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Foundations of the Sibylline Order

History
The Sibylline Order began in Houston around 1990. The Founders were rabidly individualistic and came from different traditions and backgrounds including Dianic, Celtic, Ceremonial, Gardnarian, Faerie, and Shamanic. The original coven was called “The Sibylline Sisterhood of the Deep Earth.” Over time, the coven reformed into a teaching order called “The Sibylline Order of Wicca” working to provide honest, intelligent, and thought provoking information, and the tools of self-empowerment.

The Founders combined their experience and structured a highly intellectual curriculum in order to stimulate both the novice and the coven member. The curriculum originally only covered history, psychology, and ritual, providing information generally not offered outside of an established coven. Many of the classes have expanded and evolved reflecting the needs and interests of the students. The first additions were meditation and shamanic studies classes, and more classes have been added over the years; the latest being alchemy, added in 2003. As a teaching Order, the Sibyllines continue to uphold the Founders oath and focus on teaching skills to enable initiates to join another Tradition, start their own coven, or practice on their own as solitaries.

Structure
The structure of the Order was purposefully set up to not be a coven and to focus solely on teaching. The bylaws were drawn up by the Founders to support the tenants of individuality and diversity of practice. The specific items that distinguish the Order from a coven are: no initiate is be required to work with a specific pantheon nor worship in the same manner, initiates make an oath to their gods not to the Order or its members, there is no expectation or requirement of maintaining connection between initiates, and most significantly there is no High Priestesses or High Priests. As an Order, the Sibyllines were the first Houston group to offer public pagan classes without approval of a High Priest/ess, coven members, or questionnaires to determine compatibility or “fitness.” The core element that has bound the Sibylline Order together is that, in one form or another, each member honors the tenant “Do thy will and harm none.” The Order’s strength has always been in diversity and mutual respect.

Intended only to train students in the basic arts so that they might move on to established Traditions, the Order initally had no degrees or ranks. However, the strong bonds between students remained even after class work had completed. Many Sibylline initiates continued to work together in addition to pursuing their own personal practices. As a result, and in response to those members needs, a degree system was introduced around 1993.

The Founders deviated from traditional degree systems by focusing on recognition of the amount of study, community service, and long-term spiritual dedication an initiate demonstrated. The key difference was that the area of study and pantheon were not defined, but rather, the diversity the Order fostered was encouraged to continue with the members as they continued their spiritual growth. Based on contribution and not authority, the Sibylline Order does not confer titles such as “High Priest/ess.” Instead, members progress through three degrees of increasing service to the Order and level of proficiency within their chosen specialties. Originally Third Degree was given the title of "Elder,” and carried with it responsibilities to the Order as well as personal oaths to their chosen gods but no power over individual members. The Founders became the first Council of Elders in recognition of their continued service and leadership of the Order. Over time, members of the original Council moved on to other traditions and responsibilities, and their duties and obligations passed to other members who showed dedication and a willingness to serve as leaders and guides.

By the late 1990’s, the growth and geographical expansion of the Order’s members made it necessary to codify degree requirements that, until that time, had been loosely defined and tacitly understood. The Council of Elders documented the degree requirements and published them on the Order’s website around 1998.

In 1999 the only significant change in the degree system was adopted*, the Council enacted members’ desire to separate the responsibilities of Elder and Third Degree. The change removed the responsibilities of leadership from the path of personal, spiritual growth, and recognized that advancement in the Order’s practices and governance over the membership body were separate paths. Consequently, members may now attain Third Degree without assuming the public leadership mantle of the Council of Elders. (*At times minor grammatical or phrasing have been made for clarification.)

Though membership records were not and are not maintained, it is estimated that as of 2010 at least 800 people have trained with the Order. Many have gone on to form their own covens, teach groups, write books, study other religions, and enact their individual wills. To each that have come and gone, and to all that will come and go, the Order celebrates and offers well wishes to them in their adventures and spiritual paths.

The Sibylline Order strives to continue provide a place of learning and self exploration along with offering fraternal, unselfish, loving support to its members, regardless of their degree or level of experience. Each member is free to go or stay as they please. In recent years, the accessibility of the Internet has allowed more initiates to stay connected and share ideas and experiences despite the inevitable dispersal of the membership’s core elements.



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