Articles/Essays From Pagans
February 1st. 2019 ...
Paganism and Witchcraft in the Media
September 25th. 2018 ...
Understanding the Unseen
August 25th. 2018 ...
A Little Magickal History
Men and the Goddess
Back to Basics Witchcraft: Magical Creativity for Small Living Spaces
Kitchen Magic and Memories
Why the Faeries?
Magic in Daily Life
An Open Fire: Healing from Within
Cernunnos: The Darkest Wood in the Moon's Light
Gudrun of the Victory Gods
Ares and Athena
La Santa Muerte... The Stigma and the Strength
The Lady on the Stairs
The Wheel of the Year in Our Daily Lives
July 26th. 2018 ...
The Importance of Unification: Bringing Together Community Members to Invoke Cohesivity
May 29th. 2018 ...
Wild Mountain Woman: Landscape Goddess
April 20th. 2018 ...
Nazis Made Us Change Our Name
January 25th. 2018 ...
Finding Balance: Discipline Wedded to Devotion
November 15th. 2017 ...
September 30th. 2017 ...
July 31st. 2017 ...
Sin Eaters and Dream Walkers
July 2nd. 2017 ...
On Cursing: Politics and Ethos
June 1st. 2017 ...
The Sacred Ego in Mediterranean Magical Traditions
April 30th. 2017 ...
Tarot Talk: the Knight of Pentacles
March 30th. 2017 ...
Tarot Talk: the Ace of Swords
January 10th. 2017 ...
The Gray of 'Tween
Becoming a Sacred Dancer
Little Dog, Big Love
December 9th. 2016 ...
A Child's First Yule
November 10th. 2016 ...
What Exactly Is Witchcraft?
A Witch in the Bible Belt: Questions are Opportunities
On Death and Passing: Compassion Burnout in Healers and Shamans
What I Get from Cooking (And How it’s Part of My Path)
September 11th. 2016 ...
The Shadow of Disgust
August 12th. 2016 ...
When Reality Rattles your Idea of the Perfect Witch
Hungarian Belief in Fairies
Designing a Pagan Last Will and Testament
July 13th. 2016 ...
What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses
Magic With A Flick of my Finger
Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum
An Open Mind and Heart
June 13th. 2016 ...
Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia
My Father, My First God
Life is Awesome... and the Flu
May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
The Fear of Witchcraft
Magic in Sentences
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
December 20th. 2015 ...
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
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
May 6th. 2015 ...
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
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
January 1st. 2015 ...
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
September 28th. 2014 ...
Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
Creating a Healing Temple
August 31st. 2014 ...
Coven vs. Solitary
August 24th. 2014 ...
The Pagan Cleric
A Gathering of Sorcerers (A Strange Tale)
August 17th. 2014 ...
To Know, to Will, to Dare...
On Grief: Beacons of Light in the Shadows
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Pagan and Crazy
Article ID: 11710
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,319
Times Read: 8,279
RSS Views: 54,426
Author: Dr. Alexandra Chauran [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: April 22nd. 2007
Times Viewed: 8,279
I remember meeting my first prospective High Priestess and High Priest in a coffee shop. I arrived agonizingly early, purchased a chai tea and seated myself facing the door, scrutinizing everyone who entered. Finally a man and woman fitting the description arrived to greet me. We sat and chatted. I was charmed by them and eager to learn more about their group and their practice; intrigued by the faraway look the Priestess had in her eyes when she said that a Witch was essentially a Shaman.
I nervously wondered when the right opportunity would come up in conversation for me to mention a potential deal-breaker. I suffer from what most people consider to be a severe mental illness. As the conversation wound down to a close, the two Witches were satisfied with me and invited me to visit their home for their next meeting.
As the gentleman gathered up his coat he jokingly said, "you're not a psycho or anything, are you?"
"Actually, " I said, "there's something I have to tell you about."
We all slowly sat back down. I explained to them that I have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia; an incurable brain disorder that causes me to experience disorganized thinking as well as altered perceptions.
At the time of this writing, I have been managing my illness for about five years, and have been Pagan for considerably longer. My Pagan path has led me to British Traditional Wicca, which can be a complicated route to follow when mentally ill.
Not only do I deal with the psychological issues inherent in any religious practice that involves the supernatural, but Traditional Wicca requires that I work with others who are historically cautious about the company they keep. In fact, Ed Fitch wrote a document titled "So You Want To Be A Gardnerian" that implies that the ideal prospective coven member is, "not currently in psychological therapy."
Coven of the Wild Rose does not accept people who take psychotropic medications or require therapy and writes as a footnote to the above document that, "if you cannot function as a fully responsible adult individual in the mundane reality then you cannot function effectively in the magical/mystical realities and should not even attempt to do so until you have all your oars in the water and they are working all in proper tandem."
Their view may seem extreme or even discriminatory, but it is not unusual. In fact, most coven leaders that sincerely care about their members will at least view a mental illness as a red flag. After all, they owe nothing to an eager outsider, and it is in their best interest to be careful with whom they let into the most intimate part of their lives. Not only that, but there can be a real danger to the mentally ill person.
Some worry Witches may worry that their fellow Shaman may never return from the other worlds. Some religious practices might exacerbate an already precarious mental health situation. Ultimately, the decision as to whether to admit a mentally ill member is up to the individual coven or group in question.
Issues with reality differentiation be a monkey-wrench in a coven's engine, after all, nobody wants to explain to the psychiatrist on duty at the emergency room just what the patient was doing naked in the covenstead when he or she had a psychotic break. (Ironically, the reality issues for a Pagan in the psych ward go both ways. I can't tell you how many times my religion has been considered a delusion by a health worker who can't even spell "Pagan.")
A mentally ill Witch can trouble Elders in other, subtler, ways. Although schizophrenia is not a mood disorder, I know that other Pagans with emotional problems can have trouble finding a spiritual community. Prejudged as potential trolls, individuals with bipolar disorder or depression inspire visions of tearful meltdowns. It is often reiterated to prospective members that a coven is not a substitute for a support group!
With barriers like these, is it possible for a mentally ill Pagan to find a group in which they can be accepted? Though your mileage may vary, expect delays.
The wonderful couple that I met that night in the coffee shop politely and compassionately asked me to leave the group eight months later, the Priests last words to me that day were, "sorry we chickened out on you." After trying out a couple more groups, I was initiated into another coven a few years later that I currently consider my Family.
My mental illness extended my seeking process and may make my training much longer as well. However, this journey has taught me a few lessons I might otherwise have overlooked.
First, I learned to be honest about my limitations, not only with myself, but also with others. It could be argued that if I hadn't told anyone about my illness, they might never have known, but that wouldn't have done me any favors. It would have been especially cruel of me if I had to tell them later by telephone from within my local psych ward. I learned, also, to enjoy the time that I am spending with those who are with me, however brief that time may be.
I've also learned to be just as critical of potential Elders as they are of me. For the mentally ill, this can be an especially vital consideration, since our risks of being victimized can be greater and our pool of potential covens may be smaller.
The mentally ill are not always shunned in the Pagan community. Some groups consider being mentally ill akin to being an oracle!
It's important to be cautious of groups that pursue aggressively, and at the same time it is a fact of life that some groups do not desire mentally ill members. I have my own strengths, and even Elders have their weaknesses. Don't "settle" for questionable leaders simply because others may not be as welcoming.
If you're a mentally-ill Pagan and are asked if you're a "psycho, " you may do well to answer, "Why, yes! And what's your dysfunction?"
Dr. Alexandra Chauran
Location: Port Moody, British Columbia
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