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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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