In covens, circles, and groves, each member basically has two “practices.” We as witches have our personal practices that we do at home and also the practices of our group. One of the purposes of practicing in a coven is to encourage the spiritual growth and refinement of our individual members. Coven and group leaders can facilitate the growth of their group’s members by using the convention of voluntary vows in order to capitalize upon accountability as a motivational tool.
Appropriate vows will have to do with our spiritual and/or mundane goals and will encourage us to follow through with our intentions. Taken in front of the group members and recorded in the group’s journal or BoS, the vows are spiritually binding and their completion can lead us to our spiritual and practical betterment.
In order to be effective, vows must be voluntarily taken and “passing” must be an option. The most effective vows will be “SMART.”
An example of an effective vow would be: “From this Sabbat to the next, I will write two assigned papers toward my next elevation and submit them to my Craft teacher.”
Another effective vow: “From this moon to the next, I will refrain from eating meat as a spiritual exercise and will record the food I eat in my spiritual journal each day.”
Notice that the two examples are SMART. Examples of less effective wording might be something like the following: “I will eat a better diet and exercise more.” Why is that ineffective? It isn’t quantifiable and has no built in way of measuring whether the vow has been completed. “A better diet” can’t be measured. Better than what? And we can’t really measure “exercise more.” More than what, exactly? Effective wording of a vow will lead to a greater sense of personal honor and accomplishment, which is the whole idea of vowing to begin with.
My coven’s members take “hinge vows” and “new moon vows.” The Sabbats of Samhain and Beltaine are our “hinges” and mark the times when administrative power is passed from the High Priestess to the High Priest and back again. Not all groups do this of course. It is just as easy to simply select a Sabbat at which vowing will take place, or to take vows at each Sabbat. My group uses our “hinge vows” as larger vows and the “new moon vows” as a way of breaking up our hinge vows into smaller steps.
Example of a “hinge vow”: “From this hinge to the next, I vow to finish the capstone project I have been assigned in my senior seminar and therefor graduate with my degree.” The subsequent “new moon vows” would break that project up into doable steps that will lead to the completion of the project by the following hinge Sabbat.
The use of vowing as a spiritual and practical tool for growth and positive change has been very rewarding for our coven and is one of the conventions I “inherited” from the coven in which I was trained. I encourage group leaders to discuss it with your members as a means of reaching your spiritual and practical goals.
So, a question for readers: What conventions does your group use and why do you find them useful?