Two years ago, I had this little nugget of an idea for a group of women. I knew I wanted to call it The Black Hat Society. I also knew I would prefer it to be a women-only group. And… I knew I wanted the group to be mostly for older women who practiced magic. And to me, that was the key: I wanted real practitioners – not dabblers or wannabes or those with only a passing interest.
A close friend of mine hashed out details with me. She had a few ideas, and added to my own the “Black Hat Society – Reno” was born. I put a lot of time into organizing that first meeting. I advertised everywhere I could think of. When it finally came time for the first meeting, I was nervous – would anyone besides my friend show up?
We were pleasantly surprised – we had a modest attendance at that very first meeting. And with the exception of one woman who moved away, and another who just never came again, the women have stayed. And we grew – we’re not big, but we’ve managed to keep our numbers about the same month after month after month.
I feel as if I’ve been lucky in that the woman who have become members are women I adore. They’re nice. They contribute, both their time and sometimes their homes. But as with any fringe group, there are bound to be a few infiltrators that come in that don’t fit in.
A few months ago, we had a monthly open meeting and not one, not two, but three women came who had never been before. And I can honestly say I didn’t want any of them there. Ever. Again.
One woman was actually a man, I think. Well, that’s the general consensus, anyway. And he/she spoke a lot about sex – about wanting it, about getting it, about missing it. Another was new to the Craft – and it was doubtful she even practiced. She just decided one day that she wanted to be a witch, and boom, showed up at our meeting. The third, well, I’ve come in contact with her at other meetings around town – she’s a dabbler. She might actually practice magic, but she doesn’t really stick to any one group. She flits around and while nice, is kind of flaky.
The list for the group is private. I don’t invite people to join unless they are actual members. So, I made up my mind that night that I was not going to invite these women to join. While they all gave me their email addresses, in fact, pressed me to take them, I didn’t invite them to join. Thankfully, they’ve never returned to an open meeting.
Around the same time, another woman came to try us out. She moved here from Oregon and practices green magic. She’s into herbs and global warming and cleaning the house with herbal concoctions instead of store bought substances. In Oregon, she was in charge of several groups. So while I found her to be nice, I also watched as she subtly took over the meeting with her own agenda.
She came to a few meetings, and I was never quite happy with having her as part of the group. She could monopolize the conversation. She ws so used to being in charge that it was difficult for her to let someone else facilitate. Still, the other women seemed to like her so I made sure to include her. At some point she dropped out, and after several unanswered emails from me asking her if she was going to return, I took her off the list and breathed a sigh of relief. I had done my due diligence – she didn’t respond, and I felt my obligation was over with.
Flash forward a few more months. She started her own group and her own herbal institute. But now that she’s trying to get members, who does she come back to? That’s right: BHS. She first found out she was no longer a member when she tried to post an advertisement for her own group to our list and wasn’t able to. That’s when she contacted me and asked me to advertise for her.
I did not. But because I felt a little bad for her, (after all, I remembered what it is like to start a group from scratch) I did announce her new group at our next monthly meeting, just in case someone was interested. They all said they weren’t, and so that was that.
Her group is slow growing, so she is reaching out to me again. She came to our open meeting last night, and has been hounding me since to join our mailing group. Last night she asked if she could post her own stuff to our group. I hesitated. It felt like everyone turned to me, and not knowing how to say “no” nicely in such a public forum, I said, “sshhhhhure.”
I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept tossing and turning because I absolutely do not want her pushing her green agenda in my group. It’s great that she believes. It’s great that she has her own thing. But that’s not our thing. And my group is not an advertising venue. So I know I’ve got to regroup and say “no.”
I’ve also got another member I’ve got to deal with as well. It’s been on my mind for a long time, but the time has come for me to take a stand. I hate being the bad guy. However, I guess part of being a leader is making those hard decisions. No one really likes to do it – I found this out the hard way when I thought I’d have to leave Reno and I asked the group if anyone would like to step up and take over. No one did. You see, most people just like to follow. I can’t fault ‘em for that – it’s easy to follow. To have the schedule made out for you. To have someone else worry about scheduling and coming up with topics and teaching classes and dealing with the occasional oddball who crosses our paths.
And so here I am, filled with the knowledge that I have to do the hard thing. It’s the right thing in the long run, but hard to do. As my instructor would say, everything has a price. The price for keeping the integrity of the group is being the bad guy, and like it or not, I know I am willing to pay the price.