In addition to my role as a High Priestess, which I have proudly and lovingly fulfilled through many coven incarnations over the past ten years, I also try to do my part when I can to contribute to the local Pagan community.
One of my offerings is an online forum I started back in 2004, which is intended to serve as a resource to facilitate networking between local Pagan groups of all types and seekers looking for a group to join. Recently, a new seeker joined the group and threw his wish out to the universe that he may find a coven to join, and the conversation found its way to a subject that has inevitable popped up time and time again over the years – that of how frustrating it can be for seekers when they aren’t met with the level of excitement regarding their arrival that they may have hoped for.
I have been a coven leader for over a decade, and I can see this issue from both sides. I can understand how a seeker hopes to make their entrance into the Pagan community, acknowledge that they are seeking a group to join, and just be flooded with invitations. For someone who is essentially on the outside looking in, the prospect of going out on a limb and approaching a group of complete strangers, hoping that they will be open to your advances but knowing that rejection is a definite possibility, can be absolutely mortifying!
There are even those moments when I as a coven leader come across those seekers who I am tempted to reach out to haphazardly. But I have my reasons for restraining myself, just as most coven leaders do.
How do covens find coven members?
When it comes to how we as coven leaders approach the seeker process, there is an expectation that it will in fact be a process. I do not want to speak on behalf of other group leaders, but in general, I think it would be safe to say that we do expect our seekers to “seek.” This goes beyond putting it out there that you are looking to join a group, and involves doing some digging and some legwork. I know it can be frustrating when you’re a seeker who announces you are looking for a coven, only to find that you’re met with relative radio silence, but it is typical. Usually, group leaders will not approach seekers or hunt them down. Call it a tough love kind of mentality, but there are reasons for this.
One of the biggies is what such a gesture could potentially imply. If a seeker pops into the local scene and says, “Hey, I’m looking for a coven, ” and then without finding out anything further, I say, “I have a coven, you should come hang out with us, ” it could imply an understanding that the seeker is a ‘sure in’ for my group. What happens if that does not turn out to be the case? Of course, certain seekers will understand that this whole process is a matter of trial and error, but I have dealt with my fair share of those who have come in so full of enthusiasm that it completely burst their bubble to find out that after trying it on for size, my group was not exactly the right fit for them. So often, when a seeker gets their foot in the door of a group, the need for community and involvement is strong enough that they try to force a fit even in a group where there isn’t one.
So many factors come into play in coven membership. There are the nuances of beliefs and practices. There are the bits of structure and protocol that hold the group together. There is the meshing of personalities. There is the way that each individual member contributes to the overall group dynamic. There are the commitments of time, resources, and schedule. So much needs to fall into place in just the right way, and for the seeker, it is worth taking the time to really consider the unique character of each group that you come across before making a commitment to one. Frankly, in my opinion, any group that does not make you pump the brakes a bit and take your time while considering it isn’t one worth considering.
Another reason we, as group leaders, can be a bit standoffish with seekers at the onset actually ties into a few things mentioned above. Every member of a group contributes something to its overall dynamic, and that contribution will ultimately be either positive or negative. Either a seeker will go on to become the type of member that contributes at meetings and events, is completely dependable and reliable, and becomes a great friend to the other members; or a seeker could become the type of member that is unreliable and unprepared at meetings, distant in making connections with other members, and brings an energy of disruption rather than a positive contribution. As group leaders, we can never really know for sure which way a seeker’s membership will go, and sometimes even the seeker doesn’t know. Often, a seeker thinks he or she will be able to commit to a group’s schedule and contribute something to it, but doesn’t that realize he or she can’t keep up until it becomes an actual part of their day-to-day life. Given that we cannot know in advance how these things will play out, it is in the nature of group leaders to come up with our own set of processes that we feel might give us a clue in advance.
As for me, I begin by making sure that a seeker has actually researched my group enough to have a sense of what my group’s path, practice, schedule, and character are like. I want to do my best to ensure that a seeker is not merely looking for any group, but that my group in particular actually speaks to something about the path they are already walking or have envisioned for themselves.
If a seeker sends me a message me at random, I will ask him or her to thoroughly read my group’s website. The site details a great deal about the group, and should give them a sense of whether or not it might be a fit. I will ask them to respond with their thoughts, and if I never hear back from them, I’ll assume that they are uninterested or could not be bothered with my request. I will not go hunt them down. I set seeker events on a schedule that mimics the coven’s typical schedule, and I request that seekers begin by attending them and getting to know our members. If a seeker can never make it to an event, it clues me in that the coven schedule will likely be a challenge for them. If they suggest that they will be able to make meetings a priority once they become members, but can’t seem to do so during the seeker stage, it will suggest to me that they do not see the seeker process as being as important as I do, that they do not wish to make a strong impression while being considered for membership, and that they may wish to have coven handed to them.
I am really interested in coven members who, regardless of where they may be on their personal path, are strong, confident, and ready to make their own mark…who are ready to work for their own spiritual path, and to make a contribution to the coven. A strong first impression is pretty vital.
These are just a few thoughts about what I might ask of a new seeker, and every coven leader will have his or her own processes. This brings me to a third reason why we tend to let seekers come to us, rather than approaching them, and why we might have a system in place that may seem like a long, drawn out pain to a new seeker. Honestly, as group leaders, we do have to be mindful of our own schedules and our own energy. The vast majority of our energy goes into our actual group and its members. We do see seekers as potential new members who can help our groups grow and flourish, but our loyalty and commitment is to our current members first. This means that what we do with seekers is piled on top of what we do with our current members. Sometimes the way we do things is intended to be more time and energy efficient. I may set up one on one meetings with certain seekers on a needed basis, but if I set up individual meetings with every seeker that came my way, on top of my full time work schedule, my coven schedule, and whatever other obligations I may have, it would severely cut into what time I have left for family and friends. We all have to have boundaries, and sometimes what may seem like a needlessly convoluted process to new seekers, is actually a means for some of us to keep some personal boundaries in place and protect our own schedules.
If you are a seeker who is truly interested in finding a coven that is right for you, my advice would be to start by discussing with the covens you are interested in and the people you meet the path you have been on, what you are interested in, and who you are looking for.
As a seeker, you should have your own “must haves, ” just as we have ours. Simply starting here – giving a little more info about what it is you are personally interested in and looking for – is likely to gain you much better feedback from the onset.
If you come into the community, and let the people you meet know that you are interested in Traditional Wicca, that would seriously narrow down the search. I will know my group is not the one for you, but I may know of one, or another coven leader might be more likely to speak up about a group that would be a fit. Once you are pointed in the right direction, I would begin the conversation by asking what their process is for seekers, and being prepared to do the “work, ” so to speak.
For your own benefit, I would be patient and discerning in figuring out what group is right for you. Ask about their expectations of members, their typical schedule, their level of community involvement, etc. If there are members of the Pagan community that you know and trust, you can always ask their opinions of a group as well. Consider it to your advantage to attend their open events, see how they interact with one another, and how they interact with the greater community. Take it all in, and keep in mind that you are essentially looking for your own spiritual family. It would be to no one’s benefit to rush into a decision or attempt to force a fit that isn’t there.
Enjoy the process, and embrace every part of the journey you are on. This is a time to figure out who are and what you want from your spiritual path, and you should compromise nothing. We as coven leaders will not, and if both leaders and seekers approach the process with this understanding, this should help ensure that no one ends up in a place that is not right for them.
High Priestess Gloubess