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Author Topic: Secrecy  (Read 2496 times)
Jenett
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Religion: Priestess in initiatory religious witchcraft tradition
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« Reply #5: October 15, 2010, 12:40:52 am »

Does this apply to a Witch's Book of Shadows as well? I always thought BoS's were private to a Witch and that they shouldn't have to show them to other Witches if they so chose not to.

Am I correct or incorrect in my thinking? Please give me some advice! Tongue

There's different views on this - so here's mine:

I am in general in favor of freedom of access to information (I'm a librarian. It's actually in my professional code of ethics.)

That said, for me, witchcraft, and religious witchcraft in particular - comes down to relationships. In order to have trust in a relationship, we as human beings tend to need to have agreements about what we do and don't share (and how), in order to feel like we can share our vulnerabilities and worries and concerns.

So, to me:
- Deity names are still names. My family calls my sister a particular nickname, because when I was little, I couldn't pronounce her name. Does that make it okay for her students to use it to her? (Even though she's on a first name basis with many of them: she teaches graduate students). Nope, because that's a specific relationship. Some deities are fine sharing their names broadly. Some are less so. Politeness suggests following the preference of the person (or deity) whose name it is.

- My training - and my group work - included some agreements about what we share and how we shared it (and why). Those *are* formal oaths in my case, but I'd take them just as seriously if they weren't made formally in circle before the Gods, because holding someone's trust is important to me.

That said, I also think there are some good reasons for oaths: in my tradition, we have a focus on self-transformation, and any time we're playing with and stretching someone's core view of themselves, I think it's appropriate to be really clear about how, why, and when we're doing that, and make sure we're all on the same page.

You can see a lot more of my thoughts on this on a blog post I made last May: http://gleewood.org/threshold/2010/05/12/the-question-of-oaths/

(Also, in terms of a group: simply removing the oath is problematic, because it breaks faith with previous people in the tradition who have gone their separate ways for whatever reason. We're still a small tradition, with probably under 30 initiates in the group's history, but I'm pretty sure we don't have contact info for at least a third of them, due to the training focus of the tradition. I'm not comfortable changing the rules on them in hindsight. I am comfortable doing other things to make it as clear as I can be why we continue the oath, and what it means - which for me means focusing on the benefits I outline in that blog post.)

- There are parts of my practice that have some risk. While I agree with Randall that the basic religious practice isn't risky, there *are* parts of my practice that have some risks. Drawing Down. Fetch work with particular focus. Use of particular herbs, oils, etc. (Many of which are not generally risky, but have some situations when they are: it's my job as priestess to make sure I share them with appropriate safety warnings.)

Plus, there's some stuff where if someone got themselves into trouble on my watch (by following advice I gave), I'd feel obligated to try and help fix it. This mostly applies to direct students (not random conversation online), but it's still a consideration. I am not up for 3am phone calls generally. In general, the stuff that's oathbound for me is mostly the stuff that gets into territory where additional caution in how it's shared is appropriate.

- Some material is personal to me, or to the group or tradition:
In this case, we want to honor the work of the people who created it by making sure it's shared in a way they're comfortable with. (And in general, defer to "We don't share specifics in public.")

Someone who cares enough to come to one of our rituals will see a bunch. Someone who knows me in person and asks me can have a demo of our circle cast for the asking. But - in part for the reasons below - I'm not going to wave it around randomly, even if I wrote it (as I've done with about a quarter of my current group circle practice: the rest is from the tradition.) But in those cases, there's a great relationship than sheer curiosity - someone's taken the time to share space with us, or has an existing relationship with me.

- Silence can be protective.
This is one of the keys to the Witch's Pyramid ("to keep silent") There can be a possibility, whenever we share something, that someone will make fun of it, or somehow twist it in a way that affects how we interact with that thing in the future. (This is one of the reasons for not talking about current magical workings: if someone says "Oh, you didn't X? It won't work." or "What'd you do that for, that's silly!", it can affect the continuing energy you're sending towards that goal. This matters more in some magical practices than others, but once the info is out there, you can't take it back.)

- There's a lot of stuff the oath doesn't cover Over the last 9 years, I have written at least a hundred thousand words - and actually, it might be approaching half a million - about my religious practice in one way or another. Some of those are in somewhat protected spaces (LiveJournal, Dreamwidth). Some of them are here, or other public Pagan discussions. Most of the time, the specifics of the oathed stuff just aren't very relevant. What I really want to talk about is the ideas behind it, or my personal feelings on it, or whatever else.

- In terms of sharing my BOS: I believe that BOS is something like the script of a play: it's an outline of what happens, but it's only one layer of it. It doesn't lay out the emotion, the theory, the background knowledge you need to make the deus ex machina work. So, while I wouldn't share it (because there is oathed stuff in it), sharing it wouldn't actually be very helpful. The map is not the destination, the text of our circle cast is only the text - not the visuals and energetic shifts and relocations we use in actually creating a repeated and consistent  working space.
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