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Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
When Perfect Love and Perfect Trust Are Less Than Perfect
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Author: Rev. Viktoria Whittaker
Posted: May 8th. 2005
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In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust. As a Wiccan priestess, I hold these words dear. I regard them as utterly sacred and holy. Indeed, these words represent one of the cherished cornerstones of modern Wiccan belief. When abuse happens in our midst, that trust is betrayed, especially when it happens between Pagans. To those witnessing abuse from the outside, it can be terrifying, even unthinkable, to think that any one of us would violate another in such a way. For the victims, not only does it mean going through the usual trauma associated with abuse, but also facing a crisis of faith and sometimes a shocking lack of support from one’s fellow Pagans. The natural response is denial. This can take the form of either pretending that the problem does not exist or by blaming the victim. We cannot and must not sweep the problem under the rug, for the sake of both victims and perpetrators as well as for our precious community itself.
All too often, a person who comes out of an abusive situation within the Pagan community finds that their fellow Pagans will respond with an attitude of “This must be your karma coming back at you” or “This is one of the lessons that your soul chose to have in this lifetime, so deal with it and leave us alone.” These responses may well logically spring from certain interpretations of Wiccan doctrine, but I personally find them as disgusting and reprehensible as the old, sexist response to a rape victim: “She must have been asking for it.” No one asks to be victimized. Period.
I have heard it said that “Being a Witch means never having to be a victim again.” As though becoming a Witch means that you will live happily ever after and nothing bad will ever happen to you again! Perhaps falling into an abusive situation does represent a challenge that our souls chose to have on our path. We need to remind ourselves that there is a reason why the term “victim” is eschewed by the rape prevention movement in favor of “survivor.” This is because by the very act of coming forward, telling one’s story and seeking justice one is refusing to be a victim. A person who wallows in victimhood is the one who will not step forward and try to improve their lives or get out of the abusive situation.
When dealing with someone who has experienced such abuse, give them an ear and a shoulder to cry on. Support them in any way you can. Honor their courage for escaping a bad situation rather than beating them up for having gotten into it in the first place. We all make mistakes. Help them with the healing process and help them to nurture their strengths. To that end, it would be useful to create and promote support groups and healing circles, both online and otherwise, for victims. Most of all, we need to deal with our own fears that cases of abuse in our midst can stir up. Creating a culture of mutual support can only strengthen us as a community.
Another important step in abuse prevention within our community is education. I feel that a key part of this education would be to collectively familiarize ourselves with the definitions and behavior of cults. For many people, the word “cult” is a dirty word. Understandably so, for it has been used as a tool of religious intolerance by depicting any and all new religions and sects as being something bizarre and dangerous. Keeping this unfortunate fact in mind, I will limit my own definition of “cult” to that of any group, religious or otherwise, that emphasizes the adulation of a charismatic leader and seeks to exert an unhealthy level of control over its members. A group does not have to specifically be religious in nature to fit this category. Sadly, so many covens can fit this definition, particularly those in isolated areas without larger, umbrella organizations or the surrounding community providing checks and balances on a high priest or priestess’s power over their coven members.
In order to protect ourselves from cults, we must first understand just what a cult actually is. There are a number of online tools available that can help, the best known of which, to fans of The Witches’ Voice, would be the venerable Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame at http://www.neopagan.net. Another tool that I have found to be extremely useful is the Coven Abuse Self-Help Index at http://www.wyrdweavers.org. In many ways, it is more practical because it describes very specific examples of behaviors that are the hallmarks of abusive groups and individuals. Also the Rick Ross Institute website offers a list of the traits that healthy and unhealthy groups have as well as an extensive database of known cults and controversial groups as a way of learning about real-life abusive situations. (Yes, Wicca is included, but all of the commentary about it is positive!)
What should be done with the perpetrators? It is vitally important to report any abuses you have direct knowledge of to the appropriate law enforcement authority. In terms of punishing the offenders it should be left up to the discretion of the criminal justice system – although petitions and sacrifices to the gods of justice certainly don’t hurt!
And yet, despite all the trouble and misery that they cause, abusive groups and individuals do have their uses as well. Like the dragons and other fantastic beasts of myth and legend, they form a challenge to overcome upon which heroes can prove themselves. It is perhaps the greatest irony about cults that one eventually finds what one was seeking from the cult by the very act of getting out!
As a community, we need to get past our denials and fears about abuse and abusers in our midst. The sooner we face these issues head-on, the stronger our community will become.
Rev. Viktoria Whittaker
Location: Palenville, New York
Author's Profile: To learn more about Rev. Viktoria Whittaker - Click HERE
Bio: Rev. Viktoria Whittaker is a First Degree Priestess in the Correllian Tradition and is the Assistant Priestess of the Schenectady Pagan Cluster. She is also an Armanic rune magician, Reiki practitioner, professional Tarot reader and cult survivor. She lives in Albany, NY with her husband and four fabulous, feline furkids.
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