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Part 3: The Structure of Wiccan Religion
For most members of other religions, there are religious leaders offering assistance, counsel, and a listening ear. For the majority of Americans, it is the Christian pastor (or alternative roles/titles) giving weekly sermons and sage advice upon request. But for those who become solitary Wiccans, there is no earthly guiding hand. In essence, you become your own guiding hand, relying on meditation and prayer to make your choices.
However, there are some places where you can go – covens, organizations like the CoG, or even online communities – to retain some structure of organized religion. This lesson discusses the structure of a coven, and other types of organizations you can meet with or even organize yourself.
What is a coven? By D. Cheraz
Though I do not proclaim to be the last or final authority on Wicca, Paganism or any religion for that matter, I have experience in the stucture of covens and what they are. I am not attempting to tell others what to do or not to do here. I am simply offering my experience that it may help others.
What is a Coven?
On the surface a coven is a group of like-minded individuals who come together for a purpose and reason usually pertaining to worship, study and ritual. Look a little beyond that and you find that a coven is a family that is bound together by forces sometimes closer than blood. When you join a coven, you intertwine your karma with that of the other members. In a since you loose your right to act solely as an individual in your thoughts, will, and deeds. You make an agreement with the Gods, Goddesses & spirits that guide the coven you are joining. This agreement states that you are as the others, your energy is lent to their magic, and in turn their energy is lent to yours. This is what makes coven life so powerful and at the same time so dangerous. Take a look online and you will no doubt see hundreds of “online covens” pop up and fall down every day. There is no reason to believe that the same rules do not apply online as in real life when it comes to the spiritual mechanics of a coven. Give this online practice of taking someone you have never met into your karmic fate and you into theirs a little consideration and you can no doubt see the inherent dangers and pitfalls this can bring to your personal growth. This is not to say that it cannot work, indeed on the other side of the coin it is an opportunity to come together from many different parts of the world and learn from this valuable exchange.
The laws of a coven as I have been trained.
- Before a coven is formed, it must have
- firm foundations in a solid belief.
- a goal and purpose for its creation. None are so dangerous as those without direction.
- Before a coven is formed, it must have guidelines for
- The training of various stages of new members. Those who are familiar with your ways are obviously further along than those who are new to the craft in general.
- The attainment of the goals of the coven. Once we know what it is we seek, we must have some idea of the path and direction to it.
- Before a coven is formed, a book of coven laws should be made in order that the spirits and minds of the members are aligned.
- Before a coven is formed, an elder should be sought out. A crone. One who has followed the path long enough to guide the coven in times of turmoil, settle disputes and aid in the creation of spells and ritual.
- When the coven is formed, a site for the Coven stead should be chosen. This site should have both an indoor and outdoor sanctum open to all members 24/7 for the purpose of study and meditation as well as rituals when gathered as a group.
- When the Coven is formed, the High Priest and the High Priestess should be chosen, to guide the group and to be the “God parents” to all members. They are to be learned in the craft and a servant to the people. They MUST be at least a Third Degree in order to hold and maintain this title.
- When the coven is formed, Balance and harmony in energy is to be paramount. Preferably the there should be an equal number of men and women, this to provide balance in the circle. There should never be more students than there are priests and priestess to guide them, too many students and not enough teachers means there is not enough guidance.
- When a coven is formed, regular meetings are to take place, aside from the gathering times of ritual. These insure the members have a voice and a say in the direction of the coven and their interaction with other members. This shall also be the time when the projects of the individual are brought to the group. In this way others may lend their experience to the matter.
- After a Coven is formed, perspective members should not be approached rather they should approach the coven. It is a life style that one volunteers for and therefore does not need convincing arguments.
- After a coven is formed the offices of the coven are to be elected.
The positions and their meanings.
- THE High Priest of the coven; He is an ambassador of the male God; he brings the strength of a father to those he guides. He is not above the others in the group rather He is respected for his word and knowledge. He is a servant of the path. Therefore let respect for his title be freely given and NOT requested.
- THE High Priestess of the coven; She is an Ambassador of the Goddess; She brings the compassion of a mother to those she guides. She is not above the others in the group rather She is a servant of Her children. Therefore let respect be given to Her title and person, NOT requested.
- The Maiden of the coven; She should be unknown to men. That is to say let her be a virgin. She prepares the way for the coven rituals and meetings. She sets up the altar, prepares the area of the circle for ritual with the lighting of censers, and smudging those who seek entrance to the sacred space. She is an aid to the High Priestess.
- The Guardian of the Coven; He is a Spiritual Warrior who has the task of protecting the ritual area and banishing unwanted influences. When a door is cut into the circle to allow in those who participate, he stands ready as a blockade to the influences of the world of men. When the coven goes there separate ways, let him remain behind to ritually sweep the energies away and tend the fires left behind. The eldest son, He is the Aid to the High Priest.
- The entire coven is responsible for the preparations of foods, the supply of wine and the cleaning of the coven stead after ritual.
- A warning from my family to all who would call themselves High Priest and Priestess; Be very aware of the Lord and Lady, Be ever fearful of the direction you guide their children. Be aware that the title you hold must be earned and cannot simply be given to yourself simply because you feel you deserve it. The Blessed Ancestors watch your every word and know your hearts desire.
A Note About UU’s. By S. Davis
There are some larger organizations spread throughout the United States which have an umbrella policy. These organizations try to find the common uniting belief in all religions, and that includes paganism. Often, Universalist churches or Unitarian Universalist churches will accept pagans, Wiccans, and witches with open arms to their services.
Although as a Wiccan, you cannot necessarily receive specific spiritual advice from these advisors on religion-specific issues; UU churches provide a sense of community for an otherwise lonely life. In addition, UU churches may provide people new to the area or the religion with a chance to meet others of similar religious beliefs.
UU’s accept any religious person into their ranks – including Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and others. Some may even accept agnostic or atheist people – or at least, won’t mind them visiting!
Exercise 3: Autonomy
Refer to the resources listed as:
- The CoG
- The 13 Principles
- What Is A Coven?
- A Note About UU’s
That are scattered throughout this course. After reading these, take a stance. To what degree should individuals remain autonomous in relationship to covens? To what degree should covens remain autonomous within their tradition? To what degree should covens remain autonomous when holding a membership of an organization like the CoG? How autonomous would you like to feel? Answer these questions in a journal or blog.