Membership & What to expect
Wild Thorn Hollow embraces a multi-level membership structure that we believe reflects the natural progression of involvement in a spiritual community. Ours is different from the types of degrees systems utilized by many traditions in that there is no emphasis placed on following a pre-set teaching/learning structure, or achieving a certain sets of skills. Aside from the initial, preliminary stage of Seeker membership, there is no set amount of time spent at each level, and progression is very individualized, based on the specific member’s spiritual development and involvement in the tradition. In a sense, our membership structure is more about recognizing and commemorating the moments when our members naturally reach these milestones as a result of pursuing their own path within the Hollow, rather than pushing our members to achieve ranks. Ours is a community where the emphasis is placed on the individual path, and where members can jump in and get involved to the level they feel comfortable with.
The initial stage of membership in Wild Thorn Hollow is that of the official Seeker. All new members start out in a preliminary stage that precedes full membership. During the Seeker stage, the intent to join has been established, and individuals are recognized as prospective members. The understanding is in place that the prospective member is taking stock of the tradition, and that the existing tradition members are taking stock of the prospect.
The Seeker stage of membership lasts for a pre-determined amount of time, and at the end of this period, the prospective member’s potential for continued membership will be evaluated, and a decision will be made. For solitary members who join the Hollow, the pre-determined time period of prospective status is 6 months. Twice a year, we will hold a membership “clean up” – taking stock of where our most recent group of Seekers stands, and touching based with any older members who have become in active. Our goal is to foster a strong and active community of invested members, not simply to add numbers to our ranks. We have no problem with the reality that occasionally members will drift into new directions, and peoples’ paths might evolve in a way that means that our tradition is no longer the right place for them. Should this point be met, we completely understand and harbor no ill will in the parting of ways. Doing regular cycles of membership clean up simply helps us to ensure that the energy within our community stays fresh, and our membership stays full of invested and exciting individuals.
In smaller groups within the tradition, the period of time dedicated to the preliminary stage of Seeker membership may be different from the 6-month time period for solitary members. This is because the dynamic is different in a smaller and more intimate group. Covens, for example, come together more frequently, focus their energy more intently on a smaller group of people, and offer their Seekers more opportunities to jump in and get involved. Therefore, the period of time needed to evaluate the potential for continued involvement may not be as long. Individual groups within the tradition are free to modify the time period for Seeker membership as they feel appropriate.
So, what does it take to make the leap from prospective into permanent membership? In Wild Thorn Hollow, we’re not about degrees or ranks, and we don’t have pre-established lists of lessons to learn or tasks to accomplish in order to move forward. For a Seeker to move onto the next stage, the main thing that we need to see is potential. There needs to be a “fit"...a sense of connection…a sense on the end of the new member that they have found their home and their tribe, and a sense on the end of the tradition that the new member will make a positive contribution to the future, growth, and community of the Hollow. The best things a Seeker can do are to attempt to be open and genuine, participate actively, and show some enthusiasm and investment.
Once an individual moves beyond the preliminary stage of Seeker membership, they move onto the Watcher stage. Watchers are regarded as regularmembers of Wild Thorn Hollow – fully established and participating – but not yet initiates of the tradition. These members may range anywhere on their personal paths from very new to Paganism, to well-established in their personal paths, but still newer to the Hollow.
Within the Hollow, Watchers may be regarded a bit like the “sentinels” of the tradition. Their presence and participation is vital to the tradition, and to keeping it full of fresh and flowing energy. They provide the energy of newness and growth, bring a constant influx of new ideas to the table, and they help to keep watch over what the Guardians of the tradition establish and continuously work to build.
For a Watcher, membership is all about experiences. The focus for Watchers is on further developing their own spiritual path, strengthening their sense of spiritual identity, and finding their place within the Wild Thorn Hollow community. This stage of a Wild Thorn Hollow member’s path is about learning and growing through doing, and about becoming more fully defined in a spiritual sense. This means that it’s likely that a Watcher’s membership will lead down one of two paths. On the one hand, the growth and development that is found here may lead a member to the realization that the Hollow is not necessarily the place for them. This is part of the purpose that this stage of membership serves – so that members may have time to learn this and come to this realization prior to making the additional commitment of initiation. On the other hand, a Watcher may find that they truly thrive and flourish within the Hollow, and may come to feel that their place within Wild Thorn Hollow is part of what defines them spiritually. As a member comes to this place, it is likely that the initiates of the tradition will see this as well, and the Watcher will likely move toward being invited to initiate into the tradition.
Guardians are the initiated members of Wild Thorn Hollow. Initiation comes about when a member has reached that placed where their fellow members can look at them and see that their spiritual identity is evident and their contributions to the tradition are clear. By the time a member initiates into the tradition, they should be well-established in the community, and have a well defined sense of their spiritual selves – of course with the understanding that part of Paganism is being a perpetual student.
For the Guardian, a new layer comes into play in what their place in the tradition is all about, beyond simply focusing on the development of their personal paths. By taking the step of initiation, Guardians take on the added responsibility of focusing on the growth and development of the tradition itself. They have demonstrated a personal level of investment in the tradition, and become the voice of the tradition. Following initiation, they make contributing to the tradition and tending to its well-being a part of their personal focus. They are not necessarily tasked with "leadership," unless they go on to take on additional roles such as coven/group leader, or choose the path of ordination. However, their voices, thoughts, and opinions carry a bit more weight, because they have already proven themselves as committed members.
Because we are a tradition that is low on structure and rules, most everything that gets accomplished in the tradition is done through volunteer action. Therefore, most of what Guardians do will still be done on a volunteer basis. However, the expectation is that they will take on a little more of the share of responsibility for making things happen in the Hollow. For example, even Seekers and Watchers may volunteer to help with the planning of a tradition event. However, Guardians would likely be the ones to volunteer to head the committee, get the planning meetings together, and generally take responsibility for making sure that things actually happen when and where they are supposed to.
All things within Wild Thorn Hollow are intended to happen as a result of a very natural progression. There are no specific programs to follow or steps to complete in order to achieve initiation. Initiation will happen as a result of invitation when the existing initiates of the tradition feel that a Watcher has reached that place on his/her path. The primary things considered are a member’s personal level of establishment and confidence on his/her path, their passion and enthusiasm for the tradition, their willingness to get involved and help out, and their establishment of relationships within the tradition.