Your browser does not support script
TWV Presents...



Articles/Essays From Pagans

[Show all]


Views: 21,510,870


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

On Preconceived Pagan/Wiccan Political Affiliations

Gudrun of the Victory Gods

Ares and Athena

La Santa Muerte... The Stigma and the Strength

The Wheel of the Year in Our Daily Lives

The Lady on the Stairs


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 ...

Witch?


September 30th. 2017 ...

Transitioning


July 31st. 2017 ...

Sin Eaters and Dream Walkers


July 2nd. 2017 ...

On Cursing: Politics and Ethos


June 1st. 2017 ...

Herbal Astrology

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

What I Get from Cooking (And How it’s Part of My Path)

On Death and Passing: Compassion Burnout in Healers and Shamans


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

Past Midnight


July 13th. 2016 ...

What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses

Magic With A Flick of my Finger

An Open Mind and Heart

Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum


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

Still Practicing


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 ...

The Other-Side


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...


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












Article Specs

Article ID: 9181

VoxAcct: 182975

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 5,139

Times Read: 9,841

RSS Views: 17,767
Pagan Predators

Author: Lisa Mc Sherry
Posted: May 1st. 2005
Times Viewed: 9,841

I am opening the door to a closet, one full of pain and well-hidden enough that most of us overlook its entrance. Some Pagans fear for their safety, their loved ones, and their livelihood simply because they are Pagan in a predominantly Judeo-Christian world, but I am more afraid of the beast in the closet: those Pagans who use our beliefs against us, who use us - physically, emotionally, or financially - for their own gain. Some of us had to learn the hard way that being Pagan does not ensure ethical behavior, and that many of our beliefs, if twisted, support predatory behavior.

Negative encounters with predator clergy, leaders, and magickal groups hurt us; we grow angry, vindictive, or bitter. Some of us have nervous breakdowns or suffer from panic attacks. Many choose to work only solitary, choosing to avoid any future pain by not working in groups at all.

I know of one woman who has dropped out of the Pagan community because her group experiences were so negative, each one involving a predator leader (sexual, domineering, and guru to be exact), both male and female. Although she found like-minded Pagans on the Internet, she still mourns the lack of physical companionship of other spiritual seekers and leaders.

Another woman’s sole Pagan work is with an informal network to ‘retrieve’ the victims of a nasty sexual predator. They have succeeded in raising awareness of him and his activities high enough that long-time Pagans shun him, but he keeps going, feeding on ignorant newcomers.

Why We Have Them

Paganism is not the only religion where predators take advantage; the Catholic Church is an example of that. However, the unique aspects of our religion, and our mindset, enable a predator to move easily among us.

In a religion where sex is not a sin, but a joyous celebration, a predator can twist the liturgy to support her getting as much sexual activity as she desires from chosen coven members, ignoring their personal preferences. I personally remember a couple of years ago when a person was traveling through the southern part of the United States ‘initiating’ young women. He would post an email to a local bulletin board for Pagan teens and if you were female, between the ages of 13 and 18, willing to have sex (as a required part of the ritual), and would never speak of the ‘sacred’ ritual to anyone else, he would make you a ‘real’ Witch. 1 More disturbingly, one of the earliest Craft books advocates the Initiation of a child into a coven within a year of the development of the physical attributes of reproduction. This initiation includes a ‘full sexual experience’ that may be preceded by the use of a ritual phallus to pierce the hymen. 2 The argument for this happening was so that the child’s first sexual experience would be within the warm, loving confines of the coven. It is too easy for a belief like this to support child abuse and sexual molestation. (Never mind the fact that most people feel that this doctrine is already molestation.) Further confusing matters, some Pagan practices are neither coercive nor predatory, but can seem that way to an outsider. For example, traditional Gardnerian covens worship skyclad, use a scourge in certain rituals, and have a very core ritual whose sexual implications are obvious, and intended. To the outside observer, it might be difficult to understand that nudity does not create sexual arousal, the scourge helps one achieve a drug-free altered state of consciousness, and that the ‘sexual’ rite does not necessarily involve physical copulation.

In these religions, where we espouse an attitude of ‘many paths, no one true way’ it is too easy for a predator to excuse himself and his harmful actions as his path and therefore no less valid than another’s. Who am I to say that how another person finds God/dess is wrong? I personally am uncomfortable with the idea of sharing and building energy through group sexual arousal, but I know of one group that does so and their leader is an amazing woman I learn from constantly; she is no predator. Pagans pride themselves on their tolerance and open minds, which is generally good, but we need to moderate these attitudes. A friend recently told me that when she makes a statement against some harmful activity promoted by other Pagans, she adds, "I keep my mind open, but not so open that my brain falls out on the floor and goes splat! The Goddess gave me a mind to do something other than keep my ears widely set - She intended for me to use it to think and to make judgments on what is good and bad, right and wrong. If that were not the case, She wouldn’t have given me a conscience!”3

Like many religions, many Pagan paths see service as an honorable path. Here, however, a predator can use secrecy and marginalization as excuses for her followers to support her through large ‘donations’ of money, food, or physical labor. This is very similar to the behavior found in cults. 4 Although acrimonious conversations about charging for services crop up fairly regularly within the Craft community, including ones about how much is fair to charge, let me be clear: Assisting your leader because you want to, or because it is your way of repaying her for her time and for training you is another matter entirely. In some culturally-derived traditions, for example, a long period of service is specifically required of newcomers (sort of an ‘if we train you, you OWE us’ belief). A new magickal group requiring long hours of service, or large donations, is a clear warning sign that a predator may be present. A key difference here is the longevity of the magickal group or tradition.

In a religion where secrets are expected, where a lot of training is one-on-one, happening behind closed doors and frequently oath-bound, it is easy for a predator to convince a victim that what is happening is part of the Tradition, or oath-bound, or required to truly understand the Mysteries. Not all uncomfortable or secret practices are warning signs of a predator. (A good teacher, for example will work with a student to identify and work through negative issues. That cycle of identification and work will frequently make the student uncomfortable, but the result is a healthier human.)

Who They Are

Pagan predators tend to be smart, manipulative, and very charismatic. They enjoy the power and the privileges that come with leadership, and little else. They dominate those who trust them, penalize those who get out of line, and neglect the true spiritual needs of their followers. They are preoccupied with hierarchical power, money, numbers and control. They are of little or no help when it comes to meeting the needs of group members. They see their magickal group as their personal fief - members are either resources or burdens.

It can be hard for a newcomer to recognize the difference between the healthy amount of control and discipline found in a good administrator and leader, and that of a power-hungry control freak. There are several warning signs that indicate you should take a closer look into, or leave, a magickal group. Examples include: requesting more time or money to finish a class; canceling the class with a promise to reschedule, but failing to do so; or being unable or unwilling to provide references, including personal history of training.

Conscientious Pagans may recognize the predators for what they are yet feel powerless to remove their authority. The predators are frequently firmly entrenched in seemingly impregnable positions of authority, either because they are well known and well loved outside their magickal group, or because they have succeeded in convincing their followers of their perfection. More frighteningly, they are usually completely oblivious to the harm they have done. In their eyes, everyone acts the way they do, or they deserve their special treatment.

How They Operate

Pagan predators are adept at collecting (and using) damaging information, emotional manipulation, and the politics of dominance. They use rumor and innuendo to diminish or drive away those who speak against them. They may even be the ones who cry loudest when wounded by criticisms of being unfair or unethical, twisting arguments against them around to wound those attempting to speak the truth.

Predators can come very close to crossing the line between legal and illegal, making it difficult to bring legal authorities into the matter. Remember that being a manipulative, emotionally abusive, bitchy, control-freak, is not illegal. Sexual coercion between adults is not illegal, nor is sowing dissent within a community. Being sleazy is not against the law. Being unethical does not equal being illegal. A predator’s followers will often be the ones aggressively attempting to shut the honest speaker up – either by threats or psychic attacks. Many a formerly assertive opponent will give up, unable to muster the energy or resources to maintain a constant, active, defense against these attacks.

Predators often look and sound very good, with beliefs and customs that are similar to those found in public documents. They may look and sound like ‘just’ what the untutored think a ‘real’ Witch should. The best way to spot the difference is that a good Pagan teacher or mentor is one whose goal is to have the student become their equal, or superior. The good ones can point to former students with pride at their ability to be great teachers.

Predators may only work within a special circle of people. The prestige associated with gaining entrance into that circle can place the unwary directly into the predator’s hands, diminishing the victim’s ability to see the negative aspects of the situation. The predator may be a great person in many respects, but have a hidden, dangerous side that only manifests in specific situations. Those who witness the predatory behavior are then in the difficult position of ‘tell or not tell.’ A position that becomes increasingly uncomfortable if legal action was attempted, but unsuccessful. Speaking ill of someone, even when true, can lead to charges of libel or slander. (Although, in America it is only slander if it untrue. It may get nasty, but if you have proof, counter-charges won’t succeed.) How can the ethical Witch respond when a newcomer talks about how she is so happy in a group lead by a (known-within-a-small-group) predator? As one acquaintance of mine said, “Speaking up can be viewed as violating Craft laws of secrecy and can also be seen as sour grapes.”

Predators, like many con artists, tend to have good reasons and background for their needs. For example, even if service is a part of the training process, the amount of labor or money donated increases steadily as you move closer to the inner core – until you end up in bankruptcy (at which point the victim can find themselves out of a coven as well as a home). The predators may pressure a group member to sell their home to the leader at a fraction of the market value ‘for the good of the coven.’ Maybe the High Priestess is evicted (by an evil landlord, of course!). Your offer of a temporary place to stay then turns into months of a housemate who contributes nothing, but costs a lot to maintain, and treats you like a personal slave.

Predators may engage in unethical behavior that seems to be happening between consenting adults. Even when the victim breaks away we cannot interfere and remain ethical ourselves. We cannot make the victim speak; we cannot tell their stories for them – that would be keeping them from creating and maintaining their own power. Until they do, the sphere of silence is kept, protecting the predator.

What Can We Do?

One solution is to do better to warn newcomers to Paganism. We can post information on websites, talk about predators in lectures, and mention them in discussions. Since much of the predator’s ‘easy’ prey comes from those who simply don’t know enough yet about their new Path, reaching out to them can save a lot of future grief. Unfortunately, since we are such wide-open religions, what seems manipulative to one tradition may seem perfectly sensible to another. It’s enormously difficult to reach out in any kind of concerted manner. We don’t have a single source of information, and this topic is not one you find in the Craft’s literature – popular, scholarly, or fantastical. Nor do we WANT a single source of information, because we recognize that it simply is not possible given the diversity of beliefs, viewpoints, and attitudes found under the Pagan ‘umbrella’ of religions.

We can do better amongst ourselves in talking about the predators. If a Pagan leader is engaging in illegal activity, we can take it upon ourselves as ethical beings to bring the Law into the matter. Child abuse, rape, sexual harassment, threats, stalking, and physical abuse are all things that the Law should deal with.

We can monitor our own backyard, and share information over the fence with others. This is an incredibly difficult task. It may require us to be more public than we are now (if I go to the police with a story about a Pagan’s abuse, I must be prepared to state that I am also Pagan). We can find the accusations turned against us, and perhaps we too have a few skeletons we’d prefer were never visible again, a threat that can keep us silent. One acquaintance of mine said that, in her opinion, the best way to deal with Pagan predators was to drag it out into the clear light of day where everyone can see it for what it is. Another acquaintance responded that, in her experience, shedding light only starts a divisive Witch War leaving everyone burned. It is possible that this can vary greatly by community with large numbers of public Pagans supporting a healthy discussion and dialogue of ethical violations versus misunderstandings. This can be especially true if the offense happened between adults, and is something (like harassment) that is difficult to prove.

We can view charges of predatory behavior with discerning eyes and work to uncover the truth before taking a side.

We can face the predators ourselves, knowing that we may be in for a rough time. We can speak the truth, then stand by it, and hold to that in the face of adversity, knowing – as only one who works magick can know – that we are right, and eventually their power will turn on them. We can presume that the predator’s followers are intelligent and will eventually begin to ask questions. Questions are a predator’s bane: prey are sheep, with no thoughts in their heads. A questioning sheep transforms into an equal, with power and authority; the prey disappears.

We can be tolerant, but discriminating of other Pagans. It is valuable to be accepting and understanding of idiosyncrasies and different points of view, but we need to be selective about the company we keep. It does me no good at all to live an ethical, honorable life if I am making excuses for the outrageous behaviors of those around me.

One thing we can’t do is come up with a set of one-size-fits-all Pagan religions guidelines. What I see as trespassing on personal safety may be a core element of another’s ritual system. Some of us think that working magick at the dark of the moon is valuable, others wonder why we are working at a ‘null energy’ time, and still others see it as working with negative energy, and therefore a Bad Idea.

We are not the only religions to suffer from predatory depredations: they are present in every religion, from Buddhists to Sikhs to Taoists. The solution is not simply ‘find the predators and send them away;’ they are too hidden, supported, or popular. What I know is this: Unless we recognize and restrain these predators, they will continue to bring pain into our communities and harm our people. As long as we keep them hidden in the closet, we tacitly give permission for the abuse to occur.




Footnotes:
1. To my knowledge, he was never caught; then again, I do not think he is still operating, either.
2. Frost, Gavin and Yvonne. The Good Witch’s Bible. Godolphin House, Hinton, WV. 1972, pgs. 65-71.
3. Fisher, Barbara. Private conversation, September 2004.
4. From Bonewits, “[the] Amount of money and/or property desired or obtained by group; emphasis on members’ donations;” where a higher score equals higher likelihood of being dangerous to members.

(Grateful thanks to Barbara Fisher, Sunfell, and Erica Frank for their assistance in writing this article.)



Copyright: May be freely distributed as long as author name and contact information is included.



ABOUT...

Lisa Mc Sherry


Location: Northwest, USA

Website: http://www.cybercoven.org

Bio: Lisa is a Priestess of JaguarMoon and the author of The Virtual Pagan, CyberCoven.Org, and Magickal Group Dynamics. She is a Reviewer for The Beltane Papers, and a frequent contributor to SageWoman and PanGaia.




Other Articles: Lisa Mc Sherry has posted 2 additional articles- View them?

Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE




Email Lisa Mc Sherry... (Yes! I have opted to receive invites to Pagan events, groups, and commercial sales)

To send a private message to Lisa Mc Sherry ...



Pagan Essays
1996-2019





Pagan Web
8,000 Links





Pagan Groups
Local Covens etc.





Pagan/Witch
80,000 Profiles














Home - TWV Logos - Email US - Privacy
News and Information

Chapters: Pagan/Heathen Basics - Pagan BOOKS - Traditions, Paths & Religions - Popular Pagan Holidays - TV & Movies - Cats of the Craft - Festival Reviews - Festival Tips - White Pages (Resources) - Issues/Concerns - West Memphis 3 - Witch Hunts - Pagan Protection Tips - Healing Planet Earth

Your Voices: Adult Essays - Young Pagan Essays - Pagan Perspectives (On Hold) - WitchWars: Fire in the Craft - Gay Pagan - Pagan Parenting - Military - Pagan Passages

Pagan Music: Pagan Musicians - Bardic Circle at WitchVox - Free Music from TWV

Vox Central: About TWV - Wren: Words, Wrants and Wramblings - Guest Rants - Past Surveys - A Quest for Unity

Weekly Updates: Click HERE for an index of our weekly updates for the past 6 years

W.O.T.W. - World-Wide Networking

Your Town: A Link to YOUR Area Page (The largest listing of Witches, Pagans, Heathens and Wiccans on the Planet)

VoxLinks: The Pagan Web: 8,000 Listings

Your Witchvox Account: Log in Now - Create New Account - Request New Password - Log in Problems

Personal Listings: Pagan Clergy in Your Town - Adult Pagans - Young Pagans - Military Pagans

Events: Circles, Gatherings, Workshops & Festivals

Covens/Groups/Orgs: Local Groups Main Page

Other LOCAL Resources: Local Shops - Regional Sites - Local Notices - Global/National Notices - Local Skills & Services - Local Egroups - Political Freedom Fighters

Pagan Shopping: Online Shops Index - Original Crafters Sites - Auction Sites - Pagan Wholesalers - Pagan Local Shops



Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2019 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.

Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections
(including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wren’s Nest, etc.)
are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witches’ Voice, Inc.
TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.

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.
Witches, Pagans
of The World




Search Articles
1996-2019










 Current Topic
 Editorial Guide


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).