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Author Topic: Paganism in the middle of Nowhere  (Read 4251 times)
Noira
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« Topic Start: July 01, 2007, 01:49:59 pm »

I am writing to this forum hoping somebody could give me valuable advice, this place seems somewhat more seriously-oriented than the forums I have seen before.

Perhaps the main question is Does anybody know about a decent international or Europe-based pagan organization that would offer distance courses/training, preferably also some clergy programme?.
(And I really don´t mean, like, OBOD that wants 300$ for some brochure of uncertain content...I am a student, self-supporting.)

I am a citizen of Czech Republic, a post-communist country of Central Europe where neopaganism is still in its cradle, trying to get a pagan group going. We´ve had a few attempts to form organizations here but it all crashed before anything serious was done and most groups I have know do no exist at the moment. So there is
* no legally recognised pagan group
* not more than 20 solid books on paganism translated, some of them so badly that it makes one cry (for example, Cunningham´s Solitary Practicioner was released unde title "Natural Celtic Magic Wicca")
* we used to had 2 magazines, now there is none
* right at the moment I even cannot think about a group that would do some serious sabbat rituals 8 times a year and which is not on the edge of dissolving. The biggest pagan (Asatru) group here is more like a living history one and they do not accept women, to get the idea. The only Czech wiccan with 2nd degree runs a paid course for complete beginners that is of no use for me.

The thing is me and my partner, after a few years of solitary path, came to the decision to form a group. And we really did, but after more that a year we are still unable to recruit (sane) people, so we are 3. The other thing is general lack of pagan institutions and structures here. We would like to run a group of independent capable at-least-little experienced pagans which proves to be a really insane goal. We get either complete nuts with personality disturbance (pagan scene is wilder here  Undecided) or somewhat insecure seekers who have written on their fronthead that they seek a teacher.

We think that being able to offer some sort of structured training for the newbies is the only way to attract some serious people to our kindred (clan), but where do we get the training? So we concluded the only way, (if we are not satisfied with local Pagan federation occasional drunken pubmoots or if we don´t have the guts to sell our image like some would-be gurus) is to get some distance training and "cross the language and cultural gap" as the first generation.

If we manage to get some solid papers from some established organization, we can leave and lead a group on our own or found their subgroup here. And the next generation of students won´t have to travel, translate, spend money... etc.

Does anybody have encountered a similar situation and how would you deal with it?

(And please, do not recommend Coven Craft, I have read it through and through and 70% of information is absolutely not-applicable here. Undecided)

PS - I study religious and psychosocial studies and I run the biggest Czech pagan website, I am applying for depth psychology training the next year. We (me and boyfriend) have put immmense energy into getting our own flat and we have a decent big living room that is reserved for ritual use. So we are able to sustain a covenstead here and are willing to publish our adress.

Thank you very much for reading, Noira.
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« Reply #1: July 01, 2007, 03:12:48 pm »

I am writing to this forum hoping somebody could give me valuable advice, this place seems somewhat more seriously-oriented than the forums I have seen before.


Welcome to The Cauldron, Noira!

I'm not 100% sure but I think you may be our only member from the Czech Republic. I don't know of anything in your area myself, but perhaps some of our European members may have some ideas for you.
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« Reply #2: July 01, 2007, 04:22:21 pm »

Perhaps the main question is Does anybody know about a decent international or Europe-based pagan organization that would offer distance courses/training, preferably also some clergy programme?.
(And I really don´t mean, like, OBOD that wants 300$ for some brochure of uncertain content...I am a student, self-supporting.)

What are you looking for, specifically? Information? Training? Resources for clergy work? What kind of path? How willing are you to work around what information you can find? Are you trying to design your own tradition? Would you prefer another option if you can find one? What things matter most to you when considering training? More details will help people make better suggestions.

For example: you mention CovenCraft wasn't helpful. While there's certainly material in there that is either US-Centric or that assumes there are other resources in the general area, or that someone starts with training, I can think of much material in there that can be very helpful in building up a healthy group, if you step back from it and use it for structure, not details (for example, the ideas of activities, notes on how to deal with problematic personalities, the basic roles that are useful in groups, etc. make up much of the book). If you can be more specific about what you're looking for, and why what you've found wasn't helpful, people can avoid suggestions that do the same things (and maybe give you more ideas.)

Are you able and willing to order a few specific books in English and work with them in detail? (I'm guessing so, given a few of your comments - but again, wouldn't want to recommend anything until I knew more about why CovenCraft really wasn't helpful to you.)

Beyond that...

I know there have been British Traditional Wicca (to use the US phrasing: Gardnerian, Alexandrian, etc.) groups in eastern Europe - there's long been an established presence in Germany, due to US military bases, and I believe I've heard of groups in Poland and somewhere else in eastern Europe too. Obviously, that's probably too far too travel easily on a student budget, but they may have ideas, contacts, or other resources that could help you (and there's a lot of value in the fact they've done the 'first group here' thing.) 

Have you looked on Witchvox.com or whatever other networking resources you can find to find groups outside the Czech Republic but in a similar position and contacted them?

If you're at all interested in Druidry, I understand that the OBOD programme is excellent and worth the money - and it provides structure and focused training in a way other options might not. (If you're not interested in Druidry, however, it's not going to be useful to you.) It's also designed specifically as a distance program, which is less common in various forms of religious witchcraft.

Another place to consider is the Fellowship of Isis - they're based in the UK, so have better European connections, though how much can be done at a distance varies. (I know relatively little about the organisation, beyond very much liking the one person I know well in the US who's involved, and having talked to her some about why she thinks it's useful. But for general magical theory, structure, background, and training, it may suit what you want.)

The real issue, though, is that most witchcraft or small Pagan groups don't offer distance training (and in particular, rarely advanced or clergy-level training) - generally because it doesn't suit the system. So finding it is tricky. (It's tricky in the US, too - and there are stretches of the US where there are very few Pagans or only dysfunctional communities.) What most people here do is find someone to work with (or advise, at least), and supplement with focused personal work, and supplemental reading. Active participation with people who can provide feedback, ideas, and new resources helps a lot. (such as this forum.)

But again, without a better idea of what kind of information you want (general clergy resources, magical training, religious training, mentoring as you get stuff together, etc.) it's hard to make good suggestions.

I'm going to be offline through Thursday morning, but will check back then (though I suspect people here will suggest most of the things I'd have suggested by then.)
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« Reply #3: July 01, 2007, 05:48:02 pm »

I am writing to this forum hoping somebody could give me valuable advice, this place seems somewhat more seriously-oriented than the forums I have seen before.

Welcome to the Cauldron!
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« Reply #4: July 01, 2007, 06:17:41 pm »

I am writing to this forum hoping somebody could give me valuable advice, this place seems somewhat more seriously-oriented than the forums I have seen before.

Welcome to The Cauldron, Noira!

Quote
Perhaps the main question is Does anybody know about a decent international or Europe-based pagan organization that would offer distance courses/training, preferably also some clergy programme?.

Hopefully some of our European members will be able to help with this question.

Quote
I am a citizen of Czech Republic, a post-communist country of Central Europe where neopaganism is still in its cradle, trying to get a pagan group going. We´ve had a few attempts to form organizations here but it all crashed before anything serious was done and most groups I have know do no exist at the moment.

Creating an organization from nothing can be hard. Sometimes it can help to not focus on creating a formal organization at first, but just finding an building a group of people to hold rituals with. You mention that the Pagan Federation holds pubmoots. Have you tried attending and looking for people who are just as disgusted with the drunken meetings as you are? Chances such people will only attend one such moot, so you may have to attend quite a few to catch the type of people you are looking for, but this would be a low cost way to try to gather a more serious-minded group of people.

Quote
...and I run the biggest Czech pagan website...

This is probably obvious, but if you are looking to form a serious group, be sure to mention this (and what you mean by "serious") prominently on your web site.
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Noira
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« Reply #5: July 04, 2007, 01:37:11 pm »

What are you looking for, specifically? Information? Training? Resources for clergy work? What kind of path? How willing are you to work around what information you can find? Are you trying to design your own tradition? Would you prefer another option if you can find one? What things matter most to you when considering training?

Training would be the best option, however, a supportive source of info (liturgy, laws of conduct, material for clergy...) would do, too. I think. I am printing Judy Harrow´s guide to pastoral counseling right at the moment, luckily solid clergy resources are available online. I am doing my best to collect good books too, and we share them with friends.

Brings me to the important notice, that I am not all alone. We are two priests, me and my partner, who has been working with me now for couple of months. We read CovenCraft together and it helped us to clarify a lot, we created a symbol for our clan, a name, clarified how we would like to have it. Conclusions are:
  • We would describe our faith as polytheistic, animistic, with shamanic approach and sympathy for dark paganism. (So we are a little countercultural here, where the mainstream movements is new-agish ecclectic Wicca.)
  • We condemn boundless ecclecticism that is seen here, and all ideological treatment of pagan religion, be it nationalism, racism, feminism or whatever. (So we would like to keep our focus on spirituality, no ambitions to "educate the public" or change the world.
  • We do not base our practices upon sexual duality (God/Goddes, I said we are polytheists, but with no single pantheon), that is reflected in the fact that out of the four there is 1 gay among us, others share nonconvetional view of sexual morality, i.e. polyamory. We are not interested in this crucial topic of Wiccan theology and ritual practice, which means...
  • We have to, or would like to, introduce a completely different ritual structure, based more on the archaic religions and nature itself. None of us is very fond of ceremonial magic.
  • We have changed our mind several times about the topic of hierarchy and need of ritual initiation and requirements for incoming new members. We just don´t know: there seems to be very high demand of any sort of training, but I am not qualified to run one and from the above written it may be obvious that we are more interested in somewhat experienced, perhaps a bit alternative individuals rather tha a bunch of teenagers wanting to solve the problems with their parent with me acting as their mother.
    It seems necessary to have some structure, but we would like to keep it as egalitarian as possible.
Will adress the other questions in next post, thank you a lot for being interested!  Smiley
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« Reply #6: July 04, 2007, 02:04:38 pm »

Are you able and willing to order a few specific books in English and work with them in detail?
Absolutely, been collecting books since I began pagan path.

I know there have been British Traditional Wicca (to use the US phrasing: Gardnerian, Alexandrian, etc.) groups in eastern Europe .....Obviously, that's probably too far too travel easily on a student budget, but they may have ideas, contacts, or other resources that could help you (and there's a lot of value in the fact they've done the 'first group here' thing.) 

The nearest traditional covens are in Germany and Austria, in Vienna, where 2 Czech are initiated and one is actually qualified to found a coven himself here, but has only founded a study group yet, he is very active.

The reconstrutionalist groups are, most unfortunately, heavily nationalistic if not worse (lot of neonazis among the Asatru) and the yhave no interest in any interfith dialogue, even withing neopaganism.
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« Reply #7: July 04, 2007, 06:43:12 pm »

The reconstrutionalist groups are, most unfortunately, heavily nationalistic if not worse (lot of neonazis among the Asatru) and the yhave no interest in any interfith dialogue, even withing neopaganism.

   That is a shame, but you aren't alone in that.  I live in what I guess is considered the 'bad' area of town here, lot's of white supremacist gangs about, and alot of them see my necklace (Solomon's Seal of Protection) and assume that if I believe in that then I am the exact same as them in all other beliefs, which is not the case at all. 
   You mentioned that alot of the pagan books out today have not been translated into Czech and those that have are badly translated.  I was thinking, you obviously speak English, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem to maybe order the books you want in English over the internet.  Other than that however, I'm afraid I cannot be of much help to your direct problem.  Know though that we can see where you are coming from.  I hope there is a solution.
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« Reply #8: July 05, 2007, 08:13:55 am »

Perhaps the main question is Does anybody know about a decent international or Europe-based pagan organization that would offer distance courses/training, preferably also some clergy programme?.
I am a citizen of Czech Republic, a post-communist country of Central Europe where neopaganism is still in its cradle, trying to get a pagan group going.
We think that being able to offer some sort of structured training for the newbies is the only way to attract some serious people to our kindred (clan), but where do we get the training?
Does anybody have encountered a similar situation and how would you deal with it?
I study religious and psychosocial studies and I run the biggest Czech pagan website, I am applying for depth psychology training the next year. We (me and boyfriend) have put immmense energy into getting our own flat and we have a decent big living room that is reserved for ritual use. So we are able to sustain a covenstead here and are willing to publish our adress.
Thank you very much for reading, Noira.


Hello Noira,

I may be able to help. You mentioned OBOD, and I agree, they are expensive, but there are alternatives, for instance there is a large European-based Druid Organisation called The New Order of Druids, which are based in Belgium. Their website is available in both English and Dutch. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to put a link in here or not, but I'll try, www.druidcircle.org is the NOD website. They have a Mother Grove in Belgium and are very helpful, also they are very much less expensive than OBOD.

Hope your search goes well,

Cheers, Midori
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« Reply #9: July 05, 2007, 12:09:25 pm »


Hello Noira,

I may be able to help. You mentioned OBOD, and I agree, they are expensive, but there are alternatives, for instance there is a large European-based Druid Organisation called The New Order of Druids, which are based in Belgium. Their website is available in both English and Dutch. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to put a link in here or not, but I'll try, www.druidcircle.org is the NOD website. They have a Mother Grove in Belgium and are very helpful, also they are very much less expensive than OBOD.

Hope your search goes well,

Cheers, Midori
Thank You, I wrote them a letter, see what response comes. They seem somewhat more "DIY", or informal, compared to other organizations.
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« Reply #10: July 05, 2007, 05:26:57 pm »

Training would be the best option, however, a supportive source of info (liturgy, laws of conduct, material for clergy...) would do, too. I think. I am printing Judy Harrow´s guide to pastoral counseling right at the moment, luckily solid clergy resources are available online. I am doing my best to collect good books too, and we share them with friends.

You might find Amber K's new book _RitualCraft_ also of use: she's got some really excellent examples of rituals, and while many of them are more Wiccan structured than you sound interested in, it's really more about how to develop different kinds of rituals and for different sizes of groups, kinds of ritual focus, etc. (And she includes examples from a number of different settings and a wide range of groups.) (I just finished reading this one: there's a lot in there I already knew, but I also got inspired by several of her examples.)

Judy Harrow also has several books out: her _Wicca Covens_ has a lot of material about group work and structure (but again, may not be what you're looking for.) Her _Spiritual Mentoring_, however, sounds like it  may fill a gap you're particularly interested in - as you might guess, it's about offering spiritual training and guidance, but more in a one-on-one interaction than in terms of group dynamics.

I also work in a group that is poly-friendly, has a number of non-heterosexual members, etc. so we do other things with polarity besides male-female. (That said, we do invite both a God and Goddess to rituals, and we include male-female stuff as one option among many - partly because to do otherwise leaves out both a particular kind of biological relationship, and would leave out straight members of the group, which doesn't seem like a particularly good option. I'm glad to chat about this more in email if you like in more detail.)

Have you considered also looking into email lists - there's a Pagan Clergy email list on Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pagan-clergy/) that I think you'd qualify for, and there are people with tons of experience and insight. (For anyone else reading: you do have to submit a bio for it: my understanding is that they only accept people actively involved in group leadership, or working towards it in the very near future, but I've found some valuable stuff there.)

One of the things about structure of some kinds (particularly a tiered membership thing) is that it can help weed out the weird folks, and those who don't want to work. The way my group works is that we run a short series (5 classes) of Seeker classes, for general information about Wiccan-based ritual (we cover etiquette, ritual theory, daily practices people might like to start, etc. No practical exercises, etc.) They can come to some of our rituals. If they think they want to do more formal study with us, there's then an application process, and we have plenty of time to decide if we want to work with them.

Sorting out the weirdos - and just the people who really aren't a good fit for the group right now, or who have some baggage they need to deal with - is something all groups go through, I think, if they're *remotely* findable. Having a mechanism that isn't too hard on the group to maintain helps a lot. (Clear web pages, a structured process that obviously involves work, etc. helps. Again, glad to chat about this in email, as there's some stuff I'd rather not discuss in a public forum.)
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