About Compost Coven

by Valerie Walker, HPs (1975-1981)


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 elements.

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.

Current status:

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