Articles/Essays From Pagans
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Coven vs. Solitary
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June 29th. 2014 ...
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Witchcraft vs. Religion
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Some Differences Between Priestesses and Witches: Duties and Trials
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Finding the God (From Christian to Pagan -Part II)
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Breaking the Law of Return
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The Sin Concept
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Embracing my Inner Goddess through Belly Dance
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
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Many people who follow a magickal path will be part of a coven. Many will have had their first introduction to the Craft via covens. Things are always exciting when you first join one as you get to meet new people, or gather with friends and you are introduced to new ways. Many times, there are things that are done or said that will contradict what you believe or were taught but some things will be new and may change your point of view. Once you have been part of one for a while, you will find that you may disagree with one of the members and they begin to irritate you or visa-versa. There are times when someone leaves or the coven dissolves. Is this bad? Does this mean that the Craft doesn’t work? I do not think so and I believe it is all a part of the magickal path.
What is a coven?
In my opinion, a coven is a working group and it is as much an institution, like a business, as it is a family. The objective of the coven is to learn, grow and celebrate our faith with like-minded people. The celebrations of the given path (Sabbats, Esbats) or mutual magickal workings can be performed as a group to strengthen the working. Within that construct, there is an opportunity to develop skills that you might not develop on your own. For a coven to work and grow, there must be solid leadership, be it an individual or couple or possibly even strict guidelines for the members to follow.
I often heard that a coven is your family, and while you can be closer to your coven mates that your siblings, the term ‘family’ as it is used here means ‘close associates’. If you honestly think about it, it is not a family in the true sense as there is no blood relation. Your sister shares your DNA while someone in your coven shares your spiritual beliefs, which can be for a while or for your lifetime, whereas your sister will always share your DNA. Therefore, here ‘family’ means ‘a working group of close friends or of trusting colleagues’.
However, like a family, you may have some people who you like better than others, just as people from larger families will sometimes prefer one sibling to another. Some families can stick together … while others fall apart. These dynamics are all part of covens. Like characters from a bad sitcom, you can be faced with: the overbearing mother, the show-off brother and moody sister. However, in our religion you have a choice. You will not be stoned if you leave the coven. Although, there are cases of magickal excrement being hurled at the person leaving or at a person still in the group, this is an issue which should be dealt with compassion and reasoning if at all possible. The person hurling negativity must take a good look at him/herself and question why he or she is on this path.
Coven politics can be as brutal as family politics but, that being said, there is going to be politics everywhere in life, from the hockey team you play with on Wednesdays, to the office or to the neighbors. You need to understand who the players are and what their roles are and determine just how important it is… and whether or not you want to deal with it. Not dealing with it means that you are going to bury your head in the sand and that way your butt will be up in the air for others to kick. Let people have some slack, but do not moan or complain if you do not actually decide to address it.
Let’s say Mary wants to host the rituals at her house. It might be a pain taking the subway or driving to her place. You could suggest that you would like to host it. On the other hand, if everything is there, you are familiar with the set up. So you can simply show up and do the workings there and you do not have to worry about all the details like rushing home to get things ready. Therefore it could be considered a benefit, so let Mary host. You can determine the level of politics, what level you are willing to put up with, and decide only to take a stand at the more important issues, like ethics.
Why shouldn’t a coven last a lifetime?
I do not believe a coven should last a lifetime, albeit if things are good it can, but then again our path, I believe, is one of personal growth. We are on a path of growth and soul development and this can happen within groups, but much of our personal growth rests on the shoulders of the individual. Other religions, while they may espouse individual growth, often include an emphasis on the growth of the religion itself.
Not all of our life lessons happen because of covens or because of school or work. Those are only catalysts in the growth process. In the path of growth, there are some people who take up the craft and they go hardcore. Some do it for a while as secondary facet of life, and there are people who decide it is not for them at all. While these reasons account for the individual choice, they will also affect the coven in one way or another. The group has to fill the void or carry on without that person. The degree of the effect on the group is often related to the person’s status: high priesthood, that the person’s home was the home of the coven, or they are the motivator who keeps things going. One of those people could be a ‘coven killer’ if the rest of the group is not ready to pick up the banner. Unlike in some religions, there is nothing holding that person there. Each has the right to choose what to do with his/her own life.
Sometimes, it is not the absence of an individual that prompts the dissolving of a coven but rather it might be simply that it is time for it to dissolve. Obviously, there are groups in which nobody can agree with the leadership or in the direction the coven is heading and these groups break up. Sometimes, life just gets in the way and the flame fizzles out. While some individuals might not care and others might be saddened, it is all a part of coven life. You have to learn to deal with it. In fact, learning is the founding principal of the nature-based path.
If the coven work is important to the individual, there is the opportunity to join a new one or start one. A solitary practice is always good, as it will keep you going in times when this happens. I believe a solitary practice should be maintained even while the individual is in a group. This will give one the motivation and the skills to maintain personal strength. Like in other types of relationships, when the timing is right, another opportunity will present itself.
In the end, we are part of a nature-based religion. We celebrate cycles: the cycles of the Sun (year) , the cycles of month (moon) and even cycles of the day. Plants grow and are harvested. Animals are raised then culled. We accept that things are born, grow and then die. There is a time and a season for everything and covens are no different. Like the song says: “To everything, turn, turn, turn!”
Copyright: Franco 2011
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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