Finding a Coven
Finding a Wiccan Coven
If you have been reading up on Wicca for a while and you know its the path for you, you may find yourself thinking about joining a Coven where you can practise with other people and get more training. This piece was born out of the requests of many hundreds of people who have contacted me over the years asking for information on how to find a Coven or how to approach a Coven for membership. Some people complained that after many months and in some cases years they are still unable to find a group which have a space available, or that they were simply unable to locate “their local coven”.
The Wiccan Tradition is usually taught by a High Priestess & High Priest. These are usually Second or Third Degree initiates of traditions such as (or based / born out of) the Alexandrian Tradition or the Gardnerian Tradition. Both these and other traditions practising within this Mystery tradition will have their own criteria for accepting new members and in addition, each Coven will also have their own unique criteria. Today there are Covens all over the UK, Europe and North America. There are also covens in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and in many other parts of the world. Depending on where you live you may however need to be both willing and able to travel in order to attend meetings with a Coven, if you were accepted into one.
Yes, I said “if you were accepted into one”. The Wiccan Tradition is different from mainstream religions, it is a “Craft” rather than “just” a religion. It is a spiritual path that requires a great deal of commitment and Covens (especially established ones) are very careful about who they accept as members. A Coven many only accept two or three members a year, or they may only accept one every other year. An estabished Coven is likely to expect the Seeker (person looking for Coven training and initiation) to be able to “fit in” with the group. So even if you found your “local” coven there are absolutely no guarantees that they will automatically accept you as a member! Today there are covens in nearly every country in Europe, the Americas, South Africa – there is likely to be one within travelling distance of where you live, but there are no guarantees that you will be accepted as a member purely based on that.
If they are willing to consider you for membership, then you may still have to undergo a period of training, study and evaluation prior to being initiated and becoming a member of the Coven. During this time (which varies, but is usually a “year and a day” – ie. 13 Full Moons) the Seeker will be expected to prove their commitment to the Coven, the tradition etc. Again criteria for this varies from Coven to Coven (even within the same tradition).
So how do you find Covens in your area?
The Wiccan Tradition is not for the “meek”. There is no spoon-feeding here. If you want to find a Coven you will need to go out there, talk to people, attend moots (social gatherings), festivals, workshops or any other event at which there may be likeminded people. If you stay at home and never mingle with people then you won’t find a Coven. The internet can be a useful resource in helping you find out about meetings in your area – a good place to start (if you haven’t already) is http://www.witchvox.com or on the Avalonia Forums. You will need to talk to people, you will need to ask questions and you will need to be willing to make the effort to learn as much as you can so that when you meet people who may be able to help, you know which questions to ask!
Issues to consider before approaching a group for membership:
1. How much of your time are you able to commit to a group? 1 meeting a month, 1 a week etc.How will your loved ones feel about the time you commit towards learning and working with a Coven?
2. What are you own personal beliefs in regards Divinity?
3. How far are you able to travel to attend meetings? How will this affect your family life and your other relationships? Will you be able to afford it?
4. How do you feel about working “skyclad” (ie. naked)?
5. What do you expect from a Coven? [I would recommend you read "The Real Witches Coven" by Kate West for some ideas of what Coven-life may be like]
How much homework have you done?
Well? Speaking from my own experiences as a Wiccan High Priestess, I know that I personally prefer taking on people as trainees, that have done their homework! What do I mean by homework?
You should know a little about the history of the tradition, have an established interest in working with the Old Gods and Goddesses and have a good general idea of what the tradition is about. To me this is a good indication that the person I am speaking to is serious about wanting to learn more and will be able to be committed.
Good books to read prior to approaching Covens for membership include:
Circle of Fire, Sorita d’Este & David Rankine
Wicca Magickal Beginnings, Sorita d’Este & David Rankine
Lid off the Cauldron by Patricia Crowther
Fire Child by Maxine Sanders
King of the Witches by June Johns
The Witches Bible by Janet and Stewart Farrar
Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration by Philip Heselton
Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
Each of the above offers something a bit different, and I think its good for you to be exposed to different ideas so that you can find that which is right for you. Knowledge helps and encourages discernment.
Keep in mind that you have a CHOICE when it comes to joining a Coven. The Coven Leaders / Members will also have a CHOICE as to whether or not they accept you as a member. They will ask you questions and you should be ready to also ask them questions about themselves, their practices and their tradition. Coven membership is a mutual decision – the Coven will be able to decide whether or not they want to work with you, and you have the right to decide whether or not you want to work with them. Although there are many bonafide Covens, Priestesses and Priests working within the many traditions of Wicca today, there are also always dubious groups and individuals using the name of the tradition to cover activities which may be harmful to you and others – so it is necessary to take some precautions:
1. When after initial contact with a prospective Coven you are invited to meet with them, insist on meeting in a public place. Treat it like you would a “blind date”. Don’t hand over your home address, work details or other personal information until you are sure that you trust the individual (s).
YOU have a choice – you don’t have to join the first Coven you find. There is no hurry for you to work in a Coven, take your time. Better to find a Coven you work well with, than work with one where you feel uncomfortable with and as a result waste both your own time and energy, as well as that of the other Coven members. Be honest with yourself!
Here are some important pointers:
* You should be comfortable with your HPS, HP and other members of the prospective Coven. Trust your Instincts!
* Sex should never be expected in return for training, nor should it form part of your initiation.
* You should never be expected to pay large sums of money in return for training or initiation. You may however be expected to contribute towards general temple expenses (ie. incense, candles, tools etc – as well as mundane expenses incurred such as tea, coffee, toilet paper and car share if applicable). Temple expenses may vary, you may be expected to contribute £2 – £5 per meeting or to contribute by bringing the items as mentioned. You will usually also be expected to bring food and drinks to share for ritual feasting, as well as flowers and other offerings for rituals. Each group work slightly differently, make sure to ask.
* Confidentiality is VERY important to all Wiccan groups, and neither the Coven nor the Tradition is likely to change the rules just for you! The Virtue of Silence will be one you will need to exhibit in regards to members, covenstead (place of meetings) and other Coven activities.
* Expect a lot of hard work, study, practice and remember that it is a commitment – not a social club!
* It is important that you enjoy being part of the group you join.
Article by Sorita D’Este (c) 1998,
updated for Avaloniav 2003; 2006; 2007
Originally Published on http://www.avalonia.co.uk