Number Six of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time

For those interested, I will be bicycling from Medina, NY to Seneca Falls, NY today.

Number 6: Everything does not boil down to “Possession!!!”

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned my rather embarrassing story on this blog yet, but I suppose I will have to, as it is an important lesson. The reason I harp on group dynamics and fluffy bunny stuff so much is that we all fall victim to it. I was no better a few years ago, when I managed to call my High Priest in fear, and the first words out of my mouth were, “Umm…umm….Possession!”

The story goes like this. A fellow covener and I had a third friend over to my house to hang out. This third friend, whom I will call Jill for the sake of this story, was having a very rough time at home, in school, and in life in general. I believe there was evidence of cutting herself on her arms or on her legs, among the other signs of depression, anxiety and general looking-for-attention behaviors that many teenagers exhibit in one point or another of their lives. We will call the fellow covener, Mary.

So Mary and Jill and I went down to my basement, which also served as our ritual room. I believe Jill may have been interested in joining the coven with us, and we may have turned the conversation towards something of that nature. One thing lead to another, and eventually Jill radically altered her behavior, explaining that she was a man-spirit inside of Jill. Mary and I, ever the helpful people, tried to remove this malevolent being from poor Jill’s body.

You should have seen us. We tried forcing Jill to drink our cleansed water. We had to chase her around because s/he wouldn’t stay still. At one point, s/he said to us that s/he wouldn’t leave Jill’s body until one of us kissed her. At one point, I think we even tried to bleed the spirit out of her with a thumb tack.

Back to the story. So my high priest answers the phone, and after hearing me say that, proceeded to yell and lecture me for about a half hour, beginning with “Wait. Stop.” and ending with, “You better like the pair of underwear that you’re wearing, because by the time I’m done with you, it will most likely be the last pair you’re wearing.”

Thinking back, that end line may have been the second phone call to him. We actually called him twice – apparently the first time of him yelling wasn’t enough to get it through our heads that “Jill” just wanted attention. Boy though, I was 20 feet away from the other two on the phone and they could hear every word that he was saying, crystal clear, he was yelling so loud.

Needless to say, I have since learned basic psychology principles as well as picked up a little bit of common sense. I am not ruling out the concept or occurrence of possession, mind you, merely pointing out that it is a very, very rare happening.

Number One of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Number Two of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Number Three of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Number Four of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Number Five of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Number Six of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Number Seven of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Number Eight of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Number Nine of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.

Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time « Pagan Pages.


Establishing Boundaries

With the advent of the thirteen principles, a groundwork was formed for everyone – covens and individuals alike – to base their organization upon.  The 13 principles gives all of us a background, something solid.  Although primarily a socially derived document, and a document of time and not of concepts(the problems mentioned in 1973 may not be an issue in 2073, and we may find that those problems, and that document, become obsolete) it provides a way for us to say, “We believe this.  Because the principles say so.”  As if some how, what a book or document says is more important than living, breathing people.

Yet, when a coven is formed, one of the principles comes into question.

We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.

How much power does that give a high priest and high priestess?  I know within my tradition, we have specific coven layout rules.  Should there be a high priest and priestess?  Doubtless, the HP and HPs are not authoritarian, but when democracy just doesn’t work, or becomes obsolete (when no one cares what color the drapes are in the welcoming room of the temple you just built), where does the power fall?

The most important thing to establish within a newly formed coven is exactly that.  Who has the power?  Is it distributed among many?  Does it rest with the HP or HPs?  Does it rotate?  Is it a fully democratic society?  Without that, power becomes an issue later on.  From the petty (“Shouldn’t that be “thee”  instead of “you”?) to the more important(“I always feel like I have no say in what is going on in circle.”).  And suddenly, you have people questioning your ability to lead, and along with it, your sanity and right to have the same religion they do.  A lot of time has to go into working with a coven.

The author of Covencraft, Amber K, suggests that when forming a coven, the person who is heading the efforts (or the small group) comes up with a few, essential, “non negotiables”, and those of a like mind may participate.  After that, decisions must be made about :

  • Coven emphasis (celebration, growth, service, etc)
  • Types of Activities
  • System of Magick
  • Decision Making
  • Organizational Structure
  • Size
  • Finances
  • Schedule
  • Places
  • Communication
  • Networking and Privacy

All at the first meeting!  Without some sort of structure, the idea will fall apart before its formed, or the group, soon after.

Credentials in Religion?

We all do it. “Hi! I’m Wiccan!” pops up at some point, and if the person you’re speaking to is of like-minded religion, you start testing each other.

  • Who has more experience?
  • Who has a more verified path?
  • Who has read more books?
  • Whose books do they read?

Think about it. I know you do it. Even if you’re Christian, the debate changes slightly, but remains the same.

  • How long have they been Christian?
  • What church do they go to?
  • What version of the bible do they read?

Is this justified? I think so. Its hard for us not to discriminate, and it tends to be the case that, when speaking to others who claim to be along the path, they’re either on the path in this world, or on the path of some other world. The first thing a wiccan wants to do when they meet you is establish if you’re the real deal or not. Questions pop up like, “Who’s your favorite author?” To see if its Cunningham, or RavenWolf. Or somehow, you’re goaded into answering some version of, “Who taught you?”

The people who are just getting into our religion, but are doing a pretty damn good job of not being “Fluffy bunny” about it, will probably take the most shit from both people along the *real* path and the weekend witches.

“Oh, you’ve only been studying a year.” They’ll say smugly. “You don’t know about the super secret codex of Gardner.” (You may substitute “Super secret codex of Gardner” for some other bullshit.) Or, “No, I think I have more experience dealing with this infestation of fairies on my own.” After you, the newbie, offers the concept of meditation and centering and communing with the Gods.

I have to tell you, take a step back people! I’ve been pagan all of my life, and I grew up a lonely, contemplative only child, talking and singing to the winter wind as it blew softly through my southern window. I didn’t know it was a religion until I was somewhere between 10 and 12, and I dedicated somewhere in there. I began a coven with my friends who had somehow found the same path when I was 13, and we were together until just before I turned 16.

However, the length of time since I initiated tells you nothing of what I know. Those first four years, before I met my current high priest, I was probably fluffy bunny by way of understanding very little of how magick worked, how energy was used, and how ritual was conducted. Yet, in the first six months of my relationship with my high priest, I knew more than the majority of online communities had to offer me.

I try not to do it, but I’m just as guilty as you. As humans, we are always searching to play a role, and as Wiccans, witches, pagans, we are always trying to fall into either the teacher or the student role. Because information – real, sacred, information, is so sparsely found – we create a need for lessons from anyone, anything. This can be good, or bad.

So, before you take any more bits of wisdom, here’s my qualifications:

  • I first picked up “Teen Witch” by Silver RavenWolf at my local library. Yes, I, who bash all things Silver RavenWolf, learned originally from her.
  • The next books I picked up were “Celtic Magic” and “Norse Magic” by D.J. Conway, as well as one classic: Spiral Dance, by Starhawk.
  • I scoured the internet for resources on spells and associations. I never really performed too many spells, I was more interested in gathering the information.
  • I self initiated when I read Teen Witch.
  • I began a coven with my friends somewhere in 2002. We celebrated two years worth of rituals together, and grew close. It was here I learned about group dynamics, especially under the tutelage of my high priest, who was not a part of our coven. I was, for the most part, high priestess within.
  • I met my high priest in February of 2003. He became my high priest in September of 2003.
  • I initiated into my second degree in February, 2004.
  • My coven and I celebrated together until March of 2005, when our newfound differences in beliefs broke us apart.
  • I have been a solitary practitioner since then. I am still second degree, but it is mostly formality – we have not yet finished the process. We face a dilemma with my advancement, because he accepted my first and second degree as a solitary practitioner: should I self-initiate into the third?

That is my personal experience. It is now 2008, which makes me going on seven or eight years along the path officially. In terms of authenticating my high priest, he is a man of 31 years, a life long ancestral witch who learned from his mother, who was present at the American Council of Witches’ Witchmeet in 1974. His family tradition dates back before Gardner, several centuries long(Roma/Gypsy heritage), but much of what he teaches and we discuss is based on a mix of Alexandrian and Gardner formal methods, along with a significant amount of what he calls “Spiritual Mechanics” – how energy moves.

Self Image in Circle

This topic might draw a few readers, but it is one that I find extremely important.  How you see yourself reflects strongly in how a circle casting will go.

Having a good body image is always essential if you walk the path that we do.  The gods speak to us, and they say, “you are the leaders of the world…when you walk forward, the world takes the step with you…but when you stumble, the whole world begins to fall”.  Being confident in yourself, how you look, your intelligence and your spirituality is the first thing that any one will see when they meet you for the first time.  If there is an uncertainty, it will be found.

Now that I’ve made it sound like every time you meet someone, its a test…let’s talk about the circle.  The Circle is drawn, as you know, with the basic method of purification, censing, sprinkling, casting, calling the quarters, then calling the spirits and Gods.  This layering of steps causes a magnification in all that you do within the circle.  Because the circle is a container for which to hold all energy raised within, the energy spirals around and around.  Think of it like a never ending funnel  that you send a coin down – it just keeps getting faster and faster, stronger and stronger.

This in mind, entering circle either unclean or unsure of what you’re meant to do is probably a bad idea.  When I was in sacred space with my High Priest, one thing he said struck me very truly, after the circle was done.

“These are your Gods.  When you speak to them, have pride.  You should never be afraid of them.”

He was right.  The reason I had spoken so softly in that instance, was not from fear, but more from awe.  It was the first time I had raised energy with my High Priest, and his voice had dropped unbelievably low, and the air had practically shimmered around us.  I spoke to the Gods silently, and instead of waiting for signs or feelings, they answered me back.

Needless to say, the point he brought up was very relevant.  If I had been frightened, or not confident in what I was doing, the effect would not have been as strong.  We would not have been as close to the other side as we were that night.

Have a great day!