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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in secrecy

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
I'll Tell You


It is a fairly common custom for Traditions and Schools to have materials that are oathbound, teachings or practices that can only be shared with members or initiates. I have friends that are old school Witches, or Masons, or one of any number of systems that can eloquently explain why they have oathbound materials. I will not speak for them, and I honor their right to follow their ways. The Tradition of which I am a member, the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, does not have any teachings or practices that are oathbound, in fact it is more accurate to say that we are openbound. It is not my intention in this post to assert that oathbound, openbound, or any other approach is better than the other. What constitutes better is a matter of your perspectives, values, the purpose of your system, and the nature of your goals. What I’d like to offer here is information on how we manage boundaries for our lore and practices. The Assembly has been around since 1984 and we are 13 covens with a 14th in the process of formation.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Lesson 2: How to Recognize the Warning Signs of an Unsafe Group.

The intent of this post is to contribute to the discussion on how to have a safe community. 

Recently the pagan community has been discussing this topic as a result of publicity over the arrest of Kenny Klein, a news story summarized here: 

Some posts by pagans and heathens either in reaction to the news or about how to have a safe community: 

Do I Have to Have Sex to Be a Witch?
The Community Reacts to Kenny Klein 
Evil Thrives on Secrecy 
Abuse creates spiritual taint (contains some foul language) 

There are some legitimate traditions that have hierarchies, and there are some traditions that reserve certain secrets and mysteries for higher levels of the group. Because there are such traditions, it’s hard to tell from the point of view of a prospective student whether the existence of levels and secrets indicates an established tradition or a means of dangling a carrot in front of the student to get student to keep doing what Bad Teacher demands. If one of the things student is expected to keep secret is that Bad Teacher is getting sex from student, that’s a clue that things are not well. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Trigger warning: sexual harassment, abuse


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Pagan savings challenge, week fifteen:  secrets

There's been a lot written about the culture secrecy lately.  In the Pagan community, many people are questioning whether a culture of secrecy perpetuates bad behavior, and in the broader United States, the President is seeking to dismantle the culture of secrecy surrounding salaries.

In both of those cases, secrecy can lead to advantage being taken, but secrecy has its place.  When it comes to money specifically, even if we develop a culture in which we all feel comfortable talking about money, we don't necessarily want people to know where we stash our cash.  That's why I was delighted to discover a post on creating a money jar for the Pagan savings challenge, the image for this very post was nicked from Mistress of the Hearth to show what one might look like.

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My Take on the Kenny Klein Affair

If you’re one of those Pagans who socialize on the Web, you’re no doubt aware of the current shitstorm in the wake of the arrest of prominent Pagan musician Kenny Klein for possession and distribution of child pornography.

The way I see it, this occurrence has brought out the best and the worst conduct on the part of Pagans.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Deb Snavely
    Deb Snavely says #
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    As a general rule, please don't post links without any accompanying commentary. It's a way for us to help avoid spam. From Articl
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you, Macha, for your wise and balanced words. Your observation that nobody in the media has so much as mentioned Mr. Klein'
  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    Great read, thank you! In my opinion, much of the hubbub relating to the fear of negative media over this issue seemed more of a k

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Evil Thrives on Secrecy

Many of you will have already read that long-time Pagan leader Kenny Klein was recently arrested for possession of child pornography. If you have not yet read this news, you can do so here. I was already aware of certain allegations against him stemming from a problematic incident in the 1990s, but the information came to me third-hand, and so I was reluctant to credit it. However, the way the information came to me - via someone who said she was breaking a coven oath to impart it - left me thinking about secrecy in the Pagan community for a long time afterward. More recently, Kenny himself posted a blog entry to the PaganSquare community about the issue of secrecy in magical communities that I thought was a good exploration of the topic, and I commented with a link back to my own discussion of secrecy among Pagans when speaking with non-Pagans.

In the coming days and weeks, I expect there will be a great deal of public conversation among us around Kenny's arrest, what the community knew or believed about his character and what the press might make of his faith. And while I am indeed using him as an example to re-introduce the topic of secrecy in the Pagan community, I am not willing to speculate in this entry or in the comments about his guilt or innocence. Rather, I want to have a conversation about silence; the kind we offer one another as Pagans and the kind we visit upon outsiders.

I am a reluctantly graying Pagan who came to the faith in the 1980s and lives in a conservative, Gàidhlig, island community now. So silence about my faith has always been a matter of active negotiation for me. That said, I believe in a certain level of transparency and accountability within the Pagan community, which is another kind of active negotiation, one that involves us all. I wrote about that negotiation some years ago for PanGaia's "Toe-to-Toe" series, and I am reprinting that article below because I think the discussion is timely. I encourage you to seek out PanGaia #46 for commentary on the subject by fellow contributors Alex Bledsoe, Nicholas Graham and David C. Webb.

Evil Thrives on Secrecy

I’ve been Pagan for more than twenty years, and in that time I’ve observed many fellow Pagans engaging in behaviors that were damaging to themselves, to their inner circles of friends and family, and to the Pagan community in general.  Some of these behaviors were egregious in nature, and I’ve often found myself shaking my head in disbelief or shaking with anger at what I’ve witnessed.  On more than one occasion I’ve responded to these behaviors with varying degrees of tact - proportional to my age and wisdom, as you might expect – and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself at loggerheads with various members of my community out of a sense of personal outrage, or duty, or whatever I was calling it at the time.  I’m not very good at the “shut up and sweep it under the rug” thing, you see.

But even though I’ve matured over time and learned to express my righteous indignation more diplomatically, I’ve never regretted the impulse that drove my younger self to right the wrongs I found in my community; to encourage mentally-ill friends to seek professional help, to report fellow Pagans to the proper authorities when I knew they were abusing their children, and to stand up to those leaders who used their influence improperly. I love the Pagan community; it was my refuge from the dark corners of my youth, it taught me almost everything I know about honor, and it brought me to a deep and abiding reverence for life.  I believe in fostering the same refuge for others who need it, and that isn’t always easy.

However, I’ve also observed – and been subject to – what happens to Pagans who speak out against the inappropriate behavior of other Pagans.  Often they are accused of inciting conflict whether their concerns are legitimate or not.  Moreover, those people who are charged with inappropriate behavior often hide behind the pretense of conflict avoidance and thereby escape censure whether they are guilty or not.  This is not appropriate, and over the years it has left me wondering why our community appears to favor conflict avoidance over straightforwardness and accountability.  It’s a hard question, and I think it demands that we look at the reasons why we avoid conflict in the first place.

One possibility is that because we have had to fight hard for a long time to be recognized as a legitimate faith path in the eyes of non-Pagan culture, we want to put on the very best face we have for the public eye. Internal conflict mars that public face and makes it more difficult for us to interact with non-Pagans. Therefore, it is possible that the Pagan community has, in its desire to be seen as positive and life-affirming, sought to quash dissent rather than deal with those problems illuminated by dissenters.

Another possibility is that our desire to foster diversity makes us hesitant to question people whose behavior bespeaks a need for intervention when they insist their activities are integral to their path-working. Many of us know people who use psychotropic substances to facilitate visionary experience; who are we to determine how much is too much? Many of us know people who are nurturing non-traditional romantic and familial relationships; who are we to determine whether or not those relationships are equitable for all parties involved? We exist in a community full of radical and experimental forms of expression, and most of us know that we can’t possibly understand them all. Perhaps we are worried that we might not understand them enough to know when the line between progressive and problematic has been crossed.

A third possibility is that many of us come from broken places and have brought our psychological baggage with us into the Pagan community. Conflict is sometimes personal and painful for people even when they are not directly involved in it. As previously mentioned, a number of us sought refuge here in the hope that we could recover our strength and thereafter make positive contributions in the lives of others.  Therefore, it is certainly possible that some Pagans simply have little tolerance for discord.

But whatever the reasons for this ethic of conflict avoidance, the consequences are the same. We decay from within when sick members of our community do not seek wellness, and we enable their sickness with our silence. We are viewed negatively by the outside world when we do not censure members of our community who have harmed others. And most importantly, we fail to do the spiritual and environmental work the multiverse brought us together to do, since that work can only be done in a spirit of perfect love and perfect trust.

We all fall ill and make mistakes from time to time. I am not suggesting that we punish the imperfections of our fellow Pagans by permanently excluding them from our community. However, I am insisting that we overcome our fear of conflict and demand that our fellow Pagans seek help when they are ill and account for their mistakes. Our community is important and good and holy, and we all need to be healthy and productive together if we are to survive, thrive, and be a place of safety for our members.

"Evil Thrives on Secrecy." PanGaia Apr. 2007: 12. Print.

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  • Deborah Blake
    Deborah Blake says #
    Very well said!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Tyranny of Secrecy

I don’t think that secrecy is a good thing.  I don’t think it’s healthy and I don’t think it’s beneficial to anyone.  Secrecy is a condition that allows all manner of malevolence to thrive.  Secrecy allows wounds to fester in the darkness and spread infection throughout the family system.

I’ve heard 12-steppers speak of the ways in which their families are affected by keeping secret the alcoholism of one or more family members.  Keeping that afflicted family member’s secret adversely affects everyone in the family.  One rationale for keeping such secrets is shame. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    The isolation that secrecy fosters is like a poison-tipped arrow. Metaphorically speaking, far more damaging than the wound itself
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Please, please, please leave comments here rather than on FB! If they're here, their available to other readers and don't become

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