The Alchemical anatomy of a Coven

There are several distinct types of Alchemy that our Coven employs.

The first is Hermetic Magick as taught by Franz Bardon and other magickal practitioners. An example of this type of work is employed in the fundamental elemental work that we apply in our Circle casting and other rituals. This might be called 'internal' Alchemy because the work is perceived as most usually affecting the inner state of the practitioner.

Another form of Alchemy are the physical practices. Typical examples include Naturopathy and particularly Homeopathy medical practice, but there is also the more traditional physical science of Alchemy. This involves physical manipulation of elements using metals, gems, plants and even animal components in the practice.

And lastly, there is the employment of a purely psychological Alchemy, although it can certainly manifests in many different ways in our lives. This might be described as a PsychoAlchemy. This involves work upon the Self, but it can also apply to groups of people such as a Coven.

PsychoAlchemy is a transforming process and is actively going on whether we like it or not. In one sense it is a secret practice because it touches those things that are deep within us, things that we are normally afraid to bring out of ourselves and therefore keep carefully concealed.

A Summary of Alchemical Stages

Nigredo (blackening)
Represents the initial stage of the process, whose darkness signifies chaos, suffering and pain. Preparation for confrontation with the shadow.

Albedo (whitening)
Second stage. Results from the washing of the products of the Nigredo, or the coming to terms with shadow material.

Rubedo (reddening)
Third stage. The white becomes united with the red through the raising of the heat in the fire. Conunctio: union of opposites.

These 3 stages are symbolic expressions of the stages of Individuation or Self transformation.These may endlessly cycled through creating changes in the Psyche. If participated in consciously there can be a development of the Individuation process. Groups of people, such as a Coven may been view as a collective consciousness and likewise undergo an Individuation process.

These fundamental 3 stages map the moving of opposites toward one another and their transcendence, manifesting in consciousness as an expression of a transformed Self. Many of the physical and mythological images found in Alchemy illustrate the processes involved.

There are many parallels to the Alchemical opus and that of entering into Coven work. If you look at some of the images below you'll note for example: the level of trust expressed through nakedness; the frequent use of Sun and Moon; and even left handed handshake, known as a 'sinister' or magickal pact. These are common experiences found in a Witches' Coven. Other images also show the all-important Crucible (bath or Cauldron), a symbolic vechicle of the transforming work and the Alchemical King and Queen upon which the work is done. In order to fascilitate the transformation, they form a 'magickal pact' agreeing to absolute openness, the naked truth. The same parallel is found the Wiccan practice where outer nakedness is the physical expression of the Witches' passwords of "Perfect Love and Perfect Trust".

The King of Sol and the Queen of Luna enter the sinister pact.

Rosarium Philosophorium

The first three steps in this work of internal Alchemy is probably best depicted in the Rosarium Philosophorium. In the first picture are shown the 'elements' to be used along with the goal of the work, the uniting of opposites through living waters. The second image shows a 'left-handed' pact, which we know to mean 'inner' work will be entered into. Finally, the third of these images shows the 'naked' truth. It is also sometimes said to be the 'incestuous' in nature. What this means is that the real work is with your Self, but we will project this onto others; or in the case of a Coven, onto other members.

By the time we come to the fourth image we begin to see just how intimate this work to be in a Coven. It shows intimancy through a mingling or blending on the waters. To suggest that there is a lot of venerable exposure in this work only serves to remind us that without principles such as "Perfect Love and Perfect Trust" the work will fail. Our particular Coven also adopted the motto 'Fidelitas' faithful, fidelity as a condition upon which our work depends.

Getting into the alchemical body of the work will challenge us to reveal things about ourselves. It is likely too that we will get involved into issues that are submerged in others. Misery loves company is the old saying. Sometimes people feel it is simply easier to choose to reveal things to one or several individuals rather than the whole Coven. That is understandable, but unfortunately it causes more problems than you can appreciate until the proverbial shit-hits-the-fan. To say it threatens the work and ultimately the life of the Coven is certainly no exaggeration.

The King of the Sun and Queen of the Moon immerse themselvesin the opus.

Neurotic Elements

"Don't mind me I'm having a nervous breakdown"

That little quoted subtitle could very well be the voice of the Coven psyche or group mind speaking. Neurotic symptoms can happen to groups as well as people. If you imagine the Coven as a soul of multiple personalities, then it is little wonder that problems occur. The complexity of having so many people in the mix, in the alchemical Witches' Cauldron at one time makes for a potentially volatile combination. The sediments (sentiments) cloud the important things and people forget what it was they were doing magickally before things got stirred up. I know when I'm down in the (hot) water with the Coven it makes it doubly hard to try and deal with what is happening. Nobody likes getting scalded, including me.

Awhile ago we had a rather tumultuous end to a couple of meetings. In contrast, the earlier part of the meeting had been very productive. Later I asked visitors for a bit of privacy to sort out some of the Coven issues, and so they said their good nights and so the Coven sat down to talk about several issues.
Someone asked why it is there are still issues that continue to come up. In any working group people sit on things for quite some time before it bubbles up to the surface in type of psychotic-burp. There will be so many issues that haven't the opportunity to aired and will need resolving. In fact its quite natural and healthy that such emotional eruptions will come up to the surface in any relationship. If old issues keep coming up, the Coven might have unwittingly contracted a psychic infection, a bit like a common cold. This can happen when people don't move past an issue, but engage in scratching at an irritation, the wound just gets more infected.

One of the key issues that can be identified as an ongoing symptom to the illness or infection is the spread of rumouring or gossip. This is a type of verbal influenza and as it spreads it effects the relationships between everyone within the Coven. This form of psychic illness is particularly unpleasant when the material is submerged and goes on behind the scenes. If we were to allow a physical wound to become so infected, amputation would be the only recourse to prevent it spreading or causing the death of the patient; this can sometimes happen to Covens too.

At the meeting the other night people expressed feelings of being excluded from the Coven and of being made to feel discriminated against through such background gossip and closed or conflicting agendas. As Coven founder I am charged with a mandate to develop the Coven, but that also involves protecting it from people or circumstances that may be in conflict with our wellbeing.

Part of the cure to operating a healthy Coven is to develop absolute transparency. That simply means that in order for each of us to function in this Coven, transparency is called for from everyone. When someone asks you to keep quiet about something that involves other Coven members your alarm bells should be going off. If someone is bitching to you about other Coven members, again the alarm bells should be ringing.

Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying. It is perfectly normal to bitch about someone, but when this occurs in a behind-the-scenes way, or even worse as a habitual putdown, then you need to address the person responsible, you need to pull them up and say something. By challenging their behaviour you help to prevent selfish agendas and perform a healing act upon the Coven's psyche.

Some of you have seen the Alchemical images I use to talk about transformation, but it is also a mapping of the Occult work within the Soul or Psyche of the Coven. These images come from the Rosarium Philosophorium or the Philosophers' Rose garden, an image employed by C.G.Jung. In the fourth image of the series the King and Queen immerse themselves into an alchemical bath. When you join the Coven a type of immersion takes place and a similar sensation of being 'naked' occurs when you start doing this work.

The term "owning your own shadow" is a popular phrase used to describe the idealised aspiration of not 'projecting' the unresolved issues of Self onto others. But it is more than this, it is also the conscious withdrawing of those Shadows by refraining from acting out old patterns of behaviour especially in relationships. Of course this is not easily done, and who knows it may not even be totally humanly possible. Into the Coven's alchemical mix are poured attitudes and modes of expressing ourselves that can become just as toxic as anywhere else. If Coven members start contaminating the clear waters with an acid tongue it will quite literally corrode the Coven from the inside out.

It can be a painful thing to challenge people in the Coven not to 'piss' in the water, but if you don't the consequences, I assure you, are far worse. Fear of revealing the truth says a lot more about ourselves than it does about the things we keep in the dark. If the waters are not to get contaminated then we must work in an environment that is inclusive, caring, honest and absolutely transparent.

So why do people engaging in dubious 'leaks' into Coven's Cauldron, the Coven's collective Psyche? A loss of personal respect is certainly part of the problem. Familiarity breeds contempt is a truism. The Founders of the Coven are probably the only ones able to make some immediate changes to help with the pH balance (acidity to alkaline balance), the things that are eating away at the Soul. They may have to empty and cleanse the Coven Cauldron when there has been some bitter emotional tantrums. The Founders need to try and minimise the toxic shock of what will happen with sudden change. They must makes sure to be thorough and inlist the aid of the remaining members to begin initiating a magickal working called simply "Clean-up-your-act".

Please ask yourself and everyone involved honestly and circumspectly the following questions:
Are you prepared to disengage in the circulation of gossip and talking behind peoples' back?
Are you prepared to challenge anyone engaged in putdown conversations?
Are you strong enough to bring issues into the Coven forum for a constructive solution-driven discussion?
Are you prepared to help those who fall into a negative view of the Coven?
Do you respect everyone in the Coven and are you happy to work with them?
Are you prepared to take ownership by asking for support in what you want to see positively developed in the Coven?

"Fidelitas" is the Coven's motto meaning to be faithful, to ring-true. Are you prepared to embrace all that this may entail to help in the development of this priciple in yourself and by osmosis to the group? In effect the only person you really have to fix is yourself.

Its not just transparency that is important in the Coven, but to feel safe and that what is discussed within is free from general circulation. Emotional 'transparency' is likely to be far more confronting than any mere skyclad ritual could ever be. Being a member of Nuit's Veil Coven involves a preparedness to face ourselves before we can really be free to work with others. If we bring our old bad habits into the Circle without the preparedness to work on changing them, then this relationship will fail.

It always seems to me though that despite the possibility of getting oneself into deep water, there is hope for the best in our Coven work. The expression on the faces of the two central figures in the Rosarium Philosophorium is very serene and loving. The King of the Sun and Queen of the Moon seem to express an intimacy that is relaxed, natural and sincere. That is the level of intimate trust we are seeking in our Coven members.

That sort of trust only comes about when there is an unselfish willingness to contribute and be fully engaged in the work. You can't do that if you're contaminating the waters with other agendas. In a more literal alchemy you could say that the ritual bathing before our Coven's occult work is simply an outer expression of making sure we each have a clean or clear conscience.


Some of the mythological images in Alchemy are very poignant, if not a little amusing (like the one below). Here we see a rather benevolent being lopping-off the heads of our King and Queen, and then having them boiled-up in a Crucible/Cauldron. One understanding I have of this rather comic-gruesome act is that we sometimes make sacrifices of self in order to continue the magickal work and that the contribution is in the acceptance of change. You may have to let go of old and rigidly held beliefs and ideas on how things are done in order to move forward, otherwise you could loose the rest of the body as well.