So, you think you want to join a coven?
Perhaps you have just learned about Wicca and want the experience found in a group, or perhaps you have been practicing as a solitary and feel the need for some company. Belonging to a coven can be a wonderful experience, or it can be a terrible mistake. Before you go looking for a group to join, you should do some careful thinking about just what kind of group you would feel comfortable with. Here's some thing you might want to consider.
What kind of tradition or flavor of Wicca appeals to you? This may involve some careful reading and research on your part to find out how the traditions differ. Are you in to a more set ritual structure with a hierarchical flavor, if so one of the Gardnerian groups might fit your needs. If you are more laid back and don't want a group with a rigid class system, they some of the more eclectic groups would be better. Would you prefer to be in a women-only group, then perhaps a Dianic tradition would be better.
What is your feeling being naked in front of others, even others of the opposite sex? Many if not most Gardnerian groups practice "skyclad". If this makes you uncomfortable, this might not be the best choice.
There are some groups which practice a symbolic Great Rite (representative of the sexual union between the God and the Goddess which brings fertility to the Earth), while others may practice an actual rite. The actual rite may be done apart from the circle or in the circle itself. Some traditions require the Great Rite between student and initiator as part of the initiation process. How do you feel about this?
Do you prefer a small group of like-minded people in someone's living room, or are you happy to be part of a larger group that is more open and may even hold public rituals?
So, now you may have found a group that you think might be the ticket for you. Here are some more questions to start asking before you decide to join.
When does the group hold circles? Some covens gather on the specific night of the full moon or holiday, while other acknowledge the concerns of the mundane world by holding their celebrations on the weekends closest to the event. How does your work or school schedule match up. If work keeps you from going to rituals, you might as well not go with this group.
What is the groups' feelings on the use of mind altering substances, be it alcohol or other perhaps illegal drugs? Are they used in circle? Do you have the right to refuse to use them without pressure from the rest of the group? If they are used in circle, could being present when drugs are used jeopardize your job.
How do members of the group your're considering treat each other outside of circle? Is the group simply a Go-To-Sabbat bunch of folks who go their own way during the rest of the week. Or are they friends outside of circle who are always available to each other in times of need. Ideally a coven functions as a clan or extended family.
What is the position of the High Pries/ess in relationship to the rest of the circle? Are they the kind of leader who dictates to everyone what they will do and how they will act? Or do they listen to the concerns of others in the group? Are they someone who is respected for their knowledge and spirituality but equal with the rest in the site of the Gods? Remember that one of the signs of a cult is an all-powerful and all-knowing leader.
Does the High Priest and High Priestess have enough knowledge of what it is that they are doing to facilitate the functions of the group and to safely lead a magical working? If the rest of the group is just learning, it is very helpful to have at least one fully trained individual to lead the way.
Do you feel welcome and safe in the group? When you stand in circle you bear with you the passwords, Perfect Love and Perfect Trust. If you cannot feel that way about those around you, especially in circle, you will eventually be unhappy with your choice.
Being part of a close-knit coven can be a marvelous experience. I am closer to some
of my fellow coven members than I am to my blood kin. This is the way it is supposed to feel. Sometimes it is just luck to find a group like this, but careful preparation in advance can help the odds in finding one. Remember it is better to continue as a solitary that to join with a group who does not help you meet your spiritual needs.