Although most Pagans and Pagan groups are completely respectful and respectable, as the introduction to the PF's advice stated: "All groups have their share of bad apples and there are those out there that would seek to manipulate and abuse spirituality for their own ends."
The PF went on to say it had compiled the list because: "We want to do all that we can to make sure that everyone is able to explore their spirituality in safety."
The advice started with warnings, which I've put in brief here:
- No Pagan path demands sexual activity. If someone insists you have sex with them, walk away.
- No Pagan path demands drug use.
- No Pagan path demands you drink alcohol - they should offer non-alcoholic drinks if you ask.
- Wiccan covens never initiate anyone under the age of 18.
- Pagan ceremonies do not involve animal sacrifice or abuse.
- Pagan groups should not demand extortionate sums of money - small contributions towards things like room hire or refreshments may be asked.
- Claims to be members of a super secret ancient Pagan group are almost certainly false.
Following up from the PF's list of advice on staying safe, the Wild Hunt published a feature by Christina Harrington, of Treadwells, entitled "UK Pagan Community Confronts Child Abuse". It covers the news that the Pagan community in the UK was recently shocked when four paedophiles were uncovered. The paedophiles have since been imprisoned.
Christina said: "I think most of us Pagans want to be able to keep imagining that child abuse only happens elsewhere. “Our sort are not ‘that sort’.” We might all wish to believe that a true Pagan (whatever that is) could never do such things and that a person who did commit such atrocities could only be masquerading as Pagan. But wishing doesn’t make it so, as the old adage goes."
She summed up by saying: "We have a long road ahead of us and we are learning every day about being more effective in the sobering, important task of protecting our children."
The message to take from this is that we all need to be alert and aware of the dangers posed by abusers and predators. Paganism is, on the whole, a safe and responsible spiritual path, but we are all human and all groups of humans can contain individuals who are not as honourable as we would hope they would be. Be careful and be safe.