Interview: Coven of Her Flaming Torch
As part of Occult Heritage Month PENTON interviewed Ruan Nightlark Moon of the Coven of Her Flaming Torch.
Tell us about the Coven of Her Flaming Torch (COHTF)- when was it founded and what are some of its goals?
“COHFT came into being Lammas 2011, when its founding members graduated from the Temple of Athena in Johannesburg. The Temple of Athena, or TOA, was an initiative started by Mynie Geldenhuys (PFSA, Hecate’s Loom), and her High Priest at the time, Daniel Graham. It was a Wiccan seminar with the aims of training Wiccan clergy, to be of service to the greater Pagan community of South Africa. COHFT became the “magickal child” of four graduates of the TOA.
It’s core aims are, as it has always been are to teach Wicca as a way of life, to be of service to the old gods ,as they may see fit, to offer to its members guidance towards a greater connection to divinity and eventually, divine union, to be a unit of spiritual nurturing, learning and growth, to be a “spiritual laboratory”, where one can safely experiment with the various aspects and paths to divine, to allow for eclecticism, (for as we know, the Craft today has its roots in many different traditions), and yet be contained by a Coven environment and living Tradition.
COHFT aims are also to be of service to the greater Pagan community, through offering training, workshops, open Sabbats and circles, Handfastings, Rites of Passage and counselling.”
So, show did you arrive at the name ‘Coven of Her Flaming Torch’?
“The name comes from the coven’s patron Goddess, Hekate. Amongst many things, she is the Lady of the Twin Torches, who guides the way at the crossroads and the way through the underworld. Her torches also bring the light of knowledge and wisdom to the minds of man, and that is definitely in line with the aims of COHFT.
Flaming, is of course also a little tongue in cheek, purely accidental and unintentional wink to the fact that we are very open to all sexual orientations. (‘Flaming’ being a modern word to describe someone being overtly and clearly homosexual)”
What makes COHTF stand out?
“What makes COHFT somewhat unique, and I believe especially in South Africa, is that the Coven is definitely an initiatory tradition, and it operates as a Mystery School. We work with the traditional three degree system, and the training is very specific to the student’s progression. It is truly a “living tradition” that we are working with.
I am not stating that we are the only ones working this way, because we are not, but there are very few covens and groups left that actually does. The coven has retained a lot of the traditional Wiccan practices and ways, as it did inherit the Tradition and lineage from TOA. Yet at the same time, we also try and be as progressive as possible, without losing the integrity of that which gives Wicca its unique spiritual ‘current’.”
A lot of Pagan groups tend to be short lived, what’s the secret to COHFT’s longevity?
“Honestly, I think it’s because we kept to keeping the coven small in numbers. At the moment we are five coven members, with quite a large outer court. Group dynamics and inter-politics are a little less chaotic and easier to manage when you are working in a small group. That is why COHFT has an inner and outer court.
In our case, the inner court is the coven itself, and the outer court, is anyone who comes and joins us for a sabbat or a workshop, or training or whatever the case may be. In this way, the coven is not isolated from the greater community. We can be of service, and we see all those on the Pagan path as our greater spiritual family. Yet we can retain the inner cohesion which is needed for a true coven environment. When we do run into problems we try and sort it out as quickly as possible.
Working this way also ensures that, those who are part of the coven, are there to work. They REALLY want to be there. We don’t have any time for bickering, as there is so much to do every time we get together.
It’s my opinion that if covens can stop bickering and wasting time and energy on politics and ego, they will last longer- never forget the true reasons why you got together and formed a coven in the first place.”
South Africa has quite a colourful greater Pagan community- has COHTF being involved in it?
“We are still quite young, but there is a lot planned for the near future. At this point we have been very grateful to host successful open Sabbats and circles and a couple of introductory classes to the Pagan public. One of our members has just written a Marriage Officer exam, so we will soon be able to legally offer civil unions.”
On a more local scale, what are some of COHFT’s most significant milestones?
“I think the mere act of birthing a coven today, is already a milestone. I think the highly individualistic (and if I may add, rather selfish tendencies in society today) make it quite a difficult feat to even get a group together in the first place, not to mention having it lasting beyond a year.
However, I think at present, one of the great milestones for the coven is the fact that we have initiated two wonderful postulants into the First degree and they are now well on their way to their second degree elevation early next year. To see someone truly become more than what they were when they first walked into the covenstead doors, with the gleam of Spirit, God and Goddess in their eyes, is about the biggest milestone any coven can hope for. That is a prime reason why it exists in the first place after all.”
Where would you like to see COHFT in the next few years?
“I think we are all aiming for a bit more work to be done for the outer court. We are planning to create a better platform for networking, training, and the offering of Rites of Passage and the likes, for the greater Pagan community, who might not have the means, time energy or need to join a coven.
I think it’s wonderful that Paganism has grown beyond only covens, groves and groups, and that there now exist , as author Judy Harrow pointed out, a Pagan laity( a body of religious worshippers, beyond those in formal clergy positions, or groups covens ect.).”
Paganism, and other occult religions, have had quite the struggle to be where they are today in SA, where would you like to see them going in the future?
“Paganism in this country is still a young movement. Compared to the states and the UK, we still have a long way to go. Yet it is our hope, that the veils of misconception that cloud so many ignorant minds can be lifted, even if just to let a few rays of sun in at a time.
As for the Pagan and Occult community itself, we wish for that same veil of ignorance about each other, to be lifted. Everybody has the right to their opinions. Just for Old Gods sake, don’t base your opinions on ignorance. Rather learn from each other, as there is so much to learn, and sometimes the answers to your own path lie in someone else’s.”