A Structure Uniquely Ours
Article ID: 8943
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,655
Times Read: 7,653
Author: Aidan Odinson
Posted: January 23rd. 2005
Times Viewed: 7,653
Some form of structure is inevitable if we grow. We might not like that fact, but neither did some early members of other of current well-structured institutions. The danger is that if no alternatives are found, what we have now might change in a few hundred years, and what we love now could come to have most of the problems which beset the faiths which so many of us have left. The other danger is that if we do not do something about structure, our lack of community and lack of cohesiveness could be used against us.
The one solution that I can offer is that we design a structure that will allow us to preserve our basic nature in a manner that more traditional religious organizational structures would not. If the mayor, the Governor or the President makes an unwise remark about Witches, it would be a good thing to be able to send a credible delegation to a meeting. If a store clerk has problems with her boss because she wears a pentacle, the possibility of an organized “Don’t shop where you can’t work” campaign can be very effective. And it might be nice to have better meeting facilities. It has been said that there is strength in numbers, but what are our numbers? In virtually any other religious faith group, someone within their organization is able to offer an authoritative figure of their numbers. We are unique in that none of us have any idea how many of us there are. This is true even though any town large enough to have scheduled airline service seems to also have enough of us to keep at least one Pagan/Witch-oriented shop in business.
But, I doubt that many High Priestesses or High Priests leading covens and other groups would want to have to deal with so-called “ecclesiastical superiors” who come from somewhere else and cannot mind their own business. Worse, such a structure would have no place for solitaries. What we must create is, in essence, a self-contradiction of the type many of us are familiar with. Many a ritual begins with the words: “This is a time that is not a time, in a place that is not a place, on a day that is not a day.” What we need is an organization without much organization, and it must include a hierarchy that is not a hierarchy, and provide a way for someone to belong to something and still be solitary if that is their path. I have been struggling with this concept for almost ten years, so perhaps I might have something that could work. I call it The Grove Union, and I have been calling it that since 1995. Let me share with you my vision of The Grove Union as it would be as a fully mature organization.
Let me begin with a peek at that “necessary evil” of any organization in modern times, the administration and paperwork. The Grove Union is an integrated auxiliary of Temple of Gaia, an all-traditions teaching coven. While this was initially done to avoid expense, it has the practical benefit of the fact that Temple of Gaia follows no particular tradition and has no desire to meddle in the affairs of others. By having The Grove Union as an integrated auxiliary of such a coven, there is less chance that anyone in the structure of The Grove Union will see themselves as “ecclesiastical superiors” of the leaders of other groups. In terms familiar to more mainstream religious organizations, it can be best seen as a convention – a group of independent groups which spend most of their time minding their own business and coming together for the purpose of dealing with matters of mutual concern.
The basic functional unit of The Grove Union is the council, and this begins with the World Council. The ideal size of a council is the same as for a coven - thirteen. When a council grows to the point that there are five from a single more-local geographical area, they may form such a council and appoint one representative to the council they formed from. When there are ten such representatives, a new council must be formed, the exception being if such an action would result in there being less than ten members in the original council. Councils will, usually, be formed based upon the political map in effect at the time the council was formed, but this need not always be the case. At the coven level, an affiliated coven will have one representative to the most local council having jurisdiction. When I say “coven, ” this also includes groves, kindreds, churches, and any other groups that meet together on a regular basis.
The councils will work under broad guidelines, but what guidelines there are will be enforced. One of those guidelines is that in areas that are not of legitimate mutual concern, individual covens have a right to mind their own business and the council will reciprocate by minding its own business. There will be other guidelines that prohibit councils and affiliated groups from certain activities which none of us should be involved in anyway, such as “my trad is the only way and your trad is wrong” type of disputes, spiritual blackmail, obvious violations of the law, etc. If there is a situation in which civil disobedience is necessary, it can be done with the advice and consent of the appropriate council. An example of this would be if a local zoning law was being used to prohibit coven meetings, especially if other churches were able to freely and openly have prayer meetings and home churches in the same circumstances. But basically, the guidelines are to insure that everyone gives each other the same degree of respect that they wish to receive.
For the most part, each council gets to mind its own business. Who chairs the council meetings, who represents the council at the next higher level, how those people are chosen, and their term of office is for the council to choose. By the same token, who represents a particular coven on the most local council and how that person is chosen is that particular coven’s business.
There will also be Councils of Solitaries, with their organization and structure to be determined by the person on the World Council who is a solitary in charge of taking care of the needs of solitaries.
You will have noticed that I have mentioned how groups and councils mind their own business when the matter is properly their own business. The reason for this is simple: In gaining the larger body which is needed for better functioning in modern times, we need to ensure that we don’t homogenize ourselves in the process.
What would the result be on a practical level, as seen by one of us who might not be part of the leadership of something such as The Grove Union?
To begin with, the local council would be more than a meeting of coven representatives. It would be a local resource. Someone who is interested in learning could go to the local council to find a group that best meets his or her individual needs. Similarly, someone who has been practicing for a while but is new to the local area could go to the local council to find a group to join, or help in starting a new group. This would help in alleviating one of the more common problems we have had: While a person walking into any denominational church will probably know what to expect and what is expected of them, anyone who has been in the Craft for more than a few minutes knows that one does not just walk into the first coven they find as if they were a Methodist walking into a Methodist church.
The local council would also be a place that affiliated groups can go to for resources. The covens and other affiliated groups represent a major pool of talent and interests. If a local coven needs expertise in some area, whether it is in how to incorporate as a nonprofit organization or learning a particular form of divination, resources would be available.
With good participation and support, it would even be possible for a council or a group of councils to be able to have a physical facility. Ideally, this would include a large room for larger rituals and meetings, smaller rooms for individual covens to use as their own, and some sort of space for conducting council business. The advantages of such an arrangement would be enormous. Altars could be set up permanently, a coven could have a mailing address that is not someone’s home or a post office box, and there would be more opportunities for people to work together and have a real sense of community. For those who fear being the victim of hate, a physical facility in the open lets it be known that there is solidarity and our presence had best be dealt with in a civilized manner. If the facility includes a shop that is well run and pays attention to the needs of the groups that use the facility, the cost of the facility might not be as much of a problem as some might think.
Councils at all levels would be able to provide services that are largely unavailable to us at the present time. One is to provide endorsements when required by various organizations and agencies. In many cases, such as hospital visits or visiting people who are incarcerated, such endorsements can be necessary to be officially recognized as clergy rather than being considered merely a visitor. It could also be possible, provided that there are candidates who meet the physical and academic qualifications, to provide endorsement for them to become military chaplains. Also, deceased Pagan military veterans will finally be able to have headstones with an appropriate symbol of their faith, because one of the few arguments that the Department of Veterans Affairs can use is their claim that we have no “religious body.” It might even be possible to provide a seminary path that would include accredited degrees. All of these have two things in common: The effort has to start somewhere, and people are going to have to work together.
It will require, of course, that individuals think beyond their own small group. The needs of the individual coven must not be sacrificed, but being part of a larger body will have some responsibilities. But the added responsibility should not be too much of a burden if all pitch in. After all, those of us who have been in covens and other groups learn when and how to put our individual agendas aside for the benefit of the group. Virtually everything else is, in one way or another, a part of a larger whole. Why can’t we do likewise?
Location: Collingdale, Pennsylvania
Author's Profile: To learn more about Aidan Odinson - Click HERE
Bio: Aidan Odinson (AKA Rev Cal Lippitt) , founded The Grove Union in 1995, originally based upon dial-up computer bulletin boards known as BBS's. In 1997, he met Stormy Windwalker, then president of Witches Anti-Discrimination League. In 2000 they handfasted and he became HP of Temple of Gaia, which she had founded.
He began exploring Christianity's ancient traditions some years ago, and one day he realized that his explorations had taken him to the time before Christianity. Of Norse and Celtic ancestry, he continues his pursuit of the spiritual paths of his ancestors. With a graduate concentration in Public Administration, an undergraduate minor in Business Administration and many years practical experience in both, Pagan structures is a subject he has agonized over for a decade.
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