Usually the Satanist feels the need for socialization and experience swap. I don’t know one Satanist who remained solitary forever and always. There are many advantages when working with a group. First of all, the energy of a ritual grows immensely when conducted by more people. There is an exchange and transference of energy vital to the ritual’s goal. Second of all, it is a good chance to learn, gain help or give help to others. And third but not least, it is a great opportunity for group rituals and celebrations.
For such an occasion, the individual Satanist must either create a new group or join another. Such a group is traditionally called a Coven (also called Grotto by some Satanists) and is mostly a group to practice rituals, carry feasts and celebrations or simply to learn and teach about Satanism but the role can go further to the role of a (spiritual) family.
Coven is originally a late medieval Scots word and it was actually meaning “to gather” or “to assemble”, rather than an actual name for an organized group. It derives from the Latin root word “convenire” meaning to come together or to gather. Thus it was used as “to coven” when applied to meetings of witches. Its first use as a meaning of a group of witches was given by Isobel Gowdie who was tried of witchcraft in the Auldearn trial in 1662. The word remained largely unused in English until 1921 when Margaret Murray promoted the idea of organized groups of Witches called covens.
Such instances of Covens appear all over Europe, when stories tell of Satanic Witches gathering in forests and caves in secret to teach and practice their “diabolical” feasts.
Though this is not really the case today, some, dare say most covens still gather in Forests and Caves, for reason that they want to be in nature. However, today they can easily meet in their own homes without any fear of being accused of anything illegal.
The structure of a coven has been only in small amount changed. In most cases, such as with generational families, it remained the same.
Its purpose also remained the same and here I must explain it clear. A coven should not be confused with a club in which one drops in and out whenever he feels like. It is not a friendship group, where one may find “like-minded people” to have fun with. A coven must be like a second family, as one of the main purposes of the Coven is to help others grow spiritually but also help in any other problem. It is a place for honest people, who respect each other and trust each other, for without respect and trust there cannot be real group work.
It is private for it involves the lives of others. People who work with a coven must open themselves so that others may know with whom they are working with. In a Coven there are no greater people than others. Everyone is equal, and even the most experienced must respect the less experienced, for there is something to learn from each of us. For that reason, not anyone is accepted in a coven. First the individual must be known, earn his respect and trust, and the reciprocity must be available. The coven members must first know his intentions and beliefs, because on the way, they might discover bad things about the individual that will make them regret they accepted him in the coven.
From my own experience with a Coven I must say that it’s a huge duty to run a coven and it is very difficult. As I was saying, there must be a very careful selection of members. Not anyone is suited for the coven. Some have different beliefs and this will not work well if it comes to more complex workings such as group study or magick (though ceremonies are easier to be held in such conditions). While some covens allow difference in belief, everyone must have the same intentions in the work of the coven.
Another reason for which a coven is hard to organize is because of the ranks given to each member. In the past, there were physical tasks as well as spiritual tasks for each member in order to grow in rank. Today is perhaps a little easier. But still, it is not as easy as it may sound.
Not even the mere initiation into a coven, for one must understand completely the purpose of the coven, the rights and obligations of each member at all ranks. It may take years to find the right coven. You may understand this if you ever had a “mentor” or “teacher” that helped you on the path. In most cases people get to have different beliefs and feelings regarding spirituality, because this is what they learned by practice. or simply walks the path alone to get a more individual experience of spirituality.
Everyone is different from another and our beliefs may differ too, even if we worship the same God. Some people even exceed the teachings of the mentor and find their mentor unable to teach them anything new. Such may be the case in a coven, though a coven’s purpose is more practical than theoretical. The adept will eventually choose to walk the path alone in order to get a more individual experience in spirituality and occult secrets.
A Demonolatry Coven is composed of three groups of people. Those who are students/initiates, those who are adepts, and those of the Priesthood. Every member has his own tasks, rights and obligations according to his “rank”. Beginning with the Student, his job is to learn the basics of Demonolatry. After the Student, there comes the Initiate who, at times, can help students learn. He is officially initiated into the coven and dedicated to a patron Demon. He passed all required classes and knows basic rituals and practices them. Once he was initiated he becomes Apprentice. He can help Initiates and Students along. He is taken under the wing of an Adept or member of the Priesthood to discover his talents and to use them during ritual. He begins to create his own rituals and becomes more familiar with complex rituals. He is baptized if not already. The next “rank” is Adept. This is a person who knows enough to guide those still learning. Is eligible to study to become an Assisting Priest. After the rank of Adept is the Rank of Assisting Priest. These people assist the priesthood in ritual. Has the authority to lead others in basic rituals and to do initiations on a small scale. The last rank is that of High Priest(ess). S.Connolly in her book “Complete Book Of Demonolatry” tells us that in order to become a Priest, one must come from a Demonolatry Family. While this is not the case in Satanism, in Demonolatry seems to be the only way. The High Priest guides all members of the Coven in spiritual matters, presides at all rituals although may stand aside and allow the Assisting Priest to take over during basic rituals including initiations. The High Priest(ess) are the only ones allowed to preside during mass initiations, baptismal rites, weddings, and funerals. The High Priest counsels members and offers help and guidance when needed.
Taking these steps correctly will get to having a good organized Coven.
There are two questions that often arise about this subject. First is how many people can be part of a Coven. The number of members of a coven varies. The most common number is said to be thirteen, as Isobel Gowdie of Auldearne in her confession declared “there are thirteen persons in each coven”. This is also approved by Alexander Keiler who says that witches gather in covens of thirteen persons and no more. Many other sources suggest the same thing. Though this is not a rule, as I understood, there can be a minimum of three persons in a coven and a maximum of fourteen. The reason, I believe, is because having too many members would be a much too harder task for the High Priest.
The other question is ‘what happens if one wishes to leave the coven?’. Writers like Montague Summers tell us that in the past witches were not allowed to leave the coven, and if so they intended, they were quickly discovered for the coven had many spies. This was, probably, because of the secrecy they had to keep about their coven and if someone, lets say, betrayed them, they had to silence him so that the Coven may not be discovered. Summers again tells us of a Solemn Oath that witches had to make to never leave the coven. This, I believe to be the Initiation Oath that one must make to Satan or the patron Demon.
Same is noted in Remy’s “Demonolatry” who declares that if any witch sought to leave the coven, she was hunted down by the other members and beaten, sometimes, to death.
These are contradicted by S.Connolly who in her book “Complete Book Of Demonolatry” says that members can leave the Coven at any time without fear of harm. Older grimoires such as the Willit and Delaney grimoires contain rites where a member is officially removed from the sect. This I believe to be the normal case nowadays for we do not have anything to fear if our Coven is discovered.