Creating Magickal Community
Article ID: 6316
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,565
Times Read: 8,215
Author: Christopher Penczak [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: May 24th. 2003
Times Viewed: 8,215
When I was complaining about the lack of connection I feel in the gay community, a friend of mine started quoting Gandhi to me, and loosely paraphrasing, she said, "You must be the change in the world that you want to see."
I was upset that I had very few gay friends and although I would find a few interested in the things I was interested in while online, I didn't know anyone near me. I never found a sense of friendship or community at dance clubs. I never really clicked with anyone at a Gay Pride parade. So I felt on the outside and if those are the only things the gay community had to offer, then I was ok with it.
Well, I really wasn't. I still longed for a sense of gay community. So with my friend's advice, I decided to create the very thing I wanted to see - a gay spirituality group. So about a year ago, I posted some announcements in bookstores, clubs and online, and started a group.
Originally, as a Witch, I thought I wanted a gay coven. But I was already in a coven. I have experienced wonderful magickal communities, and I love the diversity of genders, orientations and background in my coven. We are very informal, spontaneous and eclectic, which differs from my personal work. But as I started to speak to people who expressed an interest in the group, I realized most didn't even know what Witchcraft was and I wasn't looking to train a group. I wanted a sense of community where I could receive as well as give.
They weren't necessarily looking to be Witches either. Most had a few experiences in workshops or from reading books, but they were simply looking to explore. So with that spirit of exploration in mind, we ventured forth together at our first meeting.
Another friend involved in a woman's group, gave me my guiding mantra: Don't worry about it. It will be what it will be. The right people will show on the right night. It will all work out. Though I've doubted that from time to time in a mix of strong and sometimes volatile personalities, I have held strongly to those words to get help me through the tough nights.
I purposely chose to work with men only because I knew that would be a challenge for me. All the spiritual groups and classes I have been involved in have been definitely women dominant. And I'm completely comfortable with that. Most of my best friends are women. I knew working with guys would be a challenge and a chance for growth for me. Our first meetings were mixes of very experiences solitary practitioners and those with little or no experience, fresh from the club scene but looking for something different. Getting so group cohesion was tough.
Below are some suggestions and ideas of things we tried. I got a lot of advice from people who ran men's groups and women's groups and other meetings. Some of it was very helpful. Some of it wasn't. Each group is different and will need different thing.
- Discussion - Discussion is an important aspect of any group. We defined our group as exploring spirituality, and had to set boundaries that it is not a therapy group. If anyone feels they need for therapy, they should seek it outside of the group. If they want to explore spirituality and have a place to share their feelings and thoughts, they are welcomed. This rule has kept discussion flowing and preventing anyone person or situation from dominating. We've all shared personal problems with the group, but didn't look to the group as our sole source of solving it. Some nights, all we do is talk, but have a wonderful time getting to know each other and how each member sees the world.
- Guided Meditations - Since much of my own background was with guided meditation, I started the group in this area. We would do a meditation and then share our experiences. The meditations lead to drumming meditations where we would do simple shamanic journeys for ourselves, or for others. The theme was always personal awareness, healing and empowerment.
- Group Intimacy - Borrowing from my yoga teacher, I introduced partner chanting exercises to the group. We learned a chant and paired off. Partners would stare deeply into each other's eyes while continuing the chant. The experience of soul bearing was incredibly moving and powerful for us all. We continue to do partner exercises, but make a point to change partners often, to experience the light within everybody in the group.
- Touch With Boundaries - Our group has been fortunate to have a few Reiki Master/Teachers in it, who have attuned the group to Reiki, a very simple and safe form of hands on energy healing. We have had several Reiki "shares" where we do group treatments. The experience of appropriate touch, done in a loving way, yet with none of the expectations or insecurities association with sexual touch, has been incredibly healing.
- Ceremony Blessing Each Other - One of the best evenings was a simple ceremony. Everybody brought something that was important to him for the eclectic ceremony. We got herbal teas, pinecones and crystals. We created a ritual on the spot, and going around the circle, each person got to bless the next by saying something special to him.
- Setting The Ground Rules - I didn't have a really clear vision the group when we started, and I wanted everyone to contribute to that vision, so I was probably lax in setting any explicit ground rules while welcoming many different and unknown people into my home. We had one situation where someone came high on ecstasy to the group. I don't condone or endorse personal drug use. That's up to you. But when I'm with a group of people doing magick and healing work, I need to know they are in a clear space. At the very least, they have to be upfront with the group when participating in magick. Another man thought we were some sort of sex club posing as a spirituality group, no matter how hard I tried to convince him otherwise. He would just wink at me and say, "Right!" He got bored after his first meeting. Now I ask that a new member be sponsored by an old. If not, as the host, I require a little introductory get to know you meeting before coming to the group, just so I can understand if the potential new member understands what we are doing together.
- Rotating Leadership - Since I give workshops for a living, I was really adamant about this group not turning into a class. I also didn't want a formal coven structure. The solution was rotating leadership. My coven also has rotating leadership, so it was great for me. Each meeting, someone else would present something to share - a meditation, ritual, music, yoga - whatever they wanted to share. Those who didn't feel comfortable leading weren't forced, but over time were encouraged to be more active. The more experienced of us lead several times to make up for it. All in all, it's worked out quite well.
- Social Time - Though each meeting had an exercise or agenda to give it structure, some unstructured time has been very important in our bonding process. In our rotating leadership, one person who is a fabulous host, felt he didn't have a magickal talent to contribute, so he threw a social party. We had margarita night. It was just before the Yule holidays and it was great to have time to just sit back and talk with no topic on hand. We had a great time and I learned more about people that night than I did with all the other exercises combined. There can be difficulties when romantic and/or sexual situations occur and then dissolve, but I've found that's part of the territory and will quickly resolve itself.
- Outside Friendships - It's taken almost a year, but real outside friendships are forming in the group. Two of the guys are part of a gay bowling league and some members of our spirituality group have joined them. Others have visited each other's homes, had dinners out and just hung out. Its added a great dimension to the group. When one of the founding member's mother recently passed away, many of us were there to support him and his family at the wake. A few guys have even dated. I've just found it personally important to form friendship with people, but as the host of the group, not to become everyone's social coordinator, matchmaker or group gossip.
Many people complain they don't find the resources they want in a community. I know I did. But those resources only come about when people are willing to initiate them and share their time and gifts with others. I hope these few ideas help you "be the change in the world that you want to see." Think about what you feel could be added to your community - be it gay, Pagan, ethnic or political, and make that change yourself. If you feel the need, I bet others will feel the same way and be there to join you too.
Location: Salem, New Hampshire
Author's Profile: To learn more about Christopher Penczak - Click HERE
Bio: Christopher Penczak is a full time writer and lecturer. He is the author of several metaphysical books, including his most recent work, Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe (Weiser Books, June 2003). He continues to run the Gay Men's Meditaton and Spirituality group once a month in Salem, New Hampshire. For more information, visit his website, http://www.christopherpenczak.com.
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