About Compost Coven
by Valerie Walker,
Like its namesake the compost pile,
Compost Coven has been turned over many times, scattered to fertilize
new growth elsewhere, and reassembled using all KINDS of oddly-assorted
Compost Coven was formed in the
early l970s by a group of people who had little or no knowledge of Wicca,
but who were determined to re-create a viable religion which emphasized
the worship of the Great Goddess and her Consort. It was a post-hippie,
pre-punk gathering of poets and lunatics who were into finding new and
creative ways to deal with their relationship to the Goddess. The founding
High Priestess, Starhawk, had been initiated into the Faery tradition;
but strands of many traditions, learned both from personal contact with
Witches and from books, added to the archetypal materials which arose
from dreams and group trancework, were woven by the original Composters
to form a web of unique design, unlike that of any other group.
In the year after I was initiated,
many of the original group went on to other affiliations, left town, or
went Solitary, leaving me to become High Priestess on gaining my Red Cord.
To keep it going, I decided to turn Compost into a training coven for
novice witches. During the next several years a LOT of turning over took
place: many initiations, many people going off into the half-astral, and
some few sticking around to see what would happen. The problem with being
high priestess in charge of training a bunch of witches is that inevitably
you become a mother figure, and catch all the static that goes with the
role. When I moved out of San Francisco in 1981, I passed the wand to
Decius. She was not long in realizing that it's a dirty job and throwing
the ball to Linda, who soldiered on for a couple of years before laying
it in the long-suffering lap of Leah.
Rituals were still held fairly
regularly, but no new apprentices were being taken in, and gradually all
the initiates qualified for Red Cord. By the summer of 1986, when I returned
to San Francisco, the current H.Ps. was sick of it too, and I had undertaken
a mighty vow that Never Again would you catch me being the High Priestess.
Problem was, there weren't any other women involved in the group, and
you can't have a male H.Ps.....or can you??
We fudged on that question, and
decided that it would be easier to run the coven as a group. When we had
rituals, whoever wanted to officiate could do so, without regard to gender,
and screw tradition. This way worked well for us.
For the next few years, we focused
more on publishing our magazine, the Compost NewsLetter, or CNL, and less on holding
rituals on a regular basis--perhaps because we are such a bunch of Solitaries
at heart. It may also be because we have such a varied set of influences
working, everything from the simple Wicca rituals we used to use in the
old Compost College days to Santeria, Voudon, shamanism, Native American
practices, you name it. At the same time, there's
a real connection between Composters past and present that doesn't seem
to have much to do with what we are doing with each other.
One of my former students, Cynthia Gregory, became a founding member of a separate group, the Circle of the Winged Toads. Active for over eighteen years, in 1999 the Circle of the Winged Toads became sheltered under the Compost Coven, Inc. corporation umbrella (there was literally a Passing of the Umbrella ritual, but that's another story). The Toads are active and growing, and many of the articles in this site have been written by Cynthia for use at Toads gatherings (see the Table of Contents). As for Compost proper, we have become a Board of Directors, which meets officially once a year. I am the "Throne (chair)", and am pleased to remain so, as long as I don't have to do anything that resembles work. Cynthia is the official "All That Is (secretary, summoner, and general dogsbody)", and she is definitely ALL THAT. She has been compiling her own Disk of Shadows, and I intend to include these articles and rituals in this site. So keep watching!
I would like to put this Website
and its divisions out into the world in order to keep the teachings going
without having to go through all the politics and hassles of running a
study-group. It is designed to be a teaching aid for both groups and solitaries.
There are many, MANY more books available on the Craft than there were
when I got started; but I still say, as I have always said, that the best
thing you can do is GROW YOUR OWN. So take this as a friendly pointer
for the newcomer to the Craft, and possibly an illustration of a slightly
different tradition to the more experienced Witch; but use it as one would
use compost. Scatter it around in your garden, keep it moist, dig it in,
and plant the seeds of your own inspiration in it. Keep it watered and
weeded. And stop to smell the roses.
Happy Trails and Blessed Be --Valerie