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Author Topic: Coven experience?  (Read 16371 times)
rodney
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« Reply #45: October 04, 2007, 09:23:06 am »

And the point that some of us are trying to get at is this: presuming that there *is* someone (or someones) ultimately in charge of certain roles, doesn't it make a lot of sense to have an agreed-upon noun to use to refer to them?

I've already alluded to the ego-driven, who I think are merely the grossest perversion of the degree system. More subtle is the attitude that tends to be cultivated in the students. "I'm trying for my second degree," etc., as if spirituality were about personal achievement and not divine intimacy.

If degrees were no more than descriptors, they would be innocuous; but they're not. For good or for ill, no matter why they were originally instituted and despite the best of intentions, for many they are signposts of personal achievement. You might say that any descriptor can be twisted this way; and you would be right.  But that doesn't mean we simply throw up our hands; it means we don't create labels of rank unnecessarily.

Quote
I know you're ready to drop this - but I'm really struggling with the fact that you're apparently completely fine with the idea that the roles exist - but it's the fact that they're called specific things, and designated in a consistent (at least internally) way that you feel is so problematic. And that's the part I really truly don't get.

Hopefully it's clearer now.

Quote
I have a far easier time getting the "I don't like heirarchy, I want to decide everything by consensus, with everyone having an equal chance to share their thoughts and contribute to the decision."

I want to make sure I'm not misunderstood on this point. I've explained this before, but from what you say here I'm not sure I got it across.

Agreement by consensus is a coven matter, not a tradition matter; and it only applies to the seniors, whose coven it is. They can set up as much hierarchy as they feel necessary to keep order, promote education ... whatever. These are extensions of the principle that they associate with one another as equals and by mutual agreement, and with others on their own terms. The tradition, however, should treat everyone as equals in dignity. I'm not saying it won't work if it doesn't; obviously, it does. But I think it would promote spirituality more efficiently if it dropped the degrees. We come from a very competitive, left-brained culture, and graduated systems like this applied to people are simply too dangerous. Gross dangers are easy to see; subtler dangers may not be. Perceiving spirituality as an exercise in personal achievement is a mistake of gargantuan proportions. Yes, Spirit can work around it, and does; but why make things harder for ourselves? This is what I meant when I said I don't think the gains are worth the cost. Yes, you promote order; but you pay for that order by permanently instilling an orientation toward Spirit that is egocentric and self-defeating.

I have already mentioned another of the subtler dangers, that of carving distinctions between people in stone.

I know the Farrar clan is Alexandrian; but do Gardnerians also use the title "Witch-Queen"? I wonder anyone can do so without being Embarrassed, but then my thighs are not a comely as Janet Farrar's are ... or used to be. "Lord" this, "Lady" that, "High" priestess ... It sometimes seems as if Wicca were liberally populated with people trying desperately to regain their self-esteem.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2007, 11:38:00 am by rodney » Logged

Just to the left, and not very far away, were the Triple Demons of Compromise--one tall and thin, one short and fat, and the third exactly like the other two....

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RandallS
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« Reply #46: October 04, 2007, 05:49:22 pm »

Agreement by consensus is a coven matter, not a tradition matter; and it only applies to the seniors, whose coven it is. They can set up as much hierarchy as they feel necessary to keep order, promote education ... whatever. These are extensions of the principle that they associate with one another as equals and by mutual agreement, and with others on their own terms. The tradition, however, should treat everyone as equals in dignity. I'm not saying it won't work if it doesn't; obviously, it does. But I think it would promote spirituality more efficiently if it dropped the degrees.

Let's translate this to a different religion. This would be like saying that it would be fine for individual Catholic churches to decide certain people are qualified to deacons and prests, but the denomination itself should have no overall standards for such positions or power over those standards. That seems silly and counter-productive to me. Besides, if one isn't Catholic, what difference does it make? I'm neither Catholic nor Trad Wiccan so one's rank in those religions is really meaningless to me. Neither the Pope nor a Third Degree BTW High Priestess has any authority over me, so why it bother me what titles they have?

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This is what I meant when I said I don't think the gains are worth the cost. Yes, you promote order; but you pay for that order by permanently instilling an orientation toward Spirit that is egocentric and self-defeating.

Obviously, religious groups with titles and hierarchy, do not see the problem you do and their systems work for them -- and have for hundreds of years in some cases.

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"Lord" this, "Lady" that, "High" priestess ... It sometimes seems as if Wicca were liberally populated with people trying desperately to regain their self-esteem.

The forum leadership here has a hierarchy and titles. Staff have more powers than normal members, but greater responsibilities too. Senior Staff have more power (and more responsibility) than Staff. The Hosts have even more power and are ultimately responsible for the board. The board would not run nearly as well as it does without a hierarchical power and responsibility. It certainly would not have lasted 9 years and ten months without people with the power and authority to make the rules and enforce them -- and some type of titles so members know who has and who does not have this authority. The alternative to some type of organization and leadership hierarchy in groups of humans is generally anarchy.
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rodney
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« Reply #47: October 04, 2007, 06:09:51 pm »

Let's translate this to a different religion. This would be like saying that it would be fine for individual Catholic churches to decide certain people are qualified to deacons and prests, but the denomination itself should have no overall standards for such positions or power over those standards. That seems silly and counter-productive to me.

Why not pick a church that actually does this? The Church of Christ comes to mind. They have no umbrella organization or church council; they are independent congregations.

But I think you've ignored my explanation for why and when I think hierarchy is acceptable in a local group.

Quote
Obviously, religious groups with titles and hierarchy, do not see the problem you do and their systems work for them -- and have for hundreds of years in some cases.

I didn't say a degree system won't work. I'm suggesting one without degrees will work better. Of course, it depends on what you think the work is.

Your other comments seem to suggest that, if I am not a member of a particular group, I have no right to express an opinion about it. Is this your position?

Quote
The forum leadership here has a hierarchy and titles. Staff have more powers than normal members, but greater responsibilities too. Senior Staff have more power (and more responsibility) than Staff. The Hosts have even more power and are ultimately responsible for the board. The board would not run nearly as well as it does without a hierarchical power and responsibility. It certainly would not have lasted 9 years and ten months without people with the power and authority to make the rules and enforce them -- and some type of titles so members know who has and who does not have this authority. The alternative to some type of organization and leadership hierarchy in groups of humans is generally anarchy.

Is your board a tradition?

I am finished with this thread. I cast my part in it upon the waters.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2007, 06:14:08 pm by rodney » Logged

Just to the left, and not very far away, were the Triple Demons of Compromise--one tall and thin, one short and fat, and the third exactly like the other two....
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« Reply #48: October 04, 2007, 06:12:22 pm »

I am finished with this thread. I cast my part in it upon the waters.

Very well. As such, I see no need to reply to your questions, however.
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« Reply #49: October 04, 2007, 07:13:50 pm »

The Hosts have even more power and are ultimately responsible for the board.

All Hail the mighty Hosts, without which the Cauldron would be simply another melting pot...... Cheesy
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« Reply #50: October 04, 2007, 09:20:37 pm »

"Lord" this, "Lady" that, "High" priestess ... It sometimes seems as if Wicca were liberally populated with people trying desperately to regain their self-esteem.

I know Rodney's said he's done with the thead, but I want to riff on this for a bit for the possible assistance to the original poster.

I find the use of formal titles (in the sense of Lord/Lady/HPS/HP) useful for a couple of reasons. For one thing, some designations (HPS, HP, handmaiden, summoner, page, east, south, etc.) make ritual scripting a lot easier. Several of the rituals we use change relatively little from time to time when we do them: our custom is to do a quick note on who is doing which role the first time it shows up, and then otherwise just notate it by the role.

(We're a bit weird by some standards: we use ritual note cards and 'cheat sheets' for most rituals: invocations, etc. are done from memory or inspiration, depending on the person and the role, but something like a ritual drama, or a longer speech about a particular celebration, etc. will have cue cards. The cards also include quick notes on what happens in which order. I know some people find this breaks the mood: we find it doesn't, as long as the people using them use them for reference, not 'bury face in notes'. I'd like to do more playing with doing more by memory and inspiration - it's on my 'after I hive' list - but we do enough other stuff that most people feel aiming for memorisation and then flubbing it would be far more distracting. We're also a teaching circle, so having notes helps students take on roles before they're totally managing to remember all the words *and* all the actions/energy work. We'd much rather they focused on the latter, if they can't do both at once.)

Anyway, that's one time it's handy.

It's also a designation of "People with specific ritual jobs". In an initiate circle, everyone there is technically a priestess: the specific job title of high priestess, within circle, therefore designates specific actions and responsibilities. (We are working currently with a 4 person set of primary roles: HPS, HP, Handmaiden, Summoner, each of whom have specific ritual roles - overt stuff they do - and energetic stuff they are responsible for. F'example, the Maiden, which is what I've been doing, is responsible for grounding and keeping some energetic connections related to the altar functional, and also does our call to the ancients.)

The use of Lord and Lady is a little different. I'm with Rodney in that I'm sceptical of people who use it outside of circle or circle/coven specific needs. (Same way I am of people using professional degrees on hobby email lists, or elsewhere outside the relevant context.)

However, we use it in circle as a response to the HPS/HP (or occasionally someone else) representing the deities in circle. We use it outside of circle very rarely to indicate that the person in question is speaking on behalf of the ritual group, or from a position of having to make a formal decision for the group. That might happen once or twice a year - in the past, it's been something like a "No, really *drop* trying to talk about this by email: your attempts to do so are disrupting other people. Here's the way to bring up concerns." In other words "I'm talking to you with my group leadership entirely on, not as a friend, a circlemate, etc. and this is a decision coming from the leadership."
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« Reply #51: October 05, 2007, 06:54:36 am »

(We're a bit weird by some standards: we use ritual note cards and 'cheat sheets' for most rituals: invocations, etc. are done from memory or inspiration, depending on the person and the role, but something like a ritual drama, or a longer speech about a particular celebration, etc. will have cue cards. The cards also include quick notes on what happens in which order. I know some people find this breaks the mood: we find it doesn't, as long as the people using them use them for reference, not 'bury face in notes'. I'd like to do more playing with doing more by memory and inspiration - it's on my 'after I hive' list - but we do enough other stuff that most people feel aiming for memorisation and then flubbing it would be far more distracting. We're also a teaching circle, so having notes helps students take on roles before they're totally managing to remember all the words *and* all the actions/energy work. We'd much rather they focused on the latter, if they can't do both at once.)
Not weird by my standards.  It sounds like there are some differences in the details of applying it, but otherwise this is completely in accord with my experience.  IMO, cue cards break the mood far less than full-scale scripts.

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« Reply #52: October 05, 2007, 07:28:59 am »

(We're a bit weird by some standards: we use ritual note cards and 'cheat sheets' for most rituals: invocations, etc. are done from memory or inspiration, depending on the person and the role, but something like a ritual drama, or a longer speech about a particular celebration, etc. will have cue cards. The cards also include quick notes on what happens in which order. I know some people find this breaks the mood: we find it doesn't, as long as the people using them use them for reference, not 'bury face in notes'. I'd like to do more playing with doing more by memory and inspiration - it's on my 'after I hive' list - but we do enough other stuff that most people feel aiming for memorisation and then flubbing it would be far more distracting. We're also a teaching circle, so having notes helps students take on roles before they're totally managing to remember all the words *and* all the actions/energy work. We'd much rather they focused on the latter, if they can't do both at once.)

Oh, I really like the idea of the note cards!
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« Reply #53: October 05, 2007, 03:25:12 pm »

Oh, I really like the idea of the note cards!

In that case, I'll add a few other comments.

My HPS does different sets for major roles (usually HPS, HP, Handmaiden, Summoner, since we're the ones most likely to have specific stuff to do.) She edits out the bulk of the text of any long speech for anyone who isn't actually doing it (and just leaves the first and last sentence or so.)

Stuff that needs to be done (i.e. "Cauldron to center of room" or "turn off lights" or whatever is in italics.) Standard parts of the ritual (circle cast, quarter calls, etc.) aren't written out: it's just the [thing]: [who] so you might see:

East: Jenett
South : PersonB
etc.

The 'title' part for each step is bolded for the person whose cards they are, so if you were the Maiden, you might see:

HPs: We're going to be making bread today, as part of our ritual .... Now, we want you all to get a chance to smell and touch the ingredients we'll be using.
Maiden: [start handing around the bowls of ingredients as they are mentioned.]
HP: First we have the flour, which... different cultures focus on different grains: this is reflected in their myths.

(Examples based on the Lammas ritual I and a groupmate did this past Lammas that involved sacred bread baking and some story-telling.)

In both the case of the HPs and HP, there's some excised text to keep things brief on the cards. The maiden doesn't need a copy of everything that's said: she just needs to know what her cues are.

That said, if you don't have some notation of each thing that happens (HPS says something, HP says something, etc.) it's really easy for people with other roles to forget where they come in. Doing something really clearly to indicate the next step helps a lot - either giving them the beginning and end of the last speech, or have the last person speaking also do something physical (subtle or not) that the other roles can cue from.

My HPS also does a one-sheet 'parts' sheet for anyone who has less involved roles (calling a quarter, f'example) which has a one-sheet version of the order of what's going on (with particular notes as far as stuff we want them to be aware of so they can model it for students, like offering a wish for the coming year) and also usually all of the songs being done. It saves paper shuffling. Most people use it as a quick review, and then just as a song sheet.

We don't do all of this for every ritual, but they're a life-saver for more complex ones, especially things like initiations, which we a) do infrequently, and b) where the number of people there leads to some variation of smaller roles, and it's easy to forget all the details that go with it.
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