Hey ya’ll! Do you remember when you were a little one and told your parents “I cannot wait until I grow up then I will never ever have people tell me what to do!” ? I do. I also remember my mom laughing at my naivety and saying…”Baby, no matter how old you get you always have to answer to someone. There are always rules to follow. There is always a pecking order.” I was absolutely positive she was wrong. I just knew it. But here I am, fastly approaching another year realizing…she was right.
When you run a coven, or Wiccan church usually there is some sort of teaching program in place. When you are first starting out you think…”Finally, now things can be done my way!” but even this is the folly of youth. First, if you are a Highpriestess usually you are teaching a tradition or sharing what you have learned. This is why you are the Highpriestess you have training, you know a thing or two and thus when it gets down to making a structure for your coven or group you are going to teach “what you know”. What you know is limited by “what you learned” and thus, whether you like it or not rules fall into place and “certain ways of doing things”. Structures start descending like gossamer cloths from the heaven and drape upon the “abstract concepts you are sharing with others" . Alot of times you very quickly begin to discover that what worked in a "women's only circle" or in the mid-west or somewhere else does NOT work where you are. Then you go back to the drawing board....only to admit "things cannot be done your way, they have to be done for the group dynamic."
Next, you find even if you are claiming “there are no leaders we rotate” well those are the leaders. The person who started the “group” is the leader. The person who writes the ritual is “the leader” and so to some extent no matter how “punk rock” you are like me you find that your anarchist heart has to resign to the order of the universe. Everyone has a “way” of setting up their altars; what tools they use and what incense is used for what spell. Even if you use books all the time, because you are a newbie and had no teacher to tell you the herbs or the proper color usage you are “following someone’s rules and ways of doing things”. I am sure Scott Cunningham was the teacher of half the witches of the eighties and a lot in the nineties. So if you only have book learning…it’s okay but you have to admit you learned a structure.
Outside of that, if you mix in the bigger Pagan community you find there are Elders and leaders of other organizations that do things differently than you do. In the case of Elders they have been there for quite some time, and if you ask “respectfully and with an open ear and mind” you might just learn "their way". Elders and other Highpriests and Highpriestesses are also another “structure or group” you find yourself mingling with if you stroll very long in the community. Sometimes, you find that you might “tangle” or get “rattled” by some beliefs or practices of another group. You might not choose to personally endorse or follow their beliefs but that is okay. That is why you have a group to begin with, to worship with those who you do agree with and who you can get along with. BUT what is not okay, is to “be mean” or “harass” the other group. Because, we all share the same well and we all drink from that well that the Goddess freely gives us we are all united under the belief system of Paganism. Thus, once again we have a structure within a structure.
To make this one step more complicated, if you are sponsored entity like my Temple you probably have several boards above and below you that you have to also listen to and get along with. I know we have a members council so that all people have a voice and can suggest and help the Temple move in the direction they feel is important. We also have a Clergy board, and with five clergy you find that in reality you are either rotating for everyone to get their way from time to time or compromising because everyone has a great idea and we want to merge those ideas for the best of the whole. Above me, I have the ATC Highpriestess to answer to and an Arch priest. Now, do not get me wrong they do not give orders and me have to run like a chicken with my head cut off. BUT, they do have to be informed about everything and guess what? They give great advice! They know a lot of things I cannot possibly even think off! Thus I learn "their structured" ways of doing things...and another layer of meringue is piled upon the pie.
If you throw all those ingredients together, not even including that more than half of my day goes to building and sorting and posting about church stuff, rituals, workshops, and activities. One day you wake up and realize your life is both really full and structured or really chaotic and almost toppling over and I like the former not the latter! So here I stand with tattoos still, various piercings sealed shut but still scarring, with my “Death Cab for Cutie” tee shirt and my still wild hair to only smile. Contrary to my little maiden ideas “answering to someone” is okay. Contrary to my wild teenage rebellious “don’t tell me what to do!” I find myself asking “what should I do?” and "what is best for the whole"? In spite of my Twenty year old phrase of “stop talking down to me!” , I realize no one ever was talking down to me…they were guiding me, mentoring me, parenting me just like the God and Goddess does. I have to remind myself from time to time with the younger ones...I was there once, I do remember that perspective and they are not wrong...just not seeing another aspect of the diamond.
I have saved the most important for last the BIG bosses. Your personal God and Goddess and your guides are always advising you, constantly rooting for you. If they say…hey take another road not that one and you find you avoid a huge wreck or maybe just a traffic jam are you really going to ignore them the next time they give you advice? I hope you are smarter than that! Did you know that if you are lucky enough to be “chosen and called” by a deity to run a group of any type first and foremost you have to answer to them, listen to them, do as they ask. (yep, you have another boss) A Clergy, Highpriest, Highpriestess, or leader of any ritual knows that a wonderful ritual is one where their body houses the God or Goddess they invoke and that they are merely a vessel. They also realize, that the rituals they feel compelled to do are never really for themselves but for the other people in the group for their job is to “dispense the sacraments of the Gods to the their people” (and many times they never have a clue who that ritual was really for but the Gods do). Service is an honor, not a duty. Service is a wonderful thing to behold that gives you more than you could ever get being selfish and demanding. Service can “burn you out” but it can also “wrap you in more love than you can fathom”.
The next time you go to a festival or event and you see a bunch of Highpriest’s, Highpriestesses and Elders sitting around smoking and drinking coffee or just laughing and talking realize this. Their life is not as carefree as you thought; they are discussing to each other their issues or concerns; in some cases they are answering to each other for actions that occurred in their shared community and this is difficult and humbling. Yes, they too have someone to answer too “leadership” is not all about the costumes and the great pagan jewelry it is about: planning, hard work, serving, listening, cooperation, compromise, being a janitor, maid, cook, coordinator, secretary, accountant, mother, bad cop, good cop, and everything in between. I bet you would not believe it, but even as a HPS you have to deal with people from out of town or people that do not even knowing you telling you how you should do this or that all the time...and sometimes you can stand up to them; but sometimes it is just better to shut your mouth, paste on a smile, and say "Thank you" (though you are thinking wth?) and assume they want what is best for you like your Momma does.
Last night, I went out to dinner with my parents. They have grown shorter with age, and of course they are more wrinkled. We ate fried southern style catfish and hush puppies, drank pungent sweet tea with lemons, finished it off with homemade coconut cream pie and chocolate meringue pie and we laughed. I looked at my parents, and I realized that they were not as “foolish” as I once thought them to be. Of course, everything they told me did not work for me but you know there sure was a lot of good ole’ practical common sense there flowing out of their mouths; mom was right, I bet if I asked her right then who she had to answer too she would have a list of people and start ticking it off. I decided not to ask her, but hug her instead and she decided NOT to comment on my bright pink hair with feathers flying all about in it because she realizes I have enough on my plate…and after all I am an adult and I have my own list of people to answer too.
What structures or traditions do you follow? Do you mind the concept of service?