I’ve been invited to be a panelist on the topic of Warding in Ritual at Pantheacon, which is the largest Pagan conference and takes place in a few weeks in San Jose, California. The folks organizing the panel worked to create an outline of questions and topics, which is very helpful for us panelists! Since I’m thinking about all of these questions, I thought I’d work up my responses as a blog post. In fact, it’s a 2-parter, because (as I tend to) I went into some depth.
Part of why I want to think about these questions a bit is because I’m a bit of the “devil’s advocate” on the panel. Meaning, I don’t really approach warding as a magical act. For me, it’s very pragmatic. In fact, I don’t even really call it warding. And yet, that piece of what I do in a ritual is still incredibly important and is still the foundation of an effective ritual.
It’s probably pretty obvious that I’m in support of Pagan infrastructure, whether that’s seminary/clergy training, leadership training, physical sacred land, or other Pagan organizations.
My own 5-10-year plan is to have land of my own outside of Chicago; a seminary/monastery/temple/farm/cooperative living space. I want to help offer leadership training to Pagans who are looking for that, as well as have self-sustaining land.
But there’s a few challenges to building that infrastructure, and to fundraising for that. Some challenges are easier to overcome than others.
If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. But asking is sometimes the hard part.
“Let’s meet at ___ location at about 6pm.” What does “about” mean here? Does “about” mean, “I want you to meet me exactly at 6pm?” Does it mean that we might be there by 5:45, but that it also is acceptable if we aren’t there until 6:15?
“I like it when someone else takes the trash out.” What does that mean? Does that mean the person is hinting that I should take the trash out?
“Someone needs to design a flyer.” What does that mean? Is someone being asked to design a flyer?
I’ll be totally transparent here: I don’t believe in curses and hexes. Or–to be more clear, I don’t believe that curses work in the way most people think. And most of the people who I hear talking about being under psychic attack or dealing with an energy vampire have very different issues going on.
But then again, I’m a pretty pragmatic Pagan, and I tend to lean on the idea that psychology and science are core pieces of magic. As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me back up and explain where I’m coming from on this. And let me also be clear–my intention is not to be dismissive of your experience. Rather, to offer a different perspective on what might be going on beneath the hex.
There are a lot of problems common to leadership that trip up people who haven’t had training in group dynamics, communication, or who haven’t been encouraged to do self-reflective work. Or even just people who have poor self esteem and have no idea how that impacts them and the group they are running.
We’ll call this “honest mistakes.” These are the honest mistakes that can cost us a great deal; they can blow up a group, and leave us wondering what happened.
Authenticity is a complicated word. We are told to be authentic. However, we also face a lifetime of expectations, of being conditioned by the cultural norms to try to meet the expectations of others.
When we begin to first stretch our wings, to be authentic to what we really want, there’s sometimes a clash between trying to continue satisfying everyone else’s expectations of my actions and doing what I have previously committed to….This sometimes conflicts with our desire to live an authentic life, to follow the dreams we may have only just admitted we have for our lives.
And those dreams may be very different from what everyone around us “wants” for us or expects of us. Trying to become more authentic is where many of us first learn to say, “No, that’s not what I want for my life.”
In the previous posts in this series, we’ve talked a bit about the challenge when you have issue with a leader. I’ve focused primarily on leaders who are in the level of incurable jerk, in other words, folks who aren’t going to listen to any feedback.
Dissent is part of a healthy group. There’s a difference between dissent and dissension–dissent is a disagreement, dissension is a quarrel. The problem in our communities is twofold; leaders don’t always provide a way to offer feedback about their leadership. So people gossip behind their backs. Feedback happens. But, how can we make it more constructive?
I really, really hate this phrase. Every time I tell people I teach Pagan leadership, they think it’s so funny to bring up the old joke. “Pagan leadership is just like herding cats,” they say with a nod or a smirk.
Like I haven’t heard the joke a thousand times before.
And if you’re one of the folks that has done this–don’t worry, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad that our community in general continues to perpetuate this very unhelpful phrase, this unhelpful story.
This is Part 4 of a series on leadership, so you might want to check those for additional context. I completely reject the “myth” that Pagan leadership is like “herding cats.” Yes, sometime it comes to pass that Pagan leadership is frustrating. Why is it like that? Because we keep saying it is. We make that reality happen. You know–words have power. Words have a lot of power. Words shape reality.
This is the 3rd article in the grassroots leadership series. Sometimes there are leaders who are just real jerks. Maybe they have problems with egotism. Maybe they are unstable and mentally ill. Maybe they are alcoholic. Maybe they have some other problem.
As I discussed in the last blog post, when I teach leadership, Pagans and other grassroots leaders ask me, “How do I deal with a community leader that’s a total asshole,” or, “How do I warn people away from the really bad group leaders?”
The challenge is, if they are verbally abusing you or undermining you, there isn’t really a lot you can do. If you’re a member of that group, you can leave. But, you can’t (in most instances) take another group leader “down.” It’s a frustrating prospect. Let’s go a little deeper into what kinds of leaders out there cause problems so bad that you , as a leader or group member, might consider extreme measures to keep your community protected from the bad behavior of a leader.
I’m sure that many of you probably don’t read romance. However, for those that do–I have a novella that came out today, A Winter Knight’s Vigil. Unlike most romance novels, this one deals with Pagan characters–and, not witches cursed with ancient powers, or druids who happen to be werewolves. Actual, regular Pagans.
The characters in the story are all members of a coven. The twelve of them are on a Winter Solstice retreat weekend in a woodland cabin. During the weekend, the two main characters, Tristan and Amber, both go through the various rituals and work through their own personal shadows.