Structures of Stability

A Blackian Analysis of a Wiccan Coven’s Longevity


  • Jeff Patterson University of Georgia



Wicca, Paganism, organizations, conflict, Donald Black


Drawing upon ethnographic work with a Wiccan coven, I propose an extension of Donald Black’s theoretical work to the study of conflict within small religious groups. The incidence and resolution of conflict is taken as a key predictor of longevity for small religious groups due to their heavy reliance on a committed membership. Through the micro-structural lens provided by Blackian theory, I advance a partial explanation for the marked longevity of the coven studied, which has functioned continuously for nearly twenty years. Black explains conflicts occurring due to changes in social structure, with more sudden or dramatic changes engendering greater conflict; the likely resolution to conflicts are in terms predicted by the theory on the basis of the local structural pattern of the parties to the conflict, including third parties. Both the oral history of the group and observations of the researcher over a six-month period of field study are considered in the application of Blackian theory, though the nature of an ethnographic case necessitates further testing of Black’s theoretical work, which is tentatively discussed.

Author Biography

  • Jeff Patterson, University of Georgia

    Jeff Patterson is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Georgia, Athens.


Baumgartner, M.P. The Moral Order of a Suburb. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Black, Donald. The Behavior of Law. New York: Academic Press, 1976.

Black, Donald. "The Elementary Forms of Conflict Management" in New Directions in the Study of Justice, Law, and Social Control. Arizona State University School of Justice Series, 43-69. New York: Plenum Press, 1990.

Black, Donald. "The Epistemology of Pure Sociology." Law & Social Inquiry 20, no. 3 (1995): 829-70.

Black, Donald. Moral Time. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Campbell, Bradley. The Geometry of Genocide: A Study in Pure Sociology. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015.

Cooney, Mark. "Death by Family: Honor Violence as Punishment." Punishment and Society 16, no. 4 (2014): 406-27.

Cooney, Mark, and Nicole Bigmano. "Terrorism as Gravitational Attraction." Terrorism and Counterterrorism Today 20 (2015): 25-46.

Cooney, Mark. Is Killing Wrong? Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012.

Cooney, Mark. Warriors and Peacemakers. New York: New York University Press, 1998.

Fennel, Julie and Laura A. Wildman-Hanlono. "The Children of Converts: Beyond the First Generation of Contemporary Pagans." Social Compass 64, no. 2 (2017): 288-306.

Hadden, Jeffrey K., and David G. Bromley. The Handbook on Cults and Sects in America. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group, 1993.

Hoffman, Heath C. "Criticism as Deviance and Social Control in Alcoholics Anonymous." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 35, no. 6 (2006): 669-95.

Lofland, John, and Rodney Stark. "Becoming a World-Saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective." America Sociological Review 30, no. 6 (1965): 862-75.

Lussier, Robert N., and Sanja Pfeifer. "A Cross-National Prediction Model for Business Success." Journal of Small Business Management 39, no. 2 (2001): 228-39.

Rahim, Afzalur. Managing Conflict in Organizations. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001.

Smith, Kenny. "'You've Been Wonderful Neighbors': Key Factors in the Successful Integration of a Wiccan Coven into a Surburban Community in the Southeastern United States." Nova Religio 12, no. 1 (2008): 103-15.

Tucker, James. The Therapeutic Corporation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Whaley, Rachel Bridges, Steven F. Messner, and Bonita M. Veysey, "The Relationship Between Gender Equality and Rates of Inter- and Intra-Sexual Lethal Violence: An Exploration of Functional Form," Justice Quarterly 30, no. 4 (2013): 732-54.






How to Cite

Patterson, J. (2021). Structures of Stability: A Blackian Analysis of a Wiccan Coven’s Longevity. Pomegranate, 22(1), 30–52.