Online Wicca and live Wicca are equally valid and important; both practices have their benefits and challenges. Whether a solitary witch or coven, online or in-person, you are the one that makes it magical.
This past Imbolg marks eight Sabbats Inner Circle Sanctuary has celebrated online. I am incredibly proud of how our Coven so quickly shifted from our grand outdoors Sabbats to grand online Rituals! The two ICS mottos that quickly spring to mind are “Improvise, adapt, and overcome” and “Bring the Magick!”
An in-person altar used and created by the leaders of the circle.
We sure do miss the center fires.
As you may know, Inner Circle Sanctuary Sabbats are, true to our roots, almost entirely led and peopled by our 1st year students, lovingly referred to as Witchlings by our late founder Lady Morgana. Our Coven membership vary from Coveners who have never been to our outdoors in-person Sabbats, to some who had attended them as guests, to those of us who have done both.
We find that Bringing the Magick is a little easier when the Coven is together, robed up, under the night stars, out of town In Nature. There are some issues to be overcome such as desert heat, desert sun, stinging insects, smoke from the center fire, and looky-loos, but the very surroundings, and Ritual make every Sabbat Outmeet an incredibly charged magical event. One of the closest comparisons I can make is seeing your favorite band rockin’ live.
But the reality is Magick resides in all of us. And when the conditions are not ideal, it is the task of our Coveners to Bring the Magick even more. Being able to go beyond mere recitation and robotic motions, and truly tap into those Elemental and Divine relationships so that the whole Coven can feel it takes dedication and practice. And our Coven stepped up to the challenge admirably. It was their work that made each of the past year’s Sabbats truly immersive experiences as described in A Book Of Pagan Rituals:
“For this is a time that is not a time In a place that is not a place On a day that is not a day Between the worlds And beyond…”
Our last in person class was Ostara Practice 2020. As best practices for stopping the spread of Covid-19 called for smaller and smaller meetings (and those only when absolutely necessary) we made the decision to move everything online. In that week, previously established online video and testing were un-mothballed for our immediate use. Our Elders immediately stepped up to this task and no classes were missed, and our first online Sabbat of Ostara was a smashing success.
Everyone learns how to create an altar no matter how simple...
...or elaborate they choose.
The willingness to improvise, adapt, and overcome has been drilled into our heads for decades by Lady Morgana and Lord Mordred. It is the way their Temple of the Inner Circle survived as long as it did, and is the same for our Coven. Realistically, I would say it is how historical Witchcraft survived, and how Wicca continues to thrive and grow.
Our Coveners’ health was and remains our top priority. There is no way I would risk any of us spreading this deadly disease to each other. Adapting to this new situation was an absolute requirement, and the funny thing is, it was a bit exciting to start this newer way of Witching. It opened our eyes to new opportunities, and offered new ideas to ponder and issues to troubleshoot.
The Summoner rings the bell to announce transitions during the sabbat circle
All students have a part to play in the sabbat whether it’s just one line...
There are some very obvious benefits of our online Sabbats. The foremost is that every Covener sets up their own individual Circle or magical area. It is a joy to see photos of everyone’s Altars, with their individuality, creativity, and artistry on full display.
We have had several members take part in our online Sabbats while they were out of town. This would have been an absence for our in-person Sabbats, requiring them to do their own solitary Sabbat. While solitary Sabbats can be excellent too, this way they had the social benefit of celebrating the sabbat with the Coven. And make no mistake, online Sabbats are very social, and fulfill the human need (possibly more acute in this worrisome time) to socialize with those dear to you.
But the reality is Magick resides in all of us. And when the conditions are not ideal, it is the task of our Coveners to Bring the Magick even more.
Having been Bringing The Magick online for a year now, I am sure our people will be shot out of a cannon (magically speaking of course) when we resume in-person Sabbats. When you can make Magick anywhere, in any situation, Witching in ideal circumstances is not only easier, but makes the Magick more powerful, and the connections with the other worlds that much deeper.
To my mind, we really didn’t change much at all for our online Rituals. This was intentional. One of the things we added after the first online Sabbat is a cue word for Coveners to raise their Athames to salute the Quarters, and again to bring them back to kiss the blade.
...or leading the entire circle. Online or in-person is still total participation.
All of the lines and motions are still done from memory, everyone is robed, chapleted, and all customs and courtesies are in place. Everyone lights their own candles, sprinkles and censes their space, and everyone consecrates their “wine and cakes” for the Great Rite. Not only does this involve everyone in the Ring in a way that heretofore had not been possible, it also is such good training for future leaders of the Ring, and makes for such a magical event!
Several times this past year, our Circles were led by first time Priestesses and Priests. Their amount of dedication and preparation to ensure that our Sabbats rocked for all involved is a great source of pride for us Elders. Similarly, we had many first time Quarter Callers and other Coven lines. We try to divide parts as much as possible to involve as many people as possible, and they to a one really “shine like a dime…”!
Online Rituals, classes, and even Covens are a reality. They are a necessity for some, even in healthier times. In our experience, online Rituals are very magical, dynamic, and emotional events. If anyone or any group is considering doing things online, I hope you will give it the old Coven try. Treated with the determination due all magical enterprises, I think you will find your efforts more than amply rewarded. I know our Coven has.