Should I Join a Coven?
Dear Witchful Thinking,
I practice solo, what are the advantages of joining a coven, do you know how to get in touch with other locals?
Ah, the coven! A place where Pagans can get together, learn, worship, and practice magic.
There are many advantages to joining a coven:
- Fellowship of like-minded people.
- A single path to focus your energy on.
- A place to hone your skills and get personal teaching.
- Incredible love and family energy.
- Something social to do.
- Work towards larger projects and goals.
- Teach and train others.
- Gain credibility and status.
On the other hand, there could be some downsides:
- Politics, gossiping and favoritism.
- Hierarchy and structure.
- Crappy teachers.
- Poorly-thought-through magic and ritual.
- Hazing, harassment, hexing.
- Sexual tension.
- No formed group mind.
- Lousy leadership.
Of course, not all covens have these kinds of problems. Any time you get any group of people together for any purpose, these kinds of things might happen. Perhaps it sticks out more so in the Pagan community because we are so vulnerable: we want to be open to new experiences, but sometimes forget to take our brains with us. Most likely, a real coven will have a mix of these good things and bad things.
Some advice about choosing a coven:
- Take your time: You are picking family and a religion at the same time. Many covens have a “year and a day” course or public rituals they do to evaluate potential new members. It’s worth it to try each other out and to be honest if you don’t think it will meet your needs.
- Identify what your needs are: For me, the Celtic Gods don’t respond, so I’m not likely to do well in a coven that focuses on the Gods of Britian and Wales! Do you need a family-friendly group? How available are you to meet regularly? Do you need formal training or do you have skills you can offer?
- All covens are unique and different from each other because they are made up of people. Ask yourself what makes you a good coven member. Why would the coven want you?
- Some groups practice “alternative” lifestyles such as polyamory, BDSM or require certain rituals such as tattooing. If you don’t wholeheartedly agree with what the coven is doing, you need to re-evaluate your membership.
- Most covens don’t advertise. Likely it is word of mouth. You may receive an invitation to join a group, or might have a friend who is involved. It’s often just like a family: you don’t just join, you are married or born in.
- If you can’t find a coven you like, start your own. Ask some friends to join you, and be ready to be committed! Start with what you know and work with your initial covenmates to create rituals and tradition. It’s just as legitimate as any other coven. You can learn as you go and there are some excellent resources out there to help you. (We can talk about this more in another post!)
The best way to find a coven is to go where there are lots of Pagans, like a festival, or a showcase event like Concentric Circles run by OLOTEAS. Witchvox has excellent group pages, although many groups go dead before they can really get going. Find a group with an open circle. Your local Pagan and Occult supply shop often becomes the meeting place for groups and open rituals, so check them out.
After you start going to the local festivals, you’ll start making friends. Ask around the community. Network. If you read a book by an author you like who lives near you, consider writing them and asking for more info about their coven. Many authors like Silver Ravenwolf, Laurie Cabot and Starhawk head covens in their local areas.
Can’t find a real life group? Consider online training. At least you’ll meet and work with people virtually. Consider Amber K’s school. Or the ATC’s theological seminary. Or Cherry Hill’s distance learning masters programs. Or Oberon Zell’s Grey School of Wizardry, if that is your flavor.
And remember: take your time. Find the right one. This decision is too important. Give it your real thought and attention.
Some helpful books: