A coven is a group of members of a unit of witchcraft and, in fact, can number anything from two to 13, or even more. The number 13 is traditionally designated by the 13 moon cycles that make up one year, and 13 is the number of the Goddess (hence it became unlucky under Christian influence). Gardenerian covens generally number 13. Some covens are affiliated formally or informally to specific traditions, but they increasingly unite for organisational as well as legal and political strength, particularly in Australia and parts of the USA. On-line covens are also springing up and they are an excellent way for solitary practitioners to gain support and information. Reliable, bona fide covens will offer the same safeguards as any ordinary coven (see page 306), but of course the normal restraints you should show on contacting any Internet site will apply.
The beginning of the path to learning about Wicca within a formal coven is usually marked by a dedication. Initiation, after a year and a day, or a similar recognised magical period, will confer formal entry. Further different levels of knowledge and responsibility may also be involved, for example elevation to a second or third degree, so that eventually initiates can begin their own covens if they wish.
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