I’d like to share the history of how the Magical Experiments community, in Portland, Oregon came to exist.
I started practicing magic in 1993, when I was 16. From the beginning I found myself experimenting with magic and I am for the most part self-taught as I’ve never found a mentor that really fit my personality or understand my desire to experiment with magic. For that matter I never really found a community that fit me either and over the years, I began to wonder if I ever could find such a community. My own practice is very eclectic including Hermeticism, neoshamanism, Taoism, Dzogchen, Quabala, Ceremonial Magic, chaos magic, plus my own systems of magic around pop culture magic, space/time magic, and Inner Alchemy.
I originally lived on the East coast and eventually found myself on the west coast and throughout my travels I didn’t find my community. Eventually I realized I needed to create it. The original magical experiments group first started in Portland, Oregon in 2007. I held it at my place, and invited some friends who practiced magic and proceeded to teach them about my various practices. While I got lots of interest, I burned out pretty quick because I realized it wasn’t really a community…it was me teaching classes. So I stopped the group in 2008 and took a one year hiatus.
In 2009, I decided to try again. This time I set the group up with the understanding that we’d meet once a month. We’d set the meeting up around a meal, with everyone contributing to the meal. Additionally no one person would be the teacher. Instead each person would volunteer to teach everyone else about a topic of that person’s choosing. The topic could be something they were experienced in, or it could be an experiment, or something the person wanted to learn about. We also made it clear that no one’s topic should be ridiculed…that everyone should keep an open mind with the recognition that no one was asking you to do anything other than learn something new…what you chose to do with it, ultimately was up to you. Finally we made it clear that regardless of what a person’s level of experience was that person could be a teacher and that all of us could learn from someone who’d only practiced for one year just as we could learn from someone who’d practiced 20 or more years.
Since 2009, the group in Portland has run more or less uninterrupted. We’ve had some people come and go, and there’s definitely been some lessons I’ve learned about how to organize and run the group, but as a result I’ve found my community. My community is comprised of people with a diverse range of magical interests ranging from a member of the Temple of Witchcraft, to a Shamanic Astrologer, to several chaos magicians, several traditional witches, and so on and so forth. What all of us have in common is an abiding desire to learn from each other, to experiment with magic, to respect each other’s paths, and to work together.
The group has expanded from one potluck meeting a month with a class, to weekly meditation night and game night, as well as the occasional movie night and at some point we hope to set up a second meeting on a weekend to do magical rituals together. Here’s some of the rules we’ve come up with for the Portland, Oregon chapter. I share these with you as a guideline for how a magical experiments chapter can run a successful group.
1. Each month a different person presents. When someone new joins, they get preference for being able to present. It is expected that at some point each person will present.
2. Dates are selected three times a year…this makes it easier to not plan to far in advance, because as we all know schedules change, but also gives people enough notice to put the dates in their calendars.
3. Each person brings part of the meal and brings enough for everyone there…For example if you haven’t 17 people attending, plan on bringing enough for 17 people.
4. An existing member may bring a guest, but its up to the discretion of the hosts as to whether the person can join the group. If something seems off about a person or they seem unstable, we don’t want that energy in our group and as hosts my wife and I feel its important to be gatekeepers for our community and also for our own safety. A guest needs to attend one meeting before being invited to join the group as a member.
5. The group isn’t publicly advertised. It’s a private group because some people aren’t out of the closet and everyone who attends understands that its important to respect the privacy of the other members.
6. While attendance isn’t mandatory, members should do their best to attend. Occasionally people will miss meetings, but ideally people are committed to the community and as such are attending and participating regularly. If someone can’t make the meetings for an extended period of time, we ask them to let us know.
A new chapter of this community was formed in New York State and other people have since expressed interest in creating this own version of magical experiments. I love the idea that people want to take this version of community and replicate it wherever they are. I’m happy to help with that process by answering questions you might have about my experiences with putting such a group together. There are a couple requests I have, in return.
1. If you want to create your own magical experiments group, contact me to let me know, as Magical Experiments is also the name of this website and part of how I brand myself as a magician and teacher in the community.
2. It’s very important you are open-minded. The whole point of experimentation is to do something different, to explore and test and challenge yourself as well as what is accepted as rote knowledge and tradition in the Pagan community. Thus if you form such a community, seek out a variety of perspectives and experiences.
Some day its my hope that if enough magical experiments communities are formed, there might even be regional or national meetings held where we can meet each other. In the meantime, if you need help or advice in forming and sustaining your magical experiments community, contact me.