I never responded to House Arcanum’s email. Given the ways in which he misunderstood and/or mischaracterized my arguments, I was uncertain whether any good could come of continuing the exchange. I honestly considered walking away from the Heartland Pagan Festival and the HSA altogether, and trying to convince everyone I have ever spoken to to do the same. Before I could decide what the most appropriate and effective response would be, I was contacted by one Mr. Crane, a third party who has thus far recused himself from from the public debate, and informed that H. Arcanum would be writing me again soon to suggest an in-person meeting as a more effective way of dealing with this conflict. What follows is that exchange.
V. “Expressions and Healing”: House Arcanum’s Offer of Diplomacy
Now that our expressions of anger have been aired, I would very much like to open a calmer dialogue. If you would be amiable to the idea, I would like to sit down, face to face, and discuss both the main ritual arc and the email exchange that took place as a result.
Contrary to how you may feel about me, I assure you that I am human and as such am receptive to the feelings of others as well as being a complex knot of emotion and conviction myself; just like everyone else. Those same emotions lead me to defend my efforts and those of my team in the manner I felt they were attacked. If your intention was merely one of constructive feedback and not the savage, dehumanizing attack I perceived it as, then I apologize for my tone and would take this opportunity to point out that our intent is not always conveyed successfully through our message; the very crux of the issue at hand.
Those same emotions and convictions also lead me to try to learn to be more sensitive and responsive to those of other people. My own history has taught me how to be callous, damaging and calculating when attacked; all defaults in modes of thinking i’m trying to unlearn. However, I will not apologize for things I don’t feel we did wrong. To do so feels like a simple placation, would be insulting to you, debasing to me and the SEC team and would serve no purpose. I will say that I am truly sorry for what some people took away from our work. Those experiences are not at all what we wanted.
From all the feedback as a whole, it seems the work had a broad spectrum of effect; some desirable and some undesirable. Either way, not all of its effect could ever be calculated or foreseen. The simple fact is, we built a work around death in the tarot sense; around “burying dead horses,” so to speak, and around freeing oneself from unnecessary burdens. That was the theme I was given and that’s what my team and I felt, and still feel, we put together. Not everyone is at a stage with every wound where they can bury them and the timing for some was unfortunate. Each wound takes its own time to heal, I do understand that. I understand that from my own experiences and I know some wounds are not ready to be healed. I personally have some wounds that I am not ready to heal; I’m sure we all do.
The words in your email carried a lot of weight. Perhaps more so because I am keenly aware of the failings in my efforts on the main arc. The things I would do different, which I outlined in my response, are true and just like I said then, I know we didn’t do everything the way we planned it. It is my firm opinion that no plan ever survives impact with reality fully intact. That being said, there are ways to increase the probability of action being more in line with intent and will. In the future I will certainly implement the things I’ve learned both here and over the past year.
Both in your email and the email that was forwarded to me from the vendor, people talk about safety. About how Heartland is a safe place to be yourself; to express yourself. That’s what I did. I’m an artist at heart and the work we offered was an artistic expression of an idea. Those two concepts taken together, Heartland should be a safe place for expression of art on a spiritual level. On that front, I would ask for the same rights as anyone else. Like any offering of the process of art, it is open to interpretation, critique and criticism but in the end, it is all the art and science of expression. However it is framed, criticism is the critic telling the artist how they would have done it. As it was pointed out to me yesterday, to go further into the specifics of ritual, the analogy breaks down and the participants become co-creators. In that respect, after the work is designed, it falls to all involved to execute it.
I hope you will entertain the idea of meeting in person so we may re-humanize each other. I’m sure there is far more to you than I have seen and I would like the opportunity for you to see more of me than a single artistic expression, which you did not care for, and my anger. Please consider it.
Than you for your time.
Yours in Will,
V. The Exchange As I Struggled To Come To A Decision
H. Arcanum —
I have received both your emails, and read both multiple times. I am still attempting to formulate an articulate response.
When I wrote my first email, I was attempting to convey to you how utterly betrayed by the SEC my people and I felt, and to express the very real degree of harm your ritual did, without actually crossing the line into attacking or dehumanizing. Apparently, I failed at that and I apologize.
I believe that will I need another few days to come to a decision.
— Satyr Magos
Fair enough. I will wait a time with patience. I sincerely hope we can come to a resolution that is amiable on both fronts. As a general rule, I’m not a fan of conflict.
VI. My Ultimate Response
House Arcanum —
After careful consideration, I have come to agree that an in-person meeting is probably the best way to go at this point. With that said, however, I also think that it would be in both our interests to have a mediator present. Thankfully, Mr. Crane has already volunteered himself in that capacity. When would you available for such a meeting? I am in the process of contacting Mr. Crane for his schedule. I have not yet received my work schedule for next week, but in all likelihood I will be wide open. (One of the advantages of being a semi-employed student on summer break.)
In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to read (or re-read) the links I have already provided you, as well as the following:
They will better prepare you for the arguments I intend to make. Yes, many of those links are specifically speaking of American rape culture and apologia. No, I am not accusing you of rape, of making rape jokes, or of engaging in rape apologia; it is simply that all of the fundamental arguments apply to this situation as well. For instances of “rape” in these essays, read “gendered violence”.
If you have any documentation you would like me to read before the meeting, please, feel free to send it.
VII. House Arcanum’s Reply
I’m glad to have the opportunity. I think having Crane there is an excellent idea. I love and respect him very much. I would also extend the invitation to any who would like to come.
I do not do this out of any desire to intimidate or “face my accusers” but, out of a genuine desire for healing.
People in my camp have also expressed interest in coming. Probably no shock to you but, my friends tend to be a little militant so, I have asked them not to come. I think their presence would be inhibiting. The only concession I would like to make is Alexandros. He has been on the SEC team for the entire year, he filled the role of male facilitator in the works themselves and has an understandable stake in it. I think it would be a great disservice to exclude him.
In the interest of full disclosure, the FB thread also came to my attention. Not through Mr. Crane but, through other concerned and well meaning sources. There were some very enlightening things posted to it. I learned a great deal and harbor no ill-will about anything said there. Arguably, it could be said that it is a private venue and I did go back and forth on whether I should even be reading it but, in the end the very public nature of social networking won the day. I value the candidness with which it allowed me to view the opinions of people posting on it.
One of my concerns regarding the FB thread is how many people said they were going contact me on this issue. I have not received any emails other than yours and one that was forwarded to me originating from [REDACTED]. I hope after meeting with me people will feel more open to sending constructive criticism. I am very interested in feedback. I know what I would be thinking at this point if I were you; “I offered you constructive criticism and you turned into a giant, flaming douche bag.” We have already discussed the emotions and perceived motivations there. I do learn quickly and in the future, my responses, regardless of perceived intent, will be both tempered and deliberate.
As far as a time goes, I’m currently unconventionally employed and, unless I have a show, I’m pretty open. I am very anxious to put this bed. I think too much energy from too many people has already been expended and am looking forward to taking steps to rectify it. Days are best but, evenings are totally doable. Outside of Kung Fu, I have very little demand on my evenings.
I look forward to meeting you in person.
Your in Will,
You may be unsurprised that my friends can be militant as well. I think each of us having a “second” (if one will forgive the dueling analogy) to help keep us honest and facilitate discussion is an excellent idea. More than that, however, would quickly become a chaotic crowd, making genuine dialogue difficult at best.
Given our mutual status as gentlemen of leisure, then, scheduling revolves largely around the availability of Mr. Crane, Alexandros, and whomever volunteers to be my second. As per Mr. Crane’s request, I am carbon-copying him on this email. He has suggested scheduling a three-hour block to provide us time both for a full discussion and a grounding rite afterward. This sounds solid to me. What are your thoughts?
As to the people who have not yet sent you their letters: they all have full time jobs, as well as second jobs, summer school, and/or children. Even the ones who (as I do) identify as writers have been a little busy. There is a reason I told you their letters would be arriving “in the coming weeks.” Further, although I understand your desire to have this resolved as quickly as possible, the fact is that, as you said, different people take different amounts of time to heal. It takes a certain degree of healing before addressing the issue isn’t just more salt in the wound. Their accounts will come in their own time. Hopefully, though, at least one or two will arrive before our meeting.
I expected that the FB thread would come to your attention sooner rather than later. While I would have taken the response you provided public eventually, had I not been so infuriated by your utter dismissal of my complaint (and, in fact, the explicit catharsis you took from the experience), it would have been a bit later rather than sooner and I would have informed you before I did so. The note became public rather than f-listed, honestly, because facebook’s privacy settings are idiotic and difficult to manage. And, again, because I was furious. I apologize for that. As to your decision not to engage in the facebook discussion, I probably would have made the same call, given that the only person defending you on the FB note was not engaging in anything that could be called productive argument.
In the meantime, once a meeting has been set, it is my plan to post the more recent exchanges to facebook as well, so that your voice is more fully represented. Ultimately, the entire exchange and its conclusion will appear on facebook and my blog. This ritual and the responce[sic] to it are iconic of what I feel to be some of the largest problems in the neo-Pagan and magical communities today.
Again, I bring myself to apologize for my rough-hewn communication skills. It was never my intention to say that it was my dismissal of your feelings that was cathartic. That would be an even bigger douche bag maneuver than what I actually wanted to convey. It was the process of writing the email, not the content in particular, that helped me expunge my pain and anger. You may understandably struggle to separate the two but, it really was not my intention to say, “I hurt you and now that I’ve told you how much I don’t care, I feel so much better.” But, rather to say, “you angered and hurt me and now that I focused that anger, sent it out into reality and am rid of it, i feel so much better.” In either case, it was reactionary and calculatedly hurtful; I own that.
I like the idea of a second. (it reminds me of one of my favorite Firefly episodes) Honestly, I think Alexandros may need a second of his own. Just as my email exploded and ignited fires all over your social landscape, yours did the same on my side. Over all I feel very good about the five number limit. It’s magically significant to me as the number of hagalaz. The needed disassembly of the established paradigm to make room for new growth and moving forward.
I think a three hour block is generous. I will probably clear my schedule for the day, and bookend the meeting with drawing. This is a huge learning opportunity for me and I don’t want to cut it short or minimize it in any way. I also think that a grounding work afterwards would be a fine idea. To me, the entire process is charged with intent and will; my idea of the very essence of magic. I can’t think of a better way to release the energy and allow it to do it’s work.
As for the incoming communications, I will again wait a time with patience. I just didn’t want to continue to appear so callous as to not be approachable in any fashion.
No apology is needed for you anger. I honor it now (something I was not capable of doing immediately following your email) as much as my own. I have been complimented on my wit but, it’s the very thing my default settings turn into a searing weapon first. My response was carefully crafted to make you as angry as I was. (perhaps this is where the magnitude of my asshole-ishness is most apparent. I broke my own tenets and did not honor a principle of the House, the first tenet of the House, that could have had us navigate around the anger but, still through the issue) Again, it’s a setting I’m trying to unlearn. With [Redacted]’s help, as well as others I won’t name simply because I doubt you know them, I’ve come a long way and with this whole experience, I plan to move much further.
Alexandros is currently also unconventionally employed so, I think it falls to Mr. Crane’s schedule and that of who you bring to be the determining factor.
Inevitably, a long set of negotiations followed regarding the precise time and place of the meeting. Perhaps appropriately, the meeting time was acceptable but less than ideal for all involved. Aradia agreed to serve as my second.
The meeting, as mentioned in the Introduction, was bound under a confidentiality agreement. I can say that, despite protestations that it was unlikely, we ended up using all of the three hours allotted. There were definitely tense moments. At points I wondered if House Arcanum and I were actually speaking the same language, or if we were actually possessed of magical dialects that where somehow composed of exactly the same words but which meant nothing similar. Aradia, Mr. Crane, and even Alexandros were frequently called upon to bridge the communication gap. Ultimately, however, my point was made. An apology was promised. Within the week, that apology came.