When the pandemic was at its height and the US general election was looming, I sent out a text to two friends who did not know each other.
“Hi! Wanna start a coven?”
Almost two years later, the three of us continue to meet monthly and we hardly ever miss a ritual. The reason our coven has been so successful I think is in no small part due to the fact that we meet virtually.
I know, I know people are over Zoom. They want to meet in person and reconnect. However I cannot tell you how many face to face events I’ve committed to in the Pagan community only to discover they’ve been canceled either due to low numbers (a massive bummer) or fear of COVID infection rates increasing.
A solid group of eminent witches/Pagans are realizing that they can reach a whole new audience through virtual rituals, so if it’s good enough for likes of Starhawk and Selena Fox, it’s goo enough for me.
Meeting online allows you to meet with friends who are far away but follow a path similar to yours. This is important if you live in an area where Paganism is not popular or you feel it wouldn’t be safe to meet in person. For example, out small coven is from two different states: One of us is Baltimore, two of us in Asheville. We have a member who is immunocompromised and is nervous about meeting others in real life. Isolation can be hard for them and so our coven meetings are a real boon to their mental health as well as spiritual life.
Meeting virtually therefore, makes ritual and ceremony more accessible for many who have disabilities or chronic illnesses.
As a parent, the opportunity to participate in ritual without the hassle of travelling somewhere has been really important. Often my daughter comes and says hello to the coven since she knows the members very well. They give her a little time to hang out, she goes to bed and I am given some much needed me time, regardless of whether my partner is at home or not. I am able to set out my ritual space in the comfort of our spare room/ office area using the tools I prefer and my coven mates do the same. Then our ritual commences:
We can be quite informal but our sessions but there are some recurring aspects.
To set up a virtual coven you need to consider these things.
With whom will you form your coven? I approached just two people and I think a small number works well in the online format. I think between 3 - 5 is ideal. Larger numbers can get confusing online and scheduling for everyone can be a headache. With smaller numbers it’s easier for everyone to be heard and to share and there is less call for a leader. The only downside is that if it’s a really small number and someone has to drop out, then the whole ritual might have to be canceled.
It’s worth noting that while I am a committed witch and Pagan, my coven mates’ paths are different and less defined. I think it’s great so to have other perspectives when thinking about people to ask, don’t limit yourself to those who share similar beliefs or practices to your own.
Boundaries or ground rules might be necessary depending on who you work with. One of our members is non-binary which means we must make all our language inclusive of this fact. Gender binaries of masculine and feminine are triggering for them. As a result we discuss the traditional ideas of gender and how we can make them resonate with all of us. This has been quite rewarding and I have enjoyed the examination of gender in all its myriad forms.
Trust is essential, you must all agree that what happens in the circle stays there whether it is a painful personal experience or news of new job, don’t assume it can be repeated to anyone.
We meet once a month and use Google Meet. It’s free and the connection is pretty good. Other options might be What’s App, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and I am sure there are even more.
We meet in the evening - I am the only one with a kid so our time has to be around or after their bedtime. We usually meet for about an hour on a weekday closest to the full moon.
While our actual ritual may begin, say at 7.30 pm, I tend to go up to the room I will be in before that and set out my sacred space. I light candles and cleanse the area and myself with a homemade sacred smoke bundle. I ground and center and make sure I have my Book of Shadows to hand for notes. While we may log off after 1 hour, I will stay to absorb the experience and write in my Book of Shadows.
Then I express gratitude to my personal deities and leave.
I am part of a face to face coven as well and find that both formats have become a precious part of my life.
We should not be bound by conventions of what Pagan rituals or witchcraft has been taught to us. The very nature of this path is autonomous and creative. Give yourself permission to develop ceremonies that are meaningful to you and your group.
It's less than two weeks away.
It is entirely appropriate that a new iteration of Open Coven begins at the coming of the first sabbat I honored as a Pagan.
I was about seventeen when I began my journey into Paganism. I am now almost 44 and after reclaiming my path about seven years ago I still feel in many ways a novice. Indeed, I look back to my practice as a teenager and envy the past me a little. It wasn’t what I knew as much as what I did and through the doing, understood. It was easier then, I didn’t have a family or a job. My responsibilities were blissfully few and I was in my home country of the UK where it seemed enchanted sites were on my doorstep.
My return to Paganism - specifically my identity as a witch - has been uneven as I try to weave my spirituality into my life that involves parenting, working, community work. activism and this very website. I am hopeful though and I think the advent of Open Coven’s next chapter will be the underpinning of my desire to find a meaningful witchcraft practice that incorporates all these things.
Open Coven has been through many changes since I began it back in 2016. I can’t predict that it won’t continue to alter and shift. That’s life so make no apologies for it.
Lammas in the wheel of the year marks the first of three harvests. This one is the grain harvest.
I could at this point give you explanations of mythologies and traditions around this time, but instead I suggest you contemplate what it means to you personally. Let the seasons speak to you wherever you are. It’s important to build a relationship with every season. Remember, it’s not about what you know, more what you experience and understand from that experience.
Well I am down with shingles. It's a stupendous case of it if I do say so myself. As a result, typing and general movement is painful, and I mean really painful. So this is brief.
I am working on several embroidery workshops to be released late summer and into autumn. The original plan was to release them in the summer but there's been several set backs, including me getting a virus that makes me look like I come from the Upside Down (guess what I've been binging on? Yes I have seen the all before, sorry not sorry).
Nevertheless I am excited to share with you what's in the works. All workshops are online and asynchronous, meaning they can be accessed at any time.
Zodiac Embroidery for Beginners
Learn three stitches that are common in embroidery while completing a zodiac design. The course teaches you everything a beginner will need to get started from how to thread a needle to displaying your finished work. It includes detailed videos and print outs of all twelve zodiac signs and diagrams.
$30 - this gives you access to the course in perpetuity.
Resist Patch for Beginners
Make a patch to put on clothing and accessories using just one stitch. The patch is developed from my Triple Moon Resist design that is available on stickers, t-shirts etc. We will use the extremely versatile and easy backstitch to create a beautiful, gutsy statement. Like the zodiac design, I cover everything a beginner needs using detailed videos and print outs.
$30 - this gives you access to the course in perpetuity.
Planchette Pin Cushion
This workshop is for people with a little more confidence in their sewing. We use several stitches to make an embellished pin cushion in the shape of a Ouija planchette.
You will be taken through every step of the process using videos and print outs.
$35 - this gives you access to the course in perpetuity.
I don't have dates yet for when I will release these workshops, but if you sign up for my newsletter, you'll be the first to know when these is decided. You'll also get news when I have more workshops in development, as well as possible face to face sessions planned.
OK, back to binge watching horror and nursing my shingles.
This question comes up a lot with my artist friends. The argument sometimes is that creating is an indulgence when there is much work to be done to make the world a better place.
It’s a fair point but I don’t know that I agree. Here’s why:
I am back from a restorative trip to Britain where we spent time with family and marveled at the countryside and heritage that I have for so long taken for granted.
Returning to the US has been a strange mix of sadness but also relief to be in our home. I am thinking of ways I can use my art and skills to effect change while also trying to give myself some space to recover from the journey.
While I do this I plunge my hands in soil and rely on my craft for support and healing. I include here some pictures from my trip.
It has been an exhausting couple of weeks both personally and politically. Trying to work through grief and support my loved ones is not easy and it can fog the brain.
So I did the things I know will help me. I sat in my garden and turned to my community. I performed ritual and opened myself to intuition and the divine.
Last night I met with one of my covens and we talked about the state of the world and how it should be. To the outsider this might have seemed like an animated conversation that covered spirituality, politics etc and nothing more, but in the circle we created, we were conjuring and envisioning. Magic and witchcraft can hide in plain sight. Spellwork takes many forms, and sometimes the spells happen in our subconscious.
In my fiber art I explore this and use my work as a refuge.
As a witchy woman who already loves growing plants and making potions, natural dyeing is very exciting. Every time I do it, it feels like magick. I am never sure how the color will come out. Here is a video of dyeing with blueberries that were going moldy in my fridge and the finished brooch I made from the fabric.
As my work is not intended to be washed I like to be quite relaxed and let the process lead me. This method of sitting the fabric in the dye liquid (I added alum powder as a mordant) is from Slow Stitching by Clare Wellesley Smith.
I was a little intimidated by natural dyeing at first because it seemed so technical, but if you're willing to experiment it is actually pretty easy.
Lot's of terrible things happening in the world. So what to do? Make a sarcastic video tutorial!
It's great to have a hoop both to keep your work taut, and as an easy, economical way of displaying your finished project. Check out my new video on how to do it.
Like the video? Subscribe to my newsletter and be the first to learn about my online workshops coming this summer.
My journey into showing gratitude for my friendships continues with these flags or pennants. They were created for friend and coven member Safi Mahaba. She and I have been friends for many years now and her presence in my life feeds my soul.
Her work is full of beauty and activism. The Peace Gardens that she cultivated with her partner DeWayne Barton, were one of the reasons we moved to the neighborhood we have been in for over 10 years.
I could write endlessly of how the work of these two people have been important to my family. Their love of this special community has brought it back from pain and destruction caused by the racist policies of urbanization. I am grateful for their work and friendship. That is why I made these artworks that pay homage to the land and growth.
Safi and DeWayne are working hard on the next chapter of community cultivation called Blue Note Junction. Please take time to see the project here.