When I first began to practice witchcraft it was on my own, no mentor or teacher. I was very young and purchased books from the local book store to study. We didn’t have the internet like today… well, it was 30 years ago, and I wasn’t old enough to drive to any of the pagan supply stores in the area.
I didn’t find Wicca or any others who practiced it until about 1992. At that point rituals and spell work were rarely done with a friend or two if any were ever present. I came out of the broom closet in 1996 and it wasn’t until 1998 that I began regularly attending public rituals.
In 2000 I began to officially study a tradition with a teacher and participating in regular ritual with a group that eventually became my first coven. In May I attended Gaia Grrrls and in July of the same year I attended Witch Camp. Both were held in the Mendocino redwood forest and those experiences changed my life completely.
Gaia Grrrls and Witch Camp were both wonderful pagan community experiences for me. I met lots of new people, made new friends, and enjoyed quality time in a pagan community. We ate all our meals together, studied and did rituals together. Each camp was a little different, but the one thing I clearly walked away with was a strong desire to have the comfort of a community as I furthered my studies on this path.
It was at Witch Camp that I met Jeffrey Albaugh. We became good friends and he introduced me to the folks at Touchstone Local Council. He was one of their founding members. I shared many rituals and meals with this group. At the time they were the pagan community I was closest to emotionally, even if they were 70+ miles away. This is part of why TLC is so dear to me. However, the distance made it difficult for me to be there for all events. In SoCal 70 miles can be 2-4 hours depending on how awful traffic is. To help keep perspective… in good traffic, it’s about 4 hours to drive from OC to Las Vegas.
In 2002 I attended my very first OC Witches Meetup. The Meetup website back in those days was so completely different than it is now. We had almost no control over how things worked. All groups had a set date and time that occurred once a month. Communication between members was tremendously less than ideal. We didn’t have any official organizers like we do now. Also, members voted on our event locations; locations that were picked by one guy in New York who perhaps had never even been to Orange County, CA.
Instead of organizers we had people that voluntarily took on the role of “host”. Hosts were people who attended, looked for others who were attending, greeted folks, maybe got the ball rolling with introductions, and helped where ever possible. I took on the role of host and paid to become a Meetup Plus member soon after joining Meetup. By 2004 the site had changed, those of us whom were hosting had been official organizer for a while and the site was switched from being free to having to pay to be an organizer.
Contrary to popular belief, I did not start the OC Witches or Pagan Meetup groups, someone at Meetup.com did. I joined at the suggestion of a friend who was interested in finding out more about it. I knew I was searching for something, but I had yet to fully understand exactly what that was.
My second Meetup was simply amazing! The group of us met and we all just “clicked”. We started at 7pm and hung out until 1am because we were so excited to have met each other. I discovered what it was I’d been searching for; Community! I knew there were more pagans within our small conservative county, and I was going to do what I could to help bring them together and create a more active and strong local pagan community.
Shortly after my second Meetup I set about an ambitious plan, I personally emailed and invited every individual I was able to locate on Yahoo whom listed themselves as being located in the Orange County area and had any paganism topic listed in their interests on their profile. It took me weeks to do all this by hand, but it completely paid off! Our membership numbers increased quickly as word began to spread about the Meetups. At one point I was the organizer of the world’s largest pagan Meetups for 3 full years.
Unfortunately that changed when Meetup shifted a few things around. My memberships aren’t as high as some groups; however, my attendee numbers on average still seem to be larger than most other groups.
In the 10 years I’ve been doing Meetup I’ve helped many members within the local area find teachers, covens, friends, and community. Our Meetup groups have also worked together to help our greater community by participating in charity work.
I’ve also assisted with other communities by mentoring Meetup organizers from around the world to help get their groups off the ground and running. I’ve networked with pagan and witches Meetups from other counties, such as San Diego, and co-hosted events that garnered us media attention.
In 2003, to further a desire to bring community together I gathered two letters of recommendations from both the current First Officer of TLC (Jeff Albaugh) and First Officer Emeritus (Susannah Faith) so that my coven could join the Covenant of the Goddess. I was hoping to help the Orange County Local Council regain some visibility to the local community and help build up our OC pagan community at large.
I spent five years helping coordinate events, doing PR, and building stronger connections with our neighboring local councils (LCs), national organization; and bringing the community together for a variety of events, including Merry Meet 2008, until my term limit as a board member was reached.
By 2007 someone noticed my efforts. I was awarded the 2007 Community Service Award presented by Pagan Pride Los Angeles for my “dedication and devotion to promoting religious diversity and tolerance, particularly paganism, through education and community service.”
For more than a decade my main motivation has been to build community, a task that hasn’t always been easy, and there have been times when I’ve doubted if it was worth it. It’s a labor of love and in the end I am unable to deny that I have helped bring many of my pagan brothers and sisters together.
On occasion I’ll get an email from someone telling me that because of my Pagan or Witches Meetup group they’ve found what they were looking for, or felt like they returned home to “their people” and are grateful. In other words, they found community. It’s in those moments when all the doubts fall away and I realize that it truly has been worth while.
And One will always remind me of the 2 years I was a co-host for a Goth radio show. This particular song has been stuck in my brain for the last 24 hours or so.
And One: Killing The Mercy