I’m lucky enough to be a part of two wonderful covens full of terrific people I’m crazy about. In both groups we truly work in perfect love and perfect trust, an idea that is often more lip-service than something actually practiced. Even the best coven is bound to have an issue or two now and again, we are all only human after all. And being human means there will be mistakes, and communication breakdowns, and hurt feelings from time to time, but those are things that can overcome. (And I’m speaking from experience, I’ve made about every mistake one can make.)
Every coven operates differently. Some have well defined leadership roles, while others accomplish their work through consensus. I don’t believe there’s any absolute right or wrong when it comes to how a coven should be run, and almost every group will have a few members who do more of the coordinating and heavy lifting required to schedule and engage in ritual. What follows are a few ideas to keep your coven running as well as possible.
(And those observations are not things that generally happen in the groups I’m a part of. I think because we’ve seen so many of these things in the past we know how to avoid most of them.)
FOR LEADERS & HOSTS
It’s Never Just About You I see this far too often in rituals and groups, the things we do with others are never about us. If you are thinking of starting a coven because you want attention or want to be in charge . . . . well you shouldn’t be running a coven. Rituals and groups are about serving the needs of the people who have come to participate. A ritual leader is a facilitator, not someone who should be standing in the spotlight.
Everyone Should Have a Voice Even a coven that operates from the top down with a High Priestess overseeing everything should give everyone a voice. For a coven to truly operate in perfect love and perfect trust all coven members have to be listened to and acknowledged. If someone says “I don’t want Person X in this group” that advice should be heeded. When someone joins a coven, that’s essentially a promise from the coven that their concerns will be heard and acted upon.
Be Aware of Power Dynamics! I’m not going to tell two adults what they can and can’t do together, but a brand-new member of a coven and a long-serving High Priestess or Priest are not on equal footing. I remember looking up to my early mentors in the Craft and placing them on a pedestal, and I’m all too aware that this still happens. I’m of the opinion that it’s not good form for a coven leader to date within the coven, but if it does happen it needs to be addressed openly and honestly.
One of the best things about my coven experience is that everyone I practice with loves to knock me down a peg or four. I may have written a couple of books, but the people I circle with are generally much better Witches than I am and make sure my head never gets too big.
Respect People’s Time Nothing makes me run from a group faster than realizing that no one there respects my time. If a ritual is scheduled to start at 9:00 PM it should probably start around 9:00 PM. There are always going to be bumps in the road, and I’ll admit that not everything my groups do start precisely on time, but we try to be pretty close. People are busy, and it’s not fair to a coven member who has to work at 6:00 AM in the morning to keep them there until 1:00 AM because you started the ritual three hours later.
Be a Good Host Pick up your house, make sure everyone knows the house rules, and prepare to be disappointed now and again. If you host things people will end up breaking a glass or two, it just happens. If that’s not something you can handle you should either not host, or lock up everything you are worried about being damaged. Most coven nights are longer than a one hour ritual too, make sure there are things to drink, either provided by you or get everything worked out ahead of time by coordinating with coven members.
FOR GENERAL MEMBERS
Perfect Love and Trust Means Away from the Circle too! You don’t have to hang out with the coven all the time, but if you aren’t friends with your fellow Witches outside of circle something is probably wrong. It delights me to no end that the people I circle with are the people I hang out with the most too!
Be Respectful of Where Your Coven Meets Most covens meet in someone’s house or apartment, and it’s easy to just think of that location as “coven space” but it’s important to remember that someone also call that space home. This means you should pick up after yourself, and take all your used dishes to the sink or dishwasher, and put your recyclables where ever your host prefers. It can be easy to forget such things after a kick-ass sabbat ritual, but we are Witches damn it and hold ourselves to a higher standard.
Share Your Concerns! If there’s something troubling you coven-wise you have to share it. Not only will it consume you if you don’t, the resentment and toxicity will eventually eat away at the coven. Adults can handle concerns, or at least they should be able to!
Remember There Are People Around You In my twenty years of Paganism I’ve been in a lot of “loud rooms,” and experienced people who should know better essentially shouting over everyone around them. If you are only talking to three people on the porch there’s no reason for someone on the floor above you to hear your conversation. In a coven we are all the center of attention, there’s no need for unnecessary volume.
Participate in Stuff! It’s easy to sit back and let whoever is in charge of day to day operations run the show, but the best covens have lots of involvement. Offer to write a ritual or help lead a part of the sabbat rite. So many groups fall apart because only one or two people are putting together every ritual. Witchcraft is about doing!
Yikes Money! Cakes and ale, wine, incense, candles, it all costs money and that money is coming from somewhere. Coven expenses should not be just a one person show, everyone should try and pitch in the best they can.
Covens Are Never Dating Pools I’ve run into far too many people over the years who think a coven is the best place to find a romantic partner. Does it happen sometimes? Most assuredly, but that should never be someone’s primary reason for joining a group. And if you do start dating someone in the coven, it’s best to share that information and address it honestly.
Keep the Gossip to a Minimum It’s easy to get caught up in gossip and the goings on of people in and around your community, but in most covens there’s Witchcrafting to be done, and your friends care about you and want to know what you’ve been up to. I’d much rather hear about what projects people are working on than the weird guy at the local open circle.