Group work

A conversation else-Net has me thinking about the topic of groups and unpleasant experiences. Like so many other things I talk about, I think it’s more complicated than This Group Good, That Group Bad. The long and short of it is that people are complicated, and groups of people are even more so, and that there’s a bunch of things that go into the interactions.

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A pause for some background

A friend on Dreamwidth posted an interesting Pagan meme that I thought was particularly timely: I’m coming up on the 10 year anniversary of seeking out the group I trained with and worked with until early 2008, when I hived off. Seems like a good time for a “What I’m doing now” moment, plus a nice introduction to link to in various blog places.

(Below, I’m speaking for myself, rather than the trad as a whole, which seems worth making clear right about now.)

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Money and Craft : a childhood background

There have been a number of conversations around the blogosphere about the issue of charging money in magical and ritual settings recently, and it both got me thinking and reminded me of a bit of my background that I take for granted, and forget not everyone has. Before I go on and talk (in a later post) about my own take on charging for Craft, I want to talk about that.

See, I grew up assuming everyone knew that there are ways to combine a secure financial future with major creative pursuits. Not that it’s easy, mind you – but that it’s fundamentally possible. It’s as much a part of my psyche as the idea that knowledge is the one thing that can’t be taken away from me, or that reading is just the thing you do all the time, in some form.

My adult self, of course, knows that these things are not the way everyone else moves in the world, and no longer expects people to put their values on the same things. But my subconscious self, the one that kicks in first, sometimes forgets.

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Creating the life I want to live

Today is my birthday (I’m 33). I’ve spent a bunch of the past few weeks thinking about something specific – about creating the life I want to live in.

I’m single: almost three years post-divorce, and now back at a point where I’d like to consider the possibility of a serious relationship again. But to do that, I need to make space and continue working on balance (and on continuing to expand my social circles a bit.)

I have a still-new coven, and how do I want that to take shape and grow? And how do I give it space to do so, and ways to incorporate ideas and things that are not me? We’ve got a good start, but there’s still a lot of work.

There are a lot of things that interest me: how do I make time for them, or figure out which ones to do? Music is a big thing on the plate, and it’s somewhat emotionally fraught for complicated reasons. There’s writing, and there’s fiber art, and there’s baking, and all the books I want to read, and somewhere in there exercise would be a good idea.

I have an ongoing relationship with multiple deities (the joys of polytheism). How do I continue to nuture and expand and explore within that context?

I have dear friends, family of choice, and family of origin, all of whom I want to spend time with. How do I balance that against scheduling limitations, and other things that also matter to me?

And how do I make my home, my hearth, my work the kinds of space I want to spend time in – between doing the things I want, and managing the mundane responsibilities as well as possible (dishes, laundry, bills).

These things are, to my way of thinking, the most fundamental kind of magic: reshaping my own life at the most fundamental levels with focused intention and desires. But these are all big and complicated issues.

So, I started with a party.

I knew that what I wanted for my birthday was a day full of good food, good company, and great conversation. What I got was all of those and then some (there was also some fabulous mead, and some very thoughtful and caring divination readings.)

But how did I get there?

Well, first, I have loving and caring and generous friends (who are also good cooks) which helps rather a lot. My covenmate hosted (she’s got more space suitable for a larger gathering) and another friend brought homemade scones, a range of delicious fruit spreads, and there was all sorts of other goodness.

Now, a couple of years ago, I might have made a few plaintive noises about what I wanted. And I might well have gotten some of it (I have nifty friends, after all.) But this year, for a range of reasons, I felt a lot more comfortable being quite specific.

And look! Wonderful things happened.

Why did it work?

Well, I was asking for help with things that the people helping generally like to do. That never hurts.

And while this was something of a production (both my covenmate and I spent most of Saturday cooking and otherwise prepping) it was the kind of production we generally *enjoy* doing a couple of times a year.

And third, it tied into other things. It’s a time to celebrate harvest and plenty and abundance – a gathering of great food and conversation and reflection on what to ponder as we move into the dark half of the year certainly fit very tidily in that. And, having poked our heads out and been sociable, we can now focus back on the coven building for a few months.

It’s not only a good model of friendships (and I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped make this happen – whether it was obvious stuff like cooking, or just showing up). But it’s very much a model of how I want to priestess. I obviously have Opinions and Ideas and Plans – capitals quite intentional. But I also want to be doing things I can do with people I care about, and find the things *they* enjoy and look forward to, and so on.

Getting that mix right yesterday? Very hope-inducing for my coming year and years.

Experiencing the song

Cat Chapin-Bishop, guest blogging at the Wild Hunt, made a fantastic post about ‘why don’t we write more about what we experience’, and less about the mechanics of how we do things.

She’s right. It’s something I struggle with, too, because I describe the essential tension in my religious life as an Air-Water problem: I am inclined to be intellectual, to be hands-off and analytical, to look at information and knowledge, and books, and words, but sometimes have problems diving in and experiencing and flowing and feeling. (I come from British parents who rarely expressed emotion: I learned a lot of it very deliberately as a college student and adult.)

It’s no surprise that my strongest primary deity affinity is to water deities (and a specific one in particular, but in general? I’m fond of them.) It’s taken me several years to get a grip on this, but it’s been good for me, every step of the way.

In honor of Cat’s post, a few memories and experiences of my own. A couple I want to come back to in later posts, but a glimpse now will give some idea.

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