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Author Topic: Coven experience?  (Read 19116 times)
High Adept Member
Last Login:February 23, 2020, 06:56:44 pm
United States United States

Religion: Priestess in initiatory religious witchcraft tradition
Posts: 2506

Blog entries (1)


« 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.)

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.


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.)

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.)

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.

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.

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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