One of the most confusing things for new witches is the question of what witches do in their covens. Do they have orgies? Do they have ritual sacrifices? Do they all have multiple levels within the organization so that only the top-level tier or inner circle knows what is really going on? Are people split into levels based on their learning? The answers are, of course, variable since covens vary from group to group, just as much as the witches who are in the covens. Witches believe and practice different ways and each witch is different. Just as that holds true, covens are just as different as their members want them to be. Where some follow a specific tradition, others are eclectic. Some covens are strictly regimented, others more free flowing.
When you consider joining a coven, you need to remember that you will be working very closely, and may on occasion work intimately, one-on-one, with other members in the coven. You will be sharing power with the group and on occasion with specific individuals. This requires a bond. As such, if you are interested in joining a coven, it is wise to explore the coven and its individual members thoroughly, beforehand. Sharing power is an intimate process and you want to know those you bond with well.
Ask about the system of the coven. Do they follow a specific tradition? Do they have allegiance to a specific set of deities? Are you required to take on those deities or may you retain your own. Are people of other paths accepted, tolerated, belittled or something in between?
Ask members of the coven about the hierarchy. Ask about the leadership, who is in charge, how long have they been in charge, what qualifies them to be in charge? Ask if you are expected to “start at the bottom” and work your way toward an inner circle in a series of steps? What if you have a large body of knowledge already, does that entitle you to “skip steps”, or is the path absolute? Is there a set amount of time spent in each “level” or may one progress at their own pace?
How long has the coven been together? Do coven members know each other well outside of the coven practices? Do the members know each other well as people? Do they only come together for rituals and magickal work? Do they fraternize outside the realm of their magickal practice as well?
Where does the coven meet? If in individual’s homes, do you need to take a turn hosting? Is there a fee for joining the coven, if so, how much and how often is it charged? Is the fee used to pay rent for a location, buy practical equipment, such as candles, oils, incense, and other supplies for coven work, or will you be expected to bring your own. What kind of time investment do they expect of new members, established members, and leaders? If you joined, would you be responsible for any specific duties other than learning?
Does the coven follow one specific path? Are there divergent paths within the coven? Would you be required to study and learn with each member of the coven? If you do not “get along” with a specific member, would you still have to study/work with that member? If there is an argument within the coven, are you expected to take sides, or may you stay neutral? What benefits are there to joining this particular coven?
Some of the most important questions to ask are the ones that some new witches are most embarrassed to ask. Does membership in the coven require nudity? Does the coven require a sexual component between any or all of the members during ritual? Does a new initiate have to have sexual relations with any or all members of the coven? Is it a requirement to have sex with members as a way of bonding within the group? Are there rituals, such as the Great Rite, which are enacted literally or symbolically? Does the coven practice or endorse the practice of sex magick between members at all?
What about blood sacrifice? Are there any types of blood sacrifice required? Does the coven expect members to take part in any rituals requiring blood sacrifices? Are new members required to supply any of their blood for rituals of bonding? Do you have to supply any of your blood for coven specific protective spells? Is your blood required for any reason, by the coven, any members, or its leadership?
Once you belong to the coven, do you have any power within the coven? Do you get a “vote” on processes, methods and procedures, as well as new members? Do you have a say in the way things move forward? Do you have to spend a set amount of time in the coven before you have a voice in the running of the coven? How long before you have a say in how situations are resolved if/when problems or arguments arise?
If you choose to leave the coven, after you have joined, what does that entail? Must you go through any specific rites in order to divorce yourself from the group? Must you stay completely away from all members, or may you keep individuals as friends and magickal partners if they are so inclined? Are there any specific rules upon leaving that you are required to keep? Are you bound by any secrecy vows or other vows when you leave?
These are just the questions that I thought of. You may have many more questions that I did not think of however, you should never have fewer questions. Each of the questions mentioned here are valid and you need to consider them wisely. What is and is not acceptable to you, personally? What will you agree to and what is anathema to you? Only you know and can decide what you are willing to accept and honor in the end. If you want to belong to a coven and can find a coven that suits your all needs, wonderful. However, it is far better to practice a solitary path than to betray your path and/or your beliefs. Choose carefully how to proceed as a witch because solitary practice or coven, it is your path you have a right to practice it your way.