Covenant of the Goddess (CoG)

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Covenant of the Goddess (CoG)

The Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) is the oldest and largest non-denominational organization of Witches in North America. Ten otherwise autonomous covens and several solitary practitioners in California founded CoG. They wanted to foster cooperation among Witches of various traditions and to ensure that practitioners of witchcraft are afforded the same rights and protections as clergy of other faith traditions.

Membership is open to covens and individual Witches. In addition to Wiccans, the Covenant's membership includes Dianic (goddess only) Witches, Stregheria (Italian Witches), family traditions, and diverse other eclectic Witches. CoG views the autonomy, secrecy, and diversity of covens and individuals as one of its strengths.

Prospective members must meet the following criteria:

1. Generally focus its liturgy, theology, and practices around the worship of the Goddess or the Goddess and the Old Gods;

2. agree to abide by a code of ethics compatible with that of the Covenant; have been meeting monthly or oftener for at least six months;

3. have three or more adult members, at least one of whom is an initiate;

4. and be a cohesive, self perpetuating group.

Applicants must be sponsored by at least two witches "known to CoG," meaning that they need not necessarily be members, and must agree to a set of guidelines on finances. The national membership reviews each applicant's statement of practice and letters of recommendation that are published in The CoG Newsletter before full membership is granted.

CoG has also established an associates program for covens, individuals, or campus groups that do not meet the criteria for full membership in CoG, but still wish to participate in the CoG community.

CoG is organized through 14 Local Councils nationwide as of 2000. In addition to Local Councils, there are covens at large, solitaries at large, and a few international members (currently only in Canada, although there have been members from the UK and Australia ). Prospective members must join through their Local Council. If prospective members live in an area where there is no Local Council, they may join at the national level. When three or more covens of at least two different traditions (denominations) within a reasonable traveling distance of one another are granted membership, they are encouraged to form a Local Council in their area. Sometimes a Local Council grows large, and often "hives off," or divides into two or more Local Councils.

In late August or early September, business of the Covenant is conducted at an annual meeting called Grand Council. This convocation rotates around the country, being hosted by a different Local Council each year. Decisions are made through consensus process, with occasional exceptions.

The Covenant is empowered to issue clergy credentials to qualified members. CoG clergy marry and bury people and perform other duties traditionally done by clergy of other faith traditions. Some members volunteer within the prison system when the request is made by inmates and prison authorities. Others work in hospitals, hospices, schools, colleges, and in other venues when solicited.

Over the years CoG has sought to educate the media and law enforcement about witchcraft. CoG provides speakers to schools, colleges, interfaith groups, conservation groups, and the funeral industry, and CoG members serve as consultants to film and television producers. The U.S. Department of Defense consulted with CoG members in the publication of its 1988 directive entitled "Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the U.S. Military" (U.S. Military Chaplains' Manual ). In addition, representatives of the Covenant have cosigned with other Pagans on statements of common concern, such as the July 4, 1999 Pagan Educational Network press release about First Amendment freedoms issued in the wake of Georgia's Republican Congressman Bob Barr's challenge to Wiccans serving in the military.

In 1993 CoG participated in the second-ever Parliament of World Religions (PWR) in Chicago. An important document, originally drafted by Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung and modified by delegates to the Parliament, entitled "Toward a Recognition of a Global Ethic," was signed on behalf of CoG, Circle Sanctuary, and the EarthSpirit Community by CoG member Deborah Ann Light.

CoG continues to work in the areas of international inter-faith with its active participation in the creation, formulation, and ongoing work of the Parliament of World Religions. The Parliament reconvened in Capetown, South Africa in 1999, and in the United Religions Initiative. In addition, CoG members in different localities participate in regional interfaith groups.

CoG has established a religion badge called the Hart and Crescent Award. This may be earned by young persons age 11 or older who is a member of any Nature-oriented religion (Witchcraft, Druid, Asatru, Native American, etc.). Members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other youth organizations can also earn the award. An adult version, the Distinguished Youth Service Award, is for any adult who volunteers excellent service to youth. The award has been accepted by the Girls Scouts of America, but so far rejected by the Boy Scouts of America. The Hart and Crescent award have been granted to them nonetheless.

The group maintains a website at http://www.cog.org/. Among other things, this site contains a bibliography of children's books suitable for Witch children, a memorial page, and teen page. CoG may be contacted at P.O. Box 1226, Berkeley, CA 94701. In 2000, CoG had 139 member covens and 92 individual members.

Sources:

Starhawk. The Spiral Dance. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979, 1989, 1999.

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Covenant of the Goddess (CoG)

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