For as long as people have been practicing magic, they have found ways to gather, to teach, and to share their craft with one another, even when not accepted by their society or community. The term “coven” can technically be used to describe any meeting of individuals with a shared belief or interest; however, it has been popularized to refer specifically to a gathering of witches.
Witches within a coven typically come together to teach, learn, collaborate, or otherwise support one another’s spiritual and magical practices. There are many different types of witches, and thus there are many different types of covens. In this post we’ll be exploring what key factors a contemporary witch should think about when joining or forming a coven.
“Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?” —Glinda, The Wizard of Oz
The existence of witches and covens have always been part of the public consciousness, but their perception and depiction has certainly evolved over time. Identifying as a witch and the practice of witchcraft has also evolved with changing ideologies, laws, technology, and accessibility to knowledge. Historically in many parts of the world people who were perceived as practicing witchcraft were persecuted or treated as social pariahs in their communities. It was often unsafe for people to openly practice magic, and so while covens undoubtedly formed, many had to exist in secret.
Although witches and witchcraft are still not widely accepted today, in many societies they are able to exist and practice publicly without facing the same legal and social persecution as they did historically. While the normalization and popularity of witchcraft has grown over time, especially among younger generations, many generalizations about covens likely come from a mix of interpretations of historical accounts of witchcraft, religious doctrines, and the portrayal of witches and witchcraft in media.
So, what does a contemporary coven of witches look like?
Members: Covens come in all shapes and sizes, with some having many members and a more structured hierarchy of roles and responsibilities, and others being much smaller and more personal/casual. There is no minimum or maximum number of members, though there should be an overall sense of support and trust between everyone in a coven. For this reason, some may choose to try out a coven by attending a few gatherings before committing to join, or form their own coven with people they already know.
Gathering: Although we typically imagine witches gathering in-person, modern technology has made it possible for covens to gather remotely as well if members live at a geographical distance. Where, when, and how frequently a coven gathers really depends on the availability and preference of the members. The types of witchcraft, rituals, and events the coven participates in may also determine what form of gathering is the most appropriate for the members.
Craft: The witchcraft in a coven can include really any type of spiritual practice, so long as everyone is comfortable with it. Some covens may focus more heavily on group spells and rituals, while others may be more about providing a community to support the members pursuing individual practices. Beyond spell work, covens may also come together for planetary/astrological events, to celebrate holidays like those of the Wheel of the Year, or for other unique gatherings or outings. While some covens may have a range of experience levels, where newer witches can learn from experienced witches, it can be equally as fulfilling to have a coven of all beginners who can discover their beliefs and practices together.
The Importance of Having a Coven
Covens exists for the same reasons as many other groups and communities: to connect with others, exchange ideas, and celebrate a common interest and belief. Especially with the technology that exists today, it is possible to find other witches all over the world, and so we have a unique opportunity to share our spiritual ideas and practices with those beyond our immediate geographical communities. With so many ways to find and connect with other witches, and so many different types of covens, the final, and perhaps most important, factor that you may want to consider when joining or forming a coven is:
Purpose: What are you hoping to get out of the experience of being in a coven? Support and camaraderie over a shared interest? People to collaborate with for spell work? To learn from or teach others? To know what other forms of witchcraft look like? There’s really no wrong answer. What’s important is that your purpose is aligned with the other members in the coven so that everyone is working together to create an uplifting community and fulfilling experience.
Remember that it’s okay if you don’t find your coven right away. It may take time (and some trial and error) to figure out the type of group you want to join or form. You will know you’ve found the right coven when you are learning, growing, and enjoying the process of sharing your passions with others.