Dear friends and colleagues,
As many of you are aware, this past week has been one of robust debate around gender inclusivity in ritual at PantheaCon and in the pagan community at large. CAYA Coven and its Amazon Priestess Tribe are currently serving the role of catalyst for this round of the conversation, and as a Coven, we have drafted a statement that reflects our shared understanding of our position within the debate. Please note that this statement took a week because we value consensus from our 30+ Clergy members on matters of such weighty significance. Therefore, our process moves slowly, mindfully, and deliberately as we seek common ground, craft positions that feel comfortable to all, and refine our language until all are in agreement. Here is our offering. Please feel free to quote from it, share it with concerned parties, or contact us for further information. Thank you for taking the time to read it.
The Clergy of Come As You Are Coven wish to address the recent events and conversations regarding gender discrimination and the Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith at PantheaCon 2011. It is our intention that this statement will
a) open an inclusive, compassionate and respectful dialogue,
b) shed light on some points that require clarity due to miscommunication, lack of communication, and misinterpretation, and
c) help heal any deliberate or inadvertent pain caused by anyone along the spectrum of this emotionally-charged matter.
Please accept the following offerings as an invitation to share in conversation as well as mutual understanding with us.
First, from the Lady Yeshe Rabbit, HPS of CAYA:
“I extend my heartfelt apologies to anyone who was confused, dismayed, hurt, angered, or disappointed due to my personal failure to clearly communicate in the program the intended audience of the Lilith ritual offered by the Amazon Priestess Tribe at PantheaCon 2011. When I wrote the description for the program, it was not my intention to leave out important information, and any confusion was a direct result of my mistake. This responsibility is mine alone, and I do not wish for anyone in CAYA to be blamed for my error in representing the intentions of the ritual clearly.
The issue of female-born versus transgendered-inclusive spaces for worship is a longstanding one that did not begin with this ritual and will not end with this ritual. It is an issue loaded with questions, theories, competing realities, and personal trial all around. Although I do not propose to know of a single, perfect solution to meet all needs, I am confident that I am not alone in wanting to work with other smart, committed, caring community leaders toward effective and acceptable solutions that begin to build trust and healing for all parties. I am grateful that this situation has opened a healthy conversation toward greater understanding within the pagan community. Issues like this one, left unexplored and festering, might undermine our kinship as pagan family. I believe that, above all, we need to stand together in order to defend our right to freedom of religion. I want to publicly state that my first priority as a High Priestess and witch is to stand with all of my pagan sisters and brothers of all backgrounds in the utmost loyalty to our shared goal of honoring the Divine as we each see fit for our own highest personal and collective good.”
Second, from the Clergy of Come As You Are Coven:
CAYA Coven is an organization, not a Tradition. We define the organization of CAYA Coven as a loosely-held container for a wide variety of spiritual beliefs and practices. Some of our members and Clergy follow established Traditions, and some do not. We define Traditions as lineage-based “families” that share common affinity and purpose. There are many Traditions that are represented in CAYA, and they do not all share the same philosophies, stances, practices, or beliefs. We allow space for there to be harmonious disagreement between individuals and Traditions within CAYA for the sake of highest possible growth. CAYA’s largest Tradition, and our only Tradition open by application, is the Wildflower Tradition.
The Wildflower Tradition is a public-service lineage which is open by application to anyone who successfully completes our year-long Dedicant Program. All applicants are expected to self-identify their genders, and may expect to be assigned to circle duties accordingly. All other Traditions represented in CAYA are, as is customary among many Traditions of witchcraft, open by personal invitation only. These invitation-only Traditions include the Amazon Priestess Tribe, the Green Men, the Evensong Tradition of Wicca, and the FOI lineage of the Iseum of Black Isis.
CAYA has never rejected a Clergy applicant for training based upon sex, gender, prior or current spiritual/religious practice, race, class, age, or ability. However, we have rejected and will continue to reject Clergy applicants based upon too-brief duration of membership, weakness of application, inability to demonstrate commitment to task at the appropriate level, or lack of personal preparedness for the challenges of public service. We maintain high standards of service, ethical behavior, personal responsibility, and commitment to eclecticism from our Clergy. We welcome those from all backgrounds who are dedicated to excellence to pursue the road of training with us if they feel inspired by our community practices, wish to learn our methods and seek to extend greater public service.
CAYA Coven seeks to provide space for everyone to have a safe, reverent experience of the ineffable Divine. All are welcome as members in CAYA Coven who approach appropriately, respectfully, with an open mind, willing to participate and share thoughts/feedback constructively. Each of us is individually self-determined and autonomous, and all are attempting to work collaboratively toward the greater strength of the many-faceted pagan community. We feel that coexisting and lovingly collaborating despite differing opinions challenges us all to grow, stretch, and ultimately yield higher selves than if we stagnated unchallenged in complete agreement.
Please note that the conversations about gender now happening around and about our organization have already been happening within the organization for several years. They will continue to happen and we will continue to evolve with our community’s needs. We are collectively committed to finding ways to create broad-based community that feels authentic and sustainable to us, without asking anyone to sacrifice personal beliefs.
In the interest of growth, education, and diversity, we welcome questions and suggestions from all who attend our rituals and participate in our community. We seek constructive input from parties who are informed and invested in CAYA’s well-being. If you were not in attendance at the Rite of Lilith, have not spoken with us nor asked us questions about our community, policies or intentions, it would be helpful for you to approach us directly before forming or publishing firm opinions or positions about us. We are prepared to engage in compassionate conversation with all who are seeking to create productive dialogue peacefully, respectfully, and kindly for the mutual highest possible outcome.
To create utter clarity around CAYA’s policies on gender, public ritual, and the Amazons, please note the following:
- Since CAYA first opened to the public 5 years ago, our Sabbats for All in the East Bay and South Bay have always been open to everyone from every possible background, and these rituals have always been mindfully balanced to include gender-diverse deities and energies, among other considerations we maintain regarding diversity. This was our commitment from the beginning of our Coven, and it remains our commitment.
- CAYA’s Grove of Artemis and Brotherhood of the Moon circles are open to anyone who self-identifies as woman or man, respectively. We have welcomed transgendered persons in both of these circles and will continue to do so. The newly-formed Grove of Hekate in the South Bay is also open to anyone who self-identifies as a woman, though no transgendered women have yet chosen to attend.
- CAYA’s Sprouts circle for children welcomes all self-identified families to participate.
- Under the umbrella of CAYA, the Amazon Priestess Tribe is a private Tradition that offers public and private rituals and ceremonies based on the menstrual lifecycle of female-born-women in order to meet that particular need in our community. Not all women of CAYA participate in the Amazon Priestess Tribe, which formed as a result of a shared affinity between several female-born-women with the goal of creating healing and personal empowerment through the lens of the menstrual lifecycle. Those who founded the Tribe and participate in it have grown significantly, personally and collectively, from working together in safe space around acceptance of the female-born body and its meaning in our society. Safe space for this kind of work has long been withheld from female-born-women as a taboo and continues to be ridiculed, attacked and minimized by society at large. Therefore, it is crucial that this safe space be maintained for those who require/desire it. However, the Amazon Priestess Tribe recognizes that safe space for the exploration of womanhood has similarly been withheld from Trans sisters, and that at a public venue such as PantheaCon all possible needs must be taken into consideration for the highest good. Several members of the Amazon Priestess Tribe are currently in a discernment process about creating public ritual proposals (for events such as PantheaCon) that will serve the healing and empowerment of all self-identified women.
- CAYA is open to collaborations and proposals of local circles that might meet a wider range of needs, but our Clergy also ask for patience. We prefer to take our time in mindfully developing all new offerings and making certain that they meet our high standards of preparation and sustainability.
If you would like to discuss your questions or anything related to this topic with a member of CAYA’s High Council, please send an e-mail with your name and telephone number to firstname.lastname@example.org and a Council member will call you to discuss your questions or comments in a respectful, conversational manner.
Thank you for taking the time to read these statements. It is our sincere desire that this challenge of growth ultimately inspires greater harmony, balance, joy, collaboration, and shared commitment to defend diversity and freedom of religion for all within our CAYA community and the pagan community at large.
Proprietor, The Sacred Well
High Priestess, Come As You Are Coven
If you are unaware of the bruhaha that occurred the link below will provide many sources of description.
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