Reflections on my first year in the Coven… by a member

 Personally, I am greatly thankful to have found our coven and its wonderful members. Initially, I too was drawn to Wicca and began to do a lot of reading on the topic, practicing and reciting rituals alone when the Sabbats arrived and passed. This quickly became difficult to maintain due to the lack of guidance and support; was I doing everything correctly? Did I truly understand? It was difficult to tell! Now however, I know that I always have support and somebody to help me along a path that I feel a true connection with.

Whilst stepping into our path with some fresh knowledge of Wicca will certainly be very useful, you will also soon discover that although there will be a level of familiarity, there will also be a significant amount of difference to the understanding that you have built of witchcraft. 

To give you a little bit of background, our coven was formed in the early 1960’s by a group that held a significant interest in the local, traditional witchcraft of the Cotswolds. Looking at Gerald Gardner’s writings on Wicca, they were inspired to use some of the practices that he outlined as foundations on which to base Traditional Witchcraft practices from the Cotswolds.

Consistent with Gardnerian Wicca, our Coven has holds three degree levels after initiation that one can progress through within the coven, of course, having passed through the Probationer and Neophyte stages first.  Pre-Initiation, teachings follow closely to those of Wicca, however post-initiation they deviate and become very different from Wicca, relating to Traditional English Witchcraft.

A good place to begin would be to take a look at our perception of deity. On our Path, we hold that there are two gods: one male and one female, harmonising to create perfect balance and that form two parts of one complete whole. To us, a monotheistic belief system lacks this and therefore does not sit comfortably with the dualistic balance of nature and the universe as a whole. Taking a look back to Wicca, we see that over the various different traditions, the Goddess is quite often seen to be dominant, and the God is sometimes ignored completely; take Dianic Wicca for example, a tradition where generally the Goddess is largely worshipped alone by all-female groups of coveners. On the front of our athames, you will find a symbol depicting a crescent moon, connected to a sun below, descending into an arrow (although a slightly wonkily one my case!). This is a polarity symbol, representing opposing forces combining to create power; God and Goddess, male and female, sun and moon, light and dark. On the reverse side is a full moon between waxing and waning moons, representing the connection between the lunar phases and ritual work.

We believe that the God and Goddess in reality, do not hold physical forms, but instead are conscious powers; we choose to assign them forms based on historic European Deities, this is for our benefit; it is much more difficult to form a connection with the Gods in their formless and nameless state, it makes them tangible.  In Wicca, beliefs on deity tend to vary between individuals and covens quite widely. Some hold similar beliefs to ourselves, whereas others will believe in the Gods physical existence. Some practitioners will work with one deity, others a whole pantheon or personal selection; choosing any that they feel drawn to, from Diana to Anubis. Cernunnos is often chosen by Wiccans to represent the Horned God, although almost nothing is known of His ancient worship; Cernunnos is a simply means ‘Horned One’ and is not a name that we know was ascribed to him for certain.

A significant difference between our own path and a Wiccan one is a belief in the “Law of Threefold Return” which states that anything that you do, be it of good or bad intent, will come back on you three times over. Generally, Wiccans believe that if you do ‘good’, more good will come back to you; if you do ‘bad’, than that will too. According to occult author/researcher John Coughlin, the Law posits “a literal reward or punishment tied to one’s actions, particularly when it comes to working magic”. As written in the Wiccan Rede: “Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good. When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow. Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you. These Eight words the Rede fulfil: An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will”. On our path, we do not believe this law to be true, it was in fact jokingly mentioned to Gardner as a passing comment about harmful magic coming back upon you threefold, he however, took this seriously, providing us with the law that we see within Wicca today! It is much more important that we make our decisions fairly, basing them upon the feelings of coven members and general morality when faced with a difficult situation, opposed to a blanket ‘law’ for all scenarios.

In Wicca there are 8 Sabbats throughout the year: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh and Mabon; in the 1960’s, Gardnerian Wicca began to use these Celtic names for the Sabbats whereas Traditional Witchcraft in England never did, henceforth on our path we refer to the Greater Sabbats as: Candlemas, May Eve, Lammas and Halloween, with the Lesser Sabbats being the Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumnal Equinox and Winter Solstice. Something that is common between Wiccan beliefs and our own is the significance of the Wheel of the Year. It is highly beneficial to ensure that your workings are in tune with the natural seasonal cycles; even things that we do in our daily lives can be influenced similarly. We believe that there is a power within these yearly cycles, by aligning our activities to them; we are able to produce the greatest results. An example being this Halloween, after our ritual we threw handmade papier mache skulls onto a large fire, focusing on elements that we would like to remove from our lives. Halloween is a time largely associated with death and the spirits of our ancestors, as well as being the witches’ New Year; it is a time representative of endings, but also new beginnings. By throwing the skulls and watching them burn, we were visualising the end of our chosen topic, and moving mentally into a more positive new beginning, free of it.


Our working tools will also be familiar to somebody holds some knowledge of Wicca as they are commonly used across a majority of traditions. On an altar, we will generally place a candle, censer, salt dish, pentacle and our athame(s). Tools associated with the God and masculine energies will be placed to the right hand side of the altar, and those associated with the Goddess and feminine energies to the left. In Wicca, the preferred layout of an altar will vary greatly depending on the tradition; however, it can be said that the altar will be laid out with one side representing the God and the other, the Goddess. A minor difference that we possess, is the fact that we refer to our own personal book of notes, rituals, spells and recorded teachings as a ‘Grimoire’ (a medieval term, simply meaning ‘grammar’), opposed to the Wiccan ‘Book of Shadows’, a term coined in the 1950’s by Gerald Gardner.


Personally, I am greatly thankful to have found our coven and its wonderful members. Initially, I too was drawn to Wicca and began to do a lot of reading on the topic, practicing and reciting rituals alone when the Sabbats arrived and passed. This quickly became difficult to maintain due to the lack of guidance and support; was I doing everything correctly? Did I truly understand? It was difficult to tell! Now however, I know that I always have support and somebody to help me along a path that I feel a true connection with; I appreciate all of the support that I have been given, both in my learning and even up steep hills!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions you may wish to read before considering joining our Coven:

  • How do I join?

By downloading and completing our Application for Membership and emailing it to us at

  • Is it possible to meet prior to joining?

We prefer to meet potential members in a public place for coffee and a chat prior to any meeting with the Coven where possible. We strongly advise anyone thinking of joining a Coven to do the same. There are reputable Covens and disreputable Covens. Your safety is important.

  • How often does the Coven meet?

Presently we meet once a month, although this may at times alter.

  • Is attendance obligatory?

Attendance is not obligatory for pre-Initiate levels, however, it is strongly advised. However, if a member wishes to receive Initiation, the requirement for attendance is indispensable.

  • If I don’t attend, how do I learn?

Our online courses contain a mass of information and training materials. You must complete these step-by-step in order to progress. Your work is submitted to an allocated mentor, who will guide you and correct any errors.

  • Are there any hidden fees?

There are no hidden charges of any kind, however, if attending a Retreat in which food and accommodation is required, members are expected to contribute an equal share.

  • Does your Coven hold open rituals?

No, we don’t. Our meetings (Esbats and Sabbats) are for members only.

  • Does part of your practice include the worship of deities?

Yes, but in a traditional pagan manner.

  • What deities do you worship?

We hold that there is a male and a female deity, but we do not feel it appropriate to be over-prescriptive in this respect to our members and therefore provided that members accept that there is duality in the Divine, we leave it to them. It should be noted, however, that chosen deities must be European in origin.

  • I’m a little shy and concerned that I won’t fit in?

The Coven is friendly and welcoming and we go out of our way to make new members feel at ease so that they quickly assimilate as a member of our Coven.

  • What is the age range of the Coven membership?

We have members ranging from 21 through to our oldest member who’s 75. We do however require members to be reasonably fit and physically active.

  • Do I have to be 21 to join?

Yes, unfortunately, we do not accept members younger than this age.

  • Does the Coven practice any form of animal sacrifice?

No. We do not accept that animal sacrifice has any part in our practice.

  • Are your rites Skyclad (naked)?

No. Our rites are conducted in robes of types according to the grade of member.

  • Does The Great Rite form a part of First, Second, or Third Degree Initiation?

Our Coven does not follow Wicca in this regard and we do not believe that to achieve any Initiatory Degree a sexual act must be performed. Indeed, we regard this as fraught with potential for abuse. So the answer is a clear no.

The Witch’s Blade – Some Notes on the Athame

I suppose I was prompted to start writing this article because yet again I heard ‘athame’ pronounced in a somewhat idiosyncratic way (I’m being polite):  ‘ath-ah-may’, ‘ath-aim’, ‘ath-ugh-mee’….I’ve heard them all.  So let’s be very clear from the outset:  ‘Athame’ is pronounced  ‘ath-ay-me’,  not ‘ath–a-may’  or ‘ath-aim’ etc. But how do we know that?


The co-founder of Wicca, Doreen Valiente (and you don’t get a better authority than that!) says so on  Page 78 of her book ‘Witchcraft for Tomorrow’:

The typical weapon of Witchcraft is the athame, or ritual knife (pronounced ath-ay-me)’.

Now to be very clear, Doreen isn’t writing in a phonetical sense, so the last syllable is ‘me’ as in ‘you and me’ and definitely not as in ‘may’.

We can go off into all sorts of speculations about where the word originates from and how it might have been pronounced in whatever language back in the late Middle Ages, but frankly, this would be ‘an exercise in futility’ to quote Mr. Dillinger who used the phrase in a very different context.  We don’t pronounce the word ‘through’ in the guttural phonetic way it was originally pronounced by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors (like it is spelled), we pronounce it ‘thru’ today. So let’s put an end to the debate once and for all – athame is pronounced ‘ath-ay-me’ ( the middle syllable ‘ay’ as in the word ‘hay’ and the last syllable ‘me’ as in ‘you and me’).

I have long pondered leaving behind the word ‘athame’ and simply using instead ‘ritual dagger’, but somehow ‘athame’ feels right, probably because I have known it for so long now, well over 30 years.

An athame traditionally has a black hilt (= handle). The authority here again is Doreen Valiente:

Traditionally, the athame should have a black hilt, a circumstance which caused Gerald Gardner to think that it might be related to the Scottish Highlander’s skean-dhu, which literally means ‘black knife’ and, in fact, usually has a hilt of this colour’ – Page 78,  ‘Witchcraft for Tomorrow’.

I suspect that Gerald Gardner was being a little disingenuous with regard to his Scottish speculation – he almost certainly knew that ‘athame’ was one form of the word used in some French manuscript versions of the medieval grimoire ‘The Key of Solomon’.

The old grimoires give a variety of different markings that should be engraved on the hilt and/or blade.   The writers had specific reasons for these markings that may not be relevant to our own use.  I therefore believe that unless your particular Path or Tradition requires hilt markings, then unless you want to put them on….and can justify why you have done so…. then they are not necessary and your athame remains an athame even unmarked.


If you search eBay and other internet sites you will find a wide range of daggers being called ‘athames’.  Beware, they aren’t athames just because a seller calls them athames.  An athame should have a straight ‘dagger’ shaped blade or at least a blade the shape of a kitchen carving knife.  It can be single or double-edged, but those edges should not be sharp.  An athame is never used for mundane work such as cutting or killing for that matter. It is a weapon of the spiritual world, an extension of the will of its user as any ordinary dagger is, but the use of an athame is purely spiritual.  A lot is said about sharp edges being a danger in Circle work with others, this is obvious, but an athame still has a point even if it is blunt and if I fell on you with it, you are pretty much going to get stabbed. The real point about blunt edges and tip is that it emphasises its spiritual function.

The hilt of the athame should be wood, horn, blackened bone or even metal, but definitely not plastic or resin. The guard on the athame can be ornate or plain, it might not even have one.  The pommel (the bit on top of the hilt) can also be ornate or plain or, again, it might not have one.

The blade of the athame should be steel / iron or bronze.   Bronze would be unusual and perhaps more appropriate for a boline (the curved knife used for cutting herbs etc).  An athame does not have a blade made of wood.  Some people use them, but this is a modern invention perhaps promoted by crafters who can carve up a ‘wooden athame’ in a few minutes, burn a few markings into it and sell it on Etsy for a serious profit to the unwary.

I do not want to denounce innovations and so if you like your wooden ‘athame’, then fine, but don’t pretend to yourself that it has any traditional historical legitimacy as an athame.

And as to plastic or ‘bronze resin’ athames – ughhhh! Please don’t even go there.

The finest blades are hand-forged and are made by folding different grades of red-hot carbon steel over and over giving an end result of beautiful grain patterns on the blade – these are sometimes referred to as ‘damascus steel’, ‘watered steel’ or ‘pattern-welded steel’ blades.


Don’t be cheap when buying an athame. You buy the best cell phone you can afford so why buy a cheap and trashy athame from China when surely you should buy the most expensive one you can afford. After all, you intend to use it for spiritual purposes – the highest of all purposes.  Your purchase is a sacrifice – it should be, so don’t buy a piece of junk and wave it before the Gods and spirits as if you are proud of being cheap.

What if you cannot afford an expensive athame? Then buy what you can afford and save for a better one when you can afford it.  Think: ‘my cell phone cost ‘x’, surely, I can and should spend more on my athame’. Of course, you could always make an athame….and that is a real sacrificial act.  It doesn’t matter if you are not a master bladesmith, you tried and that is a true sacrifice and your athame, no matter how humble your efforts, will still be an athame and special.

But having said all this…Do you actually need an athame? It is after all a ‘prop’ and so whether you do or don’t is up to you. if you feel satisfied with conjuring a Circle by pointing your finger at the perimeter, dipping it into a chalice to exorcise the water in it, or even commanding a demon with your finger, fine!  Maybe all the medieval grimoires that recommended ‘black hilted daggers’ didn’t take into account such a powerful person as you.  Personally, I need to use and athame.



(Many thanks to Arts-of-Darkness eBay store for the athame photographs)

The Witch’s Cauldron – tips for buying and maintenance


Cauldrons – to be cauldrons – should be cauldron shaped! If it isn’t that shape
you simply have a pot or pan. Frankly, that doesn’t matter for practical
purposes but somehow a cauldron looks and feels a lot more ‘witchy’
than a new stainless-steel saucepan just bought from the supermarket!

Very occasionally you might find a cauldron with a side handle like the one our
friend in the photo above is using, but the most common is this type with the
handle joined at both sides:

Here is some advice on what to avoid when choosing a cauldron for use in witchcraft (or just in general):

  • Look carefully at how the legs are attached to the base of the
    cauldron – Do NOT buy a cauldron with legs that have been riveted on rather than cast on all in one piece. Those with rivetted legs always leak or will do so sooner or


    A riveted cauldron. Note and beware the three rivet marks inside!

  • Do not buy cauldrons where there is a lot of rust that has corroded the iron to
    make the base too thin so that it is almost breakable – rust is fine, it is to be
    expected on an old cauldron, but too much rust is another matter altogether.
  • Do not buy brass or copper cauldrons if you intend to use them to make
    potions or drinks; the metal can contaminate the liquid and so iron is best. If
    all you are going to use the cauldron for is burning incense inside then it
    doesn’t matter if it is copper, brass, iron or bronze.
  • Do not buy a cauldron made of pewter – any direct heat applied to it will cause
    it to melt like a candle and indeed, you can melt pewter over a candle flame!
    It doesn’t have to have a lid and most old / antique cauldrons either never had
    them in the first place or have lost them at some time because a previous
    owner didn’t want to use a lid.
  • Do not EVER buy plastic unless it is like the massive plastic one our coven uses in Element Rites. Plastic is of no use for any general purposes…. but
    dragging and carrying an immense water-filled cast iron cauldron to the middle
    of a wood is not a very practical proposition! ……and then of course there is
    the problem of hitchhikers……                                                                                                          cauldron3                                                    

Cauldrons can be suspended over a fire by their handles or chains from branches or a triangular framework in metal or wood:


From around the mid 1990’s cauldrons began to be made with the Wiccan
market in mind and are cast with pentagrams and triple moons etc. They are
made well and are inexpensive. Personally, we prefer the traditional
unembellished style but if the type below appeals to you they should serve you well.




One of our members recently found and bought the little antique iron cauldron below. It measures just 5 ½ inches by 4 ½” diameter (14cm x11cm). He’s been looking for a small
antique one this size for ages and uses it for brewing interesting potions
and also for burning incense inside. (Note of caution: add a liner to the cauldron when burning incense, or just put sand or salt in to insulate the charcoal and prevent burns!).
So, now you want to know where to buy a cauldron and how to look after it? 

…Even Amazon sells them now as does eBay. Old ones come up on eBay sometimes at reasonable prices and sometimes at prices bordering on insanely expensive…

Also, just because the seller says it’s a cauldron doesn’t mean it is – it has to look like one
and not just a pot or bowl – sellers put the word ‘cauldron’ into the description
to attract naïve and unwary buyers ….usually as Halloween approaches.

Having bought your cauldron, you need to clean it – a new one with warm
soapy water / an old one with a wire brush ….and then warm soapy water!
Check for leaks at this stage and if ANY water no matter how little is leaking
out, return it to the seller and get your money back. Leaks have a tendency to
get worse under heat or over time.

Once cleaned you need to ‘prove’ the cauldron: All you need is 1-2 tablespoons
of olive oil and some salt depending on the size of the cauldron. Pour the oil
into the pan and sprinkle salt liberally all over the inside. Heat over moderate
heat until smoking hot, and then carefully rub the salt and oil well into the pan
with a paper towel. Remove from the heat and wipe dry. Proving provides a
natural protective ‘Teflon’ type coating which is non-toxic (unlike Teflon).