What It Means To Belong To A 'Coven' (And How To Create Your Own)

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coven of witches outside

The word “coven” itself may already be in your vocabulary. From watching cool and mysterious documentaries to seeing them in many Hollywood movies and shows like "The Craft," "The Blair Witch Project," "Hansel & Gretel", and "American Horror Story," covens have been used in media for centuries.

In fact, covens date back to the Renaissance prints that depicted witches. Even Shakespeare used witches for his three "weird sisters" in "Macbeth" in 1606. So, covens have been around for some time, but are they exactly?

What is a coven?

According to Britannica, a coven is a "basic group in which witches are said to gather" and that "each member of a coven is said to specialize in a particular branch of magic, such as bewitching agricultural produce, producing sickness or death in humans, storm raising, or seduction."

The word "coven" came to be by English Egyptologist Margaret Murray in her work "The Witch Cult in Western Europe," which was published in 1921. According to Murray, "a coven consists of 12 witches and a devil as a leader. The number is generally taken as a parody of Christ and his 12 disciples."

The word "coven" comes from the Anglo-Norman "covent," "cuvent," as well as from Old French "covent" and Latin "conventum."

To put it simply, a coven is a group of witches, but there is much more history, ritual, and meaning behind these groups.

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Covens hold a sacred pact and bond their witch members together uniquely.

A coven is a congregation of witches dedicated to the teachings and practice of Wicca. While there is often a deity of some sort whom the coven worships — like a pagan god, an animal, or even the devil — it is not necessarily essential, especially if the coven does not prescribe to strict tradition.

The purpose of a coven is to bring witches together. A coven can teach rituals and spells to help the group gain more knowledge and pass down traditions.

Covens are also stronger and more potent than individual witches. When witches come together and practice as a coven, their spells are more powerful and more likely to manifest what they intended. There is also a sense of unity and acceptance.

For centuries, witches have been condemned, so coming together in this way can bring solace and provide a way to look out for each other.

How To Start A Coven

In the nontraditional sense, a coven can be created by any group of witches who wish to come together to practice magic. There's really no official guide on how to start a coven specific rules to follow.

At its core, a coven is a group of however many people who share the same ideology and respect for Wicca.

1. Be intent on your goals.

Before you do anything, you need to know what your goals are for your coven. What are you going to worship? Will you worship something/someone? How will your ceremonies go? When will meetings be held? What kind of members do you want?

You need to fully flesh this out before you start anything so that when your members have questions, you have answers for them.

2. Create an initiation process.

Traditionally, witches are initiated. The initiation practices can vary between covens, but the point of initiation is to make a solid, solemn promise of loyalty and dedication.

Sometimes sacrifice is involved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean slaughtering an animal. The sacrifice could be personal like sacrificing a sentimental object or becoming vegan.

Covens led by a High Priestess are the most common traditional formation of a coven. When a witch is training to be a High Priestess and her training is complete, she may then split off from her current coven to form her own.

3. Remember that numbers don't really matter.

A coven is really just a group of witches, so exact numbers can vary.

Usually, at least three witches are needed to make up a coven, and traditionally no more than 20 may join. However, large covens reaching much higher than 20 members are possible.

But the number of witches does not determine the strength of the coven, which is deemed by the strength of the witches that make up the coven.

4. Keep trust strong.

Inherently, a coven needs to be formed on trust. Without trust in your coven, negative energy can spiral out of control, especially when practicing magic.

The group needs to feel nurtured and supported, and have a safe space to be themselves. Without this bond, the coven will suffer.

Think of a coven as your found family who understands one another and helps each other on their magical path or journey.

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5. Make sure each witch is serious about their craft.

When creating a coven, you don't want to include anyone who thinks it's just a fun joke. You want serious practitioners so your coven can grow strong.

For a coven to work, you need fully-fledged believers in witchcraft so the rituals and ceremonies you perform together don't get derailed by a non-believer.

Once you have a super strong coven, you can start bringing in those who just wish to dabble in the practice or get their feet wet. Of course, you should keep them on the bench while ceremonies are happening until they feel they are truly there for the craft.

6. Hold an initial gathering.

Once you know what you want your coven to be, you can begin inviting people to join. Plan when and where it will be, and what the agenda of the meeting will include.

Treat this first meeting as an orientation to the coven (i.e., laying out what you will do, and what members will be asked to do). Be fully aware that some people who show up will not be interested. Don't pressure them to stay, since you don't want that energy in your coven, to begin with.

Pro tip: Over-invite for your first meeting by 100%. So if you are looking for 6 members, invite 12.

7. Be a democracy.

Yes, each coven should have a leader and most often it's the one who founds the coven. A great coven, however, includes its members in its decisions.

So in your gatherings, discuss ideas with your coven and brainstorm together. Facilitate the sharing and expansion of ideas. Workshop what people want to do and see what works and what doesn't. It's important not to be a dictatorship.

8. Never push a member too far.

People have boundaries for a reason, so be sure that your members feel safe and secure within the environment of the coven. If someone is feeling uncomfortable about a ritual, for example, don't push them to participate in it.

Just as much as you want to indulge in magic and cool rituals, you need to take care of your members first. Without healthy, confident, and at ease members, your coven will quickly turn fearful and crumble.

9. Do your research.

When you have a coven, you may want to do research on how to best guide them and look into rituals or ceremonies to use. You can look up how to strengthen your coven and help them grow as witches.

It's important that your coven is always progressing and not becoming stagnant. You want to help each other grow and expand knowledge of the craft you all enjoy.

10. Avoid stereotypes and dogma.

Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. There is no good and evil magic, so don't try to push that agenda on your coven.

Yes, there can be harmful magic, but as you research, you will learn how to deal with and avoid that. If you are open to new energies, your coven will be safe and guarded and be led to higher knowledge and insight.

11. Have fun.

Covens are not always stern and serious. Yes, you should be serious about your craft but a coven is a community.

Be sure to make it fun and inviting. Hold events that spark joy for your members and remember why you created the coven in the first place: To have a group of like-minded people share a space where everyone could freely be themselves. And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating.

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Colleen Fogarty is a writer and contributor to YourTango. She covers self-care, astrology, lifestyle, and relationship topics.