Our initiate discussion group for the coven has been working through Thorn Mooney’s The Witch’s Path, a chapter a month (it has been great for that!). We’re on the last chapter now, and one of the possible exercises involves writing up a description of what’s your job (specific to your witchcraft and/or group participation) and what isn’t.
This happened to coincide this weekend with a couple of emails and a couple of discussions online that made me want to sit down and figure out where my lines are (what’s mine to do, what’s not mine to do.) I’m quite certain I’ll continue to adjust and add things (and possibly remove some things) but I thought the draft might be helpful.
Below, I talk about several different constellations of things:
- The larger context of my life (everything going on that isn’t the explicitly witchy bits)
- My personal practice
- Coven life
- Larger community interactions as a priestess
- Things that are not my job
The larger context
I’m focusing in the rest of this post on my witchy life (personal, coven, and larger community), but here’s other stuff I’ve also got going, all of which obviously affect the time and energy I have available for all my witchy stuff.
Daily life: I live by myself with the cat, which definitely means somewhat less household management than, say, someone with kids. (On the other hand, the cat can’t help with anything other than being adorable, so if I don’t grocery shop or clean or whatever, it’s not happening.)
But I also have multiple chronic medical conditions, their related appointments and management (I’ve got something like a medical appointment every two weeks for something this summer on average), and deal with flares as they come up.
These also mean I need to make sure to get enough sleep, that I have routines that help me make sure I take my meds, and do all the other things that go into maintaining a body. (Plus, y’know, somehow we need to eat food multiple times a day, someone’s got to cook it, and that someone is me.) Housecleaning. Sometimes I’ll have a bad week or two, and I need to make my plans knowing that’ll happen sometimes.
My job as a research librarian, which includes:
- Time (my working time, commute time, and “I need to go to bed so I can function” times.)
- Mental energy (answering questions, finding resources, doing all the other parts of my job.)
- Collaboration with my colleagues and others on campus.
- Contributing to the campus inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility team.
- Partnering with external organisations (one of which I’m contracted to for part of my work time, others of which we collaborate with on projects)
I love my work, my coworkers and boss are great, but these things also take energy (if I have a more intense week at work, I’m doing less of those things in other places, usually.)
My fiction writing which is a whole thing of its own, but includes everything from writing time to editing, to publishing and marketing. (The joy of indie publishing is that you can make all your own choices. The challenge of indie publishing is that you have to make all your own choices.) I spend about 15 hours on actual writing time every week, and somewhere between 5 and 15 on other writing related things depending a bit on how you count and where I am in the editing cycle.
Friends and social time which involves some online chat, some roleplaying gaming (currently three nights for a couple of hours every two weeks), a regular video call with a friend, and scattered other things. All good, just sometimes it’s calendar tetris.
This is me as a witch, my personal practice as distinct from coven, group, or other community work.
- Continuously seek alignment with the flow of magic in the world and in my life toward goals for my own well-being and the greater good.
- Create, maintain, and regularly review a regular personal practice, including daily, weekly, and cyclical components as appropriate. (I have a daily and weekly practice that’s working pretty well for me and has for a couple of years.)
- Build and nourish connections with my gods through time, prayer, offerings, and doing their work in the world.
- Make space for quiet reflective time (through meditation, art, music, walks, tending the home and myself).
- Continue developing my skills as a witch through reading, courses, workshops, personal practice. Build a list of skills I wish to continue to develop over time.
I am, as I’ve mentioned, not good at regular meditation, but I definitely believe there’s a need for quiet time that isn’t full of other things, to listen and reflect.
Defining the role of ‘priestess’ is really tricky in a modern setting: I am not a pastoral counsellor, and the degree to which I have any specific responsibility to or for people outside of my specific chosen communities (my coven, and direct public pagan space interactions) is often a bit complex to navigate. The pagan and magical communities are many, numerous, neboulous, and often chaotic: no one human can even begin to be up on what’s going on in all of those places. (Nor should we!)
- Demonstrate through my actions, integrity, and choices what it means to be a priestess in the modern world: acting with kindness, intention, clarity, and light. Hold myself to my standards for elders.
- Share resources, information, and support with others interested as I am able to do so.
- Be aware of issues and concerns as well as the many wonderful things in the community. Share information about them as appropriate, when I have something to add or it’s relevant to my particular communities.
- Consider and incorporate understanding of how the community continues to change and grow into my learning, work, and practice.
- Create and support spaces that allow people to come together, learn, and develop themselves and their practice either by facilitating that space myself or behaving in a supportive and helpful manner in other spaces (participating, asking questions, helping share ideas and information when appropriate.)
- Keep my commitments to my gods, my tradition, and the other powers I have ongoing interactions with, in keeping with tradition standards and expectations.
My role when it comes to my coven.
- Hold space for the group work, in keeping with our tradition practices and customs. This includes creating and leading rituals, teaching, having space for social interaction that builds stronger connections, and consulting with group members about what is and isn’t helpful.
- Being clear with coven members, students, and seekers about group expectations, what we can and can’t offer, and what their commitments are or will be as they move through different stages.
- Sharing information and understanding on a range of topics to help people develop into well-rounded competent witches with a meaningful personal practice as well as the ability to participate in coven life.
- Supporting and teaching those classes necessary for someone to be considered for initiation (5 class Seeker series, year and a day sequence for Dedicants) as well as ongoing learning and development for initiates.
- Offering and facilitating space (virtual and presumably in person again sometime) for coven activities.
- Coordinating (or making sure someone coordinates) shared labour and costs (dishes, potluck, expenses, etc.) so that the burden doesn’t fall on any one person, including me.
- Being regularly available for conversations, questions, and coven needs, but not always on call. (Reasonably prompt replies to emails, setting up a mutually good time for calls, ideally within the next day or three. Exceptions for true emergencies.)
Thinking about this last one because I’ve had two coven-related “Hey, can we talk” emails in the past 24 hours. In one case, I slept on one (not time sensitive, and I’m coming off an intensive writing conference that ended yesterday.) In both cases, they got an email this morning with “Sure” and in one case “Here’s some times I can talk this week” and in the other “Here’s when I’m generally somewhat free, let me know several days/times in this range that work for you.”
- Third degree priestess and witch in the Omphalos Tri-Cellan tradition. (Which, y’know, doesn’t mean much outside the tradition until we start getting into details of what that involved.)
- Extensive experience in public Pagan community, including Twin Cities Pagan Pride, Paganicon, and ongoing online interaction over 20+ years, including being on staff at The Cauldron.
- My graduate degree (Master of Library and Information Science) also obviously plays into both a number of my skills, and into how I go about doing some things.
Not my job
Then there are a bunch of things that are decidedly Not My Job.
Not my job: Providing therapy, counselling, or other professional services (legal, medical, etc.).
I am not trained in those things. I may help someone find an appropriate professional. My guideline for this is to follow librarian ethics, helping people find resources without stepping into giving medical, legal, or other skilled professional advice.
Not my job: Giving out judgements on other people’s practices, choices, or actions, unless that is explicitly my role.
It’s usually not my role. There are so many different communities out there. In many many cases I may find something not appropriate, but I probably don’t have enough context or information (or standing) to talk about it in a concrete way, determining what’s right and wrong.
I do have a responsibility to speak up about things affecting the communities I have a direct responsibility for (my coven, online spaces where I have a staff role or am an active participant in shared space).
In general, I tend to go for a more general educational approach “Here are some things you might want to be cautious about” – both because that’s more generally applicable, and because what I see of an individual and what someone else sees might be quite different. Talking about different choices or approaches is sometimes a part of my teaching. In that case, I express my opinions as clearly my opinion, and “this really doesn’t work for me personally, because” or “that’s something I don’t want to be around…” rather than a blanket disavowal.
(And as with many people online, I don’t want to get caught in a death spiral of nasty disagreements that won’t ever resolve: that’s not good for me, that’s not good for the online space, and it doesn’t actually solve problems.)
This one came up because of spotting a comment from someone demanding someone with an online witchy presence pass judgement about someone else (no direct connections, substantial interactions, etc. this was not a “Why are you sharing X person’s stuff if they do Y?” or “This person is part of your direct community, what’s up with this?” situation.) It is not the job of high priestesses (or priests, or whatever other term) to make decisions about all of the world. The world is way too big. Even just the explicitly magical and witchy ones.
Not my job: Offering long-term support for people who chose something other than my tradition and coven. There are many wonderful ways to be a witch in the world, most of them are not mine to facilitate or directly support.
I’m generally fine with getting questions via the contact form here, for example, but I’m likely going to respond with a pointer at generally available resources or a couple of suggestions of who might be able to help. I don’t want to get into situations of offering advice to people whose situations I know almost nothing about that get beyond what I’m comfortable sharing in public here.
Similarly, if someone explores coven work with us, and decides they’re not up for it (or their life isn’t in a place for it), that’s fine, and I’m generally glad to stay in touch and talk about options if their circumstances change. But my focus for my time and energy is going to be the coven and my personal practice.
Not my job: To shoulder ongoing expense or effort on behalf of the group by myself beyond my own comfort levels.
For example, when we’ve had group meetings for the coven at my apartment in the past, I make it clear I’m fine providing a reasonably clean space, dishes and kitchens tools, as well as tea, water, ice, and fizzy water. But I’m not up for providing substantial cooking, and I really appreciate help with cleanup (including som,eone doing the dishes.) Different covens and groups do this differently! This is what plays well with my chronic health stuff, the stuff I have to be the one to do (the prep cleaning, since it is in fact my apartment), and my usual energy levels when we’re done.
However, I just pay for the Zoom account for virtual meetings, and that’s fine. Not going to break my bank.
This also goes for time: I love my coven work, I care a lot about having a group of people to do things with, and to hopefully continue the particular tradition and practices that mean a lot to me. But it is one part of my life, not my whole life, and I keep a close eye on how much time and energy it is directly getting. (On average about 5 hours a week of direct focus things I’m only doing because there’s a coven, between teaching, teaching prep, and ritual prep, when we’ve got Dedicants, about 3 hours when we don’t.)
Not my job: Weddings, funerals, or other ritual or magical work for people outside my coven. (Inside the coven is a matter for mutual negotiation, noting that I am not legally clergy by MA standards.)
Similarly, I don’t do divination readings, spellwork, etc. for people outside my coven or close friends. (And not super often even for those people. I’m more likely to consult on some ideas.)
As I said at the beginning, this is a work in progress, but I hope of some help.