Covens and Groups: Freedom v. Loyalty
Article ID: 14694
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: September 18th. 2011
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For better or worse, I have been fairly incommunicado with my local pagan people for most of my time practicing. This led me to see the pagan community as something of an abstract idea. My only real interactions that were on the verge of forming a group of pagan friends occurred between my best friend, a woman who once worked at the local new age store, and me. For the most part, I did not want to be part of the pagan community. Some scared me too much and others were too hard to find.
It was not until attending college in Seattle that I decided to crack the door of my self-made solitary confinement and peek around the corner. There I found a group in the pagan community that I thought I could fit in with. They were kind, not scary at all, and had far more than fluff for brains (I have yet to meet a fluff for brains person in the pagan community, but I have heard of a few out there) .
I went to some meetings on the weekends and immensely enjoyed the company they provided. Then I went to a full moon circle and that was where things started to feel odd. The feeling culminated at the Eostara circle that we performed and I decided firmly that groups are not for me or for the type of magick that I practice. Luckily summer break approached quickly, bringing with it final’s week and the end of my stay in Washington for the year. At that time, I was unsure if I should continue with the group. A war raged in my mind with Loyalty and Freedom throwing grenades at each other and threatening biological warfare. I came down with a bout of fainting and dizzy spells, partly because of my indecision, partly because of anemia, stress, and low blood pressure.
Over summer I decided to go to the group only when I wanted to, which should have been an obvious choice, but the idea of slipshod attendance to a gathering of people irks me and I did not wish to seem irresponsible. It was then that I began to wonder if other people feel the same way I did. To be forward, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the group as far as I could see. There were no power struggles, no friction between members, and no exclusion based on any factor – every religion or path was accepted and all people were treated with respect. I had no reason to dislike working with the group, but I disliked it all the same.
Rules for what I would be able to work with around me needed to be set. I had never before considered that some things might be magickal pet peeves.
1) Ritual garb. It is often expected that the group wear something special to a ritual, whether it be so simple as the circle’s version of friendship bracelets or something as ornate as silk robes and headdresses with veils, most people in the group will go along with it. I felt awful, horrible, and entirely un-witchy, but try as I might, I almost broke out laughing while in circle with all of the serious “witchy” people around me. They said that ritual robes help with getting in the magickal mindset, but as I learned it, a mindset is generally in your mind.
Police uniforms are more meant to show others that they are police than they are to show the police what they are. Policemen will attempt to catch a purse-snatcher with or without the uniform. A magickal practitioner is a magickal practitioner, no matter what they wear. No one should ever feel like they need a garment to do magick. It might do some good to keep in mind that no one puts on ritual garb every time they add their favorite seasoning for luck right before their boss comes for dinner (imagine the oil from a frying pan splashing on your nice robe or, even worse, all over your skyclad-self, just because that’s how you do magick) . If you don’t like the dress code, don’t follow it and explain why. Otherwise, leave.
2) Pagan children. (I might get beaten for this one, but I had a serious problem with one.) Yes you have raised them to be respectful and spiritual, but frontal lobes do not develop faster just because they parent wants their child to be able to do circle with the adults. Ten-year-old boys are going to snicker behind their robed and bejeweled parents backs while they are too busy chanting to notice. It is distracting for other people. If the child doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t want to put their effort and attention into what everyone at the circle is doing, it makes them no less of a worthy person, but it makes them a horrible circle attendee.
Pagan parenting is lovely, but dragging a kid to a circle is no better than dragging them to church. If they want to go, that is beautiful and they can add spark and life to the proceedings, but if not, the parents have to deliberate over whether they have a child who snickers or a child who will watch quietly and wait for it all to be over.
If a kid is misbehaving, it is perfectly sensible to bring it up to the parents. If you feel that that would be too rude, leaving is also all right. No one should feel like they need to suck up to their circle mates or like their circle mates will berate them for an opinion. If you do, explain why and leave.
3) Prewritten rituals. These are necessary for groups for obvious reasons and I won’t spend time talking about them.
If you don’t want to say the words you are given, don’t. You should not be required to attend every circle. If you have chosen to be a priestess or one of the people who brings items for those amazing little tables that mark the places where your group’s powers-that-be dwell, you are devoted and should already be in love with your group. But never forget that there is no level so deep that you can’t talk to the group about the words they say or leave. Scripting is not for everyone and it is possible to have pagan friends but be a part of no ritual group solely because you don't think, speak, and act the same way they want you to.
Although I mentioned leaving in every one of those examples, leaving is a bottom line, all bets are off, otherwise dead in the water type of measure. If you treasure the group, you will speak with the leaders, the other people in it, and share your thoughts.
Just because someone may be feeling the effects of a mob mentality, as a group of people who prides themselves with being both grounded and capable of mental gymnastics, every person should be able to talk to their peers in order to secure their personal freedoms and receive helpful feedback and support from the group.
Groups are not for everyone, and although experimentation with the groups in your area could be healthy and insightful, it is about moderation. I can imagine that many people feel that sense of loyalty that comes with even light friendship, but if you are not in the best environment for you (not for Nightwing Starbright who lives in that cottage on the edge of a moor) you will not be able to reach your own epitome of spiritual development. You don’t need the circle and will probably never have to fight a war with all those evil spirits who are no doubt attempting to attack the world at this very moment. But if you let your spirit flourish in the right environment, you will be content and understand that bravado is not an integral part of the recipe for profoundness.
Location: Seatle, Washington
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