|“||Coven, to be precise. Oh, you know, family of witches.||”|
A Coven is a name used to describe a gathering of witches. A coven is generally a group of twelve or more witches who occasionally meet to practice magic, celebrate sacred holidays, and discuss topics on witchcraft. As shown on several occasions, covens seem to always have both a leader and followers.
In New Orleans, there are at least nine covens, all of which have detailed rules of conduct and a complex structure. All members of each of the nine New Orleans covens follow a leader known as the Regent. Together, the nine covens are a collective community that has Elders who guide them, and each coven individually has its own structure and different types of magic that they practice (such as sacrificial magic, necromancy, etc) as well. However, they all appear to share their common form of witchcraft, Ancestral Magic, which they practice by drawing upon the magical power of the Ancestors.
To earn the title of an Elder, a witch must have the power bestowed upon them by another Elder, or, in the case where there are no Elders to pass on the power, the witch in question must be able to consecrate the mortal remains of a powerful witch; this fail-safe was demonstrated by the witch Sophie Deveraux, who became an Elder of the French Quarter Coven after consecrating the remains of Esther Mikaelson.
Throughout The Vampire Diaries Series
In Graduation, Bonnie Bennett, with the intention of completing the Expression Triangle for the immortal Silas, asked her mother, Abby Bennett Wilson, for help in contacting twelve witches to "cleanse" her of Expression magic. Aja, a former friend of Abby, met with Bonnie in the place she requested, along with the other eleven witches in her coven. When Bonnie looked apprehensive, Aja assured her that she and her coven had experience in dealing with witches consumed by Expression. When the members of the coven all linked themselves to Aja to give her the additional strength she needed to overpower Bonnie to strip away her Expression magic, Caroline Forbes, who refused to stand by and watch them kill her best friend, killed Aja by stabbing her, which in turn killed every witch who was linked to her.
Aja, along with her coven, returned to the world of the living to take revenge against Caroline and her friends for being complicit in their murders. Since the Veil between the Other Side and the living world was temporarily lowered by Bonnie's spell, Aja and her coven were able to use their magic to cast Pain Infliction spells on Caroline, Stefan Salvatore, and Elena Gilbert at their Graduation Ceremony. However, Niklaus appeared and killed Aja by decapitating her with a graduation cap, effectively scaring away the rest of the witches and preventing them from doing further harm.
In I Know What You Did Last Summer, a group of cursed witches called the Travelers were introduced. Because of their predilection for performing their magic in groups as a result of the ancient curse placed upon their people two thousand years earlier, the Travelers could be considered a very large coven.
In Yellow Ledbetter, the Gemini Coven is introduced in the series. It was later explained that the coven was extremely old, since they were believed to have been the group of witches who cursed the Travelers in 100 BCE. The Gemini Coven also has a specific ritual for choosing their leaders known as The Merge ceremony. In this ceremony, when a set of twins in the coven reaches the age of 22, the two twins perform the Merge during a celestial event, during which the stronger twin essentially kills the weaker twin in order to absorb their magical powers and certain personality traits, doubling their strength in the process. Once the ritual is complete, the stronger twin then becomes the leader of the coven, to whom the collective power of the coven is linked. This connective magic benefits the coven by making them all stronger, but it does come at a cost—the lives of everyone in the coven are bound to the life of their leader, which would mean that the leader's death would cause the entirety of the coven to be killed along with them. This requires the coven to have a Merge ceremony regularly in order to ensure that there will be a new leader before the previous one can die or be killed.
At the introduction of the Gemini Coven to the series, the leader was Joshua Parker, who was meant to be succeeded by one of his eldest twins, Malachai or Josette Parker. However, due to several factors (namely, Malachai's mental instability and his unique ability to absorb the magic of other witches without the capability to possess his own, which led his parents to call him an "abomination"), Joshua and his wife determined that Malachai was unfit to lead the coven and decided to keep having more children until they had another set of twins to replace them. Eventually, they succeeded, and Olivia Parker and Lucas Parker were born solely with the intention of taking Joshua's place as coven leader instead.
Unfortunately, despite Joshua's best efforts, Malachai ended up performing the Merge ceremony anyway in 2013, during which he overpowered and killed his brother Luke. Because he "won" the Merge, he not only absorbed Lucas' magical strength and his ability to generate his own magic (which, as a Siphoner, Malachai did not possess naturally), he also gained his brother's ability to be empathetic and remorseful upon his ascension as coven leader. The Gemini Coven ended up meeting its end several months later at the wedding of his twin sister Josette and her intended husband, Alaric Saltzman. Before the couple could finish their vows, Malachai killed Josette and her unborn twins and attacked the rest of the party attendants before stabbing himself in the throat with a shard of glass and killing himself. Though he had been given vampire blood from Lily Salvatore and reawakened as a witch/vampire hybrid, his death caused the rest of the coven's members to die as well, including his father Joshua and sister Olivia. After Malachai was killed by Damon Salvatore later that evening, his death marked the end of the modern-day generation of the Gemini Coven for good.
Throughout The Originals Series
In Always and Forever, the French Quarter Coven is introduced, a community of witches in the French Quarter who practice Ancestral Magic. It is assumed that the coven has existed for quite a long time, due to their tradition of the Harvest, a ritual that the ancestral witches perform every three hundred years in order to strengthen the link they have to their Ancestors, on whom they draw for strength. Members of the coven, led by Sophie Deveraux, manipulate the newly-returned Original Vampires Niklaus and Elijah Mikaelson into helping them overthrow the vampire leader Marcel Gerard, who had been holding the witches in subjugation and forbidding them to practice magic.
In City Beneath The Sea, it was revealed that there are actually nine major covens in New Orleans, including the Tremé Coven, the Algiers Coven, the 9th Ward Coven, and the Garden District Coven. It is insinuated that at least some of these covens also practice Ancestral Magic, though it's likely they also practice other forms of magic as well. A former witch of the Tremé Coven, Eva Sinclair, intended to complete a ritual known as the Rite of Nines that involved channeling and eventually sacrificing one witch from each of the nine covens in New Orleans in order to create a "new witch order" in the city. It was believed that had Eva been successful in completing the ritual, she would have been more powerful than any Elder or Harvest girl. After the death of the Regent of the nine New Orleans covens, Josephine LaRue, the Elders attempted to recruit former Tremé Coven member Vincent Griffith to replace her. However, Vincent's reluctance to return to the drama of the supernatural community in New Orleans led him to suggest that Davina Claire be named Regent instead, and after some convincing on both of their parts, Davina was officially given the title of Regent, and, as such, was made the conduit to the will of the Ancestors.
In For the Next Millennium, Davina gathers the Elders of the nine covens of New Orleans to decide the guidelines to be followed, namely a truce in the feud between vampires and witches. The witches who belong to the Ninth Ward Coven cause friction in the witch community, because they do not trust Davina as a leader, as they consider her a vampire sympathizer. One of the Elder of the Ninth Ward Coven, Kara Nguyen, even physically attacked Davina with a spell during a meeting in Lafayette Cemetery and she paid the price with her life.
New Orleans is the city with the largest number of covens, which are well structured and differentiated compared to other covens or groups shown so far. While small coven, generally family-run, refer to a leader or Elder, in New Orleans, witch covens are hierarchical according to a well-defined pattern:
- Regent: Chief witch of all nine covens of New Orleans, sovereign of the witch community and acting as an emissary to the Ancestors. This role is not hereditary, but elective by mutual agreement among the Elders based on the candidate's leadership skills and needs of the community.
- Elder: Every coven has at least a couple of Elder witches who act as guides and priests of the individual coven, as well as dealing with internal problems of the coven concerned.
- Harvest Witch: Every 300 years, four young witches known as "Harvest Witches" are chosen from the French Quarter Coven to be the forefront of the Harvest Ritual, a ceremony that according to Vincent Griffith can be performed only by Elders from the French Quarter Coven. Upon completion of the ritual, a Harvest Witch gains the favor of the Ancestors and is revered by the community to be trained as future leaders.
- Witch Community: The families belonging to the same coven act as members of one big family, so there's the French Quarter witches, the Tremé witches, the Versailles witches and so on. Typically each coven manages its business in a certain part of the city, respecting the borders established by the division into districts, but some matters require to collaborate, so the elders of each coven meet with the Regent to discuss policies to be implemented, especially when it is required to interact with other factions; humans, vampires, and werewolves, respectively.
Traditions and Policies
A coven acts as a large organization or an extended family, offering support and protection to its members, but it's also administered by strict rules of conduct that lead to severe punishment those who transgress the rules, especially among New Orleans covens.
Sometimes it is possible that within the same coven there are factions with different agenda. This may be caused by personal motivations and beliefs, feuds or personal gain. However, one of the tasks of Elders and Regent is to keep peace among the witch community members. A conspiracy against superior ranks can lead to hanging, as stated by the witch Davina Claire and the questioning of the value of the Ancestors as well as plotting against witches leads to a gruesome death, usually bleeding caused by magical means.
The most terrible punishment that a witch can undergo is to be shunned via a ritual that is implemented only in severe circumstances when a witch is guilty of serious crimes, such as plotting the killing of other witches. When the guilty witch also happens to be Regent, the witch is forced to renounce the leadership role. Since the shunned witch is cast out from the witch community, it's possible the same rule applies to the Elders as well.
For New Orleans witches who suffer from mental issues or are guilty of the crime of practicing dark or forbidden magic, the sentence is to be locked in the Fauline Asylum, where they are constantly sedated in order to suppress their magical power.
Since the witches of New Orleans draw on a common source of Ancestral Magic, every three hundred years the Ancestors demand the sacrifice of four young witches to reestablish the connection between living and dead witches of the Crescent City. The task of completing the Harvest Ritual is up to the Elders of the French Quarter Coven, or another sufficiently powerful witch in case there are no living elders and the sacrifice must be accepted by the Ancestors, or, in the case of the re-connection of the Ancestral Plane, through the intercession of an Ancestral French Quarter Witch spirit, i.e. Davina Claire. To fuel the pool of Ancestral power, it is a tradition among the witches of New Orleans to consecrate their dead, sending the magical energy to the Ancestral Plane, where the Ancestors watch over their descendants.
A tradition that belongs only to the Gemini Coven, a coven located in Portland, Oregon, was to elect their leader through a deadly ritual, known as The Merge, where the twin children of the current leader would merge their magic and the stronger twin would absorb the magic from the weaker twin, as well as character traits, gaining full leadership of the coven from the previous leader.
- Aja's Coven (Destroyed)
- Bennett Coven (Inactive)
- The Eight Everlastings (Destroyed)
- Gemini Coven (Inactive)
- The Heretics (Hybrids; Inactive)
- The Travelers (Destroyed)
- The Morts-Vivants (Books; Destroyed)
- Obeah Coven
- The Sisters (Destroyed)
- Native American Witch Tribe (Inactive)
- Nine Covens of New Orleans
- The word "coven" was originally a late medieval Scots word (circa 1500) meaning a gathering of any kind according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It derives from the Latin root word "convenire" meaning "to come together" or "to gather", which also gave rise to the English word convene. In modern English, the word "coven" has as its primary meaning "a gathering of witches", more rarely of vampires (who usually go by the name of clan).
- College professor Sheila Bennett and Dr. Jonas Martin mentioned that the Bennett Family comes from Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is well known for their history of persecuting witches, including the Salem Witch Trials.
- Traditionally, there are thirteen witches in a coven: one leader, and twelve members.
- The term "coven" was originally created to give a name to a group of witches, but at present, the term is also used for a group of vampires, as well as "clan" and "den."
- If the leader of the Gemini Coven dies, the rest of the members die as well.
- It is confirmed there are nine covens in New Orleans.
- According to what was suggested by Vincent in City Beneath The Sea, though each of the nine covens of New Orleans practice Ancestral Magic, each of the covens also have other different forms of witchcraft that they practice based on the kind of magic practiced by their ancestors, such as Sacrificial Magic, Representational Magic, Voodoo, Hoodoo, necromancy, etc. This was confirmed by Vincent after he convinced Davina to become Regent, when he explained to her that her connection to all of the Ancestors of all nine covens would allow her to draw on the different forms of magic that they practiced during their lives, including necromancy, which would give her the power to bring her boyfriend Kol Mikaelson back from the dead.
- The covens of New Orleans are headed by a single witch, known as Regent, who is the voice and the will of the Ancestors and has access to the totality of the power of all of the Ancestors from each of the nine covens.
- This role, until spring 2013, had been covered by Josephine LaRue. After her death, the Elders of the nine covens wanted to elect Vincent Griffith to replace her, but since he was uninterested in the role, he nominated Davina Claire to take the position instead.
- Davina was officially given the title of Regent in Fire with Fire, after she convinced the Elders that she would help them stand strong against the vampires.
- Both her and the Regent that followed her, Vincent, were shunned. The last Regent, Van Nguyen was murdered by Kol Mikaelson. After his death, a new Regent has not been named, though the witches look to Vincent as a 'Leader' despite his prior rejection from the Ancestors and his part he played in breaking the Ancestors' link to the mortal plane.