16. Coven Work

Our lives changed remarkably after the Handfasting. The  rooms of our home were previously decorated with Laura Ashley wallpaper and had a dramatic change during my experimentation with purple paint on pale pink walls using a bath sponge. 

Not everyone approved of the change, particularly my in-laws. Our social life involved attending and hosting dinner parties for friends of my husband. He had known them since childhood and one of them had married his sister. He seemed comfortable with them and had sought their advice and approval on his life decisions. They were most upset when he underwent a family medical procedure without consulting them. They began to exclude us from their dinner parties as my husband had acquired a ‘ready made family’ and his circle of friends had no children at this time. They also disapproved of my husband’s involvement in ‘strange’ activities such as Morris dancing and Paganism.
Image - Eureka Parties

Image – Eureka Parties

In the past we attended various clubs and parties that could be viewed as ‘different’. I met my husband at a naturist club that I frequented for photographic modelling assignments there. My husband decided to do something apart from his usual group of friends, which was the reason he attended this venue. Even though he had become part of the Pagan scene, I sensed he was not completely comfortable. I suspected that he also agreed to our Handfasting ceremony to please me. He had been supportive and encouraged my educational development over the years and I would not have achieved my qualifications without that.
My pen friend sent a letter expressing her enjoyment of the Handfasting ceremony and the Morris dancing in Boscastle. Unfortunately she did not thank us for the two nights in our caravan which gave more confirmation to my husband’s opinion that Pagans took advantage.
About a month after our Handfasting we arranged to visit our tutors to discuss joining their coven. I knew my former Priestess had feared this, but I knew they were good teachers and their group would be well structured. After an in-depth discussion, they agreed to take us as members. My husband agreed to join as my new Priestess would not accept me into the group without him. Much preparation was needed leading up to our initiation but their previous members had shown no interest in returning to the group.
Image - Warband

Image – Warband

We followed instructions to exorcise our athames and this process took two weeks. Our robes required hoods and we purchased four red cords, each one had to be nine feet in length.
During one of our Morris events I discovered the other male Morris member had also decided to join the coven. We were delighted. I had missed working magically with him and he handled the past situation with our former Priestess tactfully and considerately. 
I learnt to distance myself from other members’ problems within the Morris team which at times was not easy. I concentrated on the performance and team work. I took on the position of Squire, arranging order of performance with Squires of other Morris teams at events. I also became Foreperson teaching the dances to our female team. 
Eastbourne Beach. Image - The Beach Guide

Eastbourne Beach. Image – The Beach Guide

We performed at the Lammas festival in Eastbourne and attended their seasonal ritual which was also at the full moon phase. It was a fabulous weekend and the first time they held a public ritual on Eastbourne beach. Passers by paused to observe the proceedings, some were genuinely interested and others thought it amusing, but whatever the opinion it made an impression.
Tintagel Cliffs. Image - Beautiful England

Tintagel Cliffs. Image – Beautiful England

After this event we visited Cornwall for three days to meet our friends at the Battle of Camlann re-enactment. It was another wonderful opportunity to sit by the sea listening to the voices within the waves and connecting with the elements.  Breathing the clean air while listening to the cry of the gulls is fabulous and at that moment there was nowhere else I would rather be. We also visited the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle and the owner studied our photographs of the Handfasting.  I observed how carefully he handled the album and turned the pages with the utmost care as he had plenty of experience in carefully handling precious Museum artefacts. I had heard of the Devon and Cornwall Pagan Federation seminars at Camelot Hotel in Tintagel each year. My former Priestess attended one and described them as small and more intimate compared to our London events. She enjoyed the atmosphere there and although I wished to attend we could not afford our vacation and an extra journey to Cornwall in March. Our new Priestess and Priest had their vacation in Cornwall as there was no time to explore during our previous visit. Other members of our Morris team also returned to Tintagel and Boscastle after their visit with us.
Crackington Haven Beach. Image - Love To Escape

Crackington Haven Beach. Image – Love To Escape

We discovered that Crackington Haven beach has an abundance of phallic shaped and hagstones. We collected some for friends and our group to place on their altars.
I was a little unsure about the requirement of being ‘sky-clad’ for our nearing initiation. Even though I had been a photographic model and attended a naturist club, this situation would be totally different. I had worked ‘sky clad’ during solitary magical work which felt comfortable and natural. 
My husband and I were initiated on the same evening and placed in separate rooms before we were individually guided to the temple. When sky-clad, blindfolded with hands and arms bound it gives one vulnerability. I sat upon a chair awaiting them and an energy that felt like long spindly fingers slowly crept up my body from feet to head. I heard pacing and chanting in the temple above me as the energy was raised. My Priestess gently guided me to the temple as I slowly climbed two flights of stairs. Before I entered I felt the sharp pressure of the sword on my chest. The initiation ceremony was beautiful and when my bonds were released I felt a strong sense of rebirth as though I was seeing everything for the first time. My husband was initiated after me and I noticed his arms had been out of the cords and wound around his arms as he held them in the original position. The Priestess would have observed this and his reaction would provide her with insight. I have not divulged all details of the ceremony as all initiations are unique and secret.
Book of Shadows. Image - Bralms Book Works

Book of Shadows. Image – Bralms Book Works

My husband and I travelled 22 miles each week to visit our Priestess’ home and copy by hand the words from their Book of Shadows. We sat at the kitchen table and copied two or three of the ninety-nine pages at a time.  On one occasion I attended alone while my husband was at work and on his return he copied those pages from my notes. On our next visit we began writing from the same page and our Priestess remarked that my husband had not reached that particular page last time he attended. He explained he copied the pages from my notes and was instructed that any copying should be only from their book. I understood this as if I had made a mistake it would be copied by him, but my husband was upset by that. Our training in the coven progressed, but I sensed our other male member still felt some guilt about leaving our former Priestess. My husband also attempted to take ‘short cuts’ during his training which did not bode well.
My daughter and I were in contact again and she had given birth to a son, but was separated from her boyfriend. I was now a grandparent in my thirties and it took some time to become accustomed to that.
My Priestess invited me to one of her advanced Yoga classes. When I visited her home was quiet with no music or television, only the ticking and chiming of their antique clocks. The decor in the town house was Victorian and it was almost as though I had gone back in time. My husband was uncomfortable with silence as our priestess did not instigate any conversation and he would talk constantly about himself to break the silence. Our Priestess commented on his inability to handle silence. On occasions when I was alone with them I was happy to sit there without conversing and it reminded me of psychiatrists who would sit quietly so that clients would  speak. Our Priestess had a degree in psychology so she would have been aware of this. I found this fascinating!