Pagan Leadership: Community Building, Facilitation, and Personal Growth

Do you want healthier Pagan communities? Explore tools, techniques, and ideas for Pagan leadership and community building, facilitation skills for meetings, rituals, and workshops, and the personal and spiritual work that underlies all of this and that is crucial if we want to build stronger, healthier, more sustainable groups.

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Addressing Things Publicly

Here's something that came up in my leadership/community building class at Pantheacon. When someone engages in poor behavior in a public setting, it must also be dealt with publicly. While there may be a private component to the process (mediation meeting, taking the person aside to offer them feedback, etc.) the behavior must still be dealt with in as public a fashion as it originally happened. 

Why? Because otherwise the other people who experienced the harm/observed the behavior have no idea what's going on. This becomes especially important as more organizations adopt safety/anti-harassment policies. If people in the group/at the event observe the safety policy being violated, then they must see how the safety policy is being upheld.

It's one thing for Person A to sexually harass Person B in a private setting, for Person B to make a complaint, and have that dealt with privately to protect the victim's privacy. Very different if twelve people observed Person A harassing someone and then they never hear what happened. 

If something happens in a public setting, there are different ways to address it depending on what happened. If it happened at an event and there needs to be private discussion first, sometimes there's no way to fully address it and resolve it in person/live with the people involved. A public statement after the fact can work in some situations, particularly when many people are involved and there's no way to contain the rumor mill.

The example that came up in my workshop was, what if someone makes a racist comment in a FB group or, in an in-person meeting. The context was, several people called that person out on their comment and the person (at the time) doubled down. We discussed as a group how, in the moment, that person may not be able to hear feedback and might get defensive. If I were teaching a class or leading a planning meeting and someone said something like that, I'd probably call them out on their behavior directly and publicly in front of the group, and if they weren't in a space to hear that feedback, ask them to leave the class/meeting, with a plan to 1. meet with them later and 2. depending on the results of that meeting, determine whether or not they'd be allowed back.

Ideally comments made in a situation like this--workshop, meeting, panel discussion at a conference or festival, etc.--are addressed immediately, because they have an impact on the people there. When I say addressing, I don't mean resolving; I could say, "That was a fully inappropriate comment, and goes against our safety policy, so I'll be having a conversation with Person A about that. Let's take a breath together. What do you need right now?" And how that part of things proceeds depends on many factors; is this a 90 minute workshop slot at an event? Is this a crucial planning meeting for an event? I can offer more specific examples for how to facilitate moments like that if I have context for the situation.

Sometimes, if the safety of an intimate workshop setting is broken, there's no recovering it. I've tried, and I really should have just acknowledged the harm done and not tried to go back into the personal sharing part of the workshop. Some things have to be lived through to be understood, I guess. 

I've used this example before in teaching, but one time I was leading a workshop on dreamwork. The first half is discussing dreamwork techniques, the second half is time for people to share a dream they had that they need some help in unraveling. Usually these end up being more disturbing dreams, just by the nature of this type of work. I use the "If it were my dream" method, where we don't tell each other what the dream means, but we indicate, "If it were tornadoes in my dreams, those are dreams about change I'm afraid of." This lets the dreamer retain the power to interpret their dream. The dreamer knows what resonates and what doesn't.

So we're in this workshop and a participant discusses a dream with triggering sexual content involving an outfit that was disempowering for her to wear. One of the other participants said, "Well I'd like to see you wearing that." I did immediately address it and asked him to apologize, and he did. What I should have done in that moment was ask him to leave the space, and then focus on what the group needed to recover from that, recognizing that there was no way to re-establish safety. 

I wasn't as experienced a facilitator, and I tried to go on with the workshop, but the energy was completely off because, after that, who would feel safe sharing anything?

When people ask me how to address a complicated situation where Person A has engaged in harmful behavior, my answer is almost always going to be, go public with it. Be transparent about it with the group. If it happened publicly, you can guarantee people are talking about it privately and the less information they have, the more that stories and rumors are going to spin out. 

As a leader, this often means taking a hit; if Person A is popular with some folks, and really offended some other folks, taking them to task publicly is going to lose you a lot of popularity points with some members of the group. However, trying to sweep things under the rug hasn't done any Pagan groups any favors over the years. It just means that the infection is brewing under the surface. 

If you have tried to deal with things like this quietly, and noticed that some folks just don't show up anymore, this could very well be the reason why. If people don't feel safe, they're not going to continue to attend. 

I'm more than willing to address specific scenarios if you have them. As always, you can comment here, or message me on Facebook, or send me an email at if you want me to make it a confidential "Person A/B" example. 

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An artist, author, ritualist, presenter, and spiritual seeker, Shauna travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of ritual, community leadership, and personal growth. She is the author of The Leader Within, Ritual Facilitation, and Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path. She’s a columnist on ritual techniques for Circle Magazine, and her writing also appears in several anthologies. She’s also the author of several fantasy and paranormal romance novels. Her mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations, as well as decorating many walls, shrines, and other spaces. Shauna is passionate about creating rituals, experiences, spaces, stories, and artwork to awaken mythic imagination.  


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