Effective immediately, please stop telling me to delegate.
Thanks so much.
P.s., You probably want to know why. It's not because I think I have to do everything in the community or that I think I can do things better. It's because by the time you told me to "Just delegate!," I'd already spent two weeks begging people to help with Mabon planning and received few responses. In fact, when you all said I should "Just delegate!" you probably recall that I then said, "How about you guys pick up the gourds, someone else get the incense, and if one of you could send me a text to remind me about the park permit--that would really help. One of you had to work, the other person said you're not good with picking out incense, and I figured the third person would forget to text (and I was right...) so I set my alarm and did it, anyway. So, it's not that you're WRONG about my need to delegate. It's just the fact that I already tried.
P.P.S. Okay, I think you meant the Climate March. Yes, it sucked to be sick the whole weekend, but telling me that I "should have delegated more" didn't get me to stop coughing, but it DID increase my risk of throwing myself down a sewer and leaving 100+ Pagans to corral themselves in the 400,000 person crowd. REMEMBER: Science has not linked delegation with the prevention of chest colds. Also, please keep in mind that I organize for a living. Big projects are my thing! I can go through the motions of coordinating without thinking about it PLUS I'm on every friggin' activist list in the Tri-State area so am packed with info. Sometimes, when you're the Grand Central Station of The Current Happening, it just makes it easier on everyone if you do the work, yourself.
Plus, PEC-NYC resources were completely maxed out. Please see below:
Yup. Random PEC-NYC member when I asked for "One more thing..."
P.P.P.S. If you're talking about the last class series I led, here's why I didn't ask for help. The last time I tried to delegate tasks for my class, here's an email I got:
"Yes, I can get the oil supplies. Please let me know exactly what we need, exactly where to find it, subway directions to get there, how much each thing will cost, and if you hear of the subway changing that weekend, please text me that morning. I need to arrange childcare and it would be helpful if I could know exactly how much time to spend. And money. Will I get reimbursed for this? If so, when?"
When delegating the thing creates more work than doing the thing, guess what? I do the thing.
P.P.P.P.S. I totally agree with you about giving other people the opportunity to hone their skills. I like to delegate ritual leadership for this reason. I get a break, someone else gets a chance, etc. It's awesome. Here's the problem: If it's their first time leading, who gets the phone calls when they get nervous? Who do they want to "sit down with for two hours briefly" to get my opinions on every invocation, evocation, call, and release? Delegating leadership is rarely delegating work. Creating a teaching opportunity is a task in itself. A blessed and rewarding one, but one that creates more work. I delegate things like this when I want to see someone grow and thrive...but not when I'm trying to get work off my plate because that's not going to happen in that instance.
P.P.P.P.P.S. Okay, the truth is that delegating is just a lot of work. If the job is important enough to be done, the delegator needs to be sure that the delegatee does it. Otherwise, the onus is on the delegator who chose the delegatee in the first place. You can roll the ball up the hill, but you either have to be the one to catch it or be the one who says, "It's okay if this one doesn't get caught." It's good practice to share the load, but in truth, delegation doesn't make things easier for the Delegatee. It simply replaces one task with another.
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. I LIKE doing the things! If I didn't like doing the things, I wouldn't do the things. Sure, I may seem stressed sometimes...but it's often focused excitement. Sometimes, the things don't get done--and that's okay. Sometimes, I watch things fall through the cracks and shrug. As a leader and organizer, it's my role to figure out which balls are rubber and which are glass. Some can balls can drop and we all survive. Some balls may drop and the whole thing will fall apart. Trust me in that I know my limits. If I can't do it, I say so. If I'm doing it, it's because I know I can and want to do it.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. I just want to make sure you know that I really, really appreciate your concern. But going forward, instead of saying, "DELEGATE!" say, "Can I help?" or "I'm right over here if you need something" or "THIS IS THE MOST INSATIABLY STUPENDOUS EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE! YOUR HARD WORK WAS SUCH A GIFT TO OUR COMMUNITY!!!!!" or just, "Thank you!" but OMG PLEASE DON'T SAY, "YOU SEEM BUSY. YOU SHOULD DELEGATE MORE" AND THEN WALK THE F*CK AWAY.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Thanks so much for reading! But please--don't tell me (or any other leader) to "just delegate."Please know that someone in leadership is very much aware of the powers of--and problems with--delegation. Chances are quite good that if something hasn't been delegated, there's a good reason for it. Shouting at a leader to "Just delegate!" is about as effective as shouting at dirty dishes: "Just get clean!" You want clean dishes? Do the dishes. You want a leader to delegate? Step up and offer to help. But if you do, remember the following:
1.) If you offer to help, do the work. Don't hand it back to the leader. Make sure you are truly available for the work before you take it on.
2.) Ask questions only when you're thoroughly stuck. It's not helpful to give away a task only to answer 1,000 questions about how to do it. Often, a leader doesn't know how their own tasks will be completed, they just act based on experience and solid guessing. If they gave you a task, they trust you will be able to figure it out. Go back to them with questions only when all of your own resources are exhausted.
That's the bottom line, caring friends! Sometimes, the leader will say, "I can't delegate this. I'm the one that needs to do it" and they mean it. Otherwise, it might be a reason listed above. Know that your intention is well-received, but Magick practitioners know that intention is not enough. A spell may have a pure intention but without the proper energy, it won't manifest. Your wishes for your leader to delegate are probably just as pure, but your energetic contribution (aka stepping up to help) is better.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Seriously, though. Thanks for reading!
Last month, I wrote about the psychological dynamics behind the sacred spaces we create together and the ways we might utilize the power of sacred space to create a better world. This month, I'll be writing about what happens when the people to whom we have given power abuse it, and in doing so weaken both the internal and external cultures of the imagination we've worked so hard to build. Specifically, I'll be writing about the work of Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB), its influence upon a generation of Pagan women and the destructive effects of the recent pedophilia allegations against her.
The younger Pagans among you might not recognize the name, but if you're a Pagan woman of a certain age, you'll remember that MZB is the author of a much-beloved novel called The Mists of Avalon. This novel tells the Arthurian story from the point of view of its women and follows the life of Morgaine, otherwise known as Morgan le Fay. It was released in 1983, just a few years before I left an abusive family of Jehovah's Witnesses to live with my grandmother, who was also a Christian conservative. An avid reader, I found the novel in 1986, and it changed my life in ways that echo even now. It was the world I wanted to live in; a place where women existed in community with one another, where they wielded the ancient power of the divine feminine, where the sacred was protected from the mundane. Because of that book, I was drawn to Western European Paganism, and then to Celtic Pagan spirituality, and then to a degree in Celtic Studies, and then to Cape Breton. In a very real sense, The Mists of Avalon shaped my own culture of the imagination and helped make me the woman I am now.
Last month, I wrote about hiraeth, the cultures of the imagination we create as a Pagan community and the empowerment that occurs when we cultivate sacred spaces together. This month, I'll be expanding upon that theme with a discussion of the psychological dynamics behind this process and some suggestions about what we might do with the power inherent in it.
"I think the search for community, be it within the traditional cultures in Alba Nuadh1 or the various pagan cultural communities, is the proof of how crazy global consumerist culture has made us and, indeed, how wrong it is for us. We are instinctively looking for what felt right. I don't think that a homeland of the imagination is better than an actual community of people who see and speak to each other, but perhaps it can form a useful bridge to sustain isolated cultural thoughtful pagans during this period of global cultural and environmental decline." - Sylvain Grandcerf
Grandcerf is a member of my local Pagan community, and I've posted this excerpt from an online discussion with his permission because he's right. We understand on an intuitive level that global, consumerist culture is wrong for us, and we're looking for something better. Beyond the natural, human inclination to create internal landscapes, I believe this is a core reason why we seek the Avalons of our hearts in the outer world. We want to externalize a reality we already know is healthful and meaningful. And when all of those internal landscapes commingle in our communities, the natural result is a pool of power and a cooperative effort to create a better world. Of course, this means that Pagan groups and gatherings are not an end unto themselves but rather a means to create something positive and enduring.
One way we already do that is by investigating the pre-Christian elements of our favored cultural histories and re-sacralizing them. Some of those efforts are less respectful than others, but I think there is an overall movement in Paganism away from cultural appropriation, and that's good. At the same time, the recovery of ancient spiritways is not the only or even the most important function of our collectively-imagined communities. Think about it. We're showing the world that animism is a viable spiritual philosophy at a time when our modern way of life is destroying the living Earth. In truth, I think this is our most sacred task and perhaps part of the reason modern Paganism exists to begin with, but that's food for another blog entry.
There are other, more immediate ways to wield the power of community. One of my favorites is the global Transition Network, which seeks to foster community resilience in a post-peak oil environment. There isn't any reason why regional Pagan communities couldn't become a part of the Transition Network and every reason why they should. And there are other, more immediate problems that ought to receive the benefit of our collective power. For instance, many Pagans are estranged from their families as a result of their faith, and I am among them. My husband is also estranged from his family, and so we are both concerned about finding an appropriate executor for our estate in the event that we die together. It's an unhappy task, to be sure, but a local, stable Pagan community could act in this capacity on behalf of people like us. Speaking of elder care, many of our fellow Pagans are ageing. A local, stable community might keep them company, mow their lawns, shovel their snow and help them transition into retirement homes. On the other side of life, there is surely a need for Pagan child care, community resources for young Pagan families and the like. Frankly, I think we're still outsourcing far too much of our community care to institutions who know very little about us, and that makes us vulnerable. We ought to be using the power we generate together to lift one another up locally, which will strengthen the Pagan community globally.
It isn't Avalon...yet. But a collective culture of the imagination, born from our individual homelands of the heart, has the power to do great good; for us, for one another and for everything we hold precious. My hope is that we never forget this essential truth, even when we're confronted with community challenges, which is what I'll be writing about next month.
1. 'Alba Nuadh' is Scottish Gaelic for 'Nova Scotia'.
With live in times where there is great division and strong polarization on a wide range of political and cultural issues, and from my perspective I see no time in the foreseeable future when this will change. I have a long history of being involved with a variety of different political and cultural change movements, and for several decades there has been a consistent refrain that we needed to form alliances between different peoples, different communities, and different causes. I was taught, and as a personal choice I reaffirmed, the idea that all struggles mattered, and until all had justice then the work was not done. Even and especially if I did not like the other party.
We also repeated a story to each other, whose historical accuracy is irrelevant to the point I'm about to make, that the Celts lost to the Romans because the tribes failed to find a way to unite and remain united. Another story that we repeated to each other was the tale of the crabs in the pot. Imagine if you will, a large pot filled with crabs atop a stove. As the water slowly heats, and the crabs try to get out, they clamber over each other so vigorously that they pull each other back into the pot. I have heard dozens more of these sorts of stories each trying to teach the same lesson; if we do not find ways to work together, we will neither survive nor thrive.
Most of the Pagan communities that I am familiar with tend to pride themselves upon their uniqueness and their individuality. The number of different opinions on all matters in a room full of Pagans is often the square of their number. This is actually one of our greatest strengths, but it becomes our detriment when we misunderstand the nature of alliances and allies. Somehow over the course of the last several years a strange notion has taken root that your allies have to agree with you on the full range of big issues and minutia that you hold to be true. Actually, if they do have that high a level of overlap with your positions, then they are not your allies, they are your community.
Moreover, as the rhetoric, debate, and hairsplitting on the issues of the day have gotten more heated, we have split into smaller and smaller groupings. At this moment I am not interested in discussing the pros and cons of “Big Tent Paganism”, nor is this post a call for unity at the price of our wildly beautiful diversity. It is a call to recognize that there is work that can be done with allies, or with alliances between individuals, communities or groups, that does not require high levels of agreement. You'll have to decide for yourself how high or how low you set the bar of commonality before you will consider someone an ally. I often tell people that I can work with someone if we agree on the task at hand, and we have a C- level of agreement on other matters. If I committed to only working with people or groups that have an A- or higher rating in my book, then my world would be narrowed to my dearest friends and loved ones, maybe.
I lived in Tallahassee, FL in the late 60s and in the first part of the 70s. Those of you that are in the know, are aware that that part of Florida is not really Florida but belongs to the old deep South. That is where I heard about a force of nature whose name was Shirley Chisholm. She was the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress, and the first black candidate, and woman, to run for the presidency in a major party (Democrat). You may want to look up her autobiography: Unbought and Unbossed. At that time, Alabama's Gov. George Wallace was one of the most strident voices for the segregation of black people. When Chisholm sponsored a bill to extend the Federal minimum wage laws to domestic workers, she approached Wallace for his help. Although they disagreed on many things, they both agreed on poverty, and he not only provided his support but also made numerous phone calls to legislators to lobby for votes. Can you imagine that today? This is a true story that has many more ins, outs, and complexities, and I encourage you to look up the rest of it.
You may ask yourself, what if you're torn about working with an individual or group because of how fiercely you disagree on a handful of points? My suggestion is to use a litmus test. Not the litmus test that political pundits speak of in single issue politics. Nor the litmus test that is a scrap of paper that gives you a binary answer by changing to one color or another. In ancient Rome, an Augur was a priest who read the signs and the will of the God/dess/es, and their spiral topped wand or staff that was their badge of office was called a litmus. What I'm suggesting is that you engage in whatever form of divination you use, and ask about the outcome of this alliance on this task. If you do not use divination, then perhaps you may want to spend time contemplating the potential outcomes of forming or not forming an alliance. I have done this numerous times, and when it looks like the outcome will be good, I grit my teeth and move on to do collective work.
I have a couple of suggestions to bring to mind when you are trying to make an alliance work. Consider applying the rules of hospitality to how you conceptualize allies and alliances. In traditional cultures, the rules of hospitality were more about minimizing conflict, providing for those in need, and creating the opportunity for diplomacy, then they were about gracious living. Become more aware of your terms of art, jargon, shibboleths, and in-group perspectives, and then go to great lengths not to expect them of your allies. By the way not only will some of your best and most productive allies not agree with your ideology, many will have no identifiable ideology, or theology for that matter. The way that individuals groups and people's construct their world-views can vary dramatically, and should not automatically become an obstacle to finding common cause. If you are a part of a group where you know and trust the members, and the group is moving forward with an alliance on a task, and you cannot, please consider stepping aside. I'm not going to champion any particular style of group decision-making, nor for that matter how you should decide when and if you can work with someone. I do ask that you take into consideration the difference between people and groups that are allies, and those that are part of your home community. I think there is value in using different rules and different criteria for each.
There are many of late who have written about abuse in the Pagan community. This is not the first time that I have seen a rise in the discussion and the debate on how to deal with these serious problems. After a time, when the acute triggering incidents have faded from the collective memory and from news coverage, we drift back towards business as usual. I have seen this pattern wax and wane several times in several communities. Some people focus on the specific individuals, their transgressions and how they should be dealt with. Others respond by creating policy statements or rules that are to be adopted and enforced by organizations. Some, and we should offer a special blessing for them, choose to focus their efforts on supporting and healing those that have been injured. Like all crises, when troubled times like these arise the best and the worst comes forth.
The problem of abuse, and I'm not specifying which kind of abuse because it all needs our attention, is deeply rooted and disseminated throughout just about every layer of humanity. I think that dealing with the transgressors, having policies, offering support to those that have been injured, and all the other efforts that people have been organizing are needed. No one approach can tackle a problem that operates at so many different levels. I would like to bring attention to the need to tackle the question of our roles as members of communities to address this problem. Though in order to do that we may need to re-examine what we mean by being a member of a community.
I'm qualifying my concept of community here with the word actual, because the word community has become highly diluted. More often than not what we call communities are loose associations, or to borrow from Kurt Vonnegut, granfalloons. Simply having similar interests or affinities does not make an actual community. Sharing of political or spiritual beliefs does not make an actual community. Sharing similar pop culture interests and attending cons does not make an actual community. I could go on but I think that this is enough of a sequence to illustrate what I mean by loose communities. In the past, and in some farming communities today, there was absolutely no question that it required every member looking out for every other member to survive and to thrive. In the absence of such an imperative, we need to use our will and our choices to make actual communities.
For me, an actual community means that you are involved in the lives of the people that are part of your community. Pretty words, but what it really means is that you are willing to be involved in a messy process. It means not being a bystander. It means also being willing to listen to others, because they are members of your community. In an actual community, we are all interconnected and interdependent and act with a conscious awareness of that bond. Being in an actual community also means that you share the labor of maintaining that community. Part of that labor is also a willingness to be the eyes and the hands that help to uphold community safety and integrity.
You may or may not agree with my ideas about community, nor do I have any expectations that you will agree with my ideas, but I hope that you will consider the power and the potential that each member of the community has to bring about a healthier community. A number of my friends and I were involved in discussions that led to the creation of a pledge and an image that we've been distributing in social media as a way of encouraging personal responses to the current troubles. It is also our hope that this will help encourage an ongoing change in the ethos of the broader Pagan community.
By Hand, Heart, & Eye,
In the name of community safety and integrity:
I will notice.
I will discern.
I will act.
I will notice: is something happening? Does something seem strange, off or potentially dangerous?
I will discern: Do I think something wrong or potentially dangerous is actually happening? Am I being triggered or made uncomfortable because of my own history? Do I need to ask some questions and get clarity?
I will act: Having determined that there is trouble, I will speak up. I will intervene. I will go to others. I will notify those with knowledge or the ability to affect the situation.
— The Sheshat Alliance
You are a part of the solution to building a better community. If you feel so moved, take this pledge and share it.
This pledge and graphic were created by the Sheshat Alliance: Aeptha, T. Thorn Coyle, Ivo Dominguez Jr, Katrina Messenger, and Michael G. Smith.
This blog post represents my perspectives and not those of my friends that came together to create the image and the pledge.
I'm putting out this blog today in preparation for the upcoming full moon. I intend to do a personal ritual under the light of the next full moon about aligning my personal will and power with the common good. I also will be re-affirming this pledge, and I hope some of you will consider taking this pledge as well. Please share the words and the graphic now and again in a few weeks or months to continue to reinforce this communal change in behavior.
As the Pagan savings challenge progresses, I'm aware that there are Pagans who are not participating because my weekly (and impersonal) posts aren't motivation enough to keep it up. The pressures are many, and my voice is small. But my belief in the power of savings is strong.
So in keeping with my sincere belief that each and every Pagan should have a savings plan as part of their spiritual practice, I present an alternative for working groups: the sou-sou. It is one of the simplest savings programs to understand, but challenging for the typical American to participate. It came to the United States from West Africa, and is most commonly used in this country by populations who are on the edges -- or outside -- of the traditional money system.
You know, kind of like some Pagans.
The "common knowledge" about Pagans is that we do not have money, and a lot of us embrace voluntary poverty. What we lack in cash we make up for in community, empathy, and appreciation for interconnectedness we have with each other, with other living things, with the Earth, with our gods.
For the sake of this post, I am going to assume that this "common knowledge" is true. That we are strong on community, weak on cash. This is why I believe that a sou-sou might be a powerful savings vehicle for some groups -- be they covens, or temples, or groves, or circles, no matter their name, so long as they are groups of like-minded Pagans who get together to worship.
The rules are simple: each member of the sou-sou chips in the same amount of money at regular intervals. That money is then given to a different member each time, until the cycle ends. So if, for example, a coven of thirteen members each pitched in ten dollars a week for thirteen weeks, each member would take home $130 after one of the weekly coven get-togethers.
It's ideal for a working group because trust and honor are required. The organizer of the sou-sou is responsible for making up the shortfall if someone stops paying. This usually results in harsh penalties, like not being included in the next cycle if you're as little as a day late with one payment. Organizers must be able to trust every person in the sou-sou, which means that strong community bonds must have already been forged.
Some might be concerned that this is cultural appropriation. I don't think so, because it's a facet that has been willingly contributed to the "melting pot" that America claims to be. It's a facet that can't exist without some of its cultural context, namely community ties and accountability. If anything, sou-sous would be more likely to appropriate the overculture.
To be clear, there are downsides to the sou-sou, and some of them are not obvious. Most clearly is the question of trust. Ability to pay may crop up if a participant loses a job or other income source. The money isn't earning interest, so everyone is actually losing a little bit of money over time -- and that's assuming that you're not tipping the organizer, which I think you should.
But the sou-sou brings with it all the positive and negative reinforcement that community can bring to bear. You will be able to dream together about how to spend your windfall, and you'll know that all of the other members are counting on you to make your payments on time. Not everyone is disciplined enough to save in a vacuum, and for them, the sou-sou might be a good step in the right direction.
Some of that comes from my background as a teacher and speech path; one of the goals in working for ChildFind was to assess both child and family's needs and connect them to government and private resources that would help them improve their lives. What we deeply need, IMO, is the same kind of training and access to resources, because when people seek spiritual counseling and connection, they're often hurting and in need of healing. I am not a healer, but I can help direct someone to the type of healer that they need. Of course, this type of work involves knowing yourself (and oh Gods, we talk about that alllll the time, but HOW do you know yourself?) - that's heavy duty metacognitive work. Just to pick on myself a moment, because modeling often helps people figure out their own processes:
Knowledgeable about the resources in my area (public and private)
Have articulated personal monastic/ministerial ethics, ideals, and goals
Disorganized, particularly in physical space
Difficulty adhering to structure
Trust issues post stalking Crap at self-care
Tend to work myself into (temporary) uselessness , and this is a special kind of stupid because of my health issues
I tend to hyperfocus and that can be both good and bad, so I'd consider that a draw. I also acknowledge that hyperfocus is part of what leads me into overwork.
Self-care is often conflated with some sort of selfishness, particularly when it's associated with Deity relationships. No, it is not all about us, but can we at least acknowledge that if we don't take care of ourselves, we most certainly can't give our Deities our best? The times when I haven't self-cared enough are the times that I resent my responsibilities the most.
So what does all that have to do with Disting and the Charming of the Plow? Well, the CotP is about blessing the tools that help you grow the seeds you're planting. As a community, and as individuals, what sort of seeds do we want to nurture in ourselves? What sort of community do we want to build? What do we want to offer our Gods that is of lasting value?
I can't offer Loki perfection, and it's not even something He'd want, because He considers it arbitrary, and as such is nonexistent, but I can offer Him love. Not just the devotional love that I give as a wife, but the type that helps people grow. It's change, and He is the God of Change. Not all changes have to be bad, and we can nurture the seeds of positive change this Disting season.