Advice for Meeting Other Practitioners for the First Time
This document provides some basic guidelines for individuals who are considering meeting other practitioners, including other members of the Covenant of Hekate, for the first time.
It is only natural to want to meet with, share, and sometimes practice with others who have similar beliefs and philosophies to you, so as part of our respective paths, sooner or later, we might want to meet with other people. Some people find this to be a very difficult thing to do and may be nervous about meeting strangers and sharing what they hold sacred; their spiritual beliefs and practices.
Firstly and most importantly, do your research first and know what you are looking for. Group leaders are under no obligation to offer you a place in their groups, and I don’t know anyone worthwhile who would bother taking on a new member who comes knocking without a clue of what they want. It is essential that what you want matches with what the group is able to offer, and if it doesn’t, YOU are able to adapt within the boundaries of what you need to what the group or teacher is offering. Think of it like enrolling in a course or taking a job; you are not going to apply to do a course in herbalism when what you want to do is learn to drive a car. Conversely, this means that no matter how lovely and amazing a group may be, they might also not be the right group for you, so say no if it is not fit!
Prepare a list of questions and be prepared to answer the questions you are asked. But be sensible; always err on the side of caution in the same way you would do for a blind date. Do not give away all your personal information/details and life stories at the first meeting!
Be prepared to contribute. Different teachers and different groups will expect different things from you. Some traditions frown on money being exchanged, but for others, it is a standard part of the course that you will be expected to pay something yearly or monthly towards membership/cost of what you are given access to. Other teachers might expect you to turn up early and help with cooking food or cleaning or otherwise bring along food/drinks/offerings to gatherings or make voluntary temple donations. If they do ask for temple donations, ask what the recommended donation is. Clarify what will be expected from you right from the start and decide if it is fair. If you don’t feel comfortable with what is expected, research and ask around, and if you don’t want to go ahead, then it is not the group for you.
Be clear on what the boundaries are and what you feel comfortable with. Some traditions, including initiatory Wicca (for example), might expect you to work in the nude. Some use forms of what might be considered bondage, and some groups expect you to wear a uniform robe or a combination of the aforementioned. The group might gather outdoors at night. They might be fond of camping or doing ceremonies in high places involving rock climbing (I recently attended a ceremony which was a combination of all these, it was great, but …!) Find out as much as you can, think it through carefully and make sure you are able and comfortable with the nature of the group!
You should not be expected to sexually engage with your teacher or your group as part of the group within a CoH Sanctuary. However, close and loving relationships between members of a spiritual group are to be expected and normal, as people who come together to share their beliefs and practices will have shared visions between individuals. However, if you get involved with another member of the group or your teacher, it should be consensual, and moreover, you and your partner should ensure that your relationship will not negatively impact on one another or the group as a whole.
When going to meet strangers for the first time, arrange to meet in a public place and make sure someone knows where you have gone. Common sense is essential, so don’t take chances.
Part of your research into what you want/expect from a group should involve learning more about the practices you are interested in. If a particular practice you hope to learn about with the teacher or group is part of an established tradition, learn as much as you can about that before contacting teachers/groups. If a tradition requires lineage you will need to ask the teacher about it and you will need to make general inquiries in the community to find out the credentials of the group or teacher. This is a minefield. Good luck, but remember: Question everything you are told and trust your instincts.
Finally, the most essential bit of advice I am able to give anyone embarking on the journey of finding a teacher or a group and indeed working towards deepening their knowledge and experience of the practices they are interested in is this:
PERSONAL responsibility is key. You have to be able to take full responsibility for your own actions at all times and the best way of doing that is to learn as much as you can and question everything you are told. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. Finding a suitable group/teacher is very much like finding a life partner or best friend sometimes it works for life, sometimes it works for a season, but if you approach it with commonsense, you can learn from it and hopefully come away with a positive, life-changing experience.
Remember also that there are members from all kinds of traditions in the CoH, so if you are in doubt about something, you can use this – our private forum – to ask for help!
Advice for Online Interactions
Today it is perfectly normal for many of us to stay in touch with family and friends using the internet. It is convenient, and with so many different devices being available now, there is something to suit nearly every need, budget, and taste. We can share ideas, information, and photographs and interact with other people with shared beliefs and interests, many of whom we would never have met otherwise because of distance and culture.
The Covenant of Hekate uses the internet as a primary source for members to get to know each other as well as a tool for sharing information, thoughts, and practices: It is a medium through which groups work together towards creating devotional and creative projects. We use the social medium platform Facebook, internet phone and video interfaces (such as Skype and G+), our website, and email. Whilst these platforms provide us with excellent tools, they also present their own problems and obstacles.
This document provides some useful tips on how to communicate with other members online, what to avoid, and also some useful tips for improving your own internet skills, which will benefit you within our community but also in a wider sense.
1. If you are unfamiliar with a platform and you need to use it to participate in an activity, spend some time getting to know it. This might mean installing software (such as Skype) or simply looking around the website and reading the information provided. All the services we currently use are FREE of charge, and all of them have comprehensive “help” sections where you can solve the problems you are facing.
The CoH does not provide technical “help” services, but if you are really stuck, try posting on the private Facebook group for advice or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see what can do to help.
2. Learn internet etiquette: There are many basic rules which will make things easier for you and those you interact with. Do a “google” search for long and exhaustive lists of “do’s and don’ts”. For example, you should avoid writing in ALL CAPS as this is considered “shouting” and you should definitely avoid using TXT SPK (text speak abbreviations) as well as over emotional language.
3. Remember you are interacting with other people and you don’t know everything about them. Be forgiving of their mistakes, respect their time, privacy, and the space you are using for your interaction. If need be, take your personal matters to a private space such as email.
4. Obvious, I know but read and reread what you are responding to before hitting enter. Make sure you understand what is being said and if you don’t, please always ask for clarification. Avoid jumping to conclusions about what you are reading. When writing try and be clear about what you are saying so that misunderstandings will be avoided.
5. Contribute! Contribute your expertise, your thoughts, your questions, and your comments. Our strength as a community relies on peer-created resources. We learn from the expertise of others, and we learn also through sharing our expertise, the questions, and comments made by others on what we share.
(Sorita d’Este, February 2016)