(without starting a whole religion or cult)
A year-ish ago, I and some others started a coven. Why didn’t I join an established one? I wanted to be a part of a group where there was no leader, we were all equal and we support each other. I’m not Wiccan, and I don’t believe in priesthood in my faith, so belonging to a coven that focuses on different ‘degrees’ or attaining a priesthood, when that isn’t my destiny, just doesn’t interest me. I also don’t have priests in my faith, as we are connected to our deities individually. We have doctors, shamans, and witches, but no priest. That presents a problem with wanting to be in a coven because many established covens have degrees and priesthoods. Also, I don’t follow “do no harm.” Ethically, we have a stand off.
So, I reached out to a couple of women that I think are like minded. We got together and discussed what we wanted based on a list of questions and policies (I’ve included them here). First, keeping my coven secret, I’m going to tell you what we established, because you can do the same. Then I’m going to go through a list of questions that you, too, should be asking when you start a coven.
We met weekly, if we are all available, but we do have a minimum. Also, we aren’t limited to meeting as a whole coven. Cultivating individual relationships with each other stokes the fire of our chemistry in making magic for each other and with each other. We use when2meet.com to help us determine our availability since we are in different parts of the world. We don’t believe that magic is limited by space or time, so we don’t need to be near each other to be connected. We started with four of us.
Leadership: We have a rotating “leader.” Technically, we don’t have a leader, but in the event that someone has to make decisions, they are it. The leader is a coven member who is in charge of organizing when we meet, what we are doing, and keeping us going for that month. Then that coven leader volun-tells the next coven member for the next month as the next leader. The leader must be a full member, and cannot be in their sponsorship time.
Joining: New members don’t ask to join. One of the current members must ‘sponsor’ a new member. The coven member who is vouching for the new member is responsible for them during our ‘trial period.’ The trial period is to make sure they are a good fit with the group. The coven must reach a unanimous agreement to allow the new member in. If a unanimous agreement hasn’t been reached in 6 months, then the coven sponsor must let them know that they aren’t accepted into the coven.
Number: We chose 9 max. We want an intimate coven. We communicate in some way every other day, if not daily. This isn’t a requirement, but its important to us. We have multiple ways of checking in and being a part of eachother’s lives, even if its just listening. Someone who is not willing to invest in that kinship isn’t a good fit for us. With being that tight of a coven, we realistically can’t have more than 9. Is that a coven you’d want to be a part of?
When we need to vote, all decisions must be unanimous. But day to day and season to season items, like doing a spell for a fellow member, joining in rituals, etc., have the option of opting out. Coven members must attend at least one meeting a month. We are hoping to have a weekend gathering, in person, once a year.
Banning: These can get a coven member banned and bound from the coven – trying to control others, trying to make the coven too regimented, trying to place a hierarchy on the members, trying to place a value amount on other members, exploiting the coven or its members, hate speech, sexual advances, and doing spells on other coven members or their friends/family without consent. Even in writing this, I got consent to do so from our coven before submitting it.
Expectations: Our coven is a place of intellectual exchange, connecting to aspects of spirituality, talking about things, spirits, and the magical occult without judgment, understanding the magical shared experience, having a community and people to go to when we need help, holding space for weakness and developing strength, and creating a space rich in magical and cultural diversity.
Here are some things you should be asking yourself if you want to be part of a coven:
How does someone join?
Is there a faith specific to the coven?
How many members? Is there a limit?
What is your focus or reason for having a coven?
How does someone join?
How does someone leave?
How does someone get pushed out?
What are the rules and who enforces them?
When/where/how will you meet?
Is there an age minimum or how long you’ve practiced?
Are there degrees or levels?
Is there an initiation time or process?
Are there coven rituals or spells that all must know be a part of?
Is there a dress code?
What are the coven “Deal Breakers?”
Some advice: Hey, if someone doesn’t fit, they don’t fit. Let it go. Trying to force the unnatural can cause floods. Just say goodbye and be well on your way. If you aren’t secret, someone is going to judge you. Let it go. Be willing to help each other out. Your sister (or if you need a gender word like brother for you men – I have no problem being called a sister) may need your help with materials, spells, amulets, etc. You job is to help your sisters. If you aren’t the type to help, covens aren’t for you. Eventually, you will need that help, too. Start figuring out a regular schedule. Keep learning and researching.
If you just want a building to hang out, or to have a place to make friends, a coven probably isn’t for you. Join a club or look for like-minded people with similar interests on meetup. A coven is a commitment. Commitment to yourself and your sisters.
Your Coven Is Your Church
Upon creation, there is an oath that is needed. If you do not have an official priest or chaplain in your coven, and you decide, like we did, that all represent a formal minister to one another, then you will need a ritual to take that oath. Even if you assume that your sisters are your minister, what is said is not admissible into court:
This privilege renders conversations between ministers and counselees non-admissible in a court of law, allowing ministers to offer spiritual guidance without fear they will be called upon to testify regarding the matter. A privileged conversation is defined by the law as any confidential communication given to a minister acting in his or her professional capacity as a spiritual advisor. Let’s look at what each part of that definition means:
- Communication. The definition of communication includes any act intended to transmit an idea, whether verbal or nonverbal. This includes speech, letters, phone calls, actions, and even the minister’s observations of a person’s demeanor.
- Confidential. There are two views held by state courts regarding confidentiality as it pertains to clergy privilege. In two-thirds of the states, a communication is considered confidential if made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present for the purpose of the communication. In one-third of the states, privileged communication means a communication made in confidence only to the minister, with no third person present.
- To a minister. Communication is not privileged if it’s made to a deacon, board member, secretary, the pastor’s spouse, or any other non-clergy person. Interestingly, more than half of the states define a minister to include a person whom the counselee believes to be a minister. For example, if a counselee has a confidential conversation with a church’s youth pastor who happens not to be a credentialed minister but was believed by the counselee to be a minister, most states would consider the conversation privileged.
Don’t make this choice lightly. But if you do, I wish that your sisters treat you well.
Aly is a mediator and trained in Ho’oponopono. If there are problems within your coven and you need an outside person to help mend, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.