They aren’t for everyone. They can be helpful, they can also be hurtful. But often the hurt that Covens cause is often rooted in the expectations put onto them. Covens have a lot of great things about them, but they are too often assigned as all-purpose, all-fixing, all-knowing havens for those looking for shape and belonging. I ran a Coven for nine years and learned the hard way about managing expectations of what a Coven, or any Magickal group, should be.
If you’re thinking about join a Coven, don’t do it because you want:
A New Family
Chosen Families are important. These are the people who become family when your family of origin is abusive, unsupportive, or disappears. Chosen Families save lives. You may find members of your Chosen Family among certain individuals within the Coven…and that’s great! But it is dangerous to assume that your Coven is your Chosen Family.
It’s unlikely that you’ll bond like Chosen Family with every member of your Coven, and expecting to do so will lead to hurt feelings and disappointment. Your leaders are not, and should not, be surrogate parents, nor other members replacement siblings. Finally, the difference between a Coven and a cult is the ability of its members or leaders to leave when they are ready for a new path. Covens should have a policy of support when someone (including the leader) wants to leave, as well as a process in place if a member needs to be expelled. Expecting that your Coven will be your new family puts unrealistic expectations on that Coven is supposed to be for you, and can make people feel obligated to stay when they really feel the need to leave. It’s not healthy, it’s not good.
The goal of the healthy Coven should be to see individuals thrive on their path, which can mean not being expected to bond with every member, and feeling free to leave it when it’s time.
A Support Group
It’s tempting to bring your pain to a Coven, and sometimes you will. You’ll get hugs, you’ll get lifted up. But it should not be the first place you bring your pain or suffering. You will find supportive people within a Coven, maybe even ones you can call outside Coven time to help you through a rough night, but the Coven should not your support group.
Support groups are usually designed with a treatment plan attached, and frequently a licensed medical professional or counselor who is trained in facilitating support for specific issues (grief, addiction, healing from trauma, etc.). Most Coven leaders are not licensed in such things and even if they are, it’s not right to expect them to use their professional expertise on you. By using the Coven for support, you could be delaying your own healing, and placing a burden on others who unequipped to offer what you need.
Covens are supportive, but they are not support groups.
A Replacement for Therapy
I’m sure every leader has a story of the new Covener, so excited by the new Magickal work, that they wanted to quit therapy…feeling they were “getting more” out of their work with the gods than in their talk therapy session. Truth: Magick, and Covens, are sexier than therapy. But neither replaces therapy. Magick may help you realize what parts of self you want to heal, or even reveal a new course of therapy to pursue. Coven leaders may have suggestions of therapists or self-help materials. But neither will replace the work of therapy.
For the same reasons as listed for the Support Group section. Your leaders are not therapists–except when they are. If they are, make an appointment and see them in a professional setting.
A Place To Get Laid
Sometimes, Coveners hook up. In any faith practice, whether Witchcraft or not, places of worship are often where people develop relationships, which can turn sexual. Sometimes, folx may stumble into bed with each other after a particularly raucous bonfire. There’s nothing inherently shameful about it, but it’s not good idea in general.
Magick is deep, personal work that requires trust on behalf of all members. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for people to get the deep work done if they suspect another member is trolling them for a shag. It’s also important to keep your Coven as drama-free as possible. You surely don’t need me to explain that the quickest way to bring drama into the Coven is to start boinking the Coven.
If want to get laid, look to Tinder. Don’t look at your Coven.
A Place To Validate Yourself
One of the many gifts of Magick is that it changes the self. For me, it has helped me released anger, find forgiveness, and embrace compassion for myself and others. But that is the work of the Magick, not of the people with whom I circled.
Don’t looking for your personal validation in the opinions of others. This is not to be confused with looking for validation of your experiences. One of the gifts of a Coven is having people make you feel less-crazy when your Ancestors talk to you in dreams. But personal validation, as in, having your personal worthiness affirmed, is not the job of a Coven. Your other Coveners are trying to make themselves better Witches and better people. Being thrust into the position of validating you is unfair. It’s draining on them, and they’re unlikely to succeed, which will disappoint you.
Let Magick help you find the path to validate yourself, don’t expect the Coven to do it for you.
However, if you are looking for…
- Magickal Instruction
- Likeminded people
- Effective spell-casting
- Potentially life-long friendships with some individuals (Remember, that’s a gift, not a given!)
- Testing yourself and growing as a Witch and a person
A good Coven might be for you!
Just remember its role…and not make it into something it’s not meant to be.