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01 August 2017

Roanoke Witches & Pagans Anti-Children?

Normally I keep this kind of stuff to myself and only share it with people who know me outside of the internet, but having the privilege of living in and exposure to Pagan communities outside of this area, I can tell you right now, there's some serious red flags going up, and I'm not keeping quiet about that. For privacy reasons, I'm masking the details. But for those in the local area and community who may stumble upon this, it won't be hard to connect dots and you'll be able to decide for yourselves.

So as Pagans and Witches, my son and I have had a hard time of it in Virginia. Lynchburg was, well, Lynchburg. Roanoke is far more accepting and we aren't getting visits and leaflets in our door on a weekly basis. There's definitely way more Pagans and like-minded folk in the area. But trying to find anyone close by to meet up with regularly and be family-friendly has been fruitless so far. Most of the groups are very upfront about this, specifically stating they are for adults only or the group guidelines and/or descriptions make it clear that the activities taking place are not conducive to the wild abandon and lack of attention span so prominent in two year olds.

So imagine my sheer joy when, very recently, a brand new MeetUp group formed, local, all Witches & Pagans, and described as a "social group" where "We can meet in public places for social interaction, study/discussion, and networking to build communities/covens/temples outside of this meetup." I don't know about you, but what I just heard was safe, family-friendly, and an opportunity to meet with the local religious and spiritual community with the sole intent of finding people of both like-mind and similar circumstances so that we can build our own group.

So.... I could meet wonderful local Pagans, interact with other Witches who are single parents, parents in general, or otherwise part of a family involving small children? We could totally branch off to form a group of Pagans and Witches who participate in family-friendly activities and rituals. This group is not only perfect for me as a full-time single parent, it's a much, much needed resource in this area. I signed up instantly.

Out of the 30+ members who joined in it's first weeks, I was member #3. (I may have actually been #2 as I can recall looking the group up and it was just the organizer, but after I was all signed up, there was at least one other.) When I signed up, I was very forthcoming about the fact that I have a toddler and would only be able to make meetings within specific time-frames and shared those times. I did not hide anything. When the first meetups were announced on July 12th, I went ahead and put in my RSVP with a plus one for my son for the first one that was within my needed time-frame (which is to be the group's second meeting).

That was three weeks ago. Fast-forward to today. I have been eagerly waiting for this get-together and to finally network with the local community who is so very quiet and hidden compared to what I was accustomed to back in Colorado. I've been looking at my calendar the past couple days, happy and excited like a kid knowing the Disneyland trip is coming up. I was ready! So at my lunch today, I see this (minus the whole "blocked" box at the time):



The full message reads:
Hi Evylyn!
I am looking forward to meeting you, and hope you can still attend this Saturday's meeting! 
I saw that you are bringing a plus one, and mentioned your son in your answer to the group questions. I just wanted to let you know in the case that your son is a minor we do discuss some adult topics. At the first meeting there were very frank discussions about sexuality, substance use, and practices involving darker entities or tools such as bones and blood. There was also a bit of swearing, not as drunken sailors, but as adults sometimes do when excited or making a powerful point. 
That being said, 90% of the adult topics were directly related to magic and the practice of those in the group. I am certainly not saying it is inappropriate to bring your child. I just wanted to let you know in advance rather than you finding yourself in a situation that you don't want him to experience. Every person has different maturity levels, and every parent different ideas of what they find acceptable for their children. I wanted you to be informed, as I would never want a minor corrupted by this meetup. So please use your discretion and do what you think is best. 
All of that being said, it is a great group of very diverse people, that all found at least something in common with the other. It promises to be a great resource for knowledge sharing and fellowship. So, I hope you will join us, and if you are comfortable, bring your son as well!
Blessings to you and yours!
I'd like to point out to you that, as the organizer clearly states, the meeting he is referring to was the group's very first ever meeting. Anyone who has ever participated in the first meeting of a startup group knows full well that you cannot base the group itself and all it's forthcoming meetings on the first, not well-attended meeting alone. Especially when you consider the organizer has made it a very special point to ensure I am fully aware that both my son and I are welcome so long as I feel comfortable as a parent in bringing him with me.

I (and my phone that was being a particular ass today with only minutes before the end of my lunch left) sent this response:
I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed. One of the first things I noticed about the Pagan community here, aside from being hard to find, is that it's not kid friendly. I was immediately excited to see your group because it's the first I've come across that sounded even remotely family friendly.
Personally, I'd rather my son be exposed to the discussions. (And trust me, as the offspring of two Army vets, he'll pick up the adult language from his parents before anyone else can take credit for the blame.) So we'll still attend. It'll be right before his naptime, so chances are good that if anything gets out of hand, it'll be one of his tantrums, in which case I can always take him home. Worst case, the group won't be for us
But we'll at least started networking.
Even though I'm certain it's obvious that I was having issues with my phone and that last bit was meant to read "But we'll at least get to start networking" (plus more I could not get my phone to cooperate in sending at that moment), I planned to follow up this evening just to be sure. After all, this is someone just as excited to meet me as I am to meet him and the new group. None of them have met me and this was my first direct interaction.

But I wouldn't get to. Because this is what I received next:


Again, the full text reads:
You have been removed from [...]
The person who removed you said:
Hello again, Evylyn, I read your email and some concerns were raised. I consulted with my moderators and several founding members and we do not feel comfortable discussing our craft in front of such a young child. If it was a teenager we might be more comfortable, but to avoid legal trouble, and future potential members from joining with the intent of bringing minors, we are going to change our group to be 18+. We took a vote and are putting it into effect tonight. I am sorry that we are not the group for you, and hope you find others for fellowship.
If you find yourself saying "what" and pronouncing the silent "h," yes. I feel it, too.

So again, the brief history of this group: Started up a few weeks ago on MeetUp.com. This group, a "social group," has the sole purpose of linking like-minded individuals for the intention to network and build groups outside of this one. The group has approx. 30 members, a single organizer and no moderators. I was among the very first to join the group. No group discussions have taken place. What messages I received were from individuals who seemed to be excited about the group the same as me. No notice whatsoever was ever made or implied that there was any sort of team or council of moderators or "founding members." In the group's description it was (and still remains) worded as "I" which implies this group was founded, is run, and all decisions made by a single entity. (I admit this conclusion could be wrong, but it is the logical conclusion given the description of the group and the first message with the organizer.)

The organizer did, in fact, update the group. The description is entirely the same with brand new "Group Rules" to include #1:
Firstly, this group will discuss adult topics in a very frank manner. For legal purposes and the comfort of many members the group is 18+. Absolutely no minors are allowed to join, or be brought to a meeting as a +1 by any member. This will be a zero tolerance policy, and breaking this rule will result in expulsion from the group.
There's only one other rule which is long and drawn out but can be summarized as, don't miss more than 3 meetings and you best show up at least once within the first 6 weeks of joining. (Guess he had to get that one in before the group hit 6 weeks old and he starts removing members without notice...)

He follows these rules up with:
I apologize if these rules seem draconian, or unfair. This meetup is meant to be full of active members, and it is only fair that spaces remain free for those that attend meetings.
Apparently, he's only sorry about Rule #2. And why is there no mention of removing and blocking the single parent with no notice and immediately following a reassurance that we were totally welcome to stay?

I readily admit that I am venting right now. The anti-minor attitude is incredibly uncalled for (immaturity present? or just stereotyping?) and the mention of "legal problems" demonstrates ignorance at best. (Fun note: upcoming meetings involve the topics of crystals, plants, and divination. Oh, Gods! The "adult" conversations will kill our babies!) But that's also my perception.

What isn't perception are the observable facts mentioned above and the fact that a member was removed from the group without warning and blocked from all communications with the organizer and the group without any explanation. Consider this: given the initial correspondence, the next logical step (assuming concerns were in fact raised with real-but-unseen moderators and founding members) would have been to contact me, explain what happened, and then provide the option to either continue as a member of the group and not bring my child to meetups or leave the group.

Personally, the ultimatum wouldn't have set off red flags. Because, truthfully, the real issue here isn't that the group went from totally family-friendly to strictly 18+ in a matter of hours in its early days. This, however, does reek of unhealthy group dynamics. So much so, I ranked it as a 40 on the Advanced Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF). Out of 180 possible, that's low. So, dangerous? Most likely not. But given that the response to many of the 18 factors is a big "unknown" as someone who was booted out before having the opportunity to speak with and meet any of the group members and leaders in person, that's enough for me to be hesitant (especially considering that what factors I could rate, a couple of them scored as 10s). More likely, this "social group"—in all its one month of existence—is an example of poor planning, faulty communication, and failed team dynamics. We'll see.

So on that note, I'll end with one last quote. The group's description begins:
I have tried to set up a few meetups over the years with varying success in different occult spheres. In the past the meetups were too specific to build a community of a reasonable size...
I see the trend continues.

In a mood,
Evy
 
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