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.
I admit it. The first times I’ve heard about an “orgy cabin” at particular Pagan festivals or gatherings, my hackles went up. “Eeew,” I thought. “That can’t be ethical, can it?”
Yes. I’m actually talking about an orgy cabin. A cabin (or tent, or room) at a Pagan (or other) event where people are free to express various kinds of sexual touch and sexual contact. Yes, these things happen.
No, I’ve never been invited to one. (We can laugh about that part later.)
When hearing about group leaders being participants in the orgy cabin, I thought, “Whoa. No way that can be appropriate for a leader, right?” But then I put on my sex positive hat and think about it. If everyone in there is of age and consenting, is freely expressing sexuality inherently wrong?
Here are the red flags that I observed about the problematic person I mentioned in Part 5 (and others in similar situations) that allowed me to paint a fairly accurate profile of how they were going to behave. You’ll really want to read at least Part 5 in the Conflict Resolution series, if not the whole set of articles, to get context for the profile of behaviors below.
I touched on this a little in the previous 4 articles on Conflict Resolution and the rest of the leadership series. However, it’s worth stating more explicitly. Sometimes, it’s not worth bending over backwards to try and sheepdog people into a conflict resolution. Sometimes, people are just going to keep causing drama.
In fact, the very drama of trying to get them into a mediated session is the drama that they want. Usually these are the egomaniacs and unstable mentally ill people I’ve mentioned before. Typically they have no idea that they are literally bending situations to create even more drama.
Now that we’ve talked about a lot of the underlying causes of conflicts and the needs beneath them, lets talk about the actual process of trying to resolve a conflict between two or more people in some kind of mediated session.
By the time a conflict has gotten to the point where people are pissed off and not speaking and it’s a struggle to get them into a room with each other, your chances of positively resolving the conflict are pretty low, which is why the rest of the series of articles focuses on understanding conflict and unraveling it before it gets that far.
Now, there’s lots of different ways of getting people to the table. A mediation is different in some ways from a facilitated session where you, as the group leader, have the power to render a judgment and kick someone out of a group. It helps to understand what type of conflict resolution session you’re engaging in.
When a conflict resolution works it’s a great thing. However, the reason I started out the leadership series by talking about unsolvable conflicts, and in specific, talking about intractably bad leaders who are egomaniacs, jerks, or who have major untreated mental illnesses…is because with anyone in these categories, it doesn’t matter if you are a master at conflict resolution. Nothing is going to heal that conflict. Nothing is going to change someone who isn’t aware and willing to change.
Nonviolent Communication (or NVC), and other tools I work with, are about understanding the need that underlies the action. If I can understand why someone just did a really mean thing, I can understand why, and we have an opportunity to resolve it.
It’s still not okay to be a jerk to someone, but, without knowing why it happened and why, we can’t even get at a forward momentum for resolution, everything we do will just be rehash.
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.
I think about leadership rather a lot, and I have people ask me for leadership advice with some frequency. I’ve been working up a series of posts exploring the deep challenges with leadership in the Pagan community, because I unfortunately get to see a lot of its seedy underbelly.
Though, these aren’t just issues of Pagan communities…those are just the communities I’m most deeply involved in. Other subcultural groups have these same problems through what I’d call “It’s a Small World” syndrome. Any time there are humans, these problems crop up; corporations, politicians, church leaders…any group could have these challenges. They are just exacerbated in grassroots groups without a big overarching structure.
What I see over and over is the problem of people in leadership positions who are absolutely unsuitable to be leaders. What we have are people who are unstable and mentally ill, or egotistical, or jerks…or even people who genuinely mean well but have no training in group leadership.
I’m going through a Dark Night of the Soul. It’s seasonally appropriate during the dark time of the year, though I find I’m facing the darkness of winter again while going through a “Tower” moment. If you’re not conversant in Tarot-reader lingo, the “Tower” is generally shorthand for, “life-altering disaster.” The Tower is one of the cards in the Major Arcana.
Before I get too far– this post is part of the “Darkness into Light” Tarot blog hop. The previous blogger is Chloe McCracken and you can check out her post, or there’s a link to all the posts at the bottom.