A Moot Point (or points)


Image from wizardmagicfantasy.com

At a networking night at the beginning of this month I was in conversation with someone about storytelling.  Something, which in her opinion, seemed to be often done badly (going on and on and on, not engaging your audience and telling tales of sexism are NOT the ways to go.) and are popular with ‘Those Pagans’.

After revealing that I am one of ‘ Those Pagans’ and much talking about Pagans in general, I discovered that not only did this person not like Pagans, she had a general disdain for any type of religion or spirituality at all.  She told me of how (some years ago) she went to a Pagan Moot, here in Notts, to find it was filled with “lecherous old men and damaged young women.” Tried as I did, I couldn’t piece together which moot she could have gone to.  Most of the Moots here certainly have a higher proportion of female members and attendees, it’s not often a Moot here in the East Midlands will have a male majority, rarer still are they ever filled with ‘lecherous old men’.

Although the lady did have a point.  We do attract a lot of damaged people, don’t we?  I suppose it’s because we’re an accepting lot, many of us are rarely mainstream and quite a lot of us are considered ‘outsiders’ to the social norms… Interesting that.
I like to think it’s because Paganism is as open and diverse in its flavours and themes as well as its members.  We are healthy, we are sick, we are entertaining, we are socially awkward, we are wise, we are angry, we are disabled, we have emotional problems, we are every sexuality under the Sun and Moon, we are confident, we are nervous we are…. Everyone.  It’s just that we accept our differences as well as everyone else’s.  Doesn’t mean we all get on though.  Like every group of Human Beings, we have our Dick-heads as well.

I’ve been fortunate to go to quite a few moots in many different places, Hell, I even co-run my own.  Each have their own ways of doing things, but here’s a list of do’s and don’ts of attending, running, hosting and behaving in a Moot.  These are of my own experiences and from what I have observed in others.  And yes, even from some of my own mistakes:

DO be polite and welcoming.
DO consider disabled people coming to your Moot.  Not everyone can do stairs.
DO take the time to talk with everyone.
DO be prepared to be able to take the piss out of yourself if you are going to take the piss out of others.
DO be accepting of others paths and points of view, just because theirs might be different from yours it doesn’t mean that they are an enemy.
DO encourage discussion and friendly debate, much can be learned from each other.
DO talk with your Moot friends about any advice you might need.  Some people gel together really well and might want to share personal information with each other.  And that’s fine, that’s amazing!
DO respect others privacy (see the point above, as some folks might need to separate themselves from the larger group to discuss something private).
DO listen to others.
DO include everyone in any ritual work.
DO explain to first timers what is going on and give them the option of observation if they are not comfortable.
DO call time if a conversation has gone wrong and is getting out of hand.  Also if someone is telling their life story in an exercise where it should just be “Hello, my name is Locksley and I’m a Pagan Druid” “Hello I’m Ronnie and I’m a Wiccan” etc, then steer it back!
DO tell everyone in good time about what is happening, where and when.
DO be prepared to explain to outsiders who ask you what’s going on when they see you do a ritual or a meeting…. They might learn something.
DO stop staring at that rather attractive goth witch girl in her early twenties…

I have had the good fortune of going to moots that are well organised but there are always maybe those few attendees who are questionable.  And again, some of these points are from my own mistakes:

DON’T go to a Moot demanding respect.  Respect is earned.
DON’T go to a Moot thinking it’s ‘all about you’, it really isn’t.
DON’T sit there being ‘mysterious on purpose’ you’ll just come across as a mardy prick.
DON’T try and peddle your wares without permission, especially if your Moot takes place in a shop….
DON’T come out with sarcastic comments after every sentence in a ritual, it might have been funny the first time, but any more after that and you just come across as obnoxious.
DON’T ruin a moment of revelation for a group.  Just because YOU might have been privy to a secret rite or poem in your old Coven; and then a special guest speaker reveals it to the group, the worst thing you can say at that moment is “I’ve already heard that!”
DON’T go to a Moot expecting a sex orgy….
DON’T slag off other traditions, you wouldn’t like it if someone slagged yours off now, would you?
DON’T go to a Moot, not talk to anyone and then go to another Moot and slagging off the previous one as being ‘cliqueish’ as they didn’t include you.  You got there, make the effort!
DON’T be cliqueish, try and include everyone, especially new comers.
DON’T turn up and start telling everyone about your ‘powers’ discussing abilities is fine, as is sharing your experiences.  DON’T start talking about how your Grandmother described how you will be ‘One of the most powerful witches she has ever seen.‘ And even if you are that’s great, wonderful. Terrific! But apart from telling everyone how powerful you are, what have you done to make the world a better place with this power? Yeah.  Didn’t think so.
DON’T just turn up to a Moot and sit there reading your mobile phone.
DON’T throw a tantrum if someone questions what you do, questioning is healthy.
DON’T assume everyone knows what you know, take the time to explain.
DON’T give up on your Moot, be prepared to adapt and change it.  What does your Moot specialise in?
DON’T be that lecherous old man preying on young damaged women!

Here be Dragons…

Earth Dragon, art by Bill Worthington.

Ah, 2016, I’ve been expecting you.

With all the strong winds we had this winter, I got the feeling that the winds of change had already arrived; eagerly pushing 2015 out of the way as if 2016 couldn’t wait to get here. 

2015 has been a busy year for me.  I got moved store (again) and have even taken steps to help me back on the road of acting.

Comparing to last year’s reading, how did things play out?

Venom: I lost my cat, Loki.  She was my companion, my little girl and my pain in the arse all at once. I had her put down after she was attacked by a Fox as her chances of survival were extremely slim.  Not a day goes by without me thinking of her. 

I broke the heart of my friend and fellow Grove mate, River.  I thought I was ready for a new relationship and after three months, realised I wasn’t.  So I ended it and hurt her badly.  Looking back on it, I see now that was what’s called a ‘rebound’.  We have spoken since and says she has forgiven me.  I wouldn’t say we are the friends we used to be, but at least we are civil now. 
  The venom was my broken heart and the lesson of Adder reversed is to use the poison that harms into one that cures.  Loki’s death reminded me of the savage side of Nature, it was a serious wound that was brought through the cycle of survival.  I think it would have been worse if I found her after getting run over by a car.
  As terrible as breaking up with River was, things happened in motion to change her life for the better, from what she told me, she has discovered Buddhism which has taught her to let go of the past and embrace the future. 
  I learned a lot about myself from this experience and now know who I am, as well as who I don’t want to be.

Honey: The card of Bee represents community, celebration and organisation.  2015 was a very social year for me, I am blessed with many friends wether it is my Grove, my housemate, my workmates, both my social and spiritual circles.  I even left Pagan Pride in an official capacity, in a good place. 
  With the Am Dram group, I bonded really well with my fellow cast and crew in the One-Acts of that summer.  I spent NYE with Cludgie’s family and mutual friends. It was Cludgie who gave me the final push to go for the role I auditioned for and got.  The director had previously asked if I’d be interested in reading for it and I thought of every reason not to.  I’m glad Cludgie talked me round.
Three major creative things happened this year too: me, Strider and Dumbledore got together and formed our storytelling group “Tales From the Fireside”, a separate venture from our Grove that was described by one event organiser as “I knew you’d be good, I didn’t expect you to be awesome”.
  The other was joining the Actors Workshop here in Notts.  Making some good friends and progress in my performing skills.
  And filming the Promo of Gallows Bait in Sherwood Forest, dressed as a proper highwayman for two days!

2015 was for me a year of discovery, having courage enough to do what it is I want to actually do (and sowing the seeds for it to happen) and being surrounded by wonderful people, old and new.  I also did a lot of guest speaking this year, touching on new subjects for me as well as revisiting old ones.

Dragons: I was quite hungover on New Year’s Day when I drew the card for 2016 and as soon as I saw what my focus for this year was, I said in my best George Takei voice: ‘Ohhh Myyyyyyy’ Earth Dragon or ‘Draig-Talamh’ is the card of accessing your inner potential, as well as recognising the potential in others. 
Here’s hoping 2016 will be a very productive year!