I received an email this morning from a national Pagan organization, announcing that my ministerial credentials had been renewed. I sent a quick thank-you in reply, then sat around shuddering at the thought of how I got them.
Perhaps I should explain. Also, I swear I’m not making any of this up.
It started, as these things often do, with the best of intentions. Trothwy — the lovely lady with whom I run a Wiccan coven — had gone through a minor medical scare, and while everything turned out to be fine, it occurred to her that if someone in the coven ended up in the hospital, the rest of us wouldn’t be able to visit.
“We need accreditation,” she reasoned. “That way, if I’m in the ICU or something, I can put the rest of you down as my spiritual advisors.”
We all agreed that this was an excellent plan that couldn’t possibly go horribly awry, and Trothwy got to work researching Pagan clergy affiliates. She finally settled on an established 501(c)(3) with a refreshingly scandal-free history and fired off a query letter to begin the vetting process. Shortly thereafter, she was contacted by a representative, innocuously named Joe, who offered to meet with us for an introductory chat. Trothwy suggested a quiet, out-of-the-way, Tolkein-themed restaurant, and we set a date for a few days hence.
When meeting with
lecherous serial killers members of the greater Pagan community, Trothwy and I usually get to the venue a few minutes early, so that we can compare notes or debrief or whatever we need to do to present a united front. As such, I was a bit surprised when I walked into the restaurant to find Trothwy already sitting across from a burly, bearded stranger, who was gabbing animatedly at her. Determining that this was the organization’s representative and not an unhinged psychopath, I walked over to the table just in time to hear:
“… but he bled to death on the porch before he could make it into the house.”
“Hi,” I said. “I’m Thumper.” And then I looked to Trothwy for direction, because I was sure she would have a perfectly logical explanation for the conversation I’d just interrupted.
“Hi Thumper, I’m glad you could make it,” Trothwy replied. “Joe was just telling me about the time he shot and killed a burglar.” Her smile was pleasantly neutral, but her eyes were panicked and desperate, like those of a rabbit warning off the rest of the warren while actively being mauled by coyotes: It’s too late for me, but you can still save yourself!
“Wow, I… can’t wait to hear about that,” I said. “Could you excuse me for just a sec? I need to run to the restroom.”
Once safely locked in a stall, I whipped out my cell phone and sent Trothwy a text that read, We need to get out of here immediately.
Her response was instantaneous: Do NOT order anything.
I returned to the table right as Joe’s lunch, a double cheeseburger platter, arrived. (Him: “Are you sure you aren’t hungry?” Us: “Positive.”) He tucked a napkin into the collar of his grubby flannel shirt, removed the bun from the burger and began tearing the meat apart with his hands, drenching each greasy morsel in ketchup before popping it into his mouth.
“Anyway, like I was saying, we don’t just let anyone in. There’s a long application process, and of course not everyone makes it through. Do you perform your rituals skyclad?”
Caught off guard but still maintaining her balance, Trothwy said that some Wiccan traditions do practice ritual nudity, and that it was a concept with which we were not unfamiliar.
“Oh, good,” Joe said with a carnivorous grin, bits of beef and ketchup speckling his beard. “Because I would dance naked with either of you.”
“OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THE TIME,” Trothwy yelped. “Thumper, we’re supposed to get together with that friend of yours.”
“Which friend?” I asked, still trying to process the unexpected omnisexual innuendo. “What are you talking about?”
Did you know that people really will kick the shit out of you under the table if you’re not playing along with a cover story, just like in the movies? Because they totally will.
“OW. RIGHT. I REMEMBER. WE LEAVE NOW.”
Joe was too caught up in the bloodied remains of his cheeseburger to give us anything more than a cursory wave goodbye, which meant we could leave without (may the Gods be ever this favorable) having to hug him. And eventually, Trothwy tracked down another chapter of the same association (“Oh, you’ve met Joe? Don’t give him our number.”), which we were able to join with only the barest of dog-and-pony shows. We got the credentials we were looking for, and of course we’ve all been in perfect health ever since.
The point here is that you have options, guys. It can be fairly easy to convince ourselves that any given opportunity is divine providence, regardless of warning signs and alarm bells, when what we want starts overshadowing the route we take to get it. And that’s when the frauds and the predators and the squelchy Joes out there start seeing opportunities of their own.
Hold out for the right fit, with the person or group that is right for you, and I promise you’ll be more fulfilled in the long run. In the meantime, just so I’ll sleep better tonight, please place your hand on the holy book of your choice and swear a solemn oath that you will never dance naked with Joe.