The Children of Artemis is a UK-based witchcraft membership organisation that organises Witchfest, a regular Wicca and witchcraft themed festival and conference, held in London, Glasgow and Cardiff, provides a witchcraft web site, and publishes "Witchcraft and Wicca" magazine. It was the first large UK membership organisation for Witches and Wiccans.
The Children of Artemis (CoA) was originally founded as a ritual group in the early 1990s by ex-students from a Wicca Study Group course.
The CoA continued as a small group until 1995 when it was transformed into a public membership organisation. Initially it grew slowly until around 1999-2000, when the web site, magazine and events were established, quickly becoming market leaders.
CoA is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, who are given responsibility for their areas of expertise, this includes Witchfest, the magazine, web site, and all other areas of the organisation. It has no hierarchy, no titles and as there are no political positions it holds no elections. It is essentially a religious organisation dedicated to Wicca and Witchcraft, not currently a political one. It follows the general ethos within both Wicca and Witchcraft in its dislike of impressive sounding titles.
The core Children of Artemis team helped the Pagan Federation organise their conferences in 1997 & 1998. The help was given to the PF on a voluntary basis and the PF retained all the profits from the events. This period lasted two years, during which CoA did not develop as its resources were being fully utilised helping the other organisation. The PF president took personal control of their conference in 1999 following issues accounting for some expenses, this allowed CoA to focus back onto its own development. The first Witchfest event came three years later in November 2002.
The coven finding service was ceased in 2003. The service was ended as there are not sufficient covens accepting trainees, and vast numbers looking, making it an impossible and thankless task. To attempt to address this lack of opportunity CoA has run Wicca Introduced courses twice a year, and now funds some Open Rituals.
CoA has helped several other organisations, even running a joint charity event with The Druid Network. It is a valuable resource for its members, who can meet like minded people both at the events and online.
Because of CoA's use of the word "Witch" it has encountered many instances of blatant discrimination.
- Witches banned from environmental fair The ban was not aimed specifically at CoA, it applied to all Witches, Wiccans, Tarot Readers and even New Age traders. The victory resulted in these groups being welcome again after a ban lasting over a decade and gave the environmental fair committee a much better understanding of modern Witchcraft.
- Christian group CARE attempted to pressure Glasgow City Council into refusing a venue for Witchfest Scotland 2003. Witchfest was not the only target for CARE, a glance at their site shows how wide ranging their targets are, Fortunately CARE's credibility and ability to influence Glasgow council was badly damaged by their failure to stop the event, potentially benefiting many alternative future events.
CoA's attempts to mass market itself has not made it popular with several other pagan and wicca or witchcraft organisations.
Critics of the CoA have raised concerns about the image that their magazine puts across: "Witchcraft and Wicca" magazine is glossier than most of the publications produced by pagan groups in the UK, and appears to be aimed at a younger target audience. The magazine features large quantities of crushed velvet and similar "spooky" dress. It is argued that this has a detrimental effect of the public perception of paganism, detracting from its status as an accepted religion, and promoting it as a lifestyle choice.
That said, the magazine's readership is apparently diverse, spanning all age groups and both sexes, and more recently, it appears that a conscious effort has been made to depict all ages in the magazine and on the cover. Its production style is more professional than other fanzine-style pagan magazines. Every person depicted on the cover is a Witch; none are professional models.
CoA claims to have no political posts due to its status as a religious organisation, and therefore holds no elections (this is similar to most Druid and Heathen organisations in the UK). However, this would suggest that the leaders of the organisation claim a religious mandate, which many of the membership may not be aware of when they join. But considering the diversity of the membership who assert their religious identity freely on the CoA website and in Witchcraft & Wicca magazine, and who are provided for with the many differing talks and workshops available at CoA events such as Witchfest, this is clearly not a serious issue.
The identity of the legal entity behind the CoA is not clearly stated on tickets, website or in their magazines. It is alleged that a company by the name of "Children of Artemis Limited", a company limited by guarantee and incorporated under Scottish law in December 2003, is the legal entity behind CoA. (The only difference between a company limited by guarantee and any ordinary company is that it can not pay a dividend to shareholders.) This ambiguity has led to mistaken claims that the organisation is a Non-profit organization. The CoA are currently overdue on an accounts return that was due in January 2006 (as at 28/07/2006).
They do not show the members a balance sheet of their accounts and as such the members who are fully paid up do not know of the whereabouts of the cash that is put into this said non-profit organisation.
The word Witchfest is a registered trademark and the property of David Mercer who has allegedly granted a free and exclusive license to Children of Artemis Limited to use the mark.
The open use of the word "Witch" employed by Children of Artemis in all of its advertising has brought its events to the attention of some Christian Evangelical groups. All the early Witchfests had a picket line of Christian protesters, but this has become less common as the events have become more established and accepted.