Grifters, Cons & Cults: Who Can You Trust?

Grifters, Cons & Cults: Who Can You Trust?

Recently I met a charming and persuasive person.  He was very reassuring and constantly reinforced how we share the same beliefs.  Pagan solidarity was his calling card, and because Pagans generally try to help others, he reached out to me for help.  But he didn’t want help, he wanted a free ride and to escape his rapidly approaching past and repercussions for his behavior.

Sharing beliefs does not mean sharing values, and events unfolded to reveal that we shared neither beliefs nor values.

The first red flag was the urgency in which he needed help.  Sure, many of us wait until the very last moment to ask for assistance.  Pride and willfulness are not strangers to most of us.  However, he rushed me into making decisions that were counter to my “inner bell” and even when red flags went up across the board, I denied my intuition in order to give him a chance and to help out a family.

I should have paid more attention to these red flags and trusted my intuition.  When you meet other Pagans it is exciting and wonderful.  Arkansas is not the most accepting or accommodating place to be a Pagan, and finding seemingly like minded others is like an oasis in the desert. But be careful!

Most of us know of the Cult Danger Evaluation Frame and because we have explored a non-traditional spiritual path we are often on the lookout for cults and “iffy” groups.  But I found that my guard was down when it came to individuals.

Grifters and confidence artists often use the affiliation or association con to gain confidence.  “We are alike, it is safe.”  But just because a person says they are Christian, Pagan, Wiccan or takes any other label you associate with values similar to your own, does not mean that they truly embrace these values.  And it most certainly does not mean that simply because someone shares the same religious affiliation that they are good people.

In a recent article, “Con artists – sociopaths – Narcissists” by Martie Coetser, another red flag was pointed out that applies to this convincing man.

They discourage their victims to make contact with relatives and friends; they tend to convince their victims that all relatives and friends hold the righteous and just in contempt;

This man’s family was under strict control.  He regulated the people they were allowed to contact and the places they were allowed to go.  Further, he showed many red flags found on lists of characteristics of those with a narcissistic personality disorder; according to the Mayo Clinic:

A grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);

He said he once worked for the FBI and alluded to many other important sounding affiliations.

Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special and unique people;

He said he thought he was a different species, that his DNA was probably even different, and that as a Wizard, he can only marry a Witch – thereby forcing his partners to study Witchcraft regardless of their personal faith.  Now there is a huge warning flag!  I don’t care what your path is, but forcing others to conform to it is not cool in my book.

  • Rarely acknowledges mistakes, imperfections/shortcomings;
  • Requires excessive admiration and respect;
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations;

From his viewpoint: Any problems were because of his partners or family, the churches he previously attended, his ex-partners, etc.  The smallest or most basic task such as working twice a week for a few hours was expected to be met with undying gratitude.  The smallest compensation from him for favors was presented with great fanfare.  “Everyone LOOK to see how I’m giving back by providing you with this small piece of hard candy.”  Even the smallest suggestion (or Goddess forbid a small criticism) was met with violent outbursts, often directed at those closest to him.

Never mind that he thought he was an all-powerful Wizard who could command dragons to his bidding, or that he practiced techniques from 1970’s hypnosis and salesman techniques. . . Touching often, hugging, shaking hands, reassuring pats, asking you ten “yes” questions in rapid succession interspersed with a few affiliation techniques (we Pagans are always . . .) and then quickly asking you a favor to which you would normally say “no” but done so with the above methods to elicit a “yes”.

We all have quirks and some of us even have unusual beliefs.  I encourage you to be open but cautious when you meet others.  Get to know new groups and individuals for at least a year and a day, and don’t say “yes” or commit to anything that will affect your life or your family until you have had time away from the person asking for a favor so you can reflect.  Use your skills and resources carefully to help those who truly wish to help themselves.

Be sure to check out the Cult Danger Evaluation Frame and apply it to individuals as well as groups.

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