The Pagan Alliance and the Importance of a Witches Ball

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Sometimes, the best way to understand an issue, particularly in the Pagan community, is in microcosm. One of the biggest issues many Pagan communities face today relates to providing services and infrastructure, how we fund the things we say we collectively need. With the current focus by Pagan media and social networks on the question of gender within our rituals, communities, and events, my mind immediately turned to The Pagan Alliance-organized conference from last year. That event, the 1st Annual Conference on Earth-Based, Nature-Centered, Polytheistic & Indigenous Faiths, had a theme of Gender & Earth-Based Spiritualities, and sparked a dialog that the organizers decided should continue this year as well.

That such a conference now exists, and can act as a space for the important work that needs to be done on that issue, is heartening, but how does The Pagan Alliance come up with the capital to provide such a service? A partial answer is through social events like their upcoming Witches Ball on March 3rd.

Scene from a previous Witches Ball.

Scene from a previous Witches Ball.

I asked Pagan Alliance president JoHanna White about the relationship between the good work The Pagan Alliance does, and the social fundraisers it holds, and here’s what she had to say:

“The Pagan Alliance does many things that make a difference to the community. In 2011, we organized a Conference on Earth-based Spirituality and Gender, we donated food to the spiritual encampment in Glen Cove, CA that was preventing development on a Native Sacred Site, we sponsor local Spiral Scouts groups, we did outreach in women’s prisons, donated money to the important work of Rev. Patrick McCollum and created visibility for the Pagan community via the  10th annual Pagan Festival and Parade. It is through events like the upcoming 4th Annual Witches Ball 3/3/12 and the The Hunger Vampire Lounge: VAMPIRATES 3/30/12 that we raise the funds that allow us to do the work we need to do in our communities. In the coming years, it is likely that the Pagan Alliance will be expanding to the East and Gulf coast. Without the support of the Pagan community, we can not continue to grow and make change. Please support us by attending our events! We’re also renowned for putting on a great party, which those of you who attended Pantheacon hopefully stopped by and saw.”

Yeshe Rabbit, High Priestess of CAYA Coven, who was Keeper of the Light (the equivalent of a grand marshal) at last year’s annual Pagan Festival and Parade in Berkeley, California, noted that The Pagan Alliance’s successes are “largely due to the solid guidance of the active Board and the support of donors and event attendees,” and that “by supporting them, we support the shared growth of the Interfaith Pagan community.” Author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle, who will be this year’s Keeper of the Light, remarked that she felt “grateful for their tireless efforts,” and emphasized that “they are bridge builders and educators who help our local community to work in coalition.” What both of these leaders understand, is that tickets purchased for the Witches Ball, or for upcoming events like VAMPIRATES! or their Pirates’ Ball, ensure that the community-knitting parade, the local resources, and the gender conference, can happen. Without these funds, organizations like The Pagan Alliance would be severely limited in what it could do.

This paradigm experienced by The Pagan Alliance is replicated within Pagan communities the world over. A variety of balls, masquerades, dinners, and events designed to help organizations keep their lights on. Persephone’s Masquerade in Washington DC to support The Open Hearth Foundation, or the Hypatia Day Drive to benefit Cherry Hill Seminary, to name just two examples. Not being tied into the competitive network of grants given to religious nonprofits means that our fundraising has to come from the roots up, not from larger benefactors or foundations. Pagan community, as we today understand it, exists only so long as we are willing to fund it.

Much is often made of the practice of tithing a portion of one’s income towards their religious community so that it can thrive. There are some Pagans I know who, in fact, set aside a portion of their money each year to donate towards building Pagan community. However, I’m not going to make a call for five or ten percent of your paychecks, I understand that our great diversity often means that many Pagans don’t feel there’s a singular religious group or community they’d want to give to. That said, I do think that we should be conscious of the events and services around us that do provide us things we use, enjoy, or find important to our growth. Let us all make an effort to fiscally support them when given an opportunity, especially when it involves a chance to engage with others in a fun or creative setting. So if you’re near Benicia, California, why not head to The Pagan Alliance’s Witches Ball on March 3rd? It’s rare to have fun and support a good cause at the same time, so revel in that opportunity!

As for me, I don’t live in California, but I feel that the work The Pagan Alliance is doing is important, particularly with their upcoming conference in September focusing on gender within the Pagan community. So I’m donating to them directly as a show of my support, and I hope those of you who feel similarly will do the same. Maybe we can collectively jump-start a new ethos of simply giving to the groups we think are doing the work, and advancing the changes we want to see, even if we can’t put on our party clothes.