We’ve done a lot of talking recently about the disruptive intrusion by self-proclaimed Christians at the WitchsFest USA event in New York back in July. We wrote a piece applauding the event host, StarrAnn Ravenhawk, for handling it with grace and dignity, not violence, in the face of an obvious attempt to provoke and show Pagans in a very bad light.
It has ignited a great and powerful conversation happening throughout the Pagan Community, and it isn’t just about Christians vs Pagans anymore. There are hundreds of thousands of events that take place all around the country every year. Billions of dollars and hours are invested in them. People’s livelihoods are affected in huge ways when these events get disrupted like this.
Protestors have a right to show up and make their noise at any of them. We can’t stop them. They are supposed to stay outside of the actual event and not intrude, and the police are supposed to come and intervene when they do, but that doesn’t always happen. Tensions rise, anger flares, and it gets harder and harder not to respond in kind. So, what do we do?
We know violence isn’t the answer but we also know that playing around with people’s money can create angry and violent behavior in even the best of us. We absolutely have to talk about it and get ahead of it now, to avoid tragedies at our own hands later on.
I joined the Round Table at Iowa Pagan News Radio last night to discuss this very topic. It was a great conversation. You can watch it here. There were some things recommended that I want share with you and go into a little more detail about.
We discussed a few options, get trained in de-escalation, have your tool box handy, and surround yourself with people who will protect each other, were the big take-aways. Share this information with others and keep the conversation about this going.
Get De-Escalation Training
We can’t control other people. As Pagans, this isn’t news to us. In the past, this knowledge is what has allowed us to take a step back, take the high road, and turn the other cheek, but it is also what has gotten us killed. We won’t go down that road again, but we can’t become the aggressors either.
Our intentions, as Pagans, have always been merely to be able to live in peace, without fear, and with the freedom to love, live, and care for the world the way we feel we should as individuals. Not to start a war. That has not changed. We aren’t about to just lay down and conform to controlling behaviors either, though. Nor should we.
We have to be able to de-escalate heated situations. Easier said than done can’t be an excuse here. Hurting someone is never the answer, but taking abusive behavior isn’t an acceptable answer either. De-escalation training is a thing and it’s available online and off. Make an investment, even if it is just time reading about it, what it is, and taking note of any tips offered. Just knowing what you can do in an escalated situation that won’t raise tensions even higher, helps tremendously.
There is talk in the video about having your tool box handy, but we don’t really go into a lot of detail about what it is or what’s in it. It’s basically readily available or very easily accessible knowledge of policies and resources in one’s local area. What can be legal and perfectly ok in one city can be completely illegal and carry heavy penalties in another. We have to have knowledge of, or at least know where to find the knowledge quickly, that applies to each of us where we are.
Some starter info to have in your tool box (smart phone)?
*Bookmark links to your City, County, and State offices on your phone. You can add councils, municipalities, and other smaller jurisdictions if they apply in your area. These offices offer links and information on different policies they impose in all kinds of matters. Having quick access to these sites to look up what is ok and what isn’t in a given moment can be time, money, and even life saving.
*Have Non-emergency phone numbers on speed dial.
911 is great and intended for medical emergencies that have to be responded to immediately and urgently. Dealing with civil matters, like aggressive protestors also need to be dealt with, but not at the sake of someone possibly dying trying to get help immediately. Find out what numbers to call for non-emergencies, have them handy at all times, and use them instead of calling 911 if no one is physically hurt, and be patient.
*A list of local attorneys- ask friends and family for recommendations of attorneys. Having a list of recommendations to start with will save a lot of time if you find yourself in a situation that requires litigation urgently.
* Bail Bondsmen-having a list on hand, or even just one, just in case you or a friend ever need one, is never a bad idea.
Being prepared to handle any kind of situation diplomatically and civilly starts with knowing what is possible, what consequences are, and what recourse you have. Stay out of legal trouble by knowing what rights and protections you have and how far you can go to protect them.
Protect Each Other
There is power in numbers, and our numbers as Pagans is massive. It’s not just those of us who claim to be Pagans, but also any of us who get lumped in and categorized as Pagans by others too. In recent studies and statistics, we Pagans, outnumber the number of people who claim major religions like Christianity on the planet almost 3 to 1.
We can easily attribute behaviors like what happened at WitchsFest this year as a massive contributor to our growing numbers. People don’t want to be a part of and associated with something that hurts, demeans, and condemns people. They leave, looking for something that doesn’t do that, and find us.
We don’t lash out and become violent when we are provoked. We band together and circle around to have everyone’s backs, not just our own. We protect each other. We support each other, even when our individual beliefs differ, and help each other grow. This is why our numbers are growing and why they will continue to grow.
We can’t change that now. Despite the behaviors of proclaimed Christians or any other agencies that come against and provoke us, we cannot allow ourselves to be provoked to violence.
The moment we become violent, we become what they say we are; evil, scary, and deserve to be destroyed.
We have to fight that first and foremost. Find a way, even in the most heated moments, to be civil, caring. Pagan.