When I joined the coven on January 2nd 2022 I had been looking for something just like it for some time. I knew that Wicca wasn’t exactly the Path for me, although some of the practices appealed, as I found there were certain ideologies that did not suit me and some parts were prescriptive to the point that it did not suit me either.
So, based on my fairly long-term interest in traditional folk customs and folk witchcraft, I set out to find a coven that focussed on traditional witchcraft, and finally found The Cotswold Coven’s website.
I applied for membership and in the process had to explain, properly and for the first time, why I wanted to pursue this. That process in itself was an interesting experience and allowed me to put into words and reflect on the reasons why I wanted to do this. At that time, I felt a great need for a magical community and a place to learn, and a great longing for a teacher who knew this other world, could guide and advise and who felt as strongly as I did about the calling to this work, and I definitely found that J.
I started the work, and it created such a mingling of feelings. As I had a small amount of experience already (though I was full of doubt due to not knowing whether the information I had was reliable as I wasn’t sure of good sources) some of the papers I started with were a nice easing in, this was good and confirmed and corrected some of my existing knowledge and preconceptions. At times, however, I would experience overwhelm too. I would read something short and my thoughts would all go off in different directions at once! I began to realise the vastness of this as an area of study, which both daunted and thrilled at the same time. I began to feel that this would (and should) be a life-long Path, a long journey that would go winding off into my future, and there was a certain reassurance in this. I’ve often wondered about what gives a life meaning and this is certainly one of the things that brings meaning to mine. I was reminded of how, in school, my peers would discuss the meaning of life and wonder at the vastness of the question. They would strain and try and try to find the answer, never finding it and instead finding a void. I’m not suggesting that it’s not a question worth asking, it is, but I found that when I thought about the same question, I found that I did not accept the question, and instead decided that the power was actually mine to decide what meaning I wanted in My life, that it was purely personal with no over-arching answer that would satisfy all. It can be assigned and chosen, not just questioned. I could attribute any meaning to my life, and I knew that witchcraft was always going to be a journey that enriched my existence and working with this coven has proven that to be true.
It was when I felt the pull to witchcraft that I knew that I wanted a life dedicated to connection and relationship to the universe, spirit, other witches, my plants, the Old Gods I’d found a pull towards yet couldn’t quite define, a life of magic, freedom and discovery.
The Path with this coven has, and this is one of the teachings I have found most valuable so far, given me the freedom to define deity and the Divine on my own terms. There are underpinning teachings, and I absolutely love these, but appreciated so much the freedom to create my understanding of and relationship with the Divine in my own way.
I was pleased to find an academic thread to the learning as well, and an emphasis on knowing background. Although I feel like I’ve only skimmed the surface of this so far, it’s reassuring and gives a sense of good grounding and foundation to the studies.
When I started I only had a few books, inherited from my mother in a mystery suitcase when I turned 18 (so many things made sense after that!!), the books were largely Wiccan which was interesting, but I was very happy to see a reading list when I joined the coven so that I could add to my collection with well vetted books.
Something I remember strongly before joining what that I had always struggled (despite feeling the huge pull to witchcraft) to really define it and define what the Path for me really looked like. I would look at information, mainly on the internet (and later in books when I realised that the internet was almost entirely full of nonsense, there are however some great corners which are worth a look when you find them!) and I felt daunted by the huge amounts of information, often contradictory information, often vague and fundamentally flawed, and I just knew I needed to find some help with all of this. However, as I started progressing through the coven’s papers, the sense of overwhelm decreased and I realised that the thing about a path is that you don’t see it all at once, it’s a journey, you learn things along the way, and it could indeed be very long and crooked and you might never reach the end. Using this analogy helped a lot, and I began to worry less that I didn’t know lots and lots already.
The papers were enjoyable and when I began to work learning the first ritual practice, I started to really feel at home with this. I’ve always felt such a pull to ritual and ceremony, to the combining of aesthetic, intention, action, words (though not necessarily), concentration and feeling, and all the other things I enjoy and try to bring into ritual work.
This first fundamental ritual felt like a step on the Path, it felt like a significant milestone, the start of the practical application of knowledge. My personal definition of magic has always included that magic is the study of the seen and unseen universe and then the practical application of that knowledge. I was starting to see things take shape.
Dedication, a ritual at which a relatively new member has proceeded to specific point on the Path commits to proceed further into these mysteries, was a wonderful experience, I felt like I was absolutely in the right place at the right time, and it went well thankfully, no words forgotten which was of course a concern! Meeting and spending time with other members has been wonderful too, my teacher inspires me, is kind, very experienced and has a determined and motivating nature which is great, and the other members are interesting and varied and knowledgeable and I look forward to spending more time with them.
From Dedication I began working on the second stage leading ultimately to Initiation as a witch on our Path. I found the work was fascinating. I enjoyed doing more meditative and visualisation work, and very much enjoyed the practical work required.
As my studies have progressed with the coven, I have also dipped back into my old, well-loved practises from folk-magic. Of journeying in spirit through the hole in a hag stone to a secret cave, of exploring dark and misty places and trying to develop some witch sight, of rekindling my relationship with the trees and plants and land around me, and of ancestral honouring. Re-visiting these things with a new eye and with new experiences has been vastly beneficial. The Path this coven has brought me to has helped me to define a lot of the things I had struggled to define before.
To have a new and developed understandings of God and Goddess, I have considered the conscious and subconscious mind in the context of a magical practise, explored the coven’s teachings on sympathetic and talismanic magic, and this has broadened my horizons in such valuable ways.
I’m starting to see this magical world taking shape and unfolding some of its multitude of mysteries.
Tomorrow I hope to undertake Initiation, and it feels like another significant step on this Path. I can’t wait to see what awaits me on the other side, around the next turn on this coven’s crooked Path of the witch.
Footnote: The coven is delighted to report that the writer of the above account received Initiation on September 17th 2022. We wish her well as she walks along our Path ever further into the mysteries.