Needless to say the Magister has his own particular difficulties to contend with and most of these revolve around assuming what is essentially, an Alpha-male position. After all, the Magister is the earthly representation of god-power, symbolised by the ritual knife and the keeper of the Coven stang! Primatologist Frans de Waal, who popularised the term ‘alpha male’ back in the 1980s, however, says that we’ve been using the term all wrong and that the best leaders are those who rise to the top by being generous and kind to others because they know respect will help them maintain their position.
Unfortunately, many bearing the title who seek the media spotlight are attention-seekers who fall short of anyone’s vision of a Magister - never mind an alpha-male! In reality, the Magister more often than not attracts a lot of unwanted attention from the female members of a coven and finds himself in the position of having to literally beat them off with the stang. And once repulsed, it is not uncommon for the rejected party to start spiteful rumours of predatory behavior and sexual advances on social media – while the poor Magister’s only concern is dreading the moment should the Dame arrive and the whole thing gets blown out of all proportion.
Unlike the Dame, a Magister doesn’t have a specific shelf-life, and although he is symbolically representative of the Dying God, while his is still firing on all six-cylinders he is secure in his position. There may come a time, however, when he feels he’s just had enough and should his Dame/Lady choose to step down, then he, too, often takes the opportunity to retire gracefully with her rather than work with a new Dame with whom his energies may not be compatible.
In a perfectly run coven, the Magister’s job is to support the Dame – who is often his wife and usually trained as his magical partner – and to represent the god within the Compass. Coven of the Scales has always be god/male oriented, which often causes problems with newcomers who believe that the goddess is ‘All’. Call us old-fashioned but we still believe in the gender dynamics that have powered witchcraft since time immemorial – and does not lend itself to gender politics because the differences and similarities between the sexes are all part of the equilibrium of magical working.
During the autumn and winter months he is also the Guardian of the goddess as she sleeps and whereas during the spring and summer the Coven rituals are Dame-led; during autumn and winter it’s the Magister’s duty to lead the rites, which are by token more masculine in essence through the turning of the year until Candlemas. Perhaps it is understandable why it is difficult for many pagan/Wiccans to get to grips with Old Craft practice that refuses to be emasculated – even for form’s sake! Similarly, this approach also goes a long way to explain why some magical workings benefit from a male dominant partner with the female playing a submissive role, while other rites are more successful with the female taking the dominant role and the male remaining submissive, depending on the nature of the ritual involved.
Traditionally, the Magister and the Dame would have ritually charged the cup at the beginning of the rite but this overt sexual gesture is now only performed when the couple work together in private, particularly when involving those not of the Inner Court, or in long distance workings. The Magister as keeper of the stang is the guardian of the spirit entrance to Otherworld; he is the leader of the Wild Hunt by proxy when crossed arrows are mounted on the shaft. All these ideas and more can be found in Frazer’s The Golden Bough but there is also the unspoken, hidden meaning that comes from deep within the Craft that tells us: ‘What you learn, you learn from me, as I choose to reveal it unto you’.
By excluding the god from the lore and rituals of Old Craft we are denying those who come after, the age-old instruction of magical balance and harmony … and a coven with no Magister is, as our EOS Principal Melusine Draco, frequently comments, only singing half the Mass!