And last, but definitely not least, we come to Chapter 7 – The Coven and How to Form One.
Mrs. Drinkwalter has very kindly agreed to answer some questions drawn from this chapter.
As a knowledgeable witch and seasoned coven leader, Mrs. Drinkwalter brings a thoughtful and pragmatic approach to witchcraft and coven dynamics. And as her sister once replied when asked if Sybil was dabbling in the occult, “She’s not dabbling, she’s lap-swimming!”
To read more by Mrs. Drinkwalter, visit her “and her little dog, too” (that would be Big Bobby) at North of Berkeley.
For your reading ease, bits from Mastering Witchcraft are quoted below, with discussion points. The bolded bits are Sybil’s responses.
——————————————————–hapter Seven, in which Birds of a magical Feather flock together, or “Behold! A Cackle of Witches!”
“…a magical operation performed by a group will often succeed spectacularly, whereas a solo effort may achieve only moderate success…This is the occult rationale behind the witches’ coven. The proviso exists, however, that the group, first, be like-minded, that is sympathetic to one another in basic belief and emotional rapport, and, second, that there be present a certain amount of magical dedication and intensity of purpose.”
Do you see other purposes and benefits to coven work? If so, what?
I think that Huson is right on target, here. One way that covens get into problems is by becoming distracted from this essential purpose.
Because you get to know each other very well, and because friendships naturally develop from coven work, it easily takes on many of the functions family, or emotional support system. This is fine, but I have learned to be wary when a Witch appears to be leaning on the coven as their only, or primary, family and emotional support system. This kind of dependence will tend to sap energy from the coven’s real work.
Does working with a coven replace solo work? If not, what effects does a witch’s coven work have upon his/her solo work?
No, I don’t think coven work is an alternative to solo work. There are always things best done alone, and perhaps not even discussed much in a forum like this one, since they are things you do alone. For one thing, you may be willing to take on a heavier karmic load for yourself as an individual than you would wish to ask of others. I am less cautious about karmic backlash than many Witches I work with. My philosophy is that I’m on the wheel of karma for the long haul, and I might as well keep it interesting.
And while a good working group, all of one mind, can ramp up more juice than one Witch, if the group is *not* working well or all of one mind (and every coven has its ups and downs), you can probably ramp up more juice alone.
In Chapter 7, Mr. Huson discussing the coven and how to form one.
What benefits and drawbacks are there to forming your own coven?
The benefits of joining another coven are, of course, that you learn from the experience of your coven leaders. I would caution about trying to learn the art Witchcraft without teachers. Like and other art, it is too deep and rich and filled with varied skills to be easily picked up by trial and error on your own.
But the student-teacher relationship, like all others, is a delicate balance of give-and-take and compromise. Friendships and marriages are the same way. They work as long as everyone involved feels as if they give and take is more or less in balance. When that balance changes, the relationship changes or sometimes ends. And sometimes it means leaving a coven and striking out on your own.
The advantage to forming your own coven is being able to give life to your own vision.
Is there a right time or set of circumstances in which to search for a coven?
Yes, but the Gods probably know more about these matters than you do. Things happen the way they need to happen.
Does learning about various witch traditions help or hinder the seeking process. Why or why not?
I’ve worked with people who were already elders in other traditions, and I’ve worked with people who literally didn’t know a single thing except what I told them, or told them to read. Either way can work, and either way may not work. Other factors matter a lot more.
A student learning a tradition who is already versed in another one has to systematically unlearn something, but learning often involves unlearning something else–when you learn a new language, for example, you have to learn to put aside the grammar of the language you already know.
I’ve learned, though, to be wary of assumptions when working with a student who has already had other magical training. The biggest pitfall, perhaps, is the topic that doesn’t get covered because the student doesn’t bring it up and you assume he knows about it, and then it turns out that he knows something very different from what you assumed he knew!
“The more magically powerful are the individuals belonging to a coven, the more potent does the coven become as an entity. And it does become an entity.”
What responsibility, if any, does a coven member have to continue to hone, wield and grow in their craft?
Crucial responsibility, I’d say. It’s one of those things that goes forward or back, but does not stand still.
I’m a teacher in both my mundane and magical lives, and in both parts of my life, I feel that the teacher’s job is to be a resource, and that no meaningful learning takes place unless the student is doing most of the work. At least for adult students, this is true, and that is who I work with.
What other duties does a coven member have to their coven? What makes for a good coven member? Are the duties of coven leaders more, less or different from these?
I expect coven members to make coven participation a priority in their lives. The list of reasons why you should miss a coven meeting is fairly short: your work schedule, your family responsibilities, a vacation that nobody should have to say no to, and illness, especially if it is catching.
I expect fairly high standards of adult behavior when it comes to things like kindness, consideration and honesty.
I expect people to help out with mundane things like food and supplies. The coven leader is not exempt from any of the above, but also does a lot of arduous (and not always conspicuous) work of making things work. Social engineering, decision-making, buck-stopping. It’s not an easy job.
Is the coven egregore an automatic process of working together, or is it something which must be purposefully ‘brought to life’?
Either or both can happen. It’s one of the difficult things the coven leader has responsibility for.