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Coven, circle or moot? What do they mean?

By Louisa With lockdown restrictions slowly lifting, thoughts are naturally turning to meeting up with other Pagans.

With that in mind, we thought it was a good time to talk about the different types of meet ups that exist within the Pagan world.

The most popular type of meeting, the one name most people have read about, heard about, and express interest in, is also the most rare, and the most misunderstood. The Coven.

A Coven is a group of people that meet up regularly to work together. Most covens meet up on the 8 esbats and sabbats, as well as the 13 full moons. They usually have a defined hierarchy, with a Priest and a Priestess (or a duo with complimentary masculine and feminine energy) leading the group. The number of members is sometimes limited to 13, to represent the number of moons in a year. Joining a coven is by invitation only, members are usually initiated, sworn to secrecy, and are expected to put the coven above all else. Covens are often Wiccan, and are very rarely of mixed paths. Joining a coven is a very serious undertaking. It is hard work, and it takes up a lot of time.

Covens are not the only way we meet up.

In fact, covens make up the very smallest type of meet up we have. They are actually pretty rare.

Covens sit at the very top of the Pagan Meeting Triangle, with Druid groves, family groups, magical partnerships and all other private, initiation and/or secret groups. These types of groups are all smaller, very tight knit, and involved They usually require a defined level of participation and attendance.

The bottom of our triangle is where the Moots sit.

Yes, Moot is a weird word. It's a very old Anglo Saxon word used to describe a meeting where people debate things. Us Pagans like old words, and this one certainly suits what a moot is. Put simply, it's an old word for a meeting.

Moots are the very most common type of Pagan meet up. There are hundreds, if not thousands, held in pubs, cafés and other public meeting rooms all across the country. They are free to join, and are generally open to all Pagan paths. They are very relaxed and friendly, no invitation necessary, just find out where it is and rock up. You can find information about local moots from your local Facebook groups or the Pagan Federation.

The middle of our triangle is taken up with 2 similar types of group.

Working/Ritual groups and Circles.

A circle is a bit more involved than a moot. Circles have the social elements of a moot, but they are usually held in more private places where they devote some of their time to sharing knowledge. Some circle groups hold lectures and Q&A sessions with individual members, experts and teachers. Some devote certain meet ups to discussing certain topics. Some organise specific lessons for their members. They are usually open to all Pagan paths. Initiation, secrecy and devotion are not required, members are not expected to attend every meeting. Circles will often ask for a minimal monetary donation, usually a few pounds, towards room hire, teachers expenses and any equipment that is used.

Working/Ritual groups are groups that meet to do magical workings and/or hold rituals on the 8 esbats and sabbats. Some meet monthly. These groups meet up in privately hired rooms, or within members houses. Most are invitation only. Some are like relaxed versions of a coven, with no limits to group size or attendance requirements. Some stick to one particular Pagan path, others are open to all.

Whether you are new to the path, or a seasoned traveller, it's lovely to be able to sit with like minded people and openly discuss, well, anything you want without prejudice, pressure or that glazed face people make when they simply don't get what you're emphatically explaining.

Finding others wasn't always easy, when I started my path 25 years ago you had to join the Pagan Federation or scan primitive internet message boards and classified ads in newspapers to find others. Social media turned all of that difficulty on its head, and suddenly other pagans were just a few clicks away. Local Facebook groups lead to local moots, and before you know it you've made a whole raft of new real life friends and possibly been given an invitation to a circle, working group, ritual group, or even a coven.

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