Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Challenge: Write the Truth About Your Pagan Experience

Cat Chapin-Bishop set us all a challenge this week in her post titled Rooted In Experience at the Wild Hunt blog.

Will you accept? Here is an excerpt:

Here is my challenge to you:

......Don't tell me that community is important in Paganism. Tell me about finding your first Pagan community, and about that heady rush like first love you felt for it. And about the crushing pain that followed the first betrayal (the leader that was manipulative; the grove member who stole; the coven-mate whose oaths didn't keep her from outing one of you) and how you came to terms with it. How you learned to embrace the Pagan world despite its flaws--or dedicated yourself to eradicating them.

... Don't give me your ideas on Pagan life, my sisters and brothers. I have ideas enough of my own. And don't give me answers, because ours is a religious movement with hundreds of answers, thousands of answers.

Give me your experience. Give me the marrow and the meat of your spiritual life. Because, unless you write it down, no one else ever will. Only from you can I receive this gift: your own lived Pagan journey.
I have done this (on and off) for years, and today I renew my dedication to doing more of the same. One example will be the article I wrote recently for PanGaia, which will appear in their Money issue. The publisher asked me to tell the truth, pretty or not, and I did.

I will also write more about my successes and failures at building community at this blog.

For now, here is an excerpt from an article I wrote some years ago called Pagan Doers:

Flaky people are everywhere, not just in the Pagan community. Alas, they are often the most charming and enthusiastic people we encounter. ....We don't pre-judge anyone but we do pay close attention. What you say is not as important as what you do and how well you play with others. If you let us down, we'll release you with blessings, wave goodbye and wish you well. Then we'll get on with the work we have on hand.

Some people come to us and want to give us their power. To this we say "Thanks, but no thanks." None of us want to be Gurus. We believe that being Pagan means accepting responsibility for yourself, your actions and for the quality of your life. We believe that it means claiming your own power and not giving it over to someone else....Occasionally, we'll have someone approach us who wants to pad their "Pagan Resume"...These people often want to start at the top and they are disappointed to find that we don't care very much for titles around here. You may be Lord Duck-a-Muck or a 5th Generation Atlantian or even an Elf-friend. That's fine, but when you're here among us, you're just one of the gang.

For this and other reasons, I ask our people to read books on subjects such as:
  • Active Listening,
  • Positive Confrontation
  • Codependency & Dysfunctional Family Systems
  • Group Dynamics
  • Stress & Anger Management &
  • Effective Management Techniques
We then sat with our volunteers and work out ways of dealing with certain situations. "Praise people very publicly, " we say, "and correct mistakes privately". "Don't spread gossip". "Listen more then you talk". "Remember" to place principals before personalities." And most importantly, "Fight fair when you disagree and treat each other with respect."

Not everyone has these tools placed in their toolbox during childhood. Some of us have to add them in as adults. I know many Pagans who can claim to have 50 books on ritual techniques in their library but they don't own a single book on conflict resolution. I believe that this is one reason why so many Pagan groups don't last.

When we do use a title such as "Leader" we have a wyrd way of defining it. A "Leader" at Full Circle is the one you see doing the donkey work. This comes as a shock to some people. We've had folks approach us who want to have all the "fun" of leading, that is, they want to pick and choose all the interesting tasks for themselves and they want to have other people do the dull and boring jobs. Other types think that leading means telling other people what to do and doing nothing at all themselves...We think that being in charge of something means that you do the most work of anyone in your group. It means you're the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. You do whatever needs doing. If that means you clean the toilets before an event, then so be it. Don't laugh, I've done that. The closest I've ever gotten to holding a Staff of Office is that toilet brush.

So it goes.


Art: Freya. If anyone can herd cats, she can.

My thanks to Hecate for pointing me to this post over the weekend.

1 comment:

Hecate said...

What you said. My circle had our annual retreat this weekend. Some groups live and some die. The ones that live, IMHO, don't have gurus.