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 The Structure of a Coven

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Join date : 2014-05-18
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PostSubject: The Structure of a Coven   Sun May 18, 2014 9:37 pm

How Covens are Structured

While students learning in a face to face coven quickly begin to understand how their coven is structured and who does what, it’s not so easy for solitary students. They don’t get the benefit of regular exposure to the activities of a working coven and so the roles of coven members and its hierarchy can seem like a mystery. It’s really not that difficult actually and depending on the tradition and customs of the coven there are a variety of ways it can be structured.

The more traditional covens, which follow the older style of Wicca, tend to remain within the more time-honoured framework of structure and have what’s called an Inner and Outer Court. Think of a picture of a shooting target with its rings. The outside, perimeter circle includes the Outer Court students who are learning the ropes and who’ve not been initiated yet. It’s common practice for members of the Outer Court not to be invited to Full Moon Esbats or in fact any ritual with the exception of perhaps Sabbats so they’re role is to purely learn and develop enough understanding to seek initiation. During that time in Outer Court (traditionally at least a year and a day), the Inner Court members and the High Priestess has time to ‘size the student up’ and see whether they have the potential skills and personality and energy fit to match their existing coven dynamics.

Once the student has been initiated into that coven however, they move one ring closer to centre of our target circle and join the Inner Court. Immediately after initiation, they are First Degrees and will remain so until they are initiated into a higher degree. Whilst at this level, they learn how to cast basic circles, they develop a deeper appreciation for magick, they learn much more about the Sabbats and the Wheel of the Year and gradually increase and mesh their circle skills with their coven brothers and sisters. Generally speaking a First Degree must spend at least a year at that level before they can seek initiation to the next level and they must be proficient at circle casting and have an acceptable level of general skills before they can move forward.

Having been accepted and undertaken the Second Degree initiation, the Inner Court member is then a Second Degree and their training and responsibility intensifies significantly. They will now be expected to share responsibility for teaching the Outer Courters and even the First Degrees, they will probably take on specific roles within the coven such as the Man in Black, the Scribe or the Maiden and they will be heavily involved in the design and development of coven rituals and planning. Many Second Degrees will remain at that level for a decade or more before being invited to take the Third Degree initiation and this is deliberately so they can gain serious expertise in the management of a coven as well as in Wiccan practice.  

The Third Degree initiation is the only initiation which cannot be asked for by the practitioner. The First and Second Degree initiations are never offered to someone but instead must be actively sought by the practitioner themselves. The Third Degree initiation however is different and is only given to a Second Degree when the High Priestess considers that person is skilled and ready to lead their own coven. It’s bad manners for a Second Degree to ask for the Third Degree initiation and while this is based on convention, the fact remains that the newly initiated Third Degree is expected to hive off and form their own coven and occasionally they will take the some of the mother coven practitioners with them. Hence the need to be very careful when considering this level of initiation.

While the structure above is the more traditional concept, there are also a growing number of covens and traditions which have a more flexible approach to their hierarchy and structure. Many covens now employ a more democratic approach and have elected High Priestesses and Priests and coven roles. They may have a system where the roles are shared across the more senior members or rotated. The three degree system may be flattened to a single level or there may be simply students and members. There may also be Friends of the Coven who are neither members nor students but folk who share Sabbats and special occasions with the coven.  

So the structure of a coven is often dependent on the both the tradition and the approach of the coven leadership. There are so many varieties now and there are strengths and weaknesses with them all. The key is to consider what structure and expectations may work for you before committing to any coven.

Information accredited to http://www.oakandmistletoe.com.au
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