Here at Firefly, we’re gearing up for the start of our “busy half” of the year, which is comprised of a flurry of events, trainings, and services that run for about 8 months solid. A big part of the active part of the year is fielding requests and questions about our various covens. Although we deal with a lot of questions that are specific to our tradition only, we also get questions that are very applicable to any coven-seeking process in general. When I joined my current coven at the start of 2011, it was easy because I knew I loved the tradition and there was only one coven to pick from. But what if you don’t have a particular tradition in mind or the trad you’re interested in has multiple covens? Here’s a list of things to help you decide:
1. Don’t Rush
The best way to make an informed decision about a potential coven is to take your time and spend as much time with various members as you can. In most covens, “getting to know you” time is required. But even if you know most of the people in the coven already, make an effort to take that deeper. If you can, see if you can hang out with that particular set of people when they’re together so you can get a sense of the group dynamics. Many people act a certain way when they’re in the “coven groove.” Unlike applying for a job, most covens will be honest with the fact that they’re more likely to accept a candidate they know well and like. Put in the time to form those bonds early.
2. Ask to Attend a Meeting or Ritual
Some covens might be open to you attending a meeting or ritual if you ask, stating your intention to understand how they work better. For some covens, this may be out of the question but it’s always worth asking. If you can’t attend a private coven meeting, see if the coven hosts other public events or meetings and go to as many of them as you can. While a coven-only ritual might be different from an open sabbat gathering, you’ll at least get some clues as to the ritual style of the tradition and how members act while in circle.
3. Read Books About Coven Work
While a book is a poor substitute for practical experience in many cases, learning about how a witchcraft coven runs and what they do in general can help you figure out what to look for and what questions to ask. Does the coven have a degree system? What is the leadership like? What kind of magick does it do? Many of these topics are covered in books about covens. Some recommendations include: Coven Craft, Wicca Covens, and The Real Witch’s Coven.
4. Ask to Interview Members
You might think it’s presumptuous to ask to interview coven members about their coven. Think again! In many cases, covens are fine with answering some basic questions about what they do, even if they’re not open to the possibility of new members just then. Keep in mind that many covens have various levels of secrecy that will keep you from approaching them “open book” style. Even if the coven operates with a high level of secrecy, many members will at least be happy to share with you their experiences of being involved with coven life. Being in a coven is a lifestyle as much as it is a practice. Some questions to ask could be: How has being involved with this coven helped your life? How has your spirituality grown or evolved? Are there any challenges you’re comfortable sharing with me? How much time do you spend maintaining the coven in your current role? While interviewing coven leadership is helpful, keep in mind that other members have valuable perspectives as well. Well-functioning covens are comprised of people who all have roles uniquely suited to everyone’s personal talents and ambitions.
5. Look at Your Own Friends and Family
Most covens are way more than simply working groups that gather for ritual. Most witches in a coven will tell you that their coven is their family. Families have ups and downs but always work well when everyone sees the bigger picture of their bonds and strive to work through things. There is NO coven that comes without challenges, and yes, even the occasional argument. The important thing to look at is how you’re willing to approach situations. A good tip before looking to join a coven is to look at your relationships with your own family and friends who you are close enough to consider family. How well do you show up for them? How do you handle problems when they arise? How quick are you to share your joys, along with your sorrow? Is there any baggage from the past that burdens your relationships with them? While you don’t necessarily need to have excellent family communication skills (or even a family of blood at all) to join a coven, looking at the familial relationships in your life will frame your search well and set you up to be better informed.
6. Try Not to Take Rejection Personally
Coven leaders will tell you that one of the hardest parts about being in that role is giving let-downs. Keep in mind that there are many reasons why a coven may say no to an application. These will vary greatly depending on the tradition. Many of the possible reasons could have absolutely nothing to do with you as an individual. As someone who’s been in a leadership role of a coven for years, I have said no to folks who I still consider to be very close friends and some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. It could be that the number of members was limited and someone who was long-promised a role is now taking the coven up on the offer. It could be that your particular spiritual style isn’t particularly suited for that coven’s specific work. It could be that the coven doesn’t think they have anything to offer you that would enrich your life. They might think you’d do better in a different coven…the list can go on and on. While not everyone is suited for coven at all, it’s always worth it to try if you have the time, desire, and passion for that life.
Author Bio: David Salisbury is High Priest of Coven of the Spiral Moon, the first coven within the Firefly Tradition of Witchcraft. He is author of three books including The Deep Heart of Witchcraft, Teen Spirit Wicca, and A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing. He lives in Washington DC.