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Open Access Publications from the University of California

CAYA Coven: Eclectic Paganism in the East Bay Area


CAYA Coven is an eclectic Pagan public service organization in San Francisco’s East Bay area that is dedicated to providing public rituals for all, encompassing a diversity of age, gender, beliefs and deities from all over the world.  As stated on their website, one of their main sacred tenets is to “honor one another’s unique spiritual practices, and seek to enrich [their] sense of community with diversity.”  This talk addresses the ever growing notion of “spiritual not religious” in modern American Culture.  As Talal Asad argues that religion cannot be universally defined, I seek to situate CAYA coven in this American cultural context, specifically involving individualism as a highly praised ethos.  In order to accomplish this, I include a brief history of Paganism the U.S. that lead to the creation of CAYA Coven, describe the content and construction of CAYA rituals based on participant observation, and explain aspects of ritual interpretation drawing from multiple interviews with long term and short term members.  I aim to show that eclectic Pagans demonstrate through ritual performances, that personal spiritual autonomy can be shared and maintained within a spiritual community of practitioners of a vast range of personal beliefs about the divine.

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