Choosing a Coven

An introduction to Wiccan covens--whether online or off--including what they are, what they're not, and when to leave.

BY: Lisa McSherry

Reprinted with permission of Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. The Virtual Pagan by Lisa McSherry is available at better bookstores or directly from the publisher at 800-423-7087, by fax at 877-337-3309, or by email at



may also be called a temple, or grove, or circle. If a coven has the right blend of people, it is a marvelous entity. According to


, "The coven is a Witch's support group, consciousness-raising group, psychic study center, clergy-training program, College of Mysteries, surrogate clan, and religious congregation all rolled into one." Each coven has its own personality, woven from each individual's contributions. Ideally, a coven is the training ground in which each member develops his or her pagan potential, not just a group of people who get together to work magick.

Then again, while I sometimes found it difficult, practicing as a solitary provided a great opportunity to grow without externally imposed limitations. I needed to learn to rely on my own perceptions and abilities, instead of looking to somebody else to spoon-feed me enlightenment like a baby. When I was ready to find a coven, I had already spent a long time studying in a semi-structured learning environment.

A coven is a unique entity in that each member must understand that self-confidence, sincerity, ambition, and absolute honesty are critical characteristics of a dedicated witch. While even the most traditional coven allows for some differences in belief, personal agendas that do not serve the interests of the entire group have no place there. It may take many years to find the right coven. Some people may work with several covens of various traditions before finding one that feels right. You must trust the gods and goddesses to lead you to the right teacher when the time is right. And even then, there are no guarantees that the student-teacher relationship will last forever. Most people have many teachers over time and glean valuable information from all. Your job as a member or prospective member of a coven is to be honest with yourself and the coven leaders, and to trust the gods and goddesses to guide you along the right path.

There are several excellent reasons for joining a magickal group:

  • Increased strength. Teamwork can accomplish amazing things. In magick, a coven usually has a lot more strength than a solitary practitioner. In a close-knit group, all share responsibility for the outcome.
  • Companionship. In a good coven, your brothers and sisters are people you can trust with your personal issues; they can offer advice and support. When you have five or six people you can call on if your familiar is ill, you know where your emotional support is coming from, or whom to call to help you mourn, if things turn out that way.
  • Wider range of information. You can find more opportunities to learn in a coven. Everyone has a different learning and teaching style, and each witch leads differently. In a group of people where ideas are exchanged freely, a lot of learning occurs. Other groups exist online; but the intimacy of a coven seems to create a fertile environment for spiritual growth.
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