Covens, study groups, and Wiccan/Pagan networking organizations are being formed all the time. Some are brand new, others are well established, but the majority probably fall somewhere in between. All too many newcomers to Wicca/Paganism get obsessed by their need to be part of a group, and they dive off head first into the first one that invites them without bothering to find out if it is really the best group for them. Often they find the pool is empty, and they crash big time. In the 1970's a seeker who wished to find a teacher or coven had a very difficult time. There were few books and few metaphysical stores. Now we have the opposite problem. There are hundreds of books and metaphysical stores and many thousands of websites which will all claim to be able to teach you Wicca. The problem now is finding a legitimate, trained teacher amonst all of the eager but unqualfied ones. Anyone can create a website and claim to be a teacher of Wicca. Be careful. Ask questions. A good teacher will welcome questions about their background. Make a list of those things which are important to you, and from that make a list a questions to ask potential teachers.
If you are a newcomer to the Craft, or a solitary who is just beginning to seek out a group situation, it is wise to research the group first and decide if you really want to be a part of it. Remember that the interview process is a two-way discussion. They not only have to accept you, but you have to accept them as well. Be picky. You're worth it.
Recognize that, though there are unifying themes in any Pagan belief system, practices from group to group can vary widely. One thing they all share in common is that all members will be expected to blend their personal energies with those of the others in the group, making it a very different spiritual experience from what many of us grew up with. This also makes our ideal goal of "perfect love and perfect trust" within our group situations essential to the well-being and spiritual growth of all concerned.
Define Your Requirements
Before you begin actively seeking contacts, sit down with a pen and paper and actually write out a list of what it is you're looking for in a group situation. Don't get so detailed that you build a fantasy group that can never exist, but do put into the words those things that mean the most to you. For instance, do you want to be part of an actual working coven, or are you more interested in a loosely structured study or discussion group? Do you want a mixed gender group, or one that is all women or all men? Do you want a group with an eclectic focus, or one that practices within a certain cultural framework or within one particular tradition? Do you want to worship skyclad (ritual nudity), or in robes or street clothes? Are you interested in a group that teaches others, that is open to the public, or that keeps its membership to a certain number? Do you want to be with younger people, or are you seeking the over-thirty crowd? Is it important to you to have established leaders and a system of degrees for advancing within the group, or do you lean toward the egalitarian/priestly traditions that share leadership roles?
After you have a list in front of you, go back over it and cross off any item about which you feel flexible enough to compromise. What is left are your core requirements. These requirements are what you should be looking for in any group you seriously consider joining.
At your initial interview, and also after your first meeting/ritual with the group, ask both the group members and yourself some of the following questions. There are no right or wrong responses, but the answers should give you a general idea if this is the right group for you to explore further or not.
1. What is this group trying to accomplish?
2. How do the leaders characterize the group?
3. How many members are in the coven? How large does the group expect to grow?
4. What is the group's general level of experience?
5. What sort of turnover rate has the group seen among its members?
6. Has any member ever been banished (forced out)? Why?
7. What qualities or characteristics are the group's leaders looking for in new members? Why are they interested in you?
8. How did the coven's leaders get their positions?
9. Do the leaders seem to wield an excessive amount of power over others, or do they lack leadership skills altogether?
10. Is there a written set of rules they will permit you to see?
11. What contributions will you be expected to make to the group? Teaching? Leading? Providing a meeting site?
12. What will the group give you in return? Lessons? Chances for advancement? Connections to a larger umbrella group?
13. Who prepares and leads the rituals?
14. What about magical practices? What are the ethics of the group and its individual members? Are you comfortable with these?
15. Have you been asked to do things that conflict with your ethics, or things whose purpose are not explained to you?
16. Have you either witnessed or been asked to participate in rituals that harm, degrade, or frighten others?
17. Are the other members cautiouly welcoming to you, or do they seem indifferent about your participation?
18. Do the members seem to get along well with one anoter? If at your first meeting you are bombarded by backbiting from rival members, it is a good sign to run fast!!!!
19. Is there anyone in the group to whom you react negatively? It only takes one to keep you from fully feeling a part of the group, and this clash will likely lead to internal fighting that could destroy the group.
20. Does the group seem to you to have a solid future?
21. Do the group members seem to be committed to spiritual progress, or do they strike you as playacting?
22. Listen carefully to see if everyone's input is welcome. What happens when someone makes a suggestion?
23. Do you feel this is a group in which you could grow?
24. If you had the power to alter the group in any way you wanted, what would you do? Most important of all, how do these alterations measure up against your original list of what you were looking for in a group?
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