One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot – and talking to some friends who have extended periods of time in the larger Pagan communities – about, is how things have changed.
I did a review of Seeker emails I’ve received earlier this year, and I was thinking about how they were both similar to and different from a decade ago (I was regularly answering them for our training circle for a couple of years.)
I’m seeing some interesting patterns, and other people I’ve talked to have seen some similar ones. I don’t know that these are universal, by any stretch, of course!
A little history
I should put this slightly in context:
Between 2001 (when I started) and 2008 (when I hived) the training circle I worked with regularly ran a series of introductory Seeker classes. This was a 5 class series, held in a public-transit accessible location, either a Pagan/esoteric store, or a cafe with meeting rooms. We asked for a small donation ($5 a class was fine) to cover photocopies and things like the teacher’s parking and maybe a drink.
When I started (I did my own round of attending Seeker classes in May of 2001), there were 15-20 people starting the series, four times a year. By the time I hived, the Seeker classes were smaller: there was both less apparent interest from people looking for groups, but also a few more options in the community, of people offering similar options. (We thought, on the whole, this was good for everyone: it’s really good for people to have choices if they’re available.)
But it did also seem like, instead of interest in small group growing, it tapered off, and looser, larger groups, got more interest (I want to say from around 2005 to 2015 or so, based on other conversations.) People seemed to want public rituals, or open circles, or larger communities (some kinds of festivals, groups that got together for Sabbats and some classes, but not necessarily initiatory training) rather than small focused group work.
What I’m up to these days
I’m very clear on the coven site that I’m open to people interested in group work, but that I’m only interested in ongoing in-person work with people who are interested in or willing to learn my particular tradition and practices for what we do together. (Limited time, limited energy!)
I get a request every month or two, on average, from people from a range of backgrounds.
Strong desire for group work
The past year or two, I’ve been seeing that desire for group work flowing again – I’ve seen a lot more requests (proportionately speaking) from people who are thinking seriously about group work and what it means, even if they’re not really sure yet what’s right for them. Before that, I was getting more questions from people who were curious about witchcraft, but less sure about group work.
(This is all totally not statistically valid, by the way: it’s impossible to judge trends in the larger community or population based on emails they happen to send me. But the shift has been noticeable enough for me to think about.)
One thing I am seeing that’s different than during my own training, is that a lot of people are emailing about group work fairly early in their own learning experience. They’ve read a few books, but not dozens. They may not have much experience with group ritual of any kind, even public rituals.
Both my current students have tried some different things on their own – meditation, some magical – but not a huge range of what’s possible (or generally discussed in the broader witchy community).
When I started out, and up to about 2005-2007, it was pretty common to see people who had already done a fair bit of exploring. They’d been to a few different public rituals, they’d read more than a couple of books, and they’d tried out some different things, often a fairly wide range.
The differences are really interesting to work out.
Less awareness of community options.
Some of that may be locational. Boston is in a weird position, because there isn’t a lot of public ritual or intro class material out there. (As opposed to the Twin Cities in the early 2000s, when for a while it felt like I could be at a different public witchy event, no invite needed, shared on public calendars you could find with a search engine, every night of the week and half a dozen times on Sabbats.
I argue that Boston’s community is warped by Salem’s (which is a complex thing) and also by the fact that a lot of Boston still runs on an academic calendar, and the occasional impermanence of college populations. That’s shifted some (I’ve noticed it since I moved back) but it still affects a certain amount of scheduling. (Also, finding public transit accessible affordable spaces for ritual around here can be tricky!)
At any rate, most of the people I hear from find me either on Witchvox or on BostonPagan.com (which is run by the Cornucopia Collective folks: I occasionally make it to an open ritual, and do a class or two a year for them, which is great fun.) I get an occasional other request from my website.
More openness to conversation
Interestingly, I am seeing more openness to conversation – when I reply with questions, or thoughts, I’m getting a better quality of response back. Thoughtful people, more of the time. (Of course, there are and will always be people who don’t reply at all.)
Some of that may have to do with the design of the coven site, which is very deliberate (and that’s probably a whole other topic, so I’ll make it one.)