Pagans are often taught that the word Wicca derives from the Anglo-Saxon root for wit or wisdom; yet perhaps less widely known is its connection with weaving. The Willow Tree (Salix alba) is a Lunar plant, sacred to Hecate, Goddess of Witchcraft. In Europe, Wicker (wythe, osier) was made from the flexible branches of young willows. From this a sort of pun emerges, identifying Witchcraft with the notion of bending, binding, and weaving reality. What is separate can be woven together, and what is tangled unraveled.

The analogy is a very old one, implying flexibility and skill as marks of intelligence. Weaving is done in a pattern: the essence of structure. At first it's an intensely focused activity; later one can weave in one's sleep. Weaving implies connection: above, within, around, below. Voices and wills weave networks of possibility. And finally, weaving, like dance, is itself a ritual with its own music and rhythm.

Coven WillowStar's name derives from all these concepts. We're a traditional Wican coven founded at Samhain, 1988. We follow an initiatory path, for which patience, focus, dedication, and a real passion for the Mysteries are required. Magick is an Art like all others: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. Musicians learn the score before improvising; actors learn their lines before developing a character. Good craftsmanship speaks for itself. This is why we feel an initiatory path is so rewarding.

Like many traditional Covens WillowStar is more of a small clan than a teaching/training group. Most of us were Solitaries for years before finding each other, so we share a certain respect for slow growth processes. We rarely advertise for new members: those who truly belong with us tend to show up at the right time. This keeps us small, but it results in strong interpersonal bonds as well as compatible philosophies of life.

WillowStar's founding core group each came to the Craft via a different Tradition; both our name and our ritual reflect this blend. Although unique to us, our Esbat weaves strands from many sources: Gardnerian Wica, the N.R.O.O.G.D., Blue Star, Faerie, and Windblown Crafts, Nordic and Hellenic myth, Thelemic and Masonic ritual. Our ritual is scripted and structured. "See this space? Now imagine something sacred happening here..." is fine for pathworking, but not for casting the Circle. Call it preference (or bias if you must!) but we outgrew our Interpretive Dance phase pretty early on.

Our Coven has a whimsical history. WillowStar was born from the ashes of a study group called "Water and Stone". Founded at Imbolc of 1986, most of Water and Stone's personnel came to NeoPaganism via Science Fiction Fandom. Fans are a gregarious bunch: W&S members took turns hosting gatherings focused equally on ritual and social activity. Water and Stone was named for its founders, who described their marriage as Irresistible Force meets Immovable Object. Alas, the metaphor proved only too apt. Trained in incompatible traditions, they tended to disagree with each other both in and out of Circle. As the marriage unraveled, multiple and overlapping relationships with Coven members intensified the chaos. Fans are a tolerant bunch, but clearly Water and Stone was becoming less a Coven than a soap opera. A few had left in disgust; others were willing to stick it out providing someone "neutral" would lead the group.

Into this potential minefield I wandered one Beltane, invited at the last minute. The ritual hostess lived in my neighborhood; her Priest and Priestess had called to announce they'd be late to the ceremony -- again! So less than two hours before Circle I was drafted into providing Tools, ritual garb, a portable Altar, and ribbons for the Maypole. After the ritual, three Coven members approached me insisting that Water and Stone would fall apart if I didn't help them out. Oh, boy...

Six weeks later I found myself organizing Water and Stone's Litha. Soon afterward the High Priestess officially asked me to take over; she planned to move after the divorce. The High Priest offered to stay until a successor could be trained, but only on condition that we rename the group. So we all went out for a large Chinese meal and the first of many brainstorming sessions.

In the traditional Craft initiatory lineage flows through the High Priestess. In California I was brought into N.R.O.O.G.D. (the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn), probably the oldest open tradition of NeoPagan Wicca in the U.S. My mother Coven, Silver Star, had met regularly since 1969. In 1982 several of us hived as Coven FireStar, continuing the "Star" theme of our Line. As a 3rd° N.R.O.O.G.D. Priestess I wanted that heritage to reflect in our new name. But I also wanted everyone in the new Coven to participate in the choice. So I listed every acceptable name I could think of (see below). We tried many different combinations until we came up with "WillowStar". The initials W/S gave us continuity with the old group; the idea of "weaving" past and future seemed to express perfectly what we planned to do.

As a Coven we found our focus: what everyone wanted and what each was willing to contribute. It took many brainstorming sessions (and much Chinese food!) to generate the pattern that worked best for us. Step by step we created a Ritual, a curriculum, and a set of by-laws. Strand by strand we wove a consensus, binding Water and Stone's loose ends into something stable and satisfying. As of Samhain 2001 it's been thirteen years since WillowStar first came into being. We look forward to decades ahead as we continue weaving our Tradition.

 

 

With Two You Get Eggroll: How we chose our Coven Name
Sometimes it takes forever to come up with a good name for a group (especially if it's an organic non-hierarchical consensual collective). The following is a list of names that might make good choices for a coven name. I based it on the Chinese menu idea. You know: One from Column A and one from Column B! Try any two names together. Some combinations won't work, others are entirely too cute, but many are excellent.
Moon
Star
Rainbow
Web
Flame
Silver
Wind
Cauldron
Sky
Dawn
Night
Crystal
Faerie
Sun
Emerald
Amber
Circle
Moonlit
Harp
Candle
Weavers
Song
Blade
Wand
Chalice
Blue
Fire
Stone
Bone
Horn
Mossy
Midnight
Crone's
Opal
Shining
Oaken
Water
Smoke
Darkness
Starry
Pathway
Mirror
Lady's
Hidden
Glen
Maiden's
Grove
Forest
Willow
Rowan
Raven
Children
Ring
Twilight
Ancient
Misty
Winter
Elven
Blazing
Hags

© 1997-2002 by Sally Eaton. All rights reserved.