The problem of trust

The core criterion of good faith has an especially significant role for this community. There is a general expectation that good faith is not present in the larger community when it comes to members of this specific community. It can be difficult to admit to another, without special assurances, that one is a member of the specific community, to self-identify.

Although now “more metaphor than reality,” (Hutton, 2000, p 369) the feeling, if not the fact, of the witch hunts and persecution of women is still a very real part of the community. A link between the witch hunt narrative and present modern struggles for gender and religious equity offers a mythic dimension of meaning to a very real modern-day struggle. Further, there is still the feeling that there will come a time when persecutions will return and self-identifying publicly as a member of the community will have proved a mistake. Many members of the community feel that they have been, and continue to be, subject to prejudice based on their religious identity which may also be amplified, in both cause and effect, by gender prejudice.

While it is true that the statement in Exodus 22:18 in the King James Version of the Christian Bible mistranslates the Hebrew word for “poisoner” and renders: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” It is still deeply embedded within the modern pagan witchcraft that witch hunts were and are “a mechanism for repressing women” (Hutton, 2000, p363) and they could become common again. This paranoia is, in fact, genuinely practical for a counter-culture practice that encourages activism, because, as they say, it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you. [1. The King James version continues to be printed, much in the same way that people continue to carve pumpkins into Jack O’ Lanterns when it’s been clearly demonstrated that the actual historical tradition in Old World Europe was to carve a turnip, not a New World pumpkin.]

Further, the nature of the community structure, as a loose confederation of affinity groups and independent-but-allied individuals, poses significant challenges to any application of large group intervention methodologies within or including this community. When not only are the group memberships not known, but the individuals may not wish to reveal their group memberships, any methodology must offer the chance for people to become engaged without requiring they self-identify. Therefore, any methodology that requires the facilitators to know who to invite is bound to be problematical at best.