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Author Topic: Coven experience?  (Read 15580 times)
Allstar
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« Topic Start: September 29, 2007, 12:07:41 am »

Hope this is an okay place to post this..... 

Part of the reason I've wandered onto this forum is to try and find more people to glean information from about the workings of covens.  I've been involved in an open circle for a couple of years but recently one of my friends and I have decided to form a small coven.  We felt this was really the next logical step in our paths, where we can learn and practice together, at our pace, which is a bit faster than that of most of the people in our open circle. 

Some info I'm particularly interested in is on degree systems.  We've sort of laid out a degree system that will help us build a nice solid foundation from which we can grow, and that will help us stay on track and achieve some definite benchmarks that we've set for ourselves.  The degree system is mostly for that reason (and I like the traditional aspect of a degree system), not so much to work as a hierarchy amongst coven members.  My biggest question is, for anyone who has worked in a coven with degree systems:  what sort of criteria had to be met to officially go onto the next degree?  How did you know when you were ready to move from a 1st degree to 2nd degree?

Any other practical tips for group work would also be appreciated!

Thanks!
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« Reply #1: September 29, 2007, 08:52:31 am »

The degree system is mostly for that reason (and I like the traditional aspect of a degree system), not so much to work as a hierarchy amongst coven members.  My biggest question is, for anyone who has worked in a coven with degree systems:  what sort of criteria had to be met to officially go onto the next degree?  How did you know when you were ready to move from a 1st degree to 2nd degree

I have tons of comments on this, but must run off and go do stuff for our Pagan Pride Day (which is related to my getting my 3rd degree, in part.)

One thing to think about, until I can get back to you (either Saturday night or Sunday morning) is this: in a lot of systems, the degree system is somewhat a heirarchy - but it's because the higher degrees have taken on a deeper and greater responsibility to the well-being of the group, and therefore are more directly involved with and responsible for decisions than people who haven't taken on those responsibilities.
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« Reply #2: September 30, 2007, 12:30:08 am »

what sort of criteria had to be met to officially go onto the next degree?  How did you know when you were ready to move from a 1st degree to 2nd degree?

Someone I know summed it up for her coven by saying: at First degree you can do things yourself, at Second degree you can do them for other people, and at Third degree you can teach other people how to do it themselves.

But I'll leave giving a "real" answer to people who actually work in a coven structure...

-- Joshua
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« Reply #3: September 30, 2007, 10:30:05 am »

My biggest question is, for anyone who has worked in a coven with degree systems:  what sort of criteria had to be met to officially go onto the next degree?

For us, it's a combination of demonstrated skills, and emotional and other readiness. On the "Things you can check off on a list" side, ours looks like this, briefly:

1st degree: completes all of the group classes and homework assignments. These include being able to set up a ritual circle start to finish, writing a full moon and Sabbat ritual, and everything that's implied in those things. (i.e. grounding, centering, shielding, establishing a personal/daily practice, energy work skills, developing relationships with the elements, guardians, deities the group works with, deities they wish to work with, etc.) The basic goal is "This person can stand before the Gods on their own behalf, and take care of all their own personal ritual needs." (i.e. create personal ritual for stuff they want to do) and contribute to group rituals (taking on different roles, be part of the rotation of initiates writing moon rituals, etc.)

Our 2nd and 3rd degrees are less structured. We have regular initiate-only class/discussion sessions (who leads them varies: it depends a lot on what we want to talk about, and what people want to prepare). We range from ethics to tools to group ritual design to philosophical issues about the nature of deity or the nature of elements.

People working towards 2nd degree are expected to take on more responsibilities within the group (practical stuff that helps the group run; this might involve teaching intro or dedicant classes, answering emails to the group address, helping write and set-up for rituals, larger ritual roles (including a turn as HP or HPS for ritual).

Post-getting 2nd degree is also often a significant period of dealing with any unresolved business: if there's anything in your life which is out of balance, or not in line with your larger goals, it will likely force you to deal with it. I got my 2nd two years ago: two days before my 2nd, my now-ex-husband moved out (our parting was amicable, we both came to the decision the relationship wasn't salvageable within a week of each other, and it was very necessary for me to be able to move forward on some goals. But at the same time, my last two years have been financially extremely stressful, I've finished grad school while working full time, moved three times in 18 months, and generally had pretty much every pattern in my life *except* my ritual life torn into tiny shreds and rewoven. I'm very satisfied with the outcome so far, but easy, it's not.) It's often described as facing the shadow self.

My own experience - as you might guess from the above - is that 2nd is not so much about what you know, or what you do with it, but how you begin to integrate it within yourself. The precise methods that each person uses to do that are going to be different - because the stuff they need to work on is going to be different.

There were also, for me, significant changes in what kinds of ritual and personal methods I feel comfortable using. I've gotten a *lot* more comfortable helping other people with energetic help (grounding, centering, rebalancing), a lot more comfortable with teaching energetic skills, and my visualisation skills took a huge leap forward.

3rd degree is about service to a larger group and within the community: both developing the skills to lead a group oneself if that's where you're going, and to also participate in and do things that benefit the broader community. (This is why I'm involved in Pagan Pride, in large part. I enjoy what I do, but it's also one of the 'broader community' things I do that's most compatible with my other interests and goals. I was programming chair last year, and this year (which is a 2 day event: I'm about to head off for day 2.)

Since exactly what one does with that is an individual thing (and since I'm the first person within our group to do training to 3rd fully within the group, rather than including regular work with people outside it in related paths), what I did was write up a list of what I wanted to accomplish, based on various resources, and then handed it over (my HP and HPS keep checking up on it.) I'm now at the point where we're working on scheduling my 3rd for sometime in November: I've got a few minor things to write up still, but they won't take long.
People working towards their 2nd degree

Quote
How did you know when you were ready to move from a 1st degree to 2nd degree?

Some of it's the above - do you know the stuff necessary, and have the skills needed. But a lot of it is emotional readiness.

My HPS and HP scheduled my 2nd degree for November 2005, in mid-August 2005. (They didn't tell me what it was, just to keep the date clear: I did guess, mostly because when you're the keeper of the group calendar, it's pretty clear what a blank date represents.) They didn't know why they needed to wait for November - just that they did. They knew I was mostly ready, based on some experiences in early August (dealing with a former member of the group and some complex situations with our student that year.)

But what really got me emotionally ready, in a lot of ways, was the dissolution of my marriage - and how I chose to handle it and approach what needed to be done. It wasn't necessarily that that particular thing had to happen, as much as I had to be willing to rearrange my life for the future commitments I was taking on - and fix some things I was putting up with that were not good for me, or for my real desires and needs.

Quote
Any other practical tips for group
work would also be appreciated!

You can find different degree system requirements in a number of places. I based a fair chunk of my own 3rd degree list  on Tangled Moon's lists (I have a lot of respect for Brock and Lark, having known them online for about 6 years now.) The syllabi are here: http://tangledmoon.org/student_program.htm

As far as other books: I'd suggest all of the following, though for different reasons.

Amber K. _CovenCraft_ - general  good group dynamics theory, a bunch of exercises, activities, etc. to try
Judy Harrow _Wicca Covens_ - group dynamics, a look at how covens are different from other settings.
Lisa McSherry _Magical Connections_

Ellen Cannon Reed's _The Heart of Wicca_ - particularly the section on why having standards is very very important.

I'd also suggest to anyone looking at group work the Trollspotting pages at http://esoterica.bichaunt.org/

Beyond that, depends on what your focus is

There's a number of books I'd recommend.
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« Reply #4: September 30, 2007, 12:58:10 pm »

We've sort of laid out a degree system that will help us build a nice solid foundation from which we can grow, and that will help us stay on track and achieve some definite benchmarks that we've set for ourselves.  The degree system is mostly for that reason (and I like the traditional aspect of a degree system), not so much to work as a hierarchy amongst coven members.

What follows is personal opinion.

As I understand it, a degree system is supposed to be a structure for self-development. Along these lines, I thought what Jenett had to say was very interesting; her vision of the relationship between the degrees appears to correspond to a similar relationship between the three groups of seven in the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

I have never been comfortable with the degree system, because degrees are suggestive of a qualitative difference between those who hold them and those who don't. There is a strong temptation for them to become status symbols, implying a difference in importance or worth between covenmates. I find this ironic, because, in most of the cases I've looked at, degrees seem merely to recognize a quantity of knowledge "mastered" or learned; and quantity is not quality.

Jenett's conceptualization does not suffer this shortcoming. It does seem qualitatively oriented; but beyond the first degree it also seems somewhat nebulous. Too, who makes the decision that the person involved is ready for the 2nd & 3rd degree?

It seems to me that the degree system is baggage inherited from Ceremonial Magick through Gardner in search of a purpose, and I would dispense with it. Degrees seem to me to be dangerous at best, and at worst they promote artificial divisions between people and leadership by some who aren't really qualified. Does the spiritual pilgrim really need a label to know that she can approach the gods? And leadership, it seems to me, is something that can only truly be conferred by those who would be led. Wisdom announces itself; it doesn't need a title.

If distinctions must be made, it seems to me that they should be in recognition of existing, qualitative differences, e.g., between Witch and Priestess.

My two cents' worth. Your mileage may vary (and probably does) ...
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« Reply #5: September 30, 2007, 11:35:58 pm »

Jenett's conceptualization does not suffer this shortcoming. It does seem qualitatively oriented; but beyond the first degree it also seems somewhat nebulous. Too, who makes the decision that the person involved is ready for the 2nd & 3rd degree?

Part of why it's nebulous is that it's more dependent on where people want to go with it. I've been pretty clearly on the "Want the skills to lead my own group someday sooner than later" path, which comes with a lot of "Ok, these are experiences and skills you should work on building." (group dynamics, teaching, ritual leadership, etc. etc.) A good friend and groupmate who really *doesn't* want to do that has had a harder time determining what it's going to mean for her.

As far as scheduling - really, it's the same way we schedule 1st degrees. There's some "Have they done the basic grunt work for this" (homework, assignments, contribution to the circle in appropriate ways - time, energy, etc.) But there's also "Is this the right time for them?"

Some of that is observation by the teachers and leadership. Some of it is how someone talks about their experience. Some of it comes from divination, deity work, etc. that the leadership does. Some of it's pure gut intuition (like my 2nd degree: there was no logical reason for my teachers to delay it till November: in hindsight it makes perfect sense.) Some of it's religious mystery work: has the person processed and integrated the prior set of experiences sufficient to appropriately move forward and get the full experience of the *new* set.

In the case of my 3rd, I've been on the edge of it for a bit - but one of my own requirements for myself was that I finish my graduate work first, because I didn't want to be processing the initiatory/elevation experience at the same time I was finishing grad school assignments, or the changes it will bring to my life.

2nd and 3rd are also - at least for us - very much about community involvement, experience, and commitment. Given that, the 'community' served absolutely has some bearing on how someone's doing. Certainly, existing members of the small group get a chance to give some feedback.

(They don't get to make the final decision: it's not a 'voting' process, in part because there are things that you may not notice or get until you've been part of the appropriate mystery experiences that are part of the degree rituals. But they can certainly say "I've seen her really improve her skills in X this year." or "Yes, we've had conversations that really helped me: she seems really clear on what her limits are in Y area, too, and how to work around them." or whatever.)

I also know perfectly well, for example, that my HPS and HP have gotten comments on my work on a very public event - Pagan Pride - which I do without much labelling as to my private group work. But things like "Can I work well within the broader community" make a difference when I'm going for my 3rd, and will reflect on my teachers in a broader way.

Quote
Degrees seem to me to be dangerous at best, and at worst they promote artificial divisions between people and leadership by some who aren't really qualified. Does the spiritual pilgrim really need a label to know that she can approach the gods? And leadership, it seems to me, is something that can only truly be conferred by those who would be led. Wisdom announces itself; it doesn't need a title.

For me, it seems like you're conflating a bunch of things - and saying that people who, say, want to show up for a few group rituals a year should be treated absolutely the same way as people who plan, arrange, and facilitate those same rituals.

In personal practice, degree systems don't make any sense. In terms of people in different groups, they are, at best, a very broad painted line that allows you to focus the kinds of questions someone asks to start sorting out your knowledge and background.

In a group sense, though - there are some real benefits on a purely organisational level. When we have Seekers (people curious about what we do, or considering becoming students with us), it helps to say "In our group, first degrees wear white cords: they're the best people to ask about basic stuff before ritual, like what's on the altars, or where the bathroom is: people wearing red or black cords are our upper degrees: they're more likely to be busy preparing, but they're good sources for more complicated questions, or questions about group policies."

It's also useful for our students to know that some people *have* made that greater commitment to being available - they're the people who are okay with a late night phone call, or an emergency need, or who will reliably be present at certain events to help out, wherever needed. Maybe it's just living in Minnesota, but I've found people are a lot more willing to 'be rude' and ask for help when they know there's a fairly blanket permission for some kinds of things.

I also perceive some very significant ritual, energetic, and religious mystery related changes in my own experience of a degree system. These are hard to explain, simply because they're both personal and very subjective. While I don't think these particular changes are (or should be!) required for anyone in terms of personal practice (though a couple of them have made a significant difference in my own ability to interact with my Gods), I do think they've vastly increased my ability to assist others and teach in various ways.

It wasn't just new skills: there were specific things in the three rituals I've been through (dedication, and my 1st and 2nd degrees) that opened up new energetic channels and options for me to do specific things. (At 2nd, a bunch of them were *only* group relevant: for example, like in many traditions, the ability to initiate someone into the tradition is an energetic option at 2nd degree).

Quote
If distinctions must be made, it seems to me that they should be in recognition of existing, qualitative differences, e.g., between Witch and Priestess.

Ah, but what when you're multiple of those things? (Our identifications go as follows. Dedicant: student of Wicca/witchcraft. 1st degree: initiate and witch. 2nd degree: priest/ess and witch. 3rd: technically high priest/ess and witch, though we rarely use that precise phrasing out loud.) These do rather closely mirror the layers of responsibility involved (self, assisting within a group context or with more extensive help in a limited spectrum, and being responsible large-scale/long-term for a group context, at least potentially.)
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« Reply #6: October 01, 2007, 12:07:12 am »

For us, it's a combination of demonstrated skills, and emotional and other readiness. On the "Things you can check off on a list" side, ours looks like this, briefly:

Thank you!  You've given me quite a bit to mull over!  This was exactly the kind of information I was looking for.
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« Reply #7: October 01, 2007, 10:28:06 am »

Thank you!  You've given me quite a bit to mull over!  This was exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

Welcome. Feel free to ask more questions, if you've got them, too. (I'm also always happy to get PMs or email if there's something more personal.)
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« Reply #8: October 01, 2007, 11:26:20 am »


Thank you, Jenett, for your thoughtful response to my comments. I want to be selective in my own comments, because this is really someone else's thread.

Let me first say that your previous post made me seriously question my stance on degree systems for the first time in years. The kind of achievements you spoke of parallel a progression I think can be found in the Major Arcana; and this progression *is* qualitative, not quantitative, in nature.

My position has rested in no small part on my conception of what Witchcraft means. I know everyone has their own opinions, and is entitled to them. But I start with the proposition that, like all authentic religion, Witchcraft is ultimately focused on objective spiritual reality. We may paint our subjective pictures of that reality however we like, so long as our hearts are pure -- i.e., so long as we sincerely seek to know it in truth, and aren't simply playing at religion.

In this context, then, it becomes possible to say, "Witchcraft means this," or, "Witchcraft means that" -- not in an attempt to be dogmatic or to shut anyone out, but in an attempt to get a handle on its actual objective orientation, where subjective experience meets objective reality. If Witchcraft is real, it must mean something.

My working hypothesis is that the purpose of Witchcraft is the realization of the essential unity that we share with all things.

For this reason, I am suspicious of lines drawn between people. Gardner imported the degree system from ceremonial magick, which I think is a very left-brained affair. I have the greatest respect for Dion Fortune, but Witchcraft seems to me a very different sort of enterprise -- more Pagancostal, less Episcopagan. Smiley

When I come into circle with others, I look for us to be little kids together, living in the magic, in the Presence of the Lady. We should be opening ourselves to merge with one another, in "perfect love and perfect trust"; and hierarchical distinctions militate against this.

With this as a background, let me address a couple of your comments.

Quote
For me, it seems like you're conflating a bunch of things - and saying that people who, say, want to show up for a few group rituals a year should be treated absolutely the same way as people who plan, arrange, and facilitate those same rituals.

I think ritual should facilitate the experience of Oneness. That ultimately means opening ourselves to one another without reserve. I guess that also means treating everyone the same.

I'm not really sure I'm getting your point, though. Is it appreciation you're talking about, or authority within the need for order? I'm of the view that, the more of a leader you are, the more of a servant you are; I think it's unavoidable.

Quote
In a group sense, though - there are some real benefits on a purely organisational level.

I appreciate that. I just wonder if the gain is worth the cost. It seems to me that the establishment of a degree system to facilitate organization is an example of the tail wagging the dog. "Always" is a big word; but I think organization, structure, is always in conflict with the kind of group experience I've described, above. Does tradition exist to serve the seeker, or vice versa?

Something else to think about: "tradition," the way it's used in this context, is an observer's word, not a participant's. It inherently suggests alternatives, thinking of itself as one among many. A participant doesn't look at what she does as one alternative among many, but simply as what she and her fellow travellers do. Being rational creatures, we alternate between being participants and observers; but I think the goal is to be fully present, fully participatory -- to become over time less and less observers and more and more fully engaged. Casting what is essentially an observer's point of view into stone does not seem helpful, if this is the goal.

Quote
I also perceive some very significant ritual, energetic, and religious mystery related changes in my own experience of a degree system.

I believe you. You gave me a lot to think about. And I took a look at the Oak, Ash & Thorn degree program you cited.

As I mentioned, the progression you spoke of experiencing is a real, personal, spiritual progression, not some artificial checklist. You grew through the experience, and the degrees gave you benchmarks to gauge your progress. But why are the labels necessary? To borrow a concept from Starhawk, they exist to please Talking Self; but we want to get past pleasing Talking Self, don't we? In other words, the progression itself is necessary and will happen, with or without the labels. Why do we want them, when they only encourage Talking Self? The program can function without them.

Quote
Ah, but what when you're multiple of those things? (Our identifications go as follows. Dedicant: student of Wicca/witchcraft. 1st degree: initiate and witch. 2nd degree: priest/ess and witch. 3rd: technically high priest/ess and witch, though we rarely use that precise phrasing out loud.) These do rather closely mirror the layers of responsibility involved ...

This is something else I have a "working hypothesis" about: what it means to be a Priest/ess. I think the distinction between Priestess and Witch is that a Witch is someone who has consciously opened herself to building a relationship with Spirit, while a Priestess is someone who has consecrated herself to Spirit. A Priestess has given herself to be a tool in the hands of her deity, as that deity wills.

Thank you again for your thoughtful comments. Please don't think that because I have no use for degrees that I in any way minimize your achievements, which are very exciting. I am honored that you shared them with me.
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« Reply #9: October 01, 2007, 11:40:09 am »


Rodney,

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« Reply #10: October 02, 2007, 08:15:01 am »

My working hypothesis is that the purpose of Witchcraft is the realization of the essential unity that we share with all things.

I go at it differently. For me, witchcraft is a technology used to do various things. My religion is about what I do with that. And my tradition is about how I go about doing them with other people (with some specific other things I consider benefits.)

Quote
When I come into circle with others, I look for us to be little kids together, living in the magic, in the Presence of the Lady. We should be opening ourselves to merge with one another, in "perfect love and perfect trust"; and hierarchical distinctions militate against this.

Why?

When I walk into circle, I recognise that we are *not* all equal - we walk into the circle in different moods, with different experiences, with different *levels* of experience. One ritual may focus on the stuff that's my strong point. The next may be a real stretch for me. One day, I may walk in with great focus and interest in the working - the next time, I might be exhausted, stressed, or really need some help to do far more basic things. Likewise, the way I walk into circle this month - my sixth Samhain with my group - I walk in with far different skills than I did six years ago. I can not only manage my own personal energy far better (and differently) but I can assist in the work of the group far better (and in a far wider range of ways.)

My point is - we're not all equal. We can all work together on the same goal, and we can all be thoroughly committed to the work. But there are fundamental differences that make a difference in the methods, approaches, and other aspects used.

I don't think this is bad. I think it's totally normal and human. I see it every day at work. I've seen it when making music, or being in a play. (And I'm going to get into that in a second.)

Quote
I think ritual should facilitate the experience of Oneness. That ultimately means opening ourselves to one another without reserve. I guess that also means treating everyone the same.

Why? Would you treat your parents the same way you might a five-year old? Ideally, the answer in *some* ways is "Yes." But in other ways, it would be wrong - and quite possibly dangerous - to do so. If you love people, or like them, or even just want to work smoothly with them, there are some obvious things it's good to do : treat them with respect, compassion, clarity, etc.

But you're not going to ask the 5 year old to drive to the store to pick something up. You're probably not going to ask someone in their 50s to climb a tree to get something down. As soon as we introduce practical aspects into it - the fact that different people will have different physical abilities (never mind non-physical ones), we need to start looking at treating people somewhat differently (in terms of what they actually do).

One of the things we use our heirarchy for is "What happens if something goes wrong?" If you don't have a heirarchy at all, you can have absolute chaos if there's a problem.

A candle falls over. Someone feels seriously ill. Someone has trouble coming back from a meditation exercise. It helps to have specific people designated to help deal with these things. Oops, instant heirarchy, at some level. Who decides who the person on the spot is this ritual? Who decides that a given person is able to fill that role?

Now, say that you're doing more intensive work - Drawing Down or aspecting. Or a complex magical setup which requires concentration. One of the reasons we have a heirarchy *in circle* is so that it's absolutely clear who's in charge of problems, and so the other people can focus on other tasks if needed. (So, for example, if someone felt unwell while the HPs were Drawing Down, our structure makes it really clear who remains as an anchor for the HPS - and who would go and help the person feeling unwell. Everyone trying to help one person or the other will leave one of them out in the cold. Confusion could make things worse.

Beyond this, some of this requires specific skills. Not everyone *wants* or feels called to those skills. (For example, I'm a barely adequate Summoner or Priest - both roles I've tried as part of my training, as used in our circle. I'm a far better Handmaiden and learning to be a far better Priestess: both of those are far closer to my natural inclinations and interests.)

There are three women in my group who started training the same time I did. One of them - me - is very clearly angling at leading my own group in the not too distant future, and I have been happily spending the nearly 5 years since my initiation doing further aggressive training toward that (stuff that's taken between 4 and 10 hours pretty much every week of group time, not including personal work.) I've given up quite a lot else in my life to make time and space for that - both in terms of pure time, and in terms of emotional commitments, energy, and resources.

One has not wanted ongoing further *training*, but is very happy with her personal practice, and we are delighted to have her in ritual whenever she can come. But she's focusing a lot of her time on being a grandmother, on her own family commitments, and on other parts of her life. At the same time, *because* of that - there are some specific ritual skills that I have, and she doesn't. (And that she really doesn't care about. They're not relevant to what she wants to do.)

The third woman is a close friend of mine. We have a shared fascination with a lot of aspects of Craft learning (though we often disagree on what we actually believe about the nature of the universe.) She's done some work with a different Pagan group in town, and brought her experience back to the group we share. But at the same time, she doesn't want the responsibility or commitment of running a group. She's glad to help in a range of ways - but she doesn't want to be the one at the top of the heirarchy.

In a system without a heirarchy, all three of us would have to commit the same time (because as soon as that differs, there's going to be distinctions.) All three of us would have to do the same things. Not only would we not be supported in doing the different things we want - but there would be no way to readily indicate to others (students, Seekers, etc.) which of us really enjoy doing explanations, or which of us are really willing to drop everything else we're doing and help someone with a crisis (And feel like we might have relevant skills.)

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Does tradition exist to serve the seeker, or vice versa?

I think Tradition serves the Work - both things deliberately capitalised. Whatever gets the Work done is viable. Whatever doesn't may be fun, may be personally intriguing, may be meaningful - but it's not getting at the whole goal.

Part of our group Work is teaching. This requires people to show up and be willing to teach. Part of our Work is running a training circle. This means people need to feel confident enough in the skills being taught to demonstrate them, and be skilled enough to help others learn them. It means some people there, at a minimum, need to be able to deal with issues likely to come up (people having trouble coming back from meditation, say, or having trouble managing their own energy because they don't have good grounding and centering skills yet.) Part of our group Work is service of the Gods and the turning of the wheel - which means someone needs to be willing and able to develop strong relationships with those specific deities - and to plan and make happen rituals that work with those goals.

Some of these things are specific to the group: when I hive, it's not going to be as a group focused on being a training circle, because there are other things I want to explore. I still see a need for focus and structure, however, because someone needs to make sure that the mundane things happen - and someone needs to be willing to take on more energetically demanding ritual roles and obligations.

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Something else to think about: "tradition," the way it's used in this context, is an observer's word, not a participant's. It inherently suggests alternatives, thinking of itself as one among many. A participant doesn't look at what she does as one alternative among many, but simply as what she and her fellow travellers do.

I'm so not following your logic on this - because it's totally not my experience. It may be that I'm just really fond of structure (I'm a Virgo and a librarian: this wouldn't surprise me.) But I look at what I do (at all times) as one alternative among many - just also the best alternative for me in this time and place that I can possibly imagine. Non-heirarchical groups drive me completely batty on a ritual level. I find them intellectually interesting, I like a lot of the people I know who do them on a personal level. But they don't satisfy me ritually - and they don't allow me to do some of the kinds of Work that I'm called to do. I recognise that's my own personal quirk and kink - but to turn my back on that seems just as wrong.

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You grew through the experience, and the degrees gave you benchmarks to gauge your progress. But why are the labels necessary? To borrow a concept from Starhawk, they exist to please Talking Self; but we want to get past pleasing Talking Self, don't we? In other words, the progression itself is necessary and will happen, with or without the labels. Why do we want them, when they only encourage Talking Self? The program can function without them.

The progression I needed to go through to become a person who could be a good ritual priestess *isn't* necessary if I never want to do that.

My life was going along very nicely until I started aiming at my 2nd degree. I strongly believe that if I'd never gone in that direction (i.e. taking on more commitments, narrowing the focus of my life into a particular kind of service to my Gods), that my life would very likely not have exploded in the same way. But by *saying* "Yes, I want this kind of thing"  - which is a label whether or not you stick a convenient phrase on it - I needed to either re-form my life pretty drastically. I knew then I had a choice: but it would have limited other options.

I need to run to work, so can't continue here. But I really *don't* see why avoiding a label means it doesn't exist. To go back to Reclaiming - there are people in Reclaiming who are considered senior teachers. There are people whose commentaries are given particular weight. (And I know this because I've both met some of them, and talked to others about their feelings on this.) I feel very uncomfortable in Reclaiming settings (despite liking the individual people a lot) because *I* feel there are differences there that aren't acknowledged - and that therefore, some of the people there may either get in over their head - or may not be getting the kind of support they would if those unspoken labels were actually overt. I'd rather just name the damn thing, and get on with the Work, and not let the label get in the way. (it doesn't have to, if you don't let it.)
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« Reply #11: October 02, 2007, 11:18:42 am »

I go at it differently. For me, witchcraft is a technology used to do various things. My religion is about what I do with that. And my tradition is about how I go about doing them with other people (with some specific other things I consider benefits.)

Isn't separation of witchcraft-the-technology from witchcraft-the-religion a newfangled idea? I was just reading about this a few days ago ... darned if I can remember where. At any rate, separating the technology from the spirituality is the same mistake made by the materialists when they separate the material world from the spiritual -- and you can see where that has led.

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Why?

When I walk into circle, I recognise that we are *not* all equal - we walk into the circle in different moods, with different experiences, with different *levels* of experience. One ritual may focus on the stuff that's my strong point. The next may be a real stretch for me. One day, I may walk in with great focus and interest in the working ...

My point is - we're not all equal. We can all work together on the same goal, and we can all be thoroughly committed to the work. But there are fundamental differences that make a difference in the methods, approaches, and other aspects used.

I think we have different ideas of what circling is for. Perhaps I should have been more specific. When I think of circling, I'm thinking of the Full Moon celebration. I don't believe this time is primarily for working magick, although certainly magick can be worked. I think its primarily purpose is celebration in the Presence of the Lady. Dancing, singing and whatnot.

As for magickal needs, in a functional group I would think that those seeking the performance would ask for help and choose what to accept from what was offered. As I said before, wisdom isn't hard to perceive. No one is going to ask a proto-Witch for help, at least not twice. The real problem lies in a dysfunctional group; and I think that's why you value hierarchy, for its power to prevent dysfunction. Instead, if there were trouble-makers who have their own agenda, I would simply disinvite them.

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One of the things we use our heirarchy for is "What happens if something goes wrong?" If you don't have a heirarchy at all, you can have absolute chaos if there's a problem.

Again, wisdom is obvious. If something goes wrong, people will instinctively look toward an elder in whom they trust. You don't need titles for that.

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Beyond this, some of this requires specific skills.

That's not the same thing as hierarchy. If someone's good a digging ditches, he gets the job. If someone's good at healing, she gets the job. Pure functionality, no hierarchy involved.

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I think Tradition serves the Work - both things deliberately capitalised. Whatever gets the Work done is viable. Whatever doesn't may be fun, may be personally intriguing, may be meaningful - but it's not getting at the whole goal.

I think we have different ideas about what the Work is. I think it's personal transformation in the context of realizing our interconnectedness. In other words, love. There is a place for spellcasting for more mundane concerns, certainly; but these aren't the Work. At least, that's how I see it.

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Part of our group Work is teaching. ... Part of our Work is running a training circle. ... Part of our group Work is service of the Gods and the turning of the wheel ...

Yet, all these can be done without hierarchy. Seekers with true hearts will naturally look up to the wise; they don't have to wear badges of rank. For the true seeker, it is her joy to learn, just as for the wise it is her joy to teach. These true hearts will seek each other out.

Isn't a coven the responsibility of the senior Witches? Don't they direct? naturally, with the consent of those who are directed (who withhold that consent by going elsewhere). I have long thought important decisions would be made by consensus among the wise. A coven is not church with a pointed hat -- at least, I don't see it that way. The heart of a coven is its elders, who are a handful of independent Witches who associate for work and worship, who regard each other as equals and who make decisions amongst themselves by consensus. There may be as few as two or three of these. They may agree to teach others (or direct them to teachers from among their own students) and welcome them into worship and working; but if so it is on their terms. That's my take on it, anyway.

In case you're wondering how I can support this notion of a coven but not hierarchy within a tradition ... well, they're not the same thing. A coven, in my view, is a voluntary association of the wise, who may or may not agree to let others participate; but if they do it's still their association with one another that is primary. If they choose to exclude someone, it's because their time and energy belongs to them, and they spend it on whom they choose. A tradition, however, is a way of approaching the gods together with others -- a religion within a religion, if you will -- and its categories and concepts tend to be etched in stone. A tradition is a way of seeing how things are; covening is just about who you work and worship with. They may overlap, but they are not the same.

I appreciate your feedback; I really do. I deeply respect your achievement, and I trust your instincts. That may sound strange, since I disagree with you philosophically, but what I mean is that I trust that you perceive a genuine need and you're doing your best to meet it. We wouldn't go about it the same way, but that's ok.

You've really made me think, and that doesn't happen too often on Internet message boards. I hope that's a sign of what to expect here generally. Please feel free to respond again, but I feel a little uncomfortable discussing this any longer because it's someone else's thread. I'm sure we've given her a lot to think about. Blessed Be! Cheesy
« Last Edit: October 02, 2007, 11:45:34 am by rodney » Logged

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« Reply #12: October 02, 2007, 12:51:25 pm »

Isn't separation of witchcraft-the-technology from witchcraft-the-religion a newfangled idea? I was just reading about this a few days ago ... darned if I can remember where. At any rate, separating the technology from the spirituality is the same mistake made by the materialists when they separate the material world from the spiritual -- and you can see where that has led.

I don't know how new fangled it is, but I don't see that separating the craft from the religion is necessarily a mistake. Witchcraft in itself does not necessitate religion even though the two are often inter-twined to a greater and lesser degree.

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I think we have different ideas of what circling is for. Perhaps I should have been more specific. When I think of circling, I'm thinking of the Full Moon celebration. I don't believe this time is primarily for working magick, although certainly magick can be worked. I think its primarily purpose is celebration in the Presence of the Lady. Dancing, singing and whatnot.

That probably helps because that isn't necessarily the only thing *I* think of as to what circling is for. (just my opinion)

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As I said before, wisdom isn't hard to perceive.
That, I'd disagree with since some people can fake wisdom, and/or convince others that they are far wiser than they really are.

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You've really made me think,
thinking is fun Wink
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« Reply #13: October 02, 2007, 01:02:17 pm »

Isn't separation of witchcraft-the-technology from witchcraft-the-religion a newfangled idea?
I don't think so.  And I think you'll find that almost all practitioners of folk magic through the years identified religiously with their neighbors.  Meaning, in Europe and the US at least, most of them were Christian. 

It's also fairly common among the African-Carribean syncretic religions to separate the folk magic from the religion - Voudo/Hoodoo f'ex. 

I guess it could depend on how recent something has to be in your mind to be "new-fangled."  The ancients didn't seem to separate religion or magic from any other part of their daily lives.  (Meaning personal religion and folk magic.  There were of coursed priests and magicians that focused on the big stuff.)
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« Reply #14: October 02, 2007, 06:53:27 pm »

Isn't separation of witchcraft-the-technology from witchcraft-the-religion a newfangled idea?

Actually, witchcraft as a religion is probably a newfangled idea for the most part. Witchcraft in most cultures throughout history is just a form of magic. If it has any religious aspects, they come from the religion(s) practiced by the people involved.
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