Everything Covens Part 1 The Case For Covens
It seems the overwhelming majority of people in the tumblr pagan/witch community are solitary practitioners. Let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with that. I was a solitary eclectic for a number of years when I first started off and got a lot out of it. In fact I don't think I know a single person who did not start off working solitary. I wanted to do a little series of 3 or 4 posts on the ins and outs of covens for any solitaires that have not been able to experience it yet about why you should joining a coven, how to find a good one worth joining etc. Also I am going state that IT IS BETTER TO BE IN A (GOOD) COVEN THEN TO BE SOLITARY, here is why. 1. IT IS WIN/WIN. Let's get the most logical reason. If you are in a coven you can still do everything you can as a solitary, but if you are a solitary you can not do the same things you can in a coven. This is pretty self-explanatory, anything you are doing now you can still do while a member of a coven, you lose nothing. The coven work is only a supplement to your current practice. Everything to gain nothing to lose.2. IT CHALLENGES YOU. The best metaphor I have heard to describe what is it like to work in a coven is a rock tumbler. A rock by itself is rough. When placed in a rock tumbler with other rocks they bump against each other and the end result is a smooth polished stone. Coven work is the same way, you need to constantly test your beliefs and practice against the opinion and belief of others to help refine it, otherwise you become stuck in the dogma and group-think that plagues other spiritual paths. You don't sacrifice what you believe you just have to confront it which makes your belief all the more strong. 3. IT PROVIDES CHECKS. No one is perfect and at some point you are going to be need to have a reality check in your practice. Covens provide this constant check in to make sure you don't get to far "out there". Browen Forbs, in a 2010 article on covens, relates a story on this. "One Beltane we had a female guest who clearly had not spent a lot of time around other Pagans. She spent half her time boasting about her "special powers" (whatever they were; I wasn't listening) and the other half talking about her "astral fianc'e" - an Irishman she had never met here on Planet Earth and whose legal name she did not know. Apparently there was a wedding during our Beltane ritual because afterwards she was talking about her "astral husband." (No one offered to kiss the bride, I should add). Shortly afterwards, she quit her university job, sold most of her worldly possessions and went to Ireland to find him. Of course she didn't succeed. Last we heard she was homeless and living out of her car somewhere in Virginia. Six months in a decent basic training coven would have given our former guest the ability to tell the difference between an actual astral or out-of-body experience and self-delusion." 4. ACCESS TO RESOURCES. There is some information that is simply not available to you unless you are in a coven. My current HPS (High Priestess) has gathered 20 something BoS (Book of Shadows) from various traditions, paths, and lineages. These are all oath-bound, are not published, and are not available online. The only way to access the information is to be part of the coven. Now this is not the case with many eclectic covens due to the lack of oath-bound information, but you still have access to the first hand knowledge of all the people in the group which you would not have if only practicing alone. 5. THE COMMUNITY. Being a solitary can be a lonely thing. Some people prefer this but when I went from being a christian to my pagan practice the one thing I missed was the fellowship with other people of my same faith. Being in a coven gives you that fellowship with other believers who worship together. If you join an established tradition this sense of community is not even limited to your particular coven. I just got back from a trip to Cape Cod this weekend. My coven and I went up for another coven's initiation. I had the pleasure of meeting about 20 Gardnerian that I had never met before and we had a wonderful time talking about our faith and enjoying each-others company. Initiatory traditions work similar to the way Fraternities do in college, they allow you to have an instant connection with someone that you have never met because you belong to the same group. 6. YOU GET TESTED. A large part of the craft is work. There is no way around it. While you might push yourself to learn as much as you can and work hard you will only push yourself so much. and at the end of the day if you are only accountable to yourself you lose some drive. When you are learning in a coven you now are accountable to everyone else in your group and them to you. It forces you to look at aspects of the craft that you may not have before and quite often that is where you find the most interesting things, in the places you yourself would not naturally look. 7. ITS BETTER THEN THE BOOKS. Lets say you want to ride a bike. You can read all the available literature on bike riding through out the ages and in different cultures. In reality until you get on that bike and start riding there is only so much you can get out of the books. For everything you read about in a book a coven provides a hands-on demonstration with people more experienced than you. That sort of education is irreplaceable. Now all that being said, don't go out and join the first coven that will take you, NOT EVERY COVEN IS WORTH JOINING and the above will no longer be true if you are in a bad coven. In fact some are downright harmful. It is important to be able to know where and how to find a coven, how to make sure it is legitimate, and how to avoid time-wasting or dangerous situations. I will get into all that in Part 2 later this week.