The Modern Coven: Importance of Documentation
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Article ID: 13607
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: October 25th. 2009
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After a ritual with my coven sometime ago, it occurred to me that we’d all had a really good time, gotten a lot out of it, but alas, had nothing of the physical realm to show for it. Then it hit me. I am a military-trained videographer with an HD camera I wasn’t using NEARLY as much as I thought I would. How fortuitous is that? Two problems were solving each other.
Beautiful. It’s like they used to say on the old TV show “the A Team”: I love it when a plan comes together. Now all I had to do was sell it to my High Priestess.
I tossed my sales pitch around in my head for hours…. what I’d say, how I’d say it. What could I do to convince her we needed to start producing an audiovisual representation of how we did things? After all, it could potentially have a significant impact on later generations of Dragonstone (our coven) and ourselves when we wound up doing our AAR (Sorry, a military term: After Action Review) .
I guess my biggest concern in photographing rituals was that these are sacred, religious rites and even in the process of documenting them, sanctity needed to be preserved. Then again, I’ve photographed lots of weddings, baptisms, and confirmations, and this has never been an issue in the past.
Much to my surprise, it took little more than the mere suggestion. My HPS had always considered our group a modern coven with a forward-thinking attitude. For her, to be anything less is to become obsolete.
Honoring decorum and tradition is paramount. Clinging to it to the point of spiritual stagnation, however, inhibits the growth of the people within. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea.
So as of now, I am the considered the coven's "documentarian." Since we have a highly organized structure in the coven, we have what are referred to as "points of service." It's our way of serving the various needs and functions within the group.
For instance, some may help keep the herb closet stocked, others may help out with the website. I was now the person in charge of keeping an audiovisual record of the coven's goings on.
There would, of course, be issues.
I should state up front, that we are not, by virtue of our tradition, a skyclad coven—so that would never be an issue. But what about people who were uncomfortable with being photographed?
Personally, I hate being photographed. That’s why I always volunteer to be the one taking pictures. If it were an open ritual, whoever was joining us would also have to consent to being photographed. These were just the beginning of a host of potential things to be ironed out.
But most importantly for me, I’m still a part of the coven…and I need to be involved and an active part of the ritual or event taking place. Fortunately, these issues aren’t as complicated as they appear to be on the surface. As a rule, you really don’t need consent from someone to photograph him or her for personal use. Or in the strictest sense here—for coven-related purposes only.
As long as it’s not going to be used to sell something (commercial purposes) or mass distribution (i.e. YouTube) , you’re usually good. However, anyone from the outside, joining the ritual, needs to understand (well in advance) that you are photographing the ritual for archival purposes. Giving them advance notice, allows them a chance to opt out if they don’t want to be photographed.
As for the members of your coven who don’t want to be photographed, this is where the HPS needs to step in and smooth things out. In short, that’s why they’re the High Priestess.
As for my coven, they’re a pretty shameless bunch. So most love getting face time, the rest put up with it. I’m neither here nor there about it. I view it as a necessary part of keeping a true record of the coven’s history and practice.
Now…what to photograph?
This is the real beauty of it and what makes it stunningly practical and ruthlessly efficient. Technically you can photograph ANYTHING!! And we do! I’ve yet to photograph a ritual per se. But that little omission is just a week away from being a reality (i.e. this upcoming Samhain) .
Another use we’ve found for documentation is classwork. We have members in different states (some thousands of miles away) who simply aren’t able to take part in coven rituals and classes on a regular basis. Therefore, documenting the class gives them a chance to take part (in an after-the-fact sense) from far away.
Also keep in mind, with technology as consumer-based as it has become, it's quite simple to ‘burn copies’ of any recorded event for all of those involved. This would especially come in handy for rituals such as handfasting for which you KNOW multiple copies will need to be made.
Sometimes we just get together for grins and giggles. You know summer picnics and the like. Having a visual reminder of just how silly and giddy everyone got, makes me smile. Much better than just a few still pictures.
These are just a couple of ideas on how to incorporate video into coven workings. These uses are as infinite as the variety of rituals you can do.
In closing, this method of record keeping was never meant to be a replacement for a Book of Shadows or a Grimoire. Consider it merely a supplemental. But it's a position worth considering in larger groups, particularly if the group is expected to continue long into the future. (Sure, it requires someone to purchase a video camera, but they're so cheap and common these days and usually someone within the coven is likely to already have one.)
Imagine what the covens of old would’ve done if they’d had this technology at their disposal. Now…. imagine what WE could’ve have learned from them if they had.
Copyright: Susan Wilkinson
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
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