I'd like to write about a very serious matter that affects an unfortunate number of Witches and Wiccans, possibly even with some over-spill into the greater Pagan community. This is a condition that I have not only witnessed first-hand, but it is one that I have had to battle myself. I'm glad to say that I came back from my exposure to this illness -- for it is truly an affliction -- though my rebound was not through any great enlightenment, strength, or power of my own. I was lucky enough to have it knocked out of me, which is (I believe) the only real way to recover from it.
I'm speaking, of course, of High Priestess Disease.
HPS Disease can affect either gender, but it is most commonly seen in the female -- the Priestess -- since it is She who is given Supreme Authority within most Wiccan Traditions. Even outside of Wiccan Trads, the custom has been adopted by many that the HPS outranks the High Priest (HP) should they come into conflict.
Oh, and how many times was such a phrase uttered: "So sayeth I -- Lady Goldenhair, Lady Fuzzy-Butt, and SHE!" Thus endeth all debate from amongst the lowly plebeians.
A Witch with HPS does not understand the workings of an egalitarian, non-hierarchical coven. In fact, a well-meaning mentor with a clear case of HPS warned me against "giving away my power" when I shared responsibility and duties for coven tasks with my coven-mates.
Very serious cases of HPS Disease can be noted in which Witches refer to themselves in public, social settings as "Lady" Such-and-Such -- often as part of their e-mail signature/name or online alias. They often anticipate that others -- people completely outside of their own covens -- will refer to them as Lady Daphne or Lady Velma without batting an eye. (If this *doesn't* strike you as odd, the custom of referring to a 3* priest/ess as Lord or Lady originated as part of circle etiquette -- reserved for circle, and used with magical names known within the coven.)
I started to fall into the trap. I'll admit it. I followed a bad example a little closer than I realized and started taking the "because I said so" attitude with my covenmates. I lost one because of it -- lost her as a friend, which still pains me. My coven and the whole darn Trad fell apart because my own HPS had such a serious case of it that first she and I fell out, and then she broke up everything.
Power over others is not a power that I think plays out well in modern Craft -- not even in modern versions of Traditional Craft (like I practice). I am again the Mistress of a coven -- one of two Mistresses. We are its care-takers and protectors. Its mentors and teachers. And as each Witch is raised up in the Trad, they come to see that they are just as responsible, just as powerful (and sometimes as powerless) as we. Each teaches and each learns. The only difference is in the length of time on the Path, the number of times around the Mill.