Growing up in a non-religious household made it hard for me to connect with kids whose families went to church, prayed before dinner, or celebrated religious holidays.
I’ve been inside a church exactly once in my life: when I was 10, after the sudden death of a classmate, for his memorial service.
When I share this bit of information, especially as an adult, the reactions I get vary from disgust to shock to horror.
My family never asked me to lean into any particular faith, despite some members of my family being very religious, and though I wasn’t cognizant enough to appreciate it then, I am now.
I’m glad they didn’t push me.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t have discovered and fallen in love with witchcraft as a teenager, and I wouldn’t have my coven to connect with now.
“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” from the book of Exodus, has been frequently misinterpreted and re-adapted to the more common phrase, “blood is thicker than water.” According to Thought Catalog, the original quote talks about soldiers on the battlefield, whose bloodshed in battle connects them more deeply than genetics.
In the 1920s, Egyptologist, archaeologist, folklorist, anthropologist, and historian Margaret Murray popularized the term “coven” with her claim that witches across Europe gathered in groups of 13, called covens. Though Murray’s ideas are widely disputed, she helped give rise to the neo-paganism movement we call Wicca and provided “historical validity” to witchcraft as something beyond female hysteria and attention-grabbing.
According to Murray’s hypothesis, covens were made up of women who joined of their own free will and were never more than 13 members. Each one devoted themselves to “The Master:” a god who could take on many forms, including animal and human.
Covens would worship him, sacrifice to him, and honor him in various ceremonies.
My coven doesn’t worship a man. We don’t sacrifice animals (in fact, many of us — including myself — are vegan), don’t dance naked in the woods (though some of us absolutely would), don’t swear blood oaths (because it stains).
Those images of witches we see in Shakespeare and on occult-focused TV shows are typically sensationalized and based on myths that have surrounded witches for centuries. Some of us don’t identify as women, and there aren’t 13 of us (though we recognize the power of that number, and The Rule of Three, and the importance of pairs for creating balance).
Here’s what we do: support each other; lend magic to each other when one person speaking their needs and desires into the universe simply isn’t enough; communicate about our successes, failures, desires, and concerns; provide spell tips and tricks when we can’t spend time face-to-face working through things as a group.
By the traditional definition, we don’t fit the mold of a coven at all.
However, if you set aside those technicalities, then it’s clear that our coven is strong, fierce, and powerful. Our individual abilities bring the group together in often unexpected but always wonderful ways, and the force with which we storm through the world is revolutionary and terrifying.
Our friendships are also tighter because we open up our rawest, most vulnerable selves with each other. Sharing a spiritual practice with other people places you into a particularly vulnerable position—the trust required is immense because these people have the ability to hurt the deepest parts of you: the parts that are faithful to an outside power.
Our coven has come together slowly, across miles and jobs and more. Sharing my magical practice with others began with my partner.
We discovered, not long after we first met, that we have both been dabbling in witchcraft for about the same amount of time. Our house is protected by our combined energy, regular smoke cleansing, purification spells, and love.
Last year, when nightmares claimed me night after night, my partner made a small sleep charm to put on my pillow to help me rest. We chose the ingredients together, and they imbued it with love and good intentions and warmth.
It still helps me fall and stay asleep, even when my dreams are strange.
A friend of mine who also acts as my witchy mentor worked with me once upon a time in a crappy retail job. She taught me how to hone my practice and in the process, we became much, much closer than just coworkers or even casual work friends. I opened up to her about the trauma I had yet to process myself, let alone share with others, and she guided me through it with patience, understanding, and advice that I still hold dear.
We live states apart now, but we talk regularly. I rely on her guidance and trust her with closely guarded secrets, and she has never betrayed that trust.
Other members of our coven met through mutual friends.
The first time we all spent time together as a group, we cast a protective circle, asked each other deeply personal questions, and settled in for a night of tarot, smoke cleansing, and group intention-setting. Since then, we have rarely been able to coordinate schedules to hang out — but we still take time to check in when we see each other struggling, through social media posts or in person.
We are brutally, painfully honest with each other about bad habits, mental health, family strife, relationship woes, and trauma. We constantly share our trauma, then work through it as a team, and the feeling is one of utmost, brightest healing, even when it hurts like hell to speak the words or write them down.
Sometimes, we drift. That’s okay.
We accept that things don’t always stay the same.
I never expected to feel so powerfully connected to this group of people, especially as a young teen when I was first exposed to practical magic. Practicing witchcraft — both on my own and with others — has taught me that the universe moves on its own axis.
We have to let it.