How to Organize a Pagan Event

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Getting Started

Festival Girl
With a few committed volunteers, your event will be a success. Image by Liam Norris/Taxi/Getty Images

Let's face it, at some point nearly all of us have read the listings of public Pagan events and festivals taking place somewhere, and wondered, "Why isn't there something near ME?" Chances are if there's nothing happening, it's because no one has taken the time to organize it yet. And if YOU think it would be a good idea, there's a very good possibility that other people think it would be a good idea. So how do you set up a Pagan event? After all, in the current economy people don't usually have a lot of money to spend, and it's hard to organize volunteers, right? Believe it or not, if you've got a small but dedicated team to work with, you can put together a Pagan event (or any other kind, for that matter) that everyone will enjoy. Here are some tips on how to make this happen.

Figure Out Your Goal

The first step, clearly, is to figure out the purpose of your event. Whether you're inviting two dozen people or two hundred, you'll need to have a goal in mind. For some people, it may be to celebrate a particular Sabbat. For others, it might be just to bring about a sense of Pagan unity. Regardless, know what you're aiming for going into it. This will give you a sense of direction, and a focus point for all of your planning.

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Form a Planning Committee

Rooftop Meeting
Your planning committee meeting can be a formal event, or you can keep it casual. Image by Kelvin Murray/Image Bank/Getty Images

Most people hate the idea of committees. But if you have one, stuff gets done. And it gets done by more than just one person. You don't need a huge formal organization -- you need a few people who are as committed as you are to making this event happen.

The easiest way to find people to be on your planning committee is to ask around the Pagan community. Talk to everyone you know -- particularly those who know a lot of other folks, like shop owners, coven leaders, etc. -- and tell them what you've got in mind. If they're on board, schedule a meeting that everyone can attend, so your planning committee can start brainstorming for ideas. Six to ten dedicated volunteers can organize an event effectively. Be sure to schedule meetings in advance so people can work around other obligations.

To get the word out to members of the Pagan community you don't know personally, ask local shop owners if you can post a notice in their store about your organizational meeting. This should, obviously, include the date and time of the meeting, and say something simple, like "Would you like to see a Public Pagan Event? We need your help! Come share your ideas at [meeting time and place]."

When your planning committee holds its first meeting, you'll need to do your best to make sure no one person dominates the entire thing. Listen to everyone's ideas, and make sure anyone who has something to say gets a chance to contribute. For this first meeting, discuss possible names for your event, dates, and potential venues. Ideally, you should do this anywhere from three to six months prior to the event taking place. You can still make it work with a narrower window of opportunity, but it's a whole lot easier if you plan well in advance.

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Time, Place, and Theme

Glastonbury Beltane
Pagan events take place all year long. Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

You and your planning committee need to figure out where and when your event is going to be held. This is crucial, and it needs to be done as early as possible, because if you need to book a location, you'll want to make reservations soon. Figure out whether your event should be held indoors or outdoors. If it's going to be inside, you'll need to determine what size venue you want - are you planning on inviting forty people, or four hundred? Outdoor venues, such as park shelter houses, tend to give you a bit more flexibility. They're also less expensive to rent, although you may be at the risk of the weather at certain times of year.

Look at your goals that you set as the purpose for your event. This will help determine the theme of your shindig -- and it's a good idea to come up with a formal name for your celebration. Even if it's something simple, like "Main Street Mabon Festival," it will make you look more organized if you have a name. Not only that, it gives people something concrete to think about, rather than just "oh, we're holding a little get-together to celebrate the harvest and stuff."

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Field Girls
Give all of your volunteers something useful to do. Image by Jeremy Rice/Cultura/Getty Images

Delegate, delegate, delegate! Delegation is one of the hardest things to do - not because people don't want to help, but because organizers are often afraid to ask. A successful event has to have people working together, and the more of them there are, the better things will go.

Did I mention you need to delegate?

Here's a simple way to do it. Remember those awesome volunteers you have on your planning committee? Give them something to do besides standing around looking pretty. You're going to put each of them in charge of a sub-committee. You don't have to call it a sub-committee if you don't want to - call them teams instead if you like. And each of those team leaders is going to be in charge of recruiting help for their teams. Each team is in charge of a different aspect of the event.

Here are some possible teams you may want to have:

  • Public Relations: Put this team in charge of designing flyers and posters, getting the word out to local shops, and distributing press releases to newspapers.
  • Fundraising: Although you can always ask for donations at the door, fundraising is a good way to raise money ahead of time. Put a team in charge of fundraising, and see what creative ideas they can come up with.
  • Cleanup: No one wants to clean up anything. But someone has to, and the best way to get it done is to assign a team to make sure trash cans are emptied, garbage is cleaned up, and floors are swept.
  • Workshops/Speakers/Entertainment: Are you planning to have guest speakers or musicians at your event? Get someone in charge of coordinating them.
  • Ritual: If you're holding a ritual, someone needs to plan it. A ritual isn't going to just happen on its own.


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Legal Stuff

Be sure to look up local laws and ordinances before you hold your event. Image by Ravi Tahilramani/E+/Getty Images

One of the most important aspects of planning a public event - Pagan or otherwise -- is to make sure all the legal mumbo-jumbo is taken care of in advance. And that means NOT the day before, but well in advance. If you're in a park or other public setting, you need to find out ahead of time what the rules and regulations are as far as noise, bonfires, etc.

Some areas may have restrictions on whether or not you can permit vendors to come in and sell products or services at your event. Find out ahead of time - you don't want to be notified the morning of your celebration that all those Tarot readers have to have a state business license on file, or that food servers need to be registered with the county Health Department.

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Create a Timetable

Create a timetable or schedule of events and activities for your event. Image by Jeffrey Coolidge/Image Bank/Getty Images

When you're planning your event, you'll need to have some sort of timetable in mind. Is your event an all-day one, at which people can come and go randomly? Or is it a set block of a few hours, where guests are expected to attend for the whole thing? Either way, you'll need to figure out what's happening and when. If you have guest speakers lined up, musical entertainment, or workshops, all of these need to be scheduled in a way that doesn't prevent anyone from learning or participating. Don't set the drum circle right next to the meditation spot and then have them going at the same time.

Most Pagan festivals include a ritual of some sort as the focus, or centerpiece, of the entire event. Whether the ritual is meant to celebrate a particular Sabbat, or simply be inclusive, make sure that you time it well. It's probably not a good idea to have a big spiral dance right after people have eaten. Likewise, leave some time before and after the ritual when nothing else is scheduled - that way, you've got some wiggle room in case a workshop runs over, or the ritual ends up being longer than you anticipated.

For tips on how to create a successful ritual for your event, be sure to read Planning a Ritual.

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The Money Issue

Festival Tents
You don't have to spend a fortune to hold a successful event. Image by Rudi Van Starrex/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Everyone knows times are tight right now. Combine that with the fact that the Pagan community tends to be very thrifty, and you may find yourself trying to organize your event with a very limited budget. Does that mean it can't be a good event? Not at all - it simply means you've got to think outside the box a bit when you're doing your planning.

First of all, consider fundraising. Fundraising isn't just asking people for money - truly successful fundraising involves offering people something in exchange for their money. Perhaps you can order t-shirts with your event's information on them - sell them for a few dollars over cost, and there's a fundraiser. Ask vendors to donate a basket of goods, and then sell raffle tickets for a dollar apiece at the event - instant fundraising opportunity!

Many times, people may not wish - or be able - to donate money, but they might be able to help out with goods and services. Need paper for your flyers? Ask someone to contribute a couple of reams. If you can't afford to buy food for the three hundred people attending your event, no problem - turn it into a potluck, ask everyone to bring a dish to share, and then you don't have to budget for food.

If you're permitted to have vendors at your event (see The Legal Stuff), then collect a vendor's fee for each booth or space. Anywhere from $25 to $75 is reasonable for a small public event in most parts of the United States. Ten vendors at $50 apiece nets you $500 that you can use to buy supplies, rent your venue, or purchase advertising.

One area where you may find yourself in a money bind is that of booking speakers or musical acts. Don't be afraid to negotiate. Certainly, speakers and musicians need to earn a living too, and there's nothing wrong with them charging you for their time. However, if you can't afford it, you're not obligated to hire them. There may well be other speakers or artists you can book at no charge at all, who will donate their time in exchange for a chance to sell their books or CDs. Instead of inviting that Big Name Pagan Author to lead your ritual and spending your entire budget, see if a well-respected local High Priestess is willing to do the work instead.

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Communications & Media Relations

Make sure your media/communications person is someone outgoing and friendly. Image by wdstock/E+/Getty Images

Make sure you have a designated media contact person. This should be the individual whose name and phone number or email address appears on all the "Get More Info" paperwork. This is the person who should be taking care of getting the word out to the local Pagan community. However, because this will also be the person who may end up talking to the press, make sure it's someone who's comfortable with public speaking and who will represent your Pagan community in the way you want the public to see you. Go for outgoing and friendly over taciturn and moody.

Your communications team should make a point of getting posters and flyers out into the community well in advance of the event. They should be visiting local Pagan businesses -- and non-Pagan businesses that have a Pagan clientele -- and talking up the event. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Meetup are a great way to get the word out to people who might not otherwise be aware of your event.

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Just Do It

Hillside Ritual
After all your hard work, your event will be amazing!. Image by Andrew McConnell /Robert Harding World Imagery/Getty Images

The big day is here! It's time for your Merry Mabon Meetup, or your Samhain Witches' Ball, or whatever you've decided to call it! Make sure that you and your planning committee arrive as early as possible to get things set up. Take care to follow your timetable as closely as possible so no one feels pushed out of the way.

When guests arrive, make sure someone is there to greet them. If you've got a program with the schedule, be sure to hand one to each guest. You might even want to include some of those "Hello, My Name Is" badges -- corny, yes, but wonderful when you've got a group of strangers together in one place. It's also a good idea to have a sign-in sheet where people can include their phone numbers or email addresses, so you can do follow-up later.

Keep in mind that there may be people attending who aren't Pagan at all. Be sure to read Making Non-Pagans Feel Welcome for tips on how to help these folks have a good time too.

Also, keep in mind that sometimes stuff goes wrong. It's not a big deal - it's a learning experience. If you can fix it easily, great, but if not, just chalk it up to Stuff To Do Different Next Time. Don't be afraid to ask guests for help during your event - if you need someone to do something, simply say something like, "You know, we're kind of short-handed on volunteers right now, would you please take this bag of recyclables to the parking lot for me? Thanks!"

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Feedback and Follow Up

Thank You Notes
Send notes of gratitude to everyone who helped. Image by Sheer Photo, Inc/Photodisc/Getty Images

The last part of your event takes place afterwards. Within a week or so of your event, meet with your planning committee one last time. Brainstorm, debrief, and get everyone's thoughts on how things went. What went well? What was a complete failure? If possible, ask guests for feedback as well, and find out what they enjoyed the most, and what they would like to see done differently as well. Use the email addresses you collected at your sign-in table, and send out a short questionnaire to find out what people have to say - and also to recruit potential volunteers for your next event!

If anyone has donated items or money, send them a thank-you note for their contribution. Likewise, if you've had artists, musicians or guest speakers, be sure to write them and let them know how much you appreciate their time.

A Few Miscellaneous Tips:

Consider whether your event should be a family one or adults only. If you're going to allow children, it's crucial that you provide something for them to do. Put one or two people -- parents, preferably -- in charge of a Kids' Zone, and include crafts, coloring pages, and games to play throughout the day. Be sure to read Why Are Kids Sometimes Unwelcome at Pagan Events?

Occasionally, people from outside the Pagan community will show up at Pagan events to cause trouble. If you think this might happen to you, it's not a bad idea to have some measure of security in place. You may want to ask your local police department to stop by and have a presence, or if you know some big, intimidating guys, you can have them stand at the entrance and keep people out who are uninvited. Don't be afraid to eject someone from an event if they've made it clear they're only there to cause trouble.

Try to be inclusive. Remember that the Pagan community consists of more than just NeoWiccans. A variety of groups -- Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, and Satanists -- may show up at your event. Don't alienate any of them by being disrespectful of their beliefs -- especially of one of the themes of your event is Pagan unity.