Thursday 4 November 2010

One Coven's Ways: a Book of Rites

As anyone who has ever run a coven will know, coming up with suitable rituals for a group to perform is a tough job.

Certainly most covens that have formed through an initiatory tradition will have a Book of Shadows consisting of tried-and-tested rituals that have been handed down, but that can get a bit repetitive over the years.

To keep things fresh, you need new material, which usually means writing rituals from scratch that are suitable for the specific group and the specific seasonal festival or magical working. That can be hard work.

It also seems a shame if lovely words penned with thought and feeling only get performed once or twice, then lost, which can easily happen. Beautiful rituals can get filed away and forgotten because covens move on or disband. Vows of secrecy can mean also mean that initiated witches are reticent about sharing coven material with outsiders.

One Coven's Ways: a Book of Rites is a book that breaks that silence and shares the actual rites and rituals of a working coven, from an insider's point of view.

The author, Amhergin, an initiate of modern witchcraft, decided to publish rites developed by a coven that he was part of, but which has now disbanded, so that they would not be lost and could be performed by others.

In the blurb on the back of the book, publisher Capall Bann says: "As the coven itself has ceased practice and is no longer in existence, the secrecy surrounding these rites may now be lifted and they are here offered as working examples, which other covens may benefit from."

One could, of course, say that this isn't such a big deal as vows of secrecy were broken long ago. The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, with standard rites for Sabbats, is pretty easily available to buy these days - one of the best and most famous versions being Janet and Stewart Farrar's A Witches' Bible. There are also other books of seasonal rituals available, but many are specifically written for novices and are for that reason rather short and simple.

One Coven's Ways: a Book of Ritesis different because it doesn't cover standard Book of Shadows stuff - such as the opening and closing of circles and Doreen Valiente's Charge of the Goddess. Neither is it aimed at beginners. It is written for those who already know the basics, so doesn't duplicate anything previously published.

The rites were all written by the author or are published with permission of those who devised them. The words themselves are not only unique, they are beautiful and powerful.

They cover devotional, magical and festive rituals, rites for the Greater and Lesser Sabbats, rites for the God and Goddess, rites of passage and workings for solitary practice - a whole year's worth of rites that are instantly usable by any initiated group of witches looking for fresh, interesting material.

An appendix also includes a particularly unusual ritual that takes the practitioners on a mystical journey to the mythical island of Avalon, seeking knowledge of the return of the Old Ways and what they may do to aid this return. Although all the rituals in the book are beautiful, to my mind this is an example of the very best being kept until last. I do hope I some day get to try this one out!

One Coven's Ways: a Book of Ritescame out on October 26 and is available through publisher Capall Bann or via Amazon

One Coven's Ways: a Book of Rites
A Witches' Bible

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