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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

                             C.O.G. History 
 By: Michael Thorn
 20 Nov 93 12:09
         The Covenant of the Goddess is one of the largest and oldest
 Wiccan religious organizations with members in North America, Europe and
 Australia.  Wicca, or Witchcraft  is the most popular expression of the
 religious movement known as Neo+Paganism, which,  according to the
 Institute for the Study of American Religion, is the fastest growing
 religion in the United States. It practitioners are reviving ancient
 Pagan practices and beliefs of pre-Christian Europe and adapting them to
 contemporary life. The result is a religion that is both old and new,
 both +traditional+ and creative.
         Witchcraft is a life-affirming, earth+ and nature-oriented
 religion which sees all of life as sacred and interconnected, honors the
 natural world as the embodiment of divinity, immanent as well as
 transcendent, and experiences the divine as feminine and often as
 masculine, as well. Like the spiritual world view and practices of
 Native Americans and Taoists, Wiccan spiritual practices are intended to
 attune humanity to the natural rhythms and cycles of the universe as a
 means of personally experiencing divinity. Rituals, therefore, coincide
 with the phases of the moon, the change of the seasons, solstices and
 equinoxes and days which fall in between these such as May Day and
 Halloween. This calendar of celebrations is referred to as the Wheel of
 the Year. Most Witches consider their practice a priest/esshood, akin to
 the mystery schools of classical Greece and Rome, involving years of
 training and passage through life-transforming initiatory rituals.
         All Witches agree on an ethical code known as the Wiccan Rede,
 "An it harm none, do what ye will," which honors the freedom of each
 individual to do what she or he believes is right, but also recognizes
 the profound responsibility that none may be harmed by one+s actions.
         In the 1970+s there was a marked rise of interest in Witchcraft
 not only in the United States, but throughout the world, reflecting a
 growing feminist awareness and global concern for the environment. In
 the Spring of 1975, a number of Wiccan elders from diverse traditions,
 all sharing the idea of forming a religious organization for all
 practitioners of Witchcraft, gathered to draft a "covenant" among
 themselves. These representatives also drafted bylaws to administer this
 new organization now known as the Covenant of the Goddess. At the 1975
 Summer Solstice, the bylaws were ratified by thirteen member congreg-
 ations (or covens). The Covenant of the Goddess was incorporated
 as a nonprofit religious organization on October 31st, 1975.
         The Covenant is an umbrella organization of cooperating
 autonomous Witchcraft congregations with the power to confer credentials
 on its qualified clergy. It fosters cooperation and mutual support among
 Witches and secures for them the legal protections enjoyed by members of
 other religions. The Covenant is non+hierarchical and governed by
 consensus. Two-thirds of its clergy are women.
         The Covenant is coordinated by a national board of directors.
 Many of its activities are conducted at the regional level by local
 councils. The Covenant holds an annual national conference open to the
 Wiccan community, as well as regional conferences, and publishes a
 newsletter. In recent years, the Covenant has taken part in spiritual
 and educational conferences, interfaith outreach, large public rituals,
 environmental activism, community projects and social action, as well as
 efforts to correct negative stereotypes and promote accurate media
 portrayals. Its clergy perform legal marriages (handfastings), preside
 at funerals and other rituals of life-transition, and provide counseling
 to Witches including those in the military and in prisons.
         The Covenant also provides for the need of it members and their
 families with disaster relief, health insurance, Scouting awards,
 sponsorship of college and university student groups, and legal
 assistance in instances of discrimination. The Covenant+s participation
 in the 1993 Parliament of the World+s Religions continues its efforts to
 restore the respect due to a legitimate and deeply-rooted religion,
 protect and preserve the earth through its public dissemination of its
 wisdom and traditions, and participate in dialogue as a contributing
 member of the world+s community of faiths.

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