Saturday, May 18, 2024

(A brief and biased version of the history of JaguarMoon. . . )

Where we came from…

In 1997, Lady Mystara (a Third Degree Witch, trained in the Visions and Dreams coven and associated with the StarKindler lineage) formed an online class with a post to the Witchhaven e-list saying (among other things):

“The ART OF RITUAL is an on-line class and MORE - designed to take you not only through the basics of the Craft, but give you real food for thought as you practice and learn your Craft with a Cyber Coven. Learn all the ‘basics’ of the Craft necessary for First Degree Initiation, or Self-Initiation. But ... Why stop there? You'll have what you need to begin a much more in-depth study of the Craft - with personal assistance at every step, and at no charge. You'll participate in on-line rituals for Sabbats and Esbats ... celebrate the Full and New moons ... Rites of Passage. Our first goal will be to dedicate our new Cyber Coven at Samhain.”

And so we did – and it was successful!

I was in that class that became a coven and (much to my surprise) found a home for my way of practicing in the world. While I was having many nooks and crannies of magickal knowledge filled in by the class, I was also discovering an interesting group of people to work magick with on a regular basis. Hyssop was also a first year member and she and I got to know one another well.

ShadowMoon was very much a ‘make it up as we go along” group in every aspect. It was also based on British Traditional Wicca, with a large dollop of anything else that Mystara wanted to share with us (which could be very eclectic indeed!) After I finished the class I became an initiate of the coven and began to assist Mystara in creating a tradition from the class/coven she had created.

In the second year, I created a lesson plan that organized the massive (and frequently chaotic) amount of information Mystara imparted to the class. Based on the wheel of the year the lesson plan provided a structure and framework for the class to hang the knowledge upon. Hyssop’s husband, Ash joined the class that year and I got to know him very well since he was one of my first students. That year was a difficult one for us because the acting High Priest, White Pine, decided to leave ShadowMoon and give up witchcraft entirely due to enormous pressure from his wife. The coven was stringently structured to be a hierarchical ‘triangle’ so the work White Pine had been doing fell back into Mystara’s hands, and she was overworked. Slowly she began to give up tasks to others –Phoenix, Daavoulia, and myself in particular – but not before she became ill.

Her illness disrupted the class, although those of us who had been in the first class did our best to keep lessons going. It also left the coven dangerously unguided and drifting, even as we were struggling to make a reality of Mystara’s vision of hundreds of cyber covens all over the globe. To accomplish this, Mystara felt that coven members needed to be trained quickly so they could go forth and lead those daughter covens.

In the third year (1999) many sudden changes happened. Mystara was diagnosed with a rare stomach disorder in which her stomach was literally closing in upon itself, starving her to death. At Samhain, Hyssop announced that she was leaving ShadowMoon, primarily because she did not feel comfortable with leading a coven, which was the main focus of all coven work, and because the coven had been moving towards a more traditional (specifically Gardnerian) posture. Not long after then, Ash too left the coven.

Unbeknownst to them, earlier in the month I had finally agreed to take my Third degree initiation in the following spring. The very night I told Mystara of my plan, I had a dream in which Grandmother Jaguar came to me and said, “The coven’s name is JaguarMoon.” I knew I could no longer deny the path being laid before me, and the next morning I told Mystara that my 3rd degree would also be a hiving.

Hyssop, Ash, and my good friend Estrella all contacted me within the next week to discuss with me the possibility of my leading a coven one day, and offering to work with me if I did so. Truly the path was laid, and smoothed before me (and I’m not one to deny the gifts of the God/dess!)

And so, in May of 2000, JaguarMoon was born. I was given my Third Degree Initiation, and Hived from ShadowMoon as a single entity on May 6th. On May 8th, Ash, Hyssop, Estrella and I met on IRC and consecrated the new coven. Ash was the Air that brought humor and inspiration, Estrella the Firey spark of warmth and will, Hyssop brought Watery grace and intuitive understanding, and I balanced us with the strength of Earth. JaguarMoon was the Spiritual being we birthed and it was thrice wonderful!

From the beginning we were determined to do things differently than ShadowMoon did. We wanted structure without rules, strength without restrictions, and a balanced philosophy that supported us as people in the world, not apart from it. Specifically, we felt that it was a bad idea to Dedicate students into the coven at the start of the class year. Instead we decided to treat the students like coven mates, but to not formally bond them through a ritual. Students took part in rituals, often taking roles and calling quarters right from the start, and they learned what it was like to work with others, without having to form a bond that might have to be broken at the end of the year. We also felt that some of the lessons we were taught weren’t suitable for beginning students (like Qabala and Tantra) so we eliminated them from the lessons and added Astrology and deeper Tarot work as compensation. Most importantly, we decided that creating a Tradition was not our focus. If JaguarMoon existed alone, then that was a good thing. If we ever had members who wished to hive then that would be good as well, but we weren’t going to force leadership on coven members – they would come to it by themselves.

Where we are now…

JaguarMoon is an entirely virtual teaching coven following the path of American Eclectic Wicca (AEW). AEW is sometimes used to refer to a broad range of individuals or groups that base their philosophy, rituals, and practices on the published works of modern American Witches like Scott Cunningham and Starhawk. American Eclectics frequently take the position that Wicca is a completely modern religion created by Gerald Gardner but that the beliefs and practices of Wicca are rooted within historical teachings. In general, American Eclectics emphasize spontaneity and a strong sense of `use what works, discard what doesn't.'

In JaguarMoon we believe that Oaths, Lineage, Initiations, and Traditions are very important for the strength of the connections we form with one another. We may not have a lineage in a traditional sense, but we intend to go forward creating our own branching Tradition. To that end, we prefer structure to chaos, writing down what works and using it again, making changes as needed (preferably by consensus), and a preference for keeping an eye on what we will evolve into rather than making it up as we go along.

We see our coven as a wheel, which morphs in and out of a snowflake shape with the inclusion of the students. At the center is the High Priestess, the coven members are linked directly to her, and with one another; students are linked to their mentor and (loosely) to one another around the rim.

In June 2006 we hived off our daughter coven, Southern Cross Coven, which followed our teaching tradition, but operated entirely in the Southern hemisphere. Sadly, the coven is defunct.

Where we are going…

We are changing and evolving, growing and transforming. I have no gift of clear sight when looking into the future and have a difficult time trying to place limitations on what we can become. Words limit as well as free, and so all I will say is this: JaguarMoon has the potential to become a living Tradition, with children and branches and I devoutly hope that we reach that point in our evolution.

by my hand,
Lady Maat
December 2003, updated November 2011, September 2016