Pagans and Prediction of the Future
I was reading on Wild Hunt this morning about the predictions of psychic Sylvia Browne on her predictions about Amanda Berry, and considering my own opinions about psychic ability and the ethics of making predictions, and about being pagan and addressing such issues within our community.
I am going to potentially hang myself and say outright that I don’t believe that the vast majority of people who claim to have the power to accurately and outright PREDICT the future are able to do so. I believe that we can be taught to use the tools available to us (tarot, scrying, tasseography, crystal gazing, etc.) to expand our awareness of factors that may influence the future, and to clue ourselves and others into those factors, but outright prediction? No. I certainly don’t have this ability, and I have never seen it unerringly in play. Feelings and foreknowledge for myself? Yes; absolutely. But I would never profess to know with certainty and without error, what the future holds for someone else. I believe that it is unethical to tell someone definitively that XYZ ‘will happen’, or to assert a possibility as a certainty.
There is never a circumstance where this is more true than in the issue of a missing child or person, especially – especially – when someone is coming to you for hope. To play on a grieving person’s emotions in such a way – either to give hope or crush it – is callous and absolutely immoral.
I have always felt that people who profess psychic ability in connection with publicity (for example, in highly publicized missing persons cases) are seeking the limelight more than genuinely trying to help. Together with the examples of the kind of ‘help’ often seen (‘I see a body near a railroad track, close to a highway and body of water‘ Srsly?? Name 2 places in the entirety of the United States that isn’t near a railroad track, a highway and a body of water! ), I loathe the idea of commercial ‘psychic ability’ being linked to the pagan community.
One of the first experiences I had with my religious preferences being made public was fear – fear that I would cast a spell on someone, or that pagan meant stereo-typical ‘voodoo’ (complete with dolls). Followed closely by desire – desire to use my skill and belief for their own gain (love spells, money spells and the like). Despite correcting these views and expectations, that initial fear didn’t go away. Having attention-seeing charlatans parading around as commercial psychics does nothing to improve the general opinion of such typically pagan attributes as being attuned to the possibilities that the future may bring.
One of the comments on that article was the assertion that ‘psychic’ and ‘pagan’ should not be confused. I agree, but agreeing with that sentiment doesn’t do anything to dispel that notion from the eyes and minds of the general public. The suggestion was made that the pagan community decry any connection with charlatanry, and to denounce such persons as the unethical and immoral sharks that they are, and again, I agree. But doing so does nothing to protect the few genuine psychics who may be out there. However, in my experience, even the most adept at reading the signs in tarot or other divinatory methods will caveat their predictions with phrases that let you know that what they see is only one possible outcome; that things can change or other factors currently unseen may play into the situation. Furthermore, they don’t use their abilities to gain fame or fortune (please don’t misread – I am not saying that charging for genuine and ethical services is in any way wrong).
So how do we go about separating the perceptions? Can we? One on one, yes maybe, but short of going on a national campaign to educate the general public about pagan belief, which would be virtually impossible considering the many differing paths and beliefs therein, there’s no way to correct these inaccurate perceptions, any more than we can separate the Christian population’s association with paganism/witchcraft and the devil.
Should we, as pagans, even worry about this connection and perception? As a rule, I think not. At least, not any more than we worry about any other mistaken connection. Of those who are commercially psychic, I wonder how many of them are pagan? Enough to worry about? Maybe, but I don’t think that the majority of them are publicly professing to be pagan. So then, is there really damage being done to the pagan community by commercial psychics?
These are interesting questions, and I hope that other pagan news and commentary sources continue this discussion.