What is Change and what is Changing?
Article ID: 2109
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 6,233
Times Read: 15,499
Posted: January 4th. 1998
Times Viewed: 15,499
"Life always finds a way" - line from "Jurassic Park"
O.K., so you can put me squarely into the 'optimist" category. But I am also a rationalist and have been a Witch since the 60's. Relax, this isn't going to be my personal 'life as a Witch' story. But I have been around long enough to observe some patterns and trends. There have been real changes in the Craft over the years. Some good; some not so good. Some downright horrifying.
Witch Wars are certainly not a new phenomenon, but the way that they can now affect hundreds of people through the Internet is. Hopefully you have read through the series of essays and have come to some conclusions. Here is where I get to tell you about mine.
"Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes" - David Bowie
The need for change comes from many sources. One of these is "environmental". By environmental, I am not talking here on the theory of global warming. I am talking about the 'flash fires" known as Witch Wars that run through communities and consume all that is in their path. These 'fires' leave shaken, bitter, but hopefully wiser people to deal with the aftermath and clean up. Fires force changes.
Witch Wars force internal changes by breaking up old allegiances and formulating new ones. They force external changes in the community by bringing hidden issues out into the open. They begin to smolder where there is need for change. They finally burst into flame where that need is ignored.
Change will come when the time for it is right. It may come through planning and foresight. It may come from concerned leaders who have a vision for the future of the community. It may also come through the revolt of the people who do not see their leaders taking action on their concerns.
Change can be proactive when combined with strategic planning and inter-community dialogue. Most often though, it is reactive. It is the results of continuing disagreements, back biting or the rumor mill that increase the pressures in diverse communities until something just has to give. And then you may have a Witch War...
In hindsight, the need for some changes to occur in the Pagan community should have been obvious. Back in the 'good ole days' of the 70's and early 80's, there just wasn't that much material around. If you didn't have another Witch to exchange knowledge with-and most of us didn't-you just struggled on as best you could with history and mythology books and tried to put the pieces together. Now, of course, the book selection is extensive and widely available. The quality does vary, but at least you have a lot of options.
With all this influx of material, not only did the amount of information increase, so did the diversity of opinion. (I am reminded of a Paul Simon song here-"Fifty Ways To Cast A Circle"...) We were so excited (at first) about this bountiful literary feast that we did not think to wonder how this mix of ideas would ultimately affect the "Old Ways." We are certainly thinking about it now!
The second thing to radically affect the Pagan community was the Internet. This new communication device introduced still more diverse cultural traditions and attitudinal differences into the cauldron. (We at The Witches' Voice STILL have to be reminded that Yule here is Litha "down under.")
So, the question isn't really whether or not to initiate change. The Wheel of the Year continues to turn. Over the long run, you have no choice but to deal with changes in the Pagan community unless you want to pretend it all just isn't happening. (I'm sure dinosaurs wanted the cold weather to just 'go away,' too.)
LOOKING AT CHANGES:
The world IS changing all the time. Why not plan for changes and steer the results rather than wait for the 'flash fire' of a Witch War to force you out of your comfy armchair?
There are several ways that people and groups view changes and attempt to resolve the conflicts that can arise from changing situations:
Competing - Competitive individuals seek to win and they tend to view all situations in "win-lose" terms. Therefore, they focus mainly on their personal goals with little concern for maintaining relationships with others. The object is to "win.". This type of person or group doesn't worry about burning bridges or what will happen after the fire dies down. Others are leery to approach them with community concerns, so they often are left "out of the loop" when it comes to information exchange. They become more and more isolated and so less able to make pro-active changes.
Accommodating - Individuals or groups who accommodate seek primarily to maintain relationships. Because they often feel that they can not get along with everyone and still attain their personal goals, they give in to the other person or group. They are always invited to share information, but they are reluctant to speak out until they know how everyone else feels about an issue first. They are accused of being "wishy-washy" as they accommodate themselves and their views to whomever they are speaking to at the time. Everyone may like them, but no one respects them. This nullifies any real impact that they may have and they spend most of their time as shoulders for everyone else to cry on.
Avoidance - Individuals or groups who use avoidance see conflict as futile and withdraw. Thus they neither attain their own goals nor strengthen any relationships outside of their own group. They may have no enemies but they have no allies either. Their non-involvement guarantees that they will have no voice in the process or the outcomes. Others eventually stop inviting them to share their views. Too bad. They may have had some good ideas that were not heard or considered.
Compromising - Individuals and groups who use compromise believe that everyone has to give a little to resolve conflicts and adapt to changes. They seek to meet as many of their own goals without seriously harming their relationships with others. They often can come up with wonderful ideas that benefit many while still furthering their own agendas. They are willing to let you do it your way this time as long as they know that they can to it their way next time. They enjoy the diversity and like to learn new things. They can be counted on to bring ideas to the table to be considered. They won't give in necessarily, but they won't tell you that your way wouldn't work either. They have a "Well, you can try that if you want to...!" attitude.
Collaborating - Unlike the other four approaches, the collaborators believe that it is possible to both meet their own goals and to improve relationships. To do this, they seek ways to integrate their interests with those whom they are in conflict or who are affected by changes. They try to reach decisions which affect both themselves and others by using a format known as consensus. They know that pro-active changes take time and effort, but believe the results are worth it. They always look for a "win-win" resolution where everyone benefits. (adapted from Hall, 1969; Thomas and Kilman, 1974)
CHANGE WILL CHANGE THINGS!
or "How To Stop Whining and Learn to Embrace Change."
Change can cause periods of uncertainty. What worked in the past may no longer be effective in the present or future. It may cause feelings of confusion which result in lowered levels of self esteem. If you are the leader, than you are supposed to be on top of things, right? So you may be reluctant to admit that you are not responding to changes well. You could dig your heels in; you get more "dogmatic" or cynical; you could use statements that contain phrases like 'newbies" or "wannabees"; you may think changing your ways means that somehow you must admit that you were wrong. Not a comfortable place to be.
This is not to say that traditional values should all be thrown out the window. Not at all! It is these very values that will help you to not only survive the inevitable changes of the future, but will provide the basis of your actions.
A NEW VISION BASED ON TRADITIONAL VALUES:
Yep! It is all those dog-eared values that have sustained and driven humankind throughout its existence that may continue to guide us here. Words like trust and integrity, honor and accountability have the same power to steer us as they always have.
Changes will come. But changes built on traditional values will have lasting effects. Traditional values have taken a bad media rap because of the term's adoption by the Far Right to push its agenda back to the 'way things were.' Well, we know that things were probably never really like that at all. There was probably no past Utopian matriarchal society of peaceful Pagans any more than there was a 'perfect' society in the 1950's. But one thing the Far Right DOES know-People want a spiritual "vision" and they will make one up if they have to.
Some ideas about factors that may be important to the Pagan community at large have been offered by various people and organizations over the years. They include:
The Need For Valid Information: No one can make a real choice on an issue until they have the information that they need to assess all sides objectively. Hidden agendas and personal biases muddy the issue. Open and honest communication is essential.
The Right To Make A Free and Informed Choice-Shared valid information leads to shared power. Everyone is empowered to make a free choice on issues. External controls may generate 'compliance', but internal controls promote 'committment.' What one believes inside one's heart, freely chosen and backed up by valid information makes it easier to commit to a course of action.
Assuming Personal Responsibilty and Decreasing Dependence: This comes pretty close to being a 'core value' in the Pagan community. Personal responsibilty is part of many traditions of the Craft. A shared vision lets everyone assume responsibilty for the outcome and encourages committment to the process.
The lack of spiritual vision in most mainstream religions has lead to the 'making up' by the far Right of a new agenda- and the very real mass withdrawal of many mainstream followers from these religions. Paganism offers a place that embraces the spiritual, the magickal, the hopes for a better world and society. We are beginning to feel the pressures of this tide of new adherents at all levels. We do not have enough good teachers out there to guide them. We do not have an agreement of what our own "traditional" values may be. We do not have enough real leaders who can accommodate the changing environment and point to a "vision' of the future. Many of us may indeed be "Caught at The Crossroads.
WHAT ARE PAGAN VALUES?
What are these "values?' They are simply the core statements that determine our character and guide our path in life. Core values are the embodiment of what a community stands for and the basis of behavior within that community. What ARE the core values of the Pagan community?
No one knows for sure and we at TWV are no exception. It is up to the community as a whole to decide what we stand for and what we want our future to hold. We could certainly offer our views on this, but the purpose of these articles isn't to direct the formulation of such statements. The purpose is to get you asking this question in your heart and in your local groups, and to give you hints about how to discuss your answers in ways that are constructive, respectful and proactive.
The fact that Witch wars are occurring around this issue right now indicates that the need for changes to occur in our struggle to define these "values" is not being addressed. Witch Wars won't go away until they are. Witch Wars will continue to smoke and eventually burst into flame again. Only when we-as a community and as individuals- finally get tired of doing "clean up detail" will we be ready to tackle the root of the problem. So, are we ready yet?
In Her Service and Yours,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
January, 4th, 1998
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Photo Credits The photo of Fritz and Wren was taken at King Richards Faire (Carver, Mass) during 9/95. Photo by the Rev. Laurie Cabot H.Ps.
Important Note: This article is presented by the author as a starting point for discussion on the issue. Each author has submitted his/her article independently and may or may not agree with all the viewpoints in the entire series.
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