Monday, November 13, 2017

Safety First

Earlier this month, a man walked into a church in Sutherland, Texas with a semi-automatic rifle and killed nearly half the congregation-including children. We all saw what happened being played out over and over on TV and social media.

As Pagans, the majority of us are peace-loving and mindful. Something like that could never happen in one of our covensteads or circles, right? We ward our places of worship against evil and for the most part, we keep our whereabouts from prying public eyes. But not always. With public ritual becoming more frequent as we seek to have our traditions accepted in the religious mainstream we have become vulnerable.

But if you think something could never happen to us, you are very wrong. It can, and at some point in the future, the gods forbid, it eventually will. I say that with trepidation. I'm not trying to trying to frighten anyone or being paranoid...but I am cautious. Because during our rituals we share many of the same areas of vulnerability as any mainstream church service. Even if we keep our location a secret, if a gunman really wanted to bring havoc upon us, we would be found. Shields, wards, white light and thoughts and prayers will not keep us safe from a madman with a weapon.

So what are we to do? We begin by being alert to what is going on in our surrounding environment.
If you are setting up for a circle in a new venue, explore the area and know where all roads surrounding it lead. If ritual is to take place in a public area or park, let those in charge of  overseeing the area know when you will be there and for approximately how long ( be sure you have all the necessary permits and bring them with you). Notify park rangers or security and remind them you are there. Yes, it's a drag and I understand that it somewhat dampens spontaneity...but better to be safe.

When planning for ritual, appoint one or more persons to be an observer outside the circle so participants are not distracted. ( In some traditions, these persons are  known as a challenger and may symbolically carry a sword. The sword isn't for physical protection, because our ritual blades are not intended to taste blood. You may have to explain this to an unknowing park ranger or police officer who would (rightfully so) be freaked out by the sight of what they perceive to be a weapon.) There should also be worship assistants inside the circle who are monitoring what is taking place in regard to participants, not only to help those who may be emotionally overcome and need assistance , but to be observant of any unusual or threatening  behavior and be ready to intercede along with those watching from outside. If indoors, lock any doors not actively being used, or post greeters by them. Also, if feasible, plan an escape route ( a good point for fire safety as well). It's not just invasion to be precautionary of- there are also bomb threats and just plain harassment. The  cult of Dominionism, radical Evangelicals, and unfortunately, those in some Pagan traditions who have ties to the ideology of neo-natizism are a very real threat to 'outsider' spiritual groups. Much of their worldview supports unbridled violence against others. Keep an eye on those espousing these beliefs in your area.

Part of the responsibility of your council is for the health and safety of individual members and planning for emergencies.  As much as we don't want to think about an attack on our sacred space, we live in troubling times and should take pains to be informed and cautious. It is to our benefit to at least touch on the subject and perhaps make a plan. There are links below which are informative and adaptable to any religious tradition.

Be Well and Be Blessed.

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