The Nature of Your Coven

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In the same manner that you sounded out suitable symbolism in your attempt to find an appropriate witch name for yourself, so you should evolve the basic idea on which to found your coven. However, most tradition-minded witches would insist here that, instead of throwing your limits wide enough to include all areas of magical and mythological legend, you should restrict yourself to those of a European basis seeing that it is with the Western magical tradition that you seek to put your group in contact. With this thought you may disagree, citing maybe with good reason the magical maxim popularized by the Cabalistic writer Dion Fortune that "All Gods are one God, all Goddesses are one Goddess, and there is one Initiator." Dion Fortune began her magical career as a theosophist, and throughout all her works, there is much of a theosophical nonsectarian approach. Such an approach to witchcraft would seem to be objectionable only to the most sectarian-minded of witches; but they do exist, and the paradox is apparent.

Quite obviously, the strong point about occult paths such as that of witchcraft is that, unlike organized religion, they leave the "way to salvation" solely up to the individual. There is no attempt at proselytizing. Indeed, the frantic need to convert the unbelievers whether by verbal persuasion or violence is totally lacking. It is solely a matter of chacun a son of gout. Further than this, in fact; it does not remain a matter of take it or leave it, but rather one of take it and do something with it! Witchcraft remains, in its broadest sense the shamanism of the West, the underlying, barely organized bedrock of magical practice, on which all later religions and metaphysical schools of thought rest; any substantial attempt to deal with it as a semi-"established" faith is doing it the utmost disservice and is entirely at odds with the idea behind the practices. The nearest a witch can get to the term "orthodox" is only "the most traditional." Witchcraft is basically performed by and for the individual. Covens are, or should be, made up of individuals, held together by a common interest, whether it be a desire for knowledge, power, or a love of the elder gods.

When you set about forming your coven, choose symbols to represent its general orientation. If it is one of knowledge, those symbols consonant with Herne and the Sky Power, in all its manifestations, would perhaps be appropriate. On the other hand, a power orientation should perhaps suggest the development of a set of symbols appropriate to the Horned One, Lord of Fire and Energy. A preoccupation with healing would suggest contact with Mother Hertha; a simple desire to worship the powers of love maybe indicates a bias towards the Lady Habondia.

All of these witch beings, whether they are seen as independent entities or aspects of two single deities, possess animals and symbols special to themselves, and it is from these appropriate images that you should draw your coven "totems" and "logo" or composite symbol.

Books of mythology can be very helpful here - for those of European inclination, the Norse myths; the Welsh-Celtic traditions as presented in the Mabinogion, the Irish-Celtic in The Book of the Dun Cow, The Yellow Book of Lecan, and The Book of Leinster; and, finally, the Matter of Britain as presented in such works of the Arthurian Cycle as the High History of the Holy Grail, and the like. (See the bibliography at the end of the book for more suggestions on this point.) For those that would follow a more Cabalistic path, works dealing with "magical correspondences," such as Aleister Crowley's 777 and Dion Fortune's Mystical Qabalah, are very handy. Classics-minded witches would do well to consult such books as Robert Graves's work on the classical myths, those of C. Kerenyi; and of course Godfrey Leland's Aradia and Etruscan Magic and Occult Remedies, among others.

Should you, on the other hand, wish to give your coven a more African flavour, then the myths of ancient Egypt and maybe the magical elements inherent within the West Indian voodoo cult should be incorporated. The entities involved are exactly the same. They differ only in their outer cultural manifestations. The powers are identical.

Only when we encounter Far Eastern thought do we find any radical change. The difficulty of mixing Oriental and occidental magical philosophies has been recognized by many, so I will not enlarge upon the subject. The basic magical practices of both East and West, however, appear to derive from a common prehistoric shamanic stock, and remain in many cases similar, if not identical.

Finally, whatever your coven's inclination, Frazer's Golden Bough and Robert Graves's White Goddess will be invaluable source books.

The "logo," or coven emblem itself, should be designed in the same manner as a heraldic crest, incorporating the symbolism you have elected to use into a single composite design; the design should be simple enough to engrave or embroider upon your witch jewels and to be visualized easily in meditations.

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