Anyone living within the covendom and wishing to form a new coven, to avoid strife, shall tell the elders of their intention and on the instant void their dwelling and remove to the new covendom.
Members of the old coven may join the new one when it is formed, but if they do, they must utterly avoid the old coven. The elders of the old and new coven should meet in peace and brotherly love to decide the new boundaries. Those of the craft who dwell outside both covendoms may join either, indifferent, but not both. Though all may, if the elders agree, meet for the great festivals if it truly be in peace and brotherly love. But splitting the coven often means strife, so for this reason these laws were made of old.
I have been thinking a lot lately about how we part company, and why. My Wiccan tradition has two new covens forming in the local area. My daughter is moving out into her first real apartment on her own, with no intention of ever moving back. I have been through two divorces with two very different outcomes.
A student of mine made the observation that it seems, in the Pagan community as a whole, 3rd degree is given when you get to be too much trouble. When it’s easier on everyone to get you to leave than to let you to stay and disrupt the group. Is 3rd degree essentially a pat on the back, a rank of sovereignty, clergy with the traditional rituals and a boot out the door? I had to agree that this is often the most compelling reason for 3rd degree to be given.
However, in my tradition neither of the two new covens are starting this way. It is simply time for both High Priestesses to move on. They both needed to be independent in order to continue to grow spiritually. There was sadness, but no animosity in their parting.
The same is true for my daughter. She can not become the fully functioning adult she is meant to be if her home base is with Mommy. I am proud of her and excited and a little sad. Thankfully she’s not running away as fast as she can or shaking up with the first guy who would have her. Five years ago she might have done just that. Now it really is time for her to go.
I did that, more or less, with my first husband. I was living at home and keeping the kind of hours only a college student is capable of surviving. My parent’s lived an hour away from school 20 min walk from a bus line that ran once an hour until 1am. He lived within a block of campus. I actually moved back home over the summer before moving out to a “real” apartment choosing intentionally to live with him rather than just crashing at his place.
That divorce was mostly because of attrition. We grew up and found we dealt with grown up stress in very different ways. I became management and he became labor. Not a great dynamic for a marriage. We were never a passionate couple and that may have made the parting easier. We also continued to share custody and responsibility for the children. Our dynamic makes more sense outside of the marriage relationship. We are not the friends we were in college, but we have never been enemies.
My second husband was another story. The last six months we were together he was astonished why I would still want to be divorced when things between us were getting so much better. I had just resigned myself to saying yes to anything just to get him to sign the paperwork. I didn’t throw his clothes out on the lawn and kick him out, but as soon as the divorce was final I got rid of most everything he’d left behind.
My first husband had reason to stay in touch. I had to change the locks so he’d stop ‘dropping in‘ on me and the kids. I had to get my friends to move some of the valuables we’d agreed were to be his to his house or he wouldn’t have taken them. I had to say “It’s been a year, the ‘stuff’ that’s mine and the ‘stuff’ that’s yours is no longer negotiable.” When the kids need something he’ll buy it. When there is a childcare issue or a transportation need he’ll step in. Rarely do I get push back on any request and my decisions are my own.
My second husband was a pest. He would call “just to check up” and then bitch about how miserable he was. He would write scathing messages on facebook about how I shouldn’t say nasty things about him to my friends. He signed a paper that said anything left after he moved out was mine. Six months later for the courts he signed a paper saying all our property had been distributed and he had his and I had mine. Six months later I got threats about all his stuff that I had no right to be keeping because it was his and not mine. He wanted to keep tabs on my 17 year old daughter and 21year old son. He accused me of not letting them speak to him, as though I could have prevented it had they wanted to call.
Separating for autonomy sometimes requires being left alone to make your own decisions and your own mistakes. I hope that my daughter continues to call me regularly but I can’t make her because I need to know if she’s coming home for dinner. The same is true with the two new covens.
One of the new covens holds to the old law, to have no contact with the old group. The interpretation they are using says that this restriction lasts for a year and a day. They also distinguish between friendship and religious practice. There will still be phone calls to touch base on a personal level. The old coven leaders will not be guests at the new coven’s rituals. At least not for a while, until the new group has time to establish it’s own traditions and group dynamics.
The second new coven does not seem to hold to the law in this regard. There is concern about how the old group will perceive the validity of the decisions in the new coven. The old coven leaders are welcomed and encouraged to participate in rituals for the new coven’s members. Autonomy seems to be limited by personal authority, which from my perspective is being undermined by the old authority. There is no question about who is running the group day to day. There is only a question about where the power for decision making truthfully lies. Who holds sovereignty?
It’s clear that parting company is difficult. It is even more difficult to achieve with both grace and autonomy. When we desire to take sovereignty of our own lives and our own spiritual paths are we truly the best judge of when we are ready? If it is not necessary to ‘cut the ties’ in anger, why is that so common? Is it a necessary stage of development to separate ourselves from our parents (biological or spiritual) in order to truly recognize our own sovereignty?