So, as a Priestess, and I have heard some horror stories from my students about their searches for a mentor. Most recently I heard from a seeker that a group she was involved with required all seekers to be naked in circle in order to "have their energy inspected", and that the group itself seemed more like an underground adult group than a coven. Unfortunately, stories like this are common, and as such I have decided to make a post about do's, don'ts and reasons to run and never look back. I.E. Red flags.
Due to the nature of this post, I shall start with the bad things. These are common things that denote to a group being seedy, and one that should be avoided.
1. A group requires you pay for each circle or event. Now, many covens have some type of dues even if it is just dedication of time, but if a coven is requiring you to pay $25 a meeting, then you might consider asking around in the community.
2. The group seems overly sexual. Now, many traditions are VERY sex positive BUT, if a coven requires you to complete some sort of sexual task, favor, or really anything that you aren't comfortable with, they are likely NOT a group you want to be involved with.
3. The members are overly intrusive. Basically, if they want to know every single detail of your life, especially things that would not be brought up with anyone other than a close friend or medical professional. You may want to question their motives, because there HAVE been cases where groups, not necessarily covens, stole people's identities.
4. The coven starts separating you from friends and family. Sometimes this is very subtle, "Suzie has very low vibrations, and that's why you've been feeling depressed. You should avoid Suzie". But nevertheless, you will want to be aware that they aren't isolating you.
5. They require you to completely change your day to day life/ conform to their standards. Now, them asking you to shower more than once a week isn't conforming, that's hygiene, I'm referring more to things like, "you must always wear a plain brown peasant dress and Birkenstocks, and your hair MUST always be braided". There is likely something going on, so be aware.
6. The coven refuses to interact with any non-members or the community. Word spreads like witch's fire (yes that's a joke) when it comes to scandal, and generally, if as group won’t reach out, it's because they have secrets/ something to hide.
7. The group tries to get you to rely on them or tries to get you involved with things that aren't legal/ are dangerous: alright so this is an actual story, and I'm actually going to be omitting some details due to their grizzly nature. All names and locations have been changed to protect innocents that were unknowingly involved.
Lady Silvermists was the High Priestess of a rather large coven in my area. For many years she was quite highly respected, especially since she was one of the first Priestesses in her tradition having taken her title in the late 80's, and one of only 3 remaining. She was a big local driver of sex positive witchcraft and really was a pillar of the LGBT and Craft communities. But, as we would later finds out, she got involved in the sex trade as a Madame (a woman who lured girls in). She did so by finding girls, usually 14-22 or so who were down on their luck and "training" with her coven, and saying, "well you know, you could try being a rent-a-date (basically it's like a charity auction where you can win dates)", and then after the girls made $1000 in a night, she'd lure them into prostitution and pimp them out. Sadly, 2 of the girls she trapped were victims of a very notorious serial killer, and several others were murdered as well.
As a fellow Priestess, I knew her from the community, but I was ALWAYS warned against becoming friends with her by fellow elders and newbies alike. For years I knew she was bad news, but it wasn't until after she died that I was finally told why the community basically shunned her years before. Her fellow coven-mates, most of whom had no idea she was involved in the "adult entertainment" industry were beyond horrified to find out that she was doing what she did. The coven's Priest (Who had all but pushed her out prior to her death) released a statement making sure that everyone knew he had no idea it was that and trying his best to disassociate with her in every way. Unfortunately, this scandal was so big that his coven disbanded, and any member who wanted to stay in that tradition was offered a spot in Lady SparrowFawn's circle. Only one member would stay.
Yes, this is an extreme case, but unfortunately, it was very real, and the local community is still shaken as a result.
8. Basically, if anything about the group makes you uncomfortable, do NOT join. Do your research, get to know the community, and ask about the group. Other witches are usually quick to warn you of danger and predators.
Good things to look for!
1. The group is very calm about things and takes their time/ lets you take your time in the introduction process.
2. They offer advice and try to help you learn about the craft without pushing you to join. Many witches are more than happy to help you get your foundation, and we know that not every tradition is right for everyone. So rather than pushing you, we'll help you find your own way.
3. The coven and its members have good standing in the community. One thing you'll come to find about this community is that we're tight knit, and we're very supportive of one another. I have seen people on the other side of the state drive six hours into the city to help someone who's barn was destroyed by a storm, like, witches help witches. If the group and its members are good people, you'll likely hear about it from all angles!
4. The group makes special cakes and ale for you. Ok so hear me out here, I am allergic to coconut oil, and a fellow priestess I know is a vegan and puts it in everything, well, at one point we were set to be in a public ritual together, and she had me come over beforehand to run lines and do taste tests. This was because she altered a recipe to use canola oil instead of coconut, which may not seem like a big deal, but she was baking for 150 people and she went out of her way to not hit my allergy. This kind of love and compassion is a good sign in a potential group because it shows that they care.
5. The group encourages your education. Now magickal education is important, but so is college. So, if you have a mid-term on Wednesday at the same time as a ritual, and your group postpones, moves, or lets you miss that ritual, that is a good sign!
6. The group nurtures instead of punishes. One of the topics taught pretty early is herbalism, and "potion" making. Now although for many it is easy, for some people it is difficult and takes them longer. A good teacher knows that everyone learns differently and will do everything they can to help you in an easy non-stressful way instead of getting upset.
7. Honestly, just make sure you're comfortable, and that they're a good fit. It is ok to NOT join a group you aren't comfortable with, and it is ok to NOT join a group just because you don't want to.
This has been long, and I apologize, but as there can be legitimate dangers, I really feel I should stress these things. Mainly that, if you are in any way uncomfortable it IS ok to walk away. Your safety is what matters, and there will always be another coven.
Lady Wynnie is the ArchPriestess and founder of Covenant of the Rose. She is also a talented writer who will be blogging about the coven and it's happenings!