Angel Winges, H.Ps.
The Evolution Of A Coven
Months ago, more than I would enjoy remembering, Imajicka asked me to write an article on what it's like to lead a coven. That sounded very simple, so I agreed. I discovered that it wasn't simple at all. A coven is very much like being "between the worlds"; there are layers upon layers of interaction going on that one can't even see. It's one of the most complicated relationships one will ever have in their lives.
I am disabled with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and Fibromyalgia, along with ten other auto immune diseases. Sounds awful, huh? Outside of not being able to hold down a job, it isn't so bad at all. The Lady chose this as a means of freeing me from the marketplace and the stress involved there, so that I could reach the souls She sent to me and touch/teach those who are ready to receive. That was thirteen years ago. Outside of the first year, which was so terribly frustrating and confusing, I've never questioned Her reasoning. Instead, I surrendered totally to the process and followed Her lead. I have never regretted it.
This article may sound a little disjointed at first, but if you will stay with me, you will discover that the odd stories to tie in with the topic.
I never wanted a coven. I thought that I had very little to teach. Because of my disability, I had not had the "advantage" of being Coven trained. All of my training came from asking questions of the Witches/Pagans I knew, reading books, asking questions of the Lady and Lord, dreams, visions, psychic inspiration, listening, and common sense. My initiations, when they came, were administered by the Lady and Lord Themselves. Certainly that couldn't be good enough, right? Wrong! The Lady and Lord very quickly disabused me of that notion!
"Pay attention, dear.", came the voice of the Lady. "Who do you think trained the very first Witch?", came the voice of the Lord. "hmmm." says I. Who indeed?! Being trained in Kabalistic magick by the Master himself, Donald Michael Kraig, I had been taught the difference between a "mechanic/technician" magician, and an "intuitive" magician. (Bless you, Don!) He had also taught me that the lessons we receive "between the worlds" from the Lady and Lord, our Guides and Spiritual Teachers, were often more valuable than any other source, and could save your life. Don, his room-mate Scott Cunningham, and their friend Ganymede Cupbearer had placed my feet upon the path the Lady called me to. My love and gratitude will always surround them, along with their beloved friend "Mare". These four people helped me to "hear" and learn the majesty of the Lady and Lord, and the Craft. I have great reverence for each of them.
The question was, "Since I only make short term memory a little more than 50% of the time, how am I going to remember the days and hours of magickal times and which planet and incense to use, etc.?" The answer came in the vision of a Neanderthal "coven". A group of women of all ages filed into a cavern. They built a bonfire in the center of the space and sat in three circles around it. The inner circle was the women who had not had children. The second circle were the mothers, and the outer circle, the circle of protection, was the Crones....the Sacred Ones. The Shamans. The sacred mushroom was produced and shared with all in the circle. They then held hands and stated the questions that they needed answers to. Finally, they left the body and found the answers. When the answers were found, they all returned to the body. They then sat and visited with each other for a while and discussed what they had seen, and then they ate together. As they left, those who were menstruating would put blood on their hands and make a hand print on the walls. The blood would preserve and protect the sacredness of the spot and warn others away from this place of power, reverence, and magick.
No one person in that circle knew that the lights in the sky were planets, or that they had names, or months, or days, or hours of each day. They didn't know about using certain incenses and oils for certain things. They knew magick, the Lady, and their innate power. They made extremely powerful magick and they survived to mother us in their future. "Ah, says I. Got it!"
That first vision opened my eyes to a lot of things that I hadn't thought of before. All of the "Why?" questions, and "Where did it start?" questions. It helped me a lot. I was to remember it frequently as I began my walk with my first coven.
My first coven was an accident. I was a practicing Solitary. I met other solitaries. They all felt they had missed something by not being coven trained. They had all met other witches who said "If you weren't trained and initiated by so and so, you're not a real witch." We all had our insecurities over that one statement, but we also had our soul-felt belief in the Lady and Lord, and that what we were doing was good and right. We decided to celebrate the Sabats together and share what we had learned with each other afterwards.
I fought the whole concept of "coven" for over a year. Then it became quite evident to all of us, that this is what we were becoming. Since I had a history of public speaking and teaching, am an Aries and love an audience, and I had read more than most of the other folks in our group, having had the UC library at my disposal, I was elected "teacher". Oh gods, what had I gotten myself into?!
We began meeting for the Moons as well as the sabats, and we began a discussion group once a month which quickly evolved into a "Wicca 101 Plus" class. By the end of the second year, we were a full fledged coven and going strong. If I didn't have the information we needed, the Lady and Lord would send it to me so that the questions got answered. That worked for me.
A coven, as I said earlier, is a very complex relationship. It's more than just a group of people studying together. It's even more than a family or a clan. It's more intimate than lovers. One cannot share energy within sacred space without eventually experiencing an orgasmic moment of ecstasy with every person there, particularly when you begin "drawing down".
Like any family, there are personality problems. You will encounter power mongers, stars, pity party folk, jealousy, pettiness, gossip, fear, insecurities, anger, and all the other negatives. You will also experience intense sharing, intimacy, trust, faith, bonding, growth, happiness, fullness, contentment, inner peace, joy, and love on a level never thought of before. You will bicker and quarrel, storm off, and come back and make up. You will love each other and not know how to function without each other on occasion.
My favorite example to share is: In early 1995 or 96 I was involved with another group which I didn't want to leave. In hindsight, I realize that I was being forced to leave them so that I could start our Coven. There was a lot of stress placed on me and I had a minor stroke, which was really scary. When my roommate brought me back from having my CAT scan made, all the ladies of my coven were waiting at my house. "Laughing Fox Among the Iris" met me at the door and enfolded me in her arms. She said to me, "I know you don't have a beloved in your life to hold you, and you very much need to be held, so we have come to hold you all day and ease your fear." Those women took turns all day and half the night, sitting on the couch with my head in their laps (one per hour), while they held me and nurtured me and eased my fear of going to sleep. (The stroke had happened in my sleep) That's the kind of selfless love and caring that is allowed to thrive within a coven space. I will never forget her words or that moment for the rest of my life.
We all go through fear and misgivings, and we all help each other work through it. We gather our energy about us like velvet cloaks, and weave the webs of light and darkness that makes us who and what we are. The threads are intermixed each with the other so that there is no longer a clearly defined separation between individuals. The coven becomes an entity of it's own. A living thing that guides us all.
In time, this happened to us. We became more than just a group of solitaries working together. After the third year, when there were a number of initiates who could hive off and make their own covens if they chose to, with a punnish play on my name, my students dubbed us the "Winge-It" Tradition. Because we frequently did just that, it stuck.
We had decided from the very beginning to use the tried and true methods from Europe as a base, but to experiment with energy and styles and see what worked for us. We wanted to stretch our boundaries and redefine them. We wanted to see what would work and what wouldn't, and why. We did things like calling quarters with musical instruments rather than words, raising a cone of power by circulating the energy mentally and emotionally rather than with movement, and other types of experiments. We went into deep trances and "drew down" actual Gods and Goddesses who walked and talked, and taught through us. We learned a lot. We grew a lot. We all learned to trust.
The most memorable thing we learned together was something the Lady revealed to all of us: The purpose of the coven is to produce self-confident, strong, self assured Solitaries! It is our belief that witches are meant to be solitaries for the most part. (Bless the Kitchen Witches of the world!) Each witch must find his/her own unique path and method. In Temple of American Witch Craft, we have Faery, Dragon, Druid, Shamanic, Dianic, and kitchen Priest*esses. We come together to multiply the power of our healing and magickal works, but in essence, we are all solitaries, ready to serve at a moments notice, wherever we are called.
One of my first Third Degree Priestesses came to me after about four months with her budding coven. She sat down with me and told me that she had renewed appreciation and respect for all that I had gone through managing a first class of over 30 people and all their personalities and problems. She had not realized how draining it could be, or frustrating, and also how exhilarating until she was teaching her own group. She felt overwhelmed with three students. We had a good cry together and then a good laugh. Troublesome or not, we loved teaching these souls to know and love the Lady and the Lord. Yes, it is worth the lost sleep, the worry, the wonder, the awe, the joy, the love, the sacrifices we make. It is so worth it!!
© by Angel Winges, H.Ps.