How to Reset Your PST

Author: Quill ofQuillsOccultSupply / Labels: ,

PST is a painfully common issue in the modern magical community.  Only through identification, education, and alternative methods can we eradicate it.

I'm talking, of course, about the phenomena known as Pagan Standard Time. 

This malady's main symptom is being habitually and unapologetically late for every Pagan/magical event--whether attending or presenting--causing a stuttering waiting period for things to begin that quickly turns an enjoyable day into a frustration.  For those of us already on a razor's edge of a timeline, this can sound the death knell for any future events.


Because the occult world has very little authority--and we like it that way--there are strong feelings on both sides of this argument.  On the pro side, we see the forefront is about our cherished individuality.  After all, organized religion (that thing that runs opposite to so many magical practices) has schedules and rules that can stifle the free expression and creativity we adore.  If we're going to dig our fingers into the mysterious occult, we've got to forge our own perspective on who is in charge and to what degree.

While it feels good (and oh so counterculture!) to always follow your own directive, it can really get in the way when you involve other people. A teaching arrangement, a coven, a public event--all these have to have some sort of schedule. Keep in mind, too, the ever-present desire to present to the outside world a formidable community can make this an issue with real weight. How much do we--and should we--care about looking "professional" to other paths and spiritual bodies?

The support in favor of Pagan Standard Time is worth exploring, as well:

  • When you create something yourself (and the magical community is by far self-made), you get to set the rules
  • Many of our people are young and impetuous; free-wheeling is their style
  • Timelines feel restrictive and unimaginative
  • Magical people adore surprises, mystery, and happenstance. What better setting could there be for these things to thrive than one without borders?

On the con side, though, are points just as important to make:

  • To be taken seriously, we must present ourselves in a serious manner
  • Punctuality is often linked to respect; not always in the eyes of the person arriving but definitely by those awaiting the arrival.
  • People are busy and their days and nights are filled with activity. If you want your event to be a priority to them, you must maintain timelines they can trust

Having been on both the giving and receiving ends of PST, I can say I've learned a lot about how it begins--and how it can end.


How It Happens

Let's be honest, folks.  Events are hard to plan and even harder to host.  Many elements have to be carefully knit together to be successful. If you want to keep them interested, energetic, as well as inspired, you're going to have to have a quick-moving agenda of unique experiences mapped out in advance.  Do you have what it takes to arrange this?  Do you even know what such a thing would look like?  Yeah, me neither. 

Most of us are just stumbling along when it comes to creating great events.  Come up with a way cool
idea, dream about how great it would work out, then watch the reality fall far short.  It can still be nice, still work to a certain extent, but achieving that ideal is probably out of the question. 

Even if you're not asking for the moon (and several perfectly choreographed dancers, drummers, and a poet who will ad-lib beautiful prose in honor of the occasion), there are other factors that go into making events a difficult project that's often over-due or over-time:


1. Events rarely have enough staff

Being a guest at a huge ritual is a helluva lot more fun that working at one.  Considering how rare it would be to find a really big event to attend, it's no wonder that so many people want to enjoy the time spent in that space rather than be its bouncer (or do its set up and tear down, or feed everyone, or pass out papers...)



2. We don't have a lot of good role models to emulate in this arena

Until you've been to a number of events, you won't really know what elements go into making them successful.  Think of the parties you've attended in your life.  Whether you noticed or not, you used every one of those experiences to formulate how to manage social gatherings.  You saw what worked and what didn't, what was fun and what made the evening drag, as well as how the host handled problems and turned the focus of the group away from misery-making things like a brewing fight or an embarrassing drunken episode happening in another room.  You came away with lots of knowledge from that and it helped make your own shindigs a great time. 

What do magic folks have?  Unless you live within driving distance of the festival circuit, the likelihood is pretty good that you consider your events history as a few dull-to-regrettable afternoons with other practitioners who claimed to be having the time of their lives.  I know this one well.


3. Our needs and desires are unique for spiritual groups

This means that general advice doesn't always help us do a better job.  Looking at what works for prayer circles or sweat lodges might not offer any real insight.  We do things in a unique way and we need to find our own voice for that.

The most important element of this is freedom.  Witches are crazy about it but that makes it hard to get everyone to want to do the same thing at the same time, which is a staple of building group unity.  It and individual expression must be in balance without losing focus.

We're also incredibly talkative.  Time has to be divided between work and play, social time and magic.




How to Combat It...

Now that we know a bit about where it starts, let's talk about how it can end. To be able to keep the good aspects of PST while ditching its drawbacks might seem like an impossible task. It can be managed, though, if we're attentive to not only what works for occultists in general, but also for our own local groups.

...as a Presenter

When you're the one hosting an event, you must start out recognizing both the weight and the potential in your position. You have a lot to answer for but you also have the chance to put a personal spin on what others are expecting to see. Where do you want to take this and what do you feel is the surest way to get there? This will take some time, so let's start there.

1. Start planning the same day you take the job

No lie, don't wait a single day to begin the process. Not only is it essential that you have all the prep time you can get, it's also a good idea to begin work while you're still excited about the event and are filled with those initial dreams of its success. This will give you some early fuel.

2. Lots and lots of lists

Start with a basic outline of what you want to have happen at your event, then list the things--large and small--you'll need to have.

How many people would ideally handle each of those aspects? List the positions. List people you know who could fill them.

Where will you get the things you need but don't currently have? Make separate lists for buy and borrow.

Do you have a venue? If not, list ideas. Do you have enough money to do this yourself? If not, list methods of gaining capital, like arranging for donations or requiring payment before or at the time of the event.

3. Know how long things take

Give yourself a generous amount of time for each of the points of interest throughout your event.  Add to that meet and greet time before and food and drink time after. This is how long your event will take.

You can also make a separate plan based on ideal lengths of time and then add in some things that people can be doing in the gaps. This is handy for times when people must take turns at something and everyone else waits for their time to come. Give them something to focus on, something to see or do, and you will keep them interested and involved.

4. Have a definite ending

I'm a big believer that you should always end strong. Give your guests a clear idea of the end of the event approaching and they will be relieved to know they won't miss anything or overstay their welcome.

This can be achieved a few ways, depending on your event. You can pass out programs at the door or have it posted online so guests know what will happen throughout.  You could also have someone in charge of announcements, giving a 5 or 10 minute warning to the end of one act and reminder for the next. Make these brief, clear, and loud.

Moving an event forward is always about wringing out all the worth from a block of time as possible and making people look forward to the next one. This can be achieved with leaving if you give them something to take with them or something to do when they get home. A classic is the "swag bag" or parting gift that each person picks up as they exit, but you can also offer things for them to do afterward such as posting photos from the event, leaving reviews, or using items made during the event.

5. Take note of what worked

This is essential! Over time you'll get good at this, but until then, learn to watch people's reactions and figure out if your plans are having the desired effect. You might even want to make comment cards available for guests to turn in anonymously.  Grow a thick skin if you're going this route, though; people can have startlingly high standards for people other than themselves.

Knowing what to keep and what to cut can really tighten up your timeline for the next event. Also, doing this immediately afterward will keep it fresh in your mind what you thought about the pace. Were you exhausted? More help next time. Did things have to be left out to stay on schedule? Go over your schedule to make sure you gave enough time for the most important aspects and then next time allow lesser aspects to be dropped, if need be.


...as an Attendee


This is usually where things get messy. That person who gives their R.S.V.P. as an insecure upward inflection, "Well...maybe I'll be there? And if I am? It'll be...like...30 minutes later?"

Or how about the member who counts themselves as the backbone of the event but shows up late and bustling through like a hurricane of plastic bags and unfinished sentences, "Oh my god, what a day...Everything's been so...! And I was all set, had the car packed, and that's when it happened--you'd never believe!"

Or maybe it's the one who just decides to swing by and check out what's going on, "Hey, so, did you guys get to the spellwork yet or is it still circle time? 'Cause, it'd be cool to be in on the magic but our paths are different and plus, I've got to jet out of here in 45 minutes anyways..."

Don't be that person, not for your sake or mine.

1. Ask every question you need to when you first decide to attend

Talk in depth to the person who invited you. E-mail or call the host and ask questions. Write down any you want to ask between the initial plans and the event date and contact the necessary person as soon as you can. 

Know where you need to be and when, where to park, what to bring, age ranges, limitations, rules, expectations of guests, event timeline...everything and anything you can think of. There's no such thing as being too informed.

Many events will have opportunities for unscheduled time before and after the main occasion where arriving and leaving are okay at any point. Talk to the organizers about this and find out what the window is. Ask what to do if you accidently must breech that limit.


2. Give yourself extra time for everything

Plan ahead for driving time, then add some. Plan your outfit and a backup in case something happens. Be weather-wise in case a sudden rain, snow, etc. delays you or turns an outdoor event sour. Have appropriate emergency items in your trunk.

Pack the night before. Treat this as an excursion that you want to get just right. It doesn't matter if it's only an informal gathering with people you've known for years. It's important to enjoy it--and benefit from it--to the greatest extent possible, so give planning it's due time.


3. Keep a goal in mind

Are you going mainly to make new friends? To reconnect? To find a possible teacher? To learn a new skill from a workshop or meet an influential person? Know exactly what you're seeking so that you won't squander time or miss your chance when it comes.


4. Be gentle with others

Because PST is more the norm than an occasional irritation, it's going to be widely assumed that your behavior as explained here are strange. Think ahead how you'll handle flakiness when you encounter it.

Be generous with your schedule after this event, as well. If things end on time, great! If not, know how much extra you can spare before you need to get back to your own plans.




Remember, PST is not intended to offend. Most of the time, those displaying it are good-natured but ill equipped to deal with the self regulation needed to keep things running on schedule without outside insistence. There's actually nothing wrong with that; those folks just need some support and a few extra hands to help with the work. Offer whatever assistance you can and what advice you can. If those fail you, take charge and create the structure yourself.

And also note that there's nothing aggressive about plotting the demise of PST. It may be a joke to some, but to many of us it's just a bad habit that needs to come to an end and make way for better, more productive things.

No matter which side you're on, awareness beats all.



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About Me

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My name is Quill and I've been practicing witchcraft for the past 17 years. 10 of those years I've been reading tarot and teaching.  I own a shop on Etsy called Quill's Occult Supply (check it out at QuillsOccultSupply.Etsy.com) full of handmade ritual and decorative items, spell components, and wild picked herbs.

I love to work with my hands.  Magic is a tool to shape our lives, and I'm using magic to shape tools to shape magic.  Cosmic! 

I use a lot of my favorite things in my shop: herbs, candles, wood, fabric, paint, clay.  And I get to carve, burn, grind, mold, think, dream ... I'm in the perfect business!

I've written 3 manuscripts for publication (2 non-fiction and 1 fiction) and am an avid NaNo-er!  I and my husband run a local coven called Orbis Prosapia, and our children are growing up surrounded by magic, mythology, fairy tales, Earth worship, art, open discussion, music, and humor. 

In addition to working on Ex Penna about my experiences as a professional witch, I also write for Scenes from the Circle about being a coven leader. 








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