Coven

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A coven or covan is a name used to describe a gathering of witches or in some cases vampires. Due to the word's association with witches, a gathering of Wiccans, followers of the witchcraft-based neopagan religion of Wicca, is also described as a coven.

The word was originally a late medieval Scots word (circa 1500) meaning a gathering of any kind, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It derives from the Latin root word convenire meaning to come together or to gather, which also gave rise to the English word convene. The first recorded use of it being applied to witches comes much later, from 1662 in the witch-trial of Isobel Gowdie, which describes a coven of 13 members.

The word coven remained largely unused in English until 1921 when Margaret Murray promoted the idea, now much disputed, that all witches across Europe met in groups of thirteen which they called 'covens'.[1]

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The coven in Neopaganism

In Wicca and other similar forms of modern neopagan witchcraft, such as Stregheria and Feri Witchcraft, a coven is a gathering or community of witches, much like a congregation in Christian parlance. It is composed of a group of believers who gather together for ceremonies of worship such as Drawing Down the Moon, or celebrating the Sabbats. The number of persons involved may vary. Although thirteen has been suggested[who?] as the optimum number (probably in deference to Murray's theories), any number above and including three can be a coven.[citation needed] Two would usually be referred to as a working couple (in any combination of sexes.) Within the community, many believe that a coven larger than thirteen is unwieldy, citing unwieldy group dynamics and an unfair burden on the leadership.[2] When a coven has grown too large to be manageable, it may split, or "hive". In Wicca this may also occur when a newly made High Priest or High Priestess, also called 3rd Degree ordination, leaves to start their own coven. Wiccan covens are generally jointly led by a High Priestess and a High Priest, though some are led by only one or the other. In more recent forms of neopagan witchcraft, covens are sometimes run as democracies with a rotating leadership.

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