Friday, December 31, 2010

The "Other One"

When I was a kid, I lived in the shadow of my older sister.  She was in a bunch of clubs and a big-shot in marching and concert band, going on to regionals and winning badges to pin to her uniform as though she was a decorated officer in some incredibly-lame Army.

Needless to say, my mother thought there was nothing greater than to brag about her award winning daughter.  It was not as though I was without talent (winning my own awards for artwork and poetry) but they just weren't the sort of thing that one can brag about in a crowd and have physical proof right there on stage.  So, while introducing us to new people, she was sure to note all the wondrous exploits of her eldest daughter.  But, when it came to me, she seemed to run out of inspiration...or breath.  Whichever, she would introduce me as "the other one".  So there was Catherine, the all star everything with metals and awards, whitened teeth and perfectly straightened hair.  And then there's...the other one.

Now, let me say, my mother was far from exemplary.  She could probably wrote an entire book on what not to do as a parent.  But she did teach me something from it all. 

I was, indeed, the other one.  I didn't have anything obviously superior about me or my appearance that could take the scepter from my Queen Sister's hand.  My clothes were usually of the 'grunge' variety; my hair was short, shaggy and generally uncombed; I was homeschooling myself so I stayed up late and slept in, giving me the appearance of being lazy.  In short, in all the socially expected ways, I didn't try.

But then I left home.  I got around an entirely new set of people and began to take on an entirely new way of looking at my life:  Yes, I had always been unkempt, but not dirty; I was a late-sleeper but only because I spent my nights painting, writing and reading while the house was quiet; I didn't wear the kind of clothes or look the way my sister did because I was expressing individuality.  Slowly my tastes changed, my clothes changed and I got a snappy new haircut I loved.  And you know what?  My sister copied me.  The same person she mocked, she now tried to emulate.

And then I realized -- I was the Other One, with capitals!  Everyone else was just a face in the crowd but I was my own person.  I didn't do things like everyone else and I didn't want to.  I felt no pressure to conform and no pressure to 'produce' something tangible for others to judge.  I hadn't changed anything about myself to please others, only as a natural progression over time.  The way I had been taught to look at my abilities was based on the shortcomings of the one doing the teaching.  I had always had the will (called 'stubbornness' at home) to keep to my own ways despite what was said about them, or me. 

Others may not have done as I did under similar circumstances.  I am very proud that I had the self-pride to stick with my interests and tastes all those years.  I cultivated talents which I still use today.  But if I'd turned against myself the way I was expected, I would not have those talents. Nor would I have the strength of self to recognize and revolt when I'm being manipulated or pushed into a trend.

I have decided to share this story with you because I have seen something similar to this in the Pagan community.  Because we are a gathering of normal people and are subject to the same problems of any other group, there is bad behavior among us.  The one, however, that I feel most compelled to squash is related to this old memory of mine.  The feeling of being 'the other one.'

How many of us are authors or artists or poets or seamstresses?  How many are leaders or lecturers or millionaires?  How many of us look statuesque in ritual robes and absolutely perfect sky-clad?  How many of us have such perfect lives that we never need from anyone?  How many of us have those shining talents that make all the covens, circles and groves beg for our membership?  Not too damn many.  We can't each excel at everything, and even if we could, we wouldn't be able to do it all at once. 

And here's the problem:  I've known Pagan folks who look down on others for not being gifted.  They sneer when you say you don't see that person's aura or that you've not good at divination.  They may even decide to call you out publicly, yelling, 'What?  You've never heard of that?  I thought every decent Pagan knew that!' while laughing and looking around to be sure they have everyone's attention.   Don't fall for this.  You are no less of a Pagan or a magical practitioner because you don't have a magical resume.  They are not authority figures, leaders or teachers.  True leaders build you up and help you gain knowledge and confidence; they don't try to destroy it.

So don't ever be hard on yourself because you aren't good at everything or because you don't know how to cook or paint or build things or whatever it is that a person or group seems to want to love you best for.  If you join a group based on your personality, and not just what they want you to add to their talent pool, you are more likely to be happy but also to someday bloom into your own talent pool.  You may just bring something perfect to a group without either of you expecting it.  Take your time with yourself, experience and learn everything you can, and in time you will find those things you are best at.  So long as you're doing, you're learning.  Keep working magic, keep reading and trying, keeping searching for the right place you belong, and you will succeed.  You may end up giving up on a particular practice or on a group but never give up on yourself.

Non-conventional ways of helping a group or coven:

  • Having access to resources: friends or family who own businesses, have land you can use, or the ability to carpool.

  • Web-design 

  • Singing or dancing talent or knowing a musical instrument (for rituals and workshops) 
  • Organization (keeping track of group papers and funds, planning and scheduling)

  • Knowledge about local history, plants or animals (workshops, planning trips and events)

  • Previous experience in another coven or with leading other types of groups

  • Aware of local outdoor events, closest or most picturesque campsites, psychic fairs, or meetings by other groups of Pagan interest (such as the Ren Faire, Audubon Society, meditation or herbalism clubs). 

  • "Graphic design"  (making signs, flyers, banners, labels for selling products, etc. Creating decorations for Sabbats, altar space, matching robes, etc.)

  • Good with kids (help design kids' activities, watch group's children while parents are busy)

  • Knowing other interested people (this can be great help when planning open rituals or looking for new members)

  • Outgoing, curious personality (this kind of person is always welcome!)

  • Storytelling

  • Wine-making

  • Access to plants useful in rituals, such as oak, walnut, rowan, apple, and cherry trees.

  •  Having a camcorder and/or movie editing knowledge

  • Knowledge about foods, not necessarily just cooking.  (planning ritual feasts, especially when working around allergies and diet restrictions of the whole group)

  • Photography and scrap-booking (keeping visual record of your works together is a great way to really feel those accomplishments!)

It's okay to be the outsider, because 'outside' is a place to be just as much as 'inside.'  You only need to know who you are to get started.  So many of us came to the magical community because we didn't fit in with mainstream society. We're all outsiders and we're all the 'other one.'  But by staying true to yourself, even while others aren't as supportive, in your own time, you'll find your way of contributing and making your mark -- with capitals!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Spell of Salem

Artayous and I recently spent time in Salem, Massachusetts for the Official Salem Witches Ball.  We were returning visitors to the Ball as well as the city itself.  There is something very particular about Salem when it comes to the modern magical community.  This place, which was besieged by the hysteria, backstabbing and fear that was the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and the setting one of the darkest points in our history has managed to revamp itself as a haven for Witches and magical practitioners of every stripe.  Though this may sound odd, the odd has a perfect home in Salem.  Every trip there seems to show me more and more of its strangeness.

For many Witches, the trip to Salem is like a pilgrimage to Mecca -- a spiritual journey where the devotion to going is just as important as what takes place once the destination is reached.  Those who live nearby like to mention how often they visit, how close they live and who of its many celebrity inhabitants and visitors they have personally met.  Its like a Pagan Disney World.  Though I always have felt that Salem has a particular charm all its own, there are a few things that I seem to learn by being immersed in the magic that is the Witch City.  For those of you who have never been there, are planning to go or have gone again and again, here are my insights into the most famous magical city in America.

  • For starters: Not everyone is Pagan or a practitioner, even in what would be considered shops catering to that clientele.  The fella at Witch City Ink (a stop noted in the magazine NewWitch as a must for Pagans wanted to get a permanent souvenir) is a real dickhead, snapping at our children for walking near the scrawny flowers he supposedly tends.  Artayous gave him a few words he probably hasn't heard since covering his arms in tattoo sleeves.  Warning one -- some people are jerks, just like anywhere else.  You're not stepping into a hippie commune but a business district.  Be wary and be ready to stick up for yourself.
  • Magical shop workers are not possessed of all knowledge.  I was actually rather saddened by how little some of them knew.  Every shop can direct you to Mandrake in their herb section but no one is actually selling Mandrake.  It's always Mayapple, a totally different plant, but no employees seem to know the difference.  Take their advice and information with a grain of salt.  And don't be shy to correct them or add your own knowledge to the conversation.  After all, sharing is how each of us learned what we know.  You're not being an upstart but a part of the greater community.  This is how celebrities begin.
  • And speaking of celebrities -- choose your adoration wisely.  Be sure that when you gush over someone famous there, it is because they are actually producing something instead of just doing interviews or other bits of media.  As has been my experience, those lower on the totem pole are more full of themselves.  They can be very pompous and disagreeable.  It is my belief that as they go along (like a spoiled teen slowly reaching the responsibility and humility of adulthood) they will give up the attitude and take their proper place as inspirations to those under them.  Don't take it personally if you get a snub from a person like this.  Rushing around looking important is their goal right now.  It's not you.
  • Okay, now for the good news.  Celebrities who do produce and make contributions to the community are amazing.  Some, like Judika Illes and the Dragon Ritual Drummers, have said that though its technically a working trip, it is a vacation to them.  You'll know the higher celebrities: these folks are the ones walking slow, no matter where they're headed, and chatting amicably, no matter how precious their time.  They love meeting new people and adding advice when possible.  And, like everyone, compliments and (specific) words of adoration always bring a smile.  
  • There is something strange going on in the city.  Artayous hypothesized that, due to the large convening of magical people and all their ritual performances while there, the city itself has taken on a charge.  Fall leaves whip into dust devils in open streets, clearly not influenced by the typical eddies between buildings.  People blurt out with enigmatic statements and movements.  Strange objects turn up on the pavement, like a well-worn playing card, for no reason.  When you go, prepare for the "strange and unusual".  It will find you sooner or later.
  • It's almost impossible to have a bad time.  This I've noticed no matter how unhappy the circumstances of searching for a particular store, hunting a parking space, walking all day, or dealing with heavy bags or an increasingly light wallet.  When you get home, you might end up reviewing anything that went wrong with some frustration or disappointment, but you are almost certain not to notice while you are still there.  
  • There are psychics (or those claiming to be psychic) everywhere!  Many shops have resident readers but I'm talking about the random stuff. I've been handed unsolicited advice about my future, my true self, things I should study or the true meanings of what I say and do.  Most of it is the sort of thing that would impress newbies, since it often said with firm conviction, but they're mostly amateurs trying their hand at random reading ... 
  • ... Or cold reading.  This happens A LOT.  Not just here but anytime a large amount of Pagans gather.  Be on the watch for it anytime someone approaches you. You have two options: play along and listen, but stay aware of what you know to be true about yourself, or tell them nothing other than if they got a hit or a miss.  Do not volunteer information -- they can work it around to make guesses look like precognition and if it doesn't fool you, it will certainly fool someone listening in.  If you don't feel like watching this show play out, just walk away.  But watching someone try to cold read you (while very quick) can be humorous in its silliness.  Think, the stuff they cut from John Edwards' readings. 
  • The parties are over-the-top, glamorous and wild.  Yes, it is worth the ticket price.  Yes, you do want to go! 
  • Bargain shop.  Most places carry the basic products and some at very different prices.  
  • If you have something in mind that you'd like to get while in Salem, write it down!  It is incredibly easy to get overwhelmed in this city and forget what you were doing.  If you came for a crystal ball (f.y.i. good prices, lots of selection!), you're liable to cheerfully walk out with a new pentacle, tarot deck and vials of condition oils.  D'oh!

Yeah, I know, that advice was all out of order and continuity.  But so is Salem!  It's a dark, wild, crazy occultist's dream in October and a sleepy, beautiful, magical land all year long.  It has the same troubles that can be found anywhere else magic congregates, but here it's tucked in small pockets where it rarely causes problems for we honored, joyful travelers.

As a final note, the community is not in some far-away place.  It is wherever you are.  Set up events with your coven, between covens, for the public, or for newcomers to the path.  Teach and learn.  Speak up!  Your hometown can become just as beloved to local practitioners as Salem if you make yourself heard and your presence felt.  Places like Salem cannot make you a better Witch or Pagan but it can give you a template of what your own life can be like.  Live magic everyday.  It's not just on vacation but on the job, at your house, on the road, in your family, with your friends, in your reading, your writing and part of everything you do.  Make living a magical act and you will step into places like Salem, not as a tourist, but as an ambassador.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What You Need

After having an interesting discussion with the former head of Pagan Veterans of the United States, I realized a few things.  I am not the only one to feel the great sense of loss and disappointment over the way our community is taking shape.  The poor fellow I was talking to actually went a step further -- he is jaded and ready to give up.  That, I feel, should never happen.  Surely he has seen more things than myself (as I am in a rural part of Pennsylvania and am not terribly well-traveled) which would give him this impression, but to give up is to declare that one has nothing left to give of value, nothing which would be recognized for its value.  Maybe even that there simply isn't any value left in our community. 

What a moment of sorrow.  I feel it too and I think that anyone who has worked to create something better for Pagans in general know what I'm talking about.  This weight which drops so hard in my stomach, and in my conversant too, is the bitter realization that nothing one person does matters and nothing a group of people dreams ever gets done.  It's like watching Rome burning.  But this time, there are Pagans lounging around in it oblivious to what is being lost, even themselves.

In this realization I saw one horrible truth.  More than the lack of commitment and respect in the community which causes this despair, it was the despair itself which became the problem.  Born of sadness, it quickly becomes anger, then disgust and superiority.  Then nothing can get done at all, even when the opportunity arises.  We have to stop the chain before our up-and-coming leaders throw the game before they've had the chance to play for the big leagues.  Once our current set of nationally known leaders is gone from the scene, who will take over? 

The answer is that it could be you.  We can't often see what we'll become in just a few years but we should be striving for the very heights of our happiness and productivity.  I'm not going to use this time with you to rally against laziness and selfishness (as many discussions --even mine-- on the topic of "where the community is going wrong" begin).  As we learn as parents, dwelling on what one does wrong is not going to inspire better from them next time.  It will only breed self-interest as the person tries to protect themselves from criticism.

Instead I'm going to tell you something important:  Everyone wants to be a part of something.

Even if you're a loner who shuns social events, you want to be heard and understood.  Even if you feel that being solitary is the superior route, you want to share ideas and connect with others.  Humans are builders by nature.  We love to take nothing and make something great with it:  houses, cities, businesses, organizations.  But the one that means the most, the one that can withstand the destruction of everything else, is Community.  The community supports those who need help, upholds the standards which excel individuals to great heights, and provides structure for personal and group expression.  It can be our greatest ally but first we need to admit that we need it.  More than just the community needing us, we need the community.  Go ahead and say it out loud:  "I need the community."

An organized Pagan community could help people get bank loans for new Pagan businesses and help them get past red tape with city councils.  An organized Pagan community could help individuals find counseling, mentoring, legal help and clergy in their area and in their price range.  An organized Pagan community could have its own charities, for other Pagans or from Pagans to anyone in need.  An organized Pagan community could have permanent temples, groves and public performances of rituals, plays and others art forms.  Can you imagine such a thing?  Where would you be in this amazing future? 

If you said, "in the audience", then you missed the point.  Paganism is not a spectator sport.  When Wiccans say "everyone is a preist/ess" they are expressing this thought exactly.  We are each in charge and each qualified.  You do something that no one else can do and you should (and certainly can) be in the spotlight, doing it for everyone.  This is part of your True Will.  You can achieve it but you need the community.

It's true that this will require commitment and, yes, work.  But you surely didn't come to this path because it was the easiest or because it allowed you to sit on the sidelines of your own faith.  The commitment necessary is a commitment to yourself and your vision of the future.  The work is only the steps you take to become your best self.  We are all in this process.  No one need create pretense that they know more than they do, for there are many others lower than them as well as many higher.  In order to grow and to become what others pretend, you need the infulence of those above and the buttress of those below: you need the community.

To commit yourself to bettering the self and others, first there is the understanding that while you have something to offer, you also have something to learn.  Listen and assist.  A little humility will gain you a lot from other people.  Teachers won't take on students who are cocky and won't listen.  Elders won't let you in on the tidbits of valuable information they've gathered over the years if they think you won't care one way or the other.  Show people that you care, you are listening, and yes -- that you need the community. 

I, and many others like me, am growing tired of seeing organizations fall through, covens and learning circles disband, newly sanctified outdoor spaces go untended, individual studies abandoned.  We are recreating the death of our ancestors' religions all over again, but we are doing it to ourselves.  Everyone is wanting, seeking, yearning, begging.  There is angst at every corner.  It's being covered up with a thin veneer of mystical jargon which states that freedom only comes when each person only does as much or as little as they choose.  What a costly lie!  Our connections with others have paid dearly for this.  The freedom of the modern Pagan movement is not in our ability to think and act only for the self, but for our ability to offer an alternative to the attitudes of mainstream society.  This requires that we build and sustain a community which reinforces our freedom.  We are not separate from one another.  We are a community.  And no matter what it looks like right now, it can become greater than any one dream of it.  But we all need help.  We all need you.

And you need the community.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pagan Questions for a Jehovah's Witness

This was something I ran on our previous blog and I think it really merits a second coming, if you will. 

Proselytizing is something which many Pagans feel very strongly about.  Due to our lack of interest in forcing our opinions upon other people, we seem most intent upon speaking like superior asses to those who do, thereby spreading the word that Pagans are an annoying, self-satisfied bunch who won't even stop to listen.

This, I'm afraid, is coming from someone who has seen it in action many, many times.  The delight resonates in every word when Pagans gather to discuss the latest Saturday morning JoHo bashing.  It's as though the best kind of fun is the kind poked at mainstream religion.

Now, I've had my laughs -- same as anyone -- when Christians lay down their rules on me and I shrug them off.  But to say that what a religious sect does out of eagerness to please their God should be naught but fodder in our attempts to please ourselves, is plain-out rude.  And for all of you who wear the badge of "religious rebel" -- you are not knocking a mainstream religion. 

Yes, they follow Jesus and yes, they have a Bible.  But they are just as tossed about as any other spiritual side-line group, including Paganism.  We are outcasts in similar ways: the brunt of jokes, the focus of strange and dangerous rumors, the subject of many obtuse statements by people who have never known our ways.  But still they go on.  Still they come and speak kindly and even take your outbursts and door-slamming kindly.  In short, they may look bad to you by peddling faith, but how do you look to them?  ...To everyone who sees your tantrums or hears you retell them with pride? 

Speaking for myself, I didn't come to Paganism by the familiar channel, "finding my way home" nor did I "always practice it but never had a name for it".  No.  I, like many others, sought Paganism as one of the many spiritual "hats" I tried on over a matter of years.  I began with a quest to understand what religion was for me, where was my place, at 12 and didn't find it until 16.  This was no idle decision.  It was a search of the soul, for the soul, and it took place in libraries and houses of worship.  It was in my prayers and meditations, my world view and my view of myself. 

And because of this (or possibly in conjunction with this) I learned to really love religion.  Yes, it can make people do bad things or dumb things but it can also bring out something wonderful.  And each religion, and all its offspring, shows a bit about the time in which it was born and the culture in which it was reared.  So from this, I may despise what extremes people rush to out of faith, but I don't despise the faith itself.  At one point, it was considered the height of Man's connection with eternity.  It was the enlightened glimpse at the secret book of the universe, a flurry of wild scribbling on paper or impassioned dictation.  It was, at that moment, greater than anything which had come before it anywhere in the world.  And I just can't hate that. 

To that end, I have always loved to discuss religion.  Now, tread carefully here, because "discuss" is not the same thing as "debate".  I don't like to argue over something as personal and insoluble as religion.  But I do like to ask questions.  Questions give your conversant a chance not only to feel intelligent and important, but also to really analyze their own beliefs.  It was not until my beliefs were challenged that I was able to put into words what I felt about life and divinity.  To open a dialog with someone of another faith is not a weakness!  You are not making yourself susceptible to conversion (unless of course, you are so weak-willed as to be tossed back and forth by a little conversation).  It actually strengthens your faith.  And it may also do the same for the one with whom you discuss this topic.

Case in point, my many visits from Jehovah's Witnesses.  I welcome them in graciously and invite them to sit at my table.  I offer them coffee and treats, as I would any guest.  Then I sit with them and listen.  That's the key here -- listen.  Give them a chance to explain their feelings.  When it comes your turn, tell the truth: you are not Christian and are not interested in changing religion but you are more than happy to talk with them.  See this as though they were salesmen offering some gadget you know very little about.  You're not interested in buying (and you make that clear right away) but you are curious about it enough to hear the sales pitch, ask questions and read the catalog.  There's no harm in that and the salesmen are willing since you might refer them to someone who would like to buy.  It's win-win.

In my first experience with Jehovah's Witnesses, I wrote the following list of questions that I wanted answers to.  I have since passed it on to other Pagans as well as gotten several sheets of answers from various followers themselves.  I have not once "sent them running from the house" nor have I "made them terrified to even walk on my side of the street".  It is shameful that any Pagan or magical practitioner should be so willing to get a bad reputation for rudeness!  If anything, get a bad reputation as a spellcaster, a fearless Heathen, and a proud hedonist reveler!  But rudeness -- never!

So I give you my list.  Print it out, pass it around, discuss and change it as you will.  But use it.  Talk to people.  Open up and tell them what you believe.  They are not ashamed or afraid, they are not defensive or offensive.  Share what you feel, allow them to ask questions.  Do all in the name of knowledge.  With an air of innocence and curiosity, you will strengthen your resolve, deepen your faith and learn about the wide world around you.  And all without sacrificing your dignity.

Pagan Questions for a Jehovah's Witness

1.  You are quite happy in your beliefs?  Have you come up against those who were happy in their‘s, though they were different?  Do you persist in talking to them about your‘s?

2.  What would you say if spokesmen from other religions knocked on your door and told you that you were mistaken for all these years?

3.  How long have you been a Jehovah’s Witness?  I’ve been a witch and Pagan for 13 years.  Would you not say that I know who I am by now and who my Gods are?

4.  What is your rule for converting others?  Why do you do it?

5.  How does your God differ from the mainstream belief in the Xian God?

6.  What do you do in church?  How are you different from Xian church?

7.  Are there things you’re not allowed to do?  How about clothes, words or foods?

8.  Do you ask people about their beliefs first or start with talking about yours?

9.  Do you see it as actually *trying* to convert?  What terminology do you use?

10. Do you have friends that are of different faiths?  Do they talk to you about their beliefs?

11. Do you know much about Paganism?  Would you like to *take some literature*?

12. What faith were you before you became a Jehovah’s Witness?  How has your life improved since you switched?

13. Have you known anyone who’s left the Jehovah’s Witness faith?  Why did they do it?  What did they go to?  What are they doing now?  Are there rites performed for leaving?  Is the person shunned?

14. What *exactly* did you Witness?

15. What is the Jehovah’s Witness stance on magic?  What’s your personal belief?

16.  Do you know what Paganism says about your faith?  (Answer: Nothing)  Would you say that’s a good policy?

17.  What’s your ultimate goal as a Jehovah’s Witness?  What’s the ultimate goal of the whole faith?  Is there a hope that someday the world will be full of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

18.  How far back does your faith system go?

19. Are there rites for children (birth, coming-of-age)?  Why or why not?

20. Does your faith believe that at one time we all were Jehovah’s Witnesses, as Xians believe that we all began under their doctrine?

21. What does your belief say  happens to those who don’t follow your path?  What about those who leave it?

22. What do you think about other paths that convert?  What is the official stance?

23. Do you think this is more about what’s right for the individual or what is universally right?

24. How long does it usually take to talk to someone in their home?  How long does it take to change someone’s mind (if they are moderately willing)?

25. Have you personally brought an outsider into your religion?  How many?  Are they still with you?

26. What do you think about people switching religion for the *wrong* reasons?  Would you accept a newcomer if it seemed they were doing it for the wrong reasons (to gain popularity, to rebel, to take advantage of what you can offer them, as a power trip)?

27.What about if someone wants to join but is insincere, like that you know they don’t really believe or that they’re still of the other faith in their heart?

28. What’s the rite for joining?

29. Do you get perks for conversions?  How does it affect your stance with your God?  Or the afterlife?

30. What’s your faith’s version of the afterlife?

31. I’ve heard that your belief is very much against pain.  Why is that?  Don’t you feel like there’s such thing as helpful pain?  (ex: the pain of touching a hot stove vs. laying your hand there and rendering it useless by extensive nerve and tissue damage)

32. What’s your view on the pain of childbirth?  I’ve heard Xians say that it’s a curse God gave to Eve for her disobedience.  Is that true of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

33. What does your path say about women?  What’s woman’s role?  How are men and women told to relate to each other?

34. What’s a JW wedding like?

35. What are your rules about kids?  Are they JW from birth, is there a separate rite for bringing them in, and what if they choose to leave when they get older?

36. Are JW funerals different from the norm?  Can you only use certain ministers or can anyone legally officiate?

37. How are people ordained through your faith?  Do you have your own system or is it through a seminary college, person to person or online/mail order?

38. What are the most common questions people ask you?

39. Do you like talking to people about their beliefs?  Do you get uncomfortable talking about yours?

40. Do you believe that there will ever come a time when mankind knows who’s really right?  What will happen then?  What if you’re not of the “right belief”?   

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A New Blog, a New Beginning

So this, my dear readers (if any), is yet another blog for our coven, Orbis Prosapia.  A few short quips about how horrid it is when blogs crash and the assumption that because I can stumble my way to starting a blog, I must be a computer programmer would be well placed here.  However, I simply don't care enough to go backward in time to recount the many snafus which have led this to be our third blog. 

Yes, third.

I do not know if it is even possible to retrieve most of what was left behind, but in due time, I will attempt it.  But for now, we have something more at hand.  I want to give you a little history about this group and give you an idea of what, and who, we are.

Orbis Prosapia is a family-oriented coven located in Lycoming county of Pennsylvania, this area's longest running coven as far as I am aware.  Now, what does "family-oriented" mean?  It doesn't mean that we only accept families or that the focus is on parenting.  It means that our goal is to be a group, a community, in which members can be of any age, with any kind of relationship/partnership they wish, have whatever variety of family/living arrangement they wish, and still be welcomed.  We aim to be the support for our members but also the catalyst which helps them towards their goals.  We are working towards a more active Pagan community in this area, including Pagan teens and kids, and our goals as a coven are only the beginning of that.

My name is Quill and I, along with my husband, Artayous, head this coven.  I'm a wife and mother practicing witchcraft for 13 years now and I teach a series of classes on successful spell-casting.  I'm also working on the completion of two books in the non-fiction occult genre.  Artayous is a wonderful husband and father, a hard worker, the all-purpose Idea Man, as well as an inventor in his spare time.  We are raising our two children Pagan and are teaching them magic, within the coven and without. 

Orbis Prosapia focuses on the cycles of nature and our rituals reflect that.  We are very much a nature-based group but enjoy retelling myths and other lore about Gods and Goddesses.  We each have our own deity relationships, which are valued, but are not the basis for our ritual worship.  It's been difficult explaining to people that we are not a Wiccan group (though we do occasionally have Wiccan members) so we don't do things quite the same as other groups in this area.  Our rituals are a series of original works we perform each year (unlike many Wiccan groups in this area which use new rituals every year) which include music, poetry, chanting and movement.  Afterward we always host a feast and often the celebration runs into the night with drinks, karaoke and conversation.  We have meetings once a month to discuss upcoming events and come up with new ideas or share news.  Our small dues requirements help pay for special events and items bought for group use.  Every month we host a workshop for learning, and trying, new things in the Pagan/magic arena such as poppet-making, homemade ink and conjure bags.  As you can see, we've put a lot of thought into what makes a group great.  I am proud to say that we have accomplished quite a bit since we began and we have a lot more in store.

To be quite honest, though, it has been a long road over a short period of time: we began the group under different leadership some 4 years ago and have gone through several members during that time.  I normally don't mention these facts because it seems, well, probably just as unflattering as you're thinking about it right now.  But the simple facts are there:  every member who has been removed from the group was removed because they refused to do their share.  We did what we could to hold it together but that has to mean everyone.  I say this now not to chastise those former members but to instill upon the reader the idea that there is a commitment made when entering a group.  If you can't be true to that commitment, then you are not welcome.

When I first began practicing magic 13 years ago, I dreamed of being in a coven.  I dreamed of having a teacher and a group of people -- a group of friends -- with whom to share ideas, go places, and celebrate the holidays.  It made me extremely humbled when I was offered admission to this coven.  But after seeing how lightly others take this amazing opportunity, I start to dread that the kind of honor and respect I felt as a newcomer (and the kind I still feel and exhibit upon meeting others, especially elders) was just a quirk of my personality, one others do not have.

Very recently I entertained thoughts of giving it all up.  It is a very tiring job to lead a coven since it seems that there is always something that needs planned, prepared, made, stitched or me.  And if anything goes wrong, the blame is squarely on me whether it is placed there by others or comes naturally by right as the leader.  Meetings fall behind, things go wrong, parts are not perfectly memorized and (quite often) important items weren't packed and need to be fetched from home.  That's just life.  Even in the best covens, mistakes are made.  But to be able to look at the best of it, the example the group is for others, the accomplishments and the years -- that has helped me hang in there. 

We have a website and a blog (again).  Neither sees much readership so I have to decide what I'm doing it all for.  In the end, I do it because it's what I've always dreamed.  Just like teaching, if I can't find one like I envision -- I'll just become one.  And that I have done.  Our coven has a long ways to go before we have the kind of membership and involvement I dream, but we are on our way. 

If you would like to follow our progress, stay tuned for more of our Scenes from the Circle.