Saturday, April 16, 2005

If Wishes Were Horses: The Myth of Pagan Community

If Wishes Were Horses:

Many Pagans say they want events, circles, centers and groups, but only a handful of Pagan individuals will do the work to make these things possible.

Other Pagans will work hard on their own events or circles, but they won't work with other groups, not even on charity events. We didn't take that line - we invited every other group in a 200 mile radius to work with us because we like working with others. Happily, a few groups did get involved and they had a great time. Some attended as groups and some helped get the word out, bless them, and others helped with volunteers.


These are some of the challenges you'll face when working in the Pagan "community".

Assuming you have a good group (and not just a collection the Lost and the Loony) you will find that you can't work with everyone. When emotionally healthy people begin to do this work, they often try to connect and work with others. But support for new projects and ideas is often lacking. You will also come into contact with a great many dysfunctional groups and leaders. I was surprised by that in the beginning. I'm not surprised anymore. I hear this sort of thing from Pagan organizers all over the U.S. It helps to keep the good people in mind, though, and we know lots of those.

But do keep your guard up and use common sense. There is no such thing "Perfect Love and Perfect Trust" - Trust and Love are are never perfect and they must be earned.

Keep This in Mind:

* Some Pagan groups and leaders are just too dysfunctional or unreliable to work with.

* Some groups are great, but they have been burned in the past by other, dysfunctional groups and/or leaders. They are understandably wary of new or unknown groups for just that reason.

* Some groups just do their own thing, without networking, helping others or asking for help. It doesn't matter what you do, they won't work with you. Move on.

* Others groups may copy an event et al, without giving fair credit to the ideas of others. Or they get help from others, but never say "Thank you".

* Some groups try to do their own events without proper organization or preparation. Some lack reliable volunteers. They then find out, to their great surprise, how hard it is to do good, well organized events.

* Other groups will put down what other groups do, no matter what it is or how well it's done because it wasn't done by them.

* Some groups or leaders have problems sharing power. Or they have Big Plans but lack the basic skills to do things well. Some groups are filled with Ditzy Divas, who want power but are lousy leaders. (Come on, folks! If you are going to have control issues, at least be good at what you do).

* Some people have never learned that power comes with responsibility. If you see that they don't understand the duties of power and only want privileges, move on.

* Some groups love drama and trauma. Some are constantly embroiled in Witch Wars. Stay the Hel away from these.

That Thing You Do:

Try to work with people who walk their talk.

The trick is not to listen to what they say, but to watch what they do. People put their attention where their hearts are and their actions tell you what they really value.

Pagans talk about building community a lot, but do little themselves to make it happen. We need commitment to build community and in most cases, that just isn't there. It's one thing to have "community" at a festival that lasts only a weekend, it's quite another thing to work with people over the long haul. The only thing we can do at this point, is model how it's done as best we can (including admitting our mistakes when these occur) and hope others will work with us and inspire us, as well.

Oddly enough, the best "community" we've built out here is composed mostly of Solitaries and a loose confederation of healthy groups. These people who do their own thing but will come together for a cause. That seems to work well, because the Solitaries and the smaller groups are often the most sane ones among us. Go figure. (1)

On the whole, Pagans tend to drift in and out of both groups and circles, which is fine for them but it's no way to build a culture. If you just leave when you don't like something, then nothing ever changes. To be fair, some things can't be changed. It's all depends on how open the Priestess (or group) is to making things better and how healthy they behave in that process.

For some, the Craft is all about playing dress up and showing off. So, when the going gets hard, they go away. (And then, too of them many bitch and gossip to even who will listen.) Others with good hearts may want to grow, deepen and learn, but they don't know how, and there are few teachers who can show them that.

As for Organizers, well, too often they run off to do their own thing, without attempting to work with one another. So they re-invent the wheel every time. It's too bad; such a waste of energy and time.

Sometimes this behavior is due to jealously. Sometimes it's poor organization. Sometimes it's cluelessness or control issues or a desire to stay within a particular "clique" that feels comfortable to them. With certain ones, I have to wonder. Pagans often say that they were lonely and felt left out or "wrong" as children. Do they now want to be in the some secret, magical club and then reject others as a form of revenge? Can they only be important in their own little pond? If so, they are poisoning the waters and they don't even know it.

When we started we decided to reach out a hand to everyone, and work with the ones we can. If we don't work with them directly we help them promote their events. Learn who you can and cannot count on and then get on with you are doing. And don't let it make you grumpy and cynical; life is far too short for that.



(1) Meanwhile, back at the Ranch: Yet more groups have written in to Full Circle asking for our help, now that the Witches' Ball has been canceled. They want us to run (or fund) their event, even their own Witches' Ball. (Where do they think we'll get the army, the time and the funds to do this?) I suppose it's a compliment to how well our own Witches' Ball was, we'll give them advice, but we can't do it for them.

We have shown them how to find more volunteers, but declined the request for funds (if I had more funds, folks, we could have hosted our charity ball this year). I politely explain that Full Circle is busy with other projects in hand and then send them on to our Networking Coordinator for further support. If they want free promotion they can use our calendar and/or send in a well written blurb to our newsletter (and no, I won't write it for you!)

No comments: