The trouble with covens is that, as with any other hierarchial structure, there has to be a certain amount of power exchange. So essentially you have to choose whether you want to be a leader or a follower and either join an established coven or be instrumental in founding your own. If you go with joining a coven that is already established, you face the inevitable problem about having to compromise something about the way you work to fit in with the others. To some people that may be a worthwhile trade off. There are real benefits to being in a coven - shared experience, like minded people, calling upon the power of group energy…. But to other people, and I count myself among them, the thought of having to adapt the way I work to suit others does nothing for me. And I dislike the idea of being told I have to turn up every second Tuesday just because that is when the coven meets. Ironically I am actually very structured in the way I do practise – I complete formal ritual work every Sunday night and very rarely move it. But sometimes (usually when I’m hopelessly caught up in writing one of my novels) I’m just not in the mood and I move it to another night. I like the fact that I can do my magical work when it suits me. Same with the moon phases. Some periods I’m very aware of the moon and follow it through its phases. Other times I lose track of what the moon is doing. So it follows that some Esbats mean more to me than others. I don’t always acknowledge them. Same with the Sabbats actually. I’m very connected to Imbolc but Litha isn’t a big thing for me and nor is Beltane (because it always – literally - rains on my bonfire).
So joining a coven isn’t really for me, but of course the problems of compromising only really exist if you are a member rather than a founder of the coven. However the thought of founding my own coven is a daunting one. The abilities required to be a spiritual leader are very different to the attributes needed to be an authority figure in any other walk of life.
The way I see it, in general, figures of authority fall into one of three clear categories. Teachers are normally, (not Mr Duffett at my old school, lol) patient and articulate. Managers are structured and organised and leaders are charismatic and inspirational. None of these fit the mould of the coven founder. Spiritual teaching is not about the giving of knowledge, it is about the drawing out of skills and attributes that are already there. A coven leader who sought only to place knowledge in the minds of others would never bring her coven to realise its potential. Management is a pretty useless tool for the coven leader as well. As you are dealing with people who want to be where they are, have a vested interest in what they are doing and have demonstrated enough ability to be in the coven anyway, it is unlikely that they will need all that much managing. Leadership skills are probably the most useful but it is so very easy to cross the land from charismatic leadership to the cult of the individual personality and at that juncture spiritual direction becomes worse than useless.
All this is quite good news for me. I’d be the worst teacher in the world – no patience and no real interest in helping others learn. I’m a rubbish manager, far too much of a soft touch and I tend to let people just drift off and do their own thing. Nor do I have the charisma of a natural leader. Which of course begs the question, if I don’t fit into the conventional mould of the authority figure, could I have what it takes to found my own coven?
Well actually no. At least not yet. I’m still at that stage in my life where I haven’t learned enough humility to guide an entire group of others. I’m still arrogant and judgemental. I’m learning not to be but I still like to think I know best and until that arrogance has been knocked out of me, I’d be in danger of manipulating the group to suit my needs and not theirs. A coven founder needs to be a good deal more selfless than I am. I’ve said before – humility is one of the most important tools of the witch. It is only when you really understand your total and utter unimportance that you should even begin to think about taking on responsibility for others.
I’m also too young. To be honest I think being in your thirties is too young for most witches to found a coven (not all, some younger witches do it very successfully). I would not be at all surprised if founding a coven is something I come to in my forties. I can already see me starting to head that way with my website, the spiritual direction I undertake and something tells me that my first proper apprentice is starting to make herself known….But I’m rather enjoying life at the moment. Running a coven would be hard work and take up a lot of my free time. My poor husband barely sees me as it is. And I’m still far too inclined to step completely out of the real world and live in my novel for a few weeks. That would be unfair on the witches who would look to me for direction.
So I’m going to cruise the rest of my thirties and enjoy the remainder of my selfish years. No doubt my experience in teaching and directing will grow as the opportunities continue to present themselves. And one day when I’m suitably humble, a little more experienced and perhaps a little less inclined to silliness, I’ll give founding my own coven some very serious consideration.
So I’m not saying never, just not yet...
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1174069 (Svilen001)