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Contemplating the Deep Future

The concept of planning for the deep future is a difficult one for many modern folks to comprehend. We’re used to near-instant communication with our hand-held computerized phones. The promise of pizza deliveries in thirty minutes or less. Online orders for merchandise in two or three days.

Unless you are an architect, a civil engineer, or perhaps a construction contractor, many of us rarely think about doing things that will affect other people many decades or even centuries in the future.  Most of us plan our lives for a relatively short span of weeks and months.

For me, the exposure to this notion of Deep Future thinking began some twenty years after becoming Wiccan. I had the opportunity with several other priestesses to take a midlife spiritual sabbatical of sorts in an American based Orthodox Tibetan Buddhist Monastery.

Was it a life of rituals, praying, and chanting all day? No! Monasteries have been and still are places to learn important qualities such as transcendence, self-regulation, voluntary commitment, as well as a profoundly altered perspective on service virtues. Likewise, the monastery lifestyle was also an exercise in a different kind of Critical Thinking not taught in Colleges and Universities.

My monastic training taught one compelling lesson that few in the greater Wiccan-Pagan community consider, “Deep Future thinking.”

In simple terms, think of the day to day operations of a Temple like organization. The lay members of the congregation manage the accounting, the newsletters, the choir rehearsals, spaghetti suppers, parent and child pancake breakfasts, birthing rites, wedding schedules, funerary rites and the details of many other seasonal practices.

While the resident monastics had a hand in many of these everyday tasks, we were governed by an overarching mandate to selflessly “anchor” the spiritual tradition and the temple for the Deep Future. The Deep Future mindset is not a view of planning just for the next near-term decades, but rather a big-picture consideration many generations into the future. In essence, daring to dream far beyond one’s own lifetime. It’s a mystical practice of imagining and setting the causes in motion for a future outcome. This kind of long-term thinking has been mounted before in the west; consider the great Cathedrals of Europe.  The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris took almost 200 years to construct; in 30-year generational terms, it took nearly seven generations to complete. In America, the National Cathedral in Washington, DC took 83 years to build that’s roughly three generations. These are an example of ordinary people banding together for long-term labor of love dedicated to the deity and as a gift to future generations.

20th & 21st Century Neo-Pagans

Enter Gerald Gardner, a British civil servant. Gardner was an initiated member of the Rosicrucian Order.  It is said that he encountered the New Forest coven during the mid1930s; he was later initiated into this coven in 1939. Gardner believed that New Forest coven was the surviving pre-Christian Witch-Cult discussed in the works of researcher Margaret Murray.

Gardner decided to revive the faith, supplementing the coven’s rituals with ideas borrowed from Freemasonry, ceremonial magic, and the writings of Aleister Crowley. Gardner, with his accumulated body of material, formed the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca.

Following the 1951 repeal of the Witchcraft Act of 1736, Gardner decided to propagate his WICCA religion. He began attracting media attention and wrote various books that he published: High Magic’s Aid (1949), Witchcraft Today (1954), and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959).

Gardner is internationally recognized as the “Father of Wicca” among the Pagan and occult communities. With Gardener’s books out in public, the concept of Neo-paganism began to grow, although in a very stealth manner. Throughout the 1950s Neo-paganism developed into a subculture.

In the 1960s and 1970s – with the emergence of the feminist movement, the Wicca faith and numerous Neo-pagan variants were embraced by women seeking an alternative to the Patriarchal dominated religion. I was introduced to early witchcraft material while I was in the Navy in 1976.

In 1979, two groundbreaking books were published on Samhain: “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler and “The Spiral Dance” by Starhawk.

These books were written by the 2nd generation of neo-pagan Wiccan practitioners. Both books inspired many more to embrace the White Witchcraft as a connection to Goddess and as a lifestyle. Modern witchcraft was growing.

Someone gave me a copy of “The Spiral Dance” in 1981, and it opened doors for me and introduced me to a small group community and the new fledgling festivals. Of course, in the 1980s, a problem faced by modern-day Witches was that greater culture around them was indoctrinated with the teachings from the middle ages burning times.

A quick look at the popular movie culture in the 1980s era only seemed to reinforce the idea of Bad and Good Witches. The 1960s television comedy series “Bewitched” put a somewhat friendly face on witches, but overall movies and television generally put a demonic face, if not an ugly look on witches.

In 1990, in my role as Coven Priestess, I consulted with the venerable Pete “Pathfinder” Davis, who in 1979 established The Aquarian Tabernacle Church. We discussed some of the things we as Wiccans were going to have to do to have a degree of Religious plurality within the mainstream culture.

What is Religious pluralism? It’s an approach or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society. In its ideal form, Religious pluralism can be seen as a harmonious co-existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations.

Pete Pathfinder and I agreed that Wicca/Neo-Paganism wasn’t going to be taken seriously until we either had a permanent country pagan retreat center, or church building on the corner; perhaps a recognized seminary. Also, such a group needed legal status to be an umbrella organization so as to be a mother church for any Wiccan or Pagan group.

Today Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) is a collective of Wiccan Churches from all around the world working together to provide resources for the pagan community that regional groups could not provide as individuals locally. Obviously, there is strength in numbers!

In my opinion, we, as a neo-pagan community, have had at least two generations with a sprinkling of the third. It’s time for us to seize the moment and unite for a higher collective purpose.

WAIT! I hear you thinking that we, Wiccans, are too few. Think again!

Using measured Facebook Advertising and Marketing data. Raw data says there are 4.6million Wiccans in the USA. But that 1.7 million Wiccans are marketable as an audience nationally.

Do you want to see roughly how big your state Wiccan USA population is? OK, Google, the adult population for your state? Then multiply your state adult population by the Wiccan national averaging factor of .0063 and you’ll get an approximate number of Wiccans in your home state.

Example: New York State has 15.5 million adults. 15,500,000 X .0063= 97,650 the approximate amount of Wiccans in New York State.

Example: My home county of Onondaga County has a population of 366.040 adults. 366,040 X .0063 = 2306 approximate average amount of Wiccans in Onondaga County, New York. Again, these numbers are strictly Wicca and don’t count the Pagans or Witchcraft categories in my home county.

Do you want to know how many Witches there are in your state? Use this formula. Again, get your state’s adult population number. Then times your state population by the Witch national averaging factor of .0641 and you’ll get an approximate number of Witches in your home state.

NYS as an example: 15,500,000 NYS adults x.0641 avg = 993,550 approximate amounts of Witches live in New York State. Remember that not all Witches are Wiccans, but I say again, we are not alone in our beliefs and practices.

Some Suggested Pagan Community Center Options

So, let’s talk about the possibility of having a Wiccan meeting house-temple space. I did a poll recently in my upstate New York region. Many people have made suggestions about what they think might suit our regional community for a Pagan Community Center.

Let’s discuss each briefly. The following are based on what other Wiccan elders and I have explored for over twenty years, and the snags we all ran into.

CAN’T WE JUST DO CIRCLES IN OUR HOMES? – I did this for twenty years. Because of the size of my residence, we were limited to 12-15 persons for any function we did. The truth is our greater neo-pagan community these days has grown to the point regionally that we need a better solution than simply home circles like we did in the past.

WHY NOT JOIN A CUUPS? – There are good arguments for and against. In the FOR column, the Unitarian Universalist Church is an established church with facilities and free use if requested. But eventually, neo-pagan membership in the Unitarian Universalist church is most likely required.

In the NOT column, some folks say they feel intimidated going to the Unitarian Universalist church. I’ve seen some well-run CUUPS chapters and many very lame ones. Lastly, others of us feel, “When are we as neo-pagans going to stand up for ourselves and stop looking for freebies with the Unitarians?”

BUY AN OLD CHRISTIAN CHURCH – Old churches are on first appearances an attractive Idea. Most churches that are For Sale are frequently in a neighborhood that has begun to or has deteriorated badly. The original congregation either moved away or died off. The utility infrastructure, like wiring and pumping is substandard and frequently having serious issues, many times, the furnace is shot and there is no air conditioning. The cost to replace a heating and cooling system can be prohibitive. Nine times out of 10, the roof has had it as well. Another problem, the “Nave.” The nave space is where the Christian congregation sits and is typically arranged theater style, designed to focus on the pulpit and altar area. We usually do things in circles. Yes-Yes, it could be modified, but considering the other drawbacks, it’s a lose-lose situation. Let a community theater group or arts organization purchase it with their grant funding!

THE DAYCARE CENTER AS A MECHANISM FOR AN ANCHOR FACILITY.

A case has been made, there is a serious need and demand for Day Care Space. I’ve heard several proposals about obtaining seed funding for using a pagan owned daycare facility. The Pagan Owned Day Care facility can be used off-hours and on the weekend by a group of Neo-pagans sects.

There are two significant drawbacks as I see it. One, the Day Facility would be located in an Urban or Suburban setting, thus anchoring the facility to a specific community. This is great for that local Wiccan church entity community but not great for the greater regional Wiccan community.

Second, the PUBLIC RELATIONS Nightmare for the Day Care Center. Once the word gets around that Wiccan, Witches, and Pagans meet there in the off hours, sooner or later, the age-old prejudice will start: “They eat babies – Don’t send your kid there!”

RENT A STOREFRONT – Many protestant congregations got their start this way: they rent a store from for a few years, hold their services and church functions, and through tithing, eventually purchase land on the edge of the suburbs. Many times, this land is big enough for a church building and community space and plenty of parking. They install a concrete slab foundation and install a prefab metal shell building and gradually finish the interior it over many years. Is this model viable for our regional neo-pagan community? It is, however, a reasonable regional solution if there is a sufficient local community to support it.

THE RURAL RETREAT AND MULTI-USE FACILITY

This final facility concept was universally preferred. IMAGINE a place in the country, private and secluded, off the beaten path, but relatively close to main highways and interstates. Perhaps a 100-200-acre mix of cleared land, and woodland.

Perhaps an old farmhouse repurposed into a small group retreat house. On the property, there’s a newly constructed large group gathering building. There are places to pitch many tents and an assortment of small guest cottages as well as several bunkhouse buildings. There’s a dining hall, showers and of course sanitary facilities.

There are fire pits and places set aside for significant outdoor rituals and of course, smaller spaces for private rites lesser in scale. There’s much more to this place, but they are things that can be realized over many years.

But one truth is paramount; this place was imagined, manifested, owned, and managed by a large Wiccan, regional community.

It could be owned and managed by a Wiccan Church organization for gatherings, camping, a festival site, and retreat center. As mythical as it might sound, it’s much more feasible then many believe.

Funding, Organization, and Fund-Raising model.

Assumptions: I won’t mince words – the initial stage of what I’m proposing might have a price tag of $2 million US. I’ll wait a minute for most of you to get back up on your chairs that you’ve fallen off of.

WHY So much?

1: A recent realty survey that our Wiccan real estate team member conducted for me demonstrated what the cost of the amount of rural land in one parcel in the deep upstate NY area will cost. $600k to 1.2M That’s a reality of life. The notion of buying smaller and then trying to purchase adjacent parcels later is seriously problematic. I know of a group that bought 65 acres with a plan to expand. The owners of adjoining land didn’t like the non-mainstream faith and wouldn’t sell them more land later. While other owners simply jacked up the price so much to not be affordable. Our goal should be a one-shot large land purchase.

2: Our Corporate Governing Entity would never be able to secure a mortgage loan, nor should they. I know another group that did raise a down payment and got a mortgage loan. Then for the next 15 years, they were calling community meetings about every 4-6 months because donations were off, and the WOLF was always at the door. Eventually, they retired the mortgage, but it was a painful experience for that community.

WE, as a pantheist community, must endow the purchase and initial upgrades upfront to make the facility viable financially. Consider that many aging Wiccan & Pagan baby boomers who might be interested in sharing their wealth or giving their estates to their magickal community.

3: Corporate Governing Entity must be a religious-themed non-profit 501c3. I wrestled with whether one of the already established pagan church entities could offer the non-profit financial mechanisms. I think sectarian differences in time would cause problems. It makes more sense to keep the Pagan Corporate Governing Entity as nonsectarian in nature to present a pantheist unity image. That’s not to say that major regional Pagan church entities wouldn’t be represented on the Governor’s board. On the other hand, If Wiccans and Witches want something of their own, then so be it. Becoming an affiliate of an establish Wicca-Witch church is a viable option.

4: Once you put a Pagan Corporate Governing Entity in Place and secure a Non-profit status, then you can put in place financial processes for the responsible handling of funds and establish multi-signature fund dispersing mechanisms.

As well you develop a website with the information and a prospectus of what you are proposing. With all this in place, you can start to launch and promote a GO-FUND-ME or KICKSTART effort to begin the fundraising process. The promotion will be done in the form of PAID boost advertising on Facebook. This gives us the tools to reach out to a targeted pantheist or strictly Wiccan-Witch Facebook audience.

5: My design for marketing and advertising in upstate, NY, is planned like this. Using a web app, I was able to gather all the zip codes within a 120-mile radius driving distance of my home area. The upstate radius area encompassed sum 1004 zip codes. Once I plugged the zip codes into the Facebook Boost mechanism, I was given a sizable target pagan-Wiccan-witch audience to advertise to.

The Money

When it came to money, I polled ideas on and off over time. There was considerable push back, what I heard from people was, “We’re Pagans, we’re poor.” The other pushback was, “I can’t afford a 10% tithe like the mainstream churches.”

So, I proposed the “Happy Meal-a-month donation model.” $5 a month commitment for a year or several years to reach the goal. Even the thriftiest among us thought that was acceptable. Granted, it will take considerable community buy-in. But I believe in the long run it truly makes this Deep Future project an inclusive community effort, that’s a good thing. Instead of this place being funded, by just somebody’s estate gift or the gifts from well off pagans-Wiccan or witches. Here is a plan for an initial donation from a handful of us to cover the cost of boost advertising on Facebook.

The Happy Meal model allows a more significant number of pagans to participate in the Magick of manifesting this project. It’s easy for folks to set up a credit card or pay-pal donations through a GO-FUND-ME or KICKSTART mechanism.  Community generosity is the key to such a long-term project.

The key to this is the “vision to do it.” Good, responsible leadership with reliable administrative and financial processes in place before a dollar is donated. During the donation period of perhaps years, the governing body needs to study and design a project plan for want they have the resources.

Buddhism has only been in America for about 100 years, yet they have managed to anchor it for the future. We Wiccans who practice the arts of manifestation, can’t we organize and establish a community place for our own deep future. Just do it!

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