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View Full Version : Why do so many solitaries think so poorly of covens, clergy, etc?



-Ember
November 12th, 2004, 01:05 PM
Okay, I'm missing something. It is to be expected, I don't seem to have had (for here) a "normal" solitary experience. I wasn't raised in a faith, and was already seperated from the local community by that. The internet wasn't much of an influence at that point in my life and I had very limited contact with others (who were, btw, in the same situation) for most of it. A few books and knowing two other seekers was it. When I did start interacting to any real degree with other pagans, I fairly quickly connected to the group I eventually initiated with (which is a soild and ethical group) and only dealt with any of the fluffier or more ego-driven parts of the community lightly. They just did not really impact my path. So perhaps it is something that didn't happen to me that most solitaries have dealt with that causes it.

The "it" I'm wondering about is the almost rabid knee-jerk reaction by many to anything to do with long term organized groups and clergy. I'm not saying all do it (although the more reasoned voices are few... sick of saying "hey, not for me, but I don't care" perhaps?) I've seen it on several boards and in real life aquaintances. Anyone brings up clergy or commitment to a group, and within the first few posts there will be a couple people who say/strongly imply something along the lines of "I am solitary. Coven/Grove/etc BAD . I am strong and ethical because I am solitary. Those who belong to a group like that are either ego-triping manipulators or weak. There is no benefit to anyone to belong to a group." Most, of course, being nicer than that.

So, solitaries who feel this way, please be honest: What has you so eager to reject groups so thoroughly and bitterly? I wouldn't think just not being a group type person would cause such hatred (I'm not one, ironically enough.) Why has coven come to mean not simply "not for me/everyone" but "bad" to you?

Ben Trismegistus
November 12th, 2004, 01:27 PM
I think that some people out there confuse "organization" with "dogma". A lot of pagans came to their path because they felt smothered in their religion (Christianity, more often than not). So therefore, they go completely in the opposite direction, rejecting ANY kind of hierarchy, organization, or liturgy.

MorningDove030202
November 12th, 2004, 01:44 PM
First I think a majority of Pagans/Wiccans have not been exposed to a profestional Wiccan/Pagan organization that works well and can solve their own conflicts without a whole lot of drama. A group that realy is about spiritual growth, and service to the divine.

I think what alot of us have experienced are groups in formation that do contain alot of drama and clicks (sp?) and have not reached that profestional level.

So I think alot of solitaries find these inbetween groups that are having growing pains and perhapse there are some witchwars and gossiping kinda drama and they run the other way, not realizing that there are profestional organizations out there.

I know I ran the other way for a few years before finding my path.

Dove

Temptation
November 12th, 2004, 01:52 PM
I think that some people out there confuse "organization" with "dogma". A lot of pagans came to their path because they felt smothered in their religion (Christianity, more often than not). So therefore, they go completely in the opposite direction, rejecting ANY kind of hierarchy, organization, or liturgy.

Absolutely true Ben.
I was raised Catholic and there is no way I'm ever going down the organised religion path again. Inevitably, wherever you have a group of people, you need ground rules and a certain amount of organization. A leader or someone "in charge" will emerge or be appointed by the others and looked up to. That's how humans interact, it's inevitable.
So thanks, but no thanks.
But, hey, that's just me. I have nothing against those who feel the need to belong to a group.

Ben Trismegistus
November 12th, 2004, 01:55 PM
First I think a majority of Pagans/Wiccans have not been exposed to a profestional Wiccan/Pagan organization that works well and can solve their own conflicts without a whole lot of drama. A group that realy is about spiritual growth, and service to the divine.
That's a good point. I know a few people who *wanted* to be in a group, but inadvertantly joined a group where the leaders were more concerned with power struggles than religion. That's a real shame. There's a lot of bad groups out there.


I was raised Catholic and there is no way I'm ever going down the organised religion path again. Inevitably, wherever you have a group of people, you need ground rules and a certain amount of organization. A leader or someone "in charge" will emerge or be appointed by the others and looked up to. That's how humans interact, it's inevitable.
What's so bad about having someone to look up to, if they deserve being looked up to?

Temptation
November 12th, 2004, 02:00 PM
What's so bad about having someone to look up to, if they deserve being looked up to?

Oh, nothing at all. Don't get me wrong; I look up to a lot of people in this world,
I just don't need their approval or guidance or whatever you want to call it. I want
to walk my path alone. If I need help along the way, I will seek it and hopefully receive it even though I'm not part of the "coven".

Ben Gruagach
November 12th, 2004, 02:03 PM
I think that some people out there confuse "organization" with "dogma". A lot of pagans came to their path because they felt smothered in their religion (Christianity, more often than not). So therefore, they go completely in the opposite direction, rejecting ANY kind of hierarchy, organization, or liturgy.

I agree with Ben.

Unfortunately there are some Pagan groups and teachers that are dogma-pushers who tend to get a lot more attention than they might deserve. People see them and assume that all Pagan groups or teachers are like that.

Another possible factor is that some Wiccans and also some other Pagans have a general tendency towards the idea that we don't need others to act as middlemen between us and the Divine. (I'm sure there are some Wiccans and Pagans who disagree -- there are always differences of opinion when there is diversity.) If we don't need priests or priestesses because each of us can have that direct relationship with the Divine, then it's not surprising that some might feel organized groups or clergy are not that relevant to them.

Wicca and other Pagan spiritual paths are also religions, not hard sciences. Sciences are based on provable fact (that's the whole point of science), while religions in many ways are more like arts which are open to a lot of personal interpretation and theories that are not necessarily provable. There are a lot of often contradictory ideas that are presented as Wicca or other Pagan religions. When one person says their way is the One True Way for a particular religion it's not surprising that those who might have read a couple of different books on the topic would realize it's not quite that simple. Some might be convinced and will become supporters of that particular way or dogma, but others might not be convinced.

I'm not convinced that it's healthy for the Pagan community in general to push the difference between those who choose to be solitary and those who work in formalized groups or systems as being a conflict. I think there is plenty of room for diversity -- those who find the groups and formal systems work best for them should be encouraged, but those who work on their own or as eclectics are also very much a part of the whole community and should also be encouraged. Just like there isn't just One True God with all others being mere pretenders, I'm not sure there is just One True Way with all others mere shadows of the "Real Thing."

Ben Trismegistus
November 12th, 2004, 02:04 PM
Oh, nothing at all. Don't get me wrong; I look up to a lot of people in this world,
I just don't need their approval or guidance or whatever you want to call it. I want
to walk my path alone. If I need help along the way, I will seek it and hopefully receive it even though I'm not part of the "coven".
Fair enough. :)

Temptation
November 12th, 2004, 02:21 PM
[QUOTE=Ben Gruagach
I'm not convinced that it's healthy for the Pagan community in general to push the difference between those who choose to be solitary and those who work in formalized groups or systems as being a conflict. I think there is plenty of room for diversity -- those who find the groups and formal systems work best for them should be encouraged, but those who work on their own or as eclectics are also very much a part of the whole community and should also be encouraged. Just like there isn't just One True God with all others being mere pretenders, I'm not sure there is just One True Way with all others mere shadows of the "Real Thing."[/QUOTE]

Abslutely Ben G. :)

There should be room for everyone. There is no one True God and there is no one True Way to relate to it(him/her).

aerialla
November 12th, 2004, 03:01 PM
As a former Christian ministers wife, and former deacon of two churches I have no urge to join another group. It would take really being called for the greater good for me to want to go through that again. When people don't necessarily see eye to eye there can be a lot of dissention. I have met very few people that worship the way that I do. And when you get conflicting ideals that is when problems start.

As a former religious leader in my community I can say that most of the time the higher ups don't have the easy job unless they make everyone toady for them. The leaders have all the grunt work and headache and very rarely ever get the recognition that they deserve.

I think that most of the people that have had a bad experience with a coven or have heard the tales are more likely to be and highly vouch for being solitary. I have watched two covens crumble because of not only ego, but too few people having to do all the work. :broomride

Kalika
November 12th, 2004, 03:17 PM
I don't think poorly of them. I just know that its not for me. :p

Mab
November 12th, 2004, 03:35 PM
I don't know about others, but I just have no desire to belong to a coven or any such thing. I find I don't "fit in". My personal beliefs don't fit any tradition, and don't seem to match anyone else's, so I stay solitary. Heck, even when I just spend too much time following other ppl's ideas, even just ones I've read, I usually get a smack on the head & a message to stop doing it other ppl's ways & get back to going with my own gut instinct. Things always work much better for me that way.

Also, I do agree with the drama thing. I, personally, have enough drama in life what with family, friends, coworkers, etc. And I just haven't found any group that doesn't have sub-cliques, gossip, drama, and general insanity.

Ivy Artemisia
November 12th, 2004, 03:52 PM
I think its just that people hear about the horror stories and witch wars, and gossip can be crazy, especially within close-knit Pagan communities. The group prior to the one I am in now was rife with drama. People who should have been on meds... beginners doing manipulative spells.... power trippy members who wanted to rule the roost... you name it.. The coven eventually folded because of geographical challenges (we were all within like a 50 square mile area and no one wanted to drive), as well as commitment issues. The way I see it is that there are good groups and there are bad groups. Good groups have good leadership, who want to see the coven members grow, and will nip any drama or wrongdoing in the bud. Then there are bad groups, who have leaders who have no leadership experience, or are too conflict-avoidy, etc.

Most people hear more about the bad groups, because those are the more interesting stories to tell. I think that some people learn better on their own. I was a knowledge-obsessed solitary for years before I found a group that fit my needs. And for those who aren't into covens, or the coven environment, there are social groups that might fit their needs.

Its tough to find a group where your individual path and individual traditions are respected. Whoa. I totally rambled. Sorry.

MorningDove030202
November 12th, 2004, 04:12 PM
I can understand that it's hard to find a group that matches your beliefs, but I was under the impression that within a group exact beliefs didn't have to match. What was important was a common format of worship, not belief. I've heard Wicca described as an orthopraxy, but not an orthodoxy.... meaning that common practice was more important than common belief. I don't think I would ever find anyone who thinks the way I do, mainly because I keep chainging my mind as I study. I'm not going to let that keep me from working with others. In my study circle we have an atheist, a hellenic flavored Wiccan (me), one who likes Bast, and another who is eclectic but mainly celtic and greek. We don't have to agree on belief to do ritual, we just have to agree how to do the ritual.

Dove

Ben Trismegistus
November 12th, 2004, 04:32 PM
I can understand that it's hard to find a group that matches your beliefs, but I was under the impression that within a group exact beliefs didn't have to match. What was important was a common format of worship, not belief. I've heard Wicca described as an orthopraxy, but not an orthodoxy.... meaning that common practice was more important than common belief. I don't think I would ever find anyone who thinks the way I do, mainly because I keep chainging my mind as I study. I'm not going to let that keep me from working with others. In my study circle we have an atheist, a hellenic flavored Wiccan (me), one who likes Bast, and another who is eclectic but mainly celtic and greek. We don't have to agree on belief to do ritual, we just have to agree how to do the ritual.
That's true. And in many cases, even the ritual itself is negotiable. For instance, some members of my coven prefer more formalized language ("I summon, stir, and call ye forth" etc.) while others are more laid back in their verbiage.

Ron
November 12th, 2004, 04:40 PM
I think that some people out there confuse "organization" with "dogma". A lot of pagans came to their path because they felt smothered in their religion (Christianity, more often than not). So therefore, they go completely in the opposite direction, rejecting ANY kind of hierarchy, organization, or liturgy.
:smash: here, here!

Yasmine Galenorn
November 12th, 2004, 04:58 PM
I don't look down on covens by any means--there are a lot of people who are happy with their groups and that's a good thing. But from my personal experience with group work, I just find too many people caught up in personal drama and arguments over theological semantics for me to ever have any desire to join another.

And after 25 years of eclectic practice, my path has become so focused and specific that I simply don't feel comfortable practicing with other belief systems/gods/etc. I have very specific work and rituals I do, and our household is dedicated to the gods I'm pledged to as a priestess. (My husband's pagan, but not a priest or a Witch and he honors my gods with respect and love, bless him). Of course, we're not Wiccan, so I suppose that can make a difference.

I do still occasionally work with friends, but most of them have just as specific paths as I do, and we get together for ritual only when there's a great need to help a mutual friend or to cope with a world issue that we all feel strongly about.

I started out solitary for eight years before working with others, worked with groups for a few years, and then happily moved back to being solitary. And frankly, I believe that every magical practitioner benefits from at least a year of work on their own, so they can form a solid personal connection with the divine, whether or not they end up a life-long member of a coven.

Yasmine :colorful:

Alexandra Asinine
November 12th, 2004, 06:35 PM
When I started out, I was rabidly solitary, and rightfully so because I was very young. It was partially sour grapes because I was scared of people "telling me what to believe." There are also a lot more Coven horror stories than solitary horror stories, obviously! There are different challenges and dangers in a group.

BrigidMoon
November 12th, 2004, 06:57 PM
For me it's more of experiences with Christian experiences.

I also don't really know enough to come join a group.

I would think I would need the group to become very close to me like family in order for it to work.

Also, I have heard all kinds of bad situations and pressures/manipulations involving groups.

I don't think they are a bad thing really. I just an very unsure that would be a path I need to take at such a very early stage of my spirituality path.

ravenmyst
November 12th, 2004, 07:11 PM
I am solitary by nature, be in general life or religious, to fluid to conform to group mind, and I dont like to be messed with. I am empath so that probably has alot to do with it, when I open myself to divine I dont want others in my head, to each their own.

ealawyn
November 12th, 2004, 09:12 PM
:hmmmmm:
I am not a fan of organized religion; I view spirituality as a very personal thing.
Nobody, has all of the answers, and the Gods do not write books. :reading:

For me, covens can be a good thing, as long as they are open to interpretation.
Once your beliefs are being comprimised to comply with the beliefs of another, get out.
:broomride

Jenett
November 12th, 2004, 09:13 PM
Couple of thoughts on stuff brought up in this thread:

Re: Cliques:

This is one of the arguments for *small* group work, rather than larger Pagan churches. It's much harder to keep strong relationships with more than about 12 people at a time. (This is backed up in psychology, not just Pagan folklore)

Most covens have people with varying degrees of experience/training in the tradition, so there are some natural divisions of labor/preparation/some kinds of conversation. I've found that can be pretty healthy, if everything else is working together well.

The other part of this is that while it can be complicated to come into an existing group (and set of relationships) as a newcomer (and definitely somewhat intimdating - been there, done that), those existing relationships can give stabiltiy to the group.

If half (or more) of the people in a group are comfortable working with one another, and you've got a few newcomers, it's easier to help them fit, explain things, and teach. If you're all new to that group (and often especially if it's people who've had other kinds of relationships before - friendships, etc.) juggling the new changes all at once can be really hard.

There's two important parts to this, though.

1) People need to show up.

Lots of people claim they want coven work, but then don't show up consistently, or don't stick around for social conversation, or whatever. A lot of times, this seems pretty reasonable (we've got to be practical about work or school obligations, need to get to bed, etc.)

On the other hand, if time together doesn't happen 'enough' (for varying values of 'enough' - different people need different amounts to be comfortable) then people lose that connection, and it's hard to get it back. I think this is a lot of what starts cliques forming in otherwise fairly sane groups.

(In romantic relationships, spending all your time on what has to get done, rather than the joy of being together often leads to breakups or miserable fights. It's not surprising that happens with Pagan groups too.)

2) People forget that relationships take work and maintainance, at least sometimes. Also, a lot of us come into the Craft from damaged relationships (with parents, with other family, with friends, from nasty breakups). Maybe not big horrible nasty ones, but lots of people have at least some baggage.

If we carry that baggage into Craft relationships, we're going to be much more susceptible to cliques, abusive coven situations, and all sorts of other problems.

If we've done work with ourselves to work on dealing with our past and on helping ourselves form healthier relationships, two things happen. One is that we're more likely to pick healthier groups in the first place. The second is that we're more likely to spot problems sooner, and be able to fix them while they're still manageable.

Not fun (again, been there, done that, expect to have to do it again sometime), but it's one of those places where the work has benefits in other areas of life too.

Pandoras
November 12th, 2004, 11:01 PM
I'm a solitary practitioner and have celebrated Sabbats with a coven, but have never been a part of one. I don't look down on them at all and would possibly even enjoy being in one. I personally appreciate a sense of community and would even like to see some kind of Pagan clergy. I agree with...
I think that some people out there confuse "organization" with "dogma". A lot of pagans came to their path because they felt smothered in their religion (Christianity, more often than not). So therefore, they go completely in the opposite direction, rejecting ANY kind of hierarchy, organization, or liturgy....but I think there's a bit more to it. Many Pagans I've encountered reject structure altogether. Many believe Paganism and Witchcraft (and even Wicca) is a sort of catch all with no core beliefs and practices. So naturally, they reject covens because covens often have rules, guidelines, etc.

Aidron
November 12th, 2004, 11:48 PM
Speaking as a solitary for of almost ten years, with only one group experience that lasted a few months and was as if it was Jerry Springer for Witches, I don't care for it. Granted, that one experience I had was an abomination, full of deception, melodramatic intrigues, and petty nonsense, but it really has almost nothing to do with my view on why a coven is simply not for me.

My faith and my practices are my own, and I personally see little reason or need to share them with others. True, you can learn from others, but you can do that without a formal and serious commitment to a group-which is how one should take an initiation into a coven I believe. Working together does have its benefits as well, but I have yet to find a problem that I cannot tackle myself and face head on.

To put it simply, I find the prospect of me joining a group of people a waste of time for my part. I do not loathe covens or other sacred groupings, but they are not for me, and I tell people outright. I prefer to keep to myself, building my spirituality on my own. Lastly, a small portion of it is my serious contempt for the idea that you need others in life-for any purpose (with the exception of obvious necessities such as a trip to the E.R. if your arm was hacked off). People tend to live off one another like parasites form my perspective more often than not. That is not only unhealthy, but incredibly pathetic in my eyes.

halfwaynowhere
November 12th, 2004, 11:52 PM
i have no problem with covens, etc. i am a solitary pagan, but i think that covens can be of good. i would like to form a study circle at least... that way i can share experiences and work with other people. i guess i can understand why some people don't like them though, as spirituality is very personal, everybody believes something different, but sometimes its nice to have people to talk to.

CuBiC
November 12th, 2004, 11:59 PM
I don't. I just don't have any chance of getting into a coven, even less of actually finding one near me.
I think it would be good, having someone to help you forth... someone to consult with those difficult, or not, questions...
Then again, that can poison your beliefs, sway your way of thought into becoming theirs. That's not good either.
Both ways are good. I prefer solitary, because I'm a loner by nature.

Lady Avalon
November 13th, 2004, 03:27 AM
I have been practicing on my own for many years. Over a period of decades, this is what I have found:

Many who practice alone would rather be a part of a coven. The problem is that a coven is not something that you can easily join. Many try, but few are excepted. When rejected, they become very anti-covern.

Another thing that I have found is that many of us have not had an opportunity to join a coven (this is the group I fall into). We have spent so much time on our own that we are set in our ways and just prefer to stay alone.

Would I join a coven? I would think long and hard before I would say yes. A coven is more than a group. It is a spiritual family. It is a family that chooses you and that you choose. After much consideration, if I felt that it was the right family, I just might join.

ap Dafydd
November 13th, 2004, 03:51 PM
I'm a solitary but not because I have disrespect for covens!

It's more because I found my own way and was walking along the path long before I started networking with other Pagans, and after that, why would I need to change my own practice to fall into line with others. Also being a covener means having a high level of trust and unity with the others in the group, I've never felt sufficiently close to members of a group to go that far.

But I wouldn't diss organised groups by any means - properly run they are an excellent method of working, they form a structured way of inducting and developing beginners, and hopefully have a long enough history to give status to their leaders and senior members within the Pagan community as a whole.

The original question was not just about solitaries' attitudes to covens but to clergy, and there I'd draw a distinction because I'm very much opposed to the concept of Pagan clergy, not in the context of the HPS/HP in a coven or the equivalent in non-Wiccan traditions but the feeling that some have that there ought to be some sort of "professional Pagan vicars" out there. Personally, I don't think that there is any function which I would want to relinquish to a Pagan clergyperson, I feel that that would just be laziness and dilettantism on my part. It's my Path and I never expected it to be easy. But the rewards make it worth it.

gwyn eich byd

Ffred

PoisonIvy
November 13th, 2004, 04:24 PM
I don't think poorly of anyone unless they make fun of others beliefs or they're just plain stupid. I practice alone because I don't know any other witches in my area. That's why I'm here..to learn and to share something that I am not able to share with anyone else,not even my soulmate! DON'T HATE THE PLAYA!!!!!

Rudas Starblaze
November 13th, 2004, 04:31 PM
I don't think poorly of anyone unless they make fun of others beliefs or they're just plain stupid. I practice alone because I don't know any other witches in my area. That's why I'm here..to learn and to share something that I am not able to share with anyone else,not even my soulmate! DON'T HATE THE PLAYA!!!!!


Yeah! what she said!! minus the soulmate part,,, i dont have one yet.

Ailinea
November 13th, 2004, 07:42 PM
A couple things were mentioned that are big issues that I think affect the view of groups vs. solitaries:

1) Groups without direction. If there is no common goal, members (and leaders) often have conflicting views of what the coven or group should be doing as their priorities. This causes drama. Drama causes rifts. Even those not directly involved in the drama are affected, and the group eventually falls apart, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of everyone.

2) Weak leadership. We all know about stories of people who lead a coven for the glory and power of having a title. Strong personailities doesn't necessarily mean strong leaders. Members either feel like toadies and are forced to do all the work, making them resent the group, or they are keen to the fact that their contributions don't mean squat to the leaders. Bad tastes in mouths, group falls apart, people are scared to join another group.

3) Weak membership. Anyone who expects the leaders to do all the work: teach, write and lead rituals, organize any group projects, PLUS work a job, take classes, take care of family, and have some down time to themselves is out of their gourd. It leaves the leaders burnt out and not wanting to have to babysit a group of people anymore. The leaders, even good ones, run screaming for the hills and wrap themselves up in a hermit-like lifestyle. Bad tastes, etc. etc.

4) Dogma, dogma, dogma. I think MorningDove said it the best when she mentioned that common practice does not equal common belief. A group that imposes a particular dogma...well, all it takes is stories of them, and solitaries looking for a group can be scared off of any group.

5) Lack of connection. How often have you seen people say, "I want to start a group, anyone interested?" A lot of people say they're interested, a group is formed, an e-mail list is formed...and no one communicates. This is not the true story of seven strangers living in a house...but when no one connects to each other, everyone is at best another stranger. Things fall apart.

6) Cliques. So you are interested in a group, and you finally find one. You're all excited to meet new people. And they spend the entire time chatting with each other and make no attempt to bring you in. You're gonna leave unhappy. If a new-forming group is too disorganized to keep your attention, and an already-formed group is too cliquish, you're going to want to retreat to the solitary life again.

For the record, I've been in groups. My main problem was #3, where I was thrust into a leadership position that no one else wanted. It scared me, and now I'm solitary. I respect groups that work, but finding one that also accomodates my beliefs, schedule, interests, and experience is not easy.

I would love a Pagan clergy in the sense of having people with established credentials, knowledge, experience, and are well-recommended to be able to do the tasks of counseling, rites of passage, working with interfaith initiatives, teaching, legal and hospice work, as well as write and lead good rituals. I would love to BE a Pagan clergy, but I know at this moment I don't feel like I have the qualities necessary to do so, much less the time or energy required for the inevitable 3am phone calls when a coven mate is in need of some counseling. But even clergy need to pay the bills. They're not going to get paid unless they're in a group, and as I posted above, there are NUMEROUS reasons why groups don't always work. Then, there's just the issues people have with authority. Sometimes I think people confuse "authority" with "advice from experience."

So, I guess what all this rambling is getting down to is that I think solitaries (myself included) don't necessarily think poorly of covens and clergy, but they have not had the experience to actually interact with a good group that shows covens and clergy in a good light. If 10% of all groups out there are ones that are successful, and 10% of successful groups actually fit with my beliefs and practices, I'd have to wade through 99 bad or non-fitting groups that would scare me into being solitary before I find that 1 that works. I don't know if there's enough time in the world to do that kind of searching before I'm left as a quivering pile of jello trying to hide in my solitary hobbit-hole.

Stormcall
November 13th, 2004, 07:55 PM
I am a solitary because I view my religion as a deeply personal and sacred thing, and to be able to trust one person enough to share it with would be hard enough, let alone an entire coven. I'm not a people person. People tend to make me withdraw into myself, they make me nervous. I don't think it's for me- I'm not that social, and enjoy my solitude anyway.

StormCall

Mab
November 13th, 2004, 11:20 PM
I can understand that it's hard to find a group that matches your beliefs, but I was under the impression that within a group exact beliefs didn't have to match. What was important was a common format of worship, not belief. I've heard Wicca described as an orthopraxy, but not an orthodoxy.... meaning that common practice was more important than common belief. I don't think I would ever find anyone who thinks the way I do, mainly because I keep chainging my mind as I study. I'm not going to let that keep me from working with others. In my study circle we have an atheist, a hellenic flavored Wiccan (me), one who likes Bast, and another who is eclectic but mainly celtic and greek. We don't have to agree on belief to do ritual, we just have to agree how to do the ritual.

Dove
perhaps I should explain at least my post on "I can't find ppl who match my belief". It's not that I'm really looking for matching dogma or confusing organization with orthodoxy or dogma. It's very simply that my beliefs and my practice go hand in hand.....so I'm not finding any who think like me when it comes to practice. I disagree with most traditions on a very basic level on at least one or two points, usually, and they are those points that carry over from personal belief to personal practice....so I can't find ppl to have ritual with.

That's probably a very muddled explanation, and I hope it doesn't confuse. It's just my...my personal experience so far, and just about my post. I don't doubt that there are those out there that do confuse organization with orthodoxy, and some organizations that do it, too.

wakywitch
November 13th, 2004, 11:32 PM
:hmmmmm:
I am not a fan of organized religion; I view spirituality as a very personal thing.
Nobody, has all of the answers, and the Gods do not write books. :reading:

For me, covens can be a good thing, as long as they are open to interpretation.
Once your beliefs are being comprimised to comply with the beliefs of another, get out.
:broomride

Thank you for saying what I was thinking. :smile: :lol:

Also I prefer being solitary, to move at my own pace.
Plus at this point in my life. Don;t want to make the committment that a coven requires.

Mab
November 13th, 2004, 11:35 PM
oh, and I don't think poorly of covens, either. I just don't have any desire to join one.

Ravyn Sylverwyng
November 13th, 2004, 11:46 PM
I don't think that it is due to the fact that solitary pagans think badly about covens. It is merely just the fact that most solitary practitioners find that it is a very personal practice, and they aren't ready or willing to share that with a group that they aren't sure of. Any time that you get into a group of people, you will inevetably find one that you really don't like, and how can you practice your religion if you don't like the people that you are practicing with you? It just seems to me that solitary practitioners perfer to be alone, rather than share their experience with anyone.

morrigan
November 14th, 2004, 01:38 AM
I chose to be a solitary witch so that I could chose my own path and my own beliefs..my path is something very personal to me.. I love to share ideas, thoughts and knowledge with others but in the end i dont want to be told what to believe or how to practise.. I also dont want anyone else to copy or clone my path for themselves as this i believe is not benificial for anyone.. I am not opposed to covens and i believe there are probably many wonderful ones out there that enrich the lives of there members but at this point in time it is something that is just not for me.. my spiritual path has taken many twists and turns and in my thinking had i been a part of a coven my growth and experiences may have been hindered somewhat..
I am a solitary person by nature so it seems a logical step for me to have my spiritual journey as a whole a solitary one too..
we should learn what we can from those who's paths cross ours and then continue on the paths we have sort out for ourselves.. this is how i live my life and this is what works for me.. if someone feels they are best served by being a part of a coven then that is what they should do but i think even someone in a coven should take time to practise on their own too.. blessed Be ~Morrigan~

CaitrionaMorgaine
November 14th, 2004, 02:12 AM
As someone who leads a group that is not a coven (nor will it be one while I'm in charge), I see this from a slightly different perspective.

On a personal level, I do not have any problems with a coven. There was a time when I wanted to find one, because I desired the support and kinship of that sort of community. However, we do not have any in this area, as most of the groups where I am are small close knit groups of friends who sometimes do ritual together--basically not anything structured as I would imagine a coven would be.

I do sometimes wonder if I would work well within that sort of atmosphere. I do have a certain way I like things done, as most do, and I wonder how I would adapt to a change. Running a group as long as I have, I am accustomed to taking a leading role. I don't know how I'd do with structure that didn't allow me the authority on certain things.

I had a bad experience with someone who claimed a lot of different things in regards to her own path, but did not have the knowledge/experience to back them up, and that has somewhat turned me off to that whole "HPS in charge" sort of structure since that was something she stressed.

However, each coven is different. Each coven leader is different, and so are all the members.

My circle is discussion/study only. If the members want to, I allow rituals to be planned and done, but I do not participate other than to make sure that they aren't breaking any of the rules in place. The ever rotating membership of my group makes it difficult for me to find the sort of bond I would want before being in a "working" group with anyone.

Within my close circle of friends, most of whom are Pagan, as well as my own tradition I have found the support system that I desired while keeping the independence that was so important to me. I have found a balance that works for me, and I know how fortunate I am.

Basically what it all boils down to for me is that a coven isn't where I see myself. It doesn't really appeal to me. I have wondered about a small group (fairly non-hierarchical) instead of a coven, per se. Perhaps one day I'll be able to experience that.

Avalon's Blessings, ~Rhiannon

MorningDove030202
November 14th, 2004, 03:35 AM
Couple of thoughts on stuff brought up in this thread:

Re: Cliques:

This is one of the arguments for *small* group work, rather than larger Pagan churches. It's much harder to keep strong relationships with more than about 12 people at a time. (This is backed up in psychology, not just Pagan folklore)

I understand what you are saying but I wanted to point out that some of the big pagan churches do stick to the 13 members per coven rule, it's just they have lots of small covens.

Dove

MorningDove030202
November 14th, 2004, 03:53 AM
I just want to say that I'm realy impressed with this discussion and I want to thank everyone for sharing their ideas, experiences, and opinions! It seems like the majority of us have had bad experiences with Pagan groups.

I'd like to mention to any budding leaders or current leaders that I've discoverd a new kinda of workshop (new to Paganism, IMHO) there is a Pagan Leadership Conference in Richmond VA. Here's the link:
http://www.paganleadership.org/

I'm hoping that more such confrences will become available all over the US and perhapse some good books will be published by the folks who put this together so that the info can be made available to all.

Also in reguards to the Drama that many of us have found both on and off line here is a set of essay on the topic of Trolls that I recomend for anyone who involved in a group. I would probably make it required reading for everyone! http://www.wargoddess.net/essay/troll.php

Enjoy!
Dove

MorningDove030202
November 14th, 2004, 03:55 AM
But I wouldn't diss organised groups by any means - properly run they are an excellent method of working, they form a structured way of inducting and developing beginners, and hopefully have a long enough history to give status to their leaders and senior members within the Pagan community as a whole.

The original question was not just about solitaries' attitudes to covens but to clergy, and there I'd draw a distinction because I'm very much opposed to the concept of Pagan clergy, not in the context of the HPS/HP in a coven or the equivalent in non-Wiccan traditions but the feeling that some have that there ought to be some sort of "professional Pagan vicars" out there. Personally, I don't think that there is any function which I would want to relinquish to a Pagan clergyperson, I feel that that would just be laziness and dilettantism on my part. It's my Path and I never expected it to be easy. But the rewards make it worth it.

gwyn eich byd

Ffred

I think we are getting hung up on the word profestional...What I mean when I say "profestional clergy" is that they are good leaders and know enough about conflict resolution to avoid the Drama. "Profestional" is my word for "knows how to nip drama in the bud before it happens" word.

Dove

-Ember
November 14th, 2004, 03:57 AM
Just to be clear, I'm not worried about the people who coven-work simply isn't for. It just isn't for everyone.

I am specifically wondering about the ones who go into verbal convulsions at the mention of it. The ones who don't see it as an option anyone *should* take.

But since so many have answered with why it isn't for them... I made a poll to try to understand something else: http://www.mysticwicks.com/showthread.php?t=75006

Where do you get your understanding of covens that made you decide it wasn't for you?

Jenett
November 14th, 2004, 12:37 PM
I understand what you are saying but I wanted to point out that some of the big pagan churches do stick to the 13 members per coven rule, it's just they have lots of small covens.

Dove


Dove -

My point is that even then (and I'm familiar with that kind of group) you still have a situation where not everyone knows everyone else closely. In a case of a group made up of lots of smaller groups, you also have a lot of chances for small individual cliques. (partly because they've got some obvious roots: those same small individual groups).

It's not that that's automatically bad: these groups can work really well if they're structured thoughtfully and work towards the strengths of a larger group. But it's definitely a different situation from a group of 5-12 people, and the dynamics work differently. People sometimes forget that.

I think that people who go into those groups aware of the possible issues (cliques, politics, how to handle them or avoid them as desired, etc.) usually find them a lot more comfortable than people who get surprised by those things, or who don't handle them well for some reason.

Pandoras
November 14th, 2004, 04:41 PM
I don't think a lot of people understand what a coven really is. Some folks think that they go to a meeting with a bunch of strangers and boom, they're in a coven and are expected to bear their heart and soul. Others want to be part of something, so they place an ad - hey, I want to start a coven - and boom. Those aren't real covens and it's no surprise they fall apart.

A real coven is a spiritual family that one grows into. There are levels one must work through. There are meetings, studies, exercises, and so forth, and MAYBE then after some time (months or a year), one might actually join the coven.

Ben Gruagach
November 14th, 2004, 05:16 PM
I don't think a lot of people understand what a coven really is. Some folks think that they go to a meeting with a bunch of strangers and boom, they're in a coven and are expected to bear their heart and soul. Others want to be part of something, so they place an ad - hey, I want to start a coven - and boom. Those aren't real covens and it's no surprise they fall apart.

A real coven is a spiritual family that one grows into. There are levels one must work through. There are meetings, studies, exercises, and so forth, and MAYBE then after some time (months or a year), one might actually join the coven.

I agree that many would consider an ideal coven to be one that is essentially a spiritual family. It's important to remember though that even in the term family there is a huge amount of variation even if we look at just "good families." It's probably not a good thing to imply that there is really only One True Form of Coven, any more than it's going to go over well to imply that there is only One True Religion. At least in the Pagan community anyways.

For some people a coven is really just a group of people they get together with once a month on the full moon a do magick with. For others it's more like a family -- I know some covens where the members actually live together or at least in very close proximity, essentially in a commune style. Some covens are so close and intimate that there is sexual activity between pretty much all the members (and yes, I know that is a whole other issue altogether -- but I'm being honest and yes, in some groups that is the way it is) and in the vast majority of other covens there is little or no sexual contact between coven members except in the case of chosen partners who happen to both be members of the same coven. My point is that the behaviour is a spectrum, and what one person considers ideal might be definitely not ideal to another person. We can't really just say that an ideal coven means very close and intimate contact between all members and expect that to be true for all ideal covens because even that criterion is so open to interpretation as my examples hopefully illustrate.

Getting back to the solitary v group (temple, coven, etc.) question -- on the flip side, I've seen some Wiccans who are members of formal groups state very bluntly that you can only be Wiccan if you are an initiated member of a coven (and usually of course it means their particular sect or tradition, or a small list of approved sects.) In some of the older books on Wicca it was common to see the statement that you could not be a witch (and back then witch=Wiccan as far as they were concerned) alone. Solitaries being generally accepted as valid witches or Wiccans is a relatively new thing. It's not surprising that there are still solitaries today who have experiences they can relate where a coven-practicing Wiccan or witch was condecending and therefore helped perpetuate the feeling among many solitaries that groups are not really all they are touted.

Pandoras
November 15th, 2004, 12:07 AM
I agree that many would consider an ideal coven to be one that is essentially a spiritual family. It's important to remember though that even in the term family there is a huge amount of variation even if we look at just "good families." It's probably not a good thing to imply that there is really only One True Form of Coven, any more than it's going to go over well to imply that there is only One True Religion. At least in the Pagan community anyways.

For some people a coven is really just a group of people they get together with once a month on the full moon a do magick with. For others it's more like a family -- I know some covens where the members actually live together or at least in very close proximity, essentially in a commune style. Some covens are so close and intimate that there is sexual activity between pretty much all the members (and yes, I know that is a whole other issue altogether -- but I'm being honest and yes, in some groups that is the way it is) and in the vast majority of other covens there is little or no sexual contact between coven members except in the case of chosen partners who happen to both be members of the same coven. My point is that the behaviour is a spectrum, and what one person considers ideal might be definitely not ideal to another person. We can't really just say that an ideal coven means very close and intimate contact between all members and expect that to be true for all ideal covens because even that criterion is so open to interpretation as my examples hopefully illustrate.

I understand what you're saying Ben and I agree, but I was generally responding to people who say they don't like covens because they can't share their spirituality with a bunch of strangers. I'm saying they shouldn't have to. One's fellow coven members shouldn't be a bunch of strangers. They should be people one has come to know and can and wants to share with.

Ailinea
November 15th, 2004, 01:00 AM
Also in reguards to the Drama that many of us have found both on and off line here is a set of essay on the topic of Trolls that I recomend for anyone who involved in a group. I would probably make it required reading for everyone! http://www.wargoddess.net/essay/troll.php

THANK YOU SO MUCH for this link!!!

I've just posted this to the officers in my EQ guild, and I think it should be required reading. We've had a few "trolls" come through our guild, some of whom are still causing problems. One in particular has cozied up to some of our other officers to the point where they can't see the forest for the trees when she's involved. She's been in direct conflict with my fiance (our guild leader) to the point where even he's wanted to run for the hills or scrap the guild all together from time to time. Thankfully we have enough people who tell him it's perhaps one of the best organizations they've ever been in, so he won't go. Even still, how wonderful it would have been to identify her (and a few others) as a problem before it got out of hand!

Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!! :yourock:

MorningDove030202
November 15th, 2004, 03:00 AM
Dove -

My point is that even then (and I'm familiar with that kind of group) you still have a situation where not everyone knows everyone else closely. In a case of a group made up of lots of smaller groups, you also have a lot of chances for small individual cliques. (partly because they've got some obvious roots: those same small individual groups).

It's not that that's automatically bad: these groups can work really well if they're structured thoughtfully and work towards the strengths of a larger group. But it's definitely a different situation from a group of 5-12 people, and the dynamics work differently. People sometimes forget that.

I think that people who go into those groups aware of the possible issues (cliques, politics, how to handle them or avoid them as desired, etc.) usually find them a lot more comfortable than people who get surprised by those things, or who don't handle them well for some reason.

I guess I feel that knowing each person closely isn't realy necessary to doing ritual in my opinon. I mean if everyone is well trained then you don't need to be friends with everyone to get into sacred space mindset.
Dove

MorningDove030202
November 15th, 2004, 03:07 AM
THANK YOU SO MUCH for this link!!!


No Problem! Good luck with your guild! Allas I remember my EQ days of yonder before I had kids..... <sigh>

Dove

Jenett
November 15th, 2004, 07:53 AM
I guess I feel that knowing each person closely isn't realy necessary to doing ritual in my opinon. I mean if everyone is well trained then you don't need to be friends with everyone to get into sacred space mindset.
Dove

Oh! I see the confusion.

For me, there's more to a large group setting than just ritual. There's also more to ritual than just being in sacred space. It sounds like you're just talking about the ritual parts, from what you've said in comments. I've been talking (or trying to, anyway) about both the ritual parts, and the other aspects of being in a group.

I've been in a number of really effective and meaningful large group rituals. However, they're often very different than small group ones where I know everyone closely.

Large group rituals need to take everyone's experience (and allergies, and needs) into account. Small group ones can focus more tightly.

Large group rituals often can't do smaller, more intimate actions. Everyone talking about something specific, for example. Small group rituals can. For example, part of our Samhain ritual is people talking about those they're remembering. This takes nearly 30 minutes if we have even 10 people. You can't do that if you have 30 or 50 or a 100 people in circle.

There's also trust. A lot of people don't show strong emotion easily (tears, anger, fear, etc.) They're especially unlikely to do so around a lot of strangers. Maybe we should, a little more, but chances are we won't.

Small, intimate coven settings, where you've been working with the other people there for a year or more... that gets easier. When you know *everyone* there will support you, not gossip about you later. (And face it, that happens in larger settings. Happens in smaller ones, sometimes, too, but at least then it's usually obvious quickly.)

There are things about building connections over time. I don't know about you, but I have different relationships and get different things out of interactions with my husband or really good friends than I do casual work colleagues. The work colleagues are nice people, but we don't always have a lot in common, or get very close.

Large groups also have different needs (starting with space with enough room to fit everyone, and money to do that.) Smaller groups can be more flexible.

A couple of my favorite ritual experiences have been in my HPS's living room, doing stuff relatively quickly because we all know what's going on, and we don't need to spell it out for each other anymore. Of knowing that when I say certain things, people will have the same associations (something you can't assume in larger rituals). Of working with people who've worked consistently with the same rituals and tradition over time.

Like I said, I've been in some fantastic larger group rituals, too. But they're definitely different, and they have some different goals, foci, and methods. They have to.

MorningDove030202
November 15th, 2004, 09:22 AM
I don't think it has to do with the size of the group itself, but more nature of the group. Some groups are more intimate, and others are there for serious study and training and any socialization happens outside of the meetings. I think the trust issue is not about trusting everyone who's there, it's about setting aside any issues you have with individuals for the purpose of doing an important ritual together. It's about making the ritual more important than any personal conflicts that are going on between individuals. You kinda have to tell your ego to
"Shut the hell up!" which does take some practice. Sometimes I think that less socializing makes for better rituals.

Dove

Ben Trismegistus
November 15th, 2004, 01:53 PM
For some people a coven is really just a group of people they get together with once a month on the full moon a do magick with. For others it's more like a family -- I know some covens where the members actually live together or at least in very close proximity, essentially in a commune style. Some covens are so close and intimate that there is sexual activity between pretty much all the members (and yes, I know that is a whole other issue altogether -- but I'm being honest and yes, in some groups that is the way it is) and in the vast majority of other covens there is little or no sexual contact between coven members except in the case of chosen partners who happen to both be members of the same coven. My point is that the behaviour is a spectrum, and what one person considers ideal might be definitely not ideal to another person. We can't really just say that an ideal coven means very close and intimate contact between all members and expect that to be true for all ideal covens because even that criterion is so open to interpretation as my examples hopefully illustrate.
Ben,

Deb Lipp mentioned on another thread that the "traditional" definition of coven (at least in a Wiccan context) is an inner court group. Therefore, you would attend the outer court for a particular amount of time before actually joining a coven. This leads to a differentiation between a coven and any other sort of pagan group.

I understand that everyone's definition is different (because Pagans as a whole hate codifying anything), but I think that Pandoras is using that more traditional definition in her post when she says that some people think that just by getting together in a circle and talking about paganism, they've created a coven.

MorningDove030202
November 15th, 2004, 04:01 PM
I think I've also heard people distinguish between a coven and a circle. A circle, as I see it, is more like a group that celebrates the holidays together, but for the most part the study is solitary. A coven has classes and a specific tradition, and does more than just the 8 holidays.......

I think most of the groups I was starting were circles, not covens mainly because I didn't know what a real coven was like until I visited one and got totaly blown away!

Dove

Jenett
November 15th, 2004, 09:53 PM
**I think the trust issue is not about trusting everyone who's there, it's about setting aside any issues you have with individuals for the purpose of doing an important ritual together. It's about making the ritual more important than any personal conflicts that are going on between individuals.**

*shrug* For me, the group size does matter.

It's not about 'setting aside problems'. It's about who I have close relationships with, and who I don't.

It's not uncommon for me (when I'm at larger rituals) to be in ritual with 40-60 people. I probably know 5 fairly well, have talked a few times to another 5-10, know some others by sight or maybe reputation in the community, and don't know the others (nearly half the people there) much at all. I don't dislike them or have problems with them: I simply don't know them, or only know a very small amount about them.

(I'll also say this: there're only two people in my local community I'm somewhat wary of being in ritual with. In both cases, I'm fine being in ritual with them and working towards many common goals, but I wouldn't open up about deeply personal things when they were around either. There are a couple of others who come across as slightly creepy in the glomp-onto-anything-female sort of way, but again, those don't get in the way of the actual ritual work.)

I can trust people to the extent needed to do a specific ritual with them. But it doesn't really say much about whether I'm going to pour out my heart to them, either. Chances are good (unless circumstances are really quite odd) that I'll save it for a ritual with people I have a long-term working relationship with, or go out for dinner and talk. It's often still good ritual, but they're definitely different experiences.

(I also had an interesting set of experiences this summer: I was at a small invite only Pagan festival with 150 people, some of whom were from my local community, and who I knew about, some I'd heard about from my teachers who'd been at the festival the prior year, and some people who were new to all of us.

That festival, you only get invitations if someone who's been vouches for you. I was *more* willing to be open/try hard things for me/etc than I often am in public rituals, but it didn't mean they were all suddenly my best friends, either.)

For me, it's also not about the socialisation (though I think a certain amount of socialisation after ritual is over is important for a healthy community. All work and no fun makes groups one-sided, and means you often don't see other aspects of someone's personality or interactions).

I'm curious: what sort of ritual experiences have you had? I've been working closely with the same group for 3.5 years, and with 4 people in tht group for that time (and others for shorter lengths of time as people come and go). I go to periodic public rituals of various sizes in my local community, too, plus the aforementioned festival, which often run 30-60 people. I've been at only a few rituals with more than 150 people.

I do definitely experience differences; so do most people I know who've had experience with a range of sizes, structures, purposes, degreee that people know one another, etc.