How to Keep Your Coven from Being Destroyed, by Eran Part II: Trollspotting In the previous article, I described some

of the attributes of destructive people, the kind who are driven to tear Covens apart, and to break the spirit of people in leadership positions. Really destructive conflict is caused by people who are have a need to engage others in unwinnable contests. Such people generally have very low self-esteem, little regard for those around them, often a rather loose grip on consensual reality, and frequently possess a fair measure of paranoia. Such people are not healthy, they won't get healthy, they don't want to get healthy, and keeping them near you will eventually let them harm you. Treating them as if they were healthy just makes matters worse. For instance, if you respond to such a person's destructive acts with patience and understanding, he or she will learn you respond to destructive acts with patience and understanding, and this will encourage more destructive acts. I've called such people "trolls," using the mythic and folkloric image of chaotic forces which are natural, but often destructive. It's an image wellrooted in European symbolism. The word conveys some of the sense of danger, but also carries a comic side, as depicted in Tolkein's "The Hobbit" and in a myriad of children's stories. Most of the power which destructive people wield comes from the fear and hesitation they can inspire in others. If their comic side is kept in sight, much of this power can be nullified. The proper way to deal with a troll is to simply eject such a person from your group. Small Pagan groups, such as covens or groves, are fortunate in this way. The typical coven or grove is run by one person, or by a couple, who are empowered to make such decisions as who can and who can't be a member. This is in contrast to larger religious organizations - churches or synods or even Pagan umbrella organizations. Once a Coven Leader realizes there's a troll in the midst of the coven, all that needs to be done to get rid of the troll is to tell him or her to go away. There doesn't need to be any red tape or formal hearings or anything of that sort. Trolls love red tape, and can usually tie up a whole organization in such a proceeding for months, or even years. Trolls need conflict the way healthy people need food, and a formal hearing - even one whose purpose is an attempt to eject the troll - is exactly the arena in which they thrive. So, in a nutshell, that's the best way for covens to handle trolls. Just kick them out. All things in nature should be handled in the way appropriate to each kind of thing. You wouldn't allow a tarantula or scorpion to wander about in your sock drawer. This doesn't mean the tarantula is "evil"; it just means that humans don't find a sock drawer to be a convenient place to allow a tarantula to live. Similarly, you want a troll to take his or her destructive tendencies somewhere else, and keep them away from you and your group. The way to do that is to tell such a person to be gone. Don't bother with ceremony or explanations. Such things only provide more opportunities for the troll to engage you in further conflict. They also tell the troll exactly what worked to cause you damage, and what didn't. There's no reason to help trolls improve their trollish skills. But you wouldn't kick a pet hamster out into the woods, and you wouldn't want to treat a healthy and helpful person the way you'd treat a troll. This means it's important to be able to tell the difference between a healthy person and a troll, just as it's wise to know the difference between a hamster and a tarantula.

(As the Books of Raoul say. Trolls often have the ability to be liked almost immediately. skills. it could just be a fairly reasonable person on a bad hair day. . Trolls tend to be likeable . but coupled with other warning signs. and to look elsewhere without animosity. Does the person seem to be trying to butter you up. But be a little bit cautious. just to see if you know? * Coven Hopper. every now and then. If someone reveals several of these traits. Many Pagans are very independent people. * Amazingly Likeable. It probably kept them from being beheaded at a young age. or even a majority of them. Does this person have a history of moving from Coven to Coven. karmic connections can happen (and. Instant. Being Pagans. Nor does the absence of several traits necessarily mean the person is really a hamster (or even a wise and productive Covener!) What you're looking for in a person is a pattern. Even healthy people will display some of these traits some of the time. usually (or always) leaving on bad terms? Does he or she have nothing but negative things to say about the leader(s) of previous groups? Does the person exhibit a dislike of Pagan Leaders in general? * Name Droppers/Initiation Collectors.then you're dealing with a troll. This is related to being Amazingly Likeable.) * Excessive Rulehating. Use some common sense. however loose or restrictive those guidelines might be. * Gushing Praise. if someone is going to work within an established group. Some wonderful people also have a great deal of personal charisma. However. One or two bad days. Healthy people who dislike a given group's rules are willing to admit that particular group may not be right for them. "Dualism is bad!") If someone displays a couple of these traits every now and then. and knowledge? (Real sages can let their light shine without constant boasting. Trolls hate such restrictions. Use this list as a guide and as warning signs. It isn't necessary to be suspicious of someone who gives a very positive first impression. there are very few trolls who will display all of these traits. this could indicate an attempt at manipulation. but shows them to excess .or if the person shows only three or four. or the number of groups or Traditions he or she has worked with? Is there frequent reference to his or her marvelous and unmatchable experiences. Does the person expect you to be impressed by the people he or she has met. they need to be willing to follow whatever guidelines that group has. and shows them consistently . we're not dualist absolutists here. Conversely. Does the person seem to find joy in pointing out other people's errors or slips. They can be very ingratiating. Trolls will be angry at you personally for running a group which does not suit them. and seem incredibly open and friendly. in Paganism often do).it's what keeps them from being immediately recognized. faults and bad habits? Does the person seem to imply these mean he or she is smarter or better suited to be a leader than is the one who goofed? Does the person sometimes ask questions he or she already knows the answers to. does not a troll make. mistakes and goofs. to identify your insecurities (everybody has some) and to play on them to give you strokes and lull you into acceptance? Does the person give gifts out of proportion to your level of intimacy and acquaintance? * Gotcha.Recognizing the Wild Troll Here are some common characteristics of trolls.

and many Pagans are very active politically. which constantly belittles others. suggestions. and to make everyone else look bad. or harping and whining when he or she loses? .even a highly subjective journal . A ready wit is a good thing. In arguments or disagreements . They'll pull out their journals from time to time to "prove" how mean someone else was. personal problems? Does he or she expect you to be willing to drop everything to deal with any and all concerns? Is he or she offended and angry if you can't? * Causes.* Echoes and Re-runs. Someone who is destructive or dishonest in their personal lives will be equally destructive and dishonest in their Craft lives. and trolls object to having you look at other areas of their lives. Is this person frequently involved in arguments and destructive conflicts? Do conflicts seem always to occur and re-occur when this person is around? Does the person accept responsibility for his or her role in previous disagreements. or are these problems always blamed on someone else? * Unnamed "Others". and not an objective and accurate. Does this person exhibit unethical or dishonest and destructive behavior in other areas of his or her life? A destructive person won't stop being destructive in Circle. But does the person sometimes use these subjective personal accounts to back up a claim? Are these accounts filled with extreme adjectives and intimations of others' imagined states of mind? Does the person seem unable to realize that their journal is subjective testimony. Does the person seem unable to comprehend the painful and destructive effects of his or her own sarcastic statements? * Pests. Of course. even healthy Pagans often keep magical workbooks and notebooks. to make themselves look good.or in games and leisure activities . Are "others" always to blame for this person's problems? Do "others" always agree with this person's concern? Does the person carry tales told to him or her by "others"? Is this person always vague about just exactly who these "others" are? * Living One's Religion. or for a desire for personal power. * Liar. or to back up their own incredible claims. A social conscience is a Good Thing.does the person react well to resolutions? What kind of impression does the person give about past conflicts? Is there excessive gloating when the person wins. Does the person heap scorn on those who don't have an equal zeal for the same causes? Does the person use these causes as excuses to start fights . of course. One troll even invented the condition of "aural dyslexia" to "explain" his frequent false statements. proven account? * Excessive Sarcasm.even when it's time to settle down to other work? * Bad Losers/Bad Winners. A consistently sarcastic and caustic wit. Trolls like to write things down slanting the record. But great social causes can also be a mask for selfish demands. A common technique is to frequently claim to have misunderstood or misremembered the conversations in question. Is the person constantly calling with questions. Is the person often caught in outright lies? Are there excuses and slick explanations always at the ready? Excuses can get pretty imaginative. * Note Takers and Journal Keepers. so simply keeping a journal . is not.doesn't make one a troll.

it's just an accurate description. This technique is often quite effective." Trolls are unable or unwilling to apply the same standards to themselves which they apply to other people." "When I call you nasty names. They will violently criticize others for actions they engage in themselves. and respect for the privacy of others. because it can make their actions sound reasonable. or passiveaggressive techniques. Is the person only too happy to tell you all the secrets of some other group or tradition? He or she will also treat your privacy with just as much contempt. and there are . Trolls love to use vital Pagan principles inappropriately to cover their own destructive actions. even when the troll is blatantly tearing everything apart. rather than as attempts to resolve differences? Does a loss provoke retaliation? Does the person use various forms of intimidation. but when I do. when you talk about me behind my back. Information management is one of the most powerful tools of a troll. Is the person inordinately proud of knowing Secrets which other people are not privy to? * Projection and Inconsistency. Does the person seem to have an inability or unwillingness to consider other viewpoints? * Change Your Focus. Because this particular trollish technique is so important. "When you complain about something. If a new person joins your group. where you have to use formal procedures to kick out a troll. or do away with them? Remember: Paganism is big. This will also illustrate some of the reasons why Pagan groups are such attractive targets for trolls. A troll can manipulate Pagan principles to get a few people actually defending the troll's actions. does he or she insist on having a better way to do things? Does the person always want to bend the rules of your group. and cause dissention and outright warfare within the group of people who are trying to figure out what to do. This makes it harder to justify ejecting a troll from your group. Of course. subjective realities and creating your own realities. even to their victims. such as the value of love and trust. These problems are particularly troublesome in larger umbrella organizations. Does the person use Pagan ideals and Newage jargon as excuses and covers for unethical behavior? This last point is a particularly important one. to get what he or she wants? * Excessive Privacy or Secrecy." and so on. or the Rede." or who warns you away from talking to people he or she knew formerly. and you have no responsibility to provide for the needs of everyone who comes to you. "going with my feelings. Understanding our vulnerabilities will lead to being able to construct effective defenses. I'll devote the entire next article to it. this does not apply to legitimate Oaths taken in a religious context. it's slander. there's nothing in the least wrong with insisting that person seek fulfillment elsewhere. If your group isn't to the liking of a potential member or a new member.Are personal disagreements often depicted in terms of winning and losing. Many paths require Oaths of secrecy. or people involved in his or her tales. it's malicious gossip. However: * Oathbreakers/Braggarts. it's just sharing feelings." following one's own sense of ethics. or warning someone about something. 12-step "recovery. Be wary of anyone who tells you too many things "in confidence. There are ways of making your group less attractive to a troll. * Inappropriate Application of Pagan principles.

But it's necessary to first understand where our weak points are.was of making a troll's impact less damaging. Copyright (c) 2002 David Petterson May be recirculated as long as this information is included Part III: Troll Philosophy .

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