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How do you see the role of High Priest or Priestess?
Get the "Gentle Goddess, Lady Bountiful" ideas out of your head. No one is going to sit at your feet and listen to you drip pearls of wisdom for long. While flattering, eventually you will be seen for the human you are and your flock will find someone else to worship. The role of leader is not someone who forces a flock to "heaven" rather someone who leads and teaches and follows and learns. You will be lost sometimes, you will learn more than you teach. Be prepared for that.
Are you emotionally and physically able to deal with the problems of leading a coven or working group?
Again if you are going through personal crisis ask your self if this will help you heal or overwhelm you.
What is your ego like? How do you handle a bad ritual you created?
Your ego is going to be trounced from time to time. If you have a bad ritual it is not the fault of your coven, energy, Goddess or God. It very likely is a combination of many factors but as they say, "the buck stops here". Ultimately you are responsible for your coven and its energy work.
Are you magickally able to move large amounts of energy and ground that energy?
This is what covens do. I cannot recommend enough that you have actual experience with a coven before striking out on your own. However, I am a realist. I know that in all areas of the country there are not the opportunities to have a coven. I also know that even if there are covens they may not be accepting new members or accept you. Not everyone is a good fit for every group.
Are you able to work with many different personalities and guide them without controlling them?
Again this is not a show for your abilities to be Oo'ed and Aa'ed at. You are leading, you are not beating your way of doing things into your coveners.
How do you manage large projects? What is your track record?
If you cannot stay focused for longer than a month then I suggest you wait before beginning a coven.
Why do you think you are qualified to be a leader?
What is your experience? What qualities do you have, good and bad, that will affect your group?
What are your personal boundaries and will they be breeched if you become a High Priest or Priestess?
If you do not want people in your business then you are probably not ready to lead a coven. This is a close group of people, they have a habit of knowing everything about the HP or HPs soon. Your good and your bad.
What is your personal ritual style? Loose and freeform or structured?
Think about rituals you like and get something from. This will tell you what type of ritual you are comfortable with. I do not like very structured ritual read out of a book, some HP's and HPs' need that as do their coveners.
Are you "in the broom closet"? How would becoming a High Priest or Priestess affect your public status? What could you lose if you were exposed?
Will you become or are you already, credentialed clergy?
Creating the Structure of Your Coven or Group
Will you work alone or are you part of a working pair?
If you are alone you will have more creative control. If you are with another person you will have someone to lean on but they will get a 50% voice in the operation of the coven. This is not something to enter into lightly.
How would you handle a witch war"?
Within your own coven, with former members, with another coven? What is your stance on casting to control? Do you cast in anger?
What is the ideal size of your coven or group? Why?
How will you screen your potential members?
You should have a series of questions either formal or informal for everyone considering your coven or group.
How would you handle the issues of promotion within your coven? What are the steps for spiritual growth within the group handled?
Do you have a degree system that challenges those who wish to grow in service and eventually start their own groups?
What are the goals of your coven? Spiritual growth for the members or for the community at large?
How do you see your coven as it relates to the larger Pagan and non Pagan community? Are you going to forge ahead and be someone who holds Paganism up as a viable religious alternative or should you stay a close community who bolsters one another?
Do you seek membership in a larger community? Will you join CoG or another local or national organization?
Is it OK for your members to be in the broom closet or are you planning a level of visibility that would require all members to be openly pagan?
What is your long term vision for a coven?
Will you grow and form an inner and outer circle? Stay small? Be for teaching?
Will you have a policy of "open acceptance" with loose rules regarding whom you will accept or do you feel you need a more rigid structure?
Will you have a set of By-Laws? How will they be created?
What is the role of the HP or HPs?
How will members be brought into the coven once the initial coven is established?
Will your members suggest people? Will they all vote? How would you handle a vote that went against your wishes?
How will you recruit members?
I have an ad in the Witches Voice. I have also posted ads at local pagan friendly shops. I screen potential members with care and meet with them before they meet with the group or attend any ritual.
How will you handle "problem members"?
What is your stand on mental illness and coven membership?
How will you communicate with your members and potential members?
E-mail, snail mail, the telephone. How often?
Will you have an inner and an outer circle? What will the differences be?
How will you handle people who are not a good fit for your coven?
How will you allow people to leave your coven?
There has to be a graceful out. If you do not allow people to leave then you are running a cult not a coven.
How does the student define Wicca? Do they see it as a religion?
Is this person looking for a support group? People in crisis do not generally make good students and they can be very disruptive to a class or coven. Suggest that they look into one of the many circle/support groups hosted at a new age store (It is best to name a store rather than use the term “new age”).
Can you envision being in Circle with this person? Can you hug this person?
Holding an short introductory course, with no obligation on your part for further teaching can be a good way to get to know a potential student.
How do I say, “no” nicely to those I choose not to teach?
The most diplomatic way we've come up with is: “I believe I am not the right teacher for you.” When possible suggest other teachers or other places the student can look for guidance.
What to tell potential students about the yourself and your group:
How long you have been involved in the craft.
How long you have been teaching the craft.
Who your teachers are/were.
Who your teacher's teacher's were, etc.
Who makes the decisions in the group. (i.e.: committee, majority vote, HP and/or HPS only)
Whether the group follows a particular pantheon or is eclectic.
Whether there a degree system, and if so what the structure consists of and how long it generally takes a student to progress from degree to degree.
Whether the group ever works skyclad.
What the group's policy on drugs and alcohol is.
Whether there are dues or other fees.
How much reading and other work is required.
How public the group is.
How to recognize and encourage a student's progress.
Know that most people need some amount of “stroking”. Many leaders (of covens, companies, countries, etc.)fail to recognize this need in others because they themselves do not need it. Sincere compliments are always appreciated.
Always encourage students to ask questions. That doesn't mean you are obligated to give them answers, but make sure they understand that questions show interest and there is no such thing as a dumb question.
Encourage mentor ship (hooking up a new student with an experienced student) whenever possible. This takes some of the burden off of you and helps the more experienced student as well since there is no better way to increase your own knowledge than to teach.
How to end a student/teacher relationship when it isn't working out.
This one is easy when the student is the one who decides its time for them to leave. When its the teacher who comes to this conclusion and the student doesn't see it, then it can get very awkward.
It is best when you can get the student to make the decision. Sometimes this is possible through getting the student to evaluate his or her own progress and to see if they are meeting their own goals. (See “Honesty” paper)
Sometimes you just have to explain that you have taught them all you were meant to teach them, and that the time has come for them to leave you to seek the next step of their path.
Depending on the policies of the group and circumstances of the student's leaving you may have to decide whether or not to do a “parting of the ways” type ritual or take other steps to ensure a peaceful separation.
How to deal with squabbles and personality conflicts between students.
Of course each situation will be different, but it will help if you have a policy in place for dealing with conflict and make sure students are aware of it. You could ask that all problems be brought directly to the HP or HPS, or if it is a large coven other initiates or experienced members may be designated.
While you may feel that the "right" thing to do is to keep those with unresolved differences out of Circle, you may (especially if most or all of the members are experienced) want to consider using the situation to be a teaching opportunity. The ones who are a bit hot under the collar will find out just how good they are at grounding and centering, and the rest of the group will get an exercise in dealing with negative energy in Circle and/or filling energy gaps. Make it clear to the parties involved exactly why they were allowed in Circle and that you still expect the problem to be resolved as soon as possible.
How to make sure each student feels like he or she is getting a fair amount of the HP & HPS's time.
Try to spend a few minutes alone with each student on a regular basis. This will help eliminate the student going through the, “Yikes I feel like I'm being called down to the principal's office!” syndrom that can occur when private conferences are reserved for special (and especially unpleasant) occasions.
You can also make it clear up front that there will be times when you will need to spend more time with individual students. The Church of T Tylwyth Teg, Inc. states this very clearly in its, “Thirteen Precepts of Coven Etiquette” given to all new students:
“2. The High Priestess chooses, for reasons that are her own as a High Priestess, to meet with certain members of the group at certain times. Those who are not asked to those particular meetings should never take this in any sprit of offense. Above all, it is never appropriate to invite yourself over if the High Priestess has not extended a general invitation.”
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