Can you explain the coven’s seal?
The seal of the Coven of Cerridwen is a pantacle comprising the following six glyphs:
A shield, representing North, elemental Earth and the principle of protection.
A sword, representing East, elemental Air and the martial principle.
A flower, representing South, elemental Fire and the principle of inspiration.
A cup, representing West, elemental Water and the principle of empowerment.
A pentagram, representing the microcosm
A circle, representing the macrocosm
The symbolism of the seal derives from the poem The Sword. The symbolism differs from the usual attribution of the athame and the cup, though where appropriate we also use the traditional attributions when it suits our purpose.
Why do we use “priest” instead of “priest and priestess”?
We use the word priest in a non-gendered way to refer to someone of any gender (similar to how “actor” is now used in a non-gendered way). To put it another way, a priest can be defined as ‘one who priests.’
Our recension of the Alexandrian tradition deliberately avoids assigning gendered roles in ritual, so there is no requirement to differentiate between, for example, the traditional High Priest and High Priestess roles.
Why are your initiation rituals made public? Doesn’t that ruin the mystery and surprise?
Anyone who has been through such an initiation knows first-hand, it really doesn’t matter how many times you’ve read the ritual, or how familiar you think you are with it, even if you have witnessed one as a visitor — when you are wearing the blindfold, with your hands tied behind your back, with a large sword pointing at your heart, the experience is quite different.
If it bothers you, you are of course welcome to not read them.
Why do you not have any oathbound material/mysteries?
Oathbound material is, in our opinion, neither useful or conducive to the comity of a coven. Frequently, oathbound material is often available from other sources if you look hard enough. Learning magick is a journey for everyone concerned, whatever their level of experience — hiding the road maps does no one any favors beyond the few who would use possession of Secrets as a way to inflate their social standing.
Mysteries are something else again, however. Some material can not be transmitted in either written or oral form, and must be experienced — they can’t readily be taught, even though we might wish that it were possible. The best teachers, ultimately, are the Spirits, and that’s entirely a matter for you and them.
Do you use a Scourge in your rituals?
In the traditional Gardnerian and Alexandrian systems, a scourge (flogger) is used ritually, particularly in the 1st and 2nd degree initiations. The scourge has existed at least since ancient Egypt, and as a punishment is referred to in Hebrew and Christian biblical texts. As a magickal tool, in recent times its use appears to stem largely from Gardner himself, who evidently had a bit of a penchant for such activities. We have used a scourge in our initiations when we were still using the more old school Gardnerian/Alexandrian rituals, but have moved on from using them.
It is possible to use scourging to access altered states — this is a technique that has been used for centuries, though is certainly not for everyone because it typically requires scourging much more intensely and for longer periods.
Why don’t you use a Book of Shadows?
We have several reasons for not using a traditional Book of Shadows (BoS) that is passed down and copied by hand. Such an approach to disseminating information became obsolete with the invention of movable type, and now, with ubiquitous internet access and wiki technology, there really would be no advantage to the old tradition beyond just doing it for the sake of being an old-school Witch. Traditions survive by continuous refinement — casting them in stone inevitably kills them over time.
A second, slightly less obvious, reason is that we do not wish to limit ourselves to the material contained in a BoS. There is significant advantage in learning to invent ritual on the fly as it is needed — priesting from the seat of the pants, if you like. Rote, formulaic learning makes achieving this ability harder, so we avoid requiring it where necessary.
It is likely that the practice of maintaining a Book of Shadows derives from the older practice that dates back at least to the renaissance period of keeping a personal Book of Spirits that records the names, seals and other information about all of the spirits that the Witch or Magician works with on a regular basis. This can be a worthwhile practice that we do recommend, along with maintaining a magickal diary.
Is exclusivity required, or can I also follow another path or paths?
No exclusivity is required or expected. You are free to do as you Will. Other paths may be difficult to combine with ours, typically because of prevailing attitudes and customs, but we would, by principle, never stand in your way.
How often does the coven meet and what kind of rituals do you have?
Our covens have generally meet about twice a month, although, sometimes the schedule is changed depending on need. Unlike groups some of us have been in in the past, we don’t require students to be at every single ritual without fail, nor do we always have them on the days that are expected. Sometimes we will do a ritual on a particular day or time for a particular purpose, or cancel or switch a day to accommodate busy schedules (including our own!). If you are interested in attending a coven meeting, please contact us for more information.