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                                      FOOD FOR THOUGHT 
           SYSOP'S NOTE: This excellent food-for-thought was downloaded
           from EarthRite BBS, 415-651-9496. - Talespinner, Sysop, WeirdBase
           NOTE: This document appears to be adapted from the work of 
           Amber K in "Covencraft : Witchcraft for Three or More",  1998 
           Llewellyn Publications.
           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, flunkie job more easily if you get to go home and play
           Witch at night.
           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 facillitatir of
           a study group, group process insights and skills are important.
           These include:
             1) Gatekeeping, or guiding discussion in such a way that
             everyony 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
             compleated, 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 someones 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 faculity, 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
           coverners explore the roots of teir 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 radiesthesia (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 facilitatir, either for the first fonths 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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