Thoughts on guests

I’ve been thinking a lot about coven guests recently, and therefore figured it was as good a time as any to lay out our current practices about them. (Why thinking about them? Well, first, we finally got the scheduling right to invite our former HPS to join us at the next full moon. And then someone else I know through some shared online spaces (who’s local) inquired very politely if we’d be open to a guest at any point. Plus, I’m working on writing up our decisions about practices, and I’m working on the bit about the guest one currently.)

One thing I want to be really clear about is that a lot of our choices about guests are born out of some very specific circumstances and decisions on where we want to focus. They’re not the right choice for every group – and they may well not be the right choice for us in a few years. But for now, we think they’re the best way to go for Phoenix Song. Your mileage may very well vary.

So, first, background, and then our choices.

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Time costs of group work

This post goes with my previous post on financial costs of group work, as I think that being aware of the time we spend on something is also an important conversation to have.

Getting there:

Obviously, besides gas to get there, it’s going to take you time to get to where you’re meeting. My current driving time is 0 (for things I host) to about 30 minutes each way (heavy traffic, right after work) at my covenmate’s. More normally, it’s about 15-20 minutes. At 2-3 trips a month, that’s 40-90 minutes of driving time. Pretty reasonable.

In my former group, the drive was a bit longer – more like 35-40 minutes, and sometimes worse. When I was doing 8-10 trips out there a month, I was spending at least 4-6 hours in the car. This was slightly less fun, especially with later evening events and getting up early for work.


If I’m hosting, I need to spend about 2 hours preparing in advance. I live in a little tiny house (more on which in a future entry, because I want to talk about how I’m thinking about what a covenstead is), but 2 hours is plenty of time for me to do a thorough cleaning, sweep, do all my dishes, move the furniture that needs to be moved in advance of ritual, move the computer, and so on.

The good news is that much of this is work I should be doing anyway (general housekeeping) and I can keep on top of it fairly easily, or split it up over 3-4 days. The ‘day of ritual’ preparation (stuff that must be done that day) takes about 20-30 minutes, mostly moving furniture and computer and sweeping afterwards.

Ritual bread baking (for use in ritual) also takes time: the basic recipe I use means I need to be home for about 3 hours. However, most of that time is rising time: I can be doing things on the computer, cleaning, petting the cat, or working on a hobby for all but about 20 minutes.


Ritual takes as long as it takes, but generally, we plan on 2-3 hours (including setup and food after) for a moon, and generally longer (4 hours, sometimes more) for a Sabbat, because what we’re doing in ritual is often designed to take longer.


We schedule our discussion nights for a worknight, and I get up early (I start work at 7:30, so get up around 5:30.) So far, we’ve been finding that a 6-9 or 9:30 discussion works really well for us, and we’re trying to do 2 a month. 7 hours, give or take.


In my former group, classes were twice a month, once for around 3 hours, and once for 4-6 hours. In the new group, I want to leave it somewhat more open ended, with the idea that student and teacher should be seeing each other twice a month (because this helps build connection, and keeps things on track) but that times can be variable.

Class preparation time, now, that’s a tricky one. With an existing curriculum, like the one my former group had (where teachers for a specific class had notes to work with), preparation is mostly reviewing the material, and teaching – pretty quick for most of us. For the new group, I’m redesigning from the ground up, so of course, it’s taking hours and hours and hours for each class, plus a bunch of time for the overall structure.

(This is what happens when I work in an excellent high school for years: there are all these educational theories I’ve seen in practice that I want to make some use of.)

Personal work:

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I believe that the foundation of good group work is personal work. Yes, this is hard. No, I don’t always manage to do it. My personal goal, these days, is 5-10 minutes of moving meditation work in the morning, 5 minutes or so of devotional work as I begin my day, and ideally 10-15 minutes worth of meditative or astral work in the evening. I’m trying very hard to add 10-15 minutes of musical work each day, too.

It’s a goal – I usually manage two of the three on a good day.

I also spend a fair bit of time (probably an hour a day) reading material that directly impacts my religious life – online Pagan discussions, books, magazines, and so on. I also spend time on a regular basis writing material – posts in those discussion, entries on this blog, posts on LiveJournal, and so on. (This probably comes out to half an hour a day, but there are days I’m writing for 4 hours, and days I do none.)

Costs of group work

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about are the actual costs of group work – in terms of both time and financial cost. I’m not talking about paying for training, mind you – just about the other things that go into it. With rising gas prices and other costs, I’ve seen more discussion of this in people looking for groups, but there are very few specifics out there.

Now, obviously, I have one set of experiences: the numbers below are not going to reflect everyone’s experience. But I do want to put some concrete numbers out there (along with where they come from) so that other people can get a general idea of some patterns.

(This gets very long, so you click on to read the details)

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Role of the High Priestess

[The following is something I’ve written up for internal coven documents, because I wanted to spell out what I thought my role was. I’ve run most of it by my covenmate, and included some other thoughts at her suggestion.]

Or, rather, I should say roles: I think there are a number of things going on here. To many people, the HPS is the one responsible for making sure the spiritual and religious stuff happens. At a basic level, there’s three parts to this, in my eyes: anchoring the spiritual core, providing direction, and making sure the practical details fall into place.

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