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.