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                            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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