[written and tested in August 2009: since then I’ve moved to Maine and then to Massachusetts and have not updated the details in this essay for new locations and situations. However, the basics of how to navigate still work.]
Several times in the past few months, I’ve seen someone post saying that they had trouble using Witchvox, and expressing some confusion about how to use it. I’ve got some theories about why this is (at the bottom of the post, for the curious) but on a practical level, I decided it was more interesting to write up a walkthrough of where to find things and how to use the networking resources than to clean my house this afternoon. (I aim for productive procrastination when I can…)
Since the email I sent about it is a little hard to read without formatting, I’m duplicating most of it here for easy reference.Please feel free to share the link here with any other list where the information would be helpful.
For each step, I include examples from my own group, Phoenix Song, so you can see exactly how things work.
- What is Witchvox?
- Three notes:
- Step 1: A group sets up a profile on Witchvox.
- Step 2: You (a seeker) go looking for a group.
- Step 3: The summary page.
- Step 4: The listing of groups.
- Step 5: Review what they say.
- Step 6: Making contact
- Step 7: The realities of groups
What is Witchvox?
“Witchvox” is the nickname given to one of the oldest Pagan networking sites on the web (and certainly the largest): http://witchvox.com (the site’s actual name is The Witches’ Voice.) It includes listings from around the world (though the largest number are in the US, Canada, and the UK)
You don’t actually need to ‘join’ Witchvox in order to browse the networking listings. You can create a personal profile if you want, but it’s strictly optional.
Witchvox was originally designed in the late 90s, a long time before many of the social networking site systems were in regular use. This means that there’s a bunch of things that are sort of clunky or not as easy as on sites like Facebook or MySpace or wherever. Think of this as a quaint feature, not a problem.
Any site of this kind relies on the information people give to it. Many groups don’t advertise on Witchvox, or only list some events. That’s why if someone’s looking for a group, I always suggest they look at the events, stores, and announcements listings as well as the group listings, because you may find other ways to make connections than a group profile.
Witchvox also has many more profiles for Wiccan and Wiccan-based groups than for other Pagan paths (Celtic, Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Roman, etc.) though you’ll also find some of them. If you or someone you know is interested in other paths, make sure you use other networking and information methods as well. (This is a good idea for everyone.)
Other options include
- local email lists (many are on Yahoo!Groups) or networking groups on sites like Meetup.com, Facebook, MySpace.) Try searching for terms like Pagan and your area, city, or region.
- talk to any local Pagan or New Age stores. The store staff often know lots of people in the area, and they also often have bulletin boards or even public networking nights.
- asking around for resources on general Pagan forums. (The most complicated choice, because it generally involves someone from that area being on the same forum.)
Summary? Witchvox is still a very good place to start, but it probably shouldn’t be the only place you look.
Step 1: A group sets up a profile on Witchvox.
There has to be something for you to find, after all! They set up a simple profile, and they enter the location and other information they choose. They select various settings (whether they’re open to invitations or contacts from other groups or events, or just from individual seekers, for example.) They decide what information to list, too. The group I trained with includes the HPS’s phone number. I am not a big fan of phones, and don’t want random people calling me without pre-arranging it, so I only include an email address and website.
Step 2: You (a seeker) go looking for a group.
Start on the front page at http://witchvox.com
On the left hand side, you’ll see a highlighted profile of someone on the site. Directly below that, you’ll see “YOUR town…” with four dropdown menus.
These are “U States” (United States), “UK Regions” (United Kingdom regions), “Canada”, “Australia”, and “Countries” (everywhere else). When you click and hold on the menu you choose, you’ll see a big list of choices.
EXAMPLE: If you want to follow along and practice by finding my coven’s page, pick Minnesota. (If you want to explore where you live, pick wherever you live.) Once the area you want is highlighted, let go: a new page will load. The Minnesota page looks like this: http://www.witchvox.com/vn/hm/usmn.html
Step 3: The summary page.
For each area, there’s an index page that includes some general information about that state, region, province, or country. The main part of the page lists people who’ve contributed to keeping Witchvox going, and highlights some upcoming events.
On the left side of the page, you’ll see a list of “Hot links”. These are divided into various categories.
At the top are local news, events, and poetry. Events are very helpful in connecting with groups.
The next category are personal profiles. You can use these to see if there are other people in your town or area you might like to chat with. In a small town, this can be a great way to find other people (check out other surrounding towns, too.) However, if you’re like me, and live in a city, wading through dozens of personal profiles in the area is probably not my best use of time.
Next are groups. Groups are divided by the age of the people running things. Adult groups generally don’t include children/teens, or only at a few rituals. Family groups do. Teen groups are teen-focused or run. College and military groups are for people in those settings, and recovery groups are for those recovering from drug, alcohol, or other addiction or similar situations. Pick the one that’s relevant to you. (It can be worth checking out both the adult and family group listings, though.)
EXAMPLE: My coven is an adult group. If you want to follow along from the Minnesota page, click on the link that says “Adult”. This will take you to a new page: http://www.witchvox.com/vn/gr/usmn_gra.html . If you’re looking in your area, try whichever type of group you’re interested in.
Step 4: The listing of groups.
This page lists a very small bit of information for each group profile. They are sorted by the name of the town that the group entered for the location. You then see the group name, and then a column that describes the path. Click on the name of the group to load the group profile page.
I recommend exploring any page that sounds *remotely* possible. The brief description of the path in the list is very limited (I’d love mine to say “Initiatory religious witchcraft”, but it won’t quite fit.) If you’re interested in a specific tradition, check out any group in that trad in your state (and maybe nearby states). They’ll often include other links or resources on their websites, or can maybe put you in touch with a nearby group who isn’t listed on Witchvox themselves.
EXAMPLE: My group is in Minneapolis. You can see that it says: “Minneapolis ……. Phoenix Song ….. Initiatory Witchcraft Trad.” If you’re exploring your own area, pick a group that seems of interest.
Step 5: Review what they say.
On the right side of the page, you’ll see some general information about the group with short answers. In the center of the page, you’ll see the group profile.
On the right side:
– Formed: This is the date the group formed. This helps you tell if it’s a brand new group, or one that’s been around for a while.
– New members ok: are they open to new members?
– Incorporated: is the group incorporated in the state? Many small covens won’t be: there’s absolutely no benefit to anyone to do so. (It doesn’t protect seekers and it doesn’t usually provide any benefit for the group unless they’re handling moderate amounts of money (a few thousand a year))
– 501* cert? Does the group have 501* certification? Again, there’s no benefit for a small coven in doing this, generally. However, it *is* more important in a group that’s regularly putting on major events (like a weeklong festival) or otherwise handling larger amounts of money. 501 is the part of the tax code for religious and educational organisations. For example, Twin Cities Pagan Pride, does have 501(c)3 status is tax-exempt as an educational group. (that’s the (c)3 part.)
WVOX stats: tells you some basic stats that probably don’t matter much.
The main area of the page
- Group name at the top. (If you’re following my example, it’ll say Phoenix Song.)
- Age range: Are they an adult, teen, family, or other type of group?
- Location: The location they listed. Be aware that groups may meet in multiple different spaces – if transportation is a consideration for you, read their profile and any other info (like a website) carefully.
- Key contact (usually the HPS or HP, but sometimes the person who answers the email…)
- Spiritual path: the brief trad summary.
- Status: might be ‘established group’ or ‘forming’.
- Community support: Groups can list themselves as ‘Teaching available’, ‘Open circles’, or as having legally ordained clergy for handfastings/Rites of passage.
At the bottom, there is a link to a website (if the group put one in), and also a phone number (if they included that) or a mailing address.
An extended example:
Let’s take a look at what you can learn about a group, using mine as an example. (That’s here: http://www.witchvox.com/vn/vn_detail/dt_gr.html?a=usmn&id=32984)
On the right side:
- Group formed in March 2008 (but I posted this profile for the first time in October 2008.)
- Open to new members.
- Not incorporated, don’t have 501* status.
You have the group name and location.(Phoenix Song, and Minneapolis)
You have my name. You might note that I don’t include any formal title. (like Lady Althaea, which is the title I use when I’m being formal.) You can’t tell just from the profile that I’m the HPS of the group. (That info is in our website, but I prefer to start less formally than that.)
You can see that I didn’t say “Wicca” on my “Path name”. This should let you know that I’m not BTW, but hopefully encourage people to read the profile to find out more than a short phrase can explain.
We’re an established group, and we teach. However, I’m not listed as legal clergy. (I could be, if I wished, but I haven’t bothered with the legalities because I haven’t had a need for it yet – in Minnesota, it’s mostly relevant for legal weddings.)
The profile then includes some general information about the group and what we do. My goal with this part was to give someone who might be interested enough to decide whether clicking forward to the website was useful and to answer some likely questions (what do I mean by Initiatory Witchcraft Trad?)
Step 6: Making contact
If you find a group or contact that you want to communicate with, you have a few choices. Do they list a website? You can see what they say about contact there. Ditto if they list a phone number or mailing address.
However, Witchvox makes it easy to send an email that both protects the group’s email address from spam, and that allows you to just share the information you prefer.
If you look at the Phoenix Song profile, there’s a button at the bottom that says “to send private email messaage to Phoenix Song, click here” If you click on that.
A new page will load: a form that asks for some general information.
Your name. Give whatever name you’d like to be called by the person who answers. (for example, when I was doing this back in 2001, I said “Jenett” rather than my legal name.) First name is fine. Public Craft name is fine.
Your email address: The address you want any reply to go to. (Make sure there are no typos.)
Email subject: Keep it short, because Witchvox adds on some additional information when sending. Something like “Interested in your group” or “Looking for teaching” or something like that is good.
Then type your message in the message box. Writing an introductory message is a whole topic in and of itself. (And I’ll post in the next day or so with what I love to get from seekers, in case that’s helpful.) You may want to draft it in a different program (like a text editor) to make it easier to read and edit.
– Review your message. If you would like a copy sent to you, click the box that will do that at the bottom. When you’re ready, click the ‘click HERE to send email’ button.
Want to test it out?
If you want to send me a test message via the Phoenix Song page, feel free. I’ll send a reply back to you that will include what I sent, so you can see what I got and how it comes across. Just let me know it’s only a test. (People actually interested in Phoenix Song, please read the coven website and follow the instructions for the letter of introduction there.)
Please respect my time and scope: I’m glad to do a quick reply that shows you the email format, but I’m only really familiar with groups and resources in a few places. Requests for detailed help finding groups will get a pointer to my local resources page or to the Seeking resources page, depending on where you are unless you have a very specific and unusual question. (Because hey, I’m a librarian, I like digging for new kinds of information.) However, I’m also a busy librarian, and want to spend my personal time doing a variety of things, not just researching for other people.
Step 7: The realities of groups
Group leaders tend to be busy people.
Many of them (especially people who are not online all the time) don’t respond to group email every day. Many answer every week or two, or only when they have group openings, or some class or open event coming up.
It may take a bit for someone to answer.
If you don’t get any response after 2-4 weeks, it’s okay to try again (politely: a “Not sure if my original got to you…” works well.) However, make sure that you’ve written the best possible message you can to start with. I’ll talk more about this in the other post I mentioned about emails from Seekers, but many group leaders will discard emails that look careless, rushed, or not serious without an answer. Remember that if you’re looking for teaching or a group, you’re asking someone to spend a lot of time with you. It’s worth making a good first impression.
Make sure you’ve also checked out any relevant resources
This includes their Witchvox profile, their website, etc. Sometimes they’ll say “Email us any time, but we’ll only contact you if we have openings” or “We’ll email you when we have another open event” or whatever.
Some groups are better than others about updating their profiles.
Information may be out of date, they may be taking students (or not taking them) now. Usually, a group’s website is more regularly updated, but a polite email (if a group seems to be a possible fit) is often fine. If they aren’t open to new members, they may have other connections in your area who are. But keep such requests short – something like “From your profile on Witchvox, it seems you aren’t taking new students, but do you know any other groups in the area in [whatever trad they are]? I’d appreciate help making contacts, as I haven’t had much luck so far.” (Obviously, if you do this, make sure you’ve checked out anyone else in the area first.)
I hope that this helps explain more of how to use Witchvox networking pages to your best advantage. If you find errors (or the site’s changed things since I wrote this), please let me know via comment or email. (I tested each step and link as I wrote it on August 8. 2009.)
And oh, yes.. the theory: I think that people have gotten so used to the current round of social networking sites (which often make some kinds of searches like ‘within X miles of me’ trivial) that they forget – or never knew – the older sites where the underlying scaffolding has fewer options. There’s a part of me that very much wishes for a Pagan networking site as well designed as, say, Ravelry. But there’s also a part of me that thinks that having to do a little work, and having to browse all the resources in an area, at least quickly, are actually better for Pagan community building.
[formatting but not content updated November 3, 2016]