Tiny little update

It seems very silly to update to explain why I’m not updating, but…

My life is currently in another round of limbo – my current job is being cut due to budget reasons, and that means I am deep in the process of applying for other things (all of which will also require a move, so there’s also a bunch of ‘how do I set things up now to make that easy when I don’t know where I’m moving to.’) This is after about 4 months of health issues that made doing anything that required thinking very difficult.

All of which means that Pagan writing (and a lot of other things) are on the backburner until that’s settled. And that may take a few months.

However, I had an email from someone who liked my Seeking site this week, asking about my plans for updates, and I wanted to mention some of what I said in reply to her here, in case anyone else is curious.

  • I did a big visual overhaul last spring.
  • I added a number of new articles between last April and last July (links to those below)
  • I have about half a dozen articles in drafts, and notes about 30 others I’d eventually like to write. (I’m sure those will produce more, eventually)
  • I have some other projects I’d really like to work on – these will almost certainly wait until another project I’ve been involved with comes to an end sometime this summer.

Additions to the Seeking site in the past year: 

Call for topics

It’s going on 3 years (well, 2.5, but) since I put my Seeking site up, and it’s now regularly getting 100 hits or more a day. (Yay, nice thing!)

However, it also clearly needs some updating and some pieces written that I’ve been meaning to get around to, and all that. So, now is a good time for me to ask “What stuff do you want me to talk about more over there?”

For those of you who haven’t looked, it is focused on people new to Paganism (and specifically to religious witchcraft, which is the bit of Paganism I can speak to with some coherency: I try not to talk about other people’s religions *for* them) Got thoughts? Share below the fold.

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Copyright and Pagans

There’s recently been another round of discussion about copyright and Pagan uses, so this is a good time for me to rummage in my files and do the post on Pagans and copyright I’ve been meaning to do for a while. The following is based on the notes I used for a handout at a panel discussion at Paganicon in 2012, but I’ve expanded the explanations.

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • Copyright law is very complicated. (Even for people who specialise in it.) There are a lot of exceptions, and a bunch of things you’d think were common sense, but are more complicated than that.
  • Fair use or educational use is even more complicated. (There’s a section below on it.)
  • In many cases, a court is the only thing that can determine whether a particular use is legal if it doesn’t involve the copyright holder giving permission.
  • Getting permission is always a great choice. Many people give permission in advance via a Creative Commons license or something similar.

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12 years and a couple of days

(Yeah, I know. I go months without updating, and then two posts in the same day. But thinking about my earlier one lead me to this.)

It is twelve years and two days (September 2nd, 2001) since I Dedicated to the tradition that I am now a 3rd degree priestess in. And I find it’s a good time for me to say “Here’s what I wish someone had told me then.” [1]

What’s happened since then?

  • 9/11. And how people dealt – or didn’t deal – with it.
  • I got married. (in later 2001. after wrangling lots of paperwork – my ex was Canadian)
  • I got divorced. (we separated in 2005, and the actual divorce was in 2006.)
  • I moved in with housemates. I moved out from living with housemates.
  • I took a break in grad school. I went back and finished my degree. (Master’s in Library and Information Science.)
  • I stopped talking to my mother, for years. And I started again, and it’s so much better now.
  • I had a major health crash, left a job I loved, spent a year unemployed.
  • And I learned a lot about who my friends were and weren’t.
  • Then I found an awesome new job (just had my two year anniversary. It’s still quite awesome).
  • But it meant leaving Minnesota and moving half way across the country.
  • And switching from living in an urban area to a very rural one.

And that means: 

I have been moderately well-off (by librarian standards). I’ve had a couple of years when my food budget was $20 a week, because the food budget was the thing that could give after rent and paying down debt, and other necessities.

I lost the cat who got me through the bad years to a blood clot, when the Vet. told me the Source was diet, I felt so terrible and I swore to be more picky with my animals food. I acquired a new one, who rolls over and purrs at the slightest moment of attention

I’ve moved 5 times. Mostly across town. Except the one that was cross-country.

I’ve had months on end when I spent 15+ hours that week on religious group practice and ritual planning and my own religious practice. And I’ve had months when the only things I do are the tiny minimal things: a playlist listen here. Painted toenails there. [2] A pendant here. A pause while reading something not overtly Pagan there.

I’ve taught classes, designed them from scratch. I’ve planned nuanced rituals and really blunt ones. I’ve Drawn Down and done less than brilliantly considered things with arrows and fire in the name of religion. I’ve had three initiation rituals. I’ve helped with more than half a dozen, most recently last March. But the group I trained with is no longer active, and that breaks my heart sometimes.

I’ve argued stubbornly with my teachers, and listened to them. I’ve had things I loved and things that hurt. (And sometimes both at once.) I’ve felt the presence of the Gods and heard them speak to me – and I’ve had month after month where there’s nothing really there.

I’ve gone through cycle over cycle about what the work I get paid for and the song of my soul have in common, and how one feeds the other, and what it means when I was struggling to make things work.

I served on the Twin Cities Pagan Pride board for about 5 years – in which time we took the organisation into being solidly in the black year after year, shepherded through the 501(c)3 process, and launched Paganicon. (Related to that, I have learned how to negotiate a hotel contract, manage room arrangements, wrestled programming to build something as diverse and wide-ranging as I could, and picked up a lot of other bits of organisational skill.)

I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. (A number of them here, or for my Seeking site for people seeking Pagan religions, but many of them just in casual conversation online. Because someone asks me a question, and words come pouring out.) And a bit of music.

And in there, I’ve been to a couple of weddings, a memorial service I helped coordinate, and a wide range of other things that are about the moment of community and compassion and memory.

But none of that, really, is about what I wish someone had told me. Which is:

What I wish I’d been told (but couldn’t have heard if you had)

1) That thing about change? She does change everything She touches. So does He. So do They, over there. (Yes, all of Them that dance across the threads of your life.) So do your friends. And random students at work, and books you read once and thought you’d forgotten, and momentary conversations with a stranger.

Learn to figure out where the changes are pointing you. There’s less wear and tear that way.

(You don’t have to like the change. You don’t have to agree. But fight the right thing, if you’re going to fight.)

2) You will have glorious passionate overwhelming moments with people. You will have times when you can’t bear to be in the same room with them. In good weeks, these will not happen in the same 24 hours.

People are people. Give them the same grace you wish they’d give you.

(You don’t have to like them all the time. You don’t have to agree. But if you want to do stuff with them later, some things are easier than others to recover from.)

3) You will learn stuff from the *weirdest* places. That’s okay. Just roll with it.

There’s voices of magic in everything. There’s the touch of the divine in everything.

(Don’t worry. If you aren’t listening the first dozen times, something will probably whap you over the head or trip you up. The important stuff’s stubborn like that.)

4) You will change. What you need will change. What you’re up for will change.

If you’re not changing, you’re not growing.

(And if you’re not annoyed by other people changing, they’re not growing either. There are days you might have to tell yourself this a lot. It’s okay.)

5) You will have your heart broken. [3]

Hearts heal. I promise.

(Even if you keep being nostalgic. Nostalgia’s fine as long as you don’t move there permanently.)

6) It’s okay that your practice changes. Keep your vows (but make them carefully). But the outward show, the rituals, the structure? There are times that it’s good, and there will be times it isn’t what you need.

Live like you’re connected to the world. Look up at the stars. Listen to the beat of the music and the touch of your Gods. Everything else will sort itself out.

(You are. They hold mysteries that will last your lifetime. So does the music and so do the Gods. And trust me, it’ll work out. Just keep going forward.)

Listen to that voice, the thread of melody and harmony that makes a resonant life. 

[footnotes below]

[1] To put this in chronological context: I initiated in February 2003, took my 2nd degree in November 2005, and my 3rd in November 2007. I was about to turn 26 in 2001, I am about to turn 38.

[2] My longest running religious devotion – since about 11 years ago – is that I paint my toenails some shade of blue. Small. Simple. But I’ve been doing it for 11 years.

[3] And I’m not talking about my ex-husband, here. Or a romantic relationship, actually. The end of my marriage was pretty lousy, but it was a predictable kind of lousy, y’know?

The purpose of events (a discourse on Pagan Pride)

I’ve seen two fascinating conversations pop up in the last day: one about SF conventions and one about the Pagan community, both talking, in at least general terms, about ‘who are we doing this for, and what are we doing with it’? Which brought up all the thoughts, so hi, you all get a post about it.

The Pagan community side started with a friend linking to a post of Star Foster’s about Pagan Pride and the subsequent conversation (locked Facebook post, so I can’t share) was interesting, but also got me thinking. Which got me writing.

I was on the Twin Cities Pagan Pride board from sometime in late 2005 (so starting with the 2006 event), during which I’ve been co-programming chair, programming chair, and then hotel and operations chair once we started Paganicon in 2011. (I am no longer on the board, because moving to Maine in the summer of 2011 made it a little tricky to attend board meetings in Minnesota, but I continue to do hotel foo for Paganicon, and I presented two workshops at this year’s Southern Maine Pagan Pride.

And I found it fascinating reading Star’s post, because there’s some interesting assumptions there. And a bit of history I realise people might not be aware of.

A pause for context:

Back when I was Programming Chair of Twin Cities Pagan Pride, I made a really deliberate attempt to reach outside the Wiccan-based community. Every year, I’d sit down and produce a list of every Pagan or polytheistic group I could find in the Twin Cities region and in greater Minnesota. I’d search through Witchvox, but I’d also rummage through Minnesota email lists, through listings of events or mentions at stores, do web searches for the likely terms, and so on.

(And I’m a librarian by profession, so I do know how to do a thorough web search that goes beyond basic Google.)

I’d send off nice little notes to anyone who did not explicitly ask not to be contacted (Witchvox has an option for “Please don’t contact me about random events in the community” and of course I respected that.)

My notes said, basically “We’re doing Pagan Pride again this year, here’s the dates and location.” and for any group that wasn’t one that we saw all the time (who are awesome for doing that), I’d say something like “We’d really like to include a greater and more diverse representation at our event. If you’re not interested or available, I’d love to know about other groups or people you know about who might be interested.” and then usually a brief thing about “here’s the places I’m already looking for that.” (because asking other people to do your homework for you is rude.)

Most of the time, those emails went into the ether, and I got very little response back. Maybe they went to defunct groups. Maybe they went to spam folders. Maybe people meant to respond, and Life happened. I don’t know. But I do know I tried.

Thing is – it didn’t get us much response. And I don’t know what to do about that. You can’t make people show up and do things for you. (You can’t even make them show up). All we could do is be honest and sincere about what we wanted to do, and that we would like to include more varieties of practice and experience for people to learn about.

I also made sure that our programming items included things that could apply to a wide range of paths, and I mentioned those in our “We’d love programming about X” emails. (Things like how divination applies to your path, or what fiction you read that inspires you to think about something in your religious or magical practice differently, or how fiber crafts work for you.)

Where’d I learn to do this? The Pagan online space I’ve spent the most time – the Cauldron – has a long history of a diverse range of Pagan, polytheistic, and magical paths (Wicca and Wiccan-based practice has been in the minority there among the active posters pretty much my entire 12 years hanging out there.) So I did have a good sense of topics that might have general interest, and how to write them to avoid Wiccan-centric assumptions.

What did I find out?

First, that for a number of years (again, between about 2006 and 2010), we had a really clear alternation between more Wicca-heavy Pagan Pride lineups and more other-kinds-of-Paganism ones. This wasn’t intentional in the least: it happened four years running in which my basic outreach process was more or less exactly the same. It all came down to “we have the spare energy this year but didn’t last year” or internal cycles of groups, or sometimes things like “We have people who would like the chance to lead a public ritual” one year, and the next year, some of those people weren’t free.

We also had the issue that the Minnesota Renaissance Festival dates are a complicating factor in scheduling Twin Cities Pagan Pride: we had more diverse representation in the years before the RenFest dates entirely encompass the Pagan Pride window. There isn’t a lot Pagan Pride can do about that – going later in October even if we got an exemption for the date hits the Mankato Women’s Spirituality festival, and Earth Conclave, as well as people’s prep for Samhain. And when the people who *are* backbones of the event, year after year, have Samhain plans, this is something you do need to keep in mind. It’s a big part of why we shifted most of the programming to the spring Paganicon.

Are there things we might have done that would have been even more outreach? Sure. (There always are more things.) But those are also things that would take a substantially larger investment of time and energy because the next real step would be very personal outreach (by going to open events in those other paths and communities) But that assumes there are communities open to that kind of respectful visit (many aren’t, and for good reason) and that there are people with the spare time and energy to go.

(I had the energy to do Twin Cities Pagan Pride as a board member. But at various points when I was on the board, I was working full time, and also putting in 10-20 hours a week in teaching and leadership of the group that trained me, and finishing graduate school. Or at the tail end of that time, dealing with a major job hunt and a major health crash that has taken years to begin to recover from. People have varied and complicated lives, is what I’m saying here, and the rest of our Board also had varied and complicated lives.)

What does this actually mean?

Good question. I argue that the thing you should do with Pagan events is figure out why you’re going. I’m actually with Star that public Pagan rituals don’t usually do much for me (I do not need a big transformative experience every time – big transformative experiences are exhausting, thanks, even if they’re good for me. But if I’m going to do ‘friendly social connection’, doing it with random strangers isn’t really my thing either.)

So why do I go? I go because I believe it’s good for the larger Pagan communities to talk in useful ways. To compare notes on what’s working and what isn’t, and what’s new in town. I go because I like doing workshops as a way to both meet interesting people and share useful stuff. But I go with moderate expectations. I expect to see some people I like, maybe meet a few people I might like, and so on. I don’t expect it to be a Major Point In My Life.

And yet – part of why I’ve invested hours and hours in making them happen is because for some people, it is a major turning point in their life. I’ve had people tell me they were so glad to find people like them, and seen the glow in their eyes of connecting with other Pagans, or someone who could help with a specific path or kind of practice. This August, I was teaching a workshop on research at the Southern Maine PPD and was able to point someone at a path that totally isn’t mine, but I knew some useful resources and contacts. I live for that kind of thing. (Librarian. Connecting people with information that matters to them is pretty much my life mission. Also a religious devotion.)

The other thing I really like about Pagan Prides is that they’re low commitment as long as getting there is not a huge issue. (Free event, supported by donations.) It’s entirely possible to go for an hour or two, see the things you really want to, and go away. You don’t have to block off all weekend, you don’t have to buy a membership or a ticket. If you decide there’s not that much of interest, you can go away quickly, if you find some awesome conversations, you can stick around.

But I don’t expect it to be my whole community. I don’t expect it to be life-changing. I don’t expect it to be the Best Thing I Do All Year. Those are unreasonable expectations to put on a very broad, very general event that is focused on public education and increased awareness. If I get personal awesome stuff out of it, great.

But I go – and I support such events – because I want there to continue to be places curious people can check Paganism (and related paths) out, and learn more. (Which works better when there are experienced people from a wide variety of paths willing to talk to new people.) Where people who are curious can learn more about local resources (whether that’s groups or vendors or entertainment). And because if we want a more diverse and more vibrant and more varied group of Pagan communities in the future, we need to keep propping the door open, not just keep talking to the people we already know.

But if that’s not your thing – that’s okay. There’s other ways to catch up with friends, and other times to do stuff with Pagans. As much as I value Pagan Pride events (and other public and newbie-friendly events), I don’t think a given event is the right choice for every person or for a given person every year.  I’m certainly not offended by other people deciding to do something else with that day.

I do hope, though, we can talk about events fairly (judge them for what they are and are trying to be, not for failing to meet our personal desires for our dream event). I also hope that we can, individually and together, remember that events have histories but also – we hope – futures. Events will change and develop over time (so what we did 5 years ago might be different now) and that what we want out of an event as an individual might be different than it was 5 years ago. Or last year.