How To Start a Nest

by Morning Glory and Oberon Zell

(with edits by the CAW Staff)

A Chartered Nest is an autonomous congregation of the Church of All Worlds with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a legal Church as stated in our Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. Chartered Nests are covered by our IRS Group Exemption Letter, and may accept tax-deductible donations. Each Nest must report quarterly to the Nest Coordinating Council, both a financial statement and other items of interest. A person of at least Scion status may serve as Nest Coordinator. In the absence of ordained Clergy, priestly functions may be shared among members.

Proto-Nests are a beginning form designed to give new members a framework on which to build into a full-fledged Nest. At least three people must be CAW members, and they must get together at least once a month. A Proto Nest cannot purchase property, borrow money or otherwise indemnify the CAW. They may open a bank account with which to carry on activities. Proto-Nests may become chartered Nests when they have been in existence for a year and have one Scion.

The details of functioning, emphasis and orientation will always vary somewhat from Nest to Nest and we encourage this. The Church of All Worlds lives up to its name, evolving in diverse directions. We offer here a general program that works well in many different situations:

Meetings. You might start out with getting together at new and/or full moons and expand from there. Our old St. Louis Nest met every Friday night (for Star Trek), and held dinners, classes, work parties and discussion groups on other nights.

Meetings may be held in members’ homes until your Nest grows too large, as long as you have reasonable privacy and freedom. We recommend rotating to avoid burn-out and to give everyone a chance to host a Nesting. Hold some Circles outdoors, preferably in some remote place where no outsiders are likely to be about. A Pagan is truly a child of the natural world, and can commune better with the powerful Nature-forces when out in the open, even better in some place of wilderness.

Work out your own programs for these meetings, whether singing and playing music, simple rituals, disseminating information, playing sensitivity games, or whatever the season or times of your lives suggest. As in Stranger in a Strange Land, we have found that nudity promotes openness and closeness (“And as a sign that ye be truly free, ye shall be naked in your rites.” from Aradia, the Gospel of Witches).

A spiral of love (a tight-packed spiral group embrace) with chanting can be very moving, as can simple ceremonies, such a water sharing, breaking bread, candle lighting, etc. Follow your own feelings. and refer to some of the books listed in the member’s bibliography for specific rites. At each meeting, make it an order of business to decide when and where you will meet the next few times, and themes of meetings (see “Suggested Nest Topics”).

Outings. Plan special group activities, such as dinners, theme parties (one of our favorites is the Pirate Party…Aahrr!), concerts, movie parties, camp outs, excursions (“Magical Mystery Tours”), presentations, study groups, book discussions, video showings, special guests, and Bardics (in which everyone brings music, poetry, short stories, etc. that they have written, and all take turns sharing in a circle). Your Nest mates should be the people you most enjoy hanging out with, so party on!

Name your Nest. Come up with a clever name for your Nest. Consider doing a one-or-two page newsletter that summarizes what happened at the last meeting and gives times, places and themes for the next few meetings. Send it to everyone on your list, as well as to all other Nests and CAW Central. Solicit enough donations at each meeting to cover printing and mailing costs.

Expand by members inviting a sympathetic friend occasionally. The best way we’ve found to allow growth without interrupting the intimacy of the group, is to allow only one new person to be invited by each member at a time. Then, after these new people have been to a couple of meetings, they may wish to join CAW and your nest and in turn invite some one. We encourage diversity and are non discriminatory regarding race, sex, sexual orientation/practice, age, etc. At each meeting record names, addresses and phone numbers of all those who attend. When you have a couple dozen names, distribute the list to everyone, including CAW Central.

A model for an introductory meeting: People have been told what to expect, and have been asked to bring munchies or drinks. After everyone arrives, they are assembled into a circle around a small altar. The Circle is cast deosil, and Elements and Deities are invoked.

On the altar are placed: Images of the God and Goddess, a potted plant, a mirror, a chambered nautilus or other spiral sea shell (on the West side), a crystal or fossil (North), a feather (East), a candle (South), a large chalice of water, and a bowl of Sunshine Cheez-its.

In the course of the evening, some of these altar objects may be passed around the circle, and people are encouraged to say a few appropriate words as they receive each.

Water sharing: After a few introductory remarks by the leader on the symbolic significance of water-sharing, the chalice is passed around clockwise with ritual phrases taken from Stranger in a Strange Land, such as “May you never thirst,” “Thou art God (or Goddess),” “Water shared is Life shared.” As the chalice passes from each person to the next, hands are joined. When it is returned to the host/ess, he/she then empties the final drops into the potted plant.

This simple ritual can be followed by many other forms of sharing. For an introductory gathering, pass the shell and as it comes to each person, they tell the tale of how they came to be here. At other times, the candle, crystal, feather, or other objects selected for their associations may be used, as people free-associate the thoughts that come to mind upon holding these objects.

After such sharing, the chalice may refilled with wine, fruit juice, or more water, and passed around again, followed by Cheez-its (“What a friend we have in Cheez-its;” “Cheez -its saves,” etc.). The most common phrases to accompany the passing of food are: “May you never hunger,” or “May you always have sufficiency.” Other snacks and drinks may also be shared at this time.

The Sacred Bullshit Session: Eating together stimulates conversation and camaraderie. Business is discussed, plans are made for the next meeting, donations are collected, etc. Finally, the mirror is passed around, and each person looks into it, saying “Thou art God (or Goddess)” into their reflection. When it is time for the first people to leave, the circle is opened with a group hug. Ritual words of parting are said (“Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again!” “…and merry party again!”) and farewells are made.

Tailor your rituals to suit your own needs, bearing in mind that it is always the intent rather than the word which really counts. Put in your own ideas, and honor the Goddesses and Gods as you feel deep within your heart that they should be honored.

Naturally, one important aspect of your meetings will involve discussions of the philosophies of Paganism and the CAW. Your NCC Coordinator will respond to your personal inquiries with letters, tracts and recommended reading (please include SASE!). An important reason for your continuing study and progression inward through the Circles is that people will expect you to know what it’s all about if you take on Nesting. Add to the Pagan lore which you now possess, drawing from all sources. Make your own small enclave of Paganism a place of mystery and magic. As your group expands, you may start widening your range of activities. You might set up workshops and seminars, promote and sponsor public events such as music festivals, run a recycling center, throw great feasts and festivals, publish a newspaper or magazine, promote and sponsor conservation and reforestation projects, start a wilderness sanctuary or retreat center, open a coffee-house, put on benefits for appropriate causes, and countless other projects, limited only by the scope of your imagination, interests and talents.

If, after reading this, you still want to work towards setting up a Nest in your area, take this link to obtain your own Nesting Kit, and fill out the nesting application form, which once approved will list you on our website so that people can reach you. When you’re ready to have your first meeting, we’ll give you ideas on how to contact others in your area.

Keep in close communication with us here, and we’ll try to help you along with suggestions, ideas, etc. If there are problems or questions, write us at and our Nesting Coordinator will contact you directly.