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Oh No, not Another Witch War!
By Judy Kay Craft
Two or three years back, when both of my pagan acronyms were having political contretemps, I attended an alternative lifestyles meet and greet at a large restaurant. People were kvetching about still another lifestyle group splitting up, and abusing each other. Not abuse in a fun, kinky way, but in a nasty, accusations flying, friendship shattering sort of way. I mentioned some pagan groups' problems, and some similar problems in gaming groups. Then I reminisced about problems in fandom groups, like when many people suddenly quit one local Trek group and defected to the Klingons. I mused out loud about small, fringe groups. Was the problem being a fringe group, or a small group? Do asynchronous electronic communications make it easier to be rude? Do archives just facilitate grudges? Or was I the problem? Maybe my Venn diagram has too many intersecting sets, and my friends and I were creating our own problems?
This navel gazing was arrested by a fascinating tale from my across the table neighbor about his vanilla wife and her amateur clown society.
Clowns, he explained, have an in-character hierarchy. And the costuming indicates the hierarchy. Big shoes, wild crayon color hair, low status. The more clown white and the less red greasepaint on the face, the higher the status of the clown. There was a noticeable silence until someone piped up “You mean mimes are the highest status clowns?”
"And people think we’re kinky," said the women to my right.
The hierarchy is very important in choreographing the physical comedy routines. Low status clowns can be pied or seltzered by anyone of the same or higher status. Medium status clowns could seltzer other medium status clowns, but could be pied only by those of high status. High status clowns could seltzer each other, but only pied those of lower status. Higher status clowns were the arbiters of status changes, and had veto power over costuming and makeup design. Our narrator stressed that his wife was a medium status clown, working her way up. Her friend was a newcomer, one of those had to wear a lot of garish makeup and big clown shoes. She had very little status, but was a hard worker, and very organized, and become a go-to volunteer.
The newcomer got elected secretary, and did a great job. They got substitutes for busy team members rather than canceling gigs because she managed to get the telephone tree working efficiently. As an award, they promoted her in character, so she wore smaller shoes and a less garish wig, despite her physical comedy skills not being quite up to snuff. The next year, she was elected vice president and she was doing a bang up job. She added nursing home gigs to their schedule, they had more members, and with more gigs, more teams which meant more chances for advancement. But Ms. Newcomer wanted to be a high status clown. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass the audition and some older members with higher clown status didn’t want to lower their standards. Then, during a performance, she pied her team leader, the highest status clown in the club. Yes, he was the leader of the old guard; the one she and her friends thought had blackballed her in-character promotion. Some people called for her to resign her post, for she had broken the in-character pie code. Others pointed out that she was doing a great job, they had a newsletter, and they were getting new members, having more gigs and thus creating new teams. Okay, maybe her clown skills weren’t the best, but she was an asset to the society. After months of fighting, the group had split into 3 much smaller groups, and many less hospitals and nursing homes were visited. But our narrator was kind of glad, because his vanilla wife was considered coming to the next meet and greet, as long as there wouldn’t be any nasty small group politics.
The infighting in the alternate life style group eventually lost them a great dungeon space, and the group didn’t survive that loss. Me, I never got to meet the vanilla amateur clown. But I did grok that witch wars aren’t unique to pagans, we’re all human. I say, "Witch war", you say "fan feud", let’s call the whole thing off!
Blessings Bright & Dark,
Judy Kay Craft