Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eclectic Circling

In my 20 odd years of Witchcraft, I have circled with many other Witches in varying traditions, Druids, Ceremonial Magicians, Masons, Gnostics, Heathens, and many many others who would fall under the pagan umbrella.

Often public rituals are eclectic in this regard- a group will host a ritual for say, Samhain for the benefit of the greater pagan community, including their own tradition, but open to anyone else. I have also hosted gatherings and sabbats where not everyone is on the same page magickally- some are students while others are initiated into a tradition. This creates a challenge: how does one keep the potency of a working, while working with and acknowledging these differences in perspectives, skill levels, and religions present?

Well, you try. Often you just can't please everyone. But here are some tips when planning such an event that will get you off to a great start:

1. Start planning your event months beforehand. Put out a call to let the greater community know that you will be planning such an event and ask for their participation. This allows interested parties time to get involved.

As someone who has planned lots of events as well as been a community organizer, I can tell you that people who actually show up and do the work of making something happen are greatly outnumbered by those that avail themselves of your work and possibly criticize it. I simply do not let those people affect me adversely and my organizing work. When they offer suggestions, I listen. I thank them for their input, take what suggestions are helpful, and suggest that if they want input into next time, that they join the planning committee to make that happen.

I also lay out in the call for organizers that those that show up to do the work are the ones who have input into what we do and why. This eliminates the "comments from the peanut gallery" from people that aren't actually organizing (that often happens when people try and plan by email list).

2. Have actual planning meetings (in person) not conference calls and email lists. You can use the latter tools for following up on work decided upon in meetings, but making decisions in a diverse group without face-to-face contact and actual dialogue is not productive.

While your planning committee may be smaller by requiring that people meet in person at times, I have found that the people who commit to show up in advance are the people that end up doing everything anyway. The others who cannot spare a few hours over the course of a couple months really do not have the time and energy for the project- because that is what doing the project right requires. Quality of organizer is more important than quantity.

3. Start your meeting with introductions that are specific. Names, religious traditions, and what they are hoping to get out of the ritual or event. Ask for specifics and take notes. See if there are similarities in what people are saying- those links and commonalities are important and will help you build bridges and craft an event that works for the most people involved/attending.

4. Think lowest common denominator. Nothing stirs up resentments faster than a public event, which was supposed to be for a greater community, reflecting only a handful of participants' religions. So think- what is it that you all have in common? The elements and the directions? A specific animal? A god or myth cycle that you follow? Use that to plan the theme, details, and story arc of your ritual. Similarities are great, but what about when you run into differences?

5. Tell a story, using creative elements. Song, dance, visual symbolism, tactile elements- all have a place and should be employed in how the ritual connects people to the story that you are telling. All of these elements also give you a better chance of connecting with diverse traditions- because all have something to share in this regard and can be of help.

I have found that an approach that acknowledges differences in an obvious way (like taking bits of different styles of creating sacred space and inserting them into the script) helps. It's even better when this attempt is obvious- like creating a program so that attendees can see their trad represented as well as myriad others equally.

What tips have you found helpful in organizing a diverse group?

1 comment:

  1. I practice storytelling magic, so your last tip resonates with me. This year, I'm dancing and well, storytelling at a local park. I have two stories, one for children and a fun one, which I'll post on my blog tonight probably, that is for adults. I had fun writing it and I can't wait to have people playing the parts. The high priest won't be happy, but his daughter and wife asked me to write something that would make jump out of his cauldron, and I was just too happy to please them.


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