Sometimes being a solitary practitioner can get lonely. Many people thrive without being initiated into a tradition, or even having a group of witches to practice with, but others may prefer to work with a coven. Have you ever considered starting your own coven? If the answer is yes, keep reading for some general things to think about as well as some guidelines to follow in starting your coven!
So you want to start a coven?
The first thing you need to figure out if starting a coven is why. Why do you want to start a coven? Are you looking for practitioners of like mind to share in your practice? Are you looking to specifically lead a group of people on their path and teach? Every reason for starting a coven should be a good one. This is not a path that one should take lightly. Running a coven takes a lot of work, delegation, knowledge, and leadership skills. If you do not have a good reason for starting a coven of your own, maybe finding one already established is a better idea.
See also: Coven Life vs Solitary Practice
What will your coven believe?
The first public coven was that of Gerald Gardner. Whether it was the first legitimate coven or not is up for debate, but he is often considered the father of Wicca. From him a tradition of Wicca was born known as Gardnerian Wicca. Any Gardnerian coven today can trace their lineage back to the very first Gardnerian coven. But what does it matter?
When thinking about your coven’s beliefs and structure, tradition is important. Some Wiccan traditions will require initiation and training in another coven first before you can start your own. Some traditions do not have this requirement. Even still, some covens are eclectic in their beliefs and only formed a coven to have other people to practice with. Having a structure and guideline for what your coven will believe and practice is important for ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Who will lead the coven?
Many modern covens are led be democracy. Janet and Stewart Farrar, authors of A Witch’s Bible, have said that their coven puts leadership to a vote every year. This means that each year, there is a possibility of a new High Priest and High Priestess. Other covens lead through initiation and degrees. This involves training a select few to eventually take over the coven or branch off and start their own.
How you lead the coven will be up to you. It is important to take the structure, environment, and culture of the people you are celebrating with into account. Will you allow votes for coven leaders? Or will it be up to you to lead the coven and delegate tasks to the coven members?
How will your coven meet?
The answer to this question will depend on many factors. Do you have a local community that wants to meet in person? Do you live in the middle of nowhere and need an online community? Both of these options are valid! Even hybrid systems exist for both in-person and online covens.
If technology has taught us anything, it has taught us how to persevere and reach our communities in more interesting ways. Many digital covens or circles were born during the pandemic and they continue to prosper. Our community in the Infinite Roots Coven, our online forum for members here at Spells8, can be considered a large, open coven!
If you prefer to meet face-to-face for celebrations, starting a coven that meets physically is the best way to go. You will need to make sure you have a meeting place, guidelines on attendance and attire, and figure who is going to bring the snacks!
A Few Guidelines
As mentioned above, there are a few things you will want to think about when starting your own coven. These will vary from person to person, but it is always a good idea to think about these ahead of time!
Your Goals – Why do you want to start a coven? How many people do you want in your coven? Do you already have prospective members? Is there going to be a leadership system or will it be democratic?
No Preaching – One of the reasons people seek an alternative faith like Wicca is because it is chosen on their terms. We never want to pressure anyone to do anything they are not comfortable with. When you begin asking around for members, be respectful of those that say no.
Membership Discussions – As you have gathered your members, many of them will have questions! This is only natural and it is important that you answer their questions honestly and accurately. This is also a great time to brainstorm ideas for the coven. Remember, you do not have to do it all on your own!
Discretion is Advised – If you are meeting in person with others, it is important to be discrete around those that may cause trouble. Unfortunately, there are many who still fear witches and our practices. It may be necessary to meet in private places such as coven member homes, businesses, or other places where you can book a private room. If you are not worried about looks from the general public, feel free to book your local park for a sabbat or two!
Collaborate with Members – It would be unfair to ask the leader of a coven to do all the work on their own. Many covens are run with joint leadership where members have a say in celebrations, rituals, and location. It is important to be open with your coven members and ask for their thoughts and opinions. You may even get some great ideas that you never thought of yourself!
Coven Book of Shadows – Arguably one of the most important parts of being a coven, start working on your coven’s Book of Shadows. In this, you will want to detail coven beliefs, guidelines, rules, and celebrations. For example, if your coven decides to celebrate every New Moon rather than every Full Moon, that is an important detail to include in the coven Book of Shadows. If you need an idea, though it is an old book, you can read bits and pieces of Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows online for free!
Prepare for the Inevitable – Like it or not, we are all human. No two people will ever get along all the time and that is to be expected. Since we know this ahead of time, it is important to have a system in place for resolving coven disputes. It is never okay for members to gossip about one another, be harmful, mean, or to bully other members of the coven. As the coven leader, it is your responsibility to have a system in place to deal with these issues when they arise. How you do that is up to you.
Find Your People
Now that you have some food for thought, it is time to go find your coven! The best place to start is your local witchcraft community. Find a metaphysical store near you and ask around. If you do not have a store near you, join an online community or make use of social media to make friends. If you are still at a loss, you are always welcome with us over in the Infinite Roots Coven!
What is a Hedge Witch?
A hedge witch is a witch who utilizes the practice of hedge riding. This is a magickal practice that involves spirit work and, most notably, spirit flight. The history of spirit flight is a long one and one that is found in many cultures throughout the world.
Life and Legacy of Raymond Buckland
Raymond Buckland (1934-2017) was, and still is, a very influential person in the American Witchcraft movement. He is often credited with bringing Wicca to the United States in the 60s. In fact, his book Witchcraft from the Inside was the first American book written about Wicca by an actual witch.