identities. While exploring and modifying those boundaries is certainly a valid magical experience in its own right, the fact that those boundaries exist should not be overlooked, nor should the fact that most people function better with those boundaries firmly in place and respected.
Social norms allow people to cultivate a certain amount of acceptance in the general community. By sharing and demonstrating certain values and behaviors, you become less threatening to the dominant culture. A pagan in a suit and tie is bound to be received less judgmentally than the same person in black leather sporting a ten-inch silver pentacle necklace. That isn’t to say that pagans shouldn’t be – or enjoy being – different from “normal” people, but to point out that not all contemporary social norms are inherently bad, and that respecting the decision of others to live by them will make it much easier to relate to them.
Personal boundaries also make it easier to relate to people, as it gives the individual more control of what degree of intimacy and comfort he or she can establish. Not having to be defensive about how much of yourself you want to share and why can make it much easier to meet new people, and to form the kind of deep friendships that will lend itself to the openness and sharing many in the pagan community seem to want. This gradual exploring and negotiating of personal boundaries – and establishing who is allowed in and who isn’t – is the true basis for and expression of trust.
There is a certain amount of relief when entering the pagan community, in that some of the stricter and less rational social restrictions and norms aren’t rigidly enforced, and peculiarities and oddities are tolerated and even encouraged. It allows for means of expression that are interesting and liberating, and can allow for unique growth experiences. But some respect of personal boundaries must be given, so that people can feel comfortable and secure in their personal and inner space. It should also be recognized that some social conventions do have merit, and should not be rejected out of hand because they are shared by the dominant Christian culture.
Copyright: Copyright 2010 Chirotus Infinitum.
No reproduction without permission from the author.
Location: Shawnee Mission, Kansas
Author's Profile: To learn more about Chirotus Infinitum - Click HERE
Other Articles: Chirotus Infinitum has posted 15 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Chirotus Infinitum... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2016 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).