The Modern Coven
For a really long time, I had a hard time with the word witch. In my early twenties when I was first getting my feet wet with ideas that were outside of the box for me - like spirits and auras - I felt really afraid of the word witch.
Sure. At first it was exciting and fun. I felt like my life was a storybook. Harry Potter was a thing. Practical Magic and the Witches of Eastwick were cool. It felt like even the air had magic in it. But then as I got more and more serious about the things I was exploring, I actually felt afraid.
I thought I was raised religious. I'm now learning I wasn't. Growing up, my dad was an atheist, and my mom had a belief system that we didn't really talk about. I don't remember religion in my house when I was young and when the days were good.
When I was eleven, my dad died, and my mom fell back on her religion hard. She wanted my sister and I to fall back on it, too. We were thrown into bible studies, religious rituals, and other things that never felt right to me. It lasted for a few years, and I fought it the entire way. I don't know why. My sister accepted it readily. But I challenged everything, and I'm sure I exhausted my mother when she was only trying to guide me.
By the time I was a teenager, she let up. As a reaction, I became hardcore into science and atheism, and I stayed that way for years... until I entered my twenties.
I used to think my religious upbringing was the reason I felt so afraid of the word witch - but I wasn't really raised religious. And I definitely never accepted it in my heart. I think it was a bigger societal pressure that I didn't really understand as a young woman.
Now that age 30 is knocking on my door, I think the word witch is extremely feminist-y. These were the first women to stand in their power. These were the first women that challenged men - and that men were afraid of. These were women who knew the rhythm of their bodies and the moon and the connectedness to everything around them - they were dialled in, and that is incredibly powerful and empowering. They were magic makers simply because they decided they didn't have to follow the norm or what society deemed socially acceptable.
They were true.
And they could design they're own sacred rituals.
I can appreciate why that would be frightening to a person. We've always been led to believe that women are this weak, subspecies of man. Like we were never finished being built, and left with a hole for man to fill. Like we were incomplete. Less.
Now, when I hear the word witch, I picture a feminist. I think of someone aware of culture, and cultural appropriation. I think of someone who celebrates the gay community. I think of artists. I think of mothers. I think of the eternal student. I think of magic, and crystals, and plant ladies and cat ladies and dog ladies and animal lovers and vegans and small businesses and makers.
I think of how that one word feels like it sums up everything I like about being a woman.
And I want us to take that word back.
Because anything a man can do, I can do while bleeding. And that's seriously fucking intense if you really sit with it and think about it. That is some serious magic. It's magic how my body just knows to do that - knows to shed and heal. It's magic that my body just knows how to grow a human being. Knows how to push it from my body and heal itself. It's magic that my spirit can have hunches and intuition, and know when my friend needs me. It's magic that my dreams can carry whispers from loved ones who have passed, or foretell things to come.
THE MODERN COVEN
I like to think every woman is a witch. Every woman is intuitive, magical, and deserving of equality and empowerment. Someone stole the word witch from us and made it feel uncertain, or even bad. But you know what? I think the words woman and witch should be synonyms, because we are all magical, strong, inspiring and powerful - even if we've been held down or "taught" otherwise.
The female body is a vessel for the universe to drop her secrets into. Normally, I don't like the word vessel because it makes me feel like an object and not a person. But I understand the sentiment even if the words could be modernized, and I do feel as a woman that I am a vehicle for the universe - or a way to transfer grand cosmic secrets through.
Like a crystal, creating rainbows against the wall when the light passes through it. I am a crystal, and I can cast energetic rainbows throughout my planet and community when the universe passes through me.
And that sure sounds like some magical shit to me.
Every woman has a small gathering of other women that she falls to for community and support. I think that very idea is very much what it means to be a woman. We understand, crave and thrive on community. A community can be a digital platform or social network. It can be family. It can be a Tuesday night hangout, or a sanity-saving mom-group. It can be monthly brunches with mimosas and topknots.
A coven is a group of women who gather regularly - and I think in modern times that "gathering" can be in the physical space, and even a digital space.
We all have our safe covens if we look at our lives with a magical eye.
WHAT IS A COVEN?
A coven is first and foremost - a safe place.
And it's not so much a place as it is "a people." You know how a person can be your home? It's the same idea as that. A group of women can be your safe place.
A coven is a likeminded support system.
You may each have different things you're interested in, but you also have some shared interests that you're curious about. And I don't think it necessarily has to be spells or potions. It can be crystals. The moon. Plants. Animals. Entrepreneurship. Feminism. Whatever it is, you share it with your coven. Traditionally, covens were centred around occult practices like herbal remedies, feminine rituals or worshipping lunar gods and deities - or even cosmic synchronicities. I think each of those areas can be modernized to fit with the changeable cultures found in the new millennium, because we have ideas and practices now that we didn't have then, and I think it's important to accommodate our evolving curiosities.
A coven is loyal.
The women in a coven may be best friends who see each other constantly. But they may also only see each other regularly, or even occasionally. The frequency of hang sessions doesn't really matter; the loyalty to one another, holding space for another and hearing one another is more important. Often, when you share your vulnerable side, and it is received with love and understanding, an unspoken loyalty is born.
A coven is more than two people, but no set number.
Traditionally, a European witchcraft practicing coven was thirteen women - thought to be an auspicious number. But I think a Modern Coven can be from three to even 20 women. (Personally, I think four to seven is the sweet spot.) A women's leadership group of 40 women can be a coven if there is a likeminded, loyal, safe support system. But usually, when a coven grows to that size, it breaks off into smaller groups. Think back to your friend circles or social groups when you were younger; there may have been a bunch of you, but a couple of you broke off into little subgroups. This used to happen in traditional covens when they grew too large - they broke off into subgroups/subcovens. Funny how we intuitively adopt that very practice in our social circles whether we have a formal coven or not! That's because covens are deeply and intuitively feminine without even trying. They celebrate, and crank up feminine instincts and rituals that can sometimes be downplayed or ignored in our outward patriarch-driven society. And maybe because... we're all witches. Intuitive. Strong. Magical.
And, of course, a Modern Coven can expand and contract, but there is usually a core that feels good and feels safe. Two women, however, are a magical bond or friendship but not a coven. A coven needs to have more than a pair.
A coven is a feeling.
If you reflect on your own group of women, I'm sure you have a coven that comes to mind. Those women, when all together, bring a certain feeling with them. They feel safe. They fill you up. They may bring challenges, but they're your people inside your heart. There may also be something special when you're all together, too.
HOW CAN YOU STRENGTHEN YOUR COVEN?
Celebrate your Woman Magic
Share some of the struggles you each experience, specifically in areas where it pertains to your womanhood. This can be about struggling to conceive a baby, feeling the patriarchy at your workplace, or feeling irritated with your boyfriend's boorish Sunday night sports obsession. Talk about some of the things you come up against because you're a woman, and then celebrate all the reasons why it's incredible to be a woman. Remind each other of some of the accomplishments women of colour have made for us. Celebrate our growing awareness about mental wellness, birth control and motherhood. Discuss what it means to be a women, and how that feeling can exist regardless of what reproductive organs you have. Let yourselves candidly and openly talk about what it means to be a woman.
Have a set time or place where you meet to reconnect and recharge
Modern schedules are bonkers. It can be hard to coordinate with other busy women. Making a set time when you know you're gathering can make your Modern Coven feel closer, more magical and stronger. You can see each other at different times, but having a set ritual helps to feel connected to a universal magic that we sometimes struggle to stay connected to in modern times. I like to meet my girlfriends once per season - on the solstice or equinox for a special evening together. We bring treats, plan something special to coordinate with the season, and hang out late. No men or children are allowed, and we rotate houses so we each host.
Tell your women they're your coven!
Hearing another woman declare this to you feels really good. It feels really special and nice and celebratory and like we're stronger together. Sending your ladies a text saying, "OMG... are we a Modern Coven?" is totally acceptable IMO.
Talk about the things you can't talk about anywhere else
Maybe it's the struggles you're having with your partner or child. Maybe it's an issue in your career. Create a safe space to talk about anything you need to so you really feel that you're not alone. Because you're not. And, I think it's very important to talk about sex and feeling empowered in your sexuality, because we're often taught that men are the ones with a sexual appetite, and we're ridden with headaches and zero sex drive. Hearing other women talk about sex openly and candidly is really really great, because we're all human and we all have sexual desires and tendencies that we're allowed to have, regardless of what the outside world may think.
Tell them they're magical powers
My girlfriends and I did this and it was absolutely hilarious and bonding to look at our modern skills and talents and try to pair them with "traditional magical" ideas. Covens don't need to feel rigid or extremely serious. Women are playful creatures of the moon! The Plant Witch sold plants - so that was easy. But the marketing guru in our coven became the Shapeshifting Witch because she could transform other company's images and turn them into something beautiful. The writer was Spell Witch because words, and I was Crystal Witch because... well, Rogue Wood. Someone started googling complementary photos for each witch title, and the next thing we knew we were laughing hysterically via text while being each in our separate homes.
But super connected, you know? Like a Modern Coven.
While covens were traditionally isolated to women who practiced witchcraft, I think the most important things to remember are that your Modern Coven feels safe, has fun, and celebrates and supports you. All religions and spiritual practices are evolving at this time in our lives. They're transforming at hyper speed, and it's our duty to find the things that feel good to us, don't hurt others, and puts more love out into the world. Create some sacred rituals just for your Modern Coven, and take back your magic.
The Modern Coven doesn't take itself too seriously all the time, but it also knows when to be quiet and hold space for its members. It's "a people" that reminds you to take pride in your femininity, divine feminine magic, and that you're all trying the best you can with what you have.