Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Circle, Coven and Grove Expectations


Q. Bendmeoverbruja asks: I saw your post on how to behave during a ritual. I was curious... Are you in a coven or have you been in a coven? And if so, what was expected of you by the coven?

A. I’m currently in a circle, but I’m the coordinator (closest thing to a high priestess) and founder, so it’s more what my expectations are of my circle.  You can find out more about our membership structure and roles here.  You can also read this article I wrote on 13 basic ritual etiquette tips to give you a better idea of what I generally expect out of my circlemates for ritual.

We do have a lengthy set of bylaws (14 pages to be exact) but they’re really more common sense than anything.  If you’re thinking of joining or forming a coven, or are in one, there should be a set of bylaws or rules that you can reference to see what is expected of you.  That being said, I’m happy to go over some of our basics here.

Before I get started, I’d like to say that our structure as a circle is highly different from the standard coven hierarchy.  Circle of Fountains is a circle of equals.  While I’m the closest thing to a HPS, Primary Members get equal say in how the group runs, what we participate in and any rule changes.  Primary Members take on one responsibility to the group (such as managing our potlucks or taking care of our inventory), agree to teach two Novice classes, and will lead one sabbat and one full moon esbat a year.  In addition to this structure, we’re non-denominational, which means we’re happy to have anyone who practices witchcraft regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs; we’re all-inclusive to the best of our ability.

With that, here are some of our expectations as a group:

1. Attendance is expected.
If you are a Primary Member, we have a strict attendance policy, requiring you to attend every sabbat and every meeting barring emergency or illness.  If you really need to miss and talk to me, I’m usually pretty understanding, but if you just don’t show, that could easily be grounds for dismissal.  Participation is key to what you get out of the circle and rituals are planned around a certain attendance, so random missing members could cause a real snafu.  Fortunately, attendance has never been an issue with CF.  While a prospective coven may not have any specific attendance policy, if you start missing regularly, it's likely that will cause problems.

2. There will be a time commitment outside of meetings.
If you choose to be a Primary Member, you are expected to fulfill your roles and responsibilities in a timely manner, devoting roughly 5-6 hours every month outside of circle meetings and events.  We meet once monthly for full moon esbat and once every month for a meeting (followed by a fun drunk divination).  Then we of course have the sabbats, which means some months, we have three events and some months we have two.  Outside of that, you’ll likely want to be prepping for your next Novice class, esbat or sabbat, which is where the 5-6 hours comes in.  While this isn't indicative of every coven's expectations, you can anticipate spending some time outside of meetings on coven work, particularly if you're an essential part of how that coven, circle or grove functions.

3. You will likely need to pay some sort of fee.
We do not have any yearly fees, but each attending member of a sabbat is expected to pay $15, which goes directly to whoever is leading the sabbat.  Circle of Fountains doesn’t get the money, I don’t get the money (unless I’m leading) and no one is expected to profit off of a sabbat.  The money is purely to cover the costs of the ritual.  Assuming you have 10 people going (not including yourself), that’s $150 you can expect back to cover the costs.  It allows us to do some spectacular things with our rits.  Of course, you should never be expected to invest large amounts of money - that's a huge red flag - but many covens and groves have some sort of fee or expectation of sharing the financial burden.  Sometimes, if finances are an issue, you can apply for forbearance or forgiveness of those fees.  Be aware, however, that this is a common part of the practice.

  4. Be inclusive of your fellow members.
Because we’re non-denominational and because each Primary Member is expected to lead one sabbat a year, we do have a policy regarding rituals being inclusive.  I love when sabbat rituals are flavored with the individual’s beliefs - in fact, I fully expect it - but I also want everyone to be comfortable.  If someone’s nontheistic, a deity-centric ritual is going to be a struggle for them.  I don’t ask that rituals leave out deity by any means.  I simply ask that sabbat leaders provide a tie-in.  This is something you might not run into with other covens or groves as many usually teach a specific type of witchcraft or paganism.  It's also rare that individual members split up sabbats in covens.  That being said, inclusivity is essential to any group's functionality.

5. Do not cause drama.
We have a strong anti-drama policy and I have no problems acting on it.  I’ve never had to kick anyone out for stirring the pot in our circle but that’s because we also carefully vet our members.  I have, however, had to have both a couple one-on-one chats and, once, a full circle exercise.  Drama is almost inevitable in any group situation but I refuse to let it get very far because it’s so easily the poison of any great group.  If CF wants to remain strong and cohesive, drama has to be dealt with swiftly.  If you're interested in joining a circle, grove or coven, ensure that you don't become the epicenter of drama by treating members with respect, refusing to participate in gossip and taking the extra step to meet your covenmates in the middle.

6. Take care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.
CF is an amazing support system and I’m very proud to call my circlemates my family.  That being said, we’re not your doctor or your therapist.  We’re happy to provide resources and support but your circle/coven should never become a substitute for professional help.  Our four cornerstones include practicality and, in practicality, we note that the safety of our members supersedes all else.  If we feel you are being unsafe in some way, we will ask that you take action.  Most covens and groves will expect the same.

Again, I want to remind you that Circle of Fountains seems to be rather unusual in our structure.  It’s likely that any coven you join will have different structural rules.  However, these are the sum of our expectations.  If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

[Guest Article: Phaedra] Can Stuffed Animals be Familiars?


At the beginning of the year, I asked the circle I coordinate, Circle of Fountains, if they'd each like to do a guest article based on a topic that I might not be able to cover. This is a great effort by my amazing circle to give you information that you might not otherwise encounter here at Witchy Words. The following article is written not by me but another member of Circle of Fountains, with credit and notes about its author below. Enjoy!

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Say the word familiar, and most will think of animals, especially cats.  Thanks to popular culture, owls, toads and rats are on the list as well. Merriam-Webster defines a familiar spirit as a spirit or demon that serves or prompts an individual. For any excellent overview of familiars in general, please read this post by my awesome friend, Circle Coordinator and witchy blogger extraordinaire, Marietta: Familiars 101.

I have had a couple of animal familiars throughout my life. I love them still and know I can count on them to show up when I call for protectors and guides. For this particular post, I want to talk about a different sort of familiar that I have a lot more personal experience with.

A spirit, imp or daemon can, if willing to be a familiar, communicate on its own.  However, it can also take residence in an item, such as a stuffed animal. I currently have two stuffed animals that serve as vessels for the familiars that have attached themselves to me. I believe one of them has just transferred vessels as I have grown and even treasured possessions have been lost. The other is a recent addition to my magical life. Please allow me to introduce Bitty Kairy and Galaxy.


The imp in Bitty Kairy has been with me for most of my life. She started out in my E.T. stuffie that my parents gave me for my first birthday. She has stayed with me in one way or another, helping me discover my path and generally doing the things daemons do for their people. I didn’t realize until we got home the evening I picked Galaxy out of the bin at Build-a-Bear at my daughter’s birthday why I wanted that particular bear. She quickly made herself known to me and is more of a day to day familiar. I deal with social anxiety and the variety of agoraphobia triggered by crowds. Galaxy goes with me and helps me handle such situations.  Many of the frequent visitors to Witchy Words have seen both Bitty and Galaxy in pictures. 


The trio of yellow stuffies that are in some shots are belong to my beloved Laura. She has not yet determined if it is one spirit that uses all three vessels or three separate ones. Their relationship is just beginning.

My circle mate Amy also has a familiar spirit in a doll. Here is what she shared with me about her Rosie.


“When I was in 1st or 2nd grade, my school tried out a reward system called "funny money." You got so much for good grades, for participating, or whatever. And at the end of a certain amount of time, we were going to have an auction. The thing I got in that auction was a little cloth doll in a pink floral dress. I named her "Rosie." (Because when you're little, any pink flower is clearly a rose. Duh.) She joined my rotation of stuffies that guarded me while I slept, and quickly became my favorite. See, I had a lot of nightmares as a kid. (Symptom of the whole depression/anxiety thing.) While others might guard or comfort, she was the first one with MAAAAAAAGIC POWERS!!! She would flip the top of my skull up, find the nightmares (which looked like thunderclouds), and reform them into good dreams (which looked like hearts). It was a more effective method than most, and I slept with her by my side until I was...oh, 10? 11? When I decided I was too old for such things. I could never get rid of her, though. My stuffies became fewer and fewer, until about 10 years ago, it was winnowed down to just her. She still keeps me company on anxious nights. I've even taken her to work, if I was worried about a really bad day! She was the first thing that was really mine. No one else had gifted her to me, no one could say "I bought that, so really its mine" and take her from me. I earned that money (funny though it may have been), I found her, I bought her. Then I spent years with her beside me, doing an internal kind of magic. My ex could tell that she contained pieces of my soul. I still love my Rosie.”
         
Other objects that are likely to be vessels are rings, necklaces, statues or figurines, and heirlooms that can be easily held. If you think you can hear someone talking to you when you hold your grandfather's wedding ring, if you know your lucky necklace does help when you wear it, there is a possibility you have a familiar spirit that is willing to work with you. Keep your mind and inner ear open!

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The Circle Advocate who reaches out on behalf of Circle of Fountains to other groups and organizations seeking interaction and volunteer opportunities, Phaedra is a wonderful wife and mother of three beautiful children.  Transplanted from Texas to Oklahoma, then Oklahoma to Kansas City, she adores ballet and fandoms like Doctor Who and Hello Kitty, but absolutely nothing comes before family.  Phaedra describes her craft as green kitchen witchery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Circle of Fountains Full Moon in Leo Esbat (Feb 2017)


On Sunday, Circle of Fountains and our Novices met for the next installation of their class and our full moon ritual!


The evening started with the class, where Amy and Andrea talked about energy work versus magic.


Once their class was complete, they returned upstairs for ritual.


This ritual I led.  I've been placing an emphasis on the astrological sign that the full moon is in, so I planned out a full moon in Leo.  Leo is all about drama and theatrics, so I placed an emphasis on rhyming in the ritual.

I started by handing out six lines of a rhyming circle opening to individual members of the circle in order.  I asked them to read the line as I passed behind them, cutting the circle with my athame. 

I call upon the moon alone,
Maiden, Mother, Warrior, Crone
Remove this circle from time and space
With your energy fill this place.
This house, this area, this circle, this room,
It now resides within the moon.

 Some of the lines I handed to specific members.  The second line is particularly Wiccan-influenced, so I ensured one of our two Wiccans had that line.  They were otherwise handed out to whoever wanted one.


We then called on the quarters, starting in the south because Leo is a fire sign.


One tip for making quarter calling easier is to pin or tape the quarter calls by the wall of the element you're calling.


This is something I did regularly with my last circle but seemed to have lost track of with this circle.  I'm bringing it back for the esbats.


I then left space for others to call upon any deities or spirits they'd like.

Once that was completed, we moved on to spell work!


I asked each of our ritual attendants to write down what they think courage and confidence look like.  It could be a description or a drawing - whatever they were comfortable with.


For some examples, one of our novices drew this adorable picture of a lion.  I wrote "Holding your high in the face of adversity."


One of our circle members said she was embarrassed to read hers aloud, because she wrote down that I exemplified courage and Kolika confidence.  Abby, that's probably the biggest compliment anyone's ever given me.


Once they read their paper aloud, I asked them to burn it and drop it in the cauldron.


This gave us ashes charged with courage, confidence and fire for the next step of the spell.


In each black bowl to either side of the cauldron, I placed a charged rose quartz for self-love.  I then filled it half-full with a carrier oil (my choice was olive oil, but grape seed or avocado).


I dropped in a little rose and patchouli essential oils into each bowl.  Rose essential oil is great for love and beauty, and patchouli for sexuality and physical energy.


I then added half the ashes to one bowl and half to the other, and stirred them to create a charging oil for self-love, courage and confidence.  The only reason I created two bowls was to make it easier on everyone trying to reach it.


Prior to the ritual, I asked my circlemates to bring makeup, perfume or jewelry that made them feel more confident when they wore it.  Eyeliner in particular would be great for this glamour because I think lions look like they're wearing amazing eyeliner, but anything would do.  I asked each person to take a little of the oil and charge an object of their choosing while we changed a short rhyming lyric:

Full Moon in Leo, I call upon thee
To lend me courage and bravery,
Fill this item with strength and light,
A newfound confidence I ignite.
My spirit is unbreakable,
My resolution is untakeable. 
With courage of a lion, I become,
There’s nothing I cannot overcome.
(A slightly altered version of this chant.)

With that, everyone had completed a simple glamour spell for courage and confidence!


We released our spirits and deities...


... released our quarters...


... And released the circle!  Simple, sweet and to the point.

I hope you've enjoyed this simple full moon in Leo ritual!  Until next time!