I'm not sure that every coven unrelated to a specific tradition needs a "Book of Shadows." I probably wanted one for my coven because I have strange control issues. After finding a ritual structure that worked for our circle I wanted to get it all down on paper, and share it with everyone in our little group. For our group a BoS made perfect sense because we work the same way ritual to ritual.
A BoS is not necessarily a rigid, never-changing book of instructions, but it often contains ideas that consistently work. If the quarter calls I'm using "work" why would I want to change them every month or so? I also think there's real power in repeating a ritual structure over and over again. It takes the guess work out of ritual and creates an atmosphere that lets the mind and spirit quickly ease into ritual mode. When my coven's opening chant starts I'm in "work mode" and instantly push outside concerns away.
Happy Monday, Beagle fans! It's Airy Monday, celebrating the Element of Air and the realm of the mind. Today, we are concentrating on looking deeper at the "Halloween" witch, including Witch's hats; nude on a broom; reclaiming Halloween stereotypes; academic studies of witchcraft.
Where does the Witch's Hat come from? According to this essay at Salon, the high-peaked hat may have originally been a medieval attempt to identify Jews (who were then associated with devil-worshippers and witches.)
The other day a member of my coven offered to lead an upcoming ritual. I was extremely pleased by this development. Though my wife and I often function as the "High Priestess" and "High Priest" of our group we didn't start this endeavor with the idea that we would run every ritual. It's nice to just sit back sometimes and participate instead of having to stand forward and "lead."
I know that our group is kind of set up in a such a way that it often looks like I'm in charge. My wife and I started our coven, we selected our initial circle-mates, and I organized our week to week gatherings. As time went on we adopted a formal ritual structure, which I wrote.
The first six months of its existence my ritual group mostly floundered. We had a good circle of people around us and did some nice rituals, but we didn't really have any sort of structure. To find a solidity for ourselves we had to do a ritual for someone else.
When my wife and I put our ritual group together we did so with low expectations. We were basically just looking for a group to ritualize with, we weren't necessarily seeking anything formal. During those early months our rituals were continually different. We never used the same quarter calls twice or called to the same gods and goddesses for that matter! The circle was scripted but eclectic, details constantly in flux.
I'd like to imagine that starting a coven is a completely organic process. Perhaps a few friends get together and decide that it's time to form a coven or at least begin operating as one. On the traditional side it's easy to imagine a Priestess and Priest recently elevated to Third Degree and hiving off to form a new coven, perhaps taking a few of their old coven mates with them in order to do so. Both of those scenarios sound better then how our group started. Our coven began with a question: "who should we invite over for ritual?"
Four years ago, when I first started my Pagan Music Project, I got asked "What's the difference between Witchcraft and Paganism?" That was difficult for me to answer. I struggled with it for a while, and then forgot about it. Now, I think I've got it.
Witchcraft is about energies and powers that be. Witchcraft spells and Witch magick are about working with the energetic machine that the world and universe are part of. It's almost more of a job than it is a religion. Witches around the world are people that "do." Whether good or bad, Witches "do" things.