The Covenant of the Goddess, founded in 1975, is an advocacy organization that seeks to foster cooperation amongst Wiccans and Witches; to secure legal protection; to provide education through outreach and to nurture its members through dialog and community. The Covenant publishes a newsletter; issues ministerial credentials; sponsors a national festival; stands as a resource for information on Witchcraft and Wicca; engages in interfaith work, and local community outreach through its Local Councils.
An Overview of the Covenant of the Goddess
The Covenant of the Goddess is one of the largest and oldest Wiccan religious organizations. The Covenant is incorporated as a non-profit religious organization in California, though it has grown to be an international organization. It is a confederation of covens and solitaires of various traditions, who share in the worship of the Goddess and the Old Gods and subscribe to a common code of ethics. Wicca, or Witchcraft, is the most popular expression of the religious movement known as Neo-Paganism and is the fastest growing religion in the United States according to the Institute for the Study of American Religion. It’s practitioners are reviving ancient Pagan practices and beliefs of pre-Christian Europe and adapting them to contemporary life. The result is a religion that is both old and new, both traditional and creative.
Background and Formation
In the 1970s there was a marked rise of interest in Witchcraft not only in the United States, but throughout the world, reflecting a growing feminist awareness and global concern for the environment. In the Spring of 1975, a number of Wiccan elders from diverse traditions, all sharing the idea of forming a religious organization for all practitioners of Witchcraft, gathered to draft a covenant among themselves. These representatives also drafted bylaws to administer this new organization now known as the Covenant of the Goddess. At the 1975 Summer Solstice, the bylaws were ratified by thirteen member congregations (or covens). The Covenant of the Goddess was incorporated as a nonprofit religious organization on October 31, 1975.
Structure and Organization
The Covenant is an umbrella organization of cooperating autonomous Witchcraft congregations and individual practitioners with the power to confer credentials on its qualified clergy. Two-thirds of its clergy are women. It fosters cooperation and mutual support among Witches and secures for them the legal protections enjoyed by members of other religions. The Covenant holds a Grand Council annually to decide matters which require deliberation by the full membership. Decisions are usually made by consensus.
Many of the Covenant’s activities are conducted at the regional level by Local Councils. There are nine such Local Councils around the country. The Covenant holds an annual national conference, open to the Wiccan community, as well as occasional regional conferences, and publishes a newsletter. In recent years, the Covenant has taken part in spiritual and educational conferences, interfaith outreach, large public rituals, environmental activism, community projects and social action, as well as efforts to correct negative stereotypes and promote accurate media portrayals. Its clergy perform legal marriages (handfastings), preside at funerals and other rituals of life-transition, and provide counseling to Witches including those in the military and in prisons. The Covenant also provides youth awards, sponsorship of college and university student groups, and legal assistance in instances of discrimination. CoG is co-ordinated by a national board of directors, elected at the annual meeting to carry out the will of the members.
Code of Ethics
- An ye harm none, do as ye will.
- Since our religion and the arts and practices peculiar to it are the gift of the Goddess, membership and training in a local coven or tradition are bestowed free, as gifts, and only on those persons who are deemed worthy to receive them. However, a coven may expect each of its members to bear a fair share of its ordinary operating expenses.
- All persons have the right to charge reasonable fees for the services by which they earn a living, so long as our religion is not thereby exploited.
- Every person associated with this Covenant shall respect the autonomy and sovereignty of each coven, as well as the right of each coven to oversee the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical development of its members and students in its own way, and shall exercise reasonable caution against infringing upon that right in any way.
- All persons associated with this Covenant shall respect the traditional secrecy of our religion.
- Members of this Covenant should ever keep in mind the underlying unity of our religion as well as the diversity of its manifestations.
- These ethics shall be understood and interpreted in light of one another, and especially in light of the traditional laws of our religion.