Before we give a brief overview of the history and philosophies of Three Rivers Coven (the founding coven of the Columbian Tradition and the template used for new covens in the Columbian Tradition), we would like to share with you a passage from a book entitled The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries by a woman named Zsuzsanna Budapest. Although our coven is not Dianic (we are not a women-centric goddess-centric circle), we feel this passage expresses the underlying spirit of our coven's practice of Wicca.
Many books have appeared about witchcraft in the past few hundred years. Some presented the Craft as a curious pastime; they highlighted its "cookbook" aspects, such as how to get a lover, or do in your enemy, while missing the dignity and majesty of Earth religion. Some presented the Craft as a highly ceremonious pageantry which required you to invest your life savings in the high quality of the objects you used. Such attitudes missed the humble common sense originating in the Craft, which made it such a desirable religion for peasants and Earth-loving folks. And some books presented the Craft as a fossilized, hierarchical power structure of those who were "adept," "third degree," or who had otherwise achieved "guruhood." The rest of us weren't fit to tie the laces on their sandals. Reminiscent of another religion or two? Precisely! Such books missed the all-pervading idea of equality in the Craft.
Zsuzsanna Budapest / The Holy Book of Women's MysteriesThree Rivers Coven and the Columbian Tradition of Wicca was birthed by three witches in the Washington Tri-Cities area. Their experiences and history with other traditions of Wicca were diverse, but they shared a common goal and a common vision of the kind of coven and the kind of Wiccan Tradition they desired to build together to serve their purpose: one which stressed intimate bonds of trust between its members, privacy in worship, non-hierarchy, a balance of female and male energy, constant creativity, personal growth, and healthy responsible honest living. Our coven spent nine months in isolation, gestating, to build its bonds and to streamline its Wiccan Laws so that if new applicants approached them with the same priorities in their practice of the Craft, there would be no doubt as to the character of the coven they would be agreeing to help build and preserve.
As stated on our To Join page, for us, our coven has several functions:
We hold our coven's monthly activities as one of our highest priorities. We celebrate all sabbats and esbats (full moon and new moon), and we use them to worship the gods, raise energy to our combined purpose, and heal the land and strengthen each other. Our coven's underlying belief system is outlined quite eloquently on our General Beliefs page. At times we engage in skyclad rituals, and all of our gatherings are held in the privacy of our members' homes or in private outdoor settings. We do not discuss our coven activities, members, or anything that transpires in our circles with non-members, and all our members take an oath of silence to maintain its members' safety and security, even if they decide to leave the coven. In short, we wholly intend to keep private lives private for the length of our days.
We create our own liturgy to suit our needs, we practice the Great Rite symbolically, we don't care what your sexual preferences or orientations are (so long as they're by mutual consent, honest and they don't involve children or animals), and we do not offer public rituals. We are neither matriarchal nor patriarchal, we are non-hierarchical, and we are unconcerned with 'lineages' in any Wiccan Tradition. We are entirely focused on who you are becoming with us, not who you have been with others. While we do believe in the value of honing skills and the value of mentoring by those who have been in Craft for a long time, we do not believe in the concept of apostolicity (yep, it's a real word) aka the ideas of 'spiritual power and authority being handed down.' We believe every human being has access to power... it is only a matter of serious study and practice to hone it so that one has the ability to confront and resolve every issue in one's life. We believe that aligning our lives with Natural Law benefits our lives to the greatest and healthiest extent. We believe every human being is her/his highest spiritual and religious authority. We gather as equals regardless of one's longevity in the Craft. As priests and priestesses, our coven prioritizes service to one another, the Gods, and the land. Our responsibilities, roles and duties are rotated, our decisions are reached through consensus, and we take vows to bide our Tradition and Coven Laws.
Our coven does not pro-actively seek new members or proselytize our religion in any way. This website is our only public channel. We keep all membership information confidential, and most of our public visibility policies are based in complete coven consent prior to taking any action as a coven. Our members prioritize their involvement in all coven activities, setting aside calendar dates ahead of time to ensure their participation. All members take their turn at leading the coven's rituals. Our coven does not handle money in any way. A member may be dismissed if he/she violates any of the coven's bylaws, and we expect a certain level of maturity, courtesy and respect when we gather in our members' homes. All coven members are 21 or older: this is our only stipulation to applying for our coven (although the application process can take months of discussions, social visits, ritualistic interviews and eventually a year of involvement as an initiate to become a full coven member). Our complete bylaws are discussed with new applicants before they are required to abide by them (we don't pull surprise oaths at initiations), and there are no abstentions allowed when our coven votes on an issue.
If this all sounds a bit rigid ... make no mistake about it: it is. Our coven is a smoothly running machine because we've been through a painful learning process. We've seen the kinds of problems that can arise in any coven without these kinds of policies, philosophies and requirements in place, and the more a new applicant knows about us up front, the less time everyone involved will waste guessing at what is considered acceptible behavior and the underlying premise and purpose of our coven. We share a lot of joy and laughter in our coven, but we also take our practice of the Craft very seriously. Some of our members travel a lot and have witnessed the structures and challenges of covens across the country, and we are well-aware that what we have and what we are continuing to build is rare and precious. Most covens have a very short lifespan (2 years on average -- which is no surprise considering that newly formed financial, religious and political entities typically endure the same Marsian full cycle of challenges or dissipate) with sporadic involvement at best. But each of our covens has lasted since its inception (some for over a decade now), its members prioritizing their weekly involvement and sharing a deep commitment to what they are nurturing and achieving by their personal ministries. As priestesses and priests, our work in this Tradition defines for us the very meaning and purpose of our lives.
The Founding Members of Three Rivers Coven