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OR Before You Start a Coven 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 magic 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: because it seems glamorous, exotic, and a little wicked; because it will shock your mother, or 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: you feel that you will be performing a useful job for yourself and others; you have enjoyed leadership roles in the past, and proven yourself capable; or you look forward to learning and growing in the role.
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 facilitator of a study group, group process insights and skills are important. These include:
Gatekeeping, or guiding discussion in such a way that everyony has an opportunity to express ideas and opinions; Summarizing and clarifying; Conflict resolution, or helping participants understand points of disagreement and find potential solutions
which respect everyone's interests; Moving the discussion toward consensus, or at any rate decision, by identifying diversions and refocussing attention on goals and priorities; and 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.
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 forth. Teaching is crucial to both covens and study groups. If only one person has any formal training or experience in magic, s/he should transmit that knowledge
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,
rot 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
"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
How To Start A Coven Starting a Coven
Part and parcel of seeing yourself as a member of Pagan Clergy will, at some point, probably extend to starting your own coven. While this should not be done without forethought the process is not difficult. The coven can be as elaborate as a non profit organization complete with by-laws and "volunteer jobs" for the members or a loose gathering of friends on Full Moons and Sabbats.
If you have not read Covencraft by Amber K I strongly recommend you obtain a copy. This book has been an invaluable resource for many covens I know of.
There are several questions you should ask yourself before you forge ahead and create your own working group or coven. I have elaborated on some of them. This is certainly not a comprehensive list. There are as many structures as there are covens.
Personal Readiness to Lead Others
What is your level of experience?
I do not recommend that you read a couple of books and think you have the experience to lead a coven. Coven leadership requires a combination of magickal ability, the desire to lead and organizational skills. If you do not have all of these skills you will need to involve someone with those skills in your vision. I have seen wonderful groups fail because the HP or HPs did not stay in contact with their members. You will need to plan ahead, let everyone know the schedule and keep on your members about coming to ritual.
What are your personal goals? and how will they be accomplished by starting a coven?
If you have a lot on your personal plate right now can you devote the time necessary to leading a coven month after month, year after year? If you need to take a break who would lead in your place?
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