Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Medicinal and Magical Herbalism

I've always been fascinated by Herbalism.  Once upon a time, I had fantasies of having a cupboard that I could go to and be able to cure any ills that beset my family.  It fitted in with the idealistic image I had of a Traditional Cunningwoman.  Herbs hanging from the rafters, jars filled with remedies, cures and charms and the ability to fix everything.  I pictured myself as an infallible healer of all things physical and spiritual.

Then I spent a year training at the Canterbury College of Natural Medicine.  I have a Certificate of Natural Health.  In that time, I learned that it's really not that simple and is usually a lot of work, trial and error.  There is so much more to it than reaching for the right herb or even the right part of the herb.

My certificate was a taster in a variety of modalities.  There were more in depth and advanced courses that could be taken to specialise in any of the areas that we studied.  While I did learn a lot of useful things that have made a difference to most minor ailments in my family, I recognise that it does not qualify me to treat anything more serious and I wouldn't try.

With this background in place, I am frequently horrified by herbal recommendations that I see online.  Many groups now have rules against giving medicinal herbal advice and with good reason.  Many apparently safe herbs have nasty contraindications and bad interactions with medication.  You can't know for sure when reading someone's question what the source of the problem is.  You can't know that they're telling you the whole truth, learn about family history and you can't know anything about their physicality - all of which are important.

Now there comes people wanting to be special and create their own websites.  I wrote about Mr V and his appalling website just a couple of days ago.  I am not going to provide a link to his website, because he takes page views and shares as validation - even though I know many of those views and shares are people reading it in horror and sharing it to other places as a warning about bad and dangerous information.

Instead, let me do a screenshot (he gave permission for this) of his latest offering, under the heading Angel's Turnip: A Monograph:

I guess we got lucky in that he's now citing sources.  But I also read up on one of those sources, the Plant Biographies by Sue Eland and found that he missed out some really important information.  To be specific:

Warning – bitter root is poisonous and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. It can cause nausea, purging, lowered heart rate, vomiting, appetite loss and death. The milky juice can cause blistering on the skin. Livestock have been killed by eating the leaves.

I'm quite sure that any of you reading can see why this is problematic.  On his website, he recommends chewing on a root as a cure for "some weird western medication" while one of his sources says it's poisonous and should only be used under qualified supervision.

This was raised, and well, I'll give you a snippet of how the conversation went:

This is a fairly standard response from this chap.  I pointed out that I have a herbal that recommends white lead and mercury in salves and ointments but so far that appears to have been ignored.

What really, really scares me about this is that people share his view that warning about the dangers of untrained, unqualified advice like this is just fear-mongering and that it's all perfectly safe.  He has no formal training - he has freely admitted this, he is picking and choosing what information to share from useful websites (leaving out the safety warnings) and using other questionable websites.

If a few leaves can kill livestock - animals with a digestive system designed to process many things that will kill people and weighing at least three times the average person and usually more like five or six times the weight of the average person - imagine what it will do to you.

Sadly, he just doesn't seem to take any of it seriously and beyond giving out warnings, I don't know what else I can do.

Will it take a death and a lawsuit before it stops?

Still disheartened


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Learning to Walk Before You Can Run

One of the reasons I started writing was because of the sheer volume of rubbish that is available regarding Witchcraft and Paganism.  Some of it is superficial, some of it is incomplete, some is very prejudicial and skewed towards or against certain paths, some of it is pure fantasy and some of it is completely incomprehensible.

It has always left me confused as to how some of it comes to be published.  In some cases, it's clear that a person practices that way and possibly it even works for them (if they actually do most of what they talk about), but their tone or their words say that this is the only right way to do it or that.

In the last couple of weeks, I have watched the creation of a new website that first laid claim to being a Shaman's archive and is now claiming to be a Wiccan archive.  The creator of this website, lets call him Mr. V, posts it up on his facebook group, now that he has decided to be a part of his group again, and asks for feedback.  There follows generally a loop:  Firstly, the experienced practitioners point out failure to cite sources, that this article has been scraped directly from another website or out of a book, going through the flaws in each article one at a time and suggestions that spellcheck is your friend and that an editor or proofreader would be a valuable thing.  Then Mr. V says things like "You guys have opened up my eyes" and "Okay I get it" and removes all content from the website.  He asks for suggestions and gets a lot of useful ones about learning to walk before he can run, getting some experience before trying to teach others and perhaps keeping a journal detailing this stuff he's trying rather than putting it up somewhere public where other beginners may assume that he knows what he's talking about. I can only assume that the next step is someone in the background blowing smoke up his arse and bitching about what a bunch of negative nellies those people are and he changes his mind and puts it all back up again and the cycle begins anew.

Normally, I would laugh and leave most of this alone.  But some of the information he has put up has been dangerous.  He claimed some things were safe to eat in small doses when really they are not.  They are toxic if uncooked and/or unripe.  Other completely toxic herbs had no warning about the dangers of ingesting them.  On his facebook group there were recommendations for ingesting crystals.  When this was thoroughly discussed including warnings from medical professionals, a PhD in Chemistry and others pointing out his failure to state which crystals and how they were prepared - it came way later that he was talking about only two specific crystals (which still remained unnamed) and making elixirs rather than grinding and eating the crystals as was first implied, he just told everyone that we have no idea how much he knows and what he's done successfully and finally he just deleted the thread.

The other concern about Mr. V is by his own accounts, he took a bunch of the herbs he claims are perfectly safe, to go on a Shamanic journey and ended up spending time in a Mental Health Facility after having a three month long psychotic break.  He's only just come back into society from this event.  We can't possibly know all the ins and outs of the story, but it doesn't inspire confidence in what he has to teach - especially as it doesn't seem like he wants to serve as a horrible warning or a "What Not To Do".  He also believes that because he's in Canada, he won't be legally liable for an American teen coming to harm by following his herbal advice.  This is completely fallacious by the way.

He claims he'd like "constructive criticism" this time, but what he means is a validation echo chamber.  He doesn't want to hear what is wrong with his article, he wants his ego stroked and for all of us to suddenly recognise how wise he is and how wrong we were about him all along.  We frequently hear complaints of "You don't know me, you don't know what I do or what I know" in petulant tantrums worthy of a terribly misunderstood teenager.  He's right, we don't.  All we can judge him by is what he posts and that is dreadful.

Although today that took a new turn.  Apparently he's fed up with the women picking on him even though he expected it because such sexism is common in pagan circles.  Somehow he's totally missed the men have been calling him on his stuff just as much as the women.  For the most part, the women have been far more polite.  But well, why pass up a chance to be a victim?  And such a whiny pathetic victim he was.

None of this is new, many people before him have done the same things and I know that.  It just scares me that there is this entire community of people basing their practices on this kind of website.  I keep telling myself that I know the type, they won't hear the warnings from those who know better, but I try anyway.  I keep feeling disappointed when they don't hear the warnings and resort to name calling, perpetual victimhood, flounces and bannings.  But I still find it in me to hope that the next one will be different.

Disheartened Blessings


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

What Does It Mean?

Within witchcraft and paganism there is plenty said about seeing messages in everyday things, finding meaning in the simplest of things.

While I agree that messages from higher powers can come in the simplest forms, I am often somewhat surprised by the lengths people will go to in order to find meanings in everything.

These two pictures are the kinds of things that commonly pop up in witchcraft groups.  They are vague, filled with unnecessary woo and feed the rampant stupidity that is taking over.

When you discover a feather, it means that a bird has lost it.  In my own case, the wind has probably blown through my chicken coop as I have birds of many different colours in there.  There are also a multitude of wild birds around.  They moult, they are caught by cats, hawks and magpies - all things that will cause them to drop feathers.  Discovering a feather usually means nothing more than it's no longer attached to a bird.

If you were to discover a feather in a place where it shouldn't be - in your handbag or underwear drawer (assuming you don't have any reason to have feathers there) - then and only then I would consider it to be a message or have another meaning.  First however, I would rule out all mundane options.  Then I would ask that if it's a message for it to be repeated and be made clearer.

If a feather is posted to you, depending on the type of feather, it can mean that someone wants you to know they're cursing you.  Or wants you to think they're cursing you.

As for candle flames, there are many reasons for a candle to have a strong or weak flame, for the flame to dance or jump or make noises or even for there to be two flames.  A poorly trimmed wick, the wrong wick for the size of the candle, a cheap candle that has been badly made, dirt or other materials on the wick or in the candle sometimes at the time of manufacture or even a faint draft.

When I was fairly new to all of this and believed that every little thing held a message, I used to frequently use essential oils in a vaporiser - one of those ones heated by a tea-light candle under the dish.  My vaporiser was round like a vase and had a teardrop shaped hole in the front for the candle.  The shape of the vaporiser meant that every time I burned a tea-light in there the flame danced and turned in circles.  But I do recall that I felt awestruck and filled with woo the first few times.

One time I was certain a candle was behaving oddly and there was a message in it was at a ritual for a specific Goddess.  The altar and the room were filled with candles.  The two on either side of the Goddess statue had flames standing strong, 4 - 6 inches high, while all the other candles were normal flames.  Those candles with the extra tall flames also burned considerably slower than the others, despite being the same candles from the same manufacturer out of presumably the same batch.  We took that as a sign that the Goddess was aware of being honoured and was pleased with it.

Another one I have come across:

"I got a double yolker egg this morning.  What does that mean?" 

I have hens of my own and I work in an egg farm.  Double yolkers are nothing particularly unusual or special.  It means that either a pullet (young bird just starting to lay) didn't finish yesterdays egg and you ended up with two eggs fused together in one shell or an older bird was interrupted partway through the egg formation process and didn't finish it until the next day and you ended up with two eggs fused together in one shell.  You can often tell a double yolker by looking at the shell.  There will sometimes be a raised line about a centimetre wide or less where the two eggs meet.  Less common, but it still happens is an egg inside an egg.  This is usually when the hen was interrupted earlier in the process - sometimes this tiny egg (without a yolk) is laid as a tiny egg of it's own. 

It isn't a sign of good luck (well, except that you were lucky to get two eggs when you were expecting one) or anything else. 

Driving to my nearest city one day, I passed a field that had three horses standing in a row.  They looked like some kind of sculpture.  They were almost nose to tail, in a straight line, with the same stance, size and identical in their position.  The front one was black, the middle one was brown and the last one was grey.  I had never seen horses do that before.  I thought it was odd but didn't think any more of it until I saw the same thing again in another field 50 kms away.  Another three horses with the same colouring, same order and same positions.  I asked then if that was supposed to be a message and if it was, could it be repeated and made clearer.  I didn't see anything like that again, so I have to chalk that one up as strange coincidence.  Perhaps that's a response to a weather pattern that I just hadn't seen before - I learned at a young age, when you see all the animals in all the paddocks facing in the same direction there's usually a storm coming from the direction they're facing away from.

I have never found these pictures and woo-filled memes to give an accurate representation of what the message might be, yet people persist in copying them down, repeating them to others as "ancient wisdom" and worst of all (to me) discouraging people from thinking for themselves.

When spirits or Gods or Higher Powers are sending you a message, it's in their own best interests to be sure that the message is clear to you and make sure you get it.  It doesn't make sense for them to give you obscure messages and then you have to rely on going on the internet to ask a bunch of self-styled wise folk what your message means.  Think about it.  There's the popular saying, ask 12 witches and get 13 different answers.

When a message is for you, it is for you and will be symbolic only to you.  If you're not sure whether something is a message, ask!  Ask for it to be repeated to be certain it's a message, ask for it to be made clearer because you don't understand.  If it's a message and not a random happenstance, then it will. 

Just because there's magic afoot doesn't mean there's no place for common sense and logic.  Think, rule out the mundane options and only then look for something supernatural.  Darwinism still works in witchcraft - the stupid and gullible don't tend to last long.



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Sacred Storytelling and Mythology

It took me years to grasp the concept of Sacred Storytelling.

On the surface, it seems obvious but really it is not.  I thought it was the Myths and stories of Gods and Heroes, an attempt to understand Them but at the same time a thing that diminished Them.  It reduced Their strengths and virtues, Their passions and rages to human concerns, human emotions and sometimes an all too human pettiness.

I felt that it was a humanocentric way of pigeonholing Beings that were really beyond our comprehension.  Rather tragically, I think this may be the way many people think.

Many of our Deities are described in scathing terms because of what may have happened in one of the stories.  People rail over a different interpretation, or ask how can you worship a God who is little more than a serial rapist or a Classical version of a bitchy sorority princess.

Then there are those who take the stories as facts.  As lost history that has been covered up by the "winners".

Both are missing the point.

The Stories are more than that.  They can be the language of worship much like invocations and ritual.  They can be our way of telling our Gods how clever or wise or powerful we know They are.  A way of praising and honouring Them.

They can be a way of expressing our spirituality.  Even rewriting or retelling old stories with a slightly new twist can be a meaningful expression.  I read a version of the tale of Persephone and Hades that was a seduction rather than abduction and rape.  It was a beautiful and moving story that spoke to me about perceptions depending on the point of view of the storyteller.

They can be teaching tools.  Most stories have a lesson involved.  The Boy who Cried Wolf and Red Riding Hood are obvious ones from a Fairy Tale point of view.  I saw George RR Martin's open letter about the deaths in his works and I believe he raises the same point.  The deaths in A Song of Ice and Fire (or it's tv alterego Game of Thrones) all serve a purpose - they teach the consequences of foolish choices and decisions, especially those where the concept of honour has led to those choices.

For me, it was when I read Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes that I got it.  She talks about the bones of the stories.  How those bones hold a truth that speaks to us on an instinctive spiritual level.  Everything around the bones, the meat of the story, the skin that covers it is a way to support and protect those bones.  These are my words, it's been a while since I read it.  She describes the stories as map fragments, psychic markers and soul vitamins.

The stories might not have the same meaning to everyone but they often cause a reaction somewhere deep down.  For me, there was a story about a river woman who married a farmer and had his children.  Every so often she would creep off alone to sit by the river for hours, an activity she described as "going home".  It was something she needed to do to be able to continue in her life as a wife and mother.  In that story, I finally understood the roots of the breakup of my first marriage.  I grasped on a deep soul level the boundaries I'd failed to set for my own well-being and what I needed to do to heal.  I learned how to be a better me and it empowered me, it required me to be stronger about my own needs and not allow myself to feel selfish for doing so.

The old stories do have a kernel of history in them.  They tell us about the morals and values of the time, they give a glimpse into how life was for those who told them and those who listened to them.  Sometimes that glimpse is about what is considered to be fantastical and the pinnacle of desires and dreaming.  Sometimes that glimpse is about what is normally done in a day's work.  Sometimes, those glimpses are easily overlooked - in Dickens' tale A Christmas Carol, almost no one seems to notice that the shops were open on Christmas Day (otherwise he wouldn't have been able to go out and buy the feast for Cratchit and his family), people were working and going about their lives as they did every other day.

There are aspects of society that have a strong oral tradition.  Many claim that their stories are told the same as they have always been for thousands of years and that makes them more valid.  This may be true (even allowing for translation and semantic shifts) and this may be thousands of years of chinese whispers.  It is my own belief that the bones of the stories, the kernels of truth within them will still remain even if the meat has changed species completely in the meantime.

However, I don't believe anyone should be telling others what those bones are.  In my own beliefs, the truths you find will speak to you in a way that is for you alone.  You'll find the bones that you need right now and not notice the ones you're not ready for.  When you reread a book (fiction or non-fiction) you last read years ago, have you ever noticed how you get something different out of it?  There are parts of the story or details in the telling that you missed completely first (and sometimes second) time through, but they stand out glaringly obvious when you read it again.  This, I believe, is about the changes in you in that time.  Your growth, your priorities, what you value, the way you think will all have changed.  So if you can get different things from reading the same text twice, think about what it would be like for a different person entirely.  Their bones are for them, they'll have their own "Aha!" moments, their own lightbulbs going off and their own realisations and revelations.

And that is the heart of the Sacred Story. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Debbie's Rules for Magic Use (And Life in General)

These are my rules.  They apply only to me.  These are not rules for anyone else unless you find them of value - that's up to you.   They change from time to time and I'm not perfect at following all of them all of the time.

1.  Own Your Shit.

Take responsibility for your actions.  If you can't take responsibility for something, then don't do it.  Take the time to consider the potential consequences first, so that there are no (or few) surprises when it comes time to be taking responsibility.

2.  Own Only Your Shit.

You are not responsible for other people's shit.  There are almost no circumstances when it's necessary for you to apologise for, explain or justify anyone else's bad behaviour.  Unless it impacts upon you personally, there is likewise no reason for you to fix it for them.  This is enabling their shit and isn't healthy for anyone.

3.  Obey The Laws of the Land (Or Your Workplace) - Everything Else is Your Choice.

When there are rules for the use of a thing or a building or for your continued employment etc, follow those rules.  This includes going into a pub, driving on the roads or joining a facebook group.  This means traditions - if you're going to use a tradition name to describe your practice, make sure you understand what their rules are and that you actually understand what they mean.  This also includes if you live under someone else's roof. 

You don't get to decide whether a rule is sensible or stupid, unless it's one you made for yourself. This also means that what you view as your religious right doesn't trump the laws of the land or a festival.  If an athame is classed by law as an offensive weapon, you don't get to claim religious discrimination when told you're not allowed to wear it on your belt.

If something is not covered by rules or laws, things like simple morals, ethics and values, these are your choices to make and live by.  It's important to understand that these choices only apply to you (Rule One) and that it's not really any of your business what morals, ethics or values anyone else lives by (Rule Two).

4.  You Will Never Know It All or Question Everything.

My Father has always said "the day you don't learn something new is the day you die".  I've found it a rule worth living by.  There is always something new to learn and researching things that you think you know very well is still a valuable thing to do.

5. It's Okay To Not Have An Answer.

When someone shares something huge or says something way out of left field.  It's okay to say "I don't know what to say to that" or "I don't understand what you mean/where you're coming from".  It's better go away and process it or make the effort to understand what they really mean than to jump to a conclusion based on a knee-jerk reaction.  As the saying goes, it's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

6.  Truth is Not Constant.

The world was flat and that was the truth, until it was proved that it wasn't.  The Earth was the centre of the universe and that was the truth until it was proved that it wasn't.  The atom was the smallest building block and that was the truth until it was smashed open.

Our entire concept of truth is based on assumptions - if a then b.  There is never a solid truth that holds for everything.  What is true for you, may not work for someone else.  See Rule 4.

7.  Fairness and Justice Are Human Constructs.

You have no right to expect life to be fair.  It's not.  The Universe doesn't care.  Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  Suck it up and carry on.  Revenge does not equal justice.

8.  Everyone Is Entitled to An Opinion.

They're like arseholes - everyone has one.  It's not okay to state your opinion as fact and then fall back on "I'm entitled to an opinion" and it's not okay to expect your opinion to count for anything more than an opinion - it doesn't trump anyone else's feelings, beliefs, choices or their own opinions.

9.  You Don't Need to Be Liked By Everyone.

Not everyone is going to like you.  According to something I learned in a psychology/philosophy course, one third of the people you meet will like you on sight.  One third will dislike you on sight.  One third won't care either way.

If someone doesn't like you, it's not necessarily a failing in you.  Don't waste energy trying to change their like or dislike of you.  Remain polite if you can and let it go.  In certain situations (supervisory positions and parenting come to mind) if they all like you all the time, you're not doing your job properly.  If you need to be liked in those situations, you are going to make poor choices and not be able to do your job properly.

10.  If Shit Needs Doing, Then Do It.

This isn't just about procrastination.  If you need to justify an action, even to yourself, then some part of you thinks it's wrong.  If it needs to be done, then do it.  If you're not sure, work out why you're not sure - then do it or don't.  If it doesn't need to be done, then don't do it unless there's a valid 'improvement' type reason for it but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

How does all of this relate to magic?  

Run anything magical you might be considering through these rules and think about it some more.

For example:  I'm thinking of doing a prosperity spell.

Rule One:  I own it.  If I do it, then I did it.
Rule Two: Someone else's poor choices might mean they need the money more - but that's not mine to fix.
Rule Three: I choose to do it in a place that doesn't ban it.  I have no moral issue with using a spell to gain money.
Rule Four: Is there a different or better way to do it?  Have I considered everything?  Define what I mean by prosperity.
Rule Five: Isn't relevant in this case.
Rule Six:  My truth is that I need money, others may see it differently.
Rule Seven:  Prosperity isn't owed to me, I'm not doing anything because it's fair.
Rule Eight and Nine:  Others may have a problem with my spell.  That's their problem not mine.
Rule Ten:  It's needed so I'll do it.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

REAL Pagans and Witches

Often I see some comment to the effect of "A Real Pagan wouldn't say/do/behave like that" and it both baffles and annoys me.  Almost as much as "A Real Witch" does.

Pagan is an umbrella term, a genre if you like, that describes a wide variety of beliefs and specific religions.  It is vague at best and completely unhelpful when trying to narrow down anything.

Often there are pretty platitudes and memes to say that Pagans have no doctrine or dogma.  The sun, rain and wind write the words of our religion on the pages of the clouds, trees and earth.  Or Nature is my church.

So I'm sure you get the idea.  We have no rules, we're free spirits, following nature blah blah blah.

Right up until you say something that they disagree with.  If you don't follow karma or the threefold law, if you have absolutely no issues with hexing and cursing, if you don't like the outdoors except as a place that separates different indoors, if you call someone out on their stupidity, if you expect people to use logic and critical thought, if you don't follow exactly their path - then you are breaking the rules that they said we don't have.

I spent years rejecting all labels because I didn't want to be associated with people like this.  I can honestly say I have faced more harrassment because of my beliefs from other Pagans than I have from any other faith.  That might be because I discuss them more with other Pagans than I do with anyone else, although I've had some lovely chats with Jehovah's Witnesses who ended up being more interested than telling me I was wrong.  I managed to deal with some Born Again Christians who couldn't fault anything I said when they came specifically to harrass me and tell me where I was wrong.  I never lied to them, although to be fair, I didn't necessarily tell the whole truth either - but they couldn't fault it, they found nothing worthy of bugging me any further.

In something else I saw recently, someone told a Hard Polytheist who didn't identify as Pagan that they needed to learn what Pagan meant because "duh, you're Pagan".   Given that the old and out-dated (according to modern dictionaries) definition of Pagan was anyone who wasn't Christian, Jewish or Islamic, this could be vaguely true, but in a derogatory sense.  It's certainly offensive to many of those Hard Polytheists and worse when it comes from a Pagan.

This led to a discussion about defining Paganism.  I've found the only useful way to define a Pagan is "someone who identifies as Pagan".  Everything else is going to exclude some Pagans.  So who is a Real Pagan?  Someone who calls themselves Pagan.



Monday, 13 April 2015

Vent Groups

As I'm sure most of us know, there are a lot of facebook groups that form for Pagans and Witches.  There are various sub-groups, there are some that are open to everyone and others that stay closed to and have criteria for joining.  Some have a specific focus, some don't.

I am a member of a few that are amongst other things, a safe space to vent about things members have seen in other groups.  Someone will ask a really silly question* or will ask a sensible question but get really silly comments and answers.  Let me provide one simple example.  Yes this really happened.

Q: What does it mean if you can smell sulfur?

There a couple of answers that were sensible - check gas lines, check any eggs in the house, where are your matches kept could they have gotten wet, do you live near where there may be geothermal activity?

The majority weren't sensible - OMG it's a demon, you need to smudge with sage.  Carry a rose quartz with you at all times.  Do the LBRP to banish the demon.

My response was that it means there's a source of sulfur nearby.

The original poster claimed that they were outdoors walking the dog when they noticed it, but also claimed that every possible physical source had been checked and discounted but at the same time, they didn't know that sulfur is a component in many fertilisers.

It went on and on, seemingly the wanted response was demons.  Why? No idea - well actually I have a few ideas but I would be guessing.  Anything that suggested a common sense approach was rejected and then complained about as "negative".

* I used to say when I was training people in the workplace that the only silly question is the one you didn't ask.  But having spent time in fb groups where people are expecting everything to be spoonfed to them and can't even be bothered running a search on google for the simplest things, I have come to the conclusion that there really is such a thing as a silly question.

There comes a point in discussions like this where I give up.  There is clearly no point in continuing the discussion, nothing sensible is going to be heard because it's not feeding the drama or validating a self-important delusion.  This is when I do go into another group and vent.  I will snark about the people creating the drama and I will snark about those feeding it.  I will also snark about those who complain that anything that doesn't validate what they want to believe is attacking and negative. Including asking questions for clarification - I've been told I'm trolling on several occasions when I was simply trying to understand where they were coming from.

I vent and snark in this group because no one's feelings are hurt, no more drama is created and the other members get it and can sympathise.

Sometimes there is a meme that is completely vacuous or filled with assumptions that many of us find offensive.  These sometimes get shared into the vent groups as a bit of comic relief.

Sometimes there are screenshots that are members asking "Was I out of line?"

Sometimes someone has something like the picture below come up on their news feed and cannot believe that it actually got shared.

On the odd occasion, there is a screenshot from another group shared because just giving the general gist of a conversation is open to interpretation and abuse.  A screenshot allows everyone to have the whole story.  Never is anyone targetted and often names are changed.  I've shared screenshots where I've changed the names, many others have names blanked out altogether.  Occasionally, names and groups are left in, but these are the exception.

Typical Screenshot example - For the record, most of the responses were "Yeah - me!"

To be fair, there are a few members who can be somewhat like terriers on certain subjects.  Plagiarism, sharing free copies of e-books that are still under copyright, and a few well-known Big Name Pagans who have behaved in intolerable ways (doxxing an entire group because they wouldn't support his attempt to buy credibility for his partner) are the kinds of things to get them going.  They'll keep going until the group either does the right and legal thing or boots them.  And in the case of plagiarism etc, they'll already have notified the authors and artists.

Apparently the "bad behaviour" of a few members makes the entire group a bad thing.

The owners of a couple of large groups on facebook have decided that such a group is bullying and harrassing their members.  I must say the distinct lack of any logic or common sense in such a stance staggers me.  These are supposed to be Elders in the wider Pagan Community but I have to wonder who makes sure they put their shoes on the correct feet in the mornings and then ties their shoelaces.

To be bullying and/or harrassing people would require those people to be facing it directly.  There really is no difference between what goes on in this group and conversations held everywhere at coffee meets and festivals.  You know the ones where someone says "You are not going to believe what I heard today..." No one is intimidating the person being talked about even if they take the time to figure out who it is.  The people mentioned or whose words are screenshotted don't know about it at all until some little shit-stirrer passes it back to them.

On the topic of some little shit-stirrer - I've heard a number of people tell me categorically that in this group we make fun of beginners (Nope - they get a free pass.  No one is born knowing it all.  We differentiate between beginners and fluffy bunnies), that we pick on people with mental health issues (Nope - that's generally pretty obvious and they usually get a free pass too, unless their mental health issues are something like extreme narcissism) or those for whom English is a second language (again Nope - again we sympathise and will make the effort to understand what is meant) and on one memorable occasion, I've been told we were making fun of someone with cancer (No idea - been in that group since it started and I have never seen anything like that and would stomp on it fairly quickly - unless it was a case like one I have seen, where someone was a complete arse often and publicly and he also happened to have cancer.  The cancer wasn't raised as an issue or anything to poke fun at).

Two things become clear from this - people are lying and making it up to create this drama.   I have seen several (who were booted from this group quite quickly) talk up what goes on in there.  They claim to have seen this and that, sometimes they even claim to have screenshot proof that they won't share because that would be "sinking to their level".  I'm afraid that in order to be credible, you need to back it up.  If you make a claim, the burden of proof is upon you.  If you say you have proof but won't share it, then your proof is nothing more than hearsay and as such is completely worthless.

Secondly, people are paranoid and/or know they've said some stupid stuff but thought they could pass it off as wisdom.  If you don't believe you've said anything stupid, or you make sure you don't, then you'd have no reason to worry that such a group might be laughing at you.

I've also been told that we target specific people and we're always on about one person in particular and the large group he owns.  He has made demands to be allowed admission or to have the group made open so anyone and everyone can see what happens in there.  He banned all members of this group from his groups and made everyone guilty by association.  He goes around multiple other groups stirring shit and trying to garner sympathy for his view.  Usually with lies and drama and accusations of harrassment.

Because he bans anyone from his group who is also a member of the vent group he's targetting, there is no option for the members of his group to see for themselves for fear of getting banned.  They have to take his word for it or risk being seen as one of the bad guys.  I believe that's called bullying when that type of restrictive behaviour is demonstrated in the workplace.

The truth is, with the exception of sharing his announcement that anyone who shares screenshots from his group with the vent group will be banned, his name and his group hadn't even been mentioned in months.  No one cared what he was doing, no one cared what was happening in his group, they weren't even the faintest blip on the radar.  He and his group can't accept or believe this however.  He started a campaign in his group where he called upon all of his members to report the group for harrassment.  When facebook rejected their reports - quite quickly I might add - he's now saying that facebook suggested he start a petition to have the group removed.  Which he has now done.  I call bullshit on facebook suggesting he start a petition - if it violated the terms and conditions it would have been removed, since it doesn't, it won't.

Somehow though, he's managing to sell it to folks that he's the victim of bullying and harrassment, instead of clearly the instigator of such behaviour.

Sad and tragic really.  This is what Paganism is coming to.


Apparently we have new terms.  I think it's important to share this, because it highlights the problem.  This was posted by the chap who has started the petition.

Now, I have shared this because I think it highlights the depths of stupid we are dealing with.  Or to be honest, I believe this fellow has a few mental health issues.

Firstly, he thinks it's reasonable to be able to monitor what goes on in a group that isn't his and has nothing at all to do with him.  Will he next be expecting to monitor everything each individual member does on facebook?  Or outside of facebook? 

Secondly, we're a facebook group made up of people.  We have no leaders, we're all individually responsible for our own actions.  Why does he think that any one of us would be able to control the actions and behaviour of others.  He seems to think he can control his group and whatever they want to do and that is scary.

I'm disturbed that this is being treated as right or reasonable by anyone, let alone by the special snowflake who posted it.  I'm disturbed that people who believe they are 'Pagan freethinkers' have been sucked in by this.