Monday, April 7, 2008

When it all goes pear shaped....

There is a British colloquialism about things going “pear shaped”, I guess the American equivalent would be FUBAR (f****d up beyond all recognition). In either case it means something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. We like to avoid that… right? In the Neopagan community, we have a self-destructive little habit called the “witch war”. It’s almost always over something pointless, and it’s almost always the older members of the community that are doing it. Witch wars are all about power, influence and ego. Ego? But we are enlightened beings right? Yeah right. So for those of us who have been caught in the middle of a witch war, we feel it is totally pear shaped. What to do? How to handle it? First identify the main players. The herald, the source of all the fuel for witch wars…gossip. They may not even maliciously be doing this, but they are spreading rumors. “Did you hear about XYZ and her coven?”, “That group from the next town over are doing black magic” etc The “Victim”. The person ostentatiously being targeted by someone. The “Aggressor”, the person who is apparently attacking the victim. The goons. Both the aggressor and the victim (whether they want it or not) are likely to attract a gang of goons, who do deeds in their name (whether they are asked too or not). These are the main players. So you are now in the middle of a witch war? As a warrior the first tendency is to, well, do war. Not a wise idea! Chances are you are with out the full story, and thus vital information. Also no one has asked you to help yet. So as I’ve stressed before we are here to serve and protect, not enforce. Gather information, but be cunning about it, being seen to poke your nose around may make it worse! Gather both sides of the story. Ok so done that? Is the aggressor really the aggressor or actually a victim, or both? Probably the last. Is the victim, a victim or the instigator, or both? Is the herald spreading the information in a clear and concise manner? Are they skewing it? Is it even real? Ok got the information? Take a step back. Observe the community. Is this being ignored? Is this splitting it down the middle or worse into many fragments? How bad is it? Is this contained in a mailing list? Is it public? Has violence been threatened? All of these items are incredibly important to consider because how you deal or do not deal with them depends on the context and the level. If the witch war is on a list. Ignore it. Stay out of it; it is typical of any mailing list. The typed word is a blunt instrument for conveying emotions, humor etc. Joining in, even to chastise both sides will not help. The exception is the moderator of a list (if it is moderated) if you are the moderator it is your job (and only your job) to enforce rules of civility. Don’t take a side even if your best friend is involved. Just deal with it. If people can’t behave you throw them off the list! If it’s public, try not to get involved if it’s words. You will paint a huge target on yourself if you do get involved. I know I’ve done this and while not regretting the outcome, regret the personal repercussions! If it escalates to pending violence. This is where you step in. Make sure you calmly, and clearly get in-between the antagonists. Be rational and firm. Do not threaten, and be prepared to act, acting may include calling the police. Be warned this last action will make you very unpopular in a community, no matter how justified you are. So levels of response? This can range from a “cut it out” to a “you are not welcome here”. In ritual if two antagonists are in circle, keep an eye on both. I’ve seen a ritual where one antagonist had for weeks been pushing buttons, including spitting at a proclamation about the other party. This was seen by the other party, and they began to make demands. If it had been allowed to go unchecked, I think the so-called ritual knives (athemes for you who call them that) might not have been purely ceremonial to be honest. It was resolved with myself and three others acting as “Dragons” outside circle, and the ritual leader (a well respected member of the community) telling the spitter they would behave or be banished for good! In this instance, the apparent problem was well behaved. Sadly there were other problems… another story for another day! So lets recap. Your community, be that a coven/grove/circle or the actual community, is in the middle of a witch war. As a warrior your first instinct is to “get em”, but that is wrong. You take several steps back (I recommend about two meters… sorry Combatives joke about reactionary space in a knife attacks) and observe. Take the time to gather intelligence, and then start forming a plan. Don’t act unilaterally; the community will only remember that action not the cause! This aside violence is never acceptable, and you are obliged to stop it. Violence can be mental, physical or metaphysical. Last reminder. We (the warriors) are NOT the pagan police; we are protectors and servants only at the sufferance of those who accept our authority! If you have no place acting, don’t! The caveat to this is once asked to act, remind the person(s) who asked exactly what they are getting. Check before acting in most cases, and adjust down the level of response, never up. Your first instinct is usually the best, but it’s still just instinct! Slan agat Noinden Note This information was mostly gained from years of being online (the major area for Witch wars) and Reading Mr. Hubbard’s "Witch War survival Guide"