In a working, wholesome, offline coven, these are some of the things you should notice, in addition to the article by the site administrator about joining a coven: firstly, that sexual practices are not mentioned or included in any of the coven rituals or workings, as that is private to the member, and should remain so. That every year, the preist and preistess are replaced with a new one, from the council, voted in by the members. Unless there is no one to take the place of priest or priestess. Also including any transgender members. I.e., a woman would be considered to take the place of a priest if there are no men or transgender women on the council that year. And vice versa. Every single person that coven members come into contact with are treated with the same respect and dignity that they would show their coven brothers and sisters. All coven members respect the pecking order of the coven. In essence: they comply with the requests of an active council, who in turn comply with the leaders. This shouldnt-
Be a problem if the mandatory meetings are monthly and seats going up for vote yearly when the council is assigned by the new leadership between january full moon and imbolc. Depending on group dinamics. Rituals should be designed in a universal fashion. Meaning that they do not offend any of the existing members traditions. Prospects, or prospective members should not be demanded from or tested for loyalty or other elicit pusoses. A couple of mottos i have learned to live by are that nobody is better than anybody else and if your hurting someone its not o.k.
Re: Offline covens By: Lark Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 3 Jan 14, 2014
While there may be some covens that change leadership yearly or which regularly rotate leadership positions among the coven members this is in no way generally true. The vast majority of covens, and certainly all covens within British Traditional Wicca, do not rotate the positions of High Priest and High Priestess amongs the coven members.
In all forms of British Traditional Wicca one cannot become a High Priestess or a High Priest until you have reached 3rd Degree initiation in that Tradition. Once you have formed your own coven you remain High Priest or High Priestess until you decide to step down. Nor do such Traditional have any sort of coven Council.
In the Tradition in which I trained one had to also attain 3rd Degree before hiving off and forming one's own coven. I founded and led my coven as High Priestess for 12 years. In that coven all Initiates were part of a coven Council; however, the final decision on coven matters always remained with the High Priest and High Priestess. That's not to say that most decisions were not made through conscensus, but they did not have to be. And on two occasions I over-ruled what the Initiates suggested be done.
In regards to sexual activity in a ritual context, it is certainly true that no coven should coerce a member into having sex if they don't wish to do so. That being said, there are some Traditions where ritual sex is an important part of ritual practice. However, these are covens where all members are consenting adults and generally where such activity is between committed couples.
How one deals with the issue of trangendered individuals is entirely up to the Tradition or coven in question. In the Oak, Ash, and Thorn Tradition of which I have been Tradition HPS since 2001 a transgendered person is still considered to be of their birth gender unless and until they undergo gender re-assignment surgery. Should they undergo initiation prior to that then they are initiated as Priest or Priestess according to their birth gender. So a transgender male who has not undergone surgical gender reassignment could not act as Priestess nor could a transgender female act as Priest in my Trad.
Now, according to what you've posted, that would mean that it appears that none of the covens in these Traditions are "wholesome" and that is patently not the case. So while I think your sentiment is sound, it is never wise to over-generalize what makes an ethical and wholesome group. What you've posted might be your opinion, but it is not a generally held one.
On the other hand, there is an excellent check-list to determine whether a group is ethical that was written by Isaac Bonewitz. You can find this evaluation form at http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html
A lot of this misunderstanding is because of the On-line covens! These may very well give information, but they are not, in fact, real covens!
The on-line covens are almost immediate of access; becoming a Priest or Priestess almost at will. In a real coven that can take years of training!
As for the sexual aspect, all the covens I have ever met held the Great Rite in secret, not viewed by the rest of the coven.Although many of the rituals were performed "skyclad".
Wiccan traditions tend to view fertility and the act of reproduction as sacred and important.
My understanding of the Great Rite, for example is between the Priest and Priestess and is symbolic and representative of the joining of the deities.
There are a good many covens or groups who have members who have been abused. My friends mother was part of one and they had a very strict rule that for the mental health of the members, sexual acts and skyclad wasn't allowed.
Some coven may give the option of skyclad allowing the members to choose.
If a coven requires skyclad or sexual rituals, it doesn't make it a bad coven. It makes it a coven that is not right for those who are uncomfortable with the idea and any Priest or Priestess within their right mind would encourage the new seeker to find something more suitable to them.
I only have experience of English covens. But even here there are many variations of covens. So many in fact, that I doubt that Gardner or Alex would recognise the religion they founded! Especially in the USA, from what I read about it.
The above post is correct. The Great Rite is all about the joining of the Deities.
Re: Offline covens By: Lark Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 10 Jan 15, 2014
Barbi, if one doesn't like the idea of sex in ritual then one simply doesn't join a coven that practices it. In the OATh Tradition we did not do so because we did have a number of members who were abuse survivors. But other Trads do use it and it is understood if you join that Trad that that will be part of the ritual. if that makes you uncomfortable for any reason then one simply chooses to work with a Trad that does not.
It is important to understand that Wicca is a fertility religion and that the Great Rite whether in actuality or in token is as central to our beliefs and practices as Communion is for a Christian.