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Just added ammended defination. Removed following paragraph since its irrelevant here.

During various witch hunts, however, those engaged in the prosecution (and/or persecution) of witches used the term in a sense close to that of the modern "criminal conspiracy." As these inquisitors regarded witchcraft as both a sin and a crime, an association of witches was therefore considered to be a pernicious threat to their religion and social order. Witches were considered by various Christian doctrines to be involved in Satanism. However, modern Wicca is wholly separate from modern Satanism, and considerable doubt exists as to whether there was ever a strong connection between practitioners of witchcraft and Satanism.

--Machenphile 12:57, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Changed etymology, as coven from convoco, call together, seems far-fetched. Probably from convenire, to agree or assemble, and closer to Old French covenir (which makes sense because of Franco-Scots ties in early Renaissance) and thus cognate with covenant. Conjecture; I invite anyone with more authoritative view to change it back.


I believe that the Germaic should be referenced along with other cross references.

I began on the coven page and noted that they had a reference to Rosemary's Baby, which was a film. I believe the film was more a commentary on the introduction of Shakespeare's Macbeth along with a question of why this would be considered classical literature. Macbeth by the way was written by the "bard" after witchcraft was outlawed in Britian(1404). Shakespeare was born in the 1500's. It is rather interesting however Shakespeare appeared to be a rather hateful man, if you have ever read his spell in Macbeth.

Of course, I still want to know what is happening to the cropped puppy dog tails also...from this day and age. For some reason, one is under the impression that if they were there at birth they were to still be there.....but of course that could be my own they perchance demand replacement? In a way it kind of reminds me of those obtuse punkers, they originated in britian also didn't they? Am curiousity2000 (talk) 21:01, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

This isn't the place for speculations and suppositions. A newsgroup or chatroom would be a better place for discussing your beliefs and theories. Fuzzypeg 00:31, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

Realm series[edit]

I've pulled stuff about "John Allen's REALM series" from here, as it was unsupported, overly long, and smacked of... well, not being any real use. Nor could I find said series even existed. Feel free to revert; am pulling a few other references by the same author from here and there. Shimgray | talk | 23:00, 25 October 2005 (UTC)


I've changed a few of things here, because of inaccuracy or irrelavency:

  • "The term has been used with both positive and negative connotations, largely dependent on the speaker's view of witches and witchcraft." - clearly modern witches who use the term within their own culture don't see it as negative (and here it has a neutral, rather than an actively positive connotation). Also, those who disapprove of witchcraft would clearly put a negative connotation on the word. I suggest that discussion of connotations is adequately dealt with under witchcraft and Wicca.
  • "Every coven has a high priestess (mostly women) who will guide the gatherings." - This is not strictly the case in Wicca - a few covens are run by a High Priest, and some (depending on whether you agree with their claim of being "Wiccan") even operate on a democratic basis. I'm not sure what the "(mostly women)" thing means.
  • "In common forms of Wicca the Priestess also has two assistants, but that depends on the number of people in the coven." - This is not a common arrangement to my knowledge.
  • "Some covens have a seperate book of shadows to record their rituals and spells. This book is kept by the high priestess." - There are many items, tools, etc. that a coven will have - why single out the book? Better perhaps to mention something about the governing laws being contained in the Book of Shadows, if you think it should get a mention in here. And regarding the book being held by the High Priestess, see the second bullet point above.

I've also done a little rearranging while I was at it, to express some things more simply and to move the most relevant information closest to the top. I'm sorry for trashing the recent edits so much, I just think they represent the beliefs and organisation of a specific coven or tradition, rather than the wider picture. Fuzzypeg 23:27, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

Could we move the Margaret Murray rant?[edit]

The opening paragraph of the article is dominated by criticism of Margaret Murray's scholarship. I suggest this either be trimmed down to what is most relevant, or else move it to a different section of the article and include a little more contextualising info. Fuzzypeg 08:41, 27 December 2005 (UTC)

I've removed the following section: Margaret Murray used this evidence to claim that all witches across Europe met in groups of thirteen which they called covens. She went on to manipulate the figures in other trials to come to a similar total, though even then she could only come up with eighteen total out of the hundreds of recorded trials. She also provided no evidence the word itself was used outside Scotland at the time of the witchhunts, nor why her ancient prehistoric religion were using a word which of recent date derived from Latin. After Murray popularised the word in the 1920s Gerald Gardner adopted it in his works on Wicca hence its modern use in that religion. This invective against Murray is particularly one-sided, has little context and seems unnecessary to the article - better to provide a link to an article summarising the debate. The key points, that Murray reintroduced the word, with the size of 13 as an ideal, and that this influenced the Wiccan concept of covens, have been included in their appropriate places. Fuzzypeg 00:05, 29 December 2005 (UTC)

The Coven in modern Wicca: change section title?[edit]

This section purportedly describes how the concept of a coven is regarded within Wicca, however it seems applicable to the wider area of modern neopagan witchcraft. The section is liable to attract statements about practices that aren't strictly Wiccan. If it were broadened to encompass all modern neopagan witchcraft then it would be more useful to the general reader as well. I suggest we call it The Coven in modern Neopagan Witchcraft.

Honour or worship?[edit]

I've just removed the recently added assertion that Wiccans do not worship their gods, but merely honour them. This seems a) a minority view, and b) an unnecessary distinction. My background is Alexandrian Wicca, and in my experience the gods are worshipped in the fullest extent of the word. Priests and Priestesses are devotees. The actual theology becomes complex particularly when working through 3*, but to all extents and purposes this is the case. However even if this were not the case, the word "worship" does not necessarily mean that the worshipper has "devoted" themselves to their god in unquestioning obedience (see If there were a subtle distinction to be explored here regarding degree of "devotion", it would be better explained clearly in an appropriate section, rather than alluded to by unusual wording and notes in square brackets. Fuzzypeg 22:45, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

Coven Size[edit]

The number of persons involved may vary. Although thirteen has been suggested as the optimum number (probably in deference to Murray's theories), any number above and including three can be a coven. Two would usually be referred to as a working couple (in any combination of sexes.) It is commonly said that a coven larger than thirteen is unwieldy, as group dynamics tend to grow more difficult.

I SO wish I could add something I have heard said so many times, it qualifies as folk wisdom. "Three witches or more is a coven, with two all you have is an argument."

--Bill W. Smith, Jr. 07:54, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

Oh, I forgot to add, when the subject of coven size ideally being 13 comes up, it always reminds me that in my ROTC days they told us that the optimal control size for ANY leader is 10. At each level of a hierarchy, there should be no more than 10 subordinates. I always thought 13 was close enough, but given usual coven dynamics once the size actually reaches 13, I would say the US Army were spot on. :) --Bill W. Smith, Jr. 08:00, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

A coven is three. It has to be three. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2604:3D09:7B7D:1900:D1C0:DAD5:6D59:BA15 (talk) 04:38, 6 August 2020 (UTC)

Dunlop witches[edit]

From my memory, Bessie Dunlop only ever claimed to work alone, and was not identified as being part of a coven. Her story is given in detail in Emma Wilby's book Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits. I don't know what relationship the Guillilands had to her, but are we just inferring from the name 'Dunlop' that this constitutes a "coven"?

News flash! Just doing a quick check in the supplied University of Edinburgh's witchcraft database, I looked for the name Guilliland, which I couldn't find. I searched for 'Violat' instead and found Violat Guillieland, from the parish of Dunlop. This is the parish name, and doesn't imply any connection to Bessie Dunlop. This all seems to be a load of speculation conjured out of a few similar-sounding names, but not given even the most basic checks for reliability. I'm going to remove the rest of that section. Fuzzypeg 23:30, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Murray did not originate[edit]

The assertion that Murray somehow brought the word into the language is a gross overstatement (and citing Murray's book, a primary source, does not offer evidence of this assertion). The term in its modern sense dates back to the 17th century. At best Murray may have breathed new life into the term.

--MC — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:34, 6 January 2015 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Coven/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Citations needed. - AdelaMae (t - c - wpn) 00:38, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 00:38, 11 January 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 12:21, 29 April 2016 (UTC)