(Part of my series of posts on coven life in practice)
One of the things I’ve thought a lot about and struggled with is scheduling.
Don’t we all have that fantasy of a perfect schedule, where we meet on Sabbats, and full moons (and maybe new moons too) and everything flows and fits into a rhythm?
And I definitely was shaped by the group I trained with having a rich and full schedule.
Except. Wait. No. Also other things.
How things worked in the training circle
The group I trained in was great in many ways. We had ritual for the full moon (sometimes on a weeknight, sometimes on a weekend). We had longer rituals for the Sabbats. My high priestess had amazing beautiful items for the altar, seasonal things, a host of different coloured altar cloths and lights and other details. Walking into the ritual space could be entirely magical.
Classes for Dedicants were generous in length, meeting twice a month. Three hours once a month, five hours the other, to leave plenty of time to try things out. Classes were rich with information, with notes and exercises and meditations, and with a moderate amount of assignments to do at home (about 15-20 minutes of personal practice, and some reading or written assignments.)
Initiates met once or twice a month for class, and the group leadership (people teaching and the upper degrees) met regularly. That last one involved dinner, the others didn’t unless there was a ritual. Initiates took turn in creating ritual for the group, and in taking on different ritual roles (great for learning, but more challenging than doing a role you knew well.)
Only, over time, I realised some things. And then I ended up with chronic health issues that make fatigue a real thing to contend with (and often, I’m up for the group thing, but then it will take me days to recover if I overdo it, and probably affect my work. It will definitely affect my ability to write, to create, and to do other things I care about. And my ability to sort out food and laundry and other basic human needs.
First, that was a lot of time. By the time I was a second degree, I was regularly spending 10-15 hours on circle things many weeks, and that was before any of my own study or personal witchy practice got done. Other weeks it might be only three or so, but that was still plenty.
Especially when you consider that there was a semester in the middle of my second degree that was utterly ridiculous. I’d moved into the covenstead in the middle of getting divorced. I was working full time (in a school library, so I was at work by 7:30 in the morning) and went back to grad school. I’d helped run the first two day Pagan Pride event as Programming Chair, and right around when the event happened, the partner of a dear friend (someone much loved in a different part of the communities that make up my life) died, suddenly. And I was helping her.
I didn’t exactly have much spare time – and because I worked in a school, I couldn’t take vacation days mid-semester to catch up (or even just get a grip on my laundry). I had to hang on until winter break. I turned in more assignments that semester 15 minutes before the deadline than any other time in my education, by a factor of about 10.
That was the most absurd semester of that experience, but it left its mark. As handmaiden and second degree, I was also responsible for a lot of sorting and arranging things for ritual – and a lot of that turned out to happen on a schedule that really didn’t work for me.
Even before my health crashed, I had days where I could do several hours of steady physical work (like cleaning the temple and then a moderately involved ritual), and days where I absolutely couldn’t, and I was already constantly pushing my reserves that year.
What I took away from that
It meant that when I hived, I wanted nothing to do with that. I wanted a practice that was sustainable. Even minimalistic.
I joke that my requirement is that the coven stuff has to fit into a basket. It’s a fairly big basket (about 2 feet long by 1 foot wide by 18 inches deep) but still. It’s not the stacks of items in a large altar space, and Rubbermaid tubs full of seasonal decorations. More on this when I talk about objects.
Still, I don’t want a practice where I’m constantly looking to top the last big ritual, or where I feel compelled to come up with complex ritual ideas (especially right now, when I’m the only initiate in the circle). I want something where we can have meaningful, heartfelt rituals – but they aren’t necessarily super complicated or require a lot of setup time.
What does that mean now?
One of my students is a single parent, so actually, her childcare options are driving a chunk of our scheduling. Fortunately, that’s also working pretty well for other reasons. We’re currently meeting for about 3 hours every other Saturday, from 11 to 2. They bring food, I do the preparation of the space. (And they do the dishes, after. It’s great!)
One session in a month, we do ritual (currently pretty short and sweet, but enough to try out different things.) It’s been a long time since I did group work in the tradition, so part of what I’m figuring out is how some of that will go in this place with these people.
I’m going to make the discussion of ritual scheduling its own post.