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Functions of Coven Four Key Functions Served by the Coven Nuit’s Veil Covenstead Dark Circle

Updated May, 2005 Tim Hartridge©2004


DARK CIRCLE

COVEN FUNCTIONS

SUMMARY

Functions of Coven: a considered inquiry

What is a Coven? A commonly held view is that a Coven is simply a group of individuals who regularly gather together for practical participation in Witchcraft and who may socially interact with one another. The word Coven is related to covenant, a solemn agreement that is considered binding on all parties. The word covenant even has a historical association as a promise that is divinely binding; as in the covenant between Jehovah and Moses. Both words Coven an covenant are derived from the Latin word convenio, meaning to come together. The Latin word convenio more especially was used to apply to a gathering or meeting, as in an assembly of an organised body or group. It is apparent from history that such gatherings of Witches in a Coven were no mere trivial matter. Indeed, it was a serious point of Law if caught, one of heresy. Today we may no longer be jeopardizing our lives, but history provides us still with a sense of seriousness of purpose that the Coven meeting may entail. For our current purposes we understand that attending Coven meetings are not likely to be a casual meeting or affair. The meetings normally have a clear sense of purpose and planning and where commonly held beliefs, ideas and interests are participated in. Our definition of Coven is therefore fundamentally different from a casual pagan group. While bonds of friendship and mutual confidences may grow out of commonly shared experiences of any group, is respect and a desire to learn together through shared experiences that help make our Coven what it is.

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Our Coven holds the expectation that a degree of personal responsibility also entails being responsible for the group and how it functions. This is what is meant by the turn of phrase owning the Coven. This provides another fundamental difference between our Coven and other groups. Another difference can be seen and is expressed through the depth of respect and care we show to one another when personal inner experiences are shared. A contemporary Coven such as ours is likely to be much more than purely a cooperative group of people, we are also likely to be good friends; and we will be engaged in personal development through a mutual support of one another’s experiences and occult interests. One’s own involvement in the Coven therefore must, ring true. Fidelitas is a word that is enshrined as our Coven motto and means, to trust, to be true, to be faithful and loyal, to ring true. It is of little surprise that a Coven that has these expectations of their members is likely to also exhibit a discriminative nature in who is admitted to membership. With such ideals about loyalty and relationships within the Coven it should be appreciated that we are well aware this is something that is not achieved overnight. Nevertheless it is the foundation stone upon which we have founded our Coven. I would suggested that loyalty, or your ability to ringing true, is the key that distinguishes the members of a real Witches’ Coven from that of any ordinary group who merely engage in the practice of Magick or Witchcraft. In our Coven, your personal self and your magickal work are a symbiotically link, but rather than losing yourself in a group-mind, potentially your involvement can help deepen the authenticity of Self.

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What purpose does the Coven serve? The support of one another’s occult interests is just one of the functions the Coven may serve. I’ve identified four key points as a focus of response to this question. By necessity the response to the question “What purpose does the Coven serve? also says something about what we as a Coven are likely to involve ourselves in magickally. In the response I’ve also attempted to illustrate how these four keys work in the Coven. The order in which they occur has no obvious significance, but I have tentatively attributed them to one of each of the four elements. The four keys are: 1. Knowledge; 2. Ritual; 3. Depth; and 4. Support. The following diagram shows lines marking an “X” in a circle and connecting each of the four key words to the word Coven. This is to indicate that a fluid stream of experience flows between the group’s centre, the body of the Coven, and these four key functions. The energy or experience between the Coven and the keys are considered as a mutually beneficial relationship, a two-way flow of energy between the Coven’s functions and needs and that of its members. The diagram is therefore a graphic illustration of the Coven’s raison d’etre (reason for existence) and how these serve the needs of its members.

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Four Key Functions served by the Coven

1. KNOWLEDGE At this first point, the Coven functions as a mechanism of support to the individual in the search for experience and understanding. Under this heading are two branches indicating methods by which Knowledge is obtained. One is Academic knowledge and the other is Psychic experience. Academic knowledge is research and understanding acquired via books, personal study, written expression, discussion and practical workings. These are some of things the Coven can help provide and that individuals can contribute to the Coven’s knowledge base. From the other branch, knowledge is also acquired through Psychic experiences. These may come not only through private psychic exercises but also through the shared practices of the Coven. The psychic experiences provided by the Coven come about through the dedicated amount of time the group inputs for the gaining such experiences. I have corresponded Air as the principal element here, where Air is the function of Thought and Consciousness.

2. RITUAL There are a great variety of ritual practices the Coven may use. It is through this Key that Coven members will most obviously see themselves functioning collectively as a group. The Rituals are often linked to special timing and so provide the Coven’s schedule. Most Covens their hold their main meeting times based upon magickally significant times; for example, the Full Moon’s, Seasonal times, or other special dates. Rituals also provide the opportunity for the Coven to share their creativity as a group. This can be through the interpretation of traditional rites or in the development of their own original rituals.

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There are also rituals used for special purposes for either personal or group needs. These are often unique rituals designed as personal spells, healing, or for personal development and change. Some special purpose rites may trigger psychic experiences, epiphany, or mark times of initiation. Such ritual experiences bring a sense of destiny or may even manifest the divine in our lives. Some rituals are capable of triggering sudden and intuitive leaps of understanding. Ritual is corresponded to the element of Fire, the element of action and transformations.

3. DEPTH By “Depth� I mean the intensity of feeling and intensity of experiences we access within ourselves and within the Coven. Depth is the domain of the Psyche (Soul). Our individual psychic or soulful experiences feed the Coven as much as the Coven feeds our individual soulful needs too. The Coven is a constellated group, a place where relationships between the members produces a group psyche or Soul. Given time, the group psyche will also produce a Persona, a face to the world. The mixture of different individuals living and coming into the Coven will be experienced as manifest feelings of the group psyche. Because this may trigger different reactions in the mixture of individuals that blend into the Coven, this is likely to be the most difficult function to understand too. It may also be the most powerful function for any individual experience of the Coven. There is a link between the area of Ritual practices and the area Depth of experience. This link might best be described as creativity. The possible interconnectedness of these two streams can produce an energy that gets directly into the life of the Coven and its members. In the diagram, it is in this place of Depth that creativity manifests. This may be experienced through imagination and feeling. Plenty of time needs to be given over to the development of new and original ideas. In an artistic sense, the Coven can provide a deep fertile place in which an epiphania or

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soul-felt insight may manifest. The Coven needs each of us to honour and respect the many different ways in which depth is expressed. The Depth of experiences the Coven can provide is corresponded to the element of Water. Metaphysical Water is reflective and insightful.

4. SUPPORT This final Key is one of Support and is synonymous with such words as relationship and sharing. The word Support also carries with it a sense of the each member being able to depend upon the Coven through the members being dependable and responsible. There are many easy examples I can offer to show how the Coven can support us individually. A few simple examples are: it provides its members with important shared experiences sometimes through ritual; it may also endow members with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of psychic experiences; and through social contact and activities the Coven encourages supportive friendships. In fact, for some people the development of Coven relationships are more important and have farreaching effects on their lives than they may have with their blood relatives. Another inherent meaning to this Key word Support is the expectation of responsibility. The challenge for many people joining the Coven is to learn how individually and collectively to support the group. Being responsible will mean you cannot just let others pick-up the pieces. Effectively, without the support of the individual the Coven cannot properly exist or survive. If the Coven members do not cultivate a sense of ownership and dependability then the Coven will fail. Not surprisingly Support is corresponded to the ever practical foundation stone, the element of Earth.

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Functions of Coven