Risk Assessment Within The Craft Community
By Weyland Smith
There seems to betwo schools of thought within the "Craft Com-
munity" concerning the dangers faced by Pagans in general and witches
in particular. One school thinks that we are now in the Age of Aqu-
arius and that all danger has passed. The other camp seems to feel
that we are beset with dangers and that our only safety lies in
remaining "the hidden children of the Goddess", telling no one of our
religious faith (including our fellow practitioners), and being ready
to fly or fight on a moment's notice. Who's right? Do we know? Have we
even tried to find out?
On theone hand, we live in a countrywith a Bill of Rights. Times
have certainly changed since witchcraft was a hanging offence in
Massachusetts. People have been known to proclaim their faith and live
unmolested. On the other hand, there are about 3 million people in the
United States who profess themselves to believe that the Bible is the
literal word of God. If Leviticus says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch
to live.", then there should be 3 million people out there ready to
drag me out of my house and kill me.
Fortunately, the answer does not lie with either extreme and
therefore our reaction should likewise avoid either extreme position.
We live in a world beset by dangers. We could be in a traffic ac-
cident. We could have our house burglarized. Our child could be
abducted on the way home from school. We could be struck by lighten-
ing. Do we stay home, guard the house and family and avoid living? Of
What we DOis to act in sucha way as to recognize therisks we run
and to minimize them. We try to live in reasonably safe neighborhoods.
We keep good locks on our doors. We drive defensively and wear seat
belts. We teach our children to run from threatening situations. This
isn't paranoia, just good sense.
Is thereany danger that we as witches and pagans might be sub-
jected to another violent suppression? Any Jew with an eye to recent
history would tell you that of course there is! Is that danger great
here in this country? Not at present, but we do live in a world
subject to rapid changes. Within my lifetime, people of Japanese
extraction in this country were summarily rounded up and shipped off
to remote camps. This action was contested all the way up to the
Supreme Court to no avail.
So what should we do?
Well for a start, recognize that there is SOME residual risk
whenever anyone takes an ethical position. We must understand that
this risk is present whether we think it should be so or not. Further,
we must each decide what level of hazard we are personally willing to
run and to which we would subject our families. Finally, we should
avoid doing anything which might subject ourselves and those around us
to risks when such risks are avoidable. Especially, we should respect
one another's right to manage his own dangers. Just because I choose
to take a risk doesn't give me the right to endanger you!
Should wereturn to living ourlives under perpetual cover?I hope
not. But I do respect the individual rights of my brothers and sisters
of the Art to each make that decision on their own. It is on this
middle ground where I suggest we should all try to live for the
Next: Peyote & The Supreme Court (News Articles)