in perfect Love, in perfect Trust,
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill:
An ye harm none, do as ye will.
What ye send out comes back to thee,
So ever mind the rule of three.
Follow this with mind and heart,
and Merry ye Meet, and Merry ye Part.
The People of the Woods follows old traditions of balance and harmony in witchcraft. We currently have an abundance of wonderful women compared to our number of men. If you are a man reading this web page, do not be discouraged by a popular media myth that Witchcraft is only for women. We encourage men who are considering Wicca to join our coven.
The People of the Woods currently has twelve men and women who attend regularly. Most of them are learners who want to learn and become the Old Ways of our ancient people. There are branch covens in North Spokane and Post Falls, Idaho that are now led by our graduate Elders. When The People of the Woods is unable to accomodate more members you may consider contacting The People of the River in Idaho or The Children of the Crossroads in North Spokane.
A coven is a group of men and women who celebrate Wicca. The word coven means a coming together or meeting. It is similar to words like convention, or convent.
The covenstead (our coven home) of The People of the Woods is located out in the woods about 12 miles south of Cheney, WA. That's about 25 miles from downtown Spokane. As a result there have been fewer city people who are willing to make the effort to come out to our covenstead on a regular basis. We will accept new participants if any want to participate in our tradition and are willing to make the effort needed. Our Spokane members do sometimes form carpools to share the cost of the travel.
Gerald Gardner's teaching asks, "Will you suffer to learn?" Perhaps driving 25 miles to attend meetings is the kind of suffering he meant. We who live out here in the woods don't think of it as suffering.
The People of the Woods Church of the Old Religion is located near Spokane, WA, USA. Our members need to live within a convenient distance. Our information below is specific to people in our area. For you other readers of this web site who live in other locations, we suggest that you look for a local Wiccan Church, Circle, or Coven by first looking in the geographic listings at Witchvox.com.. Location listings menu begins in the left hand column on the Witchvox site home page.
The People of the Woods Church of the Old Religion is the legal body of our church. Our priesthood form a Wiccan coven called The People of the Woods.
Members of The People of the Woods coven meet frequently for rituals and special events. We sometimes gather for a retreat or outing to the woods, and attend pagan festivals together. We practice the Old Ways of the Wicca in our daily lives as well as in rituals.
The Charge of the Goddess is used as a guide for ritual and for life.
The People of the Woods respects the confidentiality of members. Names of individuals and activities at rituals are not revealed outside the coven without specific permission.
There are different levels of participation. Members of the Coven attend all rituals, Full and New Moons, Sabbats, and coven outings. Friends, families, prospective members and lay members of our Wiccan Congregation may attend open Sabbat rituals and outings. Its OK to be a "Beltane Wiccan" who only comes on Beltane or Midsummer.
Members are recognized for their level of learning and responsibility: The People of the Woods follow a 3 degree initiation system in a lineage from Gerald Gardner, whose initiations were said to have been from a New Forest Coven that dated from the 12th century. Our religion has been transmitted through oral tradition that is thousands of years old. Our tradition was brought to America by The Temple of The Pagan Way of Chicago in the 1970s. Click here for some additional information on the history and lineage of the Gardnerian Wicca and the Temple of the Pagan Way. The People of the Woods continues this tradition. We also work to rediscover the lore and practice that were lost in the persecutions of the middle ages.
We know from experience that Initiation makes a significant difference in the life of the initiate. New members generally spend a period of time as a Dedicant, learning our tradition before deciding whether or not to take the initiation.
The People of the Woods follows cultural norms, moral values, ethical standards and ways of acting that are often quite different from the societal norms that western culture has derived from that other religion. Our religious values look to pre-christian European cultures and pagan villages for inspiration and values. We actively reject the norms and values of western christian culture. No, we don't do or require sex in the circle or with anyone. As Witches we tend to side with the Witch of the West, not with the murderous Dorothy, no matter how pretty her little curls were. We are not in Kansas any more Toto.
The People of the Woods recognizes that one of the most important requirements of our religion for the past several centuries has been to keep an oath of secrecy regarding what happens within the ritual circle. Neither the names of members, nor what is said or done during any ritual may ever be disclosed to others outside the coven, not even to other members of the Craft nor to other members of our families. It's an old and still important part of the Craft.
Since the 1990s many Wiccans have chosen to be solitary witches, practicing alone or attending open pagan gatherings. These days there are open circle pagan groups almost everywhere. You can drop in and join the circle whenever you feel like it but you haven't committed to their tradition or practice. There are open pagan groups that meet closer to town than The People of the Woods. Why would someone drive all the way out to the woods? While we're asking, why doesn't The People of the Woods hold open rituals?
The coven is your place to belong. Humans have a deep need for a sense of belonging to a clan, tribe, or village. A place to belong is one of the most important services provided by virtually all religious organizations including Wiccan covens. Maybe you don't need a coven if you belong to a big family, bowling league, rugby team, or sewing circle. But, maybe you want to belong a little deeper, and with more shared spiritual values than the latest cross stitch. When you belong to the coven you are part of the coven, not a guest or visitor. You are an important part. They care about you, and you come to care about them.
Coven rituals are just that, rituals. They are ceremonies that you repeat over and over until it becomes your safety net, your foundation, the way it has always been. When people attend a ritual at their home circle or home church, they feel like they belong. At every ritual the Priest and Priestess says the same invocations, performs the same sacred acts, blesses the members. You understand and know you belong. That contrasts with open circles that have “creative” or inspired ceremonies each time, often led by someone you never met before.
Why not just attend an open circle? Good question. Many open circles generally follow a basic Wiccan outline, but it varies from one week to the next. In an open circle nobody knows who will show up this time, or next time. Everyone may be knowledgeable, serious Wiccans, but often there is some loony toon who disrupts the energy, and breaks concentration.
If you share your personal information in the open ritual, you have no assurance that your story won't appear on someone's Facebook page tomorrow. In a coven, everyone has sworn to keep secret the private information of other members, like a Catholic Priest at Confession. In an open circle you have no such assurances.
Open ritual circles are beneficial to the whole pagan community because they give beginners a way to have a pagan experience, and they allow solitary elders a way to meet others. But you don't ever really belong to the body of your own circle or church. And nobody will care, or even notice if you don’t show up for the next ritual.
Learning the Craft traditions is an important part of a coven in ways that are not done in open circles, and in ways that cannot be learned from books. In a coven the Priest and Priestess are your personal teachers, ministers, and guides. You can ask questions, get answers, learn magic, learn a tradition, and become one with the old ways. Wicca is an initiatory mystery religion. You cannot learn that in an open circle group.
The People of the Woods sometimes participates with community open rituals. We sometimes welcome our families and friends to our Sabbats. But we choose to be a closed circle most of the time because our own members are who we are.
The coven does not hold or threaten anyone who wants to leave, but few do. If you come for a while and then decide that its not for you, we'll hold the door for you on your way out. Just be willing to participate actively while you are here.
While the coven does not open its ritual doors to anyone who shows up, it does open its membership to anyone who is sincere in his or her desire to become part of the coven. If you are sincere in your desire to follow Wiccan traditions, to serve the Old Gods, and want to belong rather than being alone in your practice, then you should seriously consider joining this or another coven.
A recently published Essay Coven vs. Solitary on Witchvox.com describes one woman's experience and decision to join our coven. May the Gods bless and guide you, whatever you decide.
The People functions as a close community similar to an extended family. For this reason the membership requirements are limiting. Other people may be better served by nearby covens.
1. Prospective members need to be actively working on recognizing and casting off the toxic conditioning of western culture. Pleasure and joy is the way or our Gods, not our sin. Do as you will is the law when it doesn't hurt anyone.
2. We celebrate the divine polarity and union of Gods and Goddesses in ritual and practice. Members need to reflect the divine polarity in their lives.
3. Members must be willing to make group activities a high priority. Covens such as The People of the Woods tend to become a close-knit "extended family." We love, respect and support the needs of each other. Regular participation of all members is essential.
4. There should be no conflict with other family. Prospective members need to resolve any conflicts with their family that may interfere with coven work. It is good for married couples to join together, but it is not required.
5. Members need to be emotionally stable and mature. The coven Priest and Priestess can and do provide spiritual counseling for members. We are not psychologists and cannot provide mental health support for mental illness.
6. There is no age limit. Young adults are the future of our religion and are most welcome.
7. Members need to be honest and willing to show their real selves, not a facade.
8. Members need to be physically healthy by taking care of their bodies, and have no significant contagious diseases.
9. Members must have their earth plane life in order, be financially stable and responsible. Poverty is not a virtue in our religion.
10. Members should not have chemical addictions: no smoking, drug dependency, or alcohol abuse. Drinking is good, drunkenness is not. Addictions are harmful to the person.
11. All initiated members must have chosen the Wiccan religion as their way of life, and must commit themselves to full participation. Note that you are not required to make any commitment to interview, and only a commitment to learn during the first year of participation. After that learning and Dedicant period you can decide if you desire to fully commit to Wicca as your way of life.
We have developed a process for becoming a member of our coven. Joining a coven is said to be difficult while leaving a coven is easy. Our process assumes that several weekly discussions allow us to become better acquainted with you, and for you to become better acquainted with us. The steps in becoming a member are as follows:
1. We get inquiries from interested people who read our web site or otherwise learned about our coven. Often we get an e-mail. Sometimes we may have already met you at another pagan event. See our page about Meeting the Witches.
2. After your inquiry we arrange a first meeting at a local pub or pizza place, often in Cheney, WA. We share food and drink while listening to your interest and learning a little about you. We tell you more about us and our tradition.
3. If you are still interested after meeting us, we schedule 5 weekly meetings for further discussion that includes more details about our religion, our theology, our Gods, our moral values, and other practices. The discussions are usually held at our covenstead south of Cheney, WA. Driving out to the covenstead weekly lets you understand the distance you will need to travel as a member. During the meeting we also have an opportunity to learn more about your interest, your situation, and your life.
Our discussion topics are loosely based on 1990s class schedule called "Wicca 101." Now that everyone has Internet access we have found that most people already know quite a bit about Wicca in general, but we still want to discuss our particular practice in some detail so you will know before you jump in.
4. When you complete the 5 week discussions and still want to join our coven, you may ask to become a Dedicant. Assuming our High Priestess has decided that you will be compatible with the group, then you will be invited to attend a Dedication ritual and become a Dedicant in our Tradition and coven.
If you were previously been properly Initiated in another Wiccan coven and have relocated to this area or otherwise ask to visit or join our circle, we recognize other proper Initiations. We still will need to meet and get acquainted before you join our group. Arrangements will be made on an individual basis.
We have found that often there are life events during the process that cause people to break off for a while. The job may have changed. Their family needs have changed. Many things come up in the lives of real people. However, if this is the right path for you then you will be persistent. You will come back again and again if necessary. We value persistence. Success at any important part of life often comes to the person who has tried and failed the most times. If you have to drop out of the process part way through, for whatever reason, you can come back and try again later. The Gods will guide you if you allow them.
Question: Do you charge a fee for rituals or membership?
Answer: No. Our tradition says that the first teaching was given by the Goddess free of charge, and our debt to Her is to be paid forward. It must be passed to each generation free of charge. The operation of the coven is not without some cost however, so Initiate Coven members are asked to contribute tax deductible contributions on a regular basis if they choose to. It is not required.
Members of our Church congregation are also asked to contribute to support the operations and expenses of the Coven and Church if they choose. It is not required.
Question: What about my husband/wife? Can he or she attend also?
Answer: A husband or wife of a member is usually invited to be a member also. Families tend to work well when both husband and wife practice the same religion, but it is not required. Some husbands and wives do not choose to follow our religion, or choose to remain a lay member rather than become clergy. They may then attend our open Sabbat rituals and events.
Question: You use the term "Wicca". Is that the same as "Witch" or "Witchcraft"?
Answer: During the 1950s Gerald Gardner went public with a form of Witchcraft that he had learned. Gardner's books were about Witchcraft. Somewhat later, as more people were learning and teaching Gardner's form of witchcraft, the Old English spelling for Witch, "Wicca" was used as a euphemism so as to avoid immediate negative reaction from the public. The words "Wicca" and "witch" may be related to "wit" or "wisdom" and originally meant a wise person. The origin of these terms is the subject of some debate among linguistic scholars. There was no standard English spelling until about the eighteenth century. Even Shakespeare sometimes spelled the same word differently on the same page.
We use "Wicca" because we follow much of the Gardnerian ritual forms and practices. It is still a form of Witchcraft and Witch is a modern and perhaps broader term. There are those who identify themselves as "Witches" but not Wicca.
The word "craft" means a trade, practice or skill. "Witchcraft" literally means the trade, practice or skill of using magical knowledge. Sometimes it is shortened to "The Craft". Our coven members learn and practice many of the traditional skills of Witchcraft. Sometimes the word "Art" is used instead of "Craft" in the writings of Gardner and others.
Question: I am shy of the word "Church.". Why is The People of the Woods called a "Church"? I'm not sure if I want a "Church.".
Answer: We understand your concern, there are many who have had negative experiences with churches. But they stole the word from us. Our people have been meeting in a Circle since the first tribe gathered together. When the new religion came in and took over, they built their places on top of our Circles. In Old English the word is pronounced with a hard C, or as "Kirk". Over time the hard "K" sound softened into a "ch" sound. The Cs and R are still there in the same place. A "church" is our circle, that's what it means. They stole our word and built their places on our ancient circles. So we stole it back. Our "church" is quite different from theirs.
Question: Do you practice magic in your rituals?
Answer: Magic has always been a part of the Craft or trade of a Witch. Our rituals include a time for magical workings if any are needed by members or are appropriate for the season. We also include time for personal sharing and the feast called "Cakes and Ale."
Question: Can anyone do spells and magic or are you just born with it?
Answer: Legends say that Diana, Goddess of the Moon, sent her daughter Aradia to teach magic to the first Witches, and share Her magical power with them. Legend says that the power of the Witch has been passed from elder Witch to young Witch in each generation since that day. The teaching must be passed free of charge, for the Goddess gave it freely. Almost anyone can learn spells and magic if you sincerely follow the Old Ways, and receive teaching and power from someone who has been initiated into the mysteries.
Question: I've heard of teaching covens. Is The People of the Woods a teaching coven?
Answer: No, we do not present ourselves as a coven that focuses on teaching. We focus on practicing our religion in our coven and in our lives. We do teach the magic and the old ways of our tradition to new members who are apprentices called Dedicants, but that's not the main focus of our coven or church.
Question: How often do you meet?
Answer: The coven follows a lunar and seasonal calendar. Each month the Coven generally meets to celebrate the full moon and the dark moon. We gather to observe the eight annual festivals or Sabbats. Occasionally we also hold special rituals for life events of our members. We also may get together and just go to the woods.
Members of The People of the Woods often attend Spring Mysteries and Hecate's Sickle festivals held by Aquarian Tabernacle Church in Western Washington each spring and fall. Both of these festivals are 4 days and 3 nights. In addition we sometimes travel to attend one or more regional or national pagan gathering each year. There is a cost for participation in festivals of this kind.
We live in a culture that follows a 7 day week rather than a lunar calendar, and we have have members who work day jobs. That often makes it difficult for some members to stay late at the covenstead on the actual night of the Full Moon. Like many other covens we now shift our calendar to celebrate on the nearest Saturday evening when most members can attend.
Question: Do you do on-line training for interested people in other places?
Answer: No, we do not teach others on-line. Face to face interaction between Elder and student is the time honored way for the neophyte to learn the old ways. If someone in another city seriously wants to learn our tradition from us, they can relocate here just as people in other religions go to the city where theological seminaries are located.
The Aquarian Tabernacle Church sponsors an on-line Wiccan College called Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary that uses cyber meetings and cyber rituals to teach Wicca on-line. They offer state recognized educational degrees for graduates.
Question: What about other traditions? Do you claim that you have the "right" way of Wicca?
Answer: No, we have A way, but not the only way. Our tradition is "right" for us, but it may not be "right" for you.
Question: I've been involved in eclectic Wicca for a few years. How do you feel about bringing in different styles to rituals.
Answer: We feel that consistency is important for the emotional satisfaction of our members. Each ritual has a part that is special for the occasion, but the outline remains consistent so it becomes known and familiar to all. Prior experience in eclectic Wicca or solitary Wicca would likely make it easier for someone to learn our tradition.
Question: You use the word "Tradition." What does that mean?
Answer: The word "Tradition" refers to one of several variations in our religion. Other religions use the word "denomination" to refer to variations in religious practice that are all the same overall religion. Like other religions, Wicca has several related but different traditions or denominations.
Question: Do you do skyclad rituals?
Answer: Skyclad means clothed only by the sky, or naked if you prefer. Not on a regular basis. In the past we have followed Gardnerian tradition by working skyclad (naked) at some of our rituals. We now generally wear religious robes or other attire as appropriate. It is thought by some to be ancient practice, and others think Gardner invented it. Either way its part of our traditional teaching and we recognize that honoring yourself as human beings as well as magical people, and part of psychically casting off cultural oppression. In practice we don't do skyclad rituals any more.
Question: Isn't being skyclad quite different than normal culture?
Answer: Yes, that is part of the purpose. Wicca is not conventional western culture. "As a sign that you be truly free you shall be naked in your rites." from Araida, Gospel of the Witches by Charles Leland, published 1893. If you come seeking admittance to a Wiccan coven be prepared to leave much of the conventional western culture at the door.
Western culture includes a lot of negative messages and training about our bodies. In Wicca we teach that we are part of nature, and our bodies are as natural as the trees and bears in the forest, in whatever shape we are in. We are often said to be "Nature Spirituality." To worship nature, begin with worshiping your body, for you are made in the form of the Gods. Every tree, every deer, every snail, every human, is natural and beautiful and does not need to be hidden or ashamed of himself or herself. We do not teach that nudity or sexuality is "sin," and in fact the concept of "sin" is not part of our religion. When we come to ritual we present ourselves to our Gods as we are, natural beings of the Earth.
Here is a quote about Clothing from philosopher Kahlil Gibran
Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.
And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.
Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,
For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.
Some of you say,"It is the north wind who has woven the clothes we wear."
And I say, Ay, it was the north wind,
But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.
And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.
Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.
And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
Question: Do you practice sex magic or sacred sexuality?
Answer: We recognize that sacred sexuality is a powerful form of magic energy. Gardnerian tradition of Wicca sometimes uses a sacred sexual union as the highest form of worship of God and Goddess. We understand that sexual magic is a special form that is not appropriate in every week rituals. We do not generally practice sexual magic, sacred sexuality, or other sexual behavior in our regular rituals and gatherings. We intend to avoid legal and emotional entanglements over sexuality. If you are looking for an orgy group you need to look elsewhere.
Question: What is your teaching on sex in general?
Answer: It is taught that, "all acts of love and pleasure," are rituals that honor the Goddess. The union of male and female is the ultimate act of creation and sacred to God and Goddess. We do not teach that sex is shameful or sinful, and in fact the concept of "sin" has no meaning in our religious moral values. We encourage people to love each other more, and fight with each other less. In times gone by there were Goddess Temples where Priestesses used sexuality as a form of giving and receiving the love of the Goddess. People who have been raised in modern western culture do not have the cultural background and frames of reference to appreciate or participate in the ancient forms of sexual worship. Go and love each other in your homes, in your lives, and in the love of the Goddess and God.
Question: You mention Gardnerian tradition. What is that?
Answer: A man named Gerald Gardner published some books on Witchcraft and Wicca during the 1950s, making Witchcraft public for the first time in centuries. Gardner taught his form of Witchcraft to numerous others who taught others and now there are many who's Wiccan education comes originally from Gardner. Some say that Gardner invented Wicca, and some say that he modified and publicized a previous religion. To this day, covens that follow the teachings of Gerald Gardner and have initiations from one of Gardner's covens are called "Gardnerian" See our suggested reading list for more on Gardner.
Question: Is Wicca one of those dangerous cults that we hear about?
Answer: No and yes. The dangerous cults you hear about actively recruit members and then use various psychological techniques and threats to keep members from leaving. Wicca is the opposite. We don't recruit people. We don't threaten anyone who leaves. We make it hard to get in and always easy to get out. But Wicca is dangerous to the culture because our teachings are very different, and we are growing rapidly because many people are seeking something better.
Question: I read that Wicca is a "fertility cult." What is that about?
Answer: A very long time ago when people were few and the earth was large, the Old Religion strongly encouraged fertility and breeding. Many of our teachings are handed down from those times. Gerald Gardner, the founder of our modern Gardnerian Wicca, included teachings that promote fertility. Our ancient celebrations such as Beltane in the spring are magical workings that promote fertility of our crops, our animals, and ourselves.
In the 21st century there seems to be plenty of people on the earth, however our families are still very important to us. We love and protect our children, we support and encourage our mothers and fathers. Our children are our future so the importance of our fertility cannot be overlooked.
Question: Do you conduct public introductory classes for interested people?
Answer: Not any more. Some years ago it was a lot harder to learn about Wicca. In those days many covens held public advertised classes often called "Wicca 101" for interested people. The classes went for 4 to 6 weeks and explained the basic Wiccan theology, cosmology, history, philosophy, morality, ethics, and other basic tenets of Wicca. Now there are several shelves full of books on Wicca for beginners at Borders and every other popular bookstore. That is a big change from 10 or 20 yeas ago. We have found that there is no longer a need for public basic classes since interested people have usually already read several books. We still are available to answer questions from people who have read about Wiccan and have more interest.
In place of public classes we now hold 5 private meetings with prospective members. We go over much of the same material about our religion that once was the subject of public classes. That assures us that the prospective members understand what our tradition is and how it may differ from other Wiccan traditions he or she has read about. It also allows us time to get acquainted while allowing the prospective member an opportunity to demonstrating serious interest by showing up several times. See above about our process to become a member.
Question: I've read all this and think that I may want to become a member. What is the procedure for joining?
Answer: You would write to us on one of the "Mail-To" links on this web site. Be sure to include a brief statement of your interest and prior knowledge or practice of Wicca. The Priest and Priestess usually meet a prospective member the first time in a public restaurant to discuss your interest. See our Meeting the Witches page. After the first meeting we ask prospective members to meet with us and the rest of the coven to discuss more and get acquainted with everyone. We require 5 additional meetings to discuss our religion and our tradition. See our Process section above for details of the process. Then depending on your interest and compatibility of members you may be offered an opportunity to become a Dedicant and practice with the coven. If you would like to be considered send us an e-mail by clicking the mail go link.
Question: What if I just want to be a member of the Church without being part of the Coven and becoming an Initiate Priest or Priestess?
Answer: We have lay members who want to participate in Sabbats without spending the time necessary to be a Priest or Priestess. You would write to us on one of the "Mail-To" links on this web site. Be sure to include a brief statement of your interest and prior knowledge or practice of Wicca. The Priest and Priestess usually meet a prospective member the first time in a public restaurant to discuss your interest. See our Meeting the Witches page. After the first meeting we can put you on our list of members and friends, and you can watch our web site schedule for events.
Gather you Witches in the night while the moon rides full. Gather you Witches in the darkness when the moon is hidden. Gather to follow the old ways, to drum, to sing, and to dance the ageless dance of life. Gather in a circle, man to woman, woman to man, in the circle of life as the Gods have taught you.
Gather you Witches in a circle. Gather you wise ones, you teachers, you keepers of the magic, you Priests and Priestesses of all that is sacred and old beyond knowing. Listen to the wind. Listen to the water. Listen to the fire. Listen to the earth. Hear the heartbeat of the drums and the drumbeat of the heart. Feel the power of magic as it flows hand to hand around the circle.
Gather you Witches in a circle. Call upon the Goddess and welcome her magic as She dances with you. Call upon the God and fear not his power for within the circle He leads your dance. Gather in the circle to celebrated the seasons of the Earth and the sacredness of all life, work the ancient magics, thank the Gods for the food you eat, and encourage fertility so that our race will not perish. Call forth the young ones, welcome them to the ancient circle, and pass on the old ways to each new generation. Thus it has been for a hundred thousand generations.
Gather you Witches in the night while the moon rides full.