A New Era

Imagine a place where your full, true nerdiness could be realized.  A home, where you could speak of quantum physics and their relationship to your spirituality while sipping a coke and eating some chips.  A place where you could go to learn about any aspect of religion or philosophy, or even other stuff – health, technology, science – and use that learning to make connections to your own spiritual path.

There is such a place.  And it launches tomorrow.

I’ve mentioned the Order of the Gecko before as it was still in its beta stage of its new launch.  The Order of the Gecko turns four years old tomorrow, and I thought it was fitting to launch it – version 3.0 – on that date.  The Order of the Gecko was founded by a small group of people including myself, when we decided that we wanted something more out of the internet.  We wanted to build a place where people of all different faiths could come and have intelligent, relevant, and peaceful discussions.  We wanted to create a temple – a place where people felt safe and comfortable enough to expand their boundaries and learn from other religions what they may use to further themselves along their respective paths.

And so, the Order was born, and it flourished for quite some time.  Yet, as I found my way to college, and the other co-administrator found his way to a new job, our attention waned and so did the Order.  It fell from grace, but was always lying there, waiting for us to pick it back up.

And so, around November – a little after I started up this blog – I decided to turn my attentions to the Order and bring it back to life.  I think I’ve done a damn good job.

The Order of the Gecko now houses a library of member-submitted works, public domain works, and religious texts.  It hosts several databases full of “Quick Facts” about religions, philosophies, historical leaders, religious organizations (Salvation Army, anyone?) and others.  Hubs of information and literature submitted by members – papers, stories, poetry.  In addition, chat rooms and forums will make communication that much easier.  Perhaps most importantly though, the new Order of the Gecko’s layout enables us to teach what we know.

Using Moodle, which is course management software, the Order of the Gecko now offers courses about anything that interests its members.  We’re looking for teachers – and students.  The great thing about the Order is – we could care less about grading!  The courses are going to be designed in a way that promotes critical thinking and fosters growth.

The courses don’t have to be broad, either.  Do you know one book or one small area like the back of your hand?  Help other people learn it too!

If you’re interested, come check the Order out.  We welcome students and teachers, and even just people that want to make some sort of a difference in the world in which we live.

Can’t hurt…right?

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To Return to Gaming…

Within almost any MMORPG(mass multiplayer online role playing game) there exists groups of real, live people, with real live problems and real life moods and motivations.  Sometimes, depending on the game, you’re able to organize yourselves into guilds or groups or clubs.

Now, if you’re going to run a group or a club or any sort of people-based thing,  you’ll find the same basic problems anywhere you go.  As it is just before the launch of my own group/guild/order/program/people-place, I think it may be wise to touch on some of these issues.  For pagans, it is easy to draw this connection to covens – for Christians, their churches.

We all seek to answer the same basic questions.

  • How do I recruit people to my group?
  • How do I get people active in my group?
  • How do I fulfill the purposes of my group?
  • How do I deal with expanding hierarchy within a group?

How do I recruit people to my group?

It is best to determine what sort of people you want for your group.  This question only deals with quantity, not quality.  I’ve found through trial and error – and I may be wrong -that by getting a base pool of “maybes” who are allowed to infiltrate, you avoid elitist thinking which will leave your group with a population of one.

So, beyond the intelligence requirement, which every group should have but not every group can, let us determine a set of rules which will enable candidates to know where they stand.  Will your group be single sexed or kept to a specific age group(like over 18)?  Must your group all own something similar(Like a videogame)?  Must your group be of all the same faith(The “generic” Wicca vs Gardnerian Wicca vs Faery Wicca) ?

How do I fulfill the purposes of my group?

Action plan!  I know I’m going out of order, but the two questions I have left are the most often dealt with.  You really need to lay out exactly what you want out of a group in order for it to happen.  Beyond that, you have to come up with practical means of meeting those goals.  If you want to build a library of fanfiction, that’s great – but you can’t expect your ten members to write a library’s worth of fanfiction.  I’d suggest creating some form of mission statement document.  The Order of the Gecko’s is rather long and deals not only with what we want to do with the group, but also member expectations, roles, administrative expectations and roles….you get the point.

How do I get people active in my group?

If your group has a “home” in which smooth conversation cannot be obtained (like a forum…or a blog) – activity tends to waver.  This is reasonable and expected.  The best you can do in that situation is to offer a mend to the problem – allow anonymous posting or super-simple registration.  Allow a place for people to introduce themselves so that they feel comfortable just hopping right in.  The worst enemy there is spam.  But, we all bow low to the spam god’s ingenuity…and its not something we can fix at this moment.

If your group has a “home” in which smooth conversation can be obtained – such as face-to-face contact, or a chat room – then ways to promote participation do become slightly easier.  Group activities like meet-n-greet are great – for chat rooms, benefits(like ice cream) are harder to come by, but a topic-choice for a night may serve as a good incentive for participation.  Guided conversations can always spawn some interesting threads that can be followed up on later.  Arming yourself as a group leader with pen and paper (or notepad) and writing down what could be followed up later when conversation dies is a great way to keep activity going a very long time.

How do I deal with expanding hierarchy in my group?

Let’s face it.  When your group gets big enough, separation occurs.  The key is to make sure that you, as the leader, do not allow too much room for “members” to have more power or position than others.  Exerting favor is easily noticed and easily resented.  Some ways to allow for separation and an expanding structure are harder to use than others, but the easiest strategy I’ve found to employ is that of racism and discrimination, “Separate, but equal.”

This is to mean that the people writing the newsletter are different, but no more important than those people who participate a lot or who run some other aspect of your group.  In the end, the basic group structure may end up looking like this:

  • King/Queen/God/dess (1-5 people on top)
  • Advisors (The people that are closest to the King/Queen person(s))
  • Separate, but Equal rays (Managers, greeters, organizers, cooks, writers, etc)
  • Standard members (No exceptional power)
  • Neophytes/Initiates/Newbies (Whether or not this is used as an initial group is up to you)

The path to the SbE (Separate/Equal) should not be hard.  Members should be easily initiated to play a larger role.  This allows them some personal investment into the organization.  With those SbE’s though, you will have to give them some power to influence you.  Whether this is done in a democratic way with a vote, or an unofficial way with intentional conversation with those people by you and your advisors to foster intra-upper-division peace, is up to you.

The Conclusion

In the end, people are greedy.  We want power and responsibility and a say in what is going on.  Denying that or not fulfilling the needs of your members will cause rifts and strife.  But careful consideration and communication do wonders – in a coven, a guild, an order, or any sort of gathering and smattering of people.

Ostara Eve

Today is the eve of Ostara, and I was asked by a non-pagan just what this holiday meant.

I was bewildered.

To me, Ostara has always been the hidden holiday…the one I never pay much attention to other than some quiet reflection on the time of balance, etc.   It has always been, to me, a turning point.

It’s been a minor holiday, I suppose, at least to me, because there is always the cultural Easter celebration that my family does, which can be – as it is this year – just a few days away, or a full month away from the celebration of Ostara.  Now, made more difficult because of the ominous “midterms”, I am left wondering just what there is to explore in regards to the energy of Ostara.

Obviously it is a turning point, a day of balance.  It is a day without influence – a day of purity, in my head.  Because day and night are equal, it is only when you delve deeper that you find the tendency towards light.  But the primary energy is that of purity, of balance and fertility.

I have it written somewhere in one of the (unpublished) studies I did of the Wheel of the Year, that the magic of Ostara and Beltane both involve sex and sexuality.  But, Ostara celebrates the ability to procreate.  Beltane, in my book, celebrates the action of procreation.  And so, Ostara becomes related to fertility, and Beltane, to commitment – marriage and the like.

Practical ways to celebrate Ostara?  Look for the signs of spring, because its official.  There are baby birds and sprouting flowers (underneath all that snow for you northern-dwellers).  Celebrate the balance.  Its a great time to start projects, because it is a time without influence of other factors of the world.  It is a time of equal day and equal night, and should be a time when you try to achieve that balance in your own life.  Moderation is a great thing – and today (tomorrow) is the day to learn how to use it!

As I said, my Ostara celebrations are usually small – and often are temporal in nature.  I rise at sunrise to meditate, stop at noon, and then again at sunset to celebrate the division of time, the rift of the world, and the ensuing balance.  I also invoke the gods and goddesses associated with the holiday (Eostre comes to mind, as well as Artemis, Dionysus, and other symbols of fertility and youth) and ask them to bless me in the coming times with that fertility.

Have a safe, fun, and fruitful holiday!

The Perfect Ritual

One task my high priest asked of me a long time ago, was to design “The Perfect Ritual”.  Having done that, and occasionally finding my work – today I cleaned the room I am staying in, and found the folder full of stuff I should be giving to him – it occurs to me that maybe I should offer others the same idea.

As in anything, we tend to strive towards perfection.  Shouldn’t our rituals be as effective as we can possibly make them?  And so, I was asked to design, “The Perfect Ritual”, a ritual which would accomplish exactly what it set out to do.

Create your own perfect ritual.  It brings some interesting concepts to mind.

Do you really want the outcome of the ritual you designed?

Are you absolutely sure that the outcome you designed is something you’re ready for?

Is it appropriate enough to be entered into a formal ritual?   You can’t wish for new shoes in the perfect ritual.

Just a thought.

Blessed be!

Just that Note

There is a note, a musical note, which is impossible to get out of your head.  It is the note of the beginner instrumentalist. It doesn’t matter if you’re proficient in several other instruments and you pick up a new one, or if its your first time.  There is one note which all instruments can make.  The note of discord.

Parents know what I’m talking about.  Mentors, teachers, all of us know what that note that should have been a half step higher or not present at all, does to us inside.

Such is the pain and sacrifice of learning and teaching.

Likewise, we all make magical mistakes.  We say things or do things that make our elders or the more knowledgable cringe.

Such is the pain and sacrifice of advancing.

At least we all learn from our mistakes!

(Have a great day.)

Sorry!

Guys, I can’t even say the work has been piled up super, super high.  I’ve just been sick and tired and dealing with crazy people (quite literally) …subject content which doesn’t necessary need to be posted on the world wide web.  I swear that as soon as I get a full night sleep, I’ll post something slightly more interesting than excuses.

Blessed Be!

Sam

Finding the One

Let’s talk about love.  Or dating.  Or sex.  In ten minutes – because that’s all I have before my class.   I watched the entire courting process this past weekend – thanks to a friend and our proximity.

The boy wanted the girl.  So the boy chose to get interested in the activities of the girl.  In this case, she is a pre-med major and a great cook.  So he brought her to the store to buy stuff and then helped her cook it.  And then he asked her if she would look at a cut on his foot.

I know, you want to do it, and so do I:  Doctor, doctor, give me the news…I’ve got a…bad case, of loving you!

Fast forward to later that night – we’re in the room, hanging out, boy arrives…and ensues a four hour long meeting that I am present for, for a good majority of.  Youtube videos on random, funny shit, for the longest time leave him behind her on the bed, giving her a shoulder massage and claiming knowledge of masseuse techniques.  Leaving youtube for Ebaum’s world and other sites, we find the opposite, she behind him, returning the favor.  A friend drops in, enabling me and her to shoot knowing looks at each other as we watch Boy puff up his chest, provide feats of knowledge and manliness.

We(friend and I) decide to leave Boy and Girl alone.  Kissing ensues.

So, boys!  If you want to score a love interest, that’s the basic method.  Find a common interest and exploit it.  Then, using some ploy or another, gain bodily access in a friendly manner.  It could be the, “I’ve got a cut that’s infected” thing, regardless of medicinal inclination, or the offer of a back massage.  In any case, there is a power play present which should be mentioned.

You ask for help.

You offer help.

These two actions, varied though they may be, establish a powerful symbolic relationship.  “I am in need…will you help me?”  This establishes that the person that they are asking is a person whom they respect as a superior.  “You may not be in need…but I would like to help you.”  Is the next statement made.  This establishes that they are superior in some things, and you, in others.  And so, a relationship formed on “respect” is born.

The physical touch breaks the barrier that says, “You are my friend, but you cannot be my lover.”  Notice that you do not often offer backrubs to professors.  The physical touch must be something relatively intimate and arousing on a certain level.  For some, it may be sparring or grappling or wrestling, if both of you have the knowledge.  It may be back rubs, or foot rubs, or some other form that says, “You are a friend…but…you can be more.”

If the girl accepts you from there, chances are you’re golden.  I’ll leave it up to you to make the first “real” move.

This is related to the religion – or I can make it so.  But right now, my ten minutes are up and I must go to class.  More later!