Thursday, April 19, 2012

Heathen Fable #11 - The Foolish Mountain Hare

On a very tall snowy mountain lived a husk, or community, of mountain hares.  Hares are similar to rabbits in a number of ways, but it would be a mistake to call them a rabbit.  They can get rather disagreeable if you do.

The husk of hares loved their mountain home in both the summer and the winter.  In the summer they grew brown fur and munched on the moist green grass that grew between the rocks.  In the winter they grew thick white fur that kept them warm, and ate bark and twigs from the stunted trees that grew there.  They lived so high on the mountain that they have very little trouble from anyone.  The one exception was when the jackrabbits from the foothills below would wander occasionally up the mountain during the summer and try to eat their green grasses.  When this happened, one of the mountain hares would sound the alarm, and all the other hares would come and work together to chase the jackrabbits back down the mountain.

Among the husk of hares, there was one foolish young hare that always seemed to want attention.  He would talk in silly voices, make fun of himself, tell stupid jokes, and even pretend to trip and fall just to get all the other hares to laugh.  The foolish hare seemed willing to do almost anything to be the center of attention, and often it worked.  The other hares would laugh and point at the foolish hare's antics and silliness, and the foolish hare would feel very good about all the attention he was getting.

One day, an old hare took the foolish hare aside and said, "You do realize that people laughing at you is not the same as having real friends, don't you?"

The foolish hare scoffed at the old hare.  "Everyone loves me.  Look how they laugh when I tell a joke.  Look how much attention they pay to me."

The old hare shook his head.  "They laugh because you are acting like a clown.  They don't respect you.  And you haven't done the real work it takes to make and keep good friends."

The foolish hare became angry.  "You are just mad because you don't get the attention that I get.  You are jealous of how popular I am."

The old hare answered, "I would rather be respected than get the attention given to a fool."  And with that the old hare hopped away.

Months later, on a sunny summer day, the foolish hare was off by himself eating some delicious green grass on the side of the mountain.  While he was busy eating, a number of big jackrabbits from the foothills snuck carefully past him and headed high onto the mountain belonging to the husk of hares.  The jackrabbits ate up lots of the mountain hares' moist green grass before they were discovered and chased back down the mountain by a group of hares.  

This group of hares noticed the foolish hare munching away on grass, and approached him.  One of them said, "Why did you not raise the alarm when those jackrabbits invaded our mountain?"

The foolish hare answered, "I didn't see them.  They must have snuck around me."

One of the other hare's said, "We think you saw them, and were just too lazy to sound the alarm."

Another said, "Or perhaps you saw them, and were just too stupid to sound the alarm."

And another said, "Or you saw them, but made a deal with them to let them go by."

The group of hares brought the foolish hare back to the husk, and accused him of these things in front of all the other mountain hares.  Everyone was very angry at the foolish hare and there was talk of kicking him out of their community and making him leave the mountain.

The foolish hare pleaded with them.  "They snuck around me and I never saw them.  I'm not lazy, or stupid, and I would never betray you.  This could have happened to anyone."

All the other mountains hares just stared angrily at the foolish hare and were very quiet.  The foolish hare became nervous and asked, "Will none of my friends here speak up for me?  I don't understand why no one is defending me.  I didn't do anything wrong.  Why will none of you stand up for me?"

The old hare hopped forward from the crowd.  "As I warned you before, it is a fool that thinks everyone who laughs at him is his friend.  And now the fool has learned that he has no friends that will speak up for him.  Leave the husk, get off our mountain, and never come back."

(Hávamál Stanza 25)

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Creating a Scheduled Events Calendar for Your Kindred

One of the great benefits of being in a kindred, is your close association and cooperation with other Heathens that you trust and enjoy being around.  A kindred represents your close inner-circle of friends.  You share group-identity with the other members of the kindred, and live in true Frith with one another.  You learn together, accomplish things together, exchange ideas and thoughts on things, your children play together, and in many ways it is like a close-knit extended family.

One of the difficulties that can come up in a kindred is getting everyone together at one time.  Kindred members have different work schedules, different outside activities they have committed to attend, family obligations, and things they need to accomplish around their homes each week.  So, trying to schedule an impromptu event every week or every month can be quite a challenge.  Having regularly scheduled kindred events and an events calender is way around this problem.  So, while the topic of this essay may not sound like the most interesting of hits directly on when your kindred gets together and what you accomplish as a group.

For example, Jotun's Bane Kindred has a kindred event scheduled every two weeks.  We plan out our schedule in November for all of the following year.  We decide what events will be private events (for kindred members only), semi-private events (for kindred members and invited friends of our kindred), and public events (open events that anyone can attend).  We put our road trips to visit other kindreds and to attend heathen gatherings on the schedule, as well as our study groups, fainings, trash-pickup days, social events, and everything else we plan to do the following year.  We've been scheduling our events a year in advance for 4 years now, and this essay represents what we've learned during that time.

It is possible that one person in the kindred, perhaps someone in a leadership position, could decided on what the event schedule would be and then give that schedule to the rest of the kindred members.  I don't think this is a particularly wise course of action.  As with most issues of importance in a kindred, things run more smoothly if everyone's ideas and input are considered, and then a discussion is had within the kindred until a consensus is reached.  The best way to create an event schedule is to have a kindred meeting, have a blank calendar for the next year in hand, and then create the next year's schedule as a group. 

So, if you have a new kindred or your existing kindred wants to impliment an events schedule, let's go through the various steps in the process and some things to keep in mind.
It is important to remember that just because your kindred has decided to schedule a kindred event every week, or two weeks, or every month...does not mean this is the only time kindred members can get together.  Couples can get together for dinner.  Individual members can get together to go to the movies or a concert.  Families can go to a park together.  Since the kindred is a group of close friends there is every reason to expect that kindred members will get together and hang out more often than you events schedule will reflect.  What an events schedule provides is the minimum amount of gatherings your kindred will have as a whole during the year.

The key to choosing how often to schedule events is to choose a frequency that is possible for everyone in the kindred.  A calender with unrealistically frequent scheduled events will place hardships on some or all kindred members, and will cause a situation where scheduled kindred events actually get in the way of the more casual impromptu get-togethers. 

So getting everyone's input on the frequency of events is important, as well as being ready to make adjustments to the calender is it becomes clear that the frequency of the schedule is causing serious problems.

Another question to consider is just how far in advance you want to schedule events.  You could schedule them out a few months in advance...six months in advance...or a year in advance.  Jotun's Bane Kindred has found that we benefit from making a schedule for the following year in November.  By planning out the entire next year, we have a very good idea going into the new year exactly what we hope to do and accomplish in that year.  We know what public events and Heathen gatherings we plan to host.  We know what road-trips we are going to make to visit other kindreds and attend Heathen gatherings in our region.  Best of all, we know what we will need to plan and organize in order to make that schedule succeed.

It can be helpful if there is some consistency to when your scheduled events take place.  So with everyone's input, attempt to identify a day of the week when everyone is free to attend.  For Jotun's Bane Kindred we determined that Sunday afternoons and evenings were open for every kindred member to attend.

When you've identified a day of the week that works for everyone, then decide on what times you want to meet. This can vary based on the sort of event you are holding, but having a somewhat consistent start time helps avoid confusion.  For Jotun's Bane Kindred, we tend to start our Sunday events at 3:00 PM.  This gives us time to have an activity of some sort, eat a pot-luck meal with one another, and then have more activities, social time, or a Symbel.

It is important you choose a location for every event that is appropriate to the event you have planned.  It can be really nice to rotate private events through the homes of various kindred members.  But keep in mind that some kindred member's homes won't have enough seating for the entire kindred. 

For public events, you are better off holding them in public places (coffee shops, book stores, restaurants, bars, parks) so that complete stangers aren't being brought into a kindred member's home.  Another approach to this is to require strangers to meet with you prior to attending a public event, so you can check them out prior to having them into someone's home.

There are a wide variety of types of events you could put on the schedule.

One of the first things we do is place the holy days we are going to celebrate on our schedule.  We traditionally schedule these on our regular meteing day that is closest to the actual holy day.  Some kindreds may choose to schedule celebrations on the actual holy day (as they calculate it), but we have chosen not to do this.

It is important to consider the holidays and events of the mainstream culture.  For instance, scheduling a study group session on Mother's Day will likely result in many members not being able to attend.  Often, kindred member's already have standard activities or vacations planned for the 4th of July or Memorial Day weekend.  Staying clear of these prior obligations and plans will make your schedule better. 

You'll also want to put on the calendar any Heathen gatherings you may be attending or any visits to other kindreds you want to make.  Factoring these road-trips into your calendar up-front will avoid schedule conflicts, allow kindred members to budget for them, and allow you to RSVP for the events as a kindred.

The next thing you will want to decide is how many public events you are going to want to schedule.  Public events are open to whomever wants to attend and are normally announced and publicized as part of a kindred's educational outreach.  Public events could include:

  • Celebration of a holy day
  • Heathen workshops at a coffeeshop, bookstore, or home
  • Open study groups at a coffeeshop, bookstore, or home
  • Open fainings or blots at a park or home
  • Pubmoots at a restaurant or bar
  • Picnics at a park followed by a Symbel
  • Campouts on a kindred member's land or a campground
  • Trash pick-ups or other service projects
  • Attending a nordic festival or museum as a group
  • Going to a German restaurant as a group
  • Hosting a Heathen gathering

While public events are fun and serve a positive purpose, holding too many public events takes away from private time for the kindred itself to gather.  This is especially true for the celebration of holy days.  For instance, Jotun's Bane Kindred does hold a public event during Ostara, but we have always kept our Yule celebration completely private. So there needs to be a healthy balance between fully public events, private events that friend are personally invited to attend, and events that are purely private.

Private events can be nearly anything, ranging from events with a deeply spiritual Heathen focus to events that are entirely social and have very little direct connection to Heathenry.  And some are a combination.  Again, you will want a healthy balance between events with a heathen focus and those with a social focus.  Some examples:

  • Celebration of holy days
  • Fainings or blots followed by a feast and Symbel
  • Traveling to visit another kindred or Heathen gathering
  • Study groups, discussion groups, and workshops
  • Camping, hiking, or fishing
  • Going out to a restaurant, concert, or sporting event
  • Going to a Nordic festival or museum
  • Craft nights
  • Activities, outings, or classes for children
  • Movie nights at someone's home
  • Games, contests, and challenges

There may be events that get priority and reoccur more often than others.  Some kindreds may want to have at least one faining or blot every month.  Others may want a study group session on a monthly basis.  Jotun's Bane Kindred decided early on that we would have a Pubmoot or public event at least every 2 months.  So, if there is some function or event you want to give some priority to, just make sure that is represented on your finished calendar.

Your goal is to come up with a balanced schedule that everyone in the kindred is excited about.  So getting input from everyone is important.  Don't forget to put a scheduling meeting on your schedule toward the end of the year, so that you can plan the next year's events.

The hope of course is that every kindred member will want to be at every scheduled event, and will do everything possible to prioritize their time accordingly so that they can be at every event.

Part of prioritizing one's time, is using all of your time wisely so that you get the things you need to get done in life at times when kindred events are not scheduled.

Obviously, there are reasonable causes to miss a scheduled kindred event.  Work obligations, funerals, medical emergencies, weddings, and other important circumstances can prevent attendance at an event.  But even in these circumstances, the kindred member who must miss an event has an obligation to let the rest of the kindred know with as much advance warning as possible.

One type of event that runs into unique attendance problems is a kindred road-trip to visit another kindred or attend a Heathen gathering.  These events depend on gas and food money, dependable transportantion, the ability to be gone for several days, and sometimes registration fees.  There are times when a kindred member or family will not be able to attend due to finances, inability to get time off, or car troubles.  Again, this is completely understandable as long as the kindred member gives the kindred as much warning as possible.

Another part of prioritizing one's time that is often neglected is thinking ahead, and making sure you hold back enough time on your personal schedule to assist the kindred in getting ready for a big public event or gathering the kindred is hosting.  Many events take a lot of work and time to organize and bring off successfully, and it works best if every kindred member has made the time to help with planning and preparations.

Make every effort to not move or reschedule events.  By creating a schedule, you are asking every kindred member to prioritize these events and to actively shape their personal schedule in a way that allows them to attend all of the events.  When you move an event, you throw a proverbial wrench into the works.

When you attempt to move an event to accomodate one member that can't attend, you put hardships on the other kindred members.  Often, moving an event for one member makes it difficult or even impossible for other members to attend.  You also risk creating a culture where members don't feel the need to work very hard to keep their personal schedule in line with the kindred schedule.  You may unintentionally create the impression that a kindred member can double-book on a day you have a kindred event scheduled, because, "You'll just move the event for me anyway."

There will be some events that some kindred members will have to miss because important obligations in their lives get in the way.  That's life.

Once you have scheduled events for the next year, you can publish or provided the full calendar to every kindred member, so that they can integrate that schedule into their personal calendars or plans.  You can invite friends to the events that the kindred has agreed to allow friends to attend.  And you can publically publish or provide a list or calendar of the public events you are holding.

This can be done printed out on a simple piece of paper.  It is also possible to self-publish a calendar on any number of print-on-demand on-line services.  You can also distribute this information by email, Facebook message, or by posting it on a website.  The idea is to ensure that the appropriate information regarding the schedule is easily available and is delivered to the appropriate audience.  The public at large does not need to know when or where you private events are being held, but it is important that the public at large be made aware of your public events.  At the same time, your kindred members need a handy place to check the schedule whenever they have a question or are making plans.

I think having a scheduled events calendar and putting it together in the way I've described here can benefit a kindred in many ways.  First of all, it ensures that the kindred is getting together as a whole on a regular basis.  It allows for the kindred to plan ahead to future events, and prepare and organize them properly.  It allows you to publish a list or calender of your public events far in advance, allowing interested people to plan their personal calendars around your public events.  It allows kindred members to plan their own personal calendars around all of the events on the kindred's calender, and to prioritize their time and their lives around those events.  Bringing all of these benefits together, the end result is your events, both public and private, will be better organized, more successful, and better attended across the board. 

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods