The truth behind The Coven of witchcraft

    Witches do not prowl the darkness on Halloween, cackling at children and sending their black cats to cross peoples’ paths. In reality, they get together to worship and party. On the night of Oct. 25, Wiccans swarmed the Scottish Rite Center in Mission Valley for the 16th annual Witches’ Night Out. Calafia, the local chapter of Covenant of the Goddess, put on this event for 600 members of the Wiccan community and the public.

    “”[The event] has been growing,”” said Christine Brockway, membership correspondence officer for Calafia. “”We have limited the number of people who come because we have to have some room to do the ceremony, [We’ve] been sold out for a good week or two now.””

    Brockway claims that Wicca has been called the fastest growing religion in America today.

    “”It is hard to determine exact numbers because sometimes people feel that for career or family reasons they must and remain in the broom closet,”” Brockway said.

    Covenant of the Goddess is a league of covens and individuals from the United States, Canada and abroad. It was legally established on Oct. 31, 1975, as a non-profit religious corporation, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of any church. The local branch, Calafia, holds monthly business meetings and raises money for scholarships and library books, in addition to being the connection between local covens (small groups of witches) and solitary practitioners.

    Witches’ Night Out is a public solemn ritual. The rite itself varies from year to year, depending on the wishes of the High Priest and High Priestess.

    “”It’s individual in the sense of how someone may want to present it,”” Brockway said. “”Last year’s ceremony was the Living Tarot; that was a different ceremony than we’ve done before, but they put a lot of work in it.””

    Witches’ Night Out is the celebration of Samhain, one of the eight seasonal festivals equally spaced during the year, of which Oct. 31 is one. This is believed to be a night when the barriers between the worlds of life and death are uncertain, allowing deceased ancestors to walk among the living. At these eight festivals, witches seek to raise energy and put themselves in tune with these natural forces. They honor the old goddesses and gods, including the Triple Goddess of the waxing, full and waning moon and the Horned God of the sun and animal life.

    Witchcraft itself is a magical religion that derives its traditions from various cultural and historical sources. It is an earth religion, which means that its members strive to be in harmony with the earth and with all life. Earth religions oppose the exploitation of the earth as a resource to be subdued. Also called Wicca, witchcraft attempts to link to the life force of nature, on earth and beyond. The religion revolves around the idea that each person possesses the ability experience a feeling of oneness with all life. There is no bible, no one document to study, but a witch may keep a Book of Shadows, which is an individual workbook or journal.

    So how can witches be considered one group if they do not share a common text?

    “”It’s not like we’re Episcopalians or Lutherans or something like that,”” Brockway said. “”[There is a] basic structure, but a great deal of variance among covens.””

    There are certain principles that almost all Wiccans subscribe to. The first is the Wiccan Rede, their version of the Golden Rule. It reads, “”Do as you will, as long as you harm none.”” The second idea is the Threefold Law: “”All actions, whether positive or negative, have a natural consequence and what you do is returned to you threefold.”” Lastly, most believe in the idea of reincarnation. Myths about witches are often perpetuated by popular culture, yet investigations into the religion quickly invalidate these.

    First, witches do not worship the devil. In fact, they do not believe in the devil at all. The C.O.G. Web site asserts that Satanism is a Christian heresy rather than a pagan religion. In addition, witches are not only women; in England, men actually dominate the religion. However, do not call these men warlocks, because most would take offense at this. Wiccan men are called witches. Contrary to many cartoons, witches do not fly on brooms. This persistent image comes from a misinterpretation of an old rural European ceremony. Finally, witches rarely cast spells because caution must be exercised under the Threefold Law. To find out more about witchcraft, you have to go seek out information in books or online.

    “”We are actually told [in the religion] that we may not proselytize,”” Brockway said.

    However, a great deal of information about Wicca can be found on the Coven of the Goddess Web site at http://www.cog.org and at the local Calafia Web site, http://www.cogcalafia.org.

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