Our Experiences in Group Magic
Article ID: 8505
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,600
Times Read: 3,728
Author: Lord Ansur
Posted: June 14th. 2004
Times Viewed: 3,728
In 1990 a chance meeting between an Indian Medicine Man and myself (an old male Witch), escalated into a friendship that still endures. A few months later, my Indian friend (a truck driver) found a new girlfriend that was a Druid in the LA area. By 1991, we had developed a gathering of 6 people - who including the Medicine Man, myself, the Druid, my Lutheran wife (now Wiccan), my grown daughter interested in old Celtic practices, and an old friend of my wife's.
In the next several years, many other people came, joined and/or quit this informal occult study group. But in general, the overall number in the group steadily grew in small increments. In 1995, the Medicine Man and his Druid girlfriend left us and moved across the US searching for jobs. At that time, five of the most devoted of us agreed to organize the group into a formal coven, which we named PACT. PACT stands for two things: the Practicing Ancient Crafts Tradition, and the Practicing Ancient Crafts Tribe.
Yes, we have started a new tradition (as if Witchcraft needed another!). We are also a Tribe because we consider ourselves to be an extended family.
At first we had no special rules, naively expecting that all people professing perfect love and trust would be trustworthy and ethical. Boy, were we wrong! And over the next few years we developed a set of rules that govern (and protect) the coven.
We have a Core consisting of two inner circles of initiated members, and one outer circle consisting of newbies and visitors. Once in a while, one of our hive-off groups rejoins us at the "mother coven" as part of the outer circle also. The Core's two inner circles are limited to 13 initiated members each; one contains the elders and the other any overflow from the limit of 13 in the elder's inner circle. The second inner circle people are encouraged to hive off. We have had as many as 26 members in the entire coven and are now at 20 (the Core and the outer circle combined).
We are not a public group. Access to the coven is by invitation only. The applicant is screened by at least two members of the coven (with at least one male and one female present) in a public place. If that person is deemed acceptable, they are invited to our next Sabbat. (We do personal magic on Esbats and do not want strangers in our midst.) The applicant can check us out and vice versa on the first meeting. If they like us, they can apply for membership. If they opt to do this, then the entire coven, the Core and the outer circle, votes on them - we think it is very important for everyone to be comfortable with all others in the group.
We vote in the traditional Occult Lodge method of "White Ball, Black Ball," but have added a Grey Ball to the mix. White of course is "Yes," and Black means "No," but Grey means "Not Yet." In most of our votes, if we cannot come to a consensus, minority rules - so just one Black Ball can stop something from happening. A new person voted on favorably may opt to come back for another Sabbat or two if they are not sure if they want to commit to us.
Once they officially become a "Newbie" they begin getting a lesson on each Sabbat. There are 8 lessons in W101 so it takes a year (and a day, for the final test) to complete them. If they pass the test, then they must prove their competence by conducting a ritual for the coven - so they must temporarily replace the HP or the HPS.
(NOTE: We have a "semi-standard" HP and HPS but they "yield" to anyone in the group that wishes to conduct a ceremony - if the HPS and HP think that person is capable and if the rite is in agreement with our tradition. If the HPS or HP refuses that person, they may ask for a vote of the whole coven - at which time, majority rules.)
After completing all of the requirements, and after a year and a day, the Newbie becomes a neophyte and may ask for initiation. Only Core members vote on this application.
We are a teaching coven but do not push anyone into accepting our teachings, progressing further than they wish, and although we provide formal printed lessons, and answer all the questions that we can, no one is obligated to use the lessons or even hand in the tests. There are four sets of lessons, the proverbial Wicca 101, 102, and 103, plus the Clergy Series - for those that wish to heed that call.
A member's progress, if any, is that member's individual responsibility. Most members are eager to finish their lessons but some aren't and are content to just relax among people of their own kind. PACT issues diplomas for all sets of lessons. There are 13 lessons each in W102, and W103 - and they are given to members on Esbats - therefore, it takes 3 years (minimum) to complete all the W-Series, and then additional time for the Clergy Lessons.
We meet on Sabbats, and Full Moon Esbats, plus we have potlucks, picnics, and other social events.
We have no ranks, grades, or degrees per se. Other than being a member that is initiated, or finishing the sets of lessons, there is little way to gauge one's progress through the coven. Even the HPS and HP are officially designated the Acting HP or Acting HPS, since their positions may be temporarily challenged by others, including those in the outer circle, or permanently challenged by those in the Core. There are honors bestowed on those that complete the three W-Lesson Sets and they are given a multicolored belt or other decoration to wear. There are also automatic honors: the youngest female is the Maiden, and the youngest male is the Lad. We have an Herbalist, and a Crystal Worker - positions held by virtue of knowledge, and we also have titles for officers, like the Archivist, Can-Holder (treasurer), etc.
The Archivist maintains the Coven's history - with the records of attendance, initiations, lesson sets completed, and so on. The Archivist also maintains the coven's Book of Shadows, which contains our generalized beliefs, rules, and magic techniques.
Members are expected to order their lives and put family first, job second, and coven third. Those that cannot make it to every meeting are therefore expected to have an excuse pertaining to family or job requirements.
We have no dues. We have a "Dip and Drop Can," where people can contribute money to pay for supplies and lesson copies, and where those that are needy can draw funds. Some of the members are relatively wealthy and some are poor. Sometimes the poor dip into the money provided by the wealthy for babysitting, gas money, etc, and sometimes they borrow when they are short but replace the money on payday. It is our system for sharing and covering costs.
We typically do not worship any particular named Goddess or God or any specific aspect of one. We just invoke in general terms - Lord and Lady, Goddess and God, etc. We are therefore "interdenominational." However, occasionally for a special working, we may invoke a specific aspect of deity - and usually get a powerful response. Just before the end of our rites, the HPS and HP step away from altar and offer it to any members that wish to come forward and relate, worship, or communicate with their individual deity alignments - and there is always a line-up for those that wish to. Names we hear during this phase of the ceremony are interesting - Odin, Hecate, Iris, Diana, Brigit, Hathor, and lately, Kali - are examples.
We are an ultra-spiritual group and usually don't attend Witch campouts where drugs and alcohol are present, or sexual rites are performed in an inappropriate manner. But we have found some Festivals that fit our style and where more worshipful and educational opportunities abound. At the same time, we do not condemn others for their method of letting off steam, or enjoying life - we just have our own way. We have several members who left other covens because they felt victimized or were appalled by the actions taken there - these folks really appreciate our ways and have found a happy home with us.
One reason for our not needing to "let loose" may be due to another part of our ceremonies which we call "Sharing." "Sharing" is like an unsupervised counseling session without a psychologist interrupting. We pass around a "talking stick" and each person may then talk about the things going on in their lives - or not - if that is their wish. In the last meeting, we all cried in empathy with a member whose friend had just committed suicide, a member who lost her beloved familiar, and an orphaned member who asked a Goddess to direct her dreams to the memory of her parents. In her dream that night, she found herself approaching the HPS and HP of PACT - who offered her a glass of the ice tea they were drinking. Although she did not know it at the time, the HP and the HPS are addicted to ice tea - the year round! When the member awoke, they began to understand that the HPS and HP were now her mother and father. As I said before, we are an extended family. And this dream was a profoundly moving realization for the whole group. When thing in our members' lives go bad or good, there is a lot of empathy - crying, laughing, applauding and hugging.
We had one very upsetting incident in our past - which we came to call an "unofficial hive-off." It happened before we had rules. Three people left us and then actually called us to tell us they were working negative magic against us - because we wouldn't let them run the coven their way. One of the people quit Wicca altogether and the others apologized and came back to us. Since then another of these quit (and became a drug addict), and the other was "quit." "Quit" is the term for our extreme reaction to protect the coven. We "quit" for people that wish to hurt us while remaining a member as they do so. We don't excommunicate, we just "quit for them!" We have had two friendly, official hive-offs, and one other person was "quit" when they insisted on breaking the rules of silence and started naming names, and the places of meetings, in public to those that were not authorized to hear such information; this individual wouldn't stop after being warned. Actually, we don't think that this record of problems is so bad during all the years we have been around.
Two or more members can bring about an "Inquiry" about members they suspect of doing something harmful to the coven. That action begins a formal investigation. This was used in the negative occurrences previously mentioned, and has been used for those cases where a member does not attend meetings without a reasonable excuse. This process has been very stressful and painful for all the participants - both those on the board of inquiry and those being inquired about. If there was anything we would like to change, it is to refine this process.
Our one secret is the names of our patron guardians of the coven - a Goddess and God that we honor but do not necessarily worship, in the normal sense of the word.
Despite our odd little excursions off the well-beaten path, most Wiccans would find us traditional and familiar enough that they would be comfortable within our midst.
The most exciting current process going on is a formal discussion between PACT, one of PACT's hive-off covens, a coven across the border in another state and a Pagan Church in a nearby city, about forming a confederation. We have admired each other for several years. Purpose: To consolidate political, monetary, and spiritual power into a more influential bloc while maintaining autonomy.
Location: Milwaukie, Oregon
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