Holly Flame Coven
Holly Flame Coven was founded on the night of a Midsummer ritual in 1994. One of the founders explains that as she and another founder were kindling a ritual fire, an accidental overuse of lantern fluid caused an unexpected explosion of flame. The two jumped back into the prickly leaves of a holly tree, and, at that moment, Holly Flame was born. It is one of the oldest surviving neopagan groups in the Richmond area. Their two covenstead locations are in Chesterfield County and Mechanicsville.
“The Flame,” as its members refer to it, is an eclectic pagan group, which means that it incorporates a blend of several faith traditions in their practice. Membership in the Sisterhood is restricted to women. Influences on their practice come primarily from Celtic and Native American faith traditions. Practitioners profess a belief in both the God and the Goddess, with both deities of equal importance; that the Divine exists in all things; and that there are many spiritual paths, with none being right or wrong. They abide the three-fold law which declares that a witch should never harm another person, lest the harm come back upon her three-fold. The group identifies as ecologists and animal rescuers as an extension of their reverence for the natural world.
Acceptance into membership in Holly Flame involves an induction and initiation process. This ensures that the coven remains a close-knit group that can effectively work together. The first two steps in becoming a practitioner are known as the Outer Circle. The Dedicant for one year and one day must demonstrate her commitment to membership by attending rituals and learning about the Craft and the coven. Upon completing the requirements for Dedican, the novitiate may be accepted as a first degree practitioner: making a commitment to the coven, continuing to learn the Craft, and assisting Dedicants and helping with pre-ritual preparation. Second degree pracitioners are sufficiently advanced to perform ritual duties in the absence of the High Priestess; they are considered members of the Inner Circle and are given responsibility as officers. Third degree practitioners qualify as High Priestesses, and at this point they may receive the Flame’s blessing to form a sister coven of their own if they so desire. Beyond third degree practitioners are Elders, practitioners who have given long service to the coven and who are called upon for advisement by the coven. The coven currently has five initiated members and several dedicants. In addition, former members who now reside in other parts of Virginia or in other states remain in contact with the coven.
Rituals are held on full moons and on each of the eight neopagan sabbats. Full moon rituals are occasions for communing with the Goddess and God and for working group magick (the term magick refers to the systematic application of spiritual techniques to affect changes in one’s life and is used by practitioners to distinguish their practice from stage magic.) Sabbats are nights of feasting and celebration and for attunement with the natural cycles of the Earth and Universe. On new moons, fellowship and learning gatherings are held at which members deepen their understanding of the Craft. Since Holly Flame is an eclectic coven, gods and goddesses from a variety of pantheons are called upon on different occasions. Rituals are performed both indoors and outdoors, in black robes with colored trim. During the course of a ritual music, chanting, and drumming are used to achieve a state of heightened collective energy so that magickal work may be performed. The altar generally faces east, an ancient Indo-European tradition. A circle (a magickal barrier erected by pagans prior to ritual that protects those within the circle from harmful entities that may be attracted to the energy raised or magick performed during the ritual) is cast three times, because three is a significant number in the Celtic tradition. Consistent with traditional Wiccan practice, colored candles representing the elements are placed in the corners of the ritual space marking the cardinal directions, and the Guardians of the Watchtower (The Guardians of the Watchtower are benevolent entities who are associated with the four Greek elements and the four cardinal directions: fire-south, water-west, air-east, and earth-north. For example: the animal guardians are lizards, snakes, fish, and eagles; the angel guardians are Michael, Gabriel, Aureal, and Raphael; there are also elemental guardians, faery guardians, and others suited to a variety of pagan paths. The guardians called upon are chosen by the ritual author or the coven.) are called. Herbs and oils are generally used as offerings.
Profile prepared by Emily Stevenson