Advertising in the right way

Yesterday, there was a definite spike of interest in Hemlock Vales, apparently linked to a number of visits to the Imbolc page. (I wonder what I should do with that page once the rite is done.) Two new people signed up for the local Pagan e-list that is largely occupied by HVP discussion, which isn’t exactly a simple set of jumps from that page, given the need to sign up with a Yahoo and all.

Why was this? We’re having Imbolc at the local Unitarian-Universalist fellowship, and I submitted a note for their email newsletter including a link to that page, which went out at noon yesterday. After noticing the spike, I actually improved that page significantly from what it was to explain Imbolc a little better. I’ll have to remember to do that before the next announcement goes out, since if this works well I’m planning to have the equinox rite there as well.

Now, I’ve done sign posting on the fellowship’s community bulletin board in the past and the response has been mild. In my mind, the difference is that this made it easy. Instead of a slip of paper they could then lose or not get around to entering, it was a link they could click right at that moment. It’s the same thing as writing down the email address of the person you want to get in touch with instead of giving them a card (though, of course, both is better) — you’re lowering their barrier to taking action.

I look forward to seeing how this rite goes — I’ve already been given the option to use a larger room if needed (and settle the difference after), though their “small” room is larger than I remember from when I helped out with a Neighboring Faiths class.

The Hipster PDA and the Dedicant Path

Lupa expressed an interest in more detail about personal practice, so I figured I’d give some overviews of ways I have approached things. This might not be what she had in mind, yet perhaps more generally applicable.

In ADF, the Dedicant Path (DP) is the general term for a standard set of practices outlined in a manual member receive; when the practices are documented to certain standards, submitted, and approved, one has been said to have passed the DP, though it is a lifelong journey.

Part of the documentation requirements is five months of journaled mental discipline work. When I did that portion, I knew I needed a way to document it consistently. What I did was use a Hipster PDA. I found it a productive approach because it fit my work-flow.

I knew my method of recording must be easy to transcribe onto the computer (a tatty notebook is not a preferred submission format). Using the Hipster PDA, once a card was full I could easily put it next to my computer keyboard, unlike a spiral notebook. Then, when I had time, I could transcribe the entries; most of the time, I was able to fit four to a card.

I knew it had to easy to bring with me. At the time, I was doing more business travel than now. Also, if any insights occurred away from devotional practice, I wanted to be able to take them down at the time. It proved to be additionally helpful for taking down omens and other notes on group ritual. Simultaneously, if I lost it, I was only likely to be “out” a few days’ worth of devotional work. Cost-wise, losting it would probably be less than a dollar in materials (I never did buy a Fisher Space Pen).

I knew it had to be easy to use. Unlike an electronic PDA, it was easy to put a mixture of text and any sketches onto. Unlike my old Palm’s “graffiti” entry method, writing didn’t require much additional thought out of me, and it was easy to draw runes instead of writing out the names.

Finally, I knew it had to be multi-purpose. I’m not big on jamming my pockets full of stuff to go anywhere — the Hipster would double as a recording device for other things.

These days, I carry a Moleskine for many of the reasons I originally gravitated to using the Hipster PDA. The biggest objection I developed to the Hipster was the tendency to hurt my cuticles on the sharp edges of the excelsior clip I had; switching the clip for a paperclip or a hairband did not hold the cards together asa well for me. These days, my devotional work tends to be “at home” enough that I can use a single bound dairy-style book for it, and leave it in front of my Home Shrine, though I do need to get back into the mode of transcribing it — tremendous insights can be found in the process of transcribing notes that are a week or two old.

To bring it back to the main theme of this blog: don’t be afraid to take notes. Part of ADF’s Core Order of Ritual for High Days involves the taking of an omen after offerings are made (the exact nature of the divination is up to those designing and performing the rite). When I first started doing public ritual I wasn’t big on recording the omens immediately after the rite, and while that was usually not a problem, on occasion I found myself having to work to remember an omen. After a while I became cagey about writing down the symbols, but was then failing to write down the interpretation, which was often worse; further thought can elaborate an omen, but it’s important to know what was said at the time.

So, despite the ancient Druidic attitude toward writing, I do advocate taking notes; not only does it give a solid record, whether for personal or group use, but it helps enable further reflection.

In the hearth

Imbolc approaches; with just under two weeks to go, it’s time to send out several email notices, drop the check off for space rental, ensure that everything needed to hold the rite is in hand, and perhaps print out some signs to (hopefully) improve turn-out — better advertising and all that.

But the underlying question of “Why Imbolc? Why Brighid?” remains.

There have been a few approaches to the eight-spoked Neopagan ritual year in ADF. One is to find rites from varied hearth cultures to fill out all eight spokes. Another is to find enough nearby holidays in your own preferred hearth culture to fill it out. A third is to adapt a culture to the rite as understood by modern Neopagans.

Let’s start with the third, adapting the culture to the modern-day rite. A good example of this would be a recent Beltane at Sassafras Grove, ADF, where Aphrodite was invoked as the Deity of the Occasion, within a rite framed in the Hellenic hearth culture. In many ways, this is the most approachable route for the modern Neopagan, seeing as how the modern Beltane is more about fertility than purification between two fires. It has the simultaneous benefit and difficulty of focusing very closely on the Deities of the Occasion and their lore, as opposed to seasonal or general culture lore.

The second route, finding nearby holidays, is more easily done in some hearth cultures than others. An example, using the Germanic Hearth cultures: Winter Finding or the Charming of the Plow for Imbolc, Ostara on the vernal equinox, Walpurgisnacht at Beltane, Midsummer on the summer solstice, Freyfaxi on Lughnassadh, Gleichennacht or perhaps Winternights on the autumnal equinox, either Winternights or a festival for the Einjenhar on Samhain, and Yule on the winter solstice. The advantage is being able to stick with a single hearth culture all the time. The disadvantage is some holidays are being shoehorned in rather strongly, and have variable levels of information, let alone attestation and simultaneity in the Lore. I’d expect it would be easier for those record-keeping Romans, Hellenes, or Vedics…but it might be harder.

The first route I mentioned is the one I’ve historically chosen for public rites, in the most common pattern of Germanic solar holidays and Celtic cross-quarters. I’d recently been questioning that — Hemlock Vales’ official hearth culture is declared Norse, Pan Indo-European…but I am on schedule to hold a rite honoring Brighid. Why not just go all Norse ASAP, or starting being very experimental?

The answer is that the Protogrove isn’t just for me. This had been Imbolc in my mind for months now, and while I’m certain I could seek out and update all references, that doesn’t change expectations. As things turn out, I have at least one very Brighid-interested person who can make it to this High Day, and another who contacted me through the website and is interested in the Celts in general. It’s not just what I want to do at any moment — it’s what people expect and want, too. Even though none of the Celtic hearth cultures drew me in personally, I have led very successful rites in those hearth cultures.

Of course, this does mean I want it to be the best Imbolc ever.

Of all the silly things

I look at the blog, and I see the obviously-intended-to-be Christmas theme I tossed on partway through December. I’m rather loath to take it down, though, because it looks like hemlock trees (if you squint).

Well, that and the previous theme displays the magic authentication page for Google Webmaster Tools at the top. You’d think there would be overrides for pages displaying at the top if the page widget did it for the side.

On “Druid Porridge”

I’m worried I will use this term sooner or later, so I might as well explain it. “Druid Porridge” is an in-joke among Hemlock Vales regulars; it is the result of pouring libations and grain into the same offering bowl when indoors, creating a sort of sludge that does not easily pour out when returning the remainder to the Earth Mother.

Beyond the potential jargon, why am I explaining this?

Simple: Druid Porridge can be a pain to clean out of the bowl — and if I didn’t think to use a two-bowl system when I started, I’m certain others won’t either.

Whoops!

I started this site separately, in part, to feed traffic to the main site for Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF.

Let’s try doing those searches I mentioned again…

If I search Google with state college” druid I don’t see Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF — but I do see another, related site in position 7.

Likewise, “state college” pagan doesn’t point to Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF — but that same related site is in position 9.

Which site would that be?

This one.

Maybe I should have just done this blog right on the PG site…or perhaps I’ll put together a thinly disguised post to help the situation.

Nine Virtues of Grove Organization

As I work to get my Dedicant Path (DP) documentation ready to submit, it occurs to me that it might be interesting to give brief thoughts on each of ADF’s Nine Virtues as they apply to being a Grove Organizer (GO, the title for the person officially running the Protogrove). I’ve reordered them a bit to closer match the flow of their relevance to group formation. Note that I’m actually skipping other obvious meanings; there is a lot to be said, for example, for how one’s virtues — or their lack — reflect on the organization as a whole.

Vision

The very act of forming a group requires a vision of what that group will be.

Fertility

There is a reason that some writings on the ADF site refer to “planting” a Grove — it is very much a creative endeavor.

Courage

There are many fears one will face when organizing a group. Fear of harassment or ridicule, fear of performing a rite badly, fear of being unable to produce a viable group, and even fear of success. These fears must be faced.

Wisdom

The actions of a Grove Organizer will help shape what the group becomes. When one acts as a leader, actions gain greater consequence, and must be considered well.

Integrity

Do what you’ll say and say what you’ll do. Don’t break promises of what your group will be doing. All too many Pagans have horror stories about group leaders abusing their power.

Moderation

The obligations of running a group must be kept in balance, neither starved for lack of effort nor devouring the rest of one’s life.

Hospitality

You will be welcoming both other people and the Kindreds, and should be hospitable to both.

Perseverance

A group does not form overnight. Even when starting with a group of interested people, there is no guarantee a group will coalesce immediately. A setback is not the end, but a cue to press on.

Piety

It may be obvious to say, but the idea of a Protogrove is to grow into a group that holds regular, public celebrations of the High Days.

(Note: Lest anyone get the wrong idea, analysis of the above virtues rather than agreement with them is what is required for DP documentation.)