In the Public Eye: A Question of Secrecy

April 3rd, 2007

To be or not to be public. That is the question every magical group must answer at some point in its existence. It is a difficult decision that can raise such drama as to sometimes end with the permanent fracture of the group. It is an art to navigate these difficult magical waters.

Secrecy

There are advantages and disadvantages for a group to exist in secrecy. Some advantages include:

  1. Privacy from neighbors, family members and an intolerant community
  2. Easier to keep a small core group that develops spiritually together over time as a close family
  3. Magic performed by the group may not be suited to newer practitioners and students

A few disadvantages of secrecy include:

  1. Each member is critical to the life of the group, so if anyone wishes to move away or otherwise leave, it can be very difficult for the group to recover
  2. Stagnation can be a constant problem
  3. Spiritual needs of the larger community are not met due to the secrecy

Openness

Some groups prefer to operate in the open, or out of the broom closet. A few advantages of this are:

  1. New members are easier to find and include
  2. New members can help with bringing fresh energy and ideas to the group, along with replacing members who leave
  3. Spiritual needs of the larger community are easier to meet

There are some disadvantages to being an open group as well.

  1. Focusing on new members can detract from deeper spiritual development
  2. Uninvited guests may cause problems, such as harassment
  3. Desire to present a certain face to the public may undermine some values of the group

The Art

The art of this important issue is in maintaining a balance between the extremes. If there is too much secrecy, then the group is doomed to die as a group. It takes more than one person to make a group. If there is too much openness, the magic will be very shallow and the focus of the group could be more for the public face than the inner development.

Each group needs to make their own way through this maze. The communities they’re in are different. The members needs and personalities are different. There is no one right way to do this.

In the groups I’ve been involved, there has always been a certain amount of openness and secrecy. The E.O.C.T.O. is very open in the public. The lodges all have some public rituals, generally at least once or twice a month. Our church leaders have even met with US state governors. On the other hand, the E.O.C.T.O. also has an order that is specifically for people who are called to ministry. This order operates largely in secret to allow it to maintain the focus necessary for deeper spiritual development.

Many Wiccan groups operate in a similar fashion, with an Outer Court and an Inner Court. The Outer Court presents a public face and admits new members who are interested in the Wiccan path. The truly dedicated members, after a certain period of time, are then invited to join the Inner Court, which operates in secret.

The unfortunate thing about Wiccan groups, whether they be covens, churches, circles or some other organization is that the decision on how public or secret they should be can be very contentious. Some people are afraid of their neighbors or family finding out about their religious practices. Other people want to proclaim to the world that they are witches. Some want new members to be easily admitted. Others wish to make it difficult to join so only those who are sincere in their dedication to the path are allowed. These decisions can divide a group to the extent that it can fracture and die from it.

If you’re in a group that is trying to wrestle with this, it’s important to work toward consensus. Find a middle ground that, maybe not everyone is 100% happy with, but that everyone can live with. Leave your emotions aside during heated discussions by grounding and asking for earth energy to aid.

And most importantly, there is no one right way. If your group becomes too open or too closed, it is not etched in stone. You can change. As long as everyone has love in their heart for the group, a sincere desire for things to work out and the willingness to change and grow, it will work out.

I’d like to know how open or secretive your group is. If your group is in secret, feel free to leave out the identifying details.

Special thanks to Aurin Willfox for suggesting this topic in his/her comment.

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