The Nonpublic Public Group

One of my issues with many Pagan groups is the mixed message they send on public presence. Some groups have a highly obfuscated public presence. They run open classes, do workshops, and hold regularly scheduled public rituals several times a year. These may be advertised in the old-fashioned way–flyers in metaphysical shops and word-of-mouth–or they may not be advertised at all. This group may even have a public name, but if you google it you won’t be able to find up-to-date information very easily.

There are a couple of problems with this scenario. One of the most major is that a lot of people who might want to see your public rituals or who have been to a public ritual and want to know more… can’t find out anything. They can’t even contact your group for more information without playing a game of associations and asking “do you know who I can contact in order to get in touch with this group?” They may want to come to your next public ritual, but can’t figure out when it is, where it is, or if it is even happening. Or they may simply be curious and came to your workshop and now want to know more about what you do, but they can’t even figure out when the next one is or what topic is being covered.

For example, there is a local group that hosts regular public rituals. Recently, we were trying to find information on when their open Samhain ritual is (which is always run by the same group, every year, and has a large turnout), and it turns out that it is virtually impossible to get information on when and where it will be. You can spend an hour of searching online and not find the specific information you need if you want to attend the event.

That’s ridiculous.

It is simply no longer enough to pass out flyers at the local metaphysical store or even a yahoo group, facebook page, or a witchvox listing: these services are simply not as searchable or indexed as they need to be for people to get useful information out of them or to find them in the first place. The current way that the world is moving, if you want to be public–even as so much as to run the odd public ritual or class–you should have at least the following information in a readily accessible location online:

  • Group name
  • Who you are
  • What you publicly offer
  • Calendar (or, realistically, an up-to-date list of things you are doing, where to find them, etc)
  • An email address

That’s it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a single page on the internet. It can be at a domain that ends with .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com, the email address can be an anonymous or group-run email address from a free-provider. None of this is difficult to learn how to do, but it needs to be done.

Privacy Concerns

The Pagan community still has significant concerns about privacy and anonymity. Pagan names are quite common, and are frequently kept entirely distinct from a person’s mundane identity. There is still a great deal of fear–possibly justified–about backlash from employers or family.

It’s not that these are not valid concerns, but the important thing to realize is that they are manageable concerns. The name/email address that you use do not have to be the same as the ones on your LinkedIn profile or Facebook page, not every member of the group needs to be (or necessarily should be), and you don’t even need to have a single member of the group listed so long as there is a place to get in touch with the group as a whole.

On that note, just to flip the concern slightly: I shouldn’t have to give up personal information–including email address or facebook profile–in order to know when your open public ritual is. So I shouldn’t need a filled out yahoo profile (especially when I’ve caught yahoo giving my email to spammers) or have to sign up for your mailing list, or join a facebook group. If it is a truly public ritual, then I should be able to find the information through a google search and be ready to go.

Conclusion

The easiest route from here is to honestly evaluate yourselves as a group: do you want to be findable, or is what you are doing such that people could reasonably want to find you? If you are running public rituals or workshops, the answer here should most likely be yes, even if it is in a limited sense and under a separate group name. If you are only-semi open, working off of invitation-only word-of-mouth networking, then the answer is not as clear cut and maybe a yahoo/google group or a facebook page are sufficient. If you are mostly private and don’t want to provide public information in any sense or have any designs on a significant public presence, then the answer is going to be probably not.

From there, if you decide that you should have one, just assign someone to take point on figuring out how to do it. It really doesn’t need to be fancy, but the more sites we can get out there that help people with finding these resources the better. If that person leaves the group for whatever reason, have them transfer ownership to another individual so that someone is always in charge of it. This helps keep it from becoming a dead listing without of date information, which is a topic for another time.

This is one of the areas where we cannot have our cake and eat it too: Decide if you want to be public, and if you do, do it right. You can change your mind later and post something to the effect of we have no future public plans at this time on your website or take it down entirely, but if you have a public presence in the moment, have the resources so that people can actually see it so long as it is up.

We need to face that as a community we have become sufficiently widespread that it is not enough to depend on word of mouth. People can get their occultism-related supplies online, take classes on the internet, and even do some of their rituals online. While there is still a great deal of value in working in-person, we as a community need to start adjusting to the realities of the community we are serving.

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