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    Tradition-Founding 101: suggestions and advice?

    In short: if you find yourself interested in making your personal eclectic practice (or some aspect of it) into a tradition accessible to others, how would you go about it in a practical sense?

    To be a little more lengthy...I'm naturally a creative person and inclined to share my ideas and work. I have a small but reasonably stable personal practice, and I'm slowly trying to create from this something I can share with others with mystic inclinations.

    If you were in my shoes, how would you go about this work? What kind of groundwork would you lay? What questions do you think you'd need to answer? What sort of plan would you make?
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    Re: Tradition-Founding 101: suggestions and advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastling View Post
    If you were in my shoes, how would you go about this work? What kind of groundwork would you lay? What questions do you think you'd need to answer? What sort of plan would you make?
    Some ideas I've considered:
    • collect relevant resources
    • get training in basic spiritual techniques from someone with a suitable mystic background
    • document my practices
    • write as much poetry as possible
    Last edited by Eastling; 8 Dec 2016 at 01:39 AM. Reason: Quick clarification.
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    Re: Tradition-Founding 101: suggestions and advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastling View Post
    In short: if you find yourself interested in making your personal eclectic practice (or some aspect of it) into a tradition accessible to others, how would you go about it in a practical sense?

    To be a little more lengthy...I'm naturally a creative person and inclined to share my ideas and work. I have a small but reasonably stable personal practice, and I'm slowly trying to create from this something I can share with others with mystic inclinations.

    If you were in my shoes, how would you go about this work? What kind of groundwork would you lay? What questions do you think you'd need to answer? What sort of plan would you make?
    Write about what you do and what you believe. Start with a journal, you may want to put topics at the top (things like: deities, daily practice, holy days..really any topics that you feel are part of your tradition or things that someone interested in your tradition might like to know).

    Once you sort of have your ideas sketched out, you can start writing like you are trying to explain them to other people. I always find this part is more complex (because sometimes things in my head don't want to get put into words), but also very illuminating. Read over what you have written several times.

    Then, ask someone else to read it. Ask them if any parts are unclear or if there are bits they want to know more about. Ask if they feel like they have a good understanding of what your tradition means (a good way to really see if they are on the same page as you is to ask them to rephrase the key points of your tradition in their own words and see if you think they touched on everything).

    That's where I'd start if it were me
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    Re: Tradition-Founding 101: suggestions and advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastling View Post
    If you were in my shoes, how would you go about this work? What kind of groundwork would you lay? What questions do you think you'd need to answer? What sort of plan would you make?
    Things to think about:

    * There is a set of core Stuff to every tradition that lies under the mysticism. What that Stuff is varies, but it can include (and is not limited to):
    - purification and cleansing practices
    - awareness or meditation practices
    - energy manipulation practices
    - recitations, mantras, or prayers
    - seasonal/liturgical cycles
    - symbols and focus points

    When it's just you, all of that stuff comes out of the Heap O' Stuff that you already have or pick up while building it, organically. Large chunks of it don't have to be articulated at all. If you're trying to present it to someone else, though, they're going to need it laid out and have it taught to them, because they don't share your background.

    So if you've got a dark of winter festival of lights, you have to articulate that the model you're riffing is Hanukkah, not Christmas, for example. If you build a lot of things around star symbolism, you can't just do "star symbolism is obvious", it has to be introduced, the connections built up, and this can't be "so this star is an important symbol", it has to be done in a way that someone starts making symbolic-type connections, not intellectual-type connections.

    * similarly, people are not necessarily going to come in with the skills you are using, even people with mystical experience. Unless you had a specific bit of training or technique you used to pick up those skills, you are going to have to develop the tools that will let someone learn how to adopt an appropriate mindset or act appropriately in ritualised space. These are potentially not things that you yourself need, though they may be useful to build practice discipline for you and solidify your foundation.

    For example, I am a natural at something that for lack of a better term I will call "astral shapeshifting". If I were to build a shareable practice around some of my mystical stuff, I would have to figure out how to teach someone to do this core skill for it. That would be... fun. I've been told it's hard for many people. (Alternately, I would have to make my vetting process for the tradition include weeding out people who do not already have some of that skillset in place.)

    (... oh. Right. That's why I kickstarted that game.)

    * At the same time, do not fall into "I've suffered for my research, now it's your turn." This is more a failing of reconstructionist communities than Craft/mystical ones, but I know a lot of your stuff is flirting with both sides of that line. People will need fodder for learning, but they don't have to follow in your footsteps, read all the same sources, and so on. Build a reading list, yes, but figure out what on it would actually be necessary for someone to understand and follow along; focus on making the training in the tradition as complete and self-contained as possible. Put the rest of it on "further recommended reading" rather than "required reading".

    * figure out which things are essential practice and which are things that you do. Similarly, figure out whether it's all right for people to write their own liturgies or whether there's core poetry they have to stick with, and so on, for everything.

    * blast, there was something important and it fell out of my head while I was writing one of these bullet points.
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    Re: Tradition-Founding 101: suggestions and advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastling View Post
    If you were in my shoes, how would you go about this work? What kind of groundwork would you lay? What questions do you think you'd need to answer? What sort of plan would you make?
    So, first, there's a big difference for me between 'founding a tradition', and 'sharing stuff I have found useful in case other people also do'.

    The latter is a lot simpler.

    Definitions:
    In religious witchcraft (which I am using as example here because it's the one I'm most familiar with, and because it's a likely useful model to at least contemplate), there are a bunch of different definitions of a tradition, but the one that I think is most useful in terms of 'when do you have a solid thing' is "in order to have a tradition, you need to have three 'generations' of people using and passing down the same practices/materials/experiences".

    Generations can be quite short (comparatively), basically the amount of time necessary to fully learn the complete practices, have all the necessary ritual experiences, maybe 3-5 years. (It will often take longer, because the right people to learn a particular tradition don't necessarily show up exactly when it would be convenient, people have stuff come up in their lives that slows down teaching and learning, etc. But we're still talking less than biological generations.)

    Why this definition? This is basically the only reliable way to get a tradition that survives the death (or absence) of its founder.

    What that involves
    The other thing about this generational model is that perforce, you have to adapt some of the things that Darkhawk discussed. Three generations of people who learn the entire traditions isn't three people, almost certainly: it's probably a lot more people who come, learn part of it (hopefully getting some useful pieces for themselves) but who peel off for various reasons, before learning the whole thing.

    Again, in a religious witchcraft tradition model, the numbers can be quite high: the trad I trained in was explicitly a teaching tradition, and the numbers for when I trained are probably a bit optimistic, but useful, but basically for about 80 people in a given year who expressed a degree of initial active interest (showing up for one Seeker class) the tradition got 5 initiates out of it, one of whom continued to get a 2nd degree, and me, who is a third (and the only one of those 80 who can teach the full tradition.)

    That is, I think, very very normal in a lot of ways, and healthy. Many people who got part way into learning got some stuff they could use. And people for whom it's not the right fit should be free to go find something else! (I should note that in this case, it was almost always people filtering themselves out, rather than the group declining. I can think of a handful of people who the group declined to move forward to the next step for various reasons while I was in that group, over the course of 7 years.)

    What that means
    I think that this means, if one is being fairly sensible about it

    - Test stuff with known people who are not you before releasing it to the public. (Beta testing, basically.) Get feedback. Chew on the feedback for a while. Do a couple of rounds of iteration on it. Ideally, these will be people with some varied experiences of related practices.

    - Have some method of giving people an introduction to the larger tradition, without requiring huge amounts of ongoing time/energy on your part beyond what you'd be doing anyway. (Because huge amounts of time spent with people who don't stick around is unsustainable for keeping the tradition going.)

    So, "Here is some stuff" or "Here are some general interest pieces of it" or "Here are some intro classes about it." and making those pretty easy to manage, and only investing more personal time if people get through that and are still intrigued. Give people a way to check it out and filter themselves out easily if they want to.

    - Make sure the safety material is thoroughly built into the parts you share, as appropriate. (Safety, ethics, other 'how not to get yourself in over your head'). This may mean not sharing some practices, or only talking about them briefly, with people who have not made a commitment to the tradition or who may read parts of the material, but not all of it.

    (There are topics that will *never* be on the Seeking site, because there are too many skill dependencies for me to feel I can talk about doing them safely to someone with an unknown background: I do not want the responsibility of my having shared something that hurt someone like that. Different people draw the line on this in different places, but.)

    Taking risks yourself is one thing, but if you start presenting a larger work, people will try stuff, and they may (as Darkhawk says) be coming to it from a very different set of experiences. Sharing stuff responsibly means being very clear about the risks, as much as you can be, and about the necessary skills/etc. before someone starts.

    - Look at how other traditions and paths share stuff, especially around concepts that are complicated, significantly life-affecting, or have possible risks, especially teachers, groups, and paths, that have been around for a while.

    If a lot of different groups include something in their practice (drawing down / invocation into a person is a common one here) but don't discuss how to do it in general public sources, there may be a good reason for that.

    - Educate yourself generally about safety issues and Things People Do That Are Dangerous because they don't know about a particular risk. (I have an older blog post that touches on many of the basic issues, (part two here) but basically don't assume people understand safety precautions in public information, because there's no guarantee someone will have read or retained them from somewhere else.)

    Even if what you're mostly sharing is, say, research and artwork, knowing the places that someone might get an idea to do something dangerous can be helpful in how you present that.
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    Re: Tradition-Founding 101: suggestions and advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Darkhawk View Post
    * similarly, people are not necessarily going to come in with the skills you are using, even people with mystical experience. Unless you had a specific bit of training or technique you used to pick up those skills, you are going to have to develop the tools that will let someone learn how to adopt an appropriate mindset or act appropriately in ritualised space. These are potentially not things that you yourself need, though they may be useful to build practice discipline for you and solidify your foundation.
    This. And in ways you totally won't expect. To pull an example from my day today, non-magical technically, but highly relevant.

    I have a bunch of chronic medical issues, and they involve a) a tremendous amount of necessary self-awareness of what my body is doing so I can do more stuff, not less, and b) regular bloodwork (and doctors appointments to talk about the blood work, and and.)

    A good friend at work has some long-term health issues, but not of the same kind, and she *totally* doesn't get either part of this, from conversations we've had. Today's email exchange included "I hope the blood work is positive." which is just - totally the wrong modality.

    (Some of the blood work is 'did the last round of med changes sufficiently improve two things without making other things worse', some of it is 'have behavior changes made enough difference we don't need to add a med' and there might be a 'let's check there's nothing to worry about re: kidney function from one of two meds' test in there, I forget whether she's now satisfied with that being every 6 months rather than every 3.)

    There isn't really a positive in there! (At best, I get a "Yay, what we're doing is keeping this under control, and we don't have to make more changes, come back in 3 months." Maybe, if things go very well, eventally 6 months.)

    And yet, that's my friend's model of medical care with blood tests, that you test a thing, you treat it, and it gets solved. My model is 'you test a thing, you treat it, and it is an ongoing thing that needs significant monitoring and attention.' These are, as it turns out, vastly different mindset approaches, that bleed into a whole lot of other areas of life.

    (Plus, there's a bunch of stuff I would have more time and mental energy for if I were not monitoring all these things.)

    As you can imagine, this kind of thing also produces very different approaches to magical learning. I can teach someone who is used to this kind of self-monitoring a bunch of Craft techniques *very* rapidly, compared to someone who isn't familiar with it. (And even more so than someone who has chronic health stuff they're trying desperately to ignore.)

    One of the few people the group I trained with turned down was someone who got to the interview stage for being a student, and the interview asked about challenges you've overcome, and she just... didn't have any, even when we talked through things a bit more.

    We weren't necessarily looking for big ones, but the tradition was and is very much aimed at self-transformation, and if your life is already awesome, and you feel there isn't much challenge to deal with, a lot of that content is not going to be formed in a way that's useful to you.

    After her interview we all sort of went "Nice woman, but I don't think we're the right place." because that was too much of a leap to try and make in mindset and we pointed her at a couple of other groups in the area.

    (Given that we taught in small group classes, there was also a consideration of existing people we'd accepted as students in play: I have made a different choice a couple of times with individual students, and while they've never stuck around terribly long, I was usually glad to have made the effort. But if they didn't stick around, it just impacted me.)
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    Re: Tradition-Founding 101: suggestions and advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastling View Post
    If you were in my shoes, how would you go about this work? What kind of groundwork would you lay? What questions do you think you'd need to answer? What sort of plan would you make?
    Write fiction books and encourage the fandom meta from behind a pseudonym, probably.

    Failing that, run my Mage-Changeling-Scion mashup LARP until we lose track of when we're in character and when we aren't.
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