In medieval English, this word, a variant of 'convent' and derived from Latin conven-tus, 'assembly', had no link to witches; it meant either a gathering of people (number unspecified), or a community of thirteen monks and their abbot, modelled on Christ and his apostles. However, in Scotland from about 1500 it was occasionally applied to a witches' meeting, possibly by association with the similar-sounding word 'covin', meaning a plot or a group of plotters; in 1662 a Scottish witch, Isobel Gowdie, said in her confession that 'ther is threttein persones in ilk coeven'. A second example of this usage occurs in the deposition of a Northumbrian girl called Anne Armstrong, a witness in a witch trial in 1673; she spoke of witches attending the sabbath in 'coveys' of thirteen (Sharpe, 1996: 279). The term remained rare until it was picked up by Sir Walter Scott in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, 1830.
   In 1922 Margaret *Murray launched the theory that witches were always organized in groups of thirteen where the leader impersonated the Devil, and alleged that trial records showed several such groups, including five in England. When checked by historians, her figures turned out to be wrong; she had manipulated information in her sources to achieve the desired number. Though the idea of organization by covens is now rejected by scholars as unhistorical, it is widely taken for granted in fiction and journalism; it is also central to the organization of the *Wicca movement.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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  • Coven — This article is about covens in witchcraft. For the film, see Coven (movie). For the band, see Coven (band). For the village, see Coven, Staffordshire. A coven or covan is a name used to describe a gathering of witches or in some cases vampires.… …   Wikipedia

  • coven — /kuv euhn, koh veuhn/, n. an assembly of witches, esp. a group of thirteen. [1500 10 for sense assembly ; 1655 65 for current sense; var. of obs. covent assembly, religious group, CONVENT] * * * ▪ witchcraft       basic group in which witches are …   Universalium

  • Coven —  Ne pas confondre Coven et Convent. Coven était à l origine un mot écossais du Moyen Âge tardif (vers 1500) qui signifiait un rassemblement de personnes. Il dérive du latin convoco qui signifie être ensemble ou se rassembler qui donna aussi… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • coven — UK [ˈkʌv(ə)n] / US noun [countable] Word forms coven : singular coven plural covens a group or meeting of witches …   English dictionary