CULTIC HOUSEHOLDS AND GROUPS IN THE SCA
There has been much confusion about cultic groups in the SCA and how to avoid them.
Some have difficulty identifying a cult because it is not so easy to identify one that is not religious. For this reason, over the years, different definitions of what actually is cultic behaviour have developed to make it easier when you know little about their beliefs.
CULT - Any group which has a pyramid type authoritarian leadership structure with all teaching and guidance coming from the person/persons at the top. The group will claim to be the only way to awards, the Peerage, real chivalry, "The Dream," etc., and will use thought reform or mind control techniques to gain control and keep their members.
(a) The group will have an ELITIST view of itself in relation to others, and a UNIQUE CAUSE. i.e. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES RIGHT - everyone else is wrong. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES WITH "THE DREAM" - everyone else is evil.
(b) They will promote their cause actively, and in doing so, abuse personal rights and freedoms. This abuse can be PERSONAL (both mundane and SCAdian), SOCIAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL.
HOW THEY DO THIS
- Their leader/s may claim a special, exclusive knowledge, power or position of authority.
- They believe they are the "one true medievalism" and take a critical stance regarding everyone else while at the same time praising and exalting their own group, leader/s and work.
Their way of doing something is the only way that will work, and any other ideas are ridiculed or treated as an attack.
- They use intimidation or psychological manipulation to keep members loyal to their ranks. This could be in the form of threats of dire calamity if they leave; never getting any awards; being shunned by their friends, etc. This is a vital part of the mind control process.
If someone does not go along with the leaders' ideas, they are actively hounded out of the group, and many times, from the SCA itself.
- Members will be expected to give substantial support to the group. This could be compulsory fees; coercive methods of instilling guilt on those who have not contributed; personal work performed for the leaders' benefit; etc.
- There will be great emphasis on loyalty to the group and its teachings. The SCA (and sometimes mundane) lives of members will be totally absorbed into the group's activities. They will have little or no time to think for themselves because of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is also a vital part of the mind control process.
- There will be a great deal of control over almost all aspects of the private lives of members. This control can be direct through communal living, or constant and repetitious teaching on "how to be a true SCAdian" or "being obedient to leadership". Members will look to their leaders for guidance in everything they do.
- Any dissent or questioning of the group's teachings is discouraged. Criticism in any form is seen as rebellion. There will be an emphasis on authority, unquestioning obedience and submission. This is vigilantly maintained.
- Members are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the group in some way. This could be in the form of spying on fellow members (including family) under the guise of looking out for "unity".
They may be required to deliberately lie. The leaders will actively tell them terrible things about people not in the group, and encourage them to spread these rumors.
- Attempts to leave or reveal embarrassing facts about the group may be met with threats. Some may have taken oaths of loyalty / fealty or have signed a "covenant" and feel threatened by this.
Refugees of the group are usually faced with confrontations by other members with coercion to get them to return to the group, or find that rumors are being spread about them or their friends.
SOME ABUSES OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS:-
- ABUSE OF INDIVIDUALITY:
They adopt a "groupness" mentality. They are not permitted to think for themselves apart from the group and only accept what they are told.
Many times, the fighters in the group are required to wear a uniform of some sort every time they enter the lists or any combat. Their personal heraldry is seldom seen.
- ABUSE OF INTIMACY:
Relationships with friends, or anyone not in the group are eventually broken or seriously hampered. These relationships are always regarded with suspicion by the leaders.
- ABUSE OF FINANCES:
Pressure to give all you can to the group. In non-communal groups, lower ranking members usually live and dress at the lower socio-economic strata, not because of a lower income level, but because they are always giving money, work and time to the group for some reason, or they do not want to "outshine" the leaders at an event. They never seem to have time to sew garb for themselves much, but put a lot of effort into making the leaders, or persons the leaders want to impress, look good.
- "US VERSUS THEM" MENTALITY:
Isolation from the community in general. Anyone and everything outside the group is seen as "evil" or "unenlightened" etc. Those who are involved with any other group in any way see such involvement as a "means to an end".
- ABUSE OF TIME AND ENERGY:
The group controls and uses almost all the members time and energy in group activities. They are usually in a constant state of mental and physical exhaustion.
- ABUSE OF FREE WILL:
They must unquestioningly submit to the group's teachings and directions and their own free will is broken. Their "will" actually becomes the group's "will" without their realizing it. This is done either by coercive methods, or over a period of time through intimidation. Both methods make heavy use of "guilt" and fear.
- ABUSE OF CHIVALRY AND HONOR:
Their fighters are told to "win at all costs". Cheating in the Lists may be either actively encouraged, or deliberately overlooked. Better fighters not on their side or in their faction are denigrated or lied about. Some may even encourage attempts to hurt their opponents on the field so badly that they can no longer fight either that day or permanently. Ways will be found to keep threats to their power off the fighting field.
RESULTS OF THIS ABUSE
- PERSONALITY CHANGES
Relatives will say they no longer recognize the person. From a warm, loving personality will come heaped abuse, rejection and feelings of hate. The member sees themselves as "chivalrous" (no one else not in the group is) and this comes across in their attitude toward all outsiders.
- PARANOID - WE ARE BEING PERSECUTED / ATTACKED
Any time you say anything negative about the group, whether justified or no, it is regarded as "persecution". Any criticism of the individual is also seen as persecution only because they are the "true SCAdian" or "enlightened" one - not because they, as an individual, have done the wrong thing. However, at the same time they will feel free to criticise whatever you believe, say and do because they are "the only ones who are right".
There ALWAYS seems to be an enemy out there somewhere.
- SOCIAL DISORIENTATION
They lose their ability to socialize outside the group. This can go so far as to not being able to structure their time or make simple decisions for themselves, or even attend events by themselves and socialize outside their group. When and if they leave the group, they tend to leave the SCA too.
Their world-view alters and they perceive the world through their leaders eyes. They become very naive about the SCA in general.
- SEVERE GUILT COMPLEXES
They are made to feel guilty of everything they did before entering the group and are to strive to be "good" and "worthy" for "awards". Misdemeanors are made into "mountains" so that members are in a constant state of guilt for infringing even the most minor rules. Guilt comes because they aren't doing enough; entertaining doubts or questions; even thinking rationally for oneself.
This guilt is piled upon pile with new rules constantly being laid down about what is right and what is not. Illness may be seen as being lazy - more guilt. Emotional illness may be seen as proof of not living up to the groups standards - more guilt.
Not all these points will be found in every cultic group, but all will have some if not most of them, although these may vary to some degree.
THE CULT-LEADER'S CREED SUCCESSFUL RULES FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF AN SCA GROUP
- I made a searching and thorough inventory of my fellow SCAdians and found them wanting;
- Admitted to no one, including myself, that there was anything wrong with me;
- Sought through SCA politics to overcome my responsibilities and escape the realities of life;
- Got political power to remove these shortcomings;
- Made a list of all persons who had harmed me, whether imaginary or real, and swore to get even;
- Got even whenever possible, by any means possible, except when to do so would injure me;
- Continued to find fault with the SCA and with the people in it, and when I was right, promptly admitted it;
- Sought through conniving, lies and hypocrisy to improve myself materially at the expense of my fellow SCAdians as I misunderstood them, asking only for the means to get and stay in power and escape from real life;
- And, after having a complete moral and ethical breakdown, I tried to drag those who were around me down to my level, and to practice these reasonings in all my affairs.
One could create a new award in the SCA: the "Anti-Pelican." Rather than feeding it's children with it's own blood, the anti-Pelican devours them.
If you have spotted many of these characteristics in the household / Barony / SCA sub-group that you are with, GET OUT NOW. You are being USED.
Evaluate your SCA group here
You might also want to read about Politics in the SCA.
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