Have you attended festivals or conferences put together by hard-working volunteers and organizers? Have you mingled at Pagan Pride Day, learned something new from an excellent workshop at a local store, chanted under the moon with close friends, felt energy coursing through hands of strangers on either side of you? Have you been entertained and enlightened by bloggers musing on topics you once thought only you thought about, and followed it up with a lively discussion with others in the comments section? Pagan community permeates our lives in so many ways, both online and offline. Even if you don’t think about it often or meet with “actual Pagans” in your community every day, you can feel the effect of having a movement of like-minded people to talk with by just thinking about all the instances that it has bolstered you on your path, leading you to new information and discoveries about yourself.
So now, as we pull into the harvest season, let’s start thinking about ways to give back to our vibrant and wide-reaching community. I have a few brilliant ideas (as usual!), some of which will hit you up for cash, others of which only take some time and mindfulness.
1. Volunteer in your community
Organizers in the Pagan community can always use more help, whether it’s putting together a huge, labor-intensive event, or just bringing candles and cakes to the next ritual. Many cities now have their Pagan Pride Days coming up (including Minneapolis – contact me if you want to volunteer!) which typically take place August through October; this offers a wide array of ways to get involved, from setting up and cleaning up the event locations to offering free lectures, rituals, or musical entertainment. If there are other local festivals known to you, contact the organizers well before the event to find out how you can help. Or, band together with other Pagans and adopt a highway to clean up (like the UMPA’s annual highway cleanup in the Twin Cities), or even just a local park or waterway.
2. Help send Patrick McCollum to the Awakened World Conference in Italy
Hopefully by now many of you will have heard of Patrick before, but if not, he is one of the greatest interfaith leaders our Pagan community has right now. He’s worked tirelessly to combat unfair laws, ensure Pagan prisoners’ ability to practice their religion, promote dialogue between Pagan paths and other world religions in such venues as the Parliament of World Religions, and much more. Now he’s been invited to join the Dalai Lama’s International Peace Council and the Association for Global New Thought as a Core Group Leader to help facilitate a world event in Rome, Italy, Awakened World 2012 this October. The event will be attended by many of the foremost political, religious and human rights leaders in the world, and we deserve to be at that table and part of that discussion. I truly feel sometimes as though Patrick were hand-picked by the Goddess herself for this life of busy activism and communication; having met him several times in person at PantheaCon I have experienced his intense energy firsthand and enjoyed his contributions. You can help him at his fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo, where you can also find a full bio and summary of his efforts for our community. But don’t just take my word for it – read Tony Mierzwicki’s blog on why we should send Patrick, or Jason Pitzl-Water’s blog on the effort, which also includes mention of the next one on my list…
3. Support the New Alexandrian Library project of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel
While Patrick’s work involves reaching out, this project is all about concentrating inward to our own community – and most exciting of all, creating a much-needed, long-lasting piece of Pagan infrastructure: a physical research library all our own. As board member and Elder of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Michael G. Smith wrote in a piece on The Wild Hunt, “It is vitally important at this time that we create and maintain real pagan infrastructure. Much of the accumulated wisdom of pagan people has been lost in past times of transition. We must make serious effort to create structures to ensure as a much as possible gets through this transition.”
Eighty percent of the funds needed come from Assembly members themselves, and now they are reaching out to the greater community to help fund the first phase of construction. They have really lovely thank you gifts on their New Alexandrian Library IndieGoGo fundraising campaign such as wonderful chant CDs (I love them!), cookbooks, and even different levels of name recognition in the Supporter’s Tree sculpture they will eventually erect on the site. I’ve met the Assembly’s Michael G. Smith and Ivo Dominguez, Jr., at their Between the Worlds event and at PantheaCon several times now, and I’ve seen their professional video presentation of the land they are building on, the blueprints for the library, lists of what is already part of their collection and what will be, and I’ve felt their great enthusiasm at the mere thought of making this a reality. This is not a pipe dream, folks – they already have the foundation laid. So please take a moment to donate a little money to this worthy cause – one that is soon to become a reality!
4. Host a Hypatia Party for Cherry Hill Seminary
American Pagandom’s best known seminary, Cherry Hill Seminary, is attended by and staffed by some of the most thoughtful, service-oriented, giving people we have. So even if you’re not able to devote your life to the role of clergy, counseling, pastoral or prison chaplaincy, you can support those who will. And Cherry Hill Seminary has a really fun fundraising tool – they will help you to host an Agora movie night by lending you a DVD copy of the film Agora starring Rachel Weisz, and providing downloadable brochures, postcards, discussion guide, party planner, handouts and more from their website. So all you need to do is invite your friends to attend, encourage guests to join CHS’s Hypatia Society, and watch and discuss an amazing and important film. Oh, and did I mention there were also prizes? Yes, you’ll win awesome Pagan swag if your party has either the most individuals who contribute, the most dollars raised, or the highest party attendance. So get cracking, the fall drive and party season goes September 1 to October 31.
5. Shop at your local (or online, if you don’t have a local) independently owned metaphysical bookshop
In today’s world, we are often striving for two things: convenience and the lowest possible price for just about anything. But does that always work when it comes to your spiritual path? Do you choose the most convenient gods to worship, the ones that happen to have a temple in your neighborhood? Are your sacred implements nothing more to you than objects manufactured in China that must be bought as cheaply as possible? I didn’t think so. If you put your heart and soul into something, you want the accoutrements to align with your values as closely as possible. And what better way to express your values than in your decision on where to spend your dollars. Yes, you could shave off a few bucks per book or set of candles by ordering from a large online retailer, or maybe get it quicker and with less effort required on your part – but that retailer is not owned by Pagans and may not have your best interests at heart. That retailer may support the idea of corporate personhood and be spending the money they made from you on lobbying the government to gain more power; that retailer may not approve of your beliefs but will continue to sell the goods that makes them a profit anyway; that retailer is not local, does not employ people in your community, does not pay taxes to your community that increase your neighborhood’s livability and value; and perhaps most importantly, that retailer does not offer a space for community events that allow you to learn from great teachers and make new friends and connections.
Besides supporting the good people who own and work for local businesses, making your community unique and not cookie-cutter, you’ll also be ensuring that more of your money actually ends up with the author of a book, the producer of the incense, the local artisan of statuary, wands, or athames, than if you bought the exact same product through an online discounter. (And yes – authors are not rich, no matter what you’ve heard, so it’s always best to support them by buying and not stealing books.) If you don’t have a metaphysical nearby, you can always find an indie bookstore near you – and place a special order if they don’t have what you’d like in stock.
6. Support Pagan Living TV
It is PLTV’s goal and mission to show people that Paganism is nothing to be afraid of by creating a news and lifestyle program with a Pagan perspective for distribution on the internet and in broadcast. Executive Director Dr. Todd Berntson says they need to raise money for their launch, including IRS non-profit registration, paying the crew, and building a better set. You can visit Pagan Living TV’s website and make donation through PayPal or go through Pagan Living TV’s IndieGoGo campaign. Here you can watch a short video clip of their aims and aspirations. (If Todd Berntson’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the director of the unreleased documentary film “A Hero Denied” which tells the story of the quest to have a pentacle on the military grave of Sgt. Patrick Stewart.)
7. Ask how you can help
Sometimes our leaders, our teachers, our friends are having a tough time getting by, but they’d never ask for help. So if you have a special teacher or mentor, a group you belong to, a blog you’re addicted to, a podcast you listen to, or even an author you admire whose books you’ve devoured over the years – just reach out and ask if they need anything. You never know until you ask. (Although sometimes they do leave helpful hints — those “donate” buttons on their websites are often not there just for decoration!)
Have any more suggestions? Please list them in the comments!