Frequently Asked Questions/Criticisms

About the Roebuck

The Roebuck has been in existence since 1976. Why have we not "gone public" before now as other groups have done? Over the past twenty years, the Roebuck and its members have come under considerable fire about its tradition from a variety of different sources. Beginning even before its formal inception, the entire premise of a mystery tradition has been severely and harshly criticized by those who seemed to object to its very existence. I will attempt to summarize these criticisms in order to help those of you who have heard these from other groups understand why we do what we do and why, despite the criticism, we will continue to do it in the future.

  • We are elitist. We have maintained over the years that only a small percentage of the pagan community has the intelligence, imagination and will to study the mysteries. This is not a path for everyone and we only accept those who have shown that they can "pass muster." This, of course, goes against the democratic and egalitarian principles upon which this country was founded. Through the church, we have set up our open festivals to try to accommodate this right to public access, but the fact remains that while everyone should, and does, have equal opportunity to try the mysteries, not everyone has what it takes to do them properly. We can either dilute the mysteries for the masses, or limit access to those people who have what it takes to deal with them. It's either one or the other.

  • We are anti-feminist. The source of this criticism is usually women who don't approve of the equal status of men in our circle and object to the fact that we do not glorify women's (and, by extension, the earth's) fertility cycles in our rituals. Again, we are a mystery tradition, not a fertility one. The point of our workings is to transcend gender-based roles and to find the methods of personal transformation that apply to both men and women. While we do not denigrate women's mysteries, or men's mysteries for that matter, our focus is that of "person's mysteries" or those mysteries that men and women can relate to equally.

  • We are homophobic.This criticism stems from the fact that many gays see the Craft as a refuge from the strict patriarchical Judeo-Christian culture and they wish to express their gay lifestyle without anyone setting any limits on them. While this is understandable, the fact remains that men and women have different ways of generating magical power just as anodes and cathodes do inside a battery. This has nothing to do with sexual preference, but with hormonal makeup and other psychophysiological factors. A gay man is not a woman any more than a lesbian is a man. Two anodes may love each other very much, but they aren't going to generate the electricity of an anode and a cathode.

  • We are not sexually liberated. More groups are destroyed on both sides of the Atlantic by their leaders thinking that they had the right to have sex with whichever member appealed to them, irregardless of who was legally married to whom. We decided from the very first that fidelity and self-restraint were pagan virtues too and Dave and I made the decision that we would refrain from what is often called "right of carnal access" simply to appear liberated. A coven is not a group marriage and individual marriage vows, like any other oaths, are important and binding. We feel that sex magic is best practiced in private by two adults with an emotional and spiritual commitment to each other.

  • We are not socially conscious. By this, people usually mean that we are not politically correct. Our cultural exclusivity, strict entrance requirements and circle discipline, refusal to be involved as a group in political causes and our insistence on personal responsibility (not to mention our fondness for weaponry of various kinds) makes us unacceptable for those in our society who wish instant resolution to all social problems. We feel that people achieve enlightenment and spiritual maturity one person at a time, not in a mass movement. Therefore, we concentrate on individual growth and development rather than political issues.

  • We "out" people. Many people, particularly those involved in fantasy role playing and re-creation groups, object to our long-standing policy of insisting on the use of real, that is, legal, names when dealing with us. Too many people in the community hide behind elaborate and fanciful names and titles in order to appear to be something they are not. We acknowledge that in a few isolated cases a person must use a pseudonym when writing or appearing in a public forum. However, in purely social situations, particularly when someone is inquiring into our group, we will insist on knowing the inquirer's real name and place of residence before revealing any information about ourselves and our group.

Perhaps more than any other time in history, we live in a culture that has completely abandoned the notion of individual responsibility. We have become a nation of victims, encouraged by those in authority to blame everybody and everything else for whatever our circumstances happen to be. As a result of this, there has also grown a vast industry of professional and amateur care-givers who will, for either money or ego strokes, will attempt to encourage the victim mentality in order to justify their continued existence or establish their financial power base.

This attitude is directly antithetical to the purpose of the Roebuck, or, indeed, any other mystery school. The bottom line of any mystery teaching is that each person is individually responsible for his or her own life, both spiritual and emotional. While we are not necessarily to blame for what others do to us, particularly in childhood, we are to blame if we allow those past experiences to mess up our current life. We can empower ourselves to overcome any obstacles that we wish to. The techniques are there and have been there for millennia for those who really desire to take advantage of them.

But, like the Catholic priesthood of the Middle Ages who fed off of the spiritual hypochondria of the masses, the present Social Services industry who feed off of the emotional hypochondria of the same masses are not likely to take very kindly to this notion. If everybody took charge of their own lives, then a lot of therapists, psychiatrists, government bureaucrats and social workers would be out of a job. And, just as heretics were burned in the Middle Ages for insisting that they did not need a priest or the sacraments to get them into heaven, heretics will be persecuted now for insisting that they don't need a priestly therapist or the sacrament of Prozac to get them into that same heaven.

However, if we, like them, insist on our own freedom of conscience and spiritual and emotional self-reliance, we can also count on the same persecution as those who minister to the masses rise up against us and call us evil. We are not so different from our counterparts a thousand years ago. We, too, have to choose between social acceptability and personal empowerment. We can't remain emotional victims any more than they could remain spiritual victims and expect to work the magic of the gods. Somewhere along the line, we must take the same journey towards self-hood and claim the same spiritual fire. But, like them, there will be nobody to blame but ourselves if we fail. And the social consequences are just as grim as the pyre or the gibbet if we succeed.

This brings those of us who join mystery traditions to some very difficult and fundamental choices. Through sacred ritual and communion with the gods, we receive divine power that can be used to produce changes in our world. This has been the purpose of the mysteries from the dawn of humanity. However, that power for change must first manifest within us before it can manifest anywhere else. We must grow and change before the world around us can change. And therein lies the dilemma. We cannot claim the power to change our lives for the better without admitting that we allowed our lives to be messed up in the first place.

This is why people who join mystery schools often experience such upheavals in their emotional and physical lives (what we in the Roebuck call the Maiden Year Blues) afterwards. By joining a mystery tradition, one declares before the gods that one wishes to become the master or mistress of one's own spiritual destiny. However, we cannot choose to take charge of our life on the spiritual plane and insist on remaining a victim on the physical and emotional planes. It simply does not work that way. Nearly two thousand years ago, a man writing under the name Hermes Trismagistus inscribed upon the Emerald Tablet "As above, so below." And that is just as true now as it was then.

So, why do the very few of us choose to take the mystery path? Because, in all places and in all times, there have been those of us who refuse to be controlled by those who would exploit human greed and laziness in order to keep humanity under their spiritual, emotional or physical thumbs. There are those of us who instinctively know that we are not free if we remain dependent upon our society for physical, emotional or spiritual sustenance. If you let someone else take care of you, then you must do as they tell you or they will withdraw their support. Take care of yourself and you become the master or mistress of your own destiny. It's as simple -- and as difficult -- as that.

And so, once again, the mystery path is hidden from outsiders -- hidden not because of any secretive effort by those who practice them, but hidden by the very fact that most people don't want to see them. But, like the Purloined Letter which is hidden in full view, the mysteries are there, have been there and will continue to be there, for those who have the inner soul urge to seek them. This is the gift of the gods to mortals. The society and culture may change, but that gift remains the same throughout time. All we have ever had to do is to reach out and accept it.

Human society will exact its price for defying the status quo and insisting on being an individual rather than just one more member of the herd. For most people, this price is too high to pay. They would rather fit in, belong and be accepted by their fellow humans. But for a few of us, the price for individuality is well worth it.