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Wiccan Covens, Wicca Religion Resource

Wicca Religion Resource: WICCAN COVENS

Wicca handfasting ceremony
during Beltane

Wiccan Covens

Lineaged Wicca is organised into covens of initiated priests and priestesses. Covens are autonomous, and are generally headed by a High Priest and a High Priestess working in partnership, being a couple who have each been through their first, second and third degrees of initiation. Occasionally the leaders of a coven are only second-degree initiates, in which case they come under the rule of the parent coven. Initiation and training of new priesthood is most often performed within a coven environment, but this is not a necessity, and a few initiated Wiccans are unaffiliated with any coven.

A commonly quoted Wiccan tradition holds that the ideal number of members for a coven is thirteen, though this is not held as a hard-and-fast rule. Indeed, many U.S. covens are far smaller, though the membership may be augmented by unaffiliated Wiccans at "open" rituals. When covens grow beyond their ideal number of members, they often split (or "hive") into multiple covens, yet remain connected as a group. A grouping of multiple covens is known as a grove in many traditions.

Initiation into a Wicca coven: Initiation into a coven is traditionally preceded by a waiting period of at least a year and a day. A course of study may be set during this period. In some covens a "dedication" ceremony may be performed during this period, some time before the initiation proper, allowing the person to attend certain rituals on a probationary basis. Some solitary Wiccans also choose to study for a year and a day before their self-dedication to the religion.

Solitary Practice: Many Wiccans are more often than not solitary practitioners. Some of these solitary Wiccans do, however, attend gatherings and other community events, but reserve their spiritual practices (Sabbats, Esbats, spell-casting, worship, magical work, etc.) for when they are alone. Eclectic Wiccans now significantly outnumber lineaged Wiccans, and their beliefs and practices tend to be much more varied.

Wicca handfasting ceremony

Origins of the word 'Coven'

A Coven or covan is a name used to describe a gathering of witches or in some cases vampires. Due to the word's association with witches, a gathering of Wiccans, followers of the witchcraft-based neopagan religion of Wicca, is described as a coven.

The word was originally a late medieval Scots word (circa 1500) meaning a gathering of any kind, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It derives from the Latin root word convenire meaning to come together or to gather, which also gave rise to the English word convene. The first recorded use of it being applied to witches comes much later, from 1662 in the witch-trial of Isobel Gowdie, which describes a coven of 13 members.

The word coven remained largely unused in English until 1921 when Margaret Murray promoted the idea, now much disputed, that all witches across Europe met in groups of thirteen which they called 'covens'.

Covens in literature and popular culture

An intermediate view is often portrayed in fantasy stories and popular culture. In this usage, a coven is a gathering of witches to work spells in tandem. Such imagery can be traced back to Renaissance prints depicting witches and to the three 'weird sisters' in Shakespeare's play Macbeth. More orgiastic witches' meetings are also depicted in Robert Burns' poem Tam o' Shanter and in Goethe's play Faust. Movie portrayals have included, for example, Rosemary's Baby, The Covenant, Underworld (2003 film) and Underworld: Evolution , The Craft and COVEN. In television, covens were portrayed in the U.S. supernatural drama, Charmed.


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