The Flake Filter
by Passion & *Diuvei, Coven OldenwildeJust as the wilderness has always been seen as a refuge for civilization's outcasts, so Witchcraft is often perceived as a haven for those who cannot or will not conform to society's conventional systems of belief. Unfortunately, just as the American frontier drew both Thoreaus and Billy the Kids, so the renascent Old Religion attracts both wise, sincere seekers and unstable, irrational drifters. Witches work with powerful, elemental forces. Few students possess the physical stamina, emotional balance, and spiritual core necessary to master hundreds of years of occult magic. We have seen many enthusiastic newbies perish on the shoals of their old bad habits. Liberated from arbitrary Xtian rules, they revert to a kind of anarchy of the id. They often appear to think that freedom means the ability to do anything they want. (Real freedom is the ability to do things others can't.) Wicca is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind. To be a true witch, you must be reverent, seriously studious, and capable of applying yourself over the long haul.
We presented the following material as a workshop at Covenant of the Goddess' MerryMeet '96. It includes a series of typical "Flake" character profiles to be aware of, pathological personality traits (red flags) to watch out for, contributing factors to consider, and ten questions to ask yourself before you teach a student or admit a covenmate. Note: There likely WILL be a resemblance to persons both living and dead, though the profile names were chosen to reflect character types only -- at present, we are unaware of any individuals with such Craft names.
- FLIGHTY FLAKE:
- Craft name: Windmyst Thunderthighs. Adamantly eclectic. Repeatedly attempts to elicit support from other students to vote in the Virgin Mary as principal Coven Deity. Arrives late, then sleeps at the Covenstead. Perpetually loses BoS in public places. Plans for months to lead a Sabbat, then pulls a no-show. Risks: Lack of self-restraint and poor memory pose high confidentiality risk, Coven exposure and possible verbal misrepresentation of actual teaching.
- NEEDY FLAKE:
- Craft name: Rainshadow. Sweet but sad. Relates an endlessly repeated litany of pain, familial conflict and spiritual angst. Rare expressions of hope regarding a better reincarnation. Requests group healing at every Coven meeting. Can't focus on learning because of regular crises. Calls members daily for counseling and consolations. Markedly drains group energy. Domestic relationship is often abusive. Quits coming to rituals -- too dark to see properly. Risks: Student is not bad, just not ready for the Craft; HPs/HP decision to release student may foster feelings of arbitrary rejection amongst other students. Not confronting student's dependence may expose members if student's mate discovers Covenstead.
- UNSTABLE FLAKE:
- Craft name: BloodMoon. Initially charming, remarkably helpful and magically gifted. but has visible flaws. Claims to be a Craft Old-timer, but evades queries by pleading oaths and previous Coven's secretive nature. Reads obscure myths at home & cites unrelated excerpts in class. Delights in splitting theory hairs w/HPs & HP. Patronizes the other students about feeling "held back" by their lack of experience. Risks: Bored with learning Craft fundamentals; basic inability quickly becomes apparent, leading to trust breakdown among members; exits unexpectedly and angrily. Spitefully reveals secrets to area Wiccan community in an effort to join a sympathetic, new Coven.
- SUBVERSIVE FLAKE:
- Craft name: Blackdove. Initially appears the definition of calm. Professes experience as arbiter and diplomat with ultimate allegiance to the Craft alone. Subtle instigator of intra-Coven disputes. Supports HPs/HP in their presence, but undermines their decisions and questions motives in their absence. Proposes frequent changes to established procedures as originating from students too scared to ask. Often misinterprets teachings. Risks: Insidious maneuvers make it difficult for HPs/HP to prove wrongdoing. Passive-aggressive nature erodes trust and creates fractionalism; potential for hostile "hiving".
- TREACHEROUS FLAKE:
- Craft name: Cuchulainn. Claims to be descended from some ancient, but unprovable lineage. Initially appears gifted and experienced. Content with previous knowledge acquired, chafes at current "student" status. Frequently makes personal oaths and vows which are quickly forgotten and go unfulfilled. Expresses verbal and attitudinal disdain for Elders, teaching structure and degree system. Willfully breaks confidentiality, refuses to accept culpability, then angrily voids the Coven. Risks: Establishes a rival Coven and spread lies throughout the Wiccan community. Obvious oath-breaking engenders other students' self-doubt about their own ability to remain steadfast through the years, and possible concern regarding lack of prevention and foresight by the HPs/HP.
- Religious ideations -- manifested delusion in which the person constantly assumes the actions or identity of God, disciples and other famous religious figures (frequently missed -- after all, "Thou Art Goddess")
- Stream-of-consciousness -- persistently disordered thought or speech patterns which reflect scattered ideas and inability to concentrate or understand (often missed, as witches love trance and highly "magical" people)
- Grandiosity -- excessive or persistent bragging paired with elaborate plans that never materialize (often dismissed as Newbie enthusiasm)
- Dissociation -- assuming an alter-ego for self-protection; or severe lack of self-awareness of personal deeds and motives (easily missed due to Craft names; the latter definition is usual cause of unethical problems)
- Borderline personality -- traits characterized by their extremity: continual relation of past insults to the person, quick and severe emotional changes, repetitious over-reaction, pervasive paranoia, forceful declarations of beliefs, conversational anger, rigid intolerance, absence of boundaries, excessive, unnecessary defensiveness (difficult to pinpoint until too late, since most people occasionally manifest some of these symptoms)
- Excessively rapid speech -- manic symptom (often misidentified as "hyperness")
- Psychiatric history -- serious pre-existing psychological diagnosis combined with the absence of present treatment or necessary medication (rarely mentioned because of social stigma, concern that a teacher who knows will refuse them, or self-delusion that their condition is cured)
- Explosivity -- unpredictable verbal or physical lashing-out that the person often minimizes later (often excused as justifiable, depending on the context)
Several factors commonly contribute to eventual "flakedom":
- LEVEL AND TYPE OF PREVIOUS CRAFT EXPERIENCE (loose pagan vs. traditional Wiccan; passive-aggressive approach to beginning from scratch with a new group, etc.)
- AGE (the twenties are a time of upheaval and instability for many)
- SEXUAL PREJUDICES (inferiority/superiority mindsets that don't diminish with time)
- MAGICAL PRACTICE PREFERENCES (insistence on their way can create intra-group conflict)
- RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND (many retain deep-seated guilt/fear about joining Craft)
- FAMILY BACKGROUND (severe probs. w/ parents can cause paranoia about HPs/HP)
- CURRENT WORK/FINANCIAL STATUS (person is unhappily unemployed, financially stressed)
- FUTURE PLANS (person is undirected, perceives they have been thwarted, etc.)
- allowing the person a specified period of time to attend meetings before deciding whether or not to formally include them in the study group
- sympathetic but firm appraisal of symptoms and actions which are counterproductive to the students' Craft growth
- formally insisting that they desist, for a set period of time, from specified actions during group/Coven meetings
- to a free State counseling agency, respected Craft counselor, or a different Wiccan group altogether
- formal separation from the Coven
- This person acts:
A) Consistently. B) Inconsistently. C) I'm unsure.
- This person exhibits behavior that is:
A) Considerate. B) Occasionally hurtful. C) Unruly/destructive.
- This person's general mood is:
A) Normally positive. B) Frequently depressive. C) Often desperate.
- This person has created:
A) No conflict. B) Some conflict. C) Constant conflict.
- I trust what this person says and does:
A) Implicitly. B) Occasionally. C) Rarely.
- This person makes me feel:
A) Proud/Secure. B) Uncertain/Insecure. C) Scared/Impending doom.
- This person fosters:
A) Perfect love and trust. B) Group suspicion. C) Paranoia/In-fighting.
- This person projects:
A) Calm, personal power. B) Vacillating ability. C) An itch to curse.
- This person learns from mistakes:
A) Usually. B) Rarely. C) Never.
- This person completes plans:
A) Frequently. B) Occasionally. C) Rarely.
A high preponderance of "A"s indicates the student will probably be a capable student or covenmate.
Several "B"s indicates it may be risky to try to teach or circle with the person.
Any "C"s, and the person is possibly dangerous.
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Published: 11 Sep. 1996