May 13, 2017

Regarding Covens


I ran across this today: a fellow asking, "What defines a coven?" Yes, yes - I know that this isn't to do with Satanism or even written by a Satanist - but so much of what I learn about myself is through parallel comparison to other people and traditions. Differences define the indivudual, don't you think? If you want to read all the questions he poses, then you'll have to click through and read his writing - I think it's rather unfair to copy/paste his writing here and deny his fairly earned traffic - so I'll jump straight to my commentary.

I'm going to file this one in the category of, "problems that will never bother a Satanist." I can appreciate that from the author's Wiccan perspective, these are important questions, but from a Satanic perspective I'm confounded. It's been a very long time since I've been anywhere near Wicca - about 11 years, but who's counting? - but these questions combined with my admittedly poor experience give me the impression that for the author who wrote this, community and keeping-people-together are both a means and an end. When I read the questions and the pattern that emerges from them, I get the distinct impression that a coven is a whole bunch of people figuratively locked hand to hand and gathering at set intervals for the sake of gathering.

I mean, If you're going to create a format for the purpose of meeting and worshiping with co-religionists, why would you put the needs of the format (a coven) above the needs of the people who compose it? What little I know or remember from my past dabbles with Wicca over a decade ago, a Wiccan coven isn't just a kind of congregation led by a high mugwump - it's also a working group with specific roles that need to be filled in order for work to be done. And yes, the work to be done depends on the ritual, and yes, the ritual can be changed to require more or less people, but perhaps my clearest take-away from the time I spent in Wicca is that covens are groups who do things as a group and stay together as a group to do group stuff. Did I mention the group? 

What I observed while trying Wicca on for size is that the general air of importance given to the coven format and the need for assigned roles irritated more people than it served. It often resulted in the high mugwump doing nearly all of the work to coordinate coven work, petty in-fighting among those assigned to set coven roles, and simmering resentment among those for whom there simply wasn't room to advance. Throw in the fact that even as pedestrian as Wicca has become, it's still quite difficult to find enough people to form a coven, and you get microscopic autocracies where there's little room to move up, and nothing but a wasteland if you move out. And for people who value unity for the sake of unity, there's not much else that's more terrifying than a wasteland. 

Satanists, on the other hand, have been doing their thing solo virtuoso for decades. In fact, going by the Satanic Bible published in 1969, solitary ritual is the norm - not the exception! So for me, when I read a list of questions like what the author wrote, I'm genuinely confounded. My world view has changed so much over the last 10 years that I can't help but think, Why does anybody need a coven? Why can't individuals who share common interests simply agree to meet together for the pursuit of those common interests? As usual, I'm willing to admit that I may not have eyes to see, so if I'm not seeing this correctly, then you're welcome to leave a comment and tell me why, but this list of questions has been culture shock for me. I had a glimpse into an alien world, and I didn't understand it.

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