Are you interested in joining a coven? Not sure how that works right now, due to the pandemic? Here’s some advice and guidance.
You can read a lot more about seeking out a group or coven in the Connecting area of this site. You may also want to read about ways people use the term ‘coven’.
So what’s different during a pandemic?
Groups will make different choices
I’ve been keeping an eye out for what other coven and group leaders are doing with their groups – and there’s a huge range!
In my coven, we had a group of three students finishing their Dedicant year in June of 2020, so the last 3-4 months of that were while we were social distancing.
It’s involved a number of changed plans and adjustments. One of the biggest is that we’re not able to do initiations until we can do ritual in person again together, so they’re in a bit of a limbo situation.
Open to new folks? Some groups are open to considering new people. Others aren’t thinking about that until meeting in person regularly is an option again. It depends a lot on the structure, size, and usual practices of the group, as well as what else the group leaders are dealing with in terms of the pandemic.
(For example, the covens where the HPS or HP is doing essential health care that I know of are mostly just keeping things going, not considering adding more people.)
And of course, many covens are only open to adding new folks periodically anyway (perhaps every year or two, depending on their training and pre-initiation process.)
My coven has taken on two students in the past six months (one’s since decided to pursue other options). We won’t be open to new students until sometime in the fall of 2021, though I’m always glad to chat with people and let them know when we get close to that point. (And suggest some reading and practice things they could explore in the meantime.)
There are some parts of our training we’ll have to circle back to when we can meet in person. (I have also made it clear to them that we will not be considering initiations for anyone until we’ve all had a chance to work together regularly for at least 3 months, possibly longer.)
Ritual? Some groups have managed outdoor socially distanced rituals. Others are doing online ritual. Some aren’t doing ritual together, but are getting together for chats and support in while members do personal ritual practice on their own.
Some things work fine over video chat for ritual, but others just don’t work or can be extremely technically frustrating. (Singing or chanting together, for example, is right out, and so is anything that relies on that.)
In my coven, we’re doing Sabbat rituals, with a focus on meditation, reflection, and food. (With people having their own food suitable to the ritual at their computer or phone.)
Our current approach is working well enough. It’s definitely better than not having ritual together at all, but it’s not the same as being in the same circle physically.
Training? Some groups are open to training people (either new folks, or continuing training for students already in the group.) Others are adjusting what they’d normally do.
In my coven, we’re approaching Dedicant training (the year and a day training) as much as possible like we normally would, but I expect to need to make adjustments as we go along.
For everyone else, we picked something we could talk about every monthly (runes, two each month) that would be flexible if someone had a particularly lousy month, or couldn’t make a particular call for some reason.
While I normally prefer a learning process that builds skills and knowledge over time, this is not the time to make people have to do every previous step to continue participating in some of it.
Patience is good
I’d been meaning to write this article for a while, but finally sat down to write it after an exchange with someone online, who had emailed a coven leader right before Samhain, and then (on November 4th) was sure that they weren’t going to get any answer because they hadn’t heard back yet.
Be patient! There are lots of reasons things are just plain taking longer right now, in all parts of our lives, and those things don’t go away when someone has an interest in a coven.
Here’s some of the reasons you might not hear back quickly:
Existing coven things are taking their time: Samhain is a particularly time-demanding ritual for many witches. Many of us like to go to extra lengths for the set-up and decoration. Remembering our ancestors and beloved dead can take a lot out of us emotionally. (I took a week vacation the week after Samhain this year, and it still took a lot out of me.)
The world is still pretty awful. Right after Samhain we had the US election, when a lot of people were spending less time at their computer, or glued to the news. Then we had the holidays.
Even without that, though, a lot of people are juggling work, family, and other obligations with ever dwindling resources. Responding to a new Seeker is probably lower on the to-do list than all the other daily stuff that needs to happen.
The group may need to discuss it. If you write to a group that hasn’t made a decision about considering new people right now, they’re probably going to need to discuss it.
The coven leader might wait for their next discussion to bring it up (which is probably not going to be right away). They might want to sleep on the request.
It’s usually fairly quick for me to make a decision if someone isn’t a fit – or if they look like a good fit (when we’ll move onto the next step of talking.) The middle ground I tend to want to think about longer.
But even with the people I’m pretty sure about, I usually want to sleep on it, and maybe discuss it with a trusted friend or two. It’ll be a couple of days before I reply unless I’m sure there isn’t a fit.
One of the things I think about a lot is where my personal preferences are interacting with an email – there are certainly people who I’m immediately intrigued by but who might not actually be a good fit for the coven. And there are people who haven’t looked like a great fit initially who have turned out to be a fantastic addition to groups I’ve been in.
The process usually takes time anyway. A lot of coven leaders are actively looking to see how someone deals with the process taking a while. Many of us get emails from people who want all the witchy goodness right now.
(And we understand, we do! But we also don’t want to put in a lot of time and energy with someone to have them disappear a month later when we don’t teach them all the secrets of the universe and our innermost thoughts the first time we meet. Not only does that suck up our limited free time, it’s also pretty emotionally draining.)
A coven leader’s time should be going first to the current coven members, so it may also take a bit of time to have an hour to sit down and respond to an inquiry and figure out a possible next step.
(That’s especially true if other things in someone’s life are busy or stressful. I don’t want to look at Seeker emails when I’m cranky at the world or in a lousy mood, and you don’t want me to either, right?)
A lot of covens deliberately slow down the process a little, and some will only contact people back when they’re opening up for teaching again (which might be months away.)
I respond to Seeker emails fairly promptly (but usually that’s at least a day or two after I get it, not as soon as I see it.) A lot of people, it’s clear early on that they want something we can’t offer, and I’ll say so. If there’s a possible fit, I’ll arrange a conversation (usually that means waiting a week or two for me to have space in my schedule for time to chat.)
This is always true in seeking a coven – chances are, there won’t be a coven that is everything you ever wanted right near you. But during the pandemic, flexibility and adaptability are even more important. Spend some time before you reach out to a group getting clear with yourself what you’re hoping for and what your limits or boundaries are. Other articles in this section have more tips on how to do that.
(There will also be a bunch of stuff where you’re not sure yet, or you might be okay with it in some cases and not others. Write those down too, as you figure them out.)
Understand that groups and group leaders are figuring this stuff out too – even the folks who had some experience with training and ritual work at a distance had to do a lot of learning and adapting when everything else in our lives changed.
What it looks like when we can meet in person might look a little different too. That’s going to take some time to figure out too.
Several of my coven folks don’t drive, so getting together can take a fair bit of time on their part (and my cleaning up the apartment and making sure it’s ready for guests on a schedule also takes time and energy.)
I love seeing people in person, but long-term I’m definitely considering whether some of our discussions might be online instead of in person.
For some of our folks it might simplify what childcare help they need from other people, or it may be easier on those of us with chronic illness needs. Some of our classes also work really when when I can share a screen and show people what I’m talking about (like our Tarot class.)
Published January 3, 2021.