It is useful to remember the ties that bind us and is food for thought when contemplating working with others or indeed becoming spiritually related to them. The act of ritual forms bonds which are absurdly subtle yet potent, few think to discuss the relationship that develops and what happens once the bonds are formed. Alicia once more, puts ink to parchment and notes her thoughts based on her observances of these issues after decades of involvement in Craft.
But does this only relate to the world of Craft? It would seem that at least some of these thoughts are fully applicable within general society where millions of people have lost the art of communication and expression. We are now a community of people hiding eternally (or so it would seem) behind the cold, one dimensional face of social networking, the internet and text messaging. Relationships built and ended through text, email and the internet. Social courtesy, norms and mores lost in a personal, emotional and spiritual cost saving endeavour. So what that you shared poignant moments, expressed your dreams, fears and cried with those you loved and cherished? What did any of that mean when you find yourselves drifting after a cursory text, a returned letter, an end email or blocked facebook? Regrettably it shows more about the emotional intelligence and development of the other person but as Alicia writes, the consequences can be heartbreaking for all involved.
Rather than reducing these ideas to some repugnant pseudo christian ideals, or ‘love and light’ brigade, it is standards of behaviour and understanding which are desperately lacking. Witches are not in the business of turning the other cheek but surely, if we seek to understand what is around us and work within the shadows and the light and all that lies between, we must know ourselves.
BETWEEN SIBLINGS by Alicia
As anyone who has ever been involved in a coven will be aware, such a grouping of passionate, independent and opinionated folk is like a box of wet gelignite, emotionally speaking. It only needs a little spark and KABOOM!
To want to be witch in the first place probably means you are something out of the ordinary in the way of an individualist. You have probably already spent years in researching – and rejecting – many different spiritual paths. But something pulls you onward until finally you find the Craft, and with a big CLICK it all falls into place and you are home!
Suddenly a whole new universe of possibilities and people opens before you. You are in love with the Old Ones, you begin to devour books and can hardly wait to be initiated, to be one of the in-group. You want to belong, completely and utterly. And it’s at this point the problems begin.
Virtually none of the books give you any clues about the minefield you may be just about to enter. Plenty of advice may be offered about carefully choosing a coven (and this is useful in avoiding problems at the beginning) but after that – nit! Authors cheerfully document solemn and powerful rituals and give you almost no information about what happens to you after you perform them.
It is a solid and verifiable fact that people who work ritual together form close and deep bonds, the kind of bonds that are ill to loose. Break ups of groups that have been together only a short time are ugly enough, but the negative disintegration of a coven of even a few years standing is horrible to contemplate.
Part of the problem is, I think, that in this secular society we are just not prepared for true, deep bonds with others that are not spouses, family or friends that we ourselves choose. Would-be witches are unprepared – to say the least – for the ritual and magical bonds which form all too quickly within a working group. We continue to treat each other as casual friends and are completely without the skills to manage magical relationships with the care, respect and commitment that they – and you – require.
When you vow “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” you put yourself and your fellow initiates into a position of extreme vulnerability. The gates are open, the drawbridge is down. No matter what form of ritual is used at initiation a profound link is formed. If one continues to work in the group one begins to share etheric energies and contribute to the group “egregore”, the shared pool of energy that is available to groups that work together regularly. These natural magical processes mean that any problems that arise will deeply affect all members of the group.
It is therefore vitally important that members of a coven are consciously aware of these processes. If problems occur in the group relationship, these must be as carefully handled as in any other important bond, such as marriage.
The kinds of problems that arise often seem to be the common, ordinary sort of things that occur in all small, tight knit special interest groups. However the consequences of these may not be so matter of fact. Coven members are astonished at how hurt, damaged and hysterical you can become over relatively minor problems. Get the message! You simply cannot afford such behaviour in magical groups, with the pressure and energy you have all built up just waiting to spill over into emotional crises.
I am often shocked at stories of squabbles and petty shit fights within covens, types of behaviour that should be avoided at all costs. Lifetime enmities are generated where once all was love and friendship. And here is the clue! Magical bonds continue and whether the relationship is negative or positive the energies will pour on through, causing either joy or distress in equal volume. And this will continue, sometimes forever. Potential initiates need to be given a lively awareness of these facts as a basic part of their training.
So what are these problems, petty or otherwise, that plague our covens? They are as many and varied as humans can make them, and highlight that coven members cannot be too careful over who is accepted. Long apprenticeships are vital and a good protection for both candidate and coven. Some examples of common problems I have observed are:
- Incompatible lifestyles outside the coven. Witchcraft attracts folk from all walks of life and it is not inconceivable that staid professional folk and radical greenies may need to share ritual space. Tolerance and an awareness of a higher purpose are the keys to avoiding trouble here.
- Sub-groups forming and causing jealousies. Tricky, but best dealt with by complete openness and extremely good manners. If everyone is on best behaviour at all times situations like this rarely arise
- Inappropriate sexual attractions. Clearly stated behavioural standards, that are expected and explained well before initiation, are indispensable. This is a fertility religion and sexuality is both implicit and explicit within the body of our ritual. All must be aware of this and the potential dangers discussed. We rarely accept married candidates whose spouses are not willing to be involved. Such people may wish to find a working partner and then it is only a matter of when, not if, the natural deep link seeks the expression of sexuality. It is possible to have a working partner with whom you are not physically involved, but it is difficult. It is not fair for first degrees (and their uninvolved partners) who are, after all, only just beginning to learn how the energy moves. Senior members, with greater experience, must be responsible for setting the “tone” and must live up to their own standards!
- Power plays between coven members. This can include such unpleasant behaviours as senior priesthood using their position to coerce junior members, blatant ego tripping, and the telling of big fat lies about the history, background or authenticity of the tradition being taught. All these are a formula for spiritual and emotional bankruptcy. Once again long apprenticeships will allow both coven and candidate to sum each other up. Personal standards of truth and honour and a true love of the Way will protect you against such deadly situations.
- Lack of commitment-think about that word and how many areas it is applicable to
Once a culture of respect and self-discipline is engendered within a coven, then love and trust will flourish. The group energy of such a coven is immediately obvious. They are at ease with each other and it will be difficult to tell who are teachers and who are students. They all have their own lives and interests, but form a solid unit when together. They share deep friendships but don’t live in each other’s pockets. They support each other in bad times and celebrate in good. Problems and questions are freely discussed and sorted out before tensions arise. They treat each other with love, respect and above all, honour, for all their sakes and the sake of their shared task.
The Craft is a difficult and exacting Path, with access to life-changing energies. Once begun, our Path demands standards of behaviour that can be difficult to maintain. There are many positive, joyful and life-enhancing benefits to be gained by entering the Craft, but it is essential that these be understood in the context of “side-benefits” and not at all the point of what we all do this for! These benefits are to be used in our unending Service to the Mother and are used for selfish ego- based purposes only at our peril. This is not some soppy, moralistic theory, but cold hard fact
Witches may not, they must not succumb to the petty garbage of small group politics or personal power trips. Such actions not only alienate your ritual siblings but in sober fact open up your aura to attack by the lower levels of astral nasties, which feed eagerly and continue to lower resistance to dangerous reactions. The channels of power, once opened at initiation, do not close easily and will as readily be filled with negative as with positive energy. The choice is yours. The results of such choices, both good and otherwise, can be easily observed in the Pagan community.
Our Mother needs us all, few as we are. Does She not deserve that which is our highest Ideal and our Heart’s Desire?
Is this not part of our Gods’ path?