The Authentic & Actual Community Experience

The Authentic & Actual Community Experience November 26, 2018

SO MANY BEAUTIFUL BEINGS! I smile every time I see these faces. Ivo Dominguez, Jr & Herne’s Hollow Folks at the Alombrados OTO in New Orleans.

There are some really great folks out there.  Not just some, a LOT.  Really.

If your main exposure to “community” in terms of Witchcraft/Paganism is only through the Internet, you’re probably going to have less than an optimistic view of what it’s like in physical space.  I don’t like to say “in real life” because the Internet can be amazing for fostering relationships.

But there’s a disconnect that happens when people forget they’re still communicating with other human beings on the other side of their screens, which leads to some rather crappy behavior. And while the online world is an equalizer in some ways, it’s also very easy to form echo-chambers and provide amplified platforms for personalities – for better or worse.

Me & Mat Auryn in Salem, MA

It’s rough. I totally understand.  I too have my moments of exasperation where I exclaim”WTF, REALLY PEOPLE??” Don’t even get me started on the comments on certain pages. (Part of the reason I made the Wise Word Sigil…) It’s almost too easy to slag on the so-called community from online interactions.

But then I take a moment to reflect on the awesome folks I know.  I remember that the Internet is sometimes like what seems to be a fancy gilded wooden mirror for an awesome price, but what arrives is actually a piece of cardboard wrapped with aluminium foil, festooned by formed plastic with glued-on glitter.

Things of value take hard work: an investment of time and resources.  Which is not to say that everything online sucks (or that everything not online is great) – but things that are worthwhile take a bit more work to discover.

But I digress.

Jaidra of Naid in Greenville, SC…and Jason Momoa + KITTENS!

I’m here to say that there are many wonderful folks out there – I know. I’ve met a lot!

One of the best things about going on tour is that I get to experience many different places (which I’ll talk about in upcoming posts).  And no matter where the stop is, I meet incredible people from a wide variety of backgrounds, ages, paths, and experience. The diversity I see in my workshops is a profound blessing and a testament to the actuality:  a witch-curious teen newbie might be sitting between a Haitian Voudou priestess and a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, and the next row over contains someone from the OTO, a Buddhist, a retired Hippie grandmom, a self-described Tumblr Witch, and an exchange student on a class assignment.

Me and the amazing Lilith Dorsey at Earth Warriors Festival

And that could easily describe a stop in Texas, North Carolina, New Hampshire, or Ohio. Every night, I get to connect with new people and reconnect with others I’ve met before, learning more about them. It truly is an amazing experience that reminds me that there are more real, good people out there, doing actual things then there are jerks on the Internet. Also, that no matter the surface differences, people have more in common than not.

For the record: I am not an extrovert.  I am introvert who battles social anxiety every time to interact with strangers – whether it’s performing, teaching, or signing books. So I wouldn’t describe myself as a people-person, but I do enjoy meeting and connecting with folks, once I’m past the initial task. Especially if I can be a dork about it.

Robbi, the owner of The Robin’s Nest in Bellingham, MA – and me…because of course when there’s a giant cauldron, you HAVE to get in that thing and take a photo!

Awkwardness aside, here is my takeaway from my journeys regarding “the community”:
-people are well-read
-people are eager to learn new things
-people are open to learning about other paths and practices
-most people don’t fit the stereotype of <insert whatever path here.>
-people do their best to support the things they care about, in whatever way they can
-running a Witch shop is a labor of love, with a community at the center
-a lot of people don’t have a clue about what’s happening in the blogosphere
-there are many people working in groups and there are many people working on their own
-entry-level can come at any age, from any background
-people are diverse in color, gender, sexuality, spirituality, etc
-people care about other people, even if it doesn’t directly affect them, and are willing to help
-community is what you make it, and that is going to be different from place to place

me and my fav salty sorcerer, Rune Emerson (Circle of Salt Podcast) at Sacred Hearth in Reno

Are there folks out there running around basically cosplaying their religion? Sure, but of course you’ll notice them more than everyone else who blends in, because they stick out. (More thoughts on the wearable Witch here..)  Are there assholes out there who don’t understand consent, lack basic human decency, and are the bane of their therapists? Sure there are. But they are the exception, not the rule. They’re loudest online because the void welcomes them – particularly as more and more people refuse to have anything to do with them in physical space. 

Jason Mankey and I at Milk & Honey in Sebastopol, CA for our book signing , photo by A. Anderson

But the real, actual community? It’s full of amazing people who are worth meeting. Beautiful, intelligent, charming, diverse, inclusive spirits who make up the heart, hands, and feet of many of a community. I feel truly blessed and honored to keep meeting more and more every time I go out into the world.

And I know there are some people saying, “well, it’s because it’s YOU, people will be nice to you because XYZ.” But most of the time, people don’t know me – the workshop or book sounded interesting, or they’re just at the same event. I’m not special. And I’m awkward and a dork and actually rather shy.  Unless you want to talk about art or Witchcraft, then good luck trying to shut up the Gemini.  I know it’s not easy, but it’s definitely worthwhile to make the effort.  So don’t just take my word on it – venture out there and see for yourself.

FYI – I suck at remembering to take photos.  If you took photos with me/of me teaching or performing on the recent tour, I’d love to see them.  Also, I included photos here from folks I know are definitely “out” or public about who they are/what they do, and there are even more photos with more fabulous beings, but hopefully I’ll get to include those in upcoming posts.

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