How to Build a Coven from Scratch

Ever thought of starting your own Coven? There’s something to be said for group work – it has it’s advantages over solitary work (but that’s another post). One thing is for absolute certain: starting a Coven from scratch is so not easy. After running three Covens spanning a period of over twenty years, you learn a few things about the shit-storm of starting one from scratch.

Organization is key. Do not – I repeat, do not – think that you can get away without a little organization. If you don’t set yourself up a calendar and write down all of your appointments to meet the potential newcomers for your group, you will lose track in a split minute. There’s a lot to do. You have to write bylaws (or at least a set of ground rules), decide whether you’re using a hierarchy or not, write your Rites of Dedication and Initiation (unless you have them from a previous group), figure out how to pay for supplies – and the list goes on and on. Get a calendar, make lists, set reminders on your phone – whatever you have to do, be sure it’s recorded somewhere so you can complete the bite-sized chunks that will make setup a breeze.

Timing is everything. If you truly want people to join up with your Coven, you’re going to have to advertise at the right time. Our group advertisers our pre-Initiate training on Facebook in a couple of local Pagan groups. We also advertise on Witchvox.com. In fact, our group is kind of semi-popular, locally. I haven’t even advertised the next cycle of Dedicant Classes, and yet I have several applications that came in just a few months ago. I know for a fact that posting is not visible in the local groups anymore – it’s way too far down the FB group’s feed. I think, from experience, that the reason we’re so popular is that we usually start advertising around Samhain. Around that time of year, people love witches and witchcraft, and the n00bs in the groups always look for someone they can hang with. But the risk in that is: you get all kinds of crazies, wishy-washies, and sometimesers. So you have to gauge them carefully when you meet them.

Don’t ask your closest friends to be part of your Coven. When we think of a Coven, we think of a group of the closest people imaginable. We’re more than family – we’re chosen family. You get to know these people very, very well because of the amount of time you’re going to spend together. And that is how it should be. As a result, it seems like it would be a good idea to invite in people who are already chosen family, right? Wrong. Just don’t. You will power-struggle, you will fight and you will come to resent each other if one of you sticks around long enough. Advertise pre-Initiate classes on Facebook and on Witchvox, see how long people stick around, and then let them have their Rite of Dedication – after you’ve determined they aren’t lunatics.

People change like the weather. You will have all kinds of people ask or apply to join your Coven. Meet them – all of them – in a public place. Feel them out. See how they react to the public setting and the environment that you’re both in at that moment. Listen to them tell their story and be genuinely interested. Tell your story and observe how they react to it. Figure out how you are feeling about meeting this person. What does their personality seem to be? But make no mistake: you need to feel this person’s energy out thoroughly. And even when you do that, 8 out of 10 of them will leave in the first few months.

The truly committed are rare. This is one of the many reasons for people leaving so soon. People will tell you how much time they’re able to commit to learning the Craft. They will tell you how much they want to be a part of the chosen family. They will tell you how desperately they’ve been searching for a Coven just like yours for so many months. And they will assure you that they are dedicated and committed to doing the work, no matter how hard, both at home and with the group. Don’t you believe it – not one word. It’s all lies. The more enthusiastic they are, the more cautious you need to be. Because rest assured, the overly enthusiastic are the first to make a beeline for that door.

I had one chick come to our group who was so very exuberant and excited to be a part of it – and I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. And within the first two months, she was gone. Completely disappeared. No one in the Coven knew where in the hell this chick could be. Just gone – to the point where we were kind of worried about whether or not someone had stabbed and buried her. That, or she was in the witness protection program. Girl knew how to make an exit, I’ll give her that!

Don’t let anyone in just because they ask politely. Trust – there are some absolute crazy, nutjob, lunatic mofos out there. You seriously cannot take the chance on having one in the group. It isn’t just you that you have to think about here. You have to consider the well-being of any other Coveners involved. Once there is one bad apple, the whole bunch can just start browning and getting mealier and mealier. Over time, the entire lot of you will be paranoid freakshows.

If you catch wind of someone whispering behind your back … Don’t act like it doesn’t happen. People are people, and people like to spread shish around. If you find that someone in your group is spreading good old-fashioned gossip, you have three options. 1) Get the fuck out. Leave. Just go. If the group always meets at your place, dissolve that son-of-a-gun. Get those people out of your life stat, because they will only become more toxic and harmful to your well-being. 2) Find the shit-starter and get rid of them. It may not sit well with the rest of the group, but if you can truly get to the root of the weed and pluck it, you have a chance to prevent it’s return. 3) Give the shit-starter the benefit of the doubt, wait them out, and then kick them when they start shit a second time. I’m a firm believer in second chances, but I don’t do repeat bullshit. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

So how do you measure the success of a Coven?

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