Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to observe several individuals whose behavior has gone well beyond that acceptable even to such an accepting community as ours. While I have finally become peripherally involved in this unappealing mess, and the email is happily flying far and wide, it is not the present open conflict that I wish to discuss. Because things did not come to this point from nowhere. There is a lot of background and I wish you all to consider just what has contributed to the present state of affairs.
First of all, almost everyone actually and honestly dislikes confrontation. Well, why not. It isn’t at all pleasant and unless you are very argumentative and competitive there is practically no joy in it for any of us. And so when things are proposed in a meeting that we don’t quite agree with, we shrug our shoulders and say nothing. We don’t want to take a chance of starting a witch war. And when some untaught idiot declares that he or she is an important high Priest/ess and they will judge whether or not YOUR or someone else’s initiation is valid, maybe you sit low in your chair and tell yourself that surely soon everyone will notice that the so and so has absolutely no idea of what he/she is talking about. Why start a witch war over it?
How often do you let little bits of oppression go by because you don’t want to get into it with someone? Wicca, of course, does not lend itself a fully democratic or consensual pattern any more than a high school does, and for much the same reasons. Most Wiccan groups are made up of a teacher (or teachers) and students. The students are generally at various levels, some seniors, some freshmen, but students none the less. And because Wicca has to teach non-objective processes, teaching generally includes times when the student must follow the teachers directions without understanding why. In a situation like this, a certain amount of autocratic behavior is unavoidable. Additionally, the students are in the group because they want something that they can only get if the teacher says so–initiation.
Pretending that a teaching group can be run completely upon fairness and democratic principals is to build an atmosphere of untruth that cannot in the long run serve the group well. In earlier times, witch wars could be more difficult to start because groups tended to be far more widely separated. The old rules separating covens by a league, a hundred miles or whatever measure was convenient to the person editing The Laws, are impossible to apply in a modern urban setting. They wouldn’t help anyway. With the greatly increased mobility of our culture, the enormous number of gatherings available, and more even than these, the Internet, neither closeness nor distance has much effect.
It’s ironic that in these days when students are rather more plentiful than are the teachers to work with them; when two groups, representing theories of Wicca so disparate that students suitable for one group would almost certainly be turned down (or soon leave) by the other; wars over student grabbing can still occur.
But back to my topic, I think that we set ourselves up for these witch wars. When a group of normally intelligent people sit there and vote someone in as dictator; when dozens of rightfully respected leaders allow a thoroughly inappropriate person to assume a position of leadership; when Priests and priestesses who have already been victimized by a so-called leader whose in it for the money (and sex) allow the person to keep on operating; when leaders who earned their degrees with years of work and study accept a “third” degree who hadn’t even heard of the tradition until night before last when h/she slept with the Priest/ess; then they bear a great deal of responsibility for the damage the behaviors that these people do to the Craft.
I realize that I have a reputation for being obnoxious. I earned it! When the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, I’ll go out and announce it to all the world. You mean you hadn’t noticed the old fart was naked? Don’t make me laugh; you’re intelligent, observant, and have normal eyesight (with correction). You just didn’t want to “make a fuss”. Well, I don’t expect you’ll be surprised to know that I think we need more people making a fuss.
There’s so much that’s right about Wicca and with how things are going for Wicca. We should be proud of what we’ve achieved, but there is also a lot wrong. We still don’t need any popes, no inquisitions, and we don’t need to be a fertile field for malicious gossip. What we need to do is to take responsibility. We can’t destroy our charlatans, our candidates for Wiccan pope, our ill intentioned masters of manipulation and inventors of ugly gossip, can’t jail them, can’t even run them out of town. But we can laugh them to death! We can speak out when we know something is just plain wrong, when it’s abusive, when it’s deceitful.
Those who stay above criticizing anyone, who make their lordly way urging everyone to keep the peace at any costs, who knowingly allow inquirers or new students to be victimized by someone they know to be an inappropriate teacher are contributing to the wrongs. Blowing the whistle may not make you popular, but it does contribute to getting a good night’s sleep.
Don’t interpret this to mean that I’m advising you to let yourself go, judge every group not in your own line as “not really Wicca” and criticize every other HP around in an attempt to increase your own greenness in this little pond of ours. As well as weeding out the thoroughly inappropriate people who have clawed themselves to some sort of position in our world, we need to increase the respect due to those teachers, Priest/esses and leaders who have the well being of the community and their own people fore. most in their minds. We need to spend more effort in treasuring our good leaders as we do in laughing the bad ones out of Dodge. And NOT just the ones who perfectly agree with us. Whatever their tradition, if it’s goal and methods are oriented toward the growth of the members and students, it is our responsibility to support their efforts. We’re not in some kind of Olympic competition here. I don’t care if the Temple of the Goldenrod has more qualified third degrees than my own Warhoop Wiccan Tradition. What’s important is that Lord Wellendowed and I support each others paths and are not reticent in our opinion that Lady Kissmybutt is teaching pure, unadulterated Witchcrap.
Responsibility seems to me to be the A #1 most important ingredient in personal honor, a subject about which we certainly have heard a lot of nonsense. Honor is doing what you said you’d do, EVEN IF IT HURTS! Honor is looking inside yourself all the time so you KNOW what your motives are. Honor is standing up for what’s right and making a fuss about what’s wrong. Wisdom is finding a way to tell the two apart. Responsibility is making sure of your facts either way before you open your yap. If somebody told you that being a high priest/ess was going to be a piece of cake, I’ve got news for you: they lied! It’s hard work getting there and it’s a lot harder living up to it. All the same, I’m asking you to do just that; live up to it.