I grew up fascinated by ancient myths and legends. I started studying paganism seriously in 2013 and was initiated into a coven in 2016.
I identified as a solitary pagan practitioner for over five years before I approached a coven for training. I'd be lying if I said in the seven years and two initiations since— initiate then priestess—I've never looked back. I understand the allure of solitary practice. But after weighing the pros and cons, I always come to the conclusion that the coven system provides far more to me than solitary life.
Receiving training from a coven really is a privilege; not a right. Most covens do not—and should not—profit from training. My controversial view is that priest and priestesses have a responsibility to teach those that want to learn. The flip side is that not every teacher suits every pupil, not every teacher is a proficient educator and not every pupil is a diligent student.
In my experience, covens will occasionally run an outercourt. These training nights usually include twelve or thirteen sessions and there is no commitment required from either side. Outercourts are a great way for students and covens to get to know each other while the students learn the basics of paganism and how that particular coven operates.
If the student completes the outercourt, there is a chance they will be offered a novice status within the coven, or even an initiation, depending on the student. These are five reasons for you to pursue initiation into a suitable coven.
1. Enhanced Learning Opportunities
This was my main reason for attending an outercourt and one of the major benefits covens provide. There is only so much you can learn from books, documentaries and Google. You don't know what you don't know until someone shows you.
After five years of reading and experimenting as a solitary, I thought I knew a lot. I was so wrong. After just a couple of outercourt sessions, I quickly realized I knew almost nothing about paganism.
Learning from experienced pagan practitioners gives you access to years—if not decades—of accumulated knowledge. Covens broaden your horizons and challenge you to consider views and learn subjects way beyond what you might research on your own.
2. Increased Socialization and Connection
This was the second reason I went to my first outercourt. None of my family or friends at the time understood paganism and I had a strong urge to meet people with similar views.
Over the years I've made countless friends both within the coven and with others in the pagan community that the coven introduced me to. Training nights, festivals and full moons within the coven are all social events. Then there are the regular cafe and pub catch ups and yearly camp with the wider community.
Sure, you can attend open community events as a solitary, but it's much easier when you already know people attending who you can talk to and can introduce you to others. I've lost count of how many times I've seen solitaries and seekers attend one or two open events and never return because they didn't know anyone else there.
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The deeper you choose to dive down the rabbit hole that is paganism, the more your view of reality will be challenged. Covens provide invaluable mental, emotional and physical support while you learn, experiment and grow.
They give you the security to continue the journey when it gets tough. You may find people to regularly bounce your views and ideas off, or people who turn up on your doorstep with snacks and a plan when you feel like your world is falling apart.
It is far too easy to skip full moons and festivals as a solitary. Reading and learning often get skipped too when life gets busy. Active covens set dates and times to meet for training, full moons and festivals. They will often set reading and homework assignments, and allocate initiates to write and direct different festivals throughout the year.
Each coven has different attendance and participation expectations for their members. Some covens will also have different expectations and responsibilities for the different initiate stages. There are usually three initiate stages—initiate to high priestess—plus one or two non-initiate stages, but this can change between covens. These expectations and responsibilities should be clearly communicated to prospective initiates during the outercourt.
5. Official Recognition
This benefit may seem weird and egotistical to non-pagans and solitaries, but many pagans will understand what I mean. Initiation into a coven provides you with a level of validity within the pagan community.
Initiation means the high priest and high priestess of the coven verify your level of education and personal growth. Through initiation, the coven acknowledges your commitment to them and your training.
Joining a coven is an extremely personal decision. It will often lead to life changing events and realizations. Every person needs to weigh the pros and cons for themselves and their particular circumstances.
These are five benefits I received after attending an outercourt almost seven years ago. There have been some difficult times and confronting lessons, but I don't regret for a second going to that outercourt or getting initiated into the coven three years later.
Questions & Answers
Question: How does one find a witch's coven in their state, and how do I know whether a coven practices evil or good?
Answer: Back before the internet covens would put adverts in local newspapers when running outercourts or open events. These day most use Facebook. Most states or local areas will have at least one Facebook group related to pagans, wiccans and/or witches. Join them and start asking around for community events and covens running outercourts or training nights. Community events are great ways to meet the covens in your area face to face. Just remember that covens are under no obligation to accept you.
The best way to know if a coven is right for you is to attend their training nights. I'm currently writing an article about the warning signs when joining a coven so watch this space.
© 2020 Ashtein Wyrd