Covenant of the Goddess: An Interview with Hawk, CoG National First Officer
by Christopher Blackwell
The Covenant of the Goddess is one of the oldest umbrella organizations for Wiccans. A lot of other organizations have come and gone, but CoG is still active and still doing the things it set out to do. That alone makes it something out of the ordinary in for the Pagan world. As they recently put in a new national first officer, I thought that I would do an interview and find out what was happening with the Covenant of the Goddess. I interviewed the Rev. Ginger Wages, known simply as Hawk.
Christopher: Could you give us a bit of background about you?
Hawk: Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions, Christopher. I’m a Southern Witch who has been practicing the Old Religion for sixteen years. I was raised primarily in the South, and I am an Air Force brat. I’m a writer and editor by trade and currently live in Georgia with my partner and a bunch of cats. If I’m not writing or sleeping, I’m probably gaming (or maybe watching football)
Christopher: How did you come to be a Wiccan?
Hawk: I was raised Southern Baptist, but I didn’t find a spiritual path that really resonated with my soul until I began to look at the Native American beliefs. I liked how that path felt to me, but something was still missing. When I discovered the European tribal cultures and followed them across the English Channel to Britain, I knew that I had found my path. Granted, it’s definitely Neo Paganism, but through the writings of such Wiccans as Gerald Gardner, Scott Cunningham and Starhawk, the Old Religion is very accessible.
Christopher: How long have you been with CoG?
Hawk: I’ve been a CoG member since 1999.
Christopher: When did you become the National First Officer? What do you do?
Hawk: I was elected in August at our Grand Council, and I took “office” on November 1st. I will serve as National First Officer for a year and then serve as Emerita for an additional year. As NFO, I am the spokesperson for CoG for interviews such as this, and I help steer the ship, so to speak, along with my fellow National Officers.
Christopher: How and when did CoG come to be? What was the reason it was formed?
Hawk: In the 1970’s there was a marked rise of interest in Witchcraft not only in the United States, but throughout the world, reflecting a growing feminist awareness and global concern for the environment. In the Spring of 1975, a group of Northern California Witches all from diverse traditions got together. They all shared the idea of forming a religious organization for all practitioners of Witchcraft and gathered to draft a covenant among themselves. These representatives also drafted bylaws to administer this new organization now known as the Covenant of the Goddess. At the 1975 Summer Solstice, the bylaws were ratified by thirteen member congregations (or covens). The Covenant of the Goddess was incorporated as a nonprofit religious organization on October 31, 1975.
Christopher: How did its different projects develop as time went on? What have been some of its high points in its history?
Hawk: There are projects in motion all of the time at the local and national level! As we are a grass roots organization most of our work is done at the local level. Our local councils are very active in their communities and sponsor at least one gathering each year such as a Witches’ Ball. We are non profit, so these projects are all fundraisers and support such things as our Interfaith work.
We’re very proud of our Interfaith representatives, both national and local, who have really put themselves “out there” to ensure a valid and true representation of CoG (and thus Wiccans and Witches) to the world. We have sent delegates to the World Parliament of Religions since the first modern Parliament and continuously since then. Our National Interfaith Reps travel the world over and have worked with indigenous peoples and protecting their rights as well as having valuable discourse with both laity and clergy of many other traditions, religions, and spiritual paths. CoG is a member of the North American Interfaith Network, and one of our members sits on the board.
Christopher: How does the CoG operate? Are there local and local parts to it? Are its members groups, individuals, or both?
Hawk: There are currently 13 local councils that are spread across the United States from California to Florida and up to the New England coast. Each local council assists and services its local area and membership. In the areas where no local council exists, we have memberships that are called “national” memberships. We have covens and solitaries as members of CoG. We work at the grass roots level. That is to say that our members, not the board, carry the power to make organizational decisions. We also function through consensus process. The only time that we vote is for officers at our yearly national meeting.
Christopher: I have seen organizations come and go. How has the CoG continued to survive when so many other Pagan organizations haven’t survived?
Hawk: You will, no doubt, get many answers to this one, depending on who you ask! In my opinion, CoG works and has endured because we use consensus to operate. We do not use majority rule. There’s an excellent document on the public CoG page about consensus and why the CoG founders decided to use it as our means of conducting business. In a nutshell, when you use majority rule, you may have up to 49% of your membership unhappy with the election results. That’s ludicrous, isn’t it? With consensus, everyone is heard and everyone has the power to say “no”. It sounds clumsy, I know, but I’ve seen it in action, and when consensus is used along with friendly amendments and friendly objections, everyone will (eventually) be served.
Christopher: On the Covenant of the Goddess web site there was a long list of things that CoG has done for Wiccans, Witches, and Pagans. Could you cover some of the things CoG is doing right now that benefits the entire community?
Hawk: As I said before, our Interfaith work benefits every follower of the Old Religion. Our reps don’t just speak for CoG or Wiccans; they speak for all Goddess worshippers and our right to worship. CoG has devout Wiccan members, but we have just as many members who are adamant that they be called “Witches”. We support our military Pagans with our own military liaison, and we have partnered many times, and would do so again, with Circle Sanctuary to support the rights of military Pagans. We work in our communities by hosting festivals, Witches’ Balls, rituals, and more that are open to everyone, not just CoG members. We give youth awards and community awards to any Pagan who has met the criteria and applies to CoG.
Christopher: What are some of the new ideas for projects for the CoG for the future?
Hawk: We will be sponsoring another Youth Essay Contest from which the winner will attend the next World Parliament of Religions in Belgium in 2014 with our National Interfaith Reps. This is a fabulous way for Pagan youth to express themselves and get involved with Interfaith work. Our last winner is now working on her PhD and is an Ambassador for the World Parliament of Religions!
CoG is very active in attending the American Academy of Religions annual conference and just recently hosted a reception in San Francisco at that event.
Christopher: What kind of people are needed to continue the CoG into the future? What kind of people are of the greatest need for the organization?
Hawk: The same type of people that has gotten us to where we are: ALL kinds! CoG is not a tradition based or even exclusively Wiccan organization. We are Goddess worshippers. It is through our diversity in worship and the process of consensus that not only have we survived, we have prospered. We are moving into the digital world of Facebook and Twitter, (our FB account has over 4,000 followers), and our local councils strive to be a presence at the annual Pagan Pride Day events throughout the US. Through these media, old and new, we hope to reach more Pagans and let them know that we are here.
Christopher: Why should a Wiccan join the CoG? What can they be part of that they might not find in other organizations?
Hawk: CoG is always working for the Pagan community; that won’t stop. What you get from being a member, though, can be quite valuable: Ministerial Credentials, networking support, Elder Credentials, Handfasting Certificates, and other legal documentation to help you work as clergy. For me, the most valuable aspect of being a CoG member is being able to serve my Community that now, thanks to CoG, includes WitchKin from all over this country and beyond!
Christopher: Where can people learn more about Covenant of the Goddess?
Hawk: The place to start is www.cog.org. From there, if there is still interest in joining, contact your local council membership officer or our national membership officer.