A question we often get asked is “What’s a Wiccan Coven” and “do I need to join a coven to be a Wiccan”? In order to answer these questions, I’ll briefly discuss Wicca itself so that we can understand the role that covens play within Wiccan religion, before moving on to answer all of your questions about covens in detail. Enjoy!
If you want to learn more about Wicca and Witchcraft, check out these posts on what Wicca actually is, our guide to Wiccan beliefs, the Wiccan Rede, this post on what to research as a beginner witch, one on the different types of witches and a great article about what the difference between Wicca and Witchcraft actually is.
What’s a Wiccan Coven – A Brief Overview
Wicca is a modern, positive and nature-worshipping religion. Wiccans may choose to worship any Gods or Goddesses they wish, however, many Wiccan prefer to focus their worship on the God and Goddess in their form of the Triple Goddess and the Horned God. Wiccan practise often includes the practice of white Magick (usually in a healing capacity or to counteract negativity)
The Wiccan religion is made up of many different sects or traditions, such as the Tanic, Gardnerian, Alexandrian and so forth. Wicca is cellular-based, meaning that although there may be many different sects, covens and traditions, there is no one governing body or authority.
Many Wiccans choose to practice together in small groups. These groups are called Covens. A Coven may consist of any number of people although some Covens prefer to work in groups of 13. A coven will often be a small, close-knit group. In fact, members of a coven often become closer to each other than to their actual family members. This is why Wicca, or ‘the Craft’ as it is known, is often called a family religion.
For this reason, please be sure to choose the members of your coven carefully. Spend time with potential members before initiating them into a coven. See if you are compatible, completely comfortable and at ease with each other. Do not rush to form a coven. Take your time and follow your intuition. Another thing to be considered in terms of the number of people participating in a coven is the size of the circle in which they hold their rituals. Traditionally the circle is set at 9 feet in diameter, so it can be seen at once that the number of people who can comfortably fit in its confines is limited.
What’s a Wiccan Coven Fact #1 Wiccan Coven Hierarchy
A coven always needs a leader or leaders. The leaders represent the God and the Goddess so a male and female leader would be ideal. In some Wiccan traditions, the leaders are democratically elected, after which they will lead for a year. Once the year is up, there would be a re-election. Former coven leaders are still referred to as High Priest or High Priestess to reflect their experience. In some Wiccan traditions, such as Alexandrian Wicca, there are degrees of advancement through promotion.
As another example, let’s look at the Gardnerian tradition. Here the first ‘degree’ means you participate in rituals as part of the ‘chorus’. You must remain in the chorus for at least one year and one day. After this, you can progress to the second and then to the third degree. The higher the degree, the more active you are allowed to be in rituals. According to Gardnerian tradition, a witch who has reached the third degree may break away and form her own coven if she so chooses.
Some covens have more than three degrees, some have less. Some also insist on a longer time between the degrees. Generally, it is understood that the coven leaders are leaders and not rulers. Because covens are autonomous there can be no ‘leaders of all witches’, regardless of whatever claims some leaders may make.
What’s a Wiccan Coven Fact #2 Wiccan Coven Names
The place where the coven is located is called the ‘Covenstead’. Within the covenstead is the covendom. The covendom would traditionally extend 3 miles in all directions from the covenstead. The witches of the coven would normally live within the radius of the covendom. Two separate covendoms should not overlap which meant that covens would always have to be at least 6 miles apart. However, these days the covendom boundary is seldom honoured.
What’s a Wiccan Coven Fact #4 Wiccan Coven Rituals
The Craft used to be a purely oral tradition with written records of rituals being kept. However, with the start of the persecutions, witches and covens were forced into hiding. This meant that they began to lose touch with each other and the traditions and rituals began to get lost.
In order to record coven rituals, witches began to write them down. Because they were meeting in secret, these writings were called the ‘Books of Shadows’. It used to be so that each coven had its own book of shadows. This book, which contained all of the coven’s rituals would be in the safekeeping of the high priest or priestess. These days many covens share the same book of shadows.
A coven meeting is usually open and closed with a ritual. This is sometimes referred to as ‘opening and closing the circle’. Depending on the time of year and the phase of the moon, different rituals will be performed by the coven. A coven may also meet to perform a ritual to address a specific issue or problem. Some people believe that in the old days, before the persecutions, many covens would join together to perform rituals on important holiday dates or to celebrate.
Wiccans who choose to work on their own, either by personal choice or through circumstance, are called ‘solitary’ Witches.
What’s a Wiccan Coven Fact #5 Whats a Wiccan Coven Leader Called?
Leaders of a coven are called ‘High Priestess’ or ‘High Priest’.
What’s a Wiccan Coven Fact #6 Famous Wiccan Covens
Because covens are generally very discreet and not much interested in publicity the notion of ‘famous covens’ is a bit of a misnomer. There are however a number of covens that have gained some publicity over the years. I’ve compiled a list for you below:
- Susan B. Anthony – Horsa Coven
- The Cincinnati Coven
- New Forest Coven
- Proteus Coven
What’s a Wiccan Coven Fact #7 Wiccan Coven Rules
Because Wicca has no set of ‘rules’, singular authority or governing body, coven rules can be highly varied depending on the coven. Below I have listed 9 basic coven rules which are based on old Gardnerian law. The rules are meant to serve as a guide only and in no way is the free will of the individual superseded by these rules. The rules are merely a device to facilitate a harmonious atmosphere for the individuals of the coven to work together in a coven environment.
- The High Priestess shall govern the Coven, as the representative of the Goddess. The High Priest shall govern the Coven, as the representative of the God.
- Should it become necessary, for the peace of the Coven, the High Priestess or High Priest can be divested of authority.
- Dual membership in Covens is highly discouraged.
- Banishment of a member from the coven requires a unanimous vote of the remaining members.
- The Tradition, and therefore the Coven, are divided by initiation into Inner and Outer Courts. Certain practices, rituals, and secrets are available only to members of the Inner Court.
- No member of the Coven shall tell any outsider about the Coven or any information concerning the Coven, its members, or its meeting times and locations without first speaking with the High Priest or High Priestess.
- Once a ritual is underway, each role-taker within the ritual has the full right to perform their duty within the bounds of their conscience and prior agreements, regardless of rank
- In the event that a Coven member moves away from the covenstead, they shall be considered a satellite member of the Coven.
- When the High Priestess and/or the High Priest of the Coven decide that it is time for them to resign the leadership of the Coven, they shall select their replacements and as their final act as High Priestess and High Priest shall pass the mantle of leadership in full Coven.
My loves, I hope this answers some of your questions. Whether you’re a solitary practitioner, already part of a coven or simply curious I wish you well on your journey. May life bless you with everything you desire.
As always, Blessed Be!
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