Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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How Does a Coven Manage to Stay Together for Nearly 40 Years?

 It takes three witches to make a coven. Two witches is just an argument.

(Craft proverb*)


Come Harvest Home, we'll have been together for...well, for nigh on 40 years.

(“That's 90-something in cowan years,” my friend and colleague Sparky T. Rabbit would have quipped.)

In the fractious and ephemeral world of contemporary Witchdom, where covens tend to come and go, this is a pretty remarkable achievement.

So how have we managed to do it?

Well, every group is different. What works for us might not necessarily work for you.

But it might.


We're about doing, not belief.

My coven-sib Magenta Griffith and I once spoke at the local CUUPS chapter. Afterward, someone said to us (with some exaggeration): “I can't believe you guys are in the same coven; you don't agree on anything.”

Over the course of the past four decades, we're accumulated a vast repertoire of shared songs, stories, and rituals.

But what you make of them is up to you.

We're all in the same field politically.

It's not quite true that we don't agree on anything. Politically, we're all left of center, so political squabbling has never wreaked its usual havoc. For me personally, it's been both amusing and instructive occasionally to find myself on the conservative side of issues.

We're a working coven.

Thank Goddess the Era of the Initiation-Mill is over. The training-coven model may have its advantages, but in the long run, it's neither stable nor sustainable. We teach one another and we learn by doing, but our purpose has always been to do, not to train.

We operate and make decisions collectively.

Pretty much everything is up for discussion, everyone has a voice, and everyone gets a hearing. Consensus-based governance is no universal model, but for a small group of people who know one another well and are committed to each other and to the group, it sure does have its advantages.

We're about individuals, not couples.

Sorry, Gardner was quite simply wrong on this point. Our unofficial “No Couples” rule has served us well over the past four decades. Break-ups of couples have wrecked more covens down the years than anything else.

I'd like to think that if the right couple came along, we'd be open to the possibility. As I said, everything is up for negotiation.

But in that case we'd be accepting two individuals, not a dyad.

We're hard to join.

We have a reputation locally of being the most exclusive coven in town, and that's probably true. You don't let just anyone into your family. You vet.

You have to.

We can tell each other No.

I'd be a hard person to be in a coven with. I have lots of ideas and lots of enthusiasm, and can get carried away by the sheer intoxication of it all, but when people tell me No, I hear them. Everyone is more committed to the group than we are to getting our own way in any particular matter. Ultimately it's a matter of thinking in the long term.

We're still willing to try new stuff.

With an accumulated history of nearly 40 years, we've got a lot of tradition, and of course it's always easier and safer to go with something that we know works than to try something new that might not.

But that doesn't stop us. We still keep trying new things. (I won't say it doesn't occasionally take some pushing.) Sometimes what's new works, sometimes it doesn't. When it does, we add it to the Lore, and our stuff just gets better and better.

We all have outside interests.

No matter how good your coven is, it will never fulfill all of your needs. It's unfair to expect it to. I've sometimes wanted to see us move in directions that this group is just not going to take.

So that's been good motivation to keep active outside of the group as well, in both Craft and non-Craft concerns.


Think globally. Witch locally.


*First articulated by Terry Pratchett.


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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer Monday, 06 February 2017

    All excellent points to remember. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien Monday, 06 March 2017

    So wise, you crafty old witch.

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