The term “Covens” refers to a congregation of witches mostly. Sometimes, this term is also used to represent a gathering of vampires. The gathering of Wiccans who follow the neopagan religion that is based on witchcraft can said to be a coven. The origin of the term is associated with a Scots word that meant meeting of any type. If you refer the Oxford Dictionary, you can see that the word was derived from the Latin word “Convenire”. The use of it with witches started after a considerable period of time and can be traced back to the middle years of 1600s. It was reported that the witch-trail for Isobel Gowdie had a coven that consisted of thirteen members. This is considered as the earliest available reference to the existence of the witches coven.
However, in English language the term “covens” was not popular till the early years of 1920s. The change was brought about by Margaret Murray who said that witches in Europe used to gather. This concept was discussed by a large number of people. The group usually consisted of thirteen members and were given the name. For several forms of the present neopagan witchcraft such as Feri Witchcraft, Stregherai and Wicca, the above mentioned definition of covens is acceptable. Generally, these gatherings take place for celebration or for worship. The sabbats are the most important celebration for the members.
There is no fixed number of members involved in it. The suggested number of members is thirteen and there can be variations in the number. The idea is that numbers that come after and include 3 can said to be a coven. Groups consisting of more than thirteen members are generally considered to be unwieldy. Large covens would generally split due to the discomforts associated with the large number of members. Another factor that may lead to the splitting of the groupis newly appointed High Priestess or High Priest leaving and starting a coven of their own. However, the most important number for them is thirteen.
Covens of Wiccans need a Priest or Priestess. Often, both of them lead the group. However, there have been instances when the leadership was handled by either of them. Presently, there has been a new development and the coven started having rotating leaderships and the way they are run can be compared to how things are done in a democracy.
The intermediate view of covens refers to witches gathering so that spells can be casted in tandem. The view is of importance in the popular cultures and fantasy stories. References to the covens can be found in the play Macbeth by Shakespeare. They have been featured in movies also. These meetings are of high importance for the witches. Not much of historical information is available on these gatherings. However, it is certain that the way they are met presently is different from the earlier methods. There are a large number of people who believe that such meetings used to take place and they consider the confessions that witches had made during their trials as evidences for this. It is also known that the covens were not women dominated although compared to men women were more popular as witches. The male members were also present in equal numbers in some of them. In fact, in some of these gatherings, the number of men was more than the number of women.
Sometimes, this term is also used to represent gathering of vampires. However, the term is more popular when associated with witches and their gatherings.