Suki Kettleoff writes:
One of the most common enquiries that pagan organisations receive is “how do I join a witches’ coven?”
It’s a question that has several answers, but even before a straight and informed answer is given, there are some important things for the seeker to think about.
First, relax and don’t rush into anything. It won’t happen quickly. And more importantly, it shouldn’t. Next, be aware that if anyone invites you to join a coven, especially if you’ve only recently met them, they’re dodgy. This is a pretty sound rule of thumb.
It’s a fairly common rule, especially amongst the more established Wiccan and Traditional covens, that seekers have to ask to be considered for membership. You might get invited for coffee, or to chat, and hints dropped, but it’s a general rule that a direct offer won’t be made until after you’ve asked. Asking doesn’t guarantee a place in a coven, but once you have asked, you’ll be considered.
If someone tries to actually persuade you to join a coven or worse still, pressures you into it, it’s likely that their coven or group is not only not genuine, but it’s a warning sign. If a coven advertises that it’s seeking members or considering applicants – and it’s not difficult to find a few examples of this online – it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re risky or not genuine, but be slightly wary and if they start making demands of you before they tell you much about what they do and won’t give out some general information, then it’s best to back off.
So – how do you go about finding a coven?
Well, from time to time, there have been organisations that offer coven locating services, which claim to match seekers up with covens. These have tended to not have many success stories where they have found covens for people. It’s whispered that perhaps these coven locating services exist only as a way to cherry pick seekers for one or two covens that are directly linked with the parent groups, and any admin charges are just an income stream for these groups. That may or may not be true, but when they’ve been around, they’ve been of limited use and are probably not going to be as useful as the following information.
Occasionally, you may also come across organisations and also new age type shops that advertise courses such as ‘Introduction to Wicca’ or even as blatant as ‘Join a Wiccan coven.’ Some covens also run introductory courses that you can complete via mail or online, as a prerequisite for joining and a way for the coven and the students to get to know each other. Whilst some of these are excellent, you should try to find out a little background about them first and not be afraid to ask questions. It’s reasonable for course facilitators to ask for a small fee their general expenses, but if costs start heading into high double figures, the primary motivation is almost certainly profit rather than teaching, and you’re a customer, not a student. If the costs are in triple figures, they’re almost certainly not worth it for a beginner.
What you can find advertised fairly readily, where you can usually find good advice, are local pagan moots. There’s information about these on the Pagan Federation’s website, but there are others that aren’t associated with the PF which are fine too, and as moots are generally held in pubs or semi-public spaces which have a little privacy, they’re a safe space in which you can find out more.
However, again there are a few warning signs to watch for. Whilst for sensible reasons covens are largely secret as well as private and will want to know more about you before you’re considered, moots should be relatively open, although you can expect them to be discrete. If a moot organiser won’t let you bring a friend along and insists on a high level of vetting and asks too many personal questions, it may be a sign that they’re a bit of a control freak who may display other unhealthy behaviour down the line.
Moots generally are safe and friendly, but use your common sense and tell someone where you’re going. If you are worried you’ll be judged for going to a pagan or witchcraft related event, you don’t need to say what you’re going to – just where and when and when you should be back.
On that note, if you are ever tempted to meet up with someone you don’t know, who’s contacted you via a web forum or social network, who promises all sorts of magical secrets and access to hidden covens, they’re probably a bit of a fake or even actually dangerous. If someone you’ve chatted to online suggests just meeting up as a friend, to chat or as another beginner, then use your judgement and the same kind of common sense you’d apply when meeting anyone new for the first time.
In general though, moots are the way to meet people who will be able to answer more of your questions. Find out about these moots, contact the organisers first, and go along. Don’t announce to everyone that you’re looking for a coven. Just go and meet people and have fun and get to know people and be a good listener.
Meanwhile, do some reading. There’s plenty online, so you don’t even have to make an investment in books at this stage, but having done some reading will give you something to talk about with people at the moots, and over time you’ll find out about what’s going on in the region, and maybe get an idea about who is running covens and groups and whether you’d get on with them or not.
Having got to this stage, you’ll probably realise that the reasons you wanted to join a coven in the first place have changed slightly, and your idea of what one is has altered as well. They’re not just a route to learning magic. They’re not part of a great secret conspiracy which has far reaching power (…unfortunately, as that would be sort of cool), they’re not an automatic surrogate family for people who feel like they’re outcasts.
They’re made up of people who are mostly just the same as everyone else. That’s one of the big secrets, really. They can be a way to extend your interests and have support to do so and they often organise wonderful events that will be spiritually beneficial to everyone there. But they’re not perfect and even if you find one but don’t get in, that’s not really a reflection on yourself. It may just not be the right time for you to join.
The short version is really though – when the time’s right for you to join a coven, you’ll know how to do so, and have a good ideas about whether it’s right for you.
But above all – because things that are considered occult and secret can still be open to abuse – be safe. Don’t ever feel obliged to do anything you don’t want to and always make sure that any choices you make are informed ones.