Solitary or Coven?
Posted by Cassandra Shea on
Reasons You Might Choose the Coven Life
Often the image that we see in media for witches is the group of young people, often all women, gathering and messing with the mystical forces of the universe. Sometimes they are saving the world from evil and other times they are the villains. But there are times we do see solitary practitioners too.
When you start exploring a witchcraft practice for yourself, you may have in mind the image in the media of working with a coven. You might want to reach out and work in a group. But maybe you don’t. Maybe you just aren’t sure which you want as you start your practice.
If you are new to your practice, or if you have been practicing as a solitary for a while, and are curious about working in a coven, grove, or circle, here is a quick guide in deciding for yourself if it would work for you.
What is a Coven?
A coven, sometimes called a Circle or Grove, is a group of three or more witches and/or pagans that gather together on a regular basis to perform magic and celebrate together. Depending on the tradition the coven follows, you might celebrate the Wheel of the Year holidays and gather on the Full Moons or you might have your own distinct path holidays that you celebrate in the group.
Covens often have a teaching element to them where older members might teach newer ones how things work. There is sometimes a hierarchical structure to covens where you have to go through a formal initiation to enter and then have multiple initiation levels with their own level of authority within the coven. Some covens are led by a single leader or partnership of two leaders, sometimes called the high priestess and high priest. But other covens may not give formal titles to their leader or else they run more democratically.
What is a Solitary Practitioner Then?
Solitaries are generally considered any witch or pagan that practices magic and celebrates the seasons on their own. A solitary witch often works on their own because they prefer it but other times it is because they cannot find a group to work with that shares similar values or traditions.
Even if you work with a coven, you will have a part of your practice that is solitary too. You are not with your coven 24/7 so you will have a daily practice that is just with yourself and your spirits then you might gather with your coven and work magic together.
While a solitary practitioners performs rituals and magic on their own most of the time, they might also gather with other like minded folks in community events now and then, like Pagan Pride or open group rituals a local group might hold. Or it might just be a get-to-together to connect with the community without necessarily working together.
Reasons to Work in a Coven
Well, why might you choose to work in a coven? It can be for any number of reasons but here is a list of some reasons why you might choose to join a coven:
- The added group energy behind spellwork
- Being able to share your experiences with others
- A sense of community
- You need more structure
- You want to learn more about a specific tradition or witchcraft in general
- That tradition may be coven-based and require initiation
- Receive and give mentorship
- You are social and like working with others
Reason Not to Work in a Coven
However, there are some reasons why you should not or might not want to work in a coven setting:
- You want to “level up” through initiations to be better than others
- You don’t like following others’ rules
- You want to be like the witches you have seen on tv with their cool coven and fighting evil
- You don’t want to actually do the work yourself
- You find it difficult to keep commitments or you tend to ghost on people a lot
- You are just doing what your friends are doing
- You don't have the time to commit to a coven but can practice on your own more easily
- You have had bad experiences in covens before and don't want to deal with it again
- You don't like the tradition they are focused on
- The coven's values are different from your own
- You aren't that social and rather work alone
Covens are a lot of work. Some groups may have strict rules when it comes to not only attendance and participation during meetings but also outside of that on your own.
But working in a coven can also be very rewarding if you can meet the commitments and expectations. The collective energy you raise in group meetings can be powerful catalysts for your magic. And the sense of community in a well functioning group can help empower you to be a better witch.
Reasons to Work Alone
However, here are some reasons you might want to work alone.
- You follow a practice that others don’t follow or doesn’t work well in a group setting
- You prefer to work alone
- You don’t like to follow others’ rules and chose to follow your own
- You are in a witchy/pagan closet and don’t want to be out yet
- You don’t have time to commit to an outside group for meetings or other requirements
- You live where you can’t find others to work with
- You have been in a coven before and didn’t like the way it functioned
- You find community in other ways and like to keep your practice to yourself
There are many other reasons why you might choose to work alone in your practice. Sometimes you may even have the desire to work in a group or coven but circumstances or previous experiences lead you to stick with your solitary practice.
Joining a Coven
If you have decided to join a coven, there are a few things to consider.
First, you will want to consider several options before joining the first one you see. Look for Pagan Pride groups in your area. Some local metaphysical shops will have advertisements for local witch and pagan groups and sometimes they might host them. Look for local meetup groups if you can. These groups can help you connect with open covens and circles.
Once you have a few options you will want to consider some of the following things before joining the group formally. Ask questions like these to the group:
- How often do they meet and what are expectations when it comes to meeting? How often can you miss?
- Does their schedule mesh with your previous commitments?
- Do they require dedication and/or initiations to join? What are those rituals like?
- Do they require any form of secrecy? Why or why not?
- Do they require any dues?
- Do they follow a specific tradition or are they eclectic?
- Is there any training involved?
If you interview a prospective coven, you should expect that they will also ask you questions too. They will want to get to know you a little too before opening their circle to you. You should feel comfortable enough to ask questions like these as well as answering the questions they have for you. But if things don’t feel right for you, based on the way they answered questions or asked you questions, then it likely isn’t the right one for you.
There are some things to just be wary of when joining or looking to join a coven:
- Does the leader seem to have the respect of the group or are they on a power trip?
- Are you expected to do things that go against your personal moral code or taboos?
- Are you and other members expected to grovel to the leader?
- If dues are charged, does it make sense where the money is going or does the leader just seem to be pocketing it all?
- Does the group start isolating you from your friends and family outside of them?
Starting Your Own Coven
Maybe you can’t find a coven you like or there just isn’t any in the area you live but you still want that coven. You might decide, if there are enough like minded folks around, to create your own coven and see if they wish to join you.
From experience, this can be a tricky process and involves a lot of preparation, planning, and group management skills. But it can also be extremely rewarding.
So here are some things to keep in mind:
- Do you have at least two other people to invite to join?
- Covens are at least 3 or more individuals who practice together, if it is just you and one other person it would be more of a partnership but you can always add more folks in later
- Are these folks interested in witchcraft or paganism or are they more spiritual that want to join a spiritual support group?
- These are all valid options
- Do you know what type of tradition you want to follow?
- Do the others want to follow the same tradition?
- Are you going to be religious or secular in your practice?
- How will leadership work?
- Are you going to be the leader, or will it be someone else, or will you rotate leaders?
- How might you choose another leader?
- Do you plan on having initiations?
- If so, when? How long after starting the coven will you initiate yourself and the others?
- Will there be multiple initiations as the years progress, like a degree system?
- How do you plan on bringing new members into the coven?
- How will meetings work?
- How often do you plan to meet?
- Where will each meeting occur? Will you rotate locations or stay in one place?
- Will you meet for magic purposes only or to celebrate the Wheel of the Year too?
- Will there be an attendance requirement?
- Will you have a study requirement?
- Do you want the group to be secret or will you be open?
- Will you have a coven book of shadows or grimoire?
- If so, how will this be managed?
- How will you resolve personal issues that might arise between coven members?
There are a lot of things to consider when creating your own coven. But once you have these things in mind and planned out, it is time to hold your first meeting.
Just like with joining an already established coven, you will want to take some considerations into mind if you start your own coven.
- If you don’t have the time to plan or attend meetings, have a way to give yourself a break. Have someone else take over for you if you need a break.
- If you are doing it as a power trip, just don’t start one. Your coven should be a place for you all to grow spiritually and magically. Not to serve your own ego.
- Take time to consider who you are inviting into your coven. You want to make sure they mesh with your energy and the energy of the members already in the group.
- Be okay with your coven evolving and changing over the years. You will have hiccups and down turns. But there will be times of growth too. And sometimes you will have to change the structure to better suit those involved in the coven.
If you have decided that the coven life is something you want to pursue and you have found the group for you or decided to start your own coven, then have fun with it! Go to your first meeting or plan your first ritual for your own group and lead it (if you have chosen to be the leader that is).
If you decided coven life isn't for you, whether new to your path or not, keep doing you! Keep studying and learning and having your personal practice.
Let us know, is the coven life for you or are you solitary to the core?