Covens! What A Great Coven Should and Should Not Be Expected To Provide

I have been involved in coven life for quite a while now.  I am the leader and founder of this order, the Society of Witchcraft and Old Magick, and prior to that I was trained in and a long time member of the Religious Order of Witchcraft. I also know a lot of people in the CT pagan community who have spoken to me of their various experiences with different covens and magickal training groups around the state, so I am aware that there is a wide spectrum of different types of groups and experiences out there.  It should always be a carefully weighed decision when you are considering whether or not to join a group of magickal practitioners.  Being solo has its benefits:  you always get to do what you want, you create and write all your own rituals, you don’t have to worry about other personalities or opinions in the mix, and if you don’t feel like doing a full moon ritual you just don’t.  On the other hand, there are loads of benefits to having a magickal community at hand.  Sharing magick with others spreads the effects over a larger area and makes it more palpable and real in this reality.  Having other people can keep you accountable to your practice so that you don’t slack off too much, and continue to stay centered, learning, growing and inspired.  But when trying to choose which group to join, what should you be looking for?  What should you expect a great coven to provide?  Here are my thoughts.

If the coven is a training coven, meaning that it is a traditional closed order providing classes that work toward an initiated status or ranking system, then the classes should be structured, with a clear and established curriculum.  If not, then you won’t have any guarantee of what you are going to get each time you show up.  You always get what you pay for-  I say this because I am of the camp who feels that everything in the universe is an energetic exchange of one kind or another.  I do not believe that all things spiritual and magickal should just be freely given.  In a well-structured initiation training program, lots of preparation time goes into each class, and students are also reaping the benefits of the years of practice and training that the teaching priest/ess has put in.  Classes should be paid for, but should also be affordable and fair in their pricing.  If the coven you choose to join is not a traditional initiation style coven, but more of a social group of like-minded people loosely getting together to celebrate moons and sabbats, then you certainly would not expect structure or training or to pay much of anything-  you would probably just be expected to contribute wine or supplies or ideas yourself.  Over the years I have also noticed that very often, people seeking a coven have expectations socially that they expect to be met by their group.  It is reasonable to expect that a group have a good overall energy that suits you and lets you feel comfortable.  The people should be supportive and friendly and welcoming to newcomers.  You should choose a coven whose rituals and belief systems allow room for your personal beliefs to be maintained without conflict.  If you find that you don’t have the freedom to adapt what you are learning and still have the personalized practice you need, especially at home, then this may not be the coven for you.  The atmosphere in classes and rituals should be clear and structured and of a high vibration.  The leader should do their best to maintain the energy of all classes and gatherings so that they are free of drama and conducive to learning and spiritual practice and growth.  However, you should never expect a coven to provide you with a best friend, or to provide you with a specific type of social life.  Just because a group of practitioners is like-minded and bonds a lot in their magickal practice does not mean that every member will be as close with one person as they are another.  Witches are still people that have their own diverse lives and personalities.  In our order, with about 60 active members and having had a bunch of others that are now inactive as well, it is natural to see small groups of friends form within this large number.  You should have the freedom to bond with those you feel drawn to and get together outside of formal coven events as you wish.  If there are rules about not getting together outside of formal gatherings and such that should be a red flag.  A coven also should not and can not be expected to make you a better witch.  Training gives you lots of potential skill, knowledge and experiences to draw from, but your effectiveness and the level of enchantment you achieve in your life is not dependent on your coven, but on the level of energy and discipline you put into your own practice.  It is hard sometimes for people in a coven setting to avoid comparing themselves internally to others-  your talents are specific to you, and you should not expect yourself to do all the same magick or hold the same roles that other people do.  Depending on who you are and how much energy you have to put into your practice, results will vary greatly, and this needs to be okay.

There are a lot of different kinds of groups out there, so to sum up-  if you want structured learning and lots of room for growth, find a group with structured, high quality classes.  Never have specific social expectations for the coven outside of gatherings but DO expect drama-free, high vibrational rituals and classes.  You shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money for anything up front in case you end up finding out the group is not the right fit for you, and you should generally feel that the leader is a good match for you morally and intellectually.  There are a lot of other possible points to consider, and these are just a few, but they are a good starting point.  Merry We Meet, Merry We Part, and Merry We Meet Again!

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