Abuse Within the Coven Society
Article ID: 9211
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,556
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Author: Lady Abigail [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: May 1st. 2005
Times Viewed: 7,354
“Concealed in a cloak of darkness, Witches steal within the night.
Working secrets hidden from the world, secrets of the light.”
The Old Religion and the traditions of Witchcraft, in its many various ethnicities, are growing in popularity. There are, unfortunately, going to be those within the faith who will use these practices to bring harm on others. On occasion, this even happens within our own circles.
Abuse is any behavior toward another individual, be it violent or not, that is in any way considered harmful. Abuse can be verbal, financial, sexual, emotional, psychological, or physical misconduct toward any other person. Abuse results in, or is likely to result in, some form of harm to another. Abuse is seen in the suffering caused by any person or persons to any other person, persons or living thing(s). Abuse comes in many forms, including: harassment, intimidation, threats, pressure, influence against one’s own personal will, demands, bullying, anger, and fear of retribution in any form, one to another. Abuse occurs in all socio-economic groups and cultural/religious backgrounds and the effects can last a lifetime.
Spiritual abuse and misconduct can also be the belittling of any person’s spiritual beliefs, or the preventing of any person(s) from the practice of their faith in any way, regardless of the place of worship. Whether in a church, synagogue, temple, or backyard circle, the deprivation of this liberty in public or private life is not only an abuse, but against our laws.
Most often, we hear of how some unscrupulous Priest or Priestess has used their authority within a coven or group to exploit individual members. These accounts generally involve sexual misconduct or financial gain. Of course, this kind of abuse is not found only within the magickal communities. Misconduct by those in positions of power, within all religions, is growing at an overwhelming and frightening rate.
Covens, groves, or clans, by whatever name you may identify them, generally follow a code of conduct. They can differ greatly, depending on the coven. But, there is one inherent understanding acknowledged by all: “honor, respect and dignity.” In this we find “perfect love and perfect trust.”
Those who have studied and trained over the years to be Priests or Priestesses, as well as Elders, understand that we must conduct ourselves with respect and honor. We must have honesty in the words we speak and show dignity for ourselves and others. When anyone is considering a group, they should feel the elders and leaders are honorable. If you are not sure, walk away. If you feel something isn’t quite right, or it somehow just feels “wrong” to you, it probably is.
“In perfect love and perfect trust.” It is heartbreaking to me that these words have been so tragically exploited by malicious people; used by abusive persons to manipulate those who would blindly follow. In perfect love and perfect trust does not mean that because someone can quote the words, they believe in them. I am sorry to say, there are corrupt people out there. Yes, even traveling in our circles and along our Pagan paths.
These dreadful abusers will look for any means they can to confuse and manipulate the truth. That is why it is important that each of us, elders, teachers, students, young and old, be aware of such possibilities.
I have had Witches, throughout my many years, tell me of some horrific encounters they have experienced. Over and over again, I am told that what happened to them happened because they believed it would not be acceptable to question what was happening. To question a high leader or elder would have been somehow wrong.
Several believed they had to somehow prove themselves; questioning would have caused them to look less knowledgeable. They believed they had to have faith in whatever was happening, in perfect love and trust. So, against their natural will, they endured, with apprehension, what they could, or should, have stopped, all the time worrying about what others would think and fearing humiliation.
Then, there was the fear that someone might think they didn’t have a complete understanding of the craft or whatever tradition they desired to follow. This kept them silent, wanting to make the best impression and show they were truly worthy. They believed coming into a group with perfect love and trust meant they must accept whatever happened. Many never returned after their experience; some stayed in the groups for only a short time, afterward regarding all covens and groups as harmful and destructive.
For many Witches, the desire to belong to and be accepted into a group is overwhelming. The yearning to be with like-minded Witches, to have those you can talk to, share with, and learn from, is irresistible. At times, this need overshadows the natural instincts to ask, “Why?” or say, “I don’t think so, ” and just plain “No.”
The word ‘Coven’ comes from an old Celtic word meaning ‘Circle’ and that’s exactly what we should be, all of us. A circle of love, a circle of power, a circle of trust, a circle of family.
Witches work a great deal of ritual and magick privately, keeping our spells and rituals confidential within the group. This practice is as old as time. Most understand that, like the Burning Times, Witches are still marked and sometimes punished for their religious choices. Even today, in this so called modern world. Many Witches find it necessary to have secrecy from the general populace.
Perhaps because we conceal who and what we are, we are also allowing this narrow-minded cycle of abuse to continue. Abuse against all Witches. Abuse by those self-righteous zealots that believe their way is the only way. Even abuse by the religious scavengers that slither into the craft itself. Those who ooze into our circles looking for any who are desperately seeking others of like-minded belief. Seeking to find those that will accept the suggestion that, “Everything is secret no matter what.”
I am not suggesting we give open access to our private practices or unlock our Books of Secrets to the world. I personally believe it is NOT acceptable to discuss any specific knowledge that is bestowed one unto another as we learn within the old ways.
But many confuse the belief of keeping one’s magickal work, spells and rituals private with the concept of say nothing, share nothing. Segregating even those within our own faith one from the other. The idea that we are oath-bound to never speak of any part of our beliefs. To stop the exploitation and abuse by the corrupt individuals who would use our history against us.
We much open the door to communication between those of our faith. The ability to share and learn from one another will bridge that gap between understandings. With understanding and openness within our traditions we become an unyielding force. Those that would use and abuse will no longer find a foothold and will fall away from our committees.
So yes, there are abuses within our Coven circles. But they can be stopped if we all work together. If you see, feel or believe something is wrong, address it with the coven members and leaders. If you feel the leader is abusing his/her position, bring it up to the members. If you know this is wrong for you, walk away and find a group you can truly be a part of.
As Witches, Pagans and members of the human race, let’s do what is right when we see abuses, be they personal, sexual, financial or whatever. Let us all do the right thing and turn these people over to the proper authorities, ‘even if they are outside our coven circles.’ No secrets, no more ‘don’t speak, don’t tell’ games. We can stop the abuse if we no longer allow these predators to skulk off as we stand quietly by and allow them to find new victims in other groups, because we didn’t want to speak up. We must as a community must do what is right because it is the right thing to do.
Abuse in a coven can come from lack of support by its members. This happens when a member is only taking from the coven and not giving back. Expecting others to always provide the needed tools, candles, herbs, etc., without providing to the coven and giving of yourself. By taking classes and not being willing to teach when you are able. Attending or only doing the smallest amount possible within the group.
Abuse can be the idea that you will attend coven meetings only if you have nothing better to do. Wanting to attend the social gatherings but not helping in the set up or clean up. Sometimes just wanting to be able to say you are a part of a coven, but not to work within it, just to have your name on the roll.
I am not talking about the abuse of power discussed earlier, I’m talking about the kind of abuse that comes from the neglect by coven members. Abuse comes in many forms, it is not always the Elder, Priest or Priestess. Sometimes abuse can come from those who are standing inside the circle, the members.
It is not openly discussed; generally a Priest or Priestess is not going to tell you they feel abused or taken for granted by their coven or coven members. But it happens. Perhaps this abuse is too embarrassing for them to admit to. They are the leaders, the teachers and the councilors. They are the ones everyone turns to in the times of need. They are the ones who teach others how to do magick, spells and rituals. They have all the answers, right? So they could not possibly allow themselves to get in a place of feeling used and abused.
It’s easy; we don’t want to admit we are human. There is a fear that if they admit that they are tired and just need a break, then they will somehow be less in the eyes of their conveners. Time would stop in place if any of us were to say, “I can’t do that right now, ” or “I really need help.”
We don’t want to cause any doubt in our abilities. They are the leaders, and they have studied many years to stand in this place of honor as High Priest or High Priestess. Many times feeling they have to be perfect. So we abuse ourselves as we allow others to abuse us.
A coven is a shared responsibility; no one should expect one or two people to do it all. The harm comes from exploiting the coven leaders. The simple and often overlooked mistreatment of the elders, teachers and leaders by taking them for granted, without even a thought.
At times the leaders of a coven will take on this responsibility willingly. Wanting to teach all those seeking to learn, wanting to be ready for whatever any member may need, be it spiritual or material. Until they have given all they have, and are spiritually drained and perhaps with their caldrons a bit more empty. Frustrated and overwhelmed they leave, close the coven circle and walk away. Never explaining to the members that they needed help.
Honestly we lose many good coven leaders to the abuse of a coven being unappreciative. Sometimes a simple, “Thank you” could magickally change the course of an entire group.
My hope in this article is that every one of us will use the information here to look at ourselves, our covens and our communities. That we might stop, look and see what we can do to bring to an end to the abuses, inside and out of your circles. To grow stronger and stand as one: In perfect love and trust.
Location: Greenfield, Indiana
Author's Profile: To learn more about Lady Abigail - Click HERE
Bio: Lady Abigail is the High Priestess of Ravensgrove Coven, an Eclectic Coven of Solitary Witches in the Orlando, Florida area. She was raised in the Craft by her Great Grandmother, a Cajun Witch, who taught her the powers of Earth, Nature and Magick.
Lady Abigail has studied and taught in herbs, metaphysics and magick for over 40 years. Sharing her knowledge and understanding Lady Abigail’s articles and poetry have been featured in various Pagan publications.
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