Mabon is coming up at the end of this month (one of my favorite holidays, woohoo!) and in the spirit of reaping what you sew, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss some more about both joining and starting a coven.
First off: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO JOIN A COVEN OR START A COVEN! —Whew, that felt good. No, seriously, you don’t. You really, really don’t. There is nothing in the “rules” anywhere that states you have to be a member of a group to be a spiritual or magical being (or any combo of whatever). There are some traditions that say it is preferable and it may be expected if you join those trads. I suggest you know your stuff regarding the traditions you may or may not encounter long before you make the decision to join a group.
Second: Not all groups are covens. Again, just because you have 12-13 people together learning about magic doesn’t mean that they are in a coven. There has to be a conscious decision to begin a coven with others and if there is no inherent bylaws decreeing that your group is, in fact, a coven then it isn’t one. Being in a group can bring you just as much practice and knowledge as being in a coven, so again, choose wisely when deciding on this.
Now, onto the nitty gritty. Avoid covens that do or have the following:
- Someone who is experiencing delusions in a role in which they are leading others to believe in their delusions. Use your common sense here. If someone is claiming to be the Mother of the Universe, you need to high tail it in a different direction.
- Someone who is claiming to, literally, be something that doesn’t exist – like a vampire or a werewolf or a fairy or a whatever. Lots of us have affinities with different aspects and energies of things (for example, I have an affinity with vampires – go figure). Doesn’t mean I am one. Just means that I know how to call on the energies usually associated with that particular thing in my ritual work. If someone walks up and says “Hi, I’m the grand high poobah fairy witch”…just leave and save yourself the trouble.
- Avoid groups where absolutely everyone is new to the craft. THIS IS NOT A BASH ON NEW MEMBERS! You need somebody who knows what they’re doing and can facilitate the group or the magical workings with ease and grace. However, be very wary of anyone in a high priestess/high priest role who forces you to take their word as gospel. The beauty of paganism is that we encourage members in our groups to think for themselves and make their own conclusions. If the leader of the group, regardless of who or what they are, is making you “bow down and kiss the ring” so to speak, leave. Which brings me to the next point:
- Make sure there is paperwork on file with someone somewhere giving consent for any members under the age of 18. If there isn’t, and there are people under age in the group when their parents don’t want them there, leave. This is dramaville waiting to happen and you don’t want it. Trust me.
- I want to preface this by saying that it may piss some people off: If there are people in your group who are obviously preying on members and are only there for hookups either ask for them to be kicked out or leave. If that person is an established member in the group already, don’t let yourself entertain the thought of joining. Also, if you’re starting a group and know someone who is just there to get laid? I suggest you leave them out. Again, whole world of drama that you want to avoid.
- Oh, this next one. *sigh*. If there is someone in your group who is obviously in need..and you don’t know them that well…it is not your “magical obligation” to assist them. Instead, make sure the group or coven has a list of places they know to send people for assistance. This isn’t one I have historically followed and it will save you a world of hurt. There are people who are professionals and know how to get others the help they need in ways you may not understand. Be ready to direct someone to those resources if necessary but do not become the resource unless you know the person REALLY REALLY REALLY well. Doing community outreach is fine, great even! If your group gets involved in soup kitchens and other types of outreach, that’s great! But don’t invite people to your home who you don’t know. Again, common sense, but we all generally want to be helpful and it can bite you very badly.
- If you are asked to perform a sexual act to become a member of the group or as part of your initiation..leave. Sexuality is a personal thing that you are welcome to keep private. No one should ask you to violate your own values to be a member of the group. There are some rituals wherein 2 consenting adults will perform sexual acts. This is usually done in private away from the group. Your body is your own. Your sexuality is your own.
- If someone tells you that you have to be gay or bi-sexual or that you have to submit to sex with the HPS/HP to be a member….just leave. Seriously, the minute you hear this nonsense I suggest you run as fast as you can.
- IF you notice abuse going on – sexual, verbal, physical, mental…you need to leave and inform the authorities. You can do this anonymously, but you need to do it.
- Lastly, if you are asked to give up your family, your friends, your money, or anything else of importance or value? LEAVE. If anyone mentions ritual sacrifice of actual animals or people? LEAVE. If anyone mentions ritualistic suicide? LEAVE. In these last 2 cases, you’ll also want to call the local police and make them aware. You are not a bad person for doing so, so don’t believe a word anyone else says.
Now..Most groups and covens would never, ever dream of engaging in any of these behaviors but some definitely do. Do your research before you join or create a group. Know your people, be steadfast in your rules and your own boundaries, and you’ll be fine. It really can be a very rewarding experience that is worth having, just be smart about it.
If you have any questions or know anyone who needs assistance getting out of a group that is toxic, reach out to your local support groups and/or feel free to leave questions here where other members of the community can assist you.
Be safe out there!
Love and light