This month’s Local Body Spotlight is from the valley of Minneapolis, MN. All names and photos are used with permission.
Late last year, Sister Magenta, a long-time participant in both the local pagan community and at Leaping Laughter Oasis, asked me a simple enough question.
“Harper, what do you think about having a hospitality suite at Paganicon?”
I had to ask her in return, “Magenta, what’s a Paganicon?”
She explained to me that it was a large annual pagan conference held every March at a Double Tree hotel in South Minneapolis. The potential benefits of attending were pretty obvious. The Twin Cities have such a large pagan community that the region is fondly known in some circles as Paganistan. In spite of that, I think that the OTO is not as well-recognized in the community as the resident Satanists. This was a really good opportunity to spread some love and get noticed.
To have a hospitality suite, we had to propose a theme and to rent the space. A couple members got together and donated the funds to do that. 100 LED tealight candles were likewise procured. The rest of the LLO folks donated the hugest hill of snacks that I have ever seen.
When we were asked for a description of a theme for our suite, we wrote a paragraph about a Egyptian-theme hiding place for introverts. We manifested this by strewing the tea lights all over the darkened front room of the suite and played softly eerie ambient music. In the actual bedroom part of the suite, beyond the dimly lit front room, were piles of goodies, spread out on a table with a tarp underneath, because we wanted to leave the carpet clean. Two of our members gave introductory talks to those in attendance (Sisters Magenta and Ixel Balamke).
We put our temple pillars outside the door and deployed the wandering and friendly T-Rex (thanks, Brother Caleb!)
The suite was, by my reckoning, an amazing success. We gave out all the pamphlets that we had in the first two hours. The room was frequently full. The organizers thought it was the most unique suite of the conference, and upon some discussions with them, we were encouraged to propose to perform the Gnostic Mass at the next Paganicon, which will take place in March 2018.
Our presence at the Twin Cities Pride festival in June had a similar origin; only this time, it was Sister Kirstine with the big idea. She had been previously involved with other groups at this enormous festival (400,000 attendees in 2016), and was familiar with the protocols of getting booth space and the legal necessities required for a non-profit group who wasn’t selling anything to be involved. When she suggested that we go to Pride, at least I knew what that was.
Sister Magenta and Brother Martin donated a big blue tent to the effort, we made some vinyl banners (one with a design from Frater IAO131) and t-shirts with the help of Brother Ron Labhart. Sister Kjirsten folded about 700 origami peace cranes to give out as gifts. We carried with us a similar number of business cards. Sister Kirstine purchased a beautiful table cloth and roses, and we hung a foam-core copy of the Stele on the back wall of the tent. We were obnoxiously cheerful and talkative, standing in front of the booth with the cranes and our carefully-crafted elevator speeches (engineered by the booth staff during planning meetings). It was key to our approach that we were both animated and audibly friendly.
We had given out all the cranes and pamphlets early on Sunday morning. We ran out of business cards by 4 PM. I lost track counting the number of people I had spoken with at 180. None of us could talk at all when we were done.
Brother Rufus was an absolute champ at this, but he was outdone by Brother John, who graced us in a fashionable ensemble of Picachu tights and a tutu. He was the person who showed us how to better interact in this situation. “Are you familiar with the OTO?” became “HOW’S YOUR PRIDE?” With his inspiration, we took our booth skills to a whole new level.
We collected dozens of email addresses and have a couple new folks gracing the Oasis as a result. We plan to up our game next year by moving away from the area of religious organizations. We were completely surrounded with Christian booths, most of whom displayed the message “Are you gay? Maybe we’ll put up with you.” Some of those folks were distinctly disturbed by the sign proclaiming our message of sexual freedom. Or maybe it was that scary unicursal hexagram.
Next year, we plan to request to be relocated to the arts section, near the tarot readers. Having more folks to help staff the booth will be a priority, too. Those of us who spent two straight days talking to people needed a week to recuperate, even our more outgoing members.
We had most of the summer to recover and buy a new tent in preparation for Twin Cities Pagan Pride, which took place in early September. Sister Kirstine was again at the organizational helm. PP was only a day long (10-6) at a beautiful park in South Minneapolis (Minnehaha State Park, complete with a waterfall). The weather was picture-perfect and we all (Brothers RO, Yoshi, Caleb and Robin and Sister Kirstine and I) arrived early and got set-up in record time. Actually, they did the work while I was telling two runners I met at Minnehaha Falls about the festival.
The park got increasingly busier until it attendance peaked at about 1 PM. We had our hands full for the rest of the day. Sister Ixel showed up about this time with a huge cooler full of ice and bottled water and snacks for the crew. Brother Scott S. also provided an entire day of much appreciated booth support. We put all we had learned in the two previous events to work during this festival. We brought 500 business cards, 70 tri-fold pamphlets, photos of our Oasis space and a hard copy of our full-to-bursting calendar.
We estimate that we contacted most of the people in the park who were there for the event. Since the park is a very popular tourist destination, there were quite a few folks who were simply confused by what was going on, but we even spoke with a couple of those. Many of the local pagans were amazed by our permanent space and full calendar, but I think the best thing that we demonstrated for them is our basic friendliness and willingness to be questioned about what we think. For these folks, it was more than awesome to have the young folks with us (props to brothers Yoshi and Caleb, aged 14 and 15!).
Compared to Pride, the Pagan Pride show was a breeze. It was easy because it was much smaller, we had the right number of folks helping and the new tent was a major win. We were all out of the park by 6:30, home by 7:00. No extended recovery period was required!
So, what did we get out of all this craziness? We do have a few new folks coming around. We have a renewed solidity to what we believe – there’s nothing like distilling your ideas to a 1 minute elevator speech to clarify things. We seem to have earned ourselves an opportunity to perform the Gnostic Mass at Paganicon next spring, and the Twin Cities pagan community is allegedly already looking forward to our next hospitality suite.
The true wins were internal to LLO and to each of the participants, though. I think we’ve congealed a promulgation team that works well together both at the Oasis and out in the world. Each one of us spent literally hours explaining what we think, do and believe to people we didn’t know, and in so doing, illuminating those things to ourselves. Our Summer of Promulgation has really been a great experience, and we’re planning to expand our efforts next year!
Written by a member of Leaping Laughter Oasis.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U.S. Grand Lodge or of O.T.O.