This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project http://paganblogproject.com/ (and if anyone has thoughts about the topic I’d love to hear them – good or bad)
Our coven runs the local moot – a ‘moot’ if you haven’t heard of one is a regular local gathering of pagans of all paths, sometimes it has speakers, others are just a get together for a drink and a chat. They’re a great first stepping stone to the local community if your local occult shop is not being very forthcoming or you’re convinced you’re the ‘only witch in the village’ as you might not be in the next one over!
I’ve been to several moots in my time, there was the infamous one held in <coughlocaltowncough> that usually dissolved into a chat about the latest episode of the reality tv of the moment – for a wide eyed pagan newbie that was a bit of a disappointment I can tell you! There was I all bright eyed and keen and hoping for a bit of talk about the merits of circle casting or not, or hand mixed incense versus a shop bought version…and what did I get? Two hours of ‘what x did on Big Brother and who was going out with whom this week’ I remember sitting and thinking ‘I got the horses in early and a tenner out of the bank for *this*?’ On wider investigation in the pagan press there was another moot in a further town, I bit the bullet, pointed the Very Old Car’s nose in the right direction, navigated the usual municipal ideas about ‘come visit our town’ versus ‘yes but don’t bring your car we’ve built on all the car parks and those that are left require half your salary for thirty minutes’ and dutifully arrived at the set place.
First find your pagans….. we’re a hidden lot when we’re not at Pagan Pride! I hunted here, I hunted there, just how difficult can it be finding pagans in a small pub anyway? Apparently quite hard when you miss the bit in the ad about ‘upstairs room’ – No real surprise that the guy at the bar kept giving me funny looks all night when I popped back to buy my round when I’d asked him ‘um – where’s the pagan moot?’ Is it my fault he was in black jeans and t shirt, with plenty of silver adorning his person? Ahem..
Anyway yes there they were upstairs having a lovely time. In my opinion Real chat about Real Paganism. There was a druid, a couple of witches, several people from the other moot who’d found their tongues AND their practice it seemed. lots of others at a similar stage as me. All in all a mixed group who were enjoying a chat about the last Sabbat they’d been to as well as the usual catching up about family and friends.
Of course the real problem was the setting. At the time I was too new and frankly naïve to realise that. Most folks on this path are hidden, usually with good reason. It ‘Does not Do’ if your beliefs and practices are labelled as ‘wacky’ at best and ‘dangerous’ at worst in society. Several decades ago there were some nasty cases about child abuse linked to pagans in the gutter press, the usual hoohah and serial stirring by those wishing to write a sensational enough a piece to sell a few newspapers. Thankfully with the work of the Pagan Federation those times are largely over but there are those still within the community who remember, and Keep Silent. We may have it easier than many of our American friends but you can still get the odd idiotic comment and outright abuse. The previous moot I’d attended was a few people around a table in the public bar. This one was upstairs with relative quiet and privacy. It made all the difference.
The third moot was the best, a purpose built stone circle in a fairly remote setting (who said they had to be ancient? ALL stone circles were new once!) a fire in the centre and people who Knew what they were Doing each month. This one took the form of monthly moon celebrations organised by different people or groups so one got an idea of how different paths approached each celebration and early inklings – for me – of what working in a group could be. Here there was a sort of freedom as well. The location was such that anyone passing was either there on Moot business or unlikely to bother anyone because the group was quite large. With a 9pm start (remember – pagan time!) it was also held late enough that most other folks were home by the time it got going. The dark and the fire and the stones worked their magic, the circles were large enough that those on the opposite side were merely gently firelit shadows and you couldn’t even really see the people right next to you that you were holding hands with. Darkness is a form of freedom and people relaxed and opened up more while they were there. After the rituals were over the feasting and spending time together afterwards was part of it, and of course as many of you will know the energy that is apparent in large focused groups leaves a happy relaxed group afterwards who will chat about ritual and magic in a way they perhaps won’t in other settings. As far as I was concerned I’d come home.
The fourth moot is the one that our coven organises. Right from the start (about eleven years ago I think, it predates me) the emphasis was on service to the community. Monthly speakers were organised, at first they were from the local community and surrounding areas but more recently we’ve been able to host such illuminaries as Ronald Hutton and the Doreen Valiente Trust, Lois Bourne and Vivianne Crowley as well as musical evenings with Damh the Bard once a year. Pretty good going for what is essentially a local moot.
The worrying thing is that we’re losing numbers. The entrance fee is a mere four quid which gets you the talk of the evening, a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake at the interval. Personally I think that’s pretty good value but…perhaps not. I don’t know . We are currently not covering the cost of the hall let along putting anything by to pay the travelling costs and sometimes the fee for speakers. I’ve no idea if it’s a sign of the worldwide recession, a reflection on the current stresses that most people suffer daily or perhaps something we as organisers are doing wrong. Repeated requests for feedback on various social network sites that it’s advertised on have yielded…very little. Support from the wonderful regulars but from the many many others who have ‘liked’ or are members of the group – nada. It’s looking like we may have to close the moot down, or relocate it which we don’t want to do for the above reasons of settings. I should say this one is held in a community centre with plenty of parking and a private hall with a manned door. The building is ours for the duration with no interruptions.
I suppose the purpose of this post is to remind folks out there in the blogosphere that if you’ve got a real life pagan community or organisation that’s trying to keep it’s head above water and keep an event going for the whole of the community then try to get along to one of their events once in a while. Blogging and online discussion is good, but for getting out there and experiencing and learning you can’t beat actual personal interaction with other people on a similar path to you.
Organisers of moots work hard in the background, ours is planned something like six months to a year in advance and we need to be continuously asking people if they’d be willing to come and talk, and negotiating fees and travel expenses. I’d hate to think of others in the same worrying boat as we currently are. As a coven we support the community as we feel it’s part of our path and a part of ‘giving back’ At the same time with the best will in the world we can’t afford to keep putting our hands in our pockets and neither can we afford to keep organising the best speakers – because understandably a lot of them don’t come cheap – for seven people to turn up.
So – as confirmed blog authors how many of you gentle souls are tempted out to local events? are there any local events to you? do you wish there were? Did you try one once and hated it? Just not got time? Not interested?
On a final note I’d just like to say, support your real life community if you’re lucky enough to have one. I know I’d have been overjoyed to find this moot when I was starting out you know the old adage of not knowing what you had until it was gone…:(
Blessed be and thanks for reading