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Wiccan Voices
The Black Hole: Drama, Covens and Spirituality

with Crystal Blanton

"That's why I am a solitary."

How many times have you heard that statement? It has become an overwhelming response of Wiccans and Pagans reacting to what I affectionately call "the black hole" of group work. If you have been in a group or coven of any kind, then you understand exactly to what this is referring.

The black hole is the downward drain of negativity that inevitably finds its way into group work. The shadow side of groups and covens usually comes disguised as anger, jealousy, power struggles and backbiting. In reality this mask is just a front for individual fears and insecurities.

Navigating through group work is one of the hardest yet beneficial experiences from which to learn. It can be easy to forget that living as spiritual beings does not separate us from dealing with negativity on an everyday basis. In addition, spirituality is a tool to assist one with living a better quality of life, building connection and increasing acceptance of being who one is. Spirituality helps feed the part which needs to find a purpose, and this alone initiates growth.

We can imagine how having a group of people who are researching, growing, challenging reality and learning to live more enhanced lives can become a breeding ground for misunderstandings and hurt feelings. As I discussed in a previous article, this is part of the design of growing in coven and group work. Beyond this, it is imperative to understand and accept that group and coven work sometimes come with irritating, irrational, frustrating, and uncomfortable yet sometimes necessary drama.

If the "drama," the sucking black hole of negativity, is used as a tool then how does one make sure to not fall victim in what can become the infamous witch wars, hurt feelings and disagreements of which we are all aware in our community?

Why would someone want to be subjected to this type of energy anyway? If I had to answer that question, I would say, "You want to grow, don't you?"

It is crucial to understand that we should live a life of balance and polarity. There is not one without the other; there is no black without white. We have to acknowledge and honour those things that are not beautiful and "white light" in order to grasp those things that are. If everything in the world was beautiful, then we would lose the ability to create a baseline for what is beautiful and what is not. Without a contrast, everything is the same and loses value.

Trying to avoid the negativity surfacing in your life is not only impossible, it is also counterproductive to spiritual growth. We must build effective coping skills to manage our lives and acquiring those skills doesn't happen if life is always smooth and predictable.

Reality dictates that life comes with complications regardless if we want them or not. Our ability to transcend the blockages in our lives will help to build spiritual character and understanding.

Building communication, creating boundaries, being in the "now," and enjoying the ebb and flow of life are all benefits of dealing with covens and groups.

Susan Scott wrote in her book Fierce Conversations, "Our lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, a marriage, or a life, any single conversation can. The conversation is the relationship."

A coven or group is a microcosm of a larger community and a perfect opportunity to learn how to build healthy relationships. Using this setting to learn and practice communication in order to build relationships can be beneficial to your future interactions not only with others but also with yourself. Every time we engage with our coven mates we build another layer to the outcome of the connection. Being present allows us to make conscious choices in what elements we want to add to different relationships in our lives. Coven work gives us the chance to develop this with others who are also learning to polish the same skills.

Like any community, a coven has a myriad of perceptions and realities. What is the best way to navigate through dealing with contrasting opinions and understandings? I believe it is being able to navigate through these things "one conversation at a time" or one action at a time.

When I remind myself that "the conversation is the relationship," it makes me accountable for the outcomes that have happened in my life and puts me in a space of extreme mindfulness.

Judy Harrow's book Wicca Covens refers to many different aspects of coven work. In her section on living by a code she states, "The central purpose of religion is to sustain, amplify, and clarify the connection between our values and the way we live our lives, to actualize our conscious contact with the Sacred."

The more contact and experience we gain with the manifestations of the sacred, the more we learn how to "sustain, amplify, and clarify" our values or how to best apply them in our lives. In these moments we have the opportunity to exercise our values, such as honesty, responsibility, accountability, compassion, tolerance, understanding and patience. Practising these ethics helps us to polish our grasp on them and gives us insight on how to use them effectively with others.

Just like in relationships, practising ethics can help us to better understand their importance and to assess their worth. Ethics, like honesty, is one that people like to advertise and pride themselves in being. The word is thrown around even when it is a way to manipulate others into thinking someone is more genuine than they might be.

It is easy to practice "honesty" when there is nothing wrong and things feel comfortable. It is not so easy to be honest when things are uncomfortable or not as we want them to be. These are the situations in which we are stretched and challenged, thus pushing us to a place of growth.

Everyone has been in a position where they were honest when it was incredibly hard to tell the truth. Fear of hurting ourselves or someone else can be just enough to create a space where we question our actions, even if we know honesty is the best option. It is essential to take a look at the best way to live in accordance with what we say we stand for. It is these times that help us to redefine our understanding of the energetic ties we share with those in our lives.

There are not a lot of places where one can find a multitude of spiritual relationships outside of our family and all in one place. Just like with family, we learn to find the good in each other and exercise patience and tolerance with the parts that we don't love as much. By allowing others to be themselves, for good or bad, we are allowing ourselves to be who we are too. This is a true reflection of the perks of working through the black hole of group dissension.

Each one of us can find spirituality, religion and knowledge outside of a group setting. There are enough books and websites to tell you everything you need to know. Practice could teach you how to do some of the more intricate workings if you are working as a solitary without guidance from others.

There is no book that can replace the value of hands-on, practical lessons of interacting with others. These are skills best learned through experience. As magical and spiritual beings, we cannot deny the children of the Gods. Each of us can acknowledge and learn to work with our brothers and sisters or deny a significant piece of ourselves.

Crystal Blanton is a trained and experienced Registered Addictions Specialist in the field of drug and alcohol counseling, which enhances her understanding of spiritual balance and how behaviour and perceptions affect our everyday lives. Crystal is a High Priestess and ordained minister with Family Wiccan Traditions International (FWTI) and Dance of the Spirit Moon Tradition. She is on the Executive Board of Directors for FWTI and is a student mentor. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and children and tries to read as much as possible.

You can contact Crystal Blanton via email or visit her website at www.crystalblanton.com or www.touchofamethyst.com.

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