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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Food For Thought

Food For Thought Cover LOOKING AT YOURSELF
Before you go a step further, take a good long look at your desires, motivation
and skills. What role do you see yourself playing in this new group? "Ordinary"
member? Democratic facilitator? High Priestess? And if the last -- why do you
want the job?

The title of High Priestess and Priestess are seductive, conjuring up exotic
images of yourself in embroidered robes, a silver crescent (or horned helm) on
your brow, adoring celebrants hanging on every word which drops from your
Reality check. The robes will be stained with wine and candle wax soon enough,
and not every word you speak is worth remembering. A coven leader's job is
mostly hard work between rituals and behind the scene. It is not always a good
place to act out your fantasies, because the lives and well-being of others are
involved, and what is flattering or enjoyable to you man not be in their best
interest. So consider

If your prime motive is establishing a coven is to gain status and ego
gratification, other people will quickly sense that. If they are intelligent,
independent individuals, they will refuse to play Adoring Disciple to your Witch
Queen impressions. They will disappear, and that vanishing act will be the last
magick they do with you.

And if you do attract a group ready to be subservient Spear Carriers in your
fantasy drama -- well, do you really want to associate with that kind of
personality? What are you going to do when you want someone strong around to
help you or teach you, and next New Moon you look out upon a handful of Henry
Milquetoasts and Frieda Handmaidens? If a person is willing to serve you, the
they will also become dependent on you, drain your energy, and become
disillusioned if you ever let down the Infallible Witch Queen mask for even a

Some other not-so-great reasons for starting a coven:
a) because it seems glamorous, exotic, and a little wicked;
b) because it will shock your mother, or
c) because you can endure your boring, flunky job more easily if you get to go
home and play Witch at night.

Some better reasons for setting up a coven, and even nomination yourself as High
Priest/ess, include:
a) you feel that you will be performing a useful job for yourself and others;
b) you have enjoyed leadership roles in the past, and proven yourself capable;
c) you look forward to learning and growing in the role.

Even with the best motives in the world, you will still need to have -- or
quickly develop -- a whole range of skills in order to handle a leadership role.
If you are to be a facilitator of a study group, group process insights and
skills are important. These include:
1) Gatekeeping, or guiding discussion in such a way that everyone has an
opportunity to express ideas and opinions;
2) Summarizing and clarifying;
3) Conflict resolution, or helping participants understand points of
disagreement and
find potential solutions which respect everyone's interests;
4) Moving the discussion toward consensus, or at any rate decision, by
diversions and refocussing attention on goals and priorities; and
5) Achieving closure smoothly when the essential work is completed, or an
appropriate stopping place is reached.

In addition to group process skills, four other competencies necessary to the
functioning of a coven are: ritual leadership, administration, teaching, and
counseling. In a study group the last one may not be considered a necessary
function, and the other three may be shared among all participants. But in a
coven the leaders are expected to be fairly capable in all these areas, even if
responsibilities are frequently shared or delegated. Let us look briefly at

Ritual leadership involves much more that reading invocations by candlelight.
Leaders must understand the powers they intend to manipulate: how they are
raised, channeled and grounded. They must be adept at designing rituals which
involve all the sensory modes. They should have a repertoire of songs and
chants, dances and gestures or mudras, incense and oils, invocations and spells,
visual effects and symbols, meditations and postures; and the skill to combine
these in a powerful, focused pattern. They must have clarity of purpose and firm
ethics. And they must understand timing: both where a given ritual fits in the
cycles of the Moon, the Wheel of the Year, and the dance of the spheres, and how
to pace the ritual once started, so that energy peaks and is channeled at the
perfect moment. And they must understand the Laws of Magick, and the
correspondences, and when ritual is appropriate and when it is not.

By administration, we refer to basic management practices necessary to any
organization. These include apportioning work fairly, and following up on its
progress; locating resources and obtaining them (information, money, supplies);
fostering communications (by telephone, printed schedules, newsletters etc.);
and keeping records (minutes, accounts, Witch Book entries, or ritual logbook).
Someone or several someones has to collect the dues if any, buy the candles,
chill the wine, and so forth.

Teaching is crucial to both covens and study groups. If only one person has any
formal training or experience in magick, s/he should transmit that knowledge in
a way which respects the intuitions, re-emerging past life skills, and
creativity of the others. If several participants have some knowledge in
differing areas, they can all share the teaching role. If no one in the group
has training and you are uncertain where to begin, they you may need to call on
outside resources: informed and ethical priest/esses who can act as visiting
faculty, or who are willing to offer guidance by telephone or correspondence.
Much can be gleaned from books, or course -- assuming you know which books are
trustworthy and at the appropriate level -- but there is no substitute for
personal instruction for some things. Magick can be harmful if misused, and an
experienced practitioner can help you avoid pitfalls as well as offering hints
and techniques not found in the literature.

Counseling is a special role of the High Priest/ess. It is assumed that all
members of a coven share concern for each other's physical, mental, emotional
and spiritual welfare, and are willing to help each other out in practical ways.
However, coven leaders are expected to have a special ability to help coveners
explore the roots of their personal problems and choose strategies and tactics
to overcome them. This is not to suggest that one must be a trained
psychoanalyst; but at the least, good listening skills, clear thinking and some
insight into human nature are helpful. Often, magickal skills such as guided
visualization, Tarot counseling and radiesthesia (pendulum work) are valuable
tools as well.

Think carefully about your skills in these areas, as you have demonstrated them
in other organizations. Ask acquaintances or co-workers, who can be trusted to
give you a candid opinion, how they see you in some of these roles. Meditate,
and decide what you really want for yourself in organizing the new group. Will
you be content with being a catalyst and contact person -- simply bringing
people with a common interest together, then letting the group guide its destiny
from that point on? Would you rather be a facilitator, either for the first
months or permanently: a low-key discussion leader who enables the group to move
forward with a minimum of misunderstanding and wasted energy? Or do you really
want to be High Priestess -- whatever that means to you -- and serve as the
guiding spirit and acknowledged leader of a coven? And if you do want that job,
exactly how much authority and work do you envision as part of it? Some coven
leaders want a great deal of power and control; others simply take an extra
share of responsibility for setting up the rituals (whether or not they actually
conduct the rites), and act as "magickal advisor" to less experienced members.
Thus the High Priest/ess can be the center around which the life of the coven
revolves, or primarily an honorary title, or anything in between.

That is one area which you will need to have crystal-clear in your own mind
before the first meeting (of if you are flexible, at least be very clear that
you are). You must also be clear as to your personal needs on other points:
program emphasis, size, meeting schedule, finances, degree of secrecy, and
affiliation with a tradition or network. You owe it to prospective members and
to yourself to make your minimum requirements known from the outset: it can be
disastrous to a group to discover that members have major disagreements on
these points after you have been meeting for six months.