A coven is a common unit inside the witch organization. All covens are autonomous. A group of covens that have common gods, mythology and customs are considered as a tradition. Traditions that hold a common belief in Goddesses and Gods of nature, reincarnation, and commandments as: “Do what you will, so long as it harms none” and “All what you do comes back to you threefold” – are part of the Wiccan way. In Wicca there is no leader, no central organization. There are councils, associations and communities for those who seek answers to questions related to Wicca. However, the only role councils have is to represent the interests of Wicca to the authorities.
A classic coven consists of the High Priestess, High Priest, Maiden, Herald and dedicated members. The coven must have at least four members. According to the tradition, the coven has to be up to thirteen members, however this is not completely necessary. Covens of twenty people are often considered more stable than those with thirteen people.
The High Priestess usually leads the spring and summer celebration ceremonies, and most parts of the Esbats as well. The High Priest leads the fall and the winter holidays rituals. The Maiden serves in ceremonies and replaces the High Priestess in her absence. The Herald acts as a secretary. He is also in line to become a High Priest when the time comes to leave the current coven in order to create a new one. Small coven doesn’t necessarily have a Herald, but when a coven grows, the Herald is simply irreplaceable.
A coven may have a grove, which is an outside organization for students and regular visitors who did are not fully dedicated yet. Members of the grove may be present at festivals and on some of the Esbats (such as full moon, for example), but are not allowed in the sacred circle. In some traditions, first degree dedicated members are not allowed into the sacred circle as well.
The Process of Acceptance Into a Coven
The soon-to-be witch (The title ‘witch’ is equally applicable to men and to women) should prepare herself a little, read mythologies, truly believe in commandments of Wicca and devote herself to ancient Gods (there is no need to renounce other faiths). Upon mastering the arts, the soon-to-be witch (by this time, she can call herself a pagan) usually starts to collect tools, and create small personal rites worshiping her Gods. Many pagans do not go beyond this stage.
The next step is to find a suitable coven for yourself – the most difficult step. Wicca doesn’t recruit members at all. Those who want to be part of Wicca should say so by themselves. Fortunately, there are enough covens that search for new members. It is believed that when a student is ready, a teacher will be found.
Due to the secretive nature of Wiccan covens, there are various frauds and scammers out there, each with their own agenda.
The following points should rise a suspicion:
- If they are trying to recruit you. A fraud will typically impose on you. He will be ready to make you his High Priestess right this moment.
- If the answer for most of your questions is: You’ll learn after initiation.
- If they say that sex is required for the ceremony. In Wicca, there are practices with copulation, but they are not mandatory. Also there are absolutely honest covens where nudity is required and it is quite normal. In this case you’ve got to follow your heart.
- If you need to pay money for tuition or rituals. Wiccan covens do not take money for such services. It is another thing to sell regularly priced books or sell tickets to a pagan festival, when you need to rent space, pay for travel lecturers and bards, to cover organizational expenses, etc. But it is not accepted to profit from the purely priestly services.
- If the coven isn?t Wiccan, but satanic. Both covens have their similarities: mantles, daggers, and secret rituals in a circle. But Wicca glorifies nature, Gods and teaches: “Do what you will, so long as it harms none”.
- If the coven associates and includes Nazi symbols, rhetoric and propaganda. Wicca is in no way associated with Nazism, and does not condone it. It goes against Wiccan beliefs and teachings.
When you find the right coven, you should get acquainted with the High Priests and other members and visit their festivals. You shouldn’t immediately ask to be accepted in a coven. It is best to tell the High Priestess something like this: “I read this specific book”, “I’m attracted to something sacred in nature”, “I sincerely feel that Wicca is my way and I would like to learn more”. The High Priestess or Priest will then talk about Wicca and will honestly answer all your questions, advise which books to read, and will let you know the activity time of the grove.
The grove is like a school, where pagans study mythology, history, ethics, Wicca, customs, traditions, how to behave at the ceremony, and much more. You?ll be given homework, writing examinations and even exams. If you successfully pass all subjects, the High Priestess will tell you that you can apply for initiation when you?ll feel that you are ready. You will then need to go through The Wiccan Initiation Ritual.
Degrees of Dedication
In Wicca there are usually three (rarely four) degrees of dedication. The first degree – is a beginner, the newly-made witch that needs to learn and learn. Second degree – means a priestess, a witch who can serve on the rites, and carry out some by herself. The third level – gives the status of the high priestess / priest, an Elder, board member of the coven. The time interval between the initiations is similar to the grove – a year and a day. After receiving the third degree, the High Priestess / Priest can leave the coven to create their own. In this case, it is acceptable to give the High Priestess of the mother coven a silver buckle for the garter. In some traditions, this rite is accompanied by honoring the High Priestess of the mother coven the fourth degree of dedication – Witch Queen. However, this degree does not give anything higher than the third degree of any different tradition.
- Uninitiated Neophyte: Perfect love and perfect trust.
- First Degree: Greeting to all ends of the triangle.
- Second Degree: Thank the moon’s beauty.
- Third Degree: When mated, they will be truly united.
Because these passwords are widely known, I advise you to use them only in common rites, and create your own passwords for your traditions.
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