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Solitary vs. Coven Practice

The Right Practice For You
The question has been brought up on numerous occasions concerning the benefits of being a solitary pagan vs. a pagan in a coven? Which is best and which is preferred?
Your personal experiences should be considered as you make your choice which practice to take. Consider some of the pros and cons of each path. Research for yourself and about a group before you join. Then you'll be able to decide for yourself which is the better path for you. I hope the following ideas can aid you in your search.
A Solitary Practice
The Pros:
If you are a self starter, or you have a knack of learning and combining information through research, then the solitary path might be right for you. You are free to experience many new forms of rituals, practices, ceremonies and so on. All of which will provide you with unique information and understandings that you can mold into your own frame work of belief and practice. You are not bound by time and place to practice your magikal rituals or festivals. You are always the high priest or priestess and therefore you alone control all the aspects of your ceremonies.
The Cons:
There is a lot of research, trial and error that goes into being a solitary pagan practitioner. The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. You have no one to share an experience with, and therefore you might lose an opportunity to discuss, clarify and expand on your understanding of the event. You also lose out on interactions with others who are more experienced than yourself. Again losing an opportunity to learn.
Other Considerations:
Being Pagan is a lifestyle. It is an art and craft just as these names have suggested for centuries. As an artist paints, so does a pagan paint them self on society and their environment. With the advent of the internet, chat rooms and email, a solitary pagan is not really alone any more. A sharing of ideas and experiences are just around the corner on your keyboard.
A Coven Practice
The Pros:
In traditional covens/clans, an initiate is given a year and a day to decide if they want to take the path of a pagan within that coven group. This gives you time to learn, experience and socialize with other group members. A time to gauge the workings of the group and decide if your beliefs can fit within it's balance. A Priest or Priestess or both traditionally conduct all rituals and ceremonies within a coven. Giving direction and guidance as needed. For those who like learning from a teacher, this path might be the right one for you. Again, traditionally; a Priest is charged with the training and education of female students, while the Priestess is charged with the education of male students. This method invokes the balance of God/Goddess, and enhances the training through the balance of male/female energies. These directors of the magikal service or events within the coven must also be skilled in magik and ceremonial practices. They must be mature, wise and very humble. But they must also have the gifts of leadership, being able to deal with adversity in a quick and fair manner. If you can find a coven that is governed by these kinds of people in a well organized and balanced environment, then there may be much you can learn from this group.
The Cons:
Interaction with members of any group is not always easy. Discord with an other member can affect your concentration and your ability to function within the group. Your personal experiences might also be limited depending on the manor in which rituals are conducted. Often a Priest or Priestess performs all the ceremonial tasks, including playing the role of the Goddess or God in certain ceremonies. Finally, the structured beliefs of the coven may differ slightly from your own beliefs. Once again creating dis-harmony within yourself and maybe within the group.
Other Considerations:
For all those covens out there that are in harmony, I commend you.
If you're in a coven now and you feel as though there are things going on that are against the principles of your beliefs, then leave. Nothing says you 'have' to stay. When you're looking for a coven, you must take it upon yourself to validate the claims of leadership and education of the Priest/Priestess. Those who have honestly taken the training, time to learn and become enlightened will not manipulate you or your path. They will not try to control your actions. They will not tell you what you can or cannot do, who you can or cannot associate with. Each of these manipulations take away opportunities for you to learn, experience karma and expand in your own wisdom. So beware when you're seeking a coven.
In addition - NO clan or coven has a legal right to educate anyone under the age of 18 without their parents permission. There are many covens who are dictated to teach anyone who asks. That might be fine within the confines of their traditional rules or practices. But on a legal front, it is not legal. So be wary of anyone who tries to solicit your participation, at any age, or who tries to find underage members to join their group.
Last thought - And I'm sure this will offend many, but there are reasons for this paragraph. NO ONE with limited experience has the ability to start or run a coven. There are so many new practioners, especially teens, who have decided that after reading a few books, they want to lead a coven. Please set this idea aside. Create a 'study group' not a coven and you'll put your workings to much better use. Being a coven leader is a major responsibility and requires a great deal of training. Not just in the history and knowledge of the religion and tradition, but in the essence of spiritual wisdom, practical management and leadership, as well as, vast experience. If you don't have it, don't try it. Just be in a study group; its much easier and simpler to share ideas.
A Final Word
The bottom line is, it's up to the individual. If you feel as though you need to be guided, then perhaps a coven is the right structure for you. But make sure you have a strong personal inner strength and your nature is such that you have the ability to say 'No' in what you see, what you hear or what is asked of you.
If you do decide to seek a coven, there are some extra warnings you should keep in mind.
  • Practioners of Witchcraft do not believe in Satan or satanic worship. We don't even believe in the existence of such an evil creature. But many "satanic cults" are structured like a coven. So be very careful and cautious as you search for a group to join.
  • Witchcraft practioners believe in the sanctity of all life. Which means we do not believe in animal or human sacrifices of any kind. That includes torture, abuse or any other harmful act.
  • The practices of Witchcraft are with positive intent and purpose, respecting all things. Which means you should never be asked to do something you don't want to do, or that 'feels' wrong to you. A priest or priestess who requires sexual interaction in order for you to attain a new level of spiritual enlightenment is a false spiritual teacher. This is not respect, it is harassment and abuse of power in my view. The GreatSpirits do not need us for physical gratification. There are covens who include an aspect of sexual interaction as a representation of the joining of the God/Goddess. But in my humble view, this isn't needed.
  • Trust is a very important part of a coven or even the participation of a small group. 2 or more gathered together can accomplish just as much as a formal coven. No one should feel as though they are in danger, that your morals are going to be compromised or your principles will be condemned in any way.
Thankfully the 'burning' days are over and society is beginning to recognize that the craft in what ever form is of a positive nature and not something to fear or condemn. Because of this, many covens are forming or coming out of the shadows all over the world. You can start by doing a little research on your own through the web, or local spiritual stores in your area to find a coven or even just a group of people who meet for tea and coffee.
Choose your path with thought and reverence, with positive intent and with a open heart and mind. May the light of the Divine be shown upon your path as you find your road to travel.

Source: 1, m1, m4, m5, m7, m8, m9, m10, m13, m14, m16, m18, m19, m23, m24, m25, m36
Created: 10.03.2001       Updated: 05.08.2004