I was initiated over 15 years ago, and lucky to have had those first 4 years …where my High Priestess & High Priest taught and trained me (and my fellow Craft brothers & Sisters). For those glorious 4 years, I did nothing but learn the Craft, rituals, magic, and kinship. And then one day I was ready and got my 2nd degree initiation, became `an Elder’ and a High Priest of Wicca ..and was gently cast out into the bigger world..
That was when the politics began! And since then, I’ve had many a discussion with pagans, wiccans and non-initiates (in courses that I have run) – about Covens.
I’ve seen the way the Wiccan covens ..and Wiccan community have evolved.. with time…just in the 15+ years I have been a part of. I can only imagine how it must have been in those early `golden’ years of Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, and of course Alex Saunders. Am not what they’d say..about the Craft now..if they were still alive.
Personally, I myself am seriously perturbed by the way loyalty, discipline, commitment respect and a whole load of other sincere traits within Wicca seem to be eroding away these days…and like the yobs in the streets who make trouble and say `it’s my right’, modern wiccan members seem to do pretty much all sorts of things and call it evolution.
On the one hand, I am all for traditions being kept alive. But then, on the other hand, all things have to change..evolve.. and at times, I find myself being the `black sheep’ of the Wiccan community…simply by me being thought-provoking, and challenging.
So in a series of articles.. (and a few books coming later in the year), I’m going to explore these..
First thing.. let me set the scene…and explain a few basics…as I have now come to understand them.. (extracts from my forthcoming book `Seekers’ guide to Wiccan Covens’).
What’s a coven?
A Coven is traditionally a group of Witches – full stop! It is not a place, not a room, not a house, not a website, not a forum, not a meeting point or any of that. A coven is given a unique identity by a name for that group – often at the choosing the people who formed it and lead it. It is a magical association of certain specific individuals. Where ever those members may be, they feel and know that along with the others of that group, they are `their coven’! You can compare this to the question of `what is a family’? Exactly. A Family is a group of relatives. They may live in the same house, or not. Some old, some young. A core family framework is a man and woman – father and mother- and their children. The extended family includes grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, niece & nephews and more. A family starts with a couple – bonded in Love – and grows as they have children. A coven has very similar structure, as you’ll see below.
Who are Coven members, Seekers & Trainees?
All the people who have formally asked to join a Coven, under the leadership of the couple who formed a coven, are coven members – of that coven! Even in the early stages, if some people have asked to join a coven or are exploring or seeking – but have not gone through an initiation ceremony – are still in many ways members of that Coven.
Coven Leaders & the extend of their authority
As with a family model, which is very much what Wiccan covens are based on (like the tribes of old), a coven usually has a couple – a pair who are magical partners – at the helm of it. This couple are the Coven leaders – often that coven’s High Priest and High Priestess. The abbreviation is HP & HPS. They are effectively who form the coven, initiate others into that coven and run that coven! Their authority is pretty much absolute within their coven. There are cases, where other High Priests & High Priestesses of other covens come to visit – ie do socials and rituals together. Even in such cases, the authority of the actual Coven leaders is- should- and must be respected by all.
This isn’t always understood by everyone. And sometimes visiting High Priests & High Priestesses try to exert their own authority – especially if they have been Wiccans and running their own covens for much longer, or the special case where they are the people who initiated this coven leaders! But such behavior will undermine the authority of the HP & HPS of the coven where everyone is a gust.
This can be easily understood if you think about the family model again. Think about a big family occasion, where a couple who have 3 children, invite their grandparents, uncles & aunts, cousins and so on. Within the house where the party is being held, the couple have the final authority. It is incorrect for the grandparents or an uncle or aunt to intervene in important matters – even if in the larger family framework, they have age and authority.
well, more on Wicca, Witchcraft & Covens…another time…:-)