Whether you plan to start a new coven, are “hiving off” from an established coven, or your current leadership is stepping down for whatever reason, assuming the role of high priestess is an enormous responsibility.
Before you agree to fill the glittery red slippers, take some time to reflect on the advice here..
Ask for help when you need it.
No one expects you to know everything.
Are you trying to establish your coven as a nonprofit? Find someone who has done it before and get it right.
Want to design a training program to teach the newbies the basics? Get advise from a crone with a teaching background to set up a solid curriculum.
Whatever you do, use your resources and do it well.
Regularly pass the torch.
Encourage other members of the group to take the lead often. Play to their strengths.
Get the culinary whiz to plan a kitchen witch ritual for Mabon. Invite the gardener in your coven to give a workshop on how to grow a magical herb local to your region. Find out who the camper is and let her plan a Litha adventure under the full moon.
The best high priestesses make it their missions to figure out who is good at what. Then, they get them to do it.
Because if they’re good at it, and they feel appreciated for their talent, they’ll want to help.
Don’t get involved in drama.
Dab even your baby toe in their drama, and I promise, it will bite you.
When it comes to quarreling coven members, you might think sitting down to “clear the air” or “talk it out” will fix things. Yeah.
How has that gone for you before?
Some women simply do not get along. There’s nothing you can do about it.
Really think about it: When have you ever been able to do anything about that?
We’re adults, we’ve all been there, and we all know how that goes.
It’ll either come to a head or simmer in the background forever. Either way, it’s their problem to work out.
Let it be their problem.
Take any allegations of abuse deadly serious.
The recent attention drawn to sexual abuse at the hands of pagan clergy means you now stand on the front lines of protecting coven members from sexual coercion.
Do not go swimming over your head here.
Take a lesson from the failures of the mainstream religions regarding this matter and do not attempt to handle this type of situation “in house.” It is not your job to decide whether or not a crime was committed. I don’t care what blood oath you took, or who you swore secrecy to.
You are never obligated to keep suspected sexual abuse a secret. Ever.
Encourage victims to report abuse to law enforcement and to seek help from independent professionals.
Keep a close eye on anyone you think might be abusing power. If you see something, say something.
Decide how to handle new initiates.
While neopagans typically don’t recruit converts, a coven that doesn’t grow, dies.
If you maintain an online presence and reach out to the community at events like Pagan Pride day, eventually, people reach out to you.
This is a good thing! You want this!
But even one addition dramatically changes the group dynamic. So get the other members involved in how to go about accepting a new initiate.
My advice is to welcome anyone with a genuine interest.
But if you decide to set boundaries, what are they?
Include your coven in designing perimeters, and makes sure everyone knows what they are.
Be careful about minors.
The last thing you want to do is become a pawn in some teenager’s idea of religious rebellion.
Don’t get between minor children and their parents. It’s just a bad idea.
Require minor children to either be accompanied by a parent to coven events or (in the case of older teenagers) get written permission from their parents until they become of age. Check in regularly with parents, especially if you plan to do something they might find objectionable.
Obviously, skyclad rituals are out!
Remember, you’re not the boss.
If you enjoy things like event planning, lots of social interaction and are good at helping new people integrate into established groups, the role of high priestess may be an excellent fit for you.
But divas, beware: if you tend to “supervise” (aka boss people around unapologetically), you probably won’t shine brightest as a high priestess. This leadership “style” never sustains a healthy coven dynamic for long.
You’re not employing these people. They come to circle because they want to come.
Make them keep wanting to come. That is your job.
Host moon rituals. Make time for baby blessings. Be available for the grieving. Know how to get people to feel comfortable. Those are all way more likely to be priorities for a successful high priestess than telling people what to do.
Know your allies, and choose your battles carefully.
If you act as high priestess for long enough, chances are great you or your members will face some discrimination at some point.
My advice is to pick your battles carefully. Some of them really aren’t worth it.
But for those that are, make sure you know who to call. The ACLU? A lawyer? The press?
Depending on the circumstances, these people can be great allies.
Before you proceed, make sure the concerned parties want to fight. Don’t make an unwilling person your poster child, no matter how important you think there cause is. These things can get both messy and public. Quickly.
The infinite list of ways discrimination against pagans manifests itself is beyond the scope this article.
But here are some common examples:
-Pagan children and adults are allowed to wear symbols of their faith in any public space where others are allowed to. For example, if your kid gets sent home for wearing a pentacle to a public school where other kids are allowed to wear crucifixes, then his rights have been violated under Constitutional law.
-Similarly, if your home owner’s association allows Christmas decorations, they have to let you decorate for your religious holidays as well.
-In family court, opposing counsel loves to bring up the fact that mom is a witch—-especially to damage custody cases. Tell your lawyer up front that it may come up so she knows how to handle this slick little move. Don’t let it surprise her in open court. This kind of tactic is wrong, and there are lots ways to point that out.
-Sometimes, ignorant civil servants or even legal professionals (who ought to know better) refuse to recognize your ordination as clergy, even after you’ve done everything under the law to be granted ordination. This is usually against the law. Fight it. Fight that one every time. It’s usually just a matter of getting someone who knows what they’re talking about to call them out.
The role of High Priestess is one of service. So, be of service.
You’re clergy now. And clergy contributes to the larger community.
Don’t let negative attitudes towards witches become an excuse not to get out there and work to effect change.
In fact, a hostile attitude towards pagans is the very best reason to show your community they are wrong about you.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Sponsor a food drive. Organize to help both pagans and non-pagans in need. Reach out to other congregations and see if they’d be interested in cooperating to host an interfaith dinner.
Lots of people carry misconceptions about modern witchcraft. But modern witches also harbor misconceptions about monotheists. If you have a negative attitude towards Christians, Muslims or any other faith, find a way to reach out to them and mend your relationship.
You would be amazed at how open even conservative religions may be to working with you. Especially to unite in service for a common cause, like curbing world hunger or fighting animal cruelty.
You’re representing the pagan community now. Make us proud.