As a practicing witch you may decide you would like to join a coven, by doing this you will be agreeing to abide by the lore of the individual group, so before you choose you may first like to inquire about the philosophy of the particular coven you are interested in. Covens do not seek members, if you want to join a coven you must find one and ask for permission to join. You will be admitted at the discretion of the coven members. As opposed to life as a solitary witch, life within a coven will have specific requirements that need to be met. The positive aspects are that there will be readily available knowledge and guidance from seasoned witches, and you will always have the companionship of like minded souls. Once you have joined a coven, there will be recognised degrees associated with the craft. Witches who choose coven life do so because they enjoy the sense of family associated with it, and like the idea of having someone to look to for guidance.
Although there are basic ground rules associated with a coven, each one is different and works in their particular style, and each coven has its own code of ethics, and Book of Shadows. Before committing gauge what their philosophy is, if it will suit you, and whether you feel drawn to the way they practice. The effectiveness of a coven depends on the rapport of its members, and candidates are expected to have an interest in healing and spiritual development. Once accepted you will be formally initiated into the coven.
The high priestess is the leader of a coven, she represents the goddess, if a coven has both male and female members, the high priestess will share leadership with the high priest, although the priestess is still considered head of the coven. The high priestess is responsible for the overall wellbeing of all coven members, and for maintaining spiritual harmony within the group. A high priestess usually possesses strong psychic powers and heightened intuition, with her sensitive understanding she guides the coven maintaining spiritual integrity. Her role is to help individual coven members discover and enhance their own psychic abilities and learn all aspects of magic and ritual. The high priestess will cast and purify the magic circle and invoke the goddess and the spirits of the four quarters and elements, she will direct rituals, magic work and chants.
Covens often have a maiden, usually a second degree witch, she assists the high priestess and in some tasks substitutes for her. The maiden often teaches initiates and handles various duties pertaining to the coven, only one woman holds this office until she succeeds the high priestess, or leaves to form her own coven. Although 13 is the general rule for a coven, size varies but to maintain rapport within the coven there are usually no more than 20. Although some covens are all men and some all women, most covens prefer a mix of male and female members.
Once a coven accepts you as member you will be issued with a list of rules, ethics and beliefs that you are expected to learn and adhere to, one of which will be a code of secrecy regarding what goes on inside the coven, and the names of the members. If you are comfortable with the rules and requirements you are ready to begin coven life. A ritual will then be held for you where you can choose your magick name, and once the dedication ritual has ended you will be called by that name from then on. Many covens ask for an dedicant agreement to be signed by you, and your time as a dedicant will be carefully monitored by the high priestess, high priest, and coven members. Only if you are in sync with the members of the coven will you be accepted as an initiate. For a coven to work effectively, each member must exude an energy that is compatible with the whole. Witches are spiritually enlightened and extremely sensitive to moods, for a group to work together there must be harmony.
All members of a coven are called coveners, each member is a priest or priestess, apart from the leaders who are the high priest and high priestess, in some covens they are called Master and the Lady. Within a coven there is a three degree system of advancement, each degree requires a year and a day of study, this is the amount of time the Celtic goddess Cerridwen stirred her brew in the cauldron of knowledge.
First Degree Initiation – After being part of the coven and being trained for a year and a day, and providing the high priest and high priestess agree you are ready, you will receive your First Degree initiation.
Second Degree Initiation – Exactly a year and a day after you became a First Degree witch, and as long as you have met all the study requirements, you will earn your Second Degree Initiation. Depending on your level of understanding and readiness, the high priest and high priestess decide whether you are ready to teach at this point.
Third Degree Initiation – Providing the high priest and high priestess agree that you are ready, you will gain your Third Degree Initiation a year and a day after receiving your second one. The study for this degree is more intense and time consuming than the previous two degrees. After receiving this degree you become a high priest or high priestess, once reaching this level you can decide whether you wish to stay or to leave and form your own coven.
The Hierarchy – A coven must have a high priestess, but most have both priest and priestess, the high priestess is symbolic of the goddess incarnate, The high priest is recognised as the God incarnate and he is there to assist the priestess. Those members who choose not to accept the role of high priest or high priestess after they have received their degrees, are referred to as Elders (this has nothing to do with age). Elders often teach Magic and Wicca, and may act as mediators within a coven.
Being a Coven Member – The high priest, high priestess and coven members, decide when the coven will meet and you are expected to attend all gatherings, and to play a part in the running of the coven. You will be required to attend 8 Sabbats, and 13 Esbats each year, this means a high level of commitment on your part. During a coven meeting each member has a specific part to play in the rituals, and members are expected to attend all meetings.
Types of Covens – Covens vary in the emphasis given to aspects of the craft, some are quite traditional, while others are eclectic, preferring to blend various traditions together. If you love being part of a group and enjoy sharing with others, the structure of a coven will suit you, it will allow you to connect with strong, independent, committed witches, share knowledge, practice magic and deepen your understanding of Wicca and witchcraft.