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                                 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 lips...  

     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 carefully.  

     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 moment.  

     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 

     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;  or c) you look forward to learning and growing  in  the 

     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 facillitator  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 

          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  identifying  diversions  and  refocussing 
             attention on goals and priorities; and 

          5) Achieving closure smoothly when  the  essential  work  is 
             complected, 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 each.  

     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 someone's has to 
     collect the dues if any, buy the candles, chill the wine,  and so 


     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 radiasthesia (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 facillitator, 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.


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