Here upon request is an essay entitled "Secrets
of the Inner Circle" with tips on getting involved
in the Pagan community. Most of this stuff is stuff I've
been saying for years, in various configurations. I did
include one really cool quote from Charlie Denney and
she helped with feedback on the rough draft. I don't mind
if you want to forward this around all over the place,
as long as you keep the credits intact -- that's part
of the reason for the catchy title. Thanks to everyone
on "OurFreedom" for making the original thread so lively,
* * * * *
Secrets of the Inner Circle:
Simple Ways of Getting Involved in Pagan Groups
This essay began as a thread (beginning 6/29/01) on the
OurFreedom mailing list, a forum dedicated to Pagan leadership
and activism. We got to talking about community service,
and people complained about a lack of much-needed volunteer
labor. Others pointed out the difficulties in novices
finding groups/teachers and in groups/teachers dealing
with the large number of novices. So I decided to write
out a few helpful tips...
1) YOU are the Pagan community, whether
you are a novice or an expert. Teach what you know. Study
what you don't know. Get involved. There is no one ultimate
authority in this community; there is no clique to shut
you out; there is nothing stopping you but yourself. Decide
what you want and then figure out a responsible plan for
achieving it. Most skills can be learned if you're willing
to put in the necessary time and effort. Community is
all about forming bonds, exchanging energy, and celebrating
both our unity and our diversity. You get out of it what
you put into it. Lack of grassroots involvement causes
leaders to burn out, and then all the lovely services
disappear. So pitch in and do your part.
2) When networking, offer someone a favor
before you ask for a favor. We all have knowledge, skills,
contacts, experience, etc. to draw upon and exchange.
If you’re a reviewer and you want to connect with
authors, offer tear sheets when you have reviewed their
books. If you want people to subscribe to your periodical,
offer free sample issues at a festival. If you want people
to attend your lecture on “13 Ethical Rules for
Coven Leaders,” announce on the flyers that you’ll
be serving tea and cakes there. If you want help with
your current project, offer to help the other person with
theirs. You get the idea.
3) Jump right in. You can get terrific results
by showing up at a local meeting or a national event and
saying, “Hi! I’m Daniel Oakleaf and this is
my first trip here. Can you tell me what’s going
on?” or the like. Pagans tend to be gregarious folks,
who usually try to make sure that novices have a good
time. More advanced attendees can help you make the most
out of the experience.
4) Here is a foolproof way of getting involved:
Volunteer. Back in my fangirl days, I decided I wanted
to do panels and get to know cool folks in the science
fiction community. So I’d show up at a convention
and volunteer for whatever needed doing that didn’t
require vast experience. I never got turned down. NEVER.
And I met a lot of exciting people while checking badges
and emptying trash cans and carrying coffee… people
who were very appreciative of my willingness to spend
an hour or two helping, after spending $30 to get into
the con. Now? I almost never have to pay my way in; I
volunteer for two or three panels instead. Everybody wins.
And I’ve networked my way very successfully into
what I wanted. So when I started getting involved in the
Pagan community, I used a lot of the same tactics. It
really does work. Whenever someone asks me how to “break
into” a group, I tell them to show up and offer
You want to get in with the Big Name Pagans?
Volunteer at events and within a year or two, you will
have lots of friends and contact, plus some highly valuable
experience. Almost the entire Pagan community runs on
volunteer power. Some events require attendees to help
with chores, programming, etc. so be prepared for this
– but they too will appreciate it if you do more
than required. Want to learn more advanced skills like
directing traffic (for parking lots), facilitation (guiding
meetings), cooking for the masses, large-scale ritual
design? Just ask! The organizers can probably pair you
with a more experienced volunteer, and by the end of the
event, why, you’ll have that kind of experience
too. Of course there are other methods… but this
is one of the best.
Just to share input from another source,
so that you can see this is not a unique experience, Charlie
Denney who works in the Council of Magical Arts has this
to say on the topic: “Elizabeth and I evidently
did our ‘time’ in the same circles –
I started volunteering in F&SF conventions back in
1979. I’ve YET to do a convention where I paid my
money to get in; I’ve always worked them because
that was how you got the great access to the good stuff
(people, events, etc.). I’ve done dealers’
room, the security squad, gopher squad, art show, auction,
convention committee (in every conceivable position from
Assistant Director to Publicity), and last weekend, I
FINALLY made it in as a guest speaker – speaking,
incredibly enough, on Paganism in SF and doing a Tarot
workshop. I also got to play “Once Upon a Time”
(a participation story panel) with the convention guests
Basically it works like this. Find the organizer(s),
introduce yourself, list any special skills you have or
volunteer for general labor, and tack on a time frame.
If you’re at a small event, like an evening Pagan
tea party and social, look around for the host(ess) and
say something like, “Hi! My name is Carol Meadowlark.
I’m new at this and I’d really like to pitch
in. do you need somebody to stay after and help clean
up?” If you’re at a large event like a festival,
the organizers will probably have an office, tent, desk,
etc. serving as a central meeting point for logistics.
Go there and say something like, “Hi! I want to
help make this event a success. I’m new at this
but I could spend a couple hours doing fetch and carry,
or washing dishes, and by the way I have Red Cross certification
if you need someone in the first-aid tent.”
5) Do not let limitations stop you. If you
ride a wheelchair, maybe you can sit behind a table and
help people sign in when they arrive at the event, instead
of gathering firewood. If you have small children requiring
lots of attention, maybe you can help with childcare instead
of the main ritual. If you’re susceptible to cold
weather, hey, somebody has to look after the fire! Use
your imagination. And festival organizers – you
do the same, please. Just because an attendee can’t
do EVERYTHING does not mean he or she can’t do ANYTHING.
6) Feedback is crucial. Praise what works.
There’s nothing like spending three months setting
up for an event, and then on Sunday night after it’s
rained all weekend having somebody tell you that the indoor
ritual was the best they ever experienced. If you see
something that doesn’t work, don’t just criticize;
explain WHY it didn’t work and offer any ideas you
may have for improvements. Join those fireside meetings
where people discuss how a ritual went or what their favorite
part of the event was.
7) Be a thoughtful consumer and donor. Think
of your money as a folding vote. Every time you spend
a dollar, you vote for the ideals and practices of the
company or organization to whom that dollar goes. Once
or twice a moth, you can skip a McDonald’s
meal and send that money to a Pagan group instead. Even
a little at a time adds up. Of course, if you’re
blessed with abundance, take advantage of the “Rule
of Three” and spread it around generously! Remember
that it’s extremely tacky, and ultimately counterproductive,
to mooch off of a group’s largesse without returning
anything. You go to their Full Moon meetings, you eat
their muffins, you drink their grape juice… you
drop some funds into their donation jar.
8) When you see something that needs doing,
and you know how to do it, don’t wait to see if
someone else will notice – just DO it. This is the
mark of a true leader. If you see that the privy is out
of toilet paper and you don’t know where it’s
stocked, ask. If you notice that there’s an electrical
short making the lights in the main hall blink on and
off, and you know nothing about electronics, go find one
of the organizers or a janitor or somebody who can handle
it and tell them about the problem. If you see garbage
lying around, don’t step around it, pick it up.
Taking care of the world and each other is what Paganism
is all about.
Likewise, when you have a great idea, run
with it. Don’t let it lie around and die of old
age; get it moving, get it growing. If you need help to
develop it, then ask people for what you need. Also don’t
look for someone to take over for you. It’s your
idea – it’s your responsibility to make it
9) Having a hard time finding Pagans in
your area? Join a national or regional group instead.
They’re easy to locate. Many of them are listed
in area phonebooks, or advertise in local newspapers.
They can often put you in touch with other members who
live nearby – and by meeting Pagans from all around,
you increase your chances of stumbling across someone
near you, too.
If you can’t find a group, consider
just starting one of your own, like a mythology study
group. You can get the word out by hanging flyers in your
local library, bookstore, supermarket, etc. Sometimes
a public facility like a library will offer you function
space to hold meetings. At each meeting, invite people
to sign up for a mailing list so you can notify them when
the next meeting will be. Don’t wait around for
somebody else to set up a group – there are probably
a bunch of people already waiting for YOU to do it!
It all comes down to a matter of responsibility
and connections. Pagan religions teach that you are responsible
for your own actions and their consequences, and that
we are all connected. So don’t expect someone else
to do all the work for you. Roll up your sleeves and help.
My mother, who is a very wise and witchy woman, puts it
this way: “If you’re not responsible, than
you’re irresponsible, and that’s worse.”
Once you get started, you’ll be amazed
at how fast you learn and how much fun it is. Even the
ratty chores can bring moments of grace. One of my fondest
memories involves crouching on the floor, elbow-to-elbow
with several justifiably famous Pagans, as we used credit
cards to scrape up spilled candle wax. Everybody at that
ritual was an expert in their own right, many accustomed
to leading rituals in their own tradition; and instead
of leaving the awkward job to just one or two people,
almost everyone in the room stopped to take a few swipes
at the wax. It got cleaned right up – and we were
reminded that a little cooperation goes a long way.
There's the real secret of the inner circle.
April 8, 2012
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