Saturday, January 3, 2009

Saturday Special Stones – Not - Bullying by Pagans?!?

“Saturday Special Stones” is going to be put on hold for a while :( Unfortunately for the next several months (and the last few, too actually) I have to work until 9 on Friday night, and be back in at 9 on Saturday morning. In order for me to be able to do this feature properly, quite a bit of time needs be spent on research, and I just don’t have that  time available right now…I plan to post something, I just haven’t determined a theme yet, so please bear with me while I get it figured out. Thank you to all 3 (if even that many) regular readers of mine for your patronage & patience. For today, I’m just going to leave you with this, I feel, necessary and informative article – the original can be found at The Problem of Pagan Bullying.

Bullying by Pagans?!?

Most people, when asked why Paganism appeals to them as a spiritual path would cite as part of the reason the tolerance, compassion and acceptance that they found from others in the Community. Generally speaking, this would be a fair statement - most Pagans are like this. Unfortunately, as in all religions, there are some who are not as interested in the spiritual aspects as they are in gaining and keeping power over others.

One problem we have is that Paganism is infested with various types of bullies, intent on creating rifts between people so that they gain control of the Communities they deal with. The most common way these people achieve this is through the spreading of rumors and lies in an effort to drive targeted people out of the Community and make those remaining afraid of sharing the same fate if they take a stand against the bully.

Persons who act this way are a great danger to our Communities, and not just to individual people. They help to confirm the negative image that mainstream society already has about Paganism, and this is not beneficial in our struggle for religious equality. We need to put our differences aside, stop trying to make ourselves feel superior by bad-mouthing others, and grow up already!

While an incredibly diverse crowd, individual Pagans often have a few things in common: 1) we are usually well educated (or at least well-read) and more aware of history, environmental issues, current events and politics than the average population; 2) most of us are tolerant of differences between people, and able to live and let live; 3) many of us have been emotionally wounded at some point in our lives; and 4) we have almost always left mainstream religions, whether of our own volition or because we felt rejected by them. This wounding and/or religious rejection leaves some of us vulnerable, or at least sensitive to the opinions of others.

Unfortunately it can also make for a predator's paradise because they can choose from plenty of people and be fairly confident that no one in the Community will come to their target's aid. It thus becomes easy for bullies to gain control of the situation and the Community, able to drive out those who take a stand against them and manipulate whoever is left over. Gradually those left drift away and join other Communities or become solitary. This is how Pagan Communities fall apart, and also why many so solitary Pagans have e-mailed me, saying that they want nothing to do with others of our kind in case something similar happens again.

I personally have been Pagan since my early teens, but it has been only in the last five years that I got involved in the larger Community.  I was led to believe that we are an intelligent, tolerant lot (and most of us are). Of course, I was a bit idealistic - we are human beings after all, and we do have individual faults. However, I never expected to see exclusionary practices performed by a group of people who themselves know what it is to sit outside of mainstream society.

Being who and what I am, I will not sit by and accept the status quo. If the existence of this website doesn’t help me, perhaps it can help other people facing similar situations.

What I Found in My Research

When I started having problems with someone in the Community I read several books on bullying, went to numerous web sites and posted my own story on web boards trying to get advice, but frankly, there is little help to be had in this situation. I examined material on schoolyard, work-related, and various types of religious bullying. If it was school or work-related there would a lot more options, but bullying in a religious community is more-or-less thought of as a social problem and so considered less important. However, many of the work-related situations in particular do apply to things in the Pagan Community, and so do some of the solutions. I therefore started building this website as a resource for people in my position, who are willing to fight back.

Obviously this site is focused on bullies who operate within the Pagan Community, but all bullies are basically the same, and so are the methods of dealing with them. Most of what is written here can be applied to adult bullies elsewhere.

I spent months delving into this subject, and very quickly found out that bullying is almost as common in the Pagan Community as it is in other parts of society. What also became really obvious to me is that Pagan (and mainstream) bullies count on the probability that the Community will not unite against them if they pick us off one by one. 

Bullies, slanderers, narcissists and character assassins all have several things in common, so I will be using the words more-or-less interchangeably.

Have You, or Do You Know Someone in the Pagan Community Who (for no good reason) Has Been:

regularly subjected to destructive criticism where opinions or suggestions are ridiculed, overruled, shouted down, sneered at, patronized, dismissed or ignored? Yes, we all feel like this sometimes, but I'm talking about feeling like this a lot of the time, and caused by the same specific people

undermined, especially in front of others, had false concerns raised, or doubts expressed about their knowledge? A false concern is expressing doubt where there are grey areas, in order to make others wonder about the target's truthfulness. For example an individual might know a famous witch or author well and are able to explain their views on various topics, but someone (who does not have any proof to the contrary) claims this is highly unlikely, or worse, calls them a liar

ostracized by others in the Community, or isolated and excluded from what's happening? Do people often "forget" to tell them things that are going on, or invite them to public events? While it is possible that the excluded person did something to offend someone, I'm referring to times when this happens for no obvious reason other than the head bully has taken a dislike to them and pressures others to leave them out of the loop

singled out and treated differently (for example, everyone else can become emotional in ritual, but when the target does it, it is made fun of)? Contrary to some people's speculations, this is not from personal experience - I think very few people who know me would dare to make fun of me to my face - but it's a common theme from people who have been targeted, and it's wrong to behave this way.

the target of offensive language, personal remarks, or the subject of unwanted sexual behavior?  This point does not mean that we cannot swear once in a while - it refers to deliberately trying to offend a specific person, especially after they have shown sensitivity to certain topics. Unwanted sexual behavior is never acceptable for any reason, and the truth is some people use it as a weapon, either to gain more power or to frighten people out of the Community. It's not the Community's problem unless it's accepted behavior from one of its members, or people look the other way when they know it is happening, but it does happen in all religions  from time to time and there is no point in trying to deny it

experienced taunting and teasing where the intention is to embarrass and humiliate, especially in front of others? This does not refer to the good-natured teasing that we all engage in with our friends, where everyone (including the target) laughs and joins in the fun. This is the type that is done to hurt someone's feelings, embarrass them, expose confidences or otherwise make the target feel uncomfortable. Too many people engage in this kind of teasing, knowing that if their target objects they can say "I was just kidding!" or "Where's your sense of humor?" to wiggle out of culpability and make the person look more foolish to people who don't know the whole story

either overloaded with the work of the coven or shut out altogether (or given all the menial jobs)? Yes, many covens are closed to newcomers and many have a specific hierarchy -- but what I'm referring to is unfairness in the distribution of work or responsibility because one person has targeted another. There is also the fact that sometimes certain people in a coven are more favored than others, so they get their degrees and designations far more quickly than those not so well-liked by the High Priest or Priestess even though they may be equal in knowledge and ability.

had their ideas plagiarized, stolen or copied by the bully, who then presents the ideas as their own? It's very hard to prove that something was your idea after the fact, and bullies are very skilled at making it look as if the person with the original idea is jealous

the subject of unfair or nonsense complaints by other members of the Community (some of whom may have been persuaded to make up their accusations. Complaints are trivial, often bizarre "He looked at me in a funny way" and often bear strange similarity to each other, suggesting that they have discussed what they will say with the others involved)? Again, for no apparent reason and sometimes out of the blue.

getting unpleasant or threatening calls or are harassed with intimidating notes or emails with no verbal communication? Yes, you can hang up, throw out the notes and delete the e-mails, but that would be a mistake if you really are being bullied. You may need this information as evidence later - record all incidents carefully and keep all physical evidence

encouraged to feel guilty, and to believe they’re always the one at fault?

facing ejection from the coven or Community on fabricated charges or flimsy excuses, often using a trivial incident from months or years previously?

If you answered "yes" to five or more of the above questions, you probably are or have been the target of a Pagan bully. If the positive answers apply to someone else, you have to ask yourself what you plan to do about it. 

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader's personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

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