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                            TEMPLES, COVENS AND GROVES - OH MY!

                                         by KHALED

          There appears to be a fair amount of ongoing confusion as to what each
          of these is and what each of them should be doing, so let me stick my
          oar into it, too. But first, let's play the definition game.

          CIRCLE    Three or more people who gather together to work ritual or
                    Craft. Some are ritual only, some worship only, but most do
                    both. The following are all special cases of a Circle:

          GROVE     Circle usually led by, and under the auspices of, a coven.
                    Frequently eclectic in practice, Groves are commonly used as
                    an introduction to the Craft as a whole but not necessarily
                    to any given Tradition. Groves usually don't initiate. May
                    also be called a study group.

          COVEN     Circle gathering at least once per month (with a majority
                    gathering twice) for worship and/or magic. Membership tends
                    to be stable with gradual personnel changes. Normally prac-
                    ticing within a single Tradition, Covens typically have
                    strong group  rapport. Most train their members to whatever
                    standard they use. Rites of passage (the "I" word) are the

          TEMPLE    Two or more Circles, generally at least one Coven (the Inner
                    Circle) and a Grove (the Outer Circle), the latter being
                    open to the public. Serves the public as a place to worship
                    and/or learn about the Gods with advanced training for those
                    seekers who meet the Temple's standards. I'm on shakier
                    ground here, never having run a Temple, but I see a Circl-
                    e/Grove open to the general public as essential to the
                    definition, while the strong affiliation to one or more
                    covens is a matter of observation (as is the relationship b-
                    etween Groves and Covens cited earlier.)

          A fair number of practitioners do not distinguish among these terms
          (nor, for that matter, among Wicca, Paganism and New Age). Feel free
          to take issue with any of these definitions, but they are what I have
          in mind as I write this. Let's take a closer look at what each of
          these is and how they tend to function within Neo-Paganism.

          A Circle is a gathering of, preferably like-minded, individuals for p-
          urposes of magic and/or worship. None of those gathered need be of the
          same Tradition, nor even Initiate, though it makes for better results
          if at least some of them are. All Groves, Covens and Temples are
          therefore Circles. The reverse, however, isn't always the case since
          many Circles do not also meet the criteria for a Grove, Coven or

          A Grove, or Study Group, is a Circle of students learning the basics
          of Neo-Pagan (or Wiccan or any of the other subsets of Pagan) worship
          and Circle techniques. While normally under the tutelage of one or
          more Initiates, the members are not necessarily being trained towards
          Initiation in any particular Tradition, nor need the tutors be of the
          same Tradition(s) as the students (nor even of each other).


          Mystery religions, by their very nature, aren't for everyone, nor is
          any given Mystery suitable for all Initiates. The Grove is a way for
          potential Initiates to take a good look at one or more Traditions
          while learning how to handle themselves in just about any basic
          Circle. If this isn't for them, they can easily drop it. If it is,
          they can focus on the specific Tradition (or family of Traditions)
          which seems to speak most clearly to them (assuming they were exposed
          to more than one). Similarly, the tutor(s) can teach general techniqu-
          es to any serious Seeker without worrying about an implied commitment
          to Initiate someone unsuited to their particular Tradition.

          Groves do not normally do Initiations (they're done by the sponsoring
          Coven, if any), and tend to be oriented more towards teaching and
          worship than towards magical practice. They are also more likely to be
          fairly open to new members or even the general public than is the case
          with established Covens, while study groups, in my experience at
          least, are more likely to be invitation-only. The most effective Gr-
          oves (or study groups, of course) are under the helpful eye, if not
          out-and-out sponsorship, of an established Coven or family of Covens.

          A Coven, on the other hand, is a regularly meeting Circle, all of the
          same Tradition, at least some of whom are Initiates (and at least one
          of whom holds Initiatory power if the Coven is to survive or grow).
          Such a group tends to become very close ("closer than kin") and is
          bound by the rules and styles (deliberately non-existent in some c-
          ases) of its Tradition, and by its own internal rules and customs. A
          member of a Coven is normally provided training and, when deemed
          ready, Initiation or Elevation by that Coven's Priesthood/Elders.

          There are also magical considerations which go into the making of a
          Coven which further differentiate it from a Grove/study group, but it
          isn't my intention to go into them here. Suffice it to say that they
          are connected to the closeness and tend to enhance it. Because the
          bond is tight, and because a Coven generally intends to be around for
          a few decades, they're kinda fussy about who joins. The wise Seeker is
          equally fussy about which, if any, Coven s/he eventually joins. You're
          not joining a social club here, you're adopting, and being adopted
          into, an extended family. And this time round you have some control
          over who your kin will be!

          Neo-Pagan Temples are a fairly new phenomena combining many of the
          characteristics of Covens and Groves. I think that the clearest
          description of just what they're about comes from the (draft) Const-
          itution of the proposed Victoria (B.C.) Temple: 

          a) To minister to the Pagan community by way of providing support,
          education, and sponsoring religious celebrations; 

          b) to establish and maintain a religious sanctuary and place of wor-
          ship accessible to all who would worship the Goddess and the God; 

          c) to provide a seminary for the training of Wiccan clergy; 

          d) to provide accredited ordination for Wiccan clergy; 

          e) to provide accurate information about Witchcraft to all who would
          ask and to engage in dialogue with other religious groups with the
          purpose of furthering understanding and friendship between us; and 


          f) to do other charitable acts of goodwill as will benefit the comm-
          unity at large.

          As stated in my definition of Temple above, I consider the provision
          of Neo-Pagan (not necessarily Wiccan) religious instruction and servi-
          ces to the general public to be essential, and provision of community
          services to the local Neo-Pagan population highly desirable. To be
          taken seriously in the wider world, we need to have our clergy recog-
          nised by our government(s), which in turn means that we need to be
          visibly providing training and ordination which meets government
          accreditation criteria (which can vary significantly from jurisdiction
          to jurisdiction). Such accredited ordination is most easily adminis-
          tered through Temples.

          To address a diatribe current on the Nets (computer Network Bulletin
          Boards: Ed.) so long as the governments we seek accreditation from
          think in Christian terms, then we will have to use Christian terms,
          carefully defined to earmark differences in usage, to describe our-
          selves to them. Sure, there's some danger of picking up some ina-
          ppropriate (to Wicca) ways of thinking along with those terms, but
          we're more likely to import them with converts who were raised as C-
          hristians. The solution to both problems is the same: clearly unde-
          rstood (by the tutors above all!) religious instruction. And if a
          Christian notion isn't inappropriate, and if it's truly useful, why
          shouldn't we adopt it? Religious intolerance itself is inappropriate
          to Wiccan thought, and I think we should be clearer in condemning it.

          So how does it all tie together? I think that the Neo-Pagan community
          needs a mix of solitaires, coveners and templers, along with sig-
          nificant variety among their Traditions, to remain intellectually and
          spiritually healthy. We also need umbrella organisations capable of
          meeting the needs of each of them, not only for credibility with gov-
          ernments and the general public, but to spread new (and not so new)
          ideas around the very community they should exist to serve. I'll talk
          more on what this umbrella organisation should look like in a bit. For
          now, let's get back to roles of the different types of Circle.

          One of the things that fascinates about the Craft is our teaching that
          the Gods don't need a Priesthood to run interference between Them and
          Their worshippers. Nor is this a new idea. Heroditus recorded with a
          certain amazement that Persians must call on a Magus to perform every
          little sacrifice, whereas among the Greeks of his time, anyone,
          including housewives and slaves, could sacrifice at any time, assuming
          they had the desire and the means. We have a Priesthood because some
          people feel called to a deeper understanding and expression of 

          their faith than is the case for many. And while They don't need
          Initiated Priesthoods, humans find them very useful both as a source
          of thoughtful religious instruction and as a ready source of warm b-
          odies to stick with the administrivia of organising group ritual.

          Like sex, however, effective worship isn't something that just comes
          naturally. It must be learnt, and practised. Groves, festivals and
          Temples are all good places to learn the fundamentals, assuming you
          weren't fortunate enough to learn them at home. They are also good
          places to socialise with people who think much the way you do, a
          deeply-seated human need we do well not to overlook. If your need runs
          deeper, you will find Priesthood there to talk to. If your needs prove
          more mystically oriented, they should be able to arrange contact with


          one or more Covens, who can in turn, if appropriate, Initiate you into
          whichever flavour of the Mysteries they practise.

          Different Circle structures serve different needs. None is superior to
          the other except to the extent that it serves your needs better. For
          those of us simply seeking to express our religious feelings in
          sympathetic company, whichever form best serves that expression is all
          we're likely to need. But those of us who feel called to serve the
          greater community will need all of them to achieve the mandate we have
          set ourselves.

          To return to our model umbrella organisation, to serve a significant
          majority of the community it will have to address as many of the r-
          ather different needs of solitaires, Covens and Temples as is feasible
          without stepping on the concerns of any of them. To be effective, it
          has to have some standards, but it can't impose them from above witho-
          ut violating the sovereignty that all three segments of the community
          value rather highly.

          One of the difficulties with any ideal is that it manifests imperfec-
          tly, if indeed it can be brought to manifestation at all. Rather than
          a discouragement, however, I find that a challenge: to bring about the
          best fit possible between reality and our ideal. Here then are my
          ideas on some of the attributes such an organisation can aim for. To
          start from the top, I think the stated purpose of the organisation
          should be to serve as a liaison between member clergy and the Es-
          tablishment, whether government or public. Why clergy? Because we
          don't need government approval simply to worship our Gods, especially
          if we're doing so discreetly and on private property. 

          It's our institutions which need public recognition in order to be a-
          ble to avail themselves of public resources available to other, alrea-
          dy recognised, religions, not the worshippers themselves. And ins-
          titutions effectively mean the clergy. Note I don't say Priesthood. I-
          t's one of the earmarks of the Craft that all Initiates are clergy,
          but in many of our Traditions, Priesthood requires a deeper underst-
          anding of traditional lore and techniques.

          The immediate needs such an organisation should attempt to fulfil are
          essentially three:

          1)   Establishment of a Seminary to provide the training necessary for
               government accreditation as a minister of religion for those who
               need or seek said accreditation. To achieve this it will be
               necessary to look into the minimal training expected by any
               intended licensing bodies and ensure that those standards are
               being met or exceeded by all graduates of said certification pro-
               gram. This accreditation is to serve no other purpose within the
               organisation: all of our members will be recognised by us as
               clergy, whether or not they seek further accreditation.

          2)   To act as a public relations and information office on the Craft
               to the general public. If we exist, we will be used as an infor-
               mation source, so we might as well plan on it and do the job pr-

          3)   To act as a Craft contact and social network to facilitate Pagan
               networking among members and non-members alike.


          To expand upon the seminary somewhat, any member should be able to sit
          for an examination without taking the associated classes (a process
          known in Ontario as "challenge for credit"). If s/he passes, s/he is
          given the credit, if not, the associated courses must be taken before
          s/he may sit for another examination on that subject. In this way we
          can grant credit for existing knowledge without in any way comprom-
          ising our standards. I think it would be a very bad idea to grant an
          exemption from this procedure to anyone.

          Because very few of us are likely to be able to drop everything for a
          couple of years to travel to wherever we happen to establish the
          campus, one should be able to complete the courses necessary for
          certification by correspondence. Nor should the topics of instruction
          be limited for those required for accreditation with government. 

          Let's also see to it that our ministers have a grounding in the phil-
          osophy of religion, comparative religion (especially comparative Pagan
          religion) and chaplaincy as well. Note too that I keep referring to
          the document as a Certificate, not a college degree. A university
          level of education, while great for the egos of graduates, is unneces-
          sarily high to meet the needs of our Pagan laity - a Community College
          is much more appropriate. The stages of learning in a guildcraft are
          apprentice, journeyman and master, NOT baccalaureate, master and
          doctor! Mind, I have no objection to our Seminary offering college
          level courses, nor any other course or seminar it may choose to offer.
          I merely object to the insistence in some quarters that since most
          Christian ministers must hold graduate degrees, then by golly ours
          must too! Horsefeathers!

          Our Organisation then breaks down into a Seminary to provide internal
          education, and accreditation, to Pagan religious tutors; a PR office
          to provide external education, and referrals to the public; and one or
          more Festivals, and no doubt a periodical (e.g. a newsletter), to p-
          rovide for contacts and networking both internal and external.

          Further, I see our Organisation as an ecclesia in the ancient Athenian
          sense of the term, and assembly of all those having the right to vote
          in our affairs. I don't feel the ecclesia should either set or attempt
          to enforce any standards beyond those required for government ac-
          creditation and a minimal ethical standard for membership. I feel that
          membership should be restricted to ordained clergy within a Pagan
          tradition, nor should the ecclesia itself set any standard as to what
          does or does not constitute clergy (though I expect it may have to
          define criteria for determining what is or isn't Pagan). All this
          because any other approach compromises the essential sovereignty of
          our Covens and Temples (for which purpose I see a solitary as a Coven
          of 1).

          Since our membership is composed of clergy, not Covens and Temples, I
          favour one-person-one-vote. Certainly, groups with a large number of
          ordained members will thereby gain a larger number of votes in the
          ecclesia, why not? The ecclesia has no authority over individual
          members nor the organisations they may represent. Its most extreme
          power is to suspend the membership of persons found to be in violation
          of the ethical code, which code is set and policed by the members
          themselves. Or to appoint officers to manage the ecclesia's property
          and affairs, which officers will be legally and constitutionally
          answerable to the membership.


          On the topic of polity, I see the ecclesia/AGM as setting policy which
          is then administered and interpreted by the officers. The officers
          should have no power to set policy themselves. Our structure should be
          absolutely minimalist to avoid unpleasant takeover bids later. Any
          office or function which doesn't need to be there, shouldn't be there.
          If someone has grounds for an ethics complaint, an ad hoc committee
          should be assembled to look into it. If amends are made or the objec-
          tionable behaviour corrected, then the case should be dropped (i.e.
          the committee is focused on correcting unethical behaviour, not
          punishing it).

          On the subject of officers and their terms of office, I rather like
          the notion of electing them in alternate years for two- year terms. A
          one-year term is too hard on continuity. One possibility to avoid
          little fiefdoms is to provide each function with two officers, one
          senior and the other junior. Each year the senior officer retires, the
          junior officer becomes the senior and a new junior officer is elected.
          Continuity is preserved, and each officer gains an assistant who has a
          year in which to learn the ropes. I think that barring the outgoing
          senior from seeking re-election as a junior would be wasteful of
          resources, myself, but it would certainly serve to break up fiefdoms
          even further, should the ecclesia happen to be particularly paranoid
          about them.

          A not-so-little proposal, but the subject is an important one. This is
          only somewhat-baked, and I see the need as both real and immediate, so
          please give me some feedback on this.


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