Hunting a coven?
You can do that. You could try…hunting witches with a bow is a thorny affair (that’s a sly reference, yo). You could try a sling, but using barbs and arrows requires outrageous fortune (REFERENCES!). Guns don’t work either, because witches can really get the lead out.
But if you’re hunting FOR a coven, well…that’s a different matter altogether! Today, modern Wiccans and witches don’t always meet in covens; in fact, solitary practice is one of the dominant paradigms in the modern witchcraft movement. Sometimes this is due to geographic isolation from like-minded persons; other times it’s a simple matter of personal preference. However, when it comes to the modern traditions often called BTW (British Traditional Wicca or witchcraft—a problematic term but not one I feel much like unpacking in this post, and it’s my blog, so nyaaah) coven-based practice is pretty central. Teaching, rites and ceremonies are undertaken within the coven setting, and one of the purposes of initiation is to bring one in to such a group.
Finding a traditional coven isn’t always easy. Not every town or village has one–the fact that we’re non-proselytizing is one of the reasons for this. Maybe the day will come when skyclad Circle-goers walk door to door with copies of a magazine called Lords of the Watchtower, and inviting you to hear the good news of the Queendom of the Gods, but it’s not today, and hopefully will never be.
There are resources to help in the quest. Websites like The Witches’ Voice maintain listings for different covens and individuals (Cesig Gwynion maintains one there). Groups can often be contacted through local magical or alternative spirituality shops. But let us assume you’ve been successful and found a group. What now? What should you know? What should you look for, and avoid?
Learn what you can about a tradition, a coven and its members—don’t be all creepy and root through their immaculately separated and sorted trash, but it doesn’t hurt to ask about them. After all, 28.34 grams of prevention are worth 0.453 kilograms of cure (because metric—looking at you, America, Burma and Liberia). When you approach a group, at least be toilet trained. Your first question to a prospective coven shouldn’t be “what’s a Gardner?” or “why are those guys named after a guy who used sandpaper?”
Don’t jump at the first—or even the only—coven you find. Covens are, in a way, family groups, and like families they differ from each other. No two covens are alike, even daughter covens stemming from the same source—a cactus will be at home among cacti, but might not be at home among wild roses (oh the references)! Remember that its members will want to meet with you and get to know you. They’re trying to get a feel for who you are to determine if you’re a good fit. At the same time, remember you are also interviewing them.
Grab or print off a copy of the ABCDEF. It’s a quick and handy tool to use when you’re vetting a group to see if they’re the sort you’d like to be involved with. Now, don’t be a Richard’s cranium here and whip the thing out, pointedly making notes on it while having coffee with your prospective High Priestess. It’s rude and you’ll likely offend her; the last thing you want is an offended traditional HPS with a scourge and the will to use it. If you’re going to meet with these people initially remember that you don’t know them. Make sure someone knows where you are, and how to reach you. Think of it as a blind date, and protect yourself accordingly.
If the coven with which you’re meeting is part of a lineaged tradition be sure to ask for a vouch, which is the equivalent of a reference in a job interview. If they cannot produce someone in their upline or the wider community of the trad who can vouch for them being proper initiates, or are unwilling to, or make excuses, it’s a big red flag. The last thing you need is to work hard to join a tradition and then find out you haven’t. Some lines keep written records, others don’t. Be patient. Be prepared to ask questions, even if they won’t be answered or you won’t get the answers you want. Be prepared to answer questions as well, and be honest. If something smells fishy avoid the group, and remember that they’ll do the same. It’s not your right to join a coven or tradition, so be respectful and expect the same.
Joining a coven can be rewarding. You end up with brothers and sisters who will help and support you. You’ll also end up with brothers and sisters you have to help and support. When you do get to meet the group pay attention to the dynamic. Is there a lot of raging ego? Does it seem like you’re one of the kids on Recess looking over the fence into the kindergarten playground? Do they seem to get along, or is it all about one or two people with the rest along for the ride?
There is a lot more that could be said, but that can wait for another day.