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G no.2 – ‘Gullible’

This week I was inspired by the lovely Amanda who suggested ‘Gullible’ as my subject for this PBP post.

It relates back to a post I made just before I started on The Project, entitled ‘Asking Permission’. In that post I discussed the act of asking permission from nature or spirits without questioning the why or how. In the comments we talked a bit about how Pagan truisms sometimes seem to lack a sense of critical thinking. Sometimes we ‘do’ because we’ve heard it so many times, instead of because we understand what we are doing.

This lack of critical thinking is present in the Pagan community, as I mention in that previous post, but it is not unheard of for so-called-Pagans to seek out that gullibility in any community at large.

I volunteer at the Montreal Pagan Resource Centre, which is housed within the Magical Blend. Obviously this means I speak frequently with the staff, and I can’t help but recall all the times they’ve warned people about, or have had customers confide in them about situations where they have sunk hundreds of dollars into supposed witches, seers, Pagans, psychics and other fakes. It usually goes something like this:

Person: I’m in dire need of help! I’ve tried everything!

Fake: Oh really? Everything? Because I am aware of techniques no one else is, and so I can help you as no one else has been able to. These techniques are ancient and powerful. I. Can. Help. You.

Person: Oh thank you! I need this so badly!

Fake: -asks for a ‘reasonably’ large fee, for supplies, and performs said ancient techniques (we hope)-

Person: Well, nothing happened! It didn’t work!

Fake: Oh, I was afraid of something like this. Obviously you’ve been hexed. With my skills we can remove the hex, and try again. This time I’ll need more money to break the hex and then cast the spell again.

Fake: -performs hex breaking and spell (we hope)-

Person: It still didn’t work! I’m desperate. I need this NOW!

Fake: Well, we’ll just have to go get the big guns! I know of other people who can help me! We’ll have to pay for their services, but…

And on and on. Every new spell needs more people, more supplies, and more money. The gullible, desperate person is tricked into squandering their money by well-practiced conmen.

I suppose that is the reality of a tradition that is soaked in misinformation, shrouded in mystery, and can’t always provide tangible results; so much has to be taken on somebody else’s word.

I suppose that it must be hard to reconcile a critical mind with something as potentially illogical as ‘magic’, but it must be possible! What is it about magic that says to people ‘stop thinking’? What is it about the way our system is set up that makes people look at someone and unflinchingly commit to somebody saying “trust me!” Is it a naivete that stems from too much “love and light”? Is it a blindness caused by propagation of “harm none”?

Obviously, despite being a Pagan of some flavour for 12 years, I have no answers here (besides encouraging research, discussion, finding multiple sources, and a healthy inquisitive attitude). I can’t do much more than point out the problem and try to open up a discussion; have you caught yourself falling prey to this gullibility or lack of critical thinking? Have you profited from others in this state? Have you helped someone snap out of it? Do you think parts of the Pagan community draw gullible people, or do we breed them?

I don’t think I’ve ever been duped (in that sense of being gullible), by virtue of practicing exclusively alone and detached, as a solitary for my formative Pagan years. However, I know that my Bovine Excrement Filter™ has sometimes been less than effective, and even backed up so badly that I started excreting the stuff myself (“Wicca is the world’s oooooldest religion!!!”). I obviously worked hard and fast to fix that problem, and can’t help but think that if I ever take on a student, I will make that a huge part of what I teach them; Trust no one. Think, long and hard!