Community Newbies Spiritual Growth

Safe Pagans: A response to peer violence in the Kemetic neo-pagan online community

February 14, 2021
peer violence

Image by Alexey Pavlov via Pixabay.

 

Peer violence is a confronting topic to address and in all honesty, I wish I didn’t have to. But someone has to. The intention of this post is to promote spiritual safety for all pagans, particularly newcomers. Believe it or not, peer violence in the Kemetic neo-pagan online community exists and if we do nothing, our community will erode and we’ll be robbed of bright individuals, whose light belongs in the community. To counter this, I aim to raise awareness on the issue and ask that all pagans become Safe Pagans.

 

The scope of my interaction with other Kemetic neo-pagans has so far been limited to online contact. With respect to these limitations, I will narrow the focus of this post to the online aspects of the Kemetic community. The points raised here are based solely on my own observations during Kemetic social events online. The concepts of spiritual safety and being a Safe Pagan, however, can be applied to the wider pagan community. I welcome the perspectives of other pagans on the issue, along with any feedback or stories.

Peer violence is a term borrowed from research into child and adolescent behaviour (as an example, see the 2018 article Children’s peer violence perpetration and victimization: Prevalence and associated factors among school children in Afghanistan by Julienne Corboz et al). Sadly, adults are not immune to this global problem. A similar term borrowed from research into workplace bullying, horizontal violence refers to non-physical aggression and comments from one peer directed toward another in a way that devalues, disrespects or otherwise causes harm to the targeted recipient (as another example, see the 2012 nursing article Horizontal violence and the quality and safety of patient care: A conceptual model by Christina Purpora and Mary A. Blegen). 

The definition above for horizontal violence can also serve as a working definition for peer violence in the Kemetic neo-pagan online community. I would also add, pagan peer violence includes shutting a person down or invalidating a person, simply because we disagree with or don’t like certain statements they’ve made. It can also include harsh rhetoric directed at a person for making mistakes or inaccurate statements. I’ve seen the latter scenario occur most frequently with newcomers. Peer violence can negatively affect a person’s experience of community, especially when that person is targeted or bullied repeatedly.

Online pagan events are virtual spaces meant to be safe zones for sharing. When we attend such events, there’s a certain level of safety and trust assumed by people who participate. A live chat during an online Kemetic event, for example, can take on additional dimensions for the possibility of psychological and spiritual harm, if that space is mistreated or misused.

In today’s world, online encounters are often surrogates for physical encounters. Most Kemetic neo-pagans do not live near a temple and are solitary practitioners and the majority of our social contact with like-minds occurs online. If we’re bullied online, we can become affected in real life. We can suck it up, grow thicker skin or simply try ignoring it but how many times can we do that, before it becomes a real problem, in real life?

For some, it’s only once. I’ve seen a number of new people come to a group, receive a negative reception from experienced members and never return. In the nursing profession, we call this eating our young. Nurses will warn new graduates not to work on certain wards, which are known to eat their young. In some instances, the Kemetic neo-pagan online community eats its young. Not everyone is doing it, there are many wonderful people in the community, but even one bully left unchecked is too much. In addition to newcomers, I’ve also had peer violence directed at me personally. 

 

Examples of peer violence in the Kemetic neo-pagan online community

 

During the live chat for a Kemetic event on Youtube, a newcomer made a prayer request for a peaceful transition of power during the Trump – Biden crisis in America. They were immediately and aggressively shut down by a regular viewer, who was not a moderator, for making political statements. The newcomer apologised. Ironically, the moderator and host themselves prayed for a peaceful transition of power during the previous week, in which the perpetrator of the peer violence was present. To the best of my knowledge, the newcomer did not return. I had a difficult time making sense of what I witnessed.

In my own experience, one particularly memorable attack occurred when I mentioned during a live chat for a Kemetic event, that I apply the 42 ideals of Ma’at to a Kemetic rosary and that I also pray for people who leave prayer requests. I, too, received an almost immediate and aggressive rebuttal — the details of which, I’ve blocked from my memory. All I could do in my defence was joke about my Catholic background. Old habits die hard, haha. It was a bewildering experience and sadly, I’ve hardly touched my Kemetic rosary since.

It should be noted, the moderator themselves made Kemetic rosaries and sold them on Etsy. That’s where my Kemetic rosary came from. At any rate, the situation became unsafe for me, both spiritually and psychologically. Lately, I cannot relax and enjoy myself when I attend Kemetic events online. I feel like I’ve got duct tape across my mouth. I feel anxious about commenting, lest I say something a bully disagrees with. Peer violence has negatively affected my experience of community.

 

Safe Pagans as a response to peer violence in the Kemetic neo-pagan online community

 

The concept of Safe Pagans is a response to peer violence in any branch of the pagan community. Becoming a Safe Pagan starts with recognising each person’s right to spiritual safety. There is a certain level of trust each person places in a group and a certain level of vulnerability that results during pagan events. Being a Safe Pagan involves honouring the trust each person places in the group and valuing each member’s uniqueness. Spiritual safety is a shared responsibility between each member in the community.

During our online encounters, it’s inevitable that we’ll disagree with someone or become annoyed by a statement someone has made. What works for one person may not be right for you. We might even spot an inaccuracy stated by someone, which we feel compelled to refute. It’s how we handle these instances that makes the difference between bullying and healthy debate. I would encourage all pagans to ask themselves the following question, will my response cause harm to the other person? If the answer is yes, it’s more appropriate to modify your communication. This is being a Safe Pagan. A Safe Pagan is a safe human being.

I’ve since blocked my perpetrator and when I see other people bullied, I suggest they do the same, in the open, in front of everyone. I never reported the problem to the moderator because I thought the bullying was so obvious, something would be done. Nothing was done. My response is to create Safe Pagans, to raise awareness in the community and to ask everyone in the community to become a Safe Pagan.

Lastly, I’ve purposely chosen not to go into the psychological reasons for bullying, simply because there is too much to unpack. Drawing attention to the problem and creating safety is the scope of this post. People need to feel safe if they are going to grow spiritually. My advice to anyone facing pagan peer violence would be to not give up on your path. We need you. Ask the pantheon you work with for guidance and protection and seek human assistance and support. I encourage everyone in the Kemetic neo-pagan online community to raise awareness by declaring I am a Safe Pagan in your online activities and social media profiles but more importantly, demonstrate safety in your actions. It will impact other people’s lives.

I dedicate this post to those newbies who never came back. I’m sorry.

Thank you, for reading Kemetic Blog. Stay safe and well.

 

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