Risk Assessment Within The Craft Community

Weyland Smith

There seems to be two schools of thought within the "Craft Community" concerning the dangers faced by Pagans in general and witches in particular. One school thinks that we are now in the Age of Aquarius 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 the one hand, we live in a country with a Bill of Rights. Times have certainly changed since witchcraft was a hanging offense 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 accident. We could have our house burglarized. Our child could be abducted on the way home from school. We could be struck by lightening. Do we stay home, guard the house and family and avoid living? Of course not!

What we DO is to act in such a way as to recognize the risks 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 there any danger that we as witches and pagans might be subjected 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 we return to living our lives 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 present.

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