Evidently, after my patented “Newbies Need Help” post, the message was received by all the people who agreed with me. This is great! That says, to me, that there are people out there with a like mindset, that helping is infinitely preferable than coming off as a raging douchecopter. Unfortunately, the post didn’t reach as big of an audience as it should have because there are still people out there who think behaving like raging douchecopters is the way to go. They think that treating people like shit will get the point across just as effectively as sending a quiet message to try to encourage the person to see the light of day. I’m sorry, but running into a situation with your holier-than-thou stick is not the way to teach kids the lessons they would have learned if not practicing a solitary, pagan practice. So, let’s get to the point here.
Newbies make mistakes.
I know this is kind of shocking and surprising, but it’s the absolute truth. A lot of pagan newbies are running around without any kind of sources aside from what they may find in a local library or what they may find online. We all know that everyone and anyone can make a website nowadays and fill it with whatever information they so desire. This means that dissemination of information may not be up to the standards of some of us older, more experienced pagan solitaries out there. But, you know what? The newbies really don’t know any better. I’m sure they are consciously aware that anyone can make a website and fill it with whatever filth and shit they may desire to put on there, but they’re not going to be aware that the website they’re getting their information from is incorrect or just completely stupid if you don’t tell them. And why is that? Because they make mistakes.
And as I’ve mentioned a time or two before, it’s pretty fucking important to learn from our mistakes, but to also go into this knowing that you’ll make them. It’s a part of the learning process. However, not part of the learning process is this sudden desire to “stick it to” the person who is the middle of the mistake. And really, it’s not quite that these pagans who are older, wiser, and so should, therefore, know better, are “sticking it to” the mistake-wielding newbie but that they’re so gung-ho on teaching in the most asinine, horrific, and morally reprehensible way possible. I’ll cite an example I watched unfold before my very eyes.
A very young Wiccan made a broadly generalized declaration that the reason they loved paganism so much was because it was must more free and truth-filled than the fake Christians they are used to associating with. I thought the post had a bit of merit, but I also felt like, you know, it wasn’t all the truth. Still, whatever. The Wiccan made the comment and then a bunch of older and wiser pagans decided to leap down the person’s throat with the intention of showing them the mistakes. They came wielding baseball bats when a simple, “Hey, that’s not exactly true. Assholes come in all different shapes and sizes and religions,” would have sufficed. Since the young Wiccan was attacked, the Wiccan backslid and apologized. This galvanized the older and wiser crowd to come back down upon them with bigger and heavier and harsher words. This made the youngster backslide further and then try to explain the viewpoint they were hoping they had shared. This was, again, not taken very lightly because yet more people bitched the poor thing out instead of saying something firmly like, “Assholes come in all different shapes and sizes and religions.”
In this particular instance, the real mistake was that the Wiccan made a broad generalization because they are not able to communicate effectively with local pagans. Since this person cannot co-mingle with other pagans and Wiccans, they are unaware that pagans can be assholes and fake just as much as any Christian out there. The further mistake was when the older and wiser crowd felt the need to punch that person in the face with the knowledge that assholes truly are alive and well in every religion, including paganism. They made this apparent with their holier-than-thou sticks ready to wield as weapons instead of calmly correcting a mistake. This is not how you fucking teach someone from their mistake. And in fact, is probably the best way to get them to stop practicing because all you’ve done is shown them that co-mingling with other pagans may not be in their best interest because if they make a mistake, they will be called to the carpet when a simple explanation would suffice.
As a parent, I can tell you that this is the most ineffective and asshole way to teach your kids. And as an older and wiser pagan, I can tell you that this is the most ineffective and asshole way to teach newbies in the field. When my son thinks it would be interesting to touch the wood burning stove in my in-laws’ basement, I explain to him firmly why this is not in his best interest. I don’t come down on him like a ton of bricks and beat him senseless to try to convey how worried and fearful I am about him being around a wood burning stove. In all likelihood, he will probably make the mistake of touching said wood burning stove. And while he will be punished for not listening after I have told him something, I’m still not going to take out a baseball bat and beat him senseless for not listening. I am going to correct the mistake as a parent. That’s something that older and wiser pagans need to take into account. Otherwise, I really despair, not only for the youngsters entering paganism and being taught in such a horrific way, but also for their children.
The thing is that youngsters make mistakes. They touch the wood burning stove after being explained why they shouldn’t. They spout out broad generalizations because they are excited and think that this bubble that they are in is the way it is for everyone.
Young pagans don’t know that not every pagan is open, honest, and truthful. Young pagans don’t know that because they chose Wicca as a religion then they don’t have to eschew colors and become goth. Young pagans don’t realize that not every pagan religion is the same. Young pagans don’t realize that website or forum X may not be the best place for them to congregate because the information is full of bullshit or is beyond the 101 they need. Young pagans don’t realize these things because they are young and they are new and they need someone there to hold their hands and explain this stuff to them. Not to post asshole pictures stating what some older and wiser pagans would consider “the obvious.” Not to post snarling, snarky commentary about what a fool they are for making X statement. Not to post bitchy, self-entitled rants about how stupid someone is for doing X in a spell when “clearly” that’s not how it should work. By doing this, you are doing a disservice to the new person in question and you are doing a disservice to yourself.
You’re coming off as an asshole.
We should all stop and look and help and prod the younger generation. Personally, I do this because it feels good to be able to give information to younger pagans. I love it when I get questions about where to research information on the Internet and what books they should consider purchasing. The feeling I get is beyond words. I feel good about myself and about my practice that I am someone who someone else can turn to, ask this question, and get substance in a response instead of fodder. And if the feeling good part isn’t enough to make some of these older and wiser pagans to sit up and help out, then think about it this way.
Most pagan religions are too young to have had generational followers thus far. I was born into Catholicism and raised Methodist. Other people I know who are practicing pagans are also coming from one of the Abrahamic faiths, seeking something more fulfilling. By being a complete and utter fucking douchebag to these newbies, you are scaring them off. You are sending them away. You are making it so that your own fucking religion will not survive. You are suffering from misanthropy instead of helping to foster a community so that we can stand together and face down all the asshats that think we’re evil Satanists that promote, well, more evil. In all honesty, all you’re fucking doing is killing off everything you’ve been fucking working on for however long you’ve been on this fucking turnpike.
So, my advice here is to get off your high fucking horse, eat a bar of chocolate, and stop thinking that your shit doesn’t stink.
You made mistakes just as much as any newbie you’ve verbally assaulted.
And that’s part of the whole fucking learning process to begin with.
Excellent post! (Apologies if this is a duplicate; it looks like my first try failed.)
Thank you very much.
This is why I have left Tumblr. I couldn’t stand the Everyday Execution on a newbie. I have been myself the worst of newbies, and made enough mistakes (and a few more) to know that, as you have said, bashing them is not the way. There is nothing I am more thankful for than the people who helped me find my path.
Wonderful post, sharing it right away!
I really gets to me when I see all the people bashing on each other over there. It’s just like, “Really?” I’ll admit, I get upset and angry about things just like everyone else, but I really do try not to shank them when they’re down.
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Truth. Sadly too many people like to power trip and thus will continue to be asshats. :( But the rest of us can do our best to make sure we put on a kinder and more helpful face.
I love power trips and ego boosts just as much as the next person. But, you know, my ego gets boosted up higher when I help someone else out and they thank me.
Yes, but see you learned that lesson. :) lots of others haven’t yet.
I agree with much of your post. As someone who has been teaching people as well as possible, hopefully without resorting to either douchecoptery or asshattery too often, I will say that newbies do deserve to be cut some slack. Because I don’t consider myself to be Pagan, neo or otherwise, I cannot really comment on that part of it. I do know that the community is filled with petty, backbiting people who seem to be in endless competition with each other. Why that is, I have no idea. It has been going on as long as I have been in it which is going on over 30 years. That is unfortunate, but it has been the consistent nature of the beast.
There is a flip side to this coin. When you suggest perhaps better resources being shown to newbies, some get indignant and tell you why you are wrong or they expect you to buy into things that have been disproven, for example. Hey, if they ask what I think of a resource, and it’s a piece of crap not worthy of their time, I will tell them. Everyone whose been at this has had the inevitable “Shelf O Crap”. Not all published works are equal in realms of validity or accuracy. Also, I have even had had newbies, some young, some not-so-young, come to me and not only ask to be pointed in the direction of good reading materials, resources, etc. but then to also demand that by virtue of their dedication to a similar path or being in the same group, to photocopy and mail them those resources at my expense so that they can have them as well. Rarely is there a please or a thank you. I spent hundreds, probably thousands of dollars of my own money on my egyptological materials. Some of these I spent many, many hours translating some of them from French into English. I have absolutely not the slightest interest in acquiescing to any such rudely rendered request. It’s all a matter of priorities. I will give anyone who asks the titles and authors of those works. But that is where it ends. They alone are responsible for laying hands on them and spending the legwork and resources. Sometimes if I have an extra copy of something I will give it to a particularly dedicated student. It really boils down to how much someone wants the answers. Dedication to one’s Path is essential.
On the elders’ side of it, it is really very easy to get annoyed with some of the behaviour. It’s almost a schizophrenic refrain that is heard in the so called pagan “community” how much we should honour our Elders and how much they dedicate to whatever Path, and yet not only not support them, but some within that community can really be downright disrespectful . Even when you try to do your best to foster a sense of hands-on exploration for newbies, novices that includes a push toward discovery by providing someone a map by which they can discover on their own and come up with their own personal gnosis and personal relationship to the God(s) on their own terms, it isn’t enough. Sekhmet, in my experience, is absolutely not about mollycoddling. I am all for giving a clue, I am all for having a modicum of respect between elder and newbie on both sides- because I believe newbies teach us, too. However, no one gets to ride for free. The knowledge, regardless of Pathworking is not idle. You learn by doing. That does not give an elder or experienced person a license to be a dick. Not everyone who calls themselves a priest or priestess or elder is good at the role. Some should never have been put in the position in the first place. It’s a give and take.
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