Covenant of UU Pagans Book Club discussion

Starhawk > Heirarchy and Initation

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message 1: by Liz (new)

Liz (Morningdove) | 20 comments Mod
Recently at my congregation we did Cakes for the Queen of Heaven curriculum, and many of the values emphasized in Goddess Spirituality are reflected in this book. Here's a quote about hierarchy:

"A spiritual organization with a hierarchical structure can convey only the consciousness of estrangement, regardless of what teachings or deep inspirations are at its root. The structure itself reinforces the idea that some people are inherently more worthy than others." p. 19.

Do you think that Initiatory Witchcraft Traditions are hierarchical and thus imply that some people are more worthy than others? Are there Initiatory paths that are not hierarchical? Is there room in a CUUPS chapter for initiation or is that taboo?

message 2: by Aisling (new)

Aisling (AislingtheBard) | 3 comments I am a Traditional Witch, not Wiccan, and in our Trad we do not do "Initiations" as such, partly because of the mistaken idea that there are "secrets" which one may only receive as an "Initiate" of a certain level. What we have instead are "Admissions", and this word means simply that the Spirits of a certain strand of traditional lore in our Trad have shared knowledge and insight of that lore with an individual, and that individual has demonstrated this by words or actions. I do think Hierarchy can be misunderstood and misapplied--after all, even UU Churches DO have "hierarchy" in its basic sense--not everyone is the Minister, not everyone is the Board. But everyone has a voice, and I think covens and other Traditional groups can be run with that model of Hierarchy--certain people have certain tasks and titles, but no one is "better than". In my coven, we have a saying, "HPS is a JOB, not a TITLE". And no, I do not think initiation belongs in a CUUPS Chapter, because, as with the rest of the UU Congregation in which the chapter is sourced, anyone should feel, and be, free to join and be a fully-fledged member of the chapter, without demanding, as initiation would, unanimity of belief.

message 3: by Liz (new)

Liz (Morningdove) | 20 comments Mod
I like that saying, about HPS being a job not a title! I'm not sure though that I would classify "Congregational Polity" as hierarchy, or at the least I would classify it as a "Democratic Hierarchy", but perhaps I should do some more research on the word hierarchy before making a definitive conclusion.

message 4: by Dick (new)

Dick | 2 comments

One way to limit the problems of a hierarchical structure in a congregation, chapter or coven is to operate by consensus. This will reduce the tendency to ignore the minority opinions.

Some sort of term limitation also helps insure that president, moderator, chair and HPS are not seen as hereditary positions.

message 5: by Liz (new)

Liz (Morningdove) | 20 comments Mod
I agree about working on consensus, but one problem is that most of us have never worked within that kind of structure before. Many dismiss it before really understanding how it works. My old coven openly mocked consensus, and taught that it didn't work. But just because you don't get your way, doesn't mean it didn't work..... IYKWIM. Occupy Wall Street as well as Starhawk, has put out good beginner info on consensus building. The OWS video on YouTube is excellent. I'd love to see more about it on the cuups podcast...

message 6: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (stephadele) | 6 comments Im not sure that I see what the "problem" is with hierarchy and earth based spiritual traditions and practices...From ancient times, there has always been a hierarchy of students and teachers in wicca...Druids would apprentice young boys as students and witches would apprentice both male and female students of the craft until they and their teachers agreed the timing was right for them to form their own covens and/or practices...Midwives have always had apprentice girls and young women as students who were often their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and neighbors...It was common during medieval times for a child/young adult to be "loaned out" and learn a trade from an much older adult....While consensus is needed when a group of adults gather, I see nothing wrong with some form of hierarchy within a group at times whenever a learning experience is a class needs to be taught...Sometimes a younger member is the teacher is this case.....Perhaps a model and consensus with some hierachy practiced can be explored?..Does it need to be that rigid of "no hierarchy"?

message 7: by David (new)

David (dop4) | 6 comments There are a couple mostly contradictory themes going on in Wicca - and by extension most of Modern Neopaganism:
1. All witches are clergy. This comes straight from Gardner. Which seems pretty straight forward and non-hierarchical, except that he coupled it with -
2. A three tiered degree initiatory degree system - which is, of course, explicitly hierarchical and something inherited from the Western occult tradition(s)

UU Pagans normally find it much more comfortable to emphasize the first point over the second - provided that "clergy" is understood as leading rituals, and NOT the equivalent as UU "called & fellowshiped (professional)" ministry. As Unitarianism and Universalism *both* have Enlightenment roots, it's a bit of a stretch for them to accomodate mystery tradition Pagan initiations like existed in Rome and Greece. Perhaps if we established some sort of course of study with initiatory rituals patterned off of the kind of "bridging ceremonies" that happen at UUA GA between the Youth & Young Adults - it would make sense in a UU context?
Just kinda brainstorming here......

message 8: by David (new)

David (dop4) | 6 comments Liz asks, "Is there room in a CUUPS chapter for initiation or is that taboo? "

This is a tough one.
There's a large number of folks who come to the UU-Pagan path _because_ it doesn't typically entail a degreed structured set up.
On the otherhand, there's also a lot of folks who'd like to ceremonially recognize their dedication to a UU-Pagan path.

So I guess my question for someone seeking initiation as a UU-Pagan would be "What are you seeking to initiate?" If you are looking to become UU clergy, there is already a clear path to that:
If you're looking for a personal dedication, Scott Cunningham wrote a good one, though not specifically UU.
I guess the touchiest part of the issue, is what authority would initiation be expected to convey - especially to the non-Pagans in a congregation.
Or could the initiation be relevant to within that
chapter ONLY, and still be considered truly meaningful?

message 9: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (stephadele) | 6 comments So how does one separate a pagan versus a "non pagan" in the UU community?..I know alot of UUs who attend CUUPS celebrations that dont identify themselves as pagans...My experience with CUUPS is not it is not a closed group to "non pagans".

message 10: by Liz (new)

Liz (Morningdove) | 20 comments Mod
Perhaps we should use the word "dedication" if we mean a ceremony to denote membership to a group. The very ceremonial Wiccan trad I was in, all members of a coven dedicated each year, but initiation was a personalized course of study and was different for each person.

David wrote: "Liz asks, "Is there room in a CUUPS chapter for initiation or is that taboo? "

This is a tough one.
There's a large number of folks who come to the UU-Pagan path _because_ it doesn't typically ent..."

David wrote: "There are a couple mostly contradictory themes going on in Wicca - and by extension most of Modern Neopaganism:
1. All witches are clergy. This comes straight from Gardner. Which seems pretty strai..."

message 11: by Liz (new)

Liz (Morningdove) | 20 comments Mod
Hey Stephanie! Druids were not Wiccan, they were Celtic Polytheists. Wicca is a hybrid of polytheism, Western Magickal Traditions, and Masonic ritual. They take the degree system from the Masons, of which Gardner was a Free-Mason. Many people use titles and initiations to wield power over, so that their opinions are more valid than others. I don't see how this fits in with our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. Sure people taught other people, but that's not what I mean by hierarchy. Degree systems are almost like a cast system or pecking order, and I feel it's wrong to expect everyone in a faith to have the time or energy to be clergy. It can be very very subtle, but it's there. I've come to the conclusion based on my own experiences that ceremonial Wiccan traditions are more like joining a Catholic monastery to be a monk. It's a private club, that will only serve the greater community within it's own best interests, it is not a church. I will always question modern Pagans who follow a religious governing structure based on the Masonic secret society model. I don't believe it serves the greater good, just the egos and goals of those involved. I would LOVE to be proved wrong...

Stephanie wrote: "Im not sure that I see what the "problem" is with hierarchy and earth based spiritual traditions and practices...From ancient times, there has always been a hierarchy of students and teachers in wi..."

message 12: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (stephadele) | 6 comments Liz...Ive attended many CUUPS rituals and never experienced a rigid hierarchy in Wicca like you describe...Im wondering if regions where people are pressured to be more secretive about their pagan beliefs promote this kind of secret worship...In Massachusetts where I worshipped, no one had to hide their faces, voices or pictures for fear of being harmed by the larger community...Sounds like this is more of a problem in areas of the South where the conservative religious right influence compels people to be more secretive and thus join certain Wiccan covens that ensure total secrecy and exclusion so members feel "safe"...Coming from a more open and tolerant area, that is very strange to me, to be that fearful.

message 13: by Liz (new)

Liz (Morningdove) | 20 comments Mod
Well, you are probably right about the south being more secretive, but Wicca outside UU circles are very different. For example, my previous coven does an Ancestors Ritual at Samhaine were complected magicks are performed so that you can litterly talk to the dead. They also practice "Aspecting" which is like divine possession of Gods and Goddesses, where you can speak to them and get messages from them.
This is Very Serious Magick, aka Ceremonial/Western Magickal Tradition....

message 14: by Liz (new)

Liz (Morningdove) | 20 comments Mod
...not that there is anything wrong with that, but that it's structure is bound up in all this spiritual ladder climbing, authoritarian, you don't get to have a say unless you get initiated, and you can't even observe the decision making processes, secret society, you have to earn your right to participate in the decision making process, mentality.

message 15: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (stephadele) | 6 comments Liz...I really think it depends on where one resides regarding authoritarianism and Wicca, regardless of how "serious" the magic is or what coven one belongs to...Ive been to several circle ceremonies from covens on Cape Cod and there was none of the secrecy and exclusivity you describe as part of the fear based South that seems to make pagans isolate from one another rather than join together....Progressive societies are more open and accepting in general and there is less need for inviduals to hide what they practice or who they meet with...There is no religoous Right or KKK threatening to fire you from your job or intimidate you with violence like there seems to be in the South....Worshippers are much more timid and fearful here...A real opener for me....Reminds me of Texas, where I grew up.

message 16: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (stephadele) | 6 comments I agree,Liz, it sounds pretty oppressive and dysfunctional to me...But thats the consequences of living in a closed, patriarchal society IMO...Institutional fear rules the actions of others....Im glad I had a different experience in a more egalitarian region that wasnt dominated by fear and a knee jerk need for control and hierarchy in order to feel safe in their pagan practice.

message 17: by David (new)

David (dop4) | 6 comments Liz wrote: "Hey Stephanie! Druids were not Wiccan, they were Celtic Polytheists.

Well, this depends on which Druids we're talking about. The Druids of Roman times (and before) were Celtic Polytheists of which almost nothing is known. The Druids which have become active since the 1970's are/were Celtic neo-Pagans. The Druids from the 17th Century thru the early 1900's were .... for the most part unitarian Christians for whom reverence for the Sun and reverence for the Son were pretty much interchangeable. The Gorsedd Prayer was written by a Unitarian Evangelist Iolo Morganwg who set up Unitarian societies all over Wales. In Britain, druidry still has a substantial interfaith appeal which involves such people as the Archbishop of Canterbury among other Church of England clergy.

message 18: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (stephadele) | 6 comments Thanks David...I had read somewhere that druidy is still practiced and even sanctioned among interfaith communities in the Church of England.....I had known this about wicca but didnt know that about druidy..The UK has in some ways a more diverse open outlook towards religion and integrating various faiths...Due to centuries of persecution of various sects and groups, there probably isnt as much splitting hairs over this versus in the US...Interesting how one's history affects what people get riled up over.

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