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Pagan Protection Tips

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Year: 2008 ...

Pagan Warriors in the Modern World


Year: 2006 ...

Dealing With Real Hate


Year: 2002 ...

Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

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Year: 2000 ...

How THEY get your Email and How to Block them


Year: 1999 ...

That Pesky and Obnoxious Spam


Year: 1997 ...

Pagan Protection Tips from Professionals


NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.










Article Specs

Article ID: 2001

VoxAcct: 6

Section: protection

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 6,264

Times Read: 22,237

Pagan Protection Tips from Professionals

Author: Amorgen [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: June 6th. 1997
Times Viewed: 22,237

The up-coming year promises to be a very active one for the Pagan community. Many gatherings, events and demonstrations are being planned by various groups around the world. Public events such as the "Meet Me in D.C." March on Washington, as well as the annual Pagan Gatherings such as "Starwood" and "Pagan Spirit Gathering", while providing both an opportunity to speak out on issues and network with other like minded folks, also serve to make us very visible to the general public.

We at The Witches' Voice certainly encourage Pagans to become actively involved in these events and let your voice be heard. However, public scrutiny does bring with it some matters of concern..the most important being the issue of personal safety.

The Witches' Voice is fortunate to have friends and colleagues who have been associated with various law enforcement agencies and who can write about these issues from that perspective. They have also graciously consented to share some of this knowledge and their recommendations for staying safe with us.

In the upcoming months, we will be posting their unique insights and safety tips on the web site. We appreciate their willingness to share what they have learned from "the insiders'" point of view. With their help, we can make 1997 not only a landmark year for Pagan Rights, but a safe one for all.

The first article in the series comes from Steve McManus. Steve has been involved in various layers of law enforcement for many years, both as a public officer and in the private security sector. He has seen firsthand the results of a violent society and the thought processes that motivate people to commit these acts. Steve offers some very important tips on what to look for while out in public-tips which could very well keep you from becoming a victim yourself.

Thank you, Steve, Tim and Chuck, from the Witches' Voice and the Pagan Community...




"Wicca and The Police"
by
Charles J. Barone

I had intended, by means of this article, to shed light on what kind of training a police officer received regarding occult crimes and dealing with Wiccan and Pagan communities. Using this information, Wiccans and Pagans would have an idea what to expect. The results were less than satisfactory. Seven departments were contacted in my area. One had an officer who professed to have such training. He was self taught.

The Situation:

Fortunately New Mexico has a relatively low incidence of occult related crimes. The larger communities are liberal and tolerant. Wiccans and Pagans celebrate openly in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque as well as Los Alamos. Even little Taos is noted for its annual Green Man Festival.

The same cannot be said for the majority of the small villages in northern New Mexico. The Roman Catholic Church is deeply entrenched. To be a non-Catholic is to be suspect. To be a Witch is to follow Satan, and to open yourself to danger, although even the parish priests avoid the wrath of the Bruja.

The Problems:

To date, as far as I have been able to determine, neither Santa Fe nor Albuquerque have experienced any crimes against their relatively large Pagan communities.

Los Alamos, too, has been free of trouble, though there have been a number of ritual type crimes. In the mountains and canyons, blood covered altars have been found. The blood has been determined to be animal, usually that of cats. The Wiccan community in Los Alamos, numbering around 50, is quite active in explaining the religion, thus avoiding blame for the crimes.

Even little Pecos, New Mexico has been the scene of a large number of animal sacrifices. The people of the village blame witches and satanists. At least they differentiate between the two.

My own area, Rio Arriba County, and more specifically the Chama Valley, is the site of crimes that some attribute to cult activity. These take the form of cattle mutilations. They also occur in Taos County. "Cult" is the word being used but "witches" are also mentioned. "Witch" is used generically.

The Cops:

None of the departments in the areas mentioned have trained investigators. One, Los Alamos, has an officer who claims to have knowledge. He is self taught and seems to have an open mind, perhaps due to the aggressive action of the largest of the several covens in that city. The officer's views do not extend to the hierarchy of the department. The Chief of Police is quite closed minded on the subject.

At the risk of being branded heretical, the fact remains that many police officers are conservative and right wing. If they aren't when they start, they eventually drift that way. Police officers, as a rule, live in a closed society. Though most have friends and acquaintances outside the job, it is believed that civilians cannot understand the nature of the work. Officers are not as liberal or understanding as portrayed on COPS; those men and women are well aware of the camera and the fact that a national audience will be watching.

Dealing With the Police:

Witches should be aware that in reporting a crime they may have to spend time explaining their religion to the responding officer. Harassment is harassment and discrimination is discrimination regardless of the victim's religion. A satisfactory resolution to the problem is what you are after. By taking time to explain Wicca, if necessary, you are more apt to achieve that resolution.

The same may be said of violent crime. If you are injured, the attitude, "you got what you deserved" might be the opinion of the responding officer.

Should there be property damage or theft, be prepared to patiently explain each item and to stress the fact that your athame is NOT used in sacrificing anything. This may sound ridiculous. To most non Craft members a knife is a knife. An athame does not look like a butter knife.

What if your department is anti-Wiccan or Pagan? Here we have a genuine problem with, unfortunately, no single solution.

Should you be subject to harassment, there are steps that can be taken. Information concerning your rights is available on Witchvox. Wicca is a recognized religion. As such it is protected under the First Amendment.

I would suggest a common sense approach:

  • Keep a log, including dates, and times of the offenses. Attempt to get the unit number of the patrol car.

  • Contact the chief of police and explain the situation. Often this will be enough.

  • Contact your city attorney with the information.

  • Notify the local ACLU. Don't be surprised if they refuse to help. They tend to prefer high profile cases.

  • If all the above fails and you feel the situation warrants the expense, find a lawyer, preferably a Pagan friendly lawyer for consultation and possible representation.


What You Can Do:

You are a Witch. You know your religion better than anyone else. Make yourself available to your local law enforcement agency in an advisory capacity. Even a novice will be aware that a blood covered altar is NOT Wiccan. If the police are aware that a crime scene is not Wiccan connected, they can narrow the investigation.

Most departments conduct yearly in-service training. If they are open to the suggestion, offer to present a class explaining Wicca - its basic philosophy, traditions, structure, ethics, beliefs, and holidays. The officers will certainly appreciate the break from the monotony that is in-service training.

For goodness sake, if you are invited, don't dress witchy. You won't win many hearts and minds showing up dressed like a "witch" - what they expect one to look like.

Have information ready to pass out. The Covenant of the Goddess, PO Box 1226, Berkeley California 84701, has an excellent brochure on Wicca.

What if you're turned down? Try again next time! Our Lady of the Woods Coven, in Los Alamos, has been attempting for three years to present a seminar to the Department. They'll be back again this year.

I will go so far as to suggest inviting individual officers to your open rituals. If even one attends and finds out that you really are human, word will spread.

At Yuletime bake some goodies and take them to the department. This way you bypass the brass and hit the officers right in their stomachs. And chances are the Chief will be there to grab his share, too. An army travels on its stomach and a cop can't pass a donut shop. Bribery with food? You bet!

The above are a few suggestions, warnings, and ideas. Certainly there are many others. The fact remains that throughout this large land, most police officers have never met a Witch and carry with them the prevalent attitude towards us. It is up to us to change that opinion. No one else will. I hope this has been of help.

(Charles Barone has twenty years law enforcement experience and worked five years in various levels of private security prior to deciding to devote himself to writing. Chuck has one novel and several articles that have been published. The Witches' Voice is honored that he has graciously contributed articles for our site.)

Chuck Barone
(c) 5/18/97



"Living as a Witch in Rural America"
by
Charles J. Barone

Witch...To some the word has flavor. It rolls from the tongue, reminding them of power and energy, earth cycles and hidden secrets. Others view the word in a different light. These individuals shudder at the very mention of witch. The witch is evil. Witchcraft is a cult - with all the connotations that word implies.

Today Wicca/Witchcraft is the fastest growing religion in America, perhaps the world. It is accepted as a recognized religion by the United States Government.

So our Government accepts it: What's the problem? Simply, political acceptance does not necessarily equal public acceptance. Wicca has been recognized by the Government for a few years. The religion of Witchcraft has been demonized for a thousand years. Attitudes, misconceptions, and untruths abound. The misconceptions and lies can be corrected. Attitudes are more difficult.

A case in point. A couple of years ago, while still a Christian, I attended a small Bible Church in a nearby town. Typically, as Halloween approached, the subject of witches, etc came to the fore, with the usual stereotypical descriptions.

Several months later a new pastor arrived. His wife is a born again Christian, having converted from Wicca. She explained the religion to the congregation. Suddenly Wicca/Witchcraft was no longer an evil menace, but simply a religion of lost souls in need of redemption. She is a born again Christian, remember.

In a rural area such as this, even admitting that she had been involved in a Pagan religion was an act of bravery. The fact that she is the preacher's wife may have softened the blow.

How do witches in rural areas deal with the mindset of their neighbors? Do we stay hidden "in the broomcloset, " or make our belief's know, come what may?

A city witch has an advantage over her country cousin. Cities, as a rule, tend to be more liberal and accepting of the occasional "eccentric." A witch can lose herself in the crowd.

Rural America is traditionally conservative, Bible believing, and mistrustful of change. A person's eccentricities are more obvious in the smaller towns and villages. In my community the joke is that you are not accepted until at least the third generation. So, how to survive?

You don't have to broadcast your religious preference in order to make an impression. In the two groups with which I'm involved, I've yet to hear anyone join stating, "I'm a Catholic and would like to help."

I don't wear jewelry, even preferring a pocket watch to a wristwatch. I dress in the style of the area - jeans and boots - and wear my hair short, as does nearly everyone, including the youth. This locale hasn't moved into the 1960's yet, so I fit in comfortably, except in regards religion.

Other than a brief bout with vandalism in February, which I mentioned on the forum, I've had no problems. It has been mentioned to me that there is a male witch living in my tiny community, but no one seems to know who he is. Obviously the vandals know but aren't talking. A police report was made, probably contributing to the silence.

The only noticeable difference between me and the citizens of this small village is that I don't attend church. Even this can be explained. In this small town of 150 there are 8 non-Hispanics. We are presumed to all be Protestant.

How can you gain acceptance in your rural town or village?

  • Become involved in the community. Even a small town has activities and civic groups. If one interests you, even if it doesn't, attend the meetings or events.

  • If the town depends on wood for heating, as mine does, the villagers will not look kindly on a crazed environmentalist living in their midst, trying to stop tree cutting to save the spotted owl.

  • If you wear jewelry pertaining to the Craft, keep it hidden, or at least low key.

  • Keep your home and property attractive, bright and clean. When you paint your home, use colors that will attract positive energy.

  • In public, project positive energy. Greet people with a smile and kind word. In most cases it will be returned.

  • An advantage in rural locales is that rituals can be conducted away from inhabited areas. Another plus is that most people are farmers or ranchers and go to bed early. Mine are done indoors, but not from fear of being discovered. This area is infested with skunks. The nights belong to the polecats. Humanity is not always the sole problem in the country. Our skunks are aggressive, and have little fear of humans.

This short list makes no pretense at being complete, or even remotely complete. Using these tips, you can live happily as a witch in rural America, and make a contribution to the betterment of your town. Additionally, as the people come to know you, when the day comes that you decide to leave the broomcloset, you are more apt to be tolerated and, if not understood, at least safe from retaliation. Only you can make the judgment as to when that day will arrive. In my particular situation, I don't expect it in my lifetime. I hope you are more fortunate.

Chuck Barone
(c) 4/28/97



"Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance"
The Six-P Rule
by
Steve McManus

If you have been paying attention to the news in general, then you know that we are not living in as enlightened a time as we would desire.

Violence is a very real problem today and Pagans, especially Witches, are particularly at risk of harm. I have been asked to speak to you for several reasons, not the least of which is the propensity by some groups to adopt a mindset of "us and them".

Although there are many of us here and Witchcraft is enjoying an unprecedented positive exposure (it's the fastest-growing aspect in religion today), we are still among the very smallest of minorities in the context of all religions.

The vast majority of us, while almost always known to someone else in the "community" are closeted from society at large out of fear. This fear is not paranoia because it is reasonable to expect that it IS possible someone could cause you harm when they find out who you are. Their actions are born out of THEIR OWN fear manifested as ignorance and/or hatred. History has proven this as fact and it continues into the present day.

There is a two-sided coin of philosophy on the next point: To BE visible or NOT BE visible. Some in the Witch community feel that if you are visible and involved in the local affairs of your neighborhood, school or town and you participate in non-witchcraft activities with your neighbors so as to illustrate that you are just another neighbor, when the subject of "Witchcraft" comes up in your absence people will not be as likely to react with fear because they can reference it all to you, their "friend and neighbor" as opposed to you, the "weird one down the street who dresses funny and never talks to anyone". This advice is as coherent and valuable today as it would have been in 1497 or at any point during the "Burning Times" of old.

The truth of the matter is that the problems of Witches in those times started in a very innocuous manner. The Old Ways were still very much a part of everyday life but as more and more "norming" and "conforming" programs were launched from the pulpits of the mainstream "Big Three" (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) the people who were increasingly seen as being "different" were not conforming fast enough.

Independent thinkers could not be tolerated. Anyone not conforming would be ostracized and ridiculed by neighbors, threatened by local agents of government, pressured by family members and attacked by any or all of the above. This last paragraph should sound very familiar to you because nothing has changed.
Now let me get to the point.

I have observed that a great many Pagans (or at least the ones I have met) are by and large very open people. Some of them are quite trusting and ready to give help and support to others. Many of you have not had any major problems with harassment or attacks on the basis of your religion but a growing number of you are unfortunately experiencing just such a problem. In many cases it is the positive qualities listed above which make some people, Pagans included, such easy targets for aggressors.

Sometimes an attack on a Witch is the result of unchecked xenophobic momentum in the community. Sometimes Witches are the target of a concerted, premeditated and insidious campaign. I realize that statement sounds dangerously close to a mindset of conspiratorial paranoia but please remember that there are real victims of real attacks every year and it is only now, with the advent of the internet and sites like The Witches Voice, that you are able to be informed of them.

It is important that you ask yourself some questions.
Please consider the following:

Are you always aware of your surroundings?
People in your immediate area.
Vehicles parked nearby
Body language and vocal patterns of those within earshot
Things which are out of the ordinary and vary from a set pattern.
Phone calls that stand out in some way for you.
People asking you for some of your time without a stated agenda who seem evasive and intense.

Do you give out information about yourself freely?
Your physical address-Is it accessible on your web site?
Do you mention things about yourself in conversations with strangers which can later be assembled into a profile?
Have you discussed with other household members who answer the phone not to give out where you are at the time of the call, etc.?

Do you use your locks?
Do you lock your car doors (even when you are in it?)
Do you lock your doors and windows at home?
Do you firewall and/or password protect your computer files?
Do you secure your ritual implements and Book of Shadows adequately?

Who are you dealing with?
When someone approaches you, do you know who they are?
If a stranger(s) comes to your door to discuss something, do you let them in?
Even into an outer area and not "all the way in"?
Can anyone easily see you once you're inside that outer door?

In your mind, do you see people as being mostly devoid of agendas?
Ask yourself what the motivation would have to be for someone to harass you or attack you.
How outrageous would it have to be for someone to actually undertake the expenditure of energy, time and possibly money to target you for an untoward, overt act?



Pretty outrageous, right? Right... That is exactly my point.

There are innumerable individuals and groups in the United States today who are more than willing to impose their will on you by violent means. Some of them are sociopaths who don't need any ideology to couch their actions in. For them it is simply the violent crime which they wish to perpetrate. Sociopaths have no conscience, no sense of right and wrong as defined by society. They will target only those who pose the least amount of resistance. If you are confident, prepared, self-assured and clearly exhibit these traits, someone looking for an easy target will pass you by.

Others are somewhat more difficult to deal with. They are not easily dissuaded by your confidence. Instead they are incensed by it. They find it irritating and arrogant. They have a myriad of reasons for feeling the way they do. Many of them are extremely intense and focused in their beliefs. Very often their intense feelings regarding what you "represent" to them are knitted firmly into the fabric of a hard-line conservative religious background. They may feel as though it is their societal duty to "change your ways" or even expunge "your kind" from among them. Violence in the name of righteousness is acceptable to them. It is a collective mindset from such people that you are a cancer on all society and must be cut out by any means.

I have personally met such individuals and infiltrated a right-wing group to observe first-hand what is said and felt and conspired regarding "your kind" and although the great majority of these people are barkers and not biters, there are some of us being bitten even today... If you are not convinced, simply cruise over to the hot issues section of this site.

If you become paranoid it will decrease the quality of your life, but if you are aware of the occasional risks of being a Witch and use resources available to you, you'll probably be just fine. Good luck.

Blessed Be Well the Witches of the World,

Steve McManus
(c) 3/24/97



"Better Safe Than Sorry"
by
Nightbird (Rev. Tim Cranford, HP)

Having been the victim of a "fag-bashing" several years ago, I have learned much about protecting oneself. The first thing to remember, being mostly non-violent Pagans, is that while most of us may never be in this kind of situation, when your life is on the line it is important to know what to do, even if you have to harm the attacker.

Let's begin with weapons. Today's more volatile society has given birth to the sale of all kinds of devices for personal protection, like pepper spray, tear gas, mace, and more conventional weapons like guns. Before you purchase any of these things, you must remember that any weapon can be taken from you and used against you if you are taken by surprize or over-powered by the attacker. Don't let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security by possessing these items. Even the most experienced soldier can be over-powered under the right circumstances. If you do choose to own any of these devices, take the time to take a class on the proper usage of that device. A can of pepper spray won't help you if you aim it at yourself, and a gun won't protect you if you don't know where the bullets go.

So what can you do? Quite a bit, actually. Good common sense and a healthy dose of suspicion can, in many cases, save your life. Be always aware of your surroundings. Know what is going on in your vicinity, and pay attention to things that seem out of place. Listen to that basic survival instinct. If your gut says "Danger", then there ususally is a good reason. Take heed to the message and get to a safer place. Don't let yourself end up wandering around unfamiliar territory alone. Always travel in pairs or groups. There truly is safety in numbers. When attending public events, be mindful of showing any large amounts of money, jewelry, or other valuables. If you look like you have nothing to steal, then you reduce the chances of being robbed.

Never look like you are lost or afraid. This is like shouting "I'm an easy target, attack me!" If you have been drinking, don't wander off alone. Drunk people are easy targets, because they have impaired co-ordination, they lack the ability to think clearly while intoxicated, and they often don't know where they are. Always lock your car (even while you are in it), lock your doors and windows at home or at the hotel, and don't open the door to people you don't know. If you go on a shopping spree (my favorite sport), don't carry tons and tons of shopping bags loaded with goodies. If you have too many purchases to carry in one hand, you need to take them to the car (don't go alone), place them securely in the trunk, and go back inside if you need to do more shopping. And never walk around with your head down. This body language is read as insecurity and fear by a potential attacker. Hold your head up, walk with confidence, and don't be afraid to look around you in a complete circle. If you look like a door mat you will get stepped on.

If you are attacked, don't allow yourself to be taken from the initial crime scene by the attacker. Most victims that are killed loose their life only after being taken to the "secondary crime scene". If you can escape, do so. If you can fight back, do so. When I was attacked, my attacker made a mistake. He loosened his grip on me just long enough that I was able to turn around and do some damage. That was the window of opportunity for me, and had I not taken it, I would probably be dead. And yes, I have to admit that it gave me pleasure to know that his love life was going to be on hold for a long time. Now, obviously, if there is a gun pointed at you or a knife at your throat, there may not be much you can do. But if you get that window of opportunity, you must make that split-second decision. And yes, screaming "Fire!" will get you more attention than screaming "Help!" A scream, by the way, should curdle the blood and clear the lungs. If you draw attention to yourself and the attacker, chances are he/she will end the attack and run.

The last word here goes to the subject of personal information. On the web, you should never post any information that could be used to find you. An email address, a URL for a homepage, or an extremely general location (like, "I live in Texas", for example) should be plenty of information. If any further contact need be made, you can be emailed first, and decide on a case by case basis. Social Security numbers, driver license numbers, phone numbers, etc should never be given freely on the Web, on the phone, or on the street. Be smart. If a person had your Social Security number, they could find out anything they wanted to find out about you. The same goes for credit card/debit card/ATM numbers, and to a certain extent, driver license numbers. The first line of security for yourself is YOU.

Be safe this summer, and have fun.

Nightbird (Rev. Tim Cranford, HP)
(c) 3/30/97



"Take A Couple Of Precautions And E-Mail Me In The Morning!"
by
Charles J. Barone

The Internet. The World Wide Web. What a magical place! We can visit places and people around the world without ever leaving the safety of our own homes. But, really, how safe is it?

I make no claim to being an expert. I'm one who is challenged technologically replacing the ribbon on my old manual typewriter.

Rather than bore you with do's and don'ts, I'll review some of my mistakes, and relate a few of my perceptions. Many of you should already know these, but they bear repeating.

While taking my first hesitant steps into this new world, just a few short months ago, I made a few errors in judgement. My name and email address is plastered from Moscow Russia to Moscow Idaho, from Tokyo Japan to Kiev in the Ukraine, and everywhere in between. The Ku Klux Klan has my email address and possibly my home address as well, I don't remember. I've signed the guestbooks of left wing groups, right wing groups, and middle of the road groups.

One organization with whom I know I left my home address is MOM - The Militia of Montana. I've received letters and packets from them. As yet, I've gotten nothing from the Klan. Now I wonder who else monitors their site, and collects names and addresses for future use.

Stupidity on my part? Yes, certainly, though I would prefer to call it lack of knowledge. I was new, with no one to hold my hand and warn me of the dangers. Had someone done so, I doubt it would have made much difference.

Looking back at my early frenzy, I began to consider a few points, and what exactly I had done by scattering my name and address across the world. As a retired cop, presumably intelligent, I began to take a look at this Internet thing.

How secure is email? How safe are the forums? That depends. Many people, myself included, incorporate their last name into their email address. I conducted an interesting and educational experiment using names from the several Wiccan forums I frequent. As a result, with the help of easily accessible programs, I was able to obtain the addresses and phone numbers of quite a few individuals.

Where the addresses were unavailable, often I could locate the server, which narrowed my search geographically. Then it was a small matter to use information gleaned from posts on the forum to further pinpoint the individual.

How? A while back I returned from a brief trip to find people on the forum exchanging descriptions of themselves and where they lived. Very general descriptions, to be sure, but information nontheless. I took that information, along with the address or that of the server, plus other data. Were I still in law enforcement, or had the inclination to find someone, well . . . Cops often have far less to go on, but seem to get the job done.

Okay, you say, I use a different name, or my magical name. Fine, and that helps. In fact, I'd recommend it. Now, though, let's take it a step farther. Do you know with whom you're corresponding? Are you sure they're who they say they are? How open are you with them? How safe are you just because they may be several states away? Are they, in fact, that far distant?

I live in New Mexico. My server is fifteen miles up the road. I have strongly considered one based in California, which would put my email address in that state. If someone from New Mexico were to begin a correspondence with me, as far as they could tell I would be living in California, all the while coaxing information from them regarding themselves and their locale.

Far fetched? It's happening even as you read this. Email provides a false sense of security. A person's guard is relaxed and they tend to be more open than is normally the case. In reality it is not as safe as snail mail, where you can at least not include a return address. The forums are no different. A Pagan forum is no guarantee that everyone there is of a like mind. How many read, but never post? I call them lurkers, and we can only guess who they are, or what information they may be after. Most are only curious, many are shy or embarrassed. The one tenth of a percent who are none of the above are the ones with whom we should be concerned. In most cases even they are relatively harmless, though occasionally annoying.

There are some, however, called stalkers. They are no different from any other stalker, except possibly more dangerous. You can't see them. How do you know the friendly, kind, caring individual who answered one of your posts is who she says she is? What have you told her about yourself, where you live, where you work? Are you sure she IS a she?

Great! We can't even visit or write letters safely anymore. What do we do? Do we go back into hiding? Do we make our posts, or send our mail after carefully sanitizing every sentence to be sure nothing of who we are remains? Of course not! Life is full of dangers; without them we could never grow. We simply adapt. The same precautions exercised on the streets of our towns and cities are modified to assure our safety in cyberspace.

We try to be polite and friendly with strangers when meeting them on the streets. We smile, nod, say hello, but are cautious at the same time. As Pagans, we may tend to be even more cautious than others.

But on the forums, in a seemingly friendly environment, surrounded by others of like belief, our guard comes down. We often mention, when cautioning others regarding language or other matters, that the forums are open for anyone with a computer and an account to read. Why do we forget that what we say can be used against us when the talk evolves into descriptions of ourselves, our homes, and our families?

The same mindset occurs regarding email. We read the mail and decide whether or not to answer - unless it begins, "I saw your post on the forum." Then we feel obligated, even if the name of the sender is unfamiliar. I plead guilty to this, as well. I answer all mail that refers to either the forums or the Craft.

My references are primarily aimed at the forums. Perhaps a more dangerous environment are the various Chat Rooms. These feature real time talk. Although there are certain presumed safeguards, all that is needed is a password. Again, who are you talking with? It's a Pagan Chat Room, but is the person you're conversing with Pagan, Wiccan, or a member of the Manson Family?

I've visited Chat Rooms only several times. I assume I was speaking with a female during the several occasions, but I don't know. What I do know is that during two of the chats, I was able to get a presumed description of the woman, the city in which she lived, and one gave me her email address. I'm far from being suave or glib, and I didn't write down the email address, nor did I mention anything pertaining to myself. They never seemed to notice.

What if you're being harassed, or stalked. Print the letters and contact your Internet provider. The email address of the person will be on every piece of mail. Your server should take the appropriate action. A good start would be to change your mailing name. At the least the server with whom the person has an account should be contacted by your provider.

If the case is more severe, contact your provider AND your local law enforcement agency, again with copies of the letters. Then, in both cases, follow up to make sure something is done.

The net is educational, enjoyable, and fun. Where a large group of people congregate, whether in person or electronically, a tenth of a percent of them can ruin it for the rest. Basic precautions, that everyone is aware of but tend to forget, can make the adventure safe and enjoyable.

Charles J. Barone
(c) 3/30/97




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