Women of the Goddess Circle
Article ID: 8516
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,115
Times Read: 6,193
Author: Janice Van Cleve
Posted: June 21st. 2004
Times Viewed: 6,193
Women of the Goddess Circle is a Pagan community of women in the Dianic tradition of Wicca based in Seattle. The Dianic tradition worships the Goddess alone without reference to the God as in mainstream Wicca. We have chosen the exclusive company of women and women's symbols to focus the harmony of our magic making. We are a circle, not a coven, and we are open to all women of good intent who sincerely subscribe to our purpose. Our purpose is to mark the eight Sabbats of the year in ritual, to strengthen the Goddess connection within us, to share this connection with others, and to bring wholeness to the world and to our journey as the Wheel of the Year turns.
We began in Seattle under a different name and structure about 1990. At that time we followed a teacher/seeker model in which one priestess pretty much ran things, did all the planning, and brought seekers along individually as they showed promise. The first priestess then moved on and the most advanced seeker became the new priestess. She took the circle to new levels in many areas, including teaching, invoking, and lists of songs and prayers. She developed a core group of seekers before she, too, moved on.
Now in its third incarnation, the Women of the Goddess Circle (WOTG) has adopted a different model. We have let go of all hierarchies, titles, badges of rank or privilege. We assume that we are all goddesses, all priestesses, and all teachers in that we all have our lessons to teach. Of course, some are more knowledgeable and more skilled than others and we turn to them more perhaps than to others for leadership, but they are still equal in every way to the most novice newcomer in terms of respect and standing in the circle.
We have adopted three levels of involvement with WOTG for our convenience and for saving postage rather than denoting ranks. They are seeker, initiate, and member. Seekers are those who have seen our notice on Witchvox or in other publications and who have contacted us. We are open to all women over 18 of whatever background, sexual orientation, race or class. We interview seekers via phone or in person to find out if we offer what they're after. If there is a fit, we mail them our brochure and invite them to the next ritual planning meeting. We have a rule that a seeker must come to a planning meeting before she will be invited to a ritual.
We celebrate the Sabbats on the Sunday of, or before, the actual date just because more sisters are available on the weekend. Samhain, however, we always do on October 31st. We hold a planning meeting two weeks before and encourage all seekers, initiates, and members to attend. This accomplishes three things: It allows us to meet new people and them to meet us, it offers an opportunity to bond and share in a relaxed atmosphere, and it underscores for all of us that we create our rituals from our own selves and not from any outside authority or master book.
WOTG does have a Book of Shadows which is given only to the members. Our Book of Shadows provides a framework to expedite our planning process and to provide some consistency in our practices. For example, there are many ways to call the directions but we always call them after we consecrate the circle and before we crystallize our intention. Everybody is encouraged to participate actively in the planning, even new seekers. We weave in the themes of our current lives. We work hard to bring together an intention for the ritual that captures a common thread (and which has only one verb!). We choose songs and roles. Role-playing is important in our circle and we strive to create as much participation as possible.
By virtue of coming to a planning meeting, a seeker becomes an initiate. No oaths are sworn, no badges or blessings are given, and no money changes hands. If you make the effort to show up and take part, you're in. We mail out fliers to members and initiates to invite them to the ritual. Once a woman has come to at least one planning meeting, she is enrolled as an initiate and continues to receive invitations. If she doesn't come back after four or so invitations, we place her back in seeker status which keeps her on the email list until she returns to another planning meeting or drops altogether.
Members are those initiates who have been to a few rituals and like what they see and the people they are working magic with. They pay annual dues to help support and maintain the circle and to signify their commitment. As long as they keep their dues current and are not removed for cause, members remain members as long as they wish. Again there are no oaths or special rites to become a member. Membership means commitment to the health and future of the circle and the sign of that commitment are the dues.
While all members are expected to take active responsibility for the health and well being of the circle, that is, to "hold the circle," we do elect three facilitators to manage the business of the circle. Facilitators are elected at our annual administrative meeting which is held on the first Sunday of November. Only members may attend this meeting. The duties of facilitators are to approve and terminate memberships, to set dues and fees and manage funds, to decide disputes and disciplinary actions if necessary, and to call meetings of the members. Ideally, facilitators should be familiar with Christina Baldwin's book, Calling the Circle, should have participated in 6 of the last 8 rituals, and should have been members for a year and a day. Their term of office is one year.
At the annual meeting we discuss what is working and what is not, what we'd like to see in the future, and who we want for next year's facilitators. We also review and approve the budget and approve or amend our administrative guidelines. The latter lays out much of what is explained in this article.
Women of the Goddess Circle is not a static body of laws but continues to grow organically. We have increased membership and active participation while shortening our mailing list. We have successfully institutionalized the role of facilitators so the circle is not dependent on any one key person. We have inculcated the concepts within our Book of Shadows so that any of our members can create and perform effective rituals within our intended format. We have a small treasury and steady cash flow to sustain our postage and other costs. In sum, we have a comfortable core of competent women holding the rim of our circle stronger than any one woman could hold it from the center.
This puts us in position to try new things. For some years we have expanded social activities like attending the annual medieval fairs and Yule suppers. We are beginning to develop moon rituals. And we are compiling a book of Pagan songs. We are easing off scripting every word in ritual to allow more spontaneous individual expression while at the same time memorizing and expanding upon standard prayers. We keep learning and growing, not because we are such experts, but because we are closely in touch with our lived experiences and we celebrate them.
Janice Van Cleve
Janice Van Cleve
Location: Seattle, Washington
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