“Sekhmet” by Hrana Janto
Hail unto thee who art Sekhmet in thy beauty,
even unto thee who art Sekhmet in thy truimph,
who travellest over the heavens in thy barque,
at the Mid day hour of the sun.
Tahuti standest in his splendor at the prow,
And Ra Hoor abideth at the helm,
Hail unto thee from the abodes of morning.”
—Invocation to Sekhmet (papyrus of Neb Seni)
I usually agonize over the posts I put up here. I spend at least a month writing, rewriting, saying “fuck it” and putting something in anyway, making sure I’m saying exactly what I mean to say, etc.
And then there are the posts that pretty much write themselves in a day or two, like this one, since I feel so strongly on the matter.
There is a *HUGE* problem with bullying and abuse in magickal and pagan communities. I think we’ve all seen it, we’ve all been victim to it a time or two and we’ve all been part of it: if not as the bully, then as someone who’s enabled the bullying.
*raises guilty hand*
It’s something that I’ve been exposed to so often in so many different contexts, that I wanted to say something about it for quite some time now.
I posted about a specific example regarding OHF some time ago. Here.
It isn’t an isolated incident: I’ve visited a variety of magickal and groups, been a member of three or 4 and participated in enough online forums, websites and groups…and in MOST of these places, I’ve seen, participated in some way or been a victim of bullying. And while I personally feel that bullying *IS* abuse, there are times that things stray beyond what’s nominally considered “just” bullying and into, “Oh my god, what’s going on?!?”: rape, sexual and physical assaults, community-wide osctracization and severe/persistent cruelty. And, I am also aware that sometimes people will bully without full awareness of what they’re doing- as someone with PTSD and resultantly an AWFUL temper, I have been guilty of this.
There are few who are innocent in this regard. We’re all going to do something bullying at one point and as long as we reflect on what we’ve done, apologize to injured parties and correct our behavior, there’s usually impermanent harm done. However, bullying and the condoning of bullying in the magickal and pagan communities has become a trend, an accepted behavior, and it does nothing but create further divisions among us as well as turning off not only the “outsiders looking in”, but also potential-future pagans and magicians. And of course damaging the relationships and feelings in the community, sometimes to the point of traumatization.
So, let’s get on with it and talk about some of the common forms of bullying that I’ve seen, as well as how bullying in magick and paganism (as well as other, more mainstream religious groups) can take on cult-like aspects, to varying degrees.
In the spirit of not causing humiliation, the names of the guilty will not be mentioned where they have not made public record of themselves (a lesson I learned the hard way, let the blogger beware). While I’ll be using some of my personal experiences and observations, I’m not going to be naming names and pointing fingers except in the cases where the bullying was recently done (within the last year) and in a very public way. I’m not going to call names, though I will point out behaviors and comment upon such. I won’t be calling people expletives, but if there’s lying and manipulating going on, I’m going to call “liar” and “manipulator”. Let’s do this with some honor and blunt honesty.
Bullying in Magickal Groups
“Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is…’exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons”. He defines negative action as “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways.” (1) Bullying usually comes in 3 basic types (physical, verbal and emotional) and can be blatant (obviously aggressive), subtle (manipulation, coercion), direct (characterized by physical aggression in many cases, overt emotional aggression certainly, and direct action against the target/s) or indirect (gossip, arguing others into submission, manipulation, rumor mongering).
I won’t go into the full Wiki article on bullying (and it’s pretty decent, considering it’s Wiki, kudos to the writers and editors), but that blurb pretty much gives you the picture that bullying can take several forms.
There are times, as well, that bullying in religious groups (as previously mentioned) come together with cult-like behaviors- an action or statement by a member of a group is seen as threatening to the group idea, and bullying occurs as a way to discourage further argument or questioning. It is also done as a way to keep control of the adherents of a group or to force “unwanted” members to leave the group, for whatever reason, often because said members are seen as a threat to the group-mind or to the leader/ one of the leaders in particular. In the end, I have observed that bullying usually occurs in religious groups because someone in the group has their ego and identity intensely tied into the group, either through its ideology or leadership responsibilities, and sees others a reflection on themselves- a very narcissistic and insecure position, to be sure.
For brevity (something this blog is known for, *eye roll*) and organization’s sake, I’ll list bullying behaviors that often occur in religious groups, as well as cultic behaviors that are often seen that result in bullying.
1. Gaslighting and Denigration
“Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.” (2)
This is actually a very common form of abuse, and I think everyone does it without realizing they do it, to varying degrees. Gaslighting often comes in the form of, “Oh, you’re just over-reacting!” This is a way of diminishing your perceptions, making you question your views of the events, and leaving you open to further manipulation from the abuser. Not only is it a way of diminishing your perceptions, it’s also a way for the abuser to diminish the impact of what they’ve done- up to the point of denying anything is wrong. This can even be done by enablers of the abuse, well meaning or not. And if it’s known you’re mentally ill, FYI, prepare to defend against it.
“So-and-so doesn’t mean to scream and yell like that. So-and-so deserves the benefit of the doubt. Are you sure you’re not over-reacting?”
“I think you’re being over-sensitive to what was said and done.”
“Stop being dramatic- it was the heat of the moment and I was stressed out.”
For mentally ill folks: “Are you sure you’re not symptomatic? You’re really blowing this out of proportion. Maybe you should get your meds adjusted/take your meds.”
From an article about gaslighting: “When someone says these things to you, it’s not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling—that’s inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation—pure and simple.
And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines [women] as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that [women] need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.
I think it’s time to separate inconsiderate behavior from emotional manipulation…” (3)
Though the quote was directed at women, I think the same could be said about victims generally, who tend to be incredibly disenfranchised.
Denigration is in a similar vein, and outright denies the value of what another person is feeling, perceiving, etc. (4) It’s taking something, a quality about the person perhaps, to define them negatively and so distract from one’s own unstable viewpoint or bad behavior.
“I’m not going to listen to his/her criticisms, they worship Set! What do they know about morality?”
“They’re were shitty members of the group anyway- absolutely worthless.”
“Why should I take her word seriously? She uses Wikipedia as a source!”
Heh. Guilty conscience.
I’ve seen (and experienced) both of these with great frequency in most of the groups I’ve been in or visited. Former members are denigrated when they can no longer take the dysfunctional dynamics of the group. Current members are told, one way or another, to “get over it” or that they’re over-reacting to circumstances that are harmful to them, and to others. Some of the former members of said groups (and I say this as both member and frequent visitor to various places) were incredibly generous with their time, money and resources, and often contributed a significant amount towards said groups. However, the tide of opinion changed once they left or raised criticisms, after which reasons were found or concocted to assure the groups, and the group leaders, that the group was better off without them anyway.
Abuse of the religion or philosophy of the group (see below) can also play into this. I remember a member of a group (now defunct) that I was participating in (and left on very bitter terms about a year before this instance) tried to commit suicide. The person in question was a fellow sufferer of bipolar disorder and while he and I were not on speaking terms well before my split with the group (for personal reasons), it was a sad thing to happen. The group’s response was to “strip” him of his “attainments” (IE, his initiations within the group) and start him over again from the beginning, denigrating him for trying to commit suicide. Their justification of this was, “by trying to take his life, he is saying life and the Great Work is worthless. It’s no less than he deserves”.
“Intimidation (also called cowing) is intentional behavior that “would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities” fear of injury or harm. It’s not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause terror or that the victim was actually frightened.” (5)
This can go hand-in-hand with verbal/written abuse and aggressive behaviors such as throwing things, screaming, breaking things, etc. However, this can also go hand-in-hand with the misuse of authority. There is often an implied threat that degrees, initiations and whatnot will be withheld in the case of overt disagreement or raised criticism. As a result, many enable the bullying to continue and are rewarded by receiving whatever initiation the group provides. Thus, the cycle continues.
I’ve seen this as a present dynamic in many (though not all) pagan or magickal groups. I’ve been to events where I’ve heard the volunteers screamed at and treated, to quote they themselves, “like dogs”. I’ve been around people who’ve been belittled, insulted and cowed into continuing with an event, only to have the person explain their behavior with a justification. Not acceptable. I’ve also seen people in magickal and pagan groups who, after raising criticisms and becoming angry over mistreatment, no longer receive following initiations until they kow-tow to the offended party…or they leave and give up entirely.
I can share a personal story here (and a very funny one, IMO).
I was friends with these two girls, one whom I cared for more than the other. (And no further details will be given.) Through mutual reasons, our friendship was deteriorating and would soon be no more: I recognize my part in that and am not proud of my asshole, disrespectful behavior- had they called me on my shit in a functional way, I would have deserved some of it. However, they invited me to their home to “talk”, have cookies and work things out…and ended up exposing me to some very delusional, hysterical behavior. The first girl was content to stand at the back of the room with her eyes rolling into her head, when the second puffed herself up and claimed to be possessed by a certain entity I won’t name, screamed that I was “arrogant” and “The Fallen One” and that unless I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, all my pagan gods will abandon me. (Really? Pagan gods abandoning me for not accepting the J-man? That’s a first…)
I told them to pick the plank from their own eye before they picked at the speck in mine (Matthew 7:5, btw), laughed in their faces and left. I never saw them again, I’ve never forgotten the incident…and it never fails to bring an incredulous laugh.
I am protective of their identity primarily because I don’t want to cause them humiliation, and partially because these attempts at intimidation had their root not just in personal hurt and bullying, but also in mental illness. This is a subject I’ll go into more in my “Mental Illness and Magick, Part 5″ article, which focuses on magick and groups.
Also common, often not as overt and more in the form of pressure or expressed through intimidation. “Coercion may involve the actual infliction of physical pain/injury or psychological harm in order to enhance the credibility of a threat. The threat of further harm may lead to the cooperation or obedience of the person being coerced.” (6) The coercion may be baldly stated, or implicit. “If I don’t give enough money for the coven fund, they won’t let me come back.” or “I have to do this, for the good of the group, so-and-so says so.” Though this, people are then forced to do something involuntarily, and the bully is able to write it off as voluntary, especially if coercion is implicit. This then leads someone to taking on perhaps more responsibility than they can handle.
An example of this…there is a predominant culture of liberal sexual values within the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), which encourages polyamory, casual sex and multiple lovers. This, in itself, is fine- “Love as Thou Wilt”, after all. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities in a responsible and consensual context. When there is a predominant group consensus, people who don’t follow along may feel a pressure to conform, either through exposure to the behavior or by being curiously asked for participation. This, also, is fine- there is no harm in respectful interest. There will also always be a pressure to conform to a culture in a group, be it a religious, social or business group, simply because of the presence of said circumstances and its visibility. The majority of my experience with the OTO has been in this respectful trend.
However, no matter how many respectful members there are in a group, there will always be those who will use group values as a means to express predatory behavior, and this is almost too easy to do concerning sexuality. There are people who mistakenly feel that they’re entitled to your body and your sexuality through the abuse of the values set forth by the group, as if the target is merely a mirror to their whims. Some coercive attempts I’ve heard are, “What are you, a Puritan?” and “The Law is Do What Thou Wilt, so why won’t you have sex with me?” The predatory members tried to apply social and religious pressure to achieve their way sexually (for the record, they failed). Coercion can be effective, and can lead to victims performing sexual acts involuntarily…with the convenient excuse by the predator, “It’s what he/she agreed to…do what thou wilt, after all.”
I know this since I personally know victims who’ve been taken advantage of, even raped, in this fashion, and also since Sabazius, the US Head of the OTO Grand Lodge, made some laudable posts about it on his own personal blog:
As expressed in Liber CI, the Order exists in part to foster free and joyful relations between its members. However, sexual conduct that is not between fully consenting adults is antithetical to freedom and is not tolerated in O.T.O.
Freedom has no room for coercion, and refusing an unwanted sexual advance is not “un-Thelemic.” No O.T.O. member should ever be forced, pressured, or made to feel obligated to have sexual relations with any other O.T.O. member, for any reason.”
“Since my last post, I have received several reports from women who have been subjected to violence within some kind of an O.T.O. context in the past. One of these women told me that she had been in touch with several other sisters who never reported their mistreatment, and saw no reason to now because their attackers were no longer active members. Others reported that when they attempted to discuss their troubles with their brothers and sisters, attempts were made to either ignore or excuse the bad behavior, occasionally offering such quotes as “There is no guilt” as if that were an excuse for assaulting someone. This is simply unacceptable.”
I applaud Sabazius on his willingness to speak out against such reprehensible behavior, as well as encouraging members to speak out and authority figures to support the victims of assault.
4. Verbal and Written Abuse
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t do this at one point or another. We all get angry and say things we don’t mean. Hopefully, we accept responsibility for what we’ve done, apologize to those we’ve wronged where possible and do our best in the future. Nevertheless…
“Verbal abuse (also known as reviling) is described as a negative defining statement told to the person or about the person or by withholding any response thus defining the target as non-existent. If the abuser doesn’t immediately apologize and indulge in a defining statement, the relationship may be a verbally abusive one. Verbal abuse includes the following: countering, withholding, discounting, abuse disguised as a joke, blocking and diverting, accusing and blaming, judging and criticizing, trivializing, undermining, threatening, name calling, chronic forgetting, ordering, denial of anger or abuse, and abusive anger.” (7)
Verbal abuse can be overtly aggressive, or even passive aggressive, as one can see above. Abuse disguised as a joke, withholding, blocking and diverting and denial of anger or abuse is something I’ve often seen in pagan and magickal groups.
Now, keep in mind that there are times to call a spade a spade. However, there are ways to do it. In dealing with a bully, one has to be firm and assertive in their stance, or the bully will very likely find ways to gaslight you or denigrate your viewpoints (well, honestly, they’ll do this anyway, so be strong). However, one should be careful, even in dealing with bullies, not to become abusive yourself. There is a difference between saying, “Your behavior is unacceptable” and “You’re a toxic bitch.”
And example from my own life: I recently, paired with another friend, wrote a series of letters to whom is now a former friend. I asked said friend to help me look over the letters since I was incredibly angry with this person and PTSD triggered, making me pretty volatile. It was about said person’s bullying and using behavior which had offended several in said group that refused, for one reason or another, to confront them on the issue. A quote from the letter (omitting identifying parts),
“You have been domineering, controlling and sometimes even bullying to other members of [group]. I have noticed this, especially, in both personal and [group] capacities, regarding… though it has extended to other members as well. …”
My friend was invaluable in helping to phrase things well, though there were certainly times we checked each other. My initial letter was very, very aggressive, even defining, and she helped me to tone it down. For the second letter, I actually had to take out some of her more colorful suggestions for epithets, sticking to truthful but less inflammatory words. Looking back, I think the letters expressed well what I wanted to get across, calling a spade a spade, without being abusive. To be honest, they didn’t do much good and she refused to talk to me other than in person (and I couldn’t…volatile, PTSD triggered, wasn’t going to risk it). As my friend put it, I was “stonewalled”. So, that was that.
5. Social Isolation
You’ve disagreed or had some strong words with a member/leader of your pagan or magickal group. The issue was an important one, and you did your best to get it fixed. You come back to your group…and find that you’re about as welcome as a fart in an elevator. You go to talk to some friends, maybe even friends whom you thought were like-minded, only to watch them walk away from you, very purposefully not looking back. Everyone is quiet and tense around you, and won’t look you in the eye. Perhaps, sooner or later, someone will ask you to leave and not come back, isolating you from part (or all, in some cases) of your social network. It’s a very common thing, sadly.
Or maybe the inverse happens. Maybe the group has decided that your friendships outside the group are detrimental to your spiritual growth. And so, by compulsion, by coercing, by convincing, they drive off your friends or monopolize your time so that your entire social circle comprises only of the group.
(I saw both examples when looking it up, so I figured I’d include both.)
“Social isolation refers to a complete or near-complete lack of contact with society for members of social species. It is usually involuntary, making it distinct from isolating tendencies or actions consciously undertaken by a person, all of which go by various other names. Social isolation takes fairly common forms across the spectrum regardless of whether that isolation is self-imposed or is a result of a historical lifelong isolation cycle that has simply never been broken, which also does exist. All types of social isolation can lead to staying home for days or weeks at a time; having no communication with anyone including family or even the most peripheral of acquaintances friends; and willfully avoiding any contact with other humans when those opportunities do arise.” (8)
I have several examples of this, though the most memorable was from the defunct group I mentioned in the sub-section “gaslighting and denigration”: they employed social isolation almost artfully. Any friends outside of the group (unless approved of by the group) were ridiculed, denigrated and mocked, and activities with others outside of the group was sometimes frowned up, unless it was speculated that the person could be brought into the group (or unless the leader was sexually attracted to the other person) and at times, run off when the person expressed distaste, dislike or alarm at the group’s tactics. The group succeeded in socially isolating a few of the members completely, fostering a dependence upon the group socially and psychologically. The rest of us left…
…and then were forbidden contact with the members remaining in the group. Just as they were isolated from us, we were isolated from members we still cared for, our connections to them forcibly severed.
Please keep in mind, though, that social isolation doesn’t have to be that “in your face”- it can be a subtle pressure to leave, or it can come paired with…
6. Social Aggression
“He also suggests that social aggression or indirect bullying is characterized by attempting to socially isolate the victim. This isolation is achieved through a wide variety of techniques, including spreading gossip, refusing to socialize with the victim, bullying other people who wish to socialize with the victim, and criticizing the victim’s manner of dress and other socially-significant markers (including the victim’s race, religion, disability, sex, or sexual preference, etc.). Ross outlines an array of nonviolent behavior which can be considered “indirect bullying”, at least in some instances, such as name calling, the silent treatment, arguing others into submission, manipulation, gossip/false gossip, lies, rumors/false rumors, staring, giggling, laughing at the victim, saying certain words that trigger a reaction from a past event, and mocking.” (1)
Social aggression is another way of social isolation, and boy, it works. This is a kind of indirect bullying that criticizes qualities about another person with the aim of socially isolating them- several examples are listed above.
I’m sure we’ve all either been through or participated in this, so I don’t need to give an example. I will, however, tell you to be careful in your own doings. It is very easy for venting and concerned conversations to become gossip, especially if you aren’t careful. If there is someone who is causing trouble with disruptive, bullying and abusive behavior, you have a right to process things, vent and call the other person out on it- it’s natural to want to check yourself with your peers and make sure everyone is on the same page. BUT STICK TO THE FACTS AND DON’T INDULGE IN CHARACTER ASSASSINATION.
With a specific instance, it was very difficult to stick to the straight and narrow. I hope I succeeded and I doubt that I did as much as I wanted to. In comparing notes with others, I found many to be very reasonable and straightforward with both their experiences and the pain caused to them by these experiences, and they helped me understand the long-standing problem that bullying and ruthless using/social climbing played in the group’s dynamic. However, there were times I felt I had to rein people in, once some accusations veered into the ridiculous, ranging coercive magick, sexual dominance, adultery and personality disorders. While I certainly have no love for this person, I couldn’t sit by and let these ideas go unaddressed, simply because they were blatantly wrong, and bullying in their turn. That being said, I am sure I am not so innocent in this regard either, but I did my best.
7. Psychological Manipulation
“Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at the other’s expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious, and deceptive. Social influence is not necessarily negative. For example, doctors can try to persuade patients to change unhealthy habits. Social influence is generally perceived to be harmless when it respects the right of the influenced to accept or reject and is not unduly coercive. Depending on the context and motivations, social influence may constitute underhanded manipulation.” (9)
Methods of psychological manipulation can involved deliberate triggering, arguing others into submission, the silent treatment, “cultic” threats, blame-gaming and ties in with gaslighting, coercion and intimidation. The blame-game is classic abuse- turning around all your statement to make you take the blame for what the other person is going.
One: “Why are you gaslighting me?”
Two: “YOU are the one gaslighting ME!”
Or perhaps they will use your own flaws against you, only exaggerated to make it seem as if you share equal or greater guilt.
One: “Why are you bullying other people?”
Two: “The way you’re talking to me and about me is abusive. This isn’t what members of a group do for one another.”
And so on. The girls from my “intimidation” example is also an example of psychological manipulation through cultic threats, though poorly applied. Another is from the defunct group I mentioned, where I was told that dating certain people (who were very nice people) would make certain goddesses angry with me. (I dated them anyway.)
8. Using (often linked with “ruthless social climbing”)
In larger magickal groups, just as in businesses, there is a lot of using behavior in the name of climbing the social ladder: taking credit for the works of others, making others work for what will reflect positively primarily upon the one, using one smaller group for the advancement of oneself through the larger body of the group, using group members for money, sexual favors, social status and exclusive psychological comfort. The list goes on. The strongest example I have of this is also from the defunct group: near the end, the leader of the group lived off of a few of the group members, two of which who became sick of him and told him to go elsewhere. Before this, he often depended on them to feed him, buy him alcohol and stroke his ego. Other instances I’ve seen are of the less-severe type, though still degrading- shoving responsibilities on others and taking credit for their efforts…and then eliminating threats to said person(s)’ authority.
Sekhmet, from a temple at Karnak
I am the goddess Sekhmet, and I take my seat upon the place by the side of Amt-ur the great wind of heaven. —Papyrus of Ani; Egyptian Book of the Dead [Budge]
240 BC, Chapter of Opening the Mouth of Osiris Ani
Some of the cultic behaviors I’ve noticed that often go hand-in-hand with bullying:
A. Oppressive Financial Obligation
Placing inordinate financial burdens upon members, or specific members. Also, allowing members to take inordinate financial burdens upon themselves without addressing the issue in good faith or not allowing such abuses to happen in the group’s context. Expecting more than the agreed upon amount of money not included in fees for food and classes, dues/coven fees and reasonable donations. I’ve seen several instances where the running of the group, financially, depends upon one person or a few peoples, who either were forced into it or made to feel obligated to do such. No sincere attempts were usually made to dissuade people from taking on such a burden, with the excuse, “Well, s/he’s made her/his choice.”
B. Lying For Legitimacy
Many groups will claim lineage with magickal orders or pagan traditions that they simply do not have, and the inexperienced, the naive and the trusting are usually the ones who pay the price for this.
C. Discouragement of Criticism/Encouraging Blind or Total Acceptance
I can say how often I’ve run into this, in a variety of contexts. The group leader (usually) or several group heads set the rules and the tone for how group beliefs are interpreted and everyone is expected to follow along. Discomfort occurs when someone goes against the grain. Any criticism, legitimate or not, is nipped in the bud and ignored, or rationalized away. People are expected to embrace beliefs fully and without question, and there are also traditions that require this as part of their oaths.
D. Physically and Emotionally Distressing Situations
A caveat- initiation can be physically and emotionally distressing. Honestly, it’s meant to be unsettling, and it’s meant to distress you, if not sooner, then later as the effects are being felt. However, there are circumstances in which this is abused.
Pressured sexual performance as a part of initiation, initations which are harmful to your health (being made to withstand extreme temperatures, being made to fight other members, being beaten), sleep deprivation, forced fasting, being made to watch as your partner is engaged sexually (without your consent, not judging swingers or poly people), the list goes on. Listen to your gut- it is rarely, if ever, wrong.
You’re so great! You’re so wonderful! You’re so accepted with us! We love you! Now that you’re here…
“Love bombing is a tactic often employed by cults (or any religious, political or other group of like-minded individuals who may not have a mainstream belief system) as a way of luring prospective members. Current members typically “love bomb” potential or desired new recruits by showering them with affection, praise, and offers of friendship. Cult awareness experts warn that this seemingly kind and welcoming practice is often the first step in a mind control (“brainwashing”) process that leads to religious conversion or involvement with a group that may be harmful to its membership or to society.” (10)
Be wary of any group that seems too good to be true.
F. Encouraging a new identity based upon the group
Again, a caveat- in initiatory groups, some of this is normal. You take on a magickal or religious identity. Several religions do this with initations or formal recognition of priesthood. A group approaching this in a healthy, balanced way will encourage outside interests, a social circle of the person’s choosing and an identity with the group that does not take place of the person’s primary persona, but rather compliments it. An unhealthy group will have you define yourself by the standards of the group, as well as measuring your spiritual and psychological health by the groups’ standards. (Again, mentally ill people, take heed.)
G. Entrapment, or limiting/controlling access to relevant information
Yet again, a caveat- no magickal group is going to give you all of it’s information all at once, and there’s a very good reason for this: the cycle of initations works best when the initiate has prepared themselves, done the work necessary and taken the appropriate initation. The subtle bodies have been prepared, the mind is primed and the initation has its best effect. (I’m going to leave out the stuff that I believe to be true but I think is oversighted, which is “the profane should not glimpse mysteries they aren’t ready for”.)
I’m talking about information like, what does the group expect of you as a member? What are your rights? Who can you report to if there’s an issue? Where does their operating money come from and where does it go? What oaths are you expected to swear to? (I am aware there are legit groups that don’t inform you of the oaths ahead of time…I don’t agree with this.) What will be expected of you as you progress through the ranks? Pay careful attention to the reality of the situation…many groups that aren’t on the level espouse nice ideas that play out with many people being taken advantage of.
H. Negative consequences in leaving the group
This runs the gamut from simply “not being friends anymore”, ostacization, rumor mongering to trying to exact fees, threats, stalking and assault. There should be no consequences in voluntarily leaving a group on good terms, simply because it’s not “your path” to travel with them anymore.
I. Cult of Personality
“A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and, at times god-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.” (11) Often, this happens on a smaller scale with charismatic leaders or members of groups. They are highly respected, even idolized, by the group. Their words and requests carry greater weight than those of the other members- these parts MUST be memorized, these instructions MUST be carried out, just so. I’ve even seen it bad enough that the personality and style of the person in question is then imitated by the group! See also “narcissistic leadership” in a google searchbox near you.
J. Abuse of the Religion/Philosophy
This is redefining the group’s religious beliefs to suit the needs of the person doing it. An extreme example is when Pope Urban II allegedly declared it all well and dandy to kill people in the name of God, and used passages from the bible to support it. (I think it was Pope Urban…) Another is the example used in “coercion” and “intimidation” and I’ve seen other groups twist beliefs to suit their needs…
“I am the goddess incarnate and you will serve me as such. It was considered possible in the past this way…”
“If it’s Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, then trust me with your money…”
“In the old days, if a witch betrayed her coven…they would kill her.” (Craft reference! HAHAHA!)
For a more complete list of cult red flags, check these out:
To conclude for now, the below comes from the negative confession. While they don’t directly correlate to bullying, I do believe that they are relevant to bullying’s effects.
Part 2 and Part 3, coming soon.
Please don’t make her mad. You don’t want that. You REALLY don’t want that.
O Burning One who came forth from backwards, I have not told lies.
O Orderer of Flame who came from Memphis, I was not sullen.
O He-Whose-Face-is-behind-him who came forth from his hole, I have not caused (anyone) to weep.
O Annoited One who came forth from the chapel, I have not dissembled.
O Lord of Truth who came forth from Hall of Two Truths, I have not discussed (secrets).
O He-who-is-over-the-Great-Ones who came forth from (?), I have not struck terror.
O Proclaimer of Speech who came forth from Weryt, I have not been hot(tempered).
O Dark One who came forth from darkness, I have not cursed.
O He-who-Brings-his-Offering who came forth from Asyut, I have not been violent.
O Proclaimer of Voice who came forth from Wenis, I have not confounded (truth).
O Possessor of Faces who came forth from Nedjefet, I have not been impatient.
O Possessor of Two Horns who came forth from Asyut, I have not been garrulous about matters.
O Nefertum who came forth from Memphis, I have not done wrong, I have not done evil.
O Ihy who came forth from the Primordial Waters, my voice was not loud.
O Youth who came forth from the Double Scepter Nome, I have not been neglectful of truthful words.
—Plate 31, Parts of the Negative Confession, Book of Going Forth by Day, Dr. Raymond Faulkner
See Part 2.