To Coven, Or Not To Coven... That Is The Question.

I have been a moderator for many years for a Facebook group, The Pagan Mama Community (TPMC), which is a living, breathing group of positivity - but geared mainly toward Pagan parenting ideals, tips and tricks, and most importantly - is worldwide. I love TPMC and being a part of it. There are six total moderators from all over the US and even into the country of Malta, and in order to keep things fair, balanced, organized, AND from getting us into trouble with Facebook's rules and algorithms, we "sat" together and came up with a list of rules and regulations that group members must abide by in order to remain a part of the group. The rules are very simple - no asking for medical advice, no advertising posts except for a certain day of the week when a moderator starts one and then you can post your links in the comments only, no fundraising site posts like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, and basically don't be rude to other members - you may not agree with what they are saying, but keep it "live and let live".

This group of moderators is my coven - or at the very least, the closest thing to a coven I can see myself ever being a part of. These other five ladies are like sisters to me. We may not all talk to each other in a group setting as often as we used to, but whenever one of us needs help, the other five are quick to jump in with advice, assistance in spellcasting, dragging out runes or Tarot cards to seek answers from the universe, or just providing a virtual hug so tight it is meant to "squish your boobs" (Inside joke).

It is not often that we face members who break our rules - the rules are pinned to the top of the group page for everyone to see once accepted, and anyone who doesn't appear to have a brand new profile that is likely to be a scammer is let in and given a chance to be a part of our community. When someone does break a rule, we bring it to that person's attention privately in a PM and let them know that we understand these things happen and it may have not been intentional - and then we ask them to review the rules in the group again to make sure they understand. Nine times out of ten, that person never has another issue. But occasionally we get someone who is hell bent on trying to bend the rules or find a loophole to advertise themselves or their own Facebook page or group to drum up business and is trying to slip under the radar. The Mods group is onto this game and every post made to the group has to be reviewed by at least one of us before it makes its way to the group's wall, so that we can catch these people, decide if they are purposely trying to spam the group, and then ultimately decide as a team if they need another warning or just to be removed.

No one moderator has more "power" than any of the others, although we do all lovingly refer to the original founder as "Boss Mama" and sometimes when we can't make the decision, we let the tie breaker fall to her. There have been extremely rare moments when someone in the group has gone completely off the rails and caused such a huge issue in the comments section of a post, that whichever moderator saw it first (or it got reported to first) has had to make the call to jump in and remove the person and their comments immediately before it got worse.

One that I can remember just off the top of my head was a radical other-religion type who was just going to town bashing Pagans and telling people they were going to burn in hell, etc. for several comments before someone reported it to a moderator, and she bounced them from the group after taking screen shots of the comments with her phone, then posted the details of what had happened, along with her screen shots in our private moderator's group so the rest of the team could see what had happened. This was an extreme circumstance, so our internal moderator rules were skipped in order to handle the problem quickly and efficiently, and none of the rest of us had any issue with how things were handled. I suppose if the rest of the team had felt differently, we would have had a conversation about it and possibly extended that banned person an invitation back to the group with an apology and a warning on comments, but such a circumstance has not arisen.

A "traditional" coven - (and I use that word loosely, because there are SO MANY traditions, so one cannot speak for all) is usually made up of a pre decided number of participants. People may join the coven based on availability of space and being of like-minded worshiping practices. Members may come and go as their own beliefs, home lifes, job situations, etc may change, and oftentimes members may stay for a little while only for either them or the coven leaders to realize that they aren't a good fit for this particular group.

I cannot count how many times I see people online in either TPMC or Northern Nevada Witches and Pagans (NNWP - a group I started years ago to find others who were specifically local to where I was living at the time) post in the groups that they are looking for a local coven to join. Inevitably, several others will comment that they have room in their covens for X-type of practitioners and extend an invitation to join or to at least check them out. I would say, 30% of the time I never hear another word about it. The other 70% of the time, within a few days to a few weeks, someone sends me a PM that they need me to remove the coven leader or coven member from the group because they are 'just so horrible" or "have bad practices" or "kicked me out because...".

Now hold on a second, I tell them. I wasn't there, I didn't see/hear it happen, it happened outside of the group, and it's not my deal. You're a grown up, you decided to try this out, it didn't work for you. Pull up your big kid underoos, it's time to move on. Usually within a few hours to a few days, they're back in the group asking for other covens to explore.

Not fitting into a very specific set of rules, practices, rituals, etc is the most common reason that people don't stay in a coven. The second most common reason people bail from covens is power. Who holds it, and how is it handled? These are SUPER important questions you should be asking, BEFORE you decide to just show up at someone's house one night to join. I further encourage you to ask the following questions first, then, based on the answers you receive, ask if you may visit the coven's next gathering as an observer or a participant - your choice - to see if you and the group agree that you would be a good fit, before you commit to anything. Covens are usually very specific to their beliefs and rules, and you may find that in order to fit 100%, you need to start your own, OR just continue to practice as a solitary.

Here are some important questions to ask before considering joining an existing coven:

* What is/are the core beliefs of this coven?

* What is the power dynamic? Is there a priestess/priest "in charge" or does the coven vote on everything as a group?

* What are your coven rules? What happens if someone unintentionally breaks them? What if someone breaks them on purpose?

* What if life happens and I miss a gathering or two in a row? Can I participate remotely?

* What is expected of me during rituals and rites?

* How are problems solved between coven members?

* Are there any supplies, fees, donations or food I will be expected to bring or provide at gatherings?

* How often do members join or leave?

* What is the most common reason people stop participating in this coven?

Getting up-front answers to those questions and any others that you happen to think of, will help you determine whether or not you should explore further. Don't be so desperate to be a part of something that you try to force it. If it's not comfortable and enjoyable, it's not for you.

Lastly, I get a lot of complaints about coven leaders kicking people out for "no reason". Number one, there's always a reason. Whether or not it's a justifiable reason is a whole different can of worms, and another of the many reasons I practice as a solitary. Food for thought for both you and the coven leader in that situation: Maybe you just didn't fit, and they didn't explain that well enough and now your feelings are hurt. OR, coven leaders, if you seem to have a problem with everyone, maybe the real problem is you. Take a good hard look at your judgements, confer with friends and group members, and extend an apology and invitation back if you find