(Part of my series on coven life in practice)
One of the first questions for coven work has to do with the space. After all, most small Pagan groups meet in someone’s home. There’s a lot that goes into that, both thoughts and actions.
Where I live
I wrote a draft of this when I was still in an apartment with some serious quirks (especially around heat/cooling and where there was enough space for ritual.)
Then a bunch of apartment issues happened, and I ended up finding a new place on very short notice. The great news is that the new place is much better set up for group work – I have a large wood-floored living room with plenty of space for ritual, and plenty of light when the sun’s out.
This still has some quirks, though. It’s a walkout basement apartment, so you have to go down a number of stairs to get to it. (There are sturdy railings, but it’s not accessible to someone who uses mobility devices or who can’t manage stairs.)
I also have a cat (non-negotiable) and between my allergies and my cat’s responses to other animals, I can’t handle a service dog in my living space. (Much as I like them in general: I work somewhere where there are several.)
What are my commitments here?
One thing I thought about a lot is figuring out where the boundaries are here. I want to be hospitable, but I also wanted to make sure that what I started with was something that would be sustainable long-term.
1) I need enough seating for everyone.
I have a futon (set up as a couch) in the living room, and a bench seat, and a smaller seat in the bedroom, plus a couple of floor pillows. This is working pretty well. If and when we add more people, I’ll need to add a few more options, probably including some floor pillows and another couple of the benches.
2) I need a reasonably comfortable climate.
Chances are usually good I’m more climate sensitive than the people around me, so if it’s comfortable for me, it’s probably okay for other people (though it might edge on too chilly, but then we can adjust.)
The current apartment has an air conditioner in the living room (my previous place, I just had a portable in the bedroom, and no way to air condition the living room due to the configuration.)
3) We need a manageable approach to food and drink
I didn’t want to put a lot of burden on myself to feed people (chronic health stuff affects shopping, cooking, and some of my finances: there are times when all three of those are fine, and other times when all three are in short supply. I wanted to plan for my worse weeks as the default, not my better ones, though in a really bad week, I’d cancel class or ritual.)
Living down a flight of stairs, I also don’t want to feel I need to haul heavy things down here all the time (or haul recycling back up.)
Thinking about context
Having people in my home is a social community act, yes, but it’s not a purely social one in the same way having friends over might be – we’re here for a particular purpose, and I’m already putting a significant amount of time and energy into other parts of preparation (cleaning to a reasonable degree, plus preparing class materials or ritual, teaching or running ritual, and then cleaning up after and sending out notes and anything for followup.)
I also didn’t want to put a big burden on them in terms of cost or preparation, because that’s not good for them.
What that means in practice
In the current place, it’s pretty easy: I can close the door to the bedroom if I want (or mostly, since the cat is likely to lurk in there). I can make sure the public spaces are clean.
We meet and do class and ritual in the living room, using a large gateleg table for an altar (usually folded down to be smaller), tv trays for quarter altars, and moving the small furniture around as appropriate.
In my previous apartment, the bathroom’s only entrance was from the bedroom, so no matter what, the bedroom had to be clean enough to let people into it. The bedroom also offered the best space for ritual.
I let my students know I was glad to provide water, hot water for tea, a variety of teas and tisanes, and that they were welcome to bring other things to drink.
(I got a SodaStream, so I can provide fizzy water (my drink of choice other than the one or two Diet Cokes I allow myself each day. They turn out both to be very light drinkers at best, and we meet in the day time, but alcohol in moderation would be all right for after ritual otherwise.)
I made it clear I was fine with a range of options – no food other than after ritual (I do feel strongly about that one!), everyone brings their own snacks. They promptly decided to alternate bringing food, with one of them bringing a main dish, and the other bringing something that goes with it (and I occasionally add in things like ‘I made bread for ritual, here’s the rest and some herb cheese to go with it’).
I set my few requirements (food for after ritual needs to be stable during ritual without anyone checking on it, and quick to finish after ritual, and I don’t have a microwave. I may change the microwave part this fall.)
They also do the dishes (I don’t have a dishwasher), which is awesome. And it gives me time to take down the ritual altars if I need to, or set up specific things. What are the important parts of this?
What are the key issues here?
Clarity is queen. Both with myself (what are my goals, what can I reliably offer?) and with the other people involved, so that they know what to expect.
I laid out what I felt I could offer, we talked about it, and I expect we’ll keep talking about it as the logistics change (for example, as we add more people, or when they start taking on more parts of the ritual work.)