Membership Process

I’m pretty much always up for coffee or a meal somewhere with someone interested in learning more about Paganism, if my own schedule allows. And I love teaching in community settings when I can, offering workshops on introductory or other topics. In both cases, mostly what I care about is that we find a setting that works for everyone involved, and that my time is respected (someone saying they’ll come to something, and then not showing up, for example, is a problem.)

However, when I’m considering someone for ongoing training, or as part of a small group, it’s important to me to be very thoughtful and take my time. I want to make sure that someone is the right for what I can offer – and that what I offer is actually what they’re looking for (or if it’s a compromise, we all know what’s involved with that, and have talked about how that might work.)

Making decisions:

Applying to a group can be an emotionally challenging process. We know that it can be hard to hear a “Thank you, but no.”

I hope here that by being clear about each step (and what I hope for from it), you will better understand why I ask these things, and how they help me in making choices for the long-term wellbeing of a group. If I come to feel that there just isn’t a good potential fit between your needs or preferred approach and ours, I’ll tell you as soon as possible.

Timeline:

Even if everything goes very smoothly, and I think someone is a good fit, as a tradition, we expect there to be between 2 and 5 months between initial interest and Dedication. Longer is quite common.

This time is intended to make sure we’re compatible (in ritual style, in teaching style, in where we focus) before making a more substantial commitment to each other. I realise this is a lengthy process, but I want you to be able to make a reasonably informed choice – and that means seeing us in action for a little. It also means I need some time to get to know you, and for everyone to begin to get more comfortable with one another.

If at any time you decide that you’re no longer interested in possibly working with me, just let me know. I won’t press for details. I do expect common courtesy – if you decide to cancel, please do so enough before a planned meeting that I can find out and rearrange our plans.

The process:

1) Email introduction:

Through this site and my blog, I share quite a bit of information about me and my hopes for group work. The email is your chance to share a little about yourself and your interests – as well as a good time to make sure we’re on the same page about some practical details. I want to see you at your best, and email gives you the chance to consider what you say in  your introduction.

You should get an initial response to your email within 3-5 days (though it’s sometimes longer if I’m travelling or otherwise unavailable.) If you don’t hear anything within 2-3 weeks, please try again, as something’s gotten lost in the ether.

If I feel there’s a potential fit, I will contact you to arrange a face to face meeting. This may take a couple of weeks depending on our mutual schedules.

If I feel there isn’t a good fit up front, based on your email, I’ll say so, and decline to meet. This can happen for many reasons. I do not generally get specific about why we’re saying no unless someone asks directly – just that I don’t feel that there will be a good fit.

However, when we’ve declined to meet in the past, it’s generally been either because someone has clearly not read our information (or fully responded to the points in the introduction letter, especially the practical bits), or because there’s some practical aspect where we just can’t offer what someone needs.

The letter of introduction information page has all the information you need. I’ve done our best to make it clear – if anything’s confusing, please note it in your letter.

2) First meeting:

If I think there’s a potential good fit, I’ll invite you to a meeting in a public place like a tea or coffee shop where we can talk. This lets us get to know each other in a neutral space. We’ll talk about what you shared in your letter, and I’ll share more details about the tradition and my hopes for group work. You’ll have plenty of time to ask any questions you may have.

In our experience, these conversations generally take 90 minutes to 2 hours.

3) Discussion evenings:

If the initial meeting goes well, I’ll set up a few discussion sessions with you. These will focus on our pre-Dedicant class materials, and will give you a sense of my teaching style.

These classes focus on things useful to anyone interested in the Craft: an idea of useful resources, common etiquette, ethics, centering and grounding, and other foundational topics. They also include more information about our common ritual structures and practices.

4) Attend a few events:

If we still seem like a good mutual fit after a couple of discussion evenings, I’ll expand the invitations – usually to include at least one ritual, and one social event (a relevant movie, performance, walk, etc.) This is a chance for you to see me in other kinds of interaction. How long this takes depends on scheduling.

5) The possibility of Dedication:

If, after completing the 5 pre-Dedication discussions and attending group events, you’re still interested in Phoenix Song, and I still think you’d be a good fit, we will discuss the specifics of Dedication. We’ll also discuss a way to evaluate your existing level of knowledge and skill, so that I can best adapt teaching material to your needs.

How I make decisions:

I don’t care about your existing knowledge or understanding (those things are easy to change!) I care far more about your behavior, approach, and interests. For example, I look at:

  • How you interact with me (and when relevant, other members of the group)
  • How you handle different kinds of questions – specific, open-ended, big picture thinking, and details.
  • Whether you are interested in the work and practices I can offer. 
  • How you approach new experiences and learning.
  • Whether you have generally followed any requests about group courtesy and behavior.
  • How you’ve handled any challenges or problems.
  • The nebulous ‘fit’ – do you seem to fit well with me and the group.

I may like you a lot as a person, but not feel you’re a good fit for the group at this time – that’s one of the limits of a small group. If I don’t feel we’re the right place, I’ll do my best to suggest some alternatives.

Ongoing health concerns: 

As I’ve noted on the common questions page, I expect that anyone working with me will have had any chronic condition reasonably stable for at least 6 months (no major medication changes, significant flares, etc.) and has appropriate professional support. I won’t turn someone down just for having chronic concerns – but I also know there are some things I’m better equipped to handle than others.

I recognise this is a tricky subject to talk about, so I take it in stages. Here’s what I want to know when.

  • First meeting: I want to choose somewhere you can be comfortable and focus on the conversation. That might mean a suitable space for hearing impairment or lipreading, mobility concerns, or other things of that kind.
  • Discussions: Mostly, I care about allergy issues and any food needs.
  • Ritual attendance: I care about anything that might be an issue in ritual. Some people do find that their body responds differently in circle – this can affect things like allergies, asthma, blood sugar or blood pressure. I don’t need full details, but would like a basic “If something happens, here’s what to do” head’s up if you’re not sure.

Before accepting someone as a student to initiation, I will want to talk further about any medical or mental health issues that recur in your life, past significant surgery, etc. This is so we can talk about appropriate options for professional support if something flares during training, or consider some alternate teaching techniques in some cases. 

I’ll also talk about my past experiences with these things, so you have an idea of what it can affect. By this point, we should have been talking regularly for several months, and you will have plenty of chances to decide whether you trust me with that information.

[last updated May 20, 2017]