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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

                                  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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