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Why Covens Often Fail

Author: Talitha Dragonfly
Posted: May 4th. 2008
Times Viewed: 5,075

I've been doing a little research lately on the subject of why Covens often fall apart so fast. The answers I've been collecting come from talking with other Pagans, scanning a few Pagan-themed message boards, revisiting the pages of some of my books, reading articles written by respectable authors, and recalling some first-hand accounts from my own past.

In this age of technical wonders, even an impoverished American three year old toddler has access to more computing power than the first manned mission to the moon. Today, almost anyone can set up a website and advertise that they are starting their own spiritual group or Coven. Admittedly, that's how Pennypack Coven got its humble beginnings. I threw the idea out to the community, and I received a positive response. It's been a beautiful journey ever since.

But is such open availability always a good thing? Does it have its downside, especially when credibility and authenticity is concerned? Is what you (think you) see always exactly what you get? Could the market for finding a Coven be overly saturated with pure crap in this recently formed information society?

Using this tangent as a jumping point, allow me to share some of the reasons I've discovered that help to explain why Covens fail.

A truly common reason, I believe, is a lack of foundation. It's as if some people wake up suddenly one morning and say, "I think I'll form my own Coven!" And then this person is either just lucky enough or just stupid enough to find others to go along with his or her idea. Nobody in this haphazard group is entirely sure why this seems like such a good idea other than that they read it in some book somewhere on a shelf in some New Age book store that being a Witch or Pagan means that you have to belong to this super-secret and super-cool thing called a Coven. So they form a group, and then don't know where to take it.

Going hand in hand with this lack of a solid foundation are also the clichés of Paganism. Some people's interests in Paganism lie more in their egos. They think that becoming a Pagan is the cool thing to do. They think it might get them laid more. They might think it's the "Goth" thing to do. Their newfound belief system has less to do with seeking an Enlightened state of being and more to do with their own heightened image. There are plenty of these people floating around out there, and when two or more of them are gathered in Ego's name.............

Well, you get the point. Once these people get tired of playing around with magick spells that aren't really working for them, and all the glamour has faded, and they're out of money to buy more incense, they eventually move on.

False, uneducated, misappropriated, and egotistical leadership is a real problem. It's probably an age-old problem for any religious tradition. You get someone who leads his or her Coven more like a cult. They look for lost and confused and weak-minded people to control. There's no true learning going on; just a bunch of shallow and crazy crap that people eventually get wise to and can't wait to get away from.

Also a lot of so-called Covens are lead by beginners who think they can play High Priest or Priestess after only having been in the game themselves for a mere year or two. This Coven is obviously going to be populated with other members who likewise either has little to no experience working in such an environment, or who have had awful experiences in previous Covens. After a little time passes, the "students" have outgrown the leaders and think that they can be in charge. This creates a power struggle; feelings get crushed in the process, and people wind up going their separate ways with their hearts broken and their minds disillusioned.

What other reasons are there?

I saw a term used on one discussion board that caused me to truly LOL. Seriously. My cat stopped licking her bottom, iced tea came spraying out of my nose, and I woke up the hubby.

The word was "Poly***ery".

Covens are not a dating service. Coven members should not be screwing one another. Feelings get hurt; drama starts, and an impossibly tangled web get weaved.

Another term I read that I laughed at was "couch potato Pagan". These are people who are very low energy and expect their Paganism to be spoon-fed to them. These are the guys who do little to no research on their own outside of class; these are the guys who fall asleep and snore during meditation sessions; these are the guys who don't bother to show up for classes or rituals and cry and complain when you explain that they are not ready yet to get their Degree; these are the guys who think that Paganism is something that you "do" every full moon, and not a path of spiritually that you actually have to live. These are the guys who can suck the last breath of life out of any Coven.

It also seems that many "Traditional" Wiccan Covens, and other "Traditions" as well, are waning in popularity. Most people who come into Paganism have left more mainstream religions because everything there was so rigid and filled with dogma. They don't want their Paganism to be filled with rituals, catch phrases, opinions, and thou-shalt-nots that somebody else has set standards for, either. They don't want anything written in stone.

They want the flexibility and freedom to come up with their own inspired ideas, their own connection with Deity, and their own ideas of how things might be done. Dogma equals stagnation; stagnation equals boredom; boredom equals the process of looking for something else to fill the spirit's quest.

I'd like to offer one last point, and that is the process of proselytizing. Naturally compatible Covens form in their own good, sweet time. Nothing is ever forced or rushed. People have a way of discovering each other through comfortable channels. There is never this crushing search to recruit new members as quickly as possible. It's not about how many butts you can squeeze into the pews. Size definitely does not matter.

I knew a Heathen Kindred who was quite pleased to have only two members. I know of a successfully inspired Wiccan Coven who has four members. Its High Priest quite wisely asked me however was I managing back when Pennypack Coven only had 8 members.

If all that you are worrying about is recruiting members............whether it be to boost your own ego, or to play a game of one-upsmanship to other Covens, or to attempt to impress the Pagan community at've entirely missed the point of why you formed your group to begin with. And how much attention could you really be paying to the precious members you already have?


The above list is hardly exhaustive. There are definitely even more deeply seeded reasons why some Covens just don't make it. Any Coven is a cult of personalities riddled with its own needs, its own quirks, and its own set of problems.

Pennpack Coven is hardly made up of a bunch of Stepford Wives. We've had some issues in the past, we've lived and learned, and together we have resolved them. We've had a couple of people move away. We have even bid a thoughtfully planned and executed goodbye to one person when the situation definitely warranted it.

The outcome is that we are happy, well adjusted, mature, and compatible.

I believe that my list does capture the general flavor of why things can and do fail. I am so blessed to not currently be burdened with any of them.


Talitha Dragonfly

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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