Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Please stop calling them ISIS

Small rant.

I love Isis... She's my patron Goddess and showed me the door to the pagan world so many years ago. (Yes I know the Isis vs Aset argument but this isn't about that). 

I'm currently writing a short story for submission to an anthology about dark gods and benevolent ones with dark sides so I'm writing a story featuring Isis' shadow side.  Without going into details I thought I'd do a quick google search for possible weapons She might use.  

In my naivety (and before engaging my brain) I googled 'weapons used by Isis'.  NEVER do this.  I'm sure I'm now on some FBI watch list.  Yes I can google weapons used by Goddess Isis but I am just ranting about my disapproval of the name of a Goddess being corrupted by this terrorist group.  

They have been referred to as a few different names including ISIS and ISIL.  Both of these attempt to legitimise their claims as they stand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (an archaic term used to describe the lands around Syria which includes modern day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan).  They are a terrorist group not a state and aside from corrupting the use of a Goddess' name, calling them the Islamic State is what they want, so I'll not do it.

I know on a whole it's a small inconvenience for me to have to change how I google something or to be questioned if I worship Isis when asked.  (Yes one deluded individual actually argued with me about my support of a terrorist organisation).  But please, stop calling them ISIS.  Call them Daesh, call them monsters, call them bastards or arseholes or any number of other expletives but please don't call them by a name they want and stop besmirching the name of the Goddess Isis.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Why I Don't Run Pagan Events Anymore

Luana and I spent roughly ten years off and on running Pagan Coffee Meets.  I saw great events happening in other parts of the country and went through a resentful and wistful patch of "why isn't there anything like that happening here?".  Then one day I thought about it more sensibly and decided that if I wanted one, I should start one.

I advertised my first coffee meet in New Zealand forums (this was back in Eziboard days, well before facebook was a thing) and also on Meetup.  I spoke to local shop owners and left my number so anyone interested could contact me.

Meetup decided there weren't enough numbers responding on it's page and officially cancelled it, but we went anyway.  It was attended purely by my friends.  There were five of us in total, having a drink in a quiet corner of the Dux de Lux and we spent most of it planning our next ritual since it was effectively a meeting of our ritual group.

I chose not to be disheartened by it and planned another for next month.  We had a phenomenal turn out for Christchurch.  20 new people came along.  I was excited by this, I felt validated and justified in giving it another go.  Then I learned that many of them had come along because they'd been told that last time we'd sat around backstabbing others in the local community and bitching about people.  They'd come to set us straight on a few things.

I can only assume that there was some other meeting going on that we'd been confused with.  It had only been our little group and there hadn't been anyone close enough to eavesdrop on our conversation.  I didn't know many other people in the Christchurch Pagan Community to gossip about and neither did any but one of our group.  To this day, I've never learned where this had come from.

After a few months, the New Zealand Pagan Centre was created and we chose to come under it's umbrella, continuing coffee meets that were advertised through it's network.  The NZPC soon turned into what can only be described as a clusterfuck and stopped running in anything but name.  We continued our coffee meets.  We had a great core group that met every month.  We'd moved to the Coffee House and the staff there had gotten to know us very well.

When Luana and I created Cauldrons, we began to advertise the coffee meets through our website.  We changed the time to lunchtime on Saturday and had another great group of people start to come along.  We got up to a fairly consistent 10 - 20 people at each meet and caused several connections and friendships to form between people just wanting one or two others to befriend and practice with.

I stopped Coffee Meets when the earthquakes destroyed the central city.  I did look at other surrounding areas but they were always too problematic for people.  Buses and carpooling were just too hard it would seem.  Then I moved out of Christchurch anyway.

After a few years, someone was asking about Coffee Meets again in a local facebook group.  He didn't know enough people and wasn't confident to start one himself, but was adamant he'd turn up if one was offered.  Several other locals echoed his words.  So I set one up.  I advertised it, I posted reminders several times leading up to it.  And I sat there with my close friend and oldest daughter as not one of the buggers turned up.  Well, I had a lovely visit and nice lunch in the sun anyway.

We were also asked on a fairly regular basis about holding a Festival.  We'd both travelled to and worked at other Festivals in other parts of the country, so we set about organising one.

The budget was rather prohibitive.  We found a rather low-cost but also low-amenity venue, but getting public liability insurance was a nightmare - it took over half of our total budget in the end.

We chose not to try and get big overseas names to speak as there was no way we'd be able to afford to pay for their travel alone, never mind any of the other normally associated costs.  We put it out there for anyone in the local community who wanted to share their wisdom.  It was our thought that there was a lot of local talent that went unregarded.

Two weeks out from the Festival, we had four confirmed and paid for bookings.  That's four people in total.  Two of them were children.  We had more volunteers who we'd promised a very cheap weekend to in return for working for most of it.  We were reaching the last cancel-without-paying-full-price date and getting nervous.  A last minute appeal to everyone brought in enough last minute bookings to make going ahead worthwhile.

We'd contacted a local coven to run a ritual as we didn't want that added stress on top of our first festival.  Two members of the coven stayed for the whole weekend, the remainder turned up for the day of their ritual.

Now there are always things that happen unexpectedly.  I don't think it's possible to plan for every eventuality.  Our only real issue was that the main Saturday night feast was late by nearly an hour.  Four different spit-roasted meats.  It was that or we risked undercooked chicken and pork as part of the feast.  I overheard some rather rude snark and bitching about it as though it was a deliberate insult to these people.

I thought everything else went reasonably well, most of the feedback was positive.  The only complaint that was ever said directly to us was that it wasn't long enough, can we pick a long weekend next time?  But I still have stuff come back to me indirectly about that weekend.

We've run another three Festivals, each with their own drama queens making them memorable for the wrong reasons.  Each with small hiccups but mostly they've run smoothly.

Each with associated snark and bitchiness that followed.  Sometimes from people who have never attended a single one we've run.

A friend tried to set one up in her separate part of the country.  She was getting close to the last date she could cancel by without paying full price for the venue and had two bookings.  That sounded familiar, so I was lending support and experience.  Someone piped up and told her she just needed to be more understanding because that person was a "last-minute person" and that was just the way she was.  When I pointed out how rude and disrespectful such an attitude was to the organiser, I was blasted as being "negative" and "the wrong sort".

There are always a few volunteers that go above and beyond what is expected of them.  They are people to be treasured, even though they'll usually just humbly tell you it was nothing when you express your gratitude.  There are equally always a few that can never be found when they have jobs to do or will refuse to wipe the dishes, sweep a floor, clean the loos or even check toilet paper levels.

So as you can probably tell, by now I'm rather wary about doing anything like this.  People piss and moan about how there's nothing in their area, but when there is, they don't support it by turning up.  When they do turn up, they piss and moan about how they could have done a better job, or this was wrong or that was done badly or they invent issues to bitch and backstab about.

For the time being anyway.  I'm done.  You want events, you organise them.  I have enough to do without trying to cater for a community that doesn't respect the time, money, blood, sweat and tears that goes into any event.


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Warning Signs That a Leader or Teacher Might Be Unhealthy For You

I started to write a big long essay about warning signs in Pagan and magical groups (both online and in meatspace).  Then I found Morgan Drake Eckstein's The top thirteen signs that a leader or esoteric group might be too rotten to bother with.
He covers it so much better than I would although I do want to add a few things to this.  For a start,  a perusal of :

The Advanced Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame  and see how it fits with the group that you're looking at.  It can be scary how many facebook groups tick too many of these boxes, never mind offline groups that meet in person.

I'd also look at how questions are treated.

I ask a lot of questions.  Sometimes it's because I don't understand how you managed to come to that conclusion and I'm trying to figure out the whys and wherefores.  Sometimes it's to see if we're using the same word but have different meanings.  Sometimes it's because I've never heard of what it is you're talking about and I'm always keen for a learning experience.  And sometimes because by making you think about the questions I'm asking, I'm hoping you'll figure some things out for yourself.

The responses I get can be very telling of whether you're someone worth listening to, someone to just ignore or someone to run from.  And I'm not just talking about the content of the response.  I'm talking about the way in which the response comes.

Does the response seem angry? (As in "how dare you" rather than projected emotion). Does it seem to make them nervous?  Does it get ignored or brushed off?  Do you suddenly have a lot of others jumping in to tell you off for asking?  Does it get treated as 'negativity' or 'being a smart arse'?  Do you find your question has been deleted?  Do you get a lot of waffly ramblings that skate around it but don't actually answer your question?

I treat all of these as warning signs.  Sometimes it's warning you that they don't really know what they claim to know but won't admit it and sometimes it's a warning that you're dealing with a megalomaniac who's trying to control everyone.  Sometimes it's a warning that there are mental health issues going on.

A worthwhile teacher or leader doesn't mind being questioned.  As long as it's done with respect and not as a demand or expectation.

Another one that Morgan touches on but I wish to expand further is the following:

5. Does not cite sources – magical and spiritual knowledge does not grow in a vacuum. A leader or teacher who never mentions who taught them or the books that they have read is guilty of trying to conceal their past. If they try to conceal their past, then what else are they hiding? Especially troublesome are those who claim that all their knowledge comes from Secret Chiefs that only they are spiritually and magically advanced enough to meet.

Morgan is speaking more of Ceremonial Lodges than the average pagan or witchcraft group, but this does carry over.  The point I wish to highlight in this is the last part - all their knowledge comes from Secret Chiefs that only they are spiritually and magically advanced enough to meet.  I've met self-appointed leaders who get all their information from "their guides" or "the Gods" or some special spirit they've channelled. Unless there is some way to verify the information, be very very careful. 

A prime example of this type of thing is the Ramtha Cult.

One I've experienced claimed she had a channelled message from "the Goddess" for everyone at our ritual.  I've never found the Gods shy about making their wishes known to me, they've never used the flowery "dear one" type language when talking to me and the instructions (and yes they were instructions) fit neatly in with what the channeller had been pushing for, but were completely against the direction my Gods had been pushing me.  I left that ritual angry at her for her attempted manipulation of everyone present and for believing that we would be gullible enough to fall for it.

I'm sure there's more I've missed, I'm sure there's stuff that's become other people's personal red flags.  These are just the main ones that I've experienced.