If you belong to a Wiccan coven or other Pagan group, at some point you may find yourself deciding that it’s not the right group for you. While the choice to leave a coven is a hard one for many people, it’s also important to realize that it may be stressful for those you leave behind. Keep in mind that people leave covens or Pagan groups for a variety of reasons:
- You may find that the time commitment required is not something that fits in with your schedule.
- You may have noticed you’re just not connecting to the gods of the tradition.
- Perhaps you’ve decided that a Pagan path isn’t the right one for you after all.
- Maybe you just don’t really get along with the people in the group, or those who lead it.
- You might have decided that the group is not meeting your spiritual needs.
For whatever reason, if you’ve decided to leave a group or coven, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First of all, let the person in charge – the High Priestess or Priest, or whatever – know that you’re leaving. Don’t just stop showing up. This leaves unfinished business, and even if you’re leaving on negative terms, someone’s going to worry about you and whether you’re okay. Let them know – preferably in writing – that you’ll be separating from the group, and the date that your departure will be effective.
It’s also a good idea to let the group leaders know why you’re leaving. If there’s a conflict between you and another group member, the leaders should be made aware that there’s a problem. Likewise, if you’re leaving for reasons that are of your own making – time constraints, etc. – they should be aware of that too. It lets the leaders know that you’re not leaving because of something they’ve done, or failed to do.
In some traditions, you will be asked to maintain an oath of secrecy even after you’ve left the group. It’s simply common courtesy not to go around blabbing about the people in the group you left behind. Just like when you leave a job, future employers don’t want to hear you talking trash about your last boss. Furthermore, if you ever decide to someday return to the group you’ve left, you don’t want to burn your bridges.
Many covens include a protocol for departure in their bylaws and mandates. It's a good idea, from a coven perspective, to have a policy on how someone can leave, or separate from, the group. Even if it's simply a matter of saying goodbye, having it in writing makes things simpler for everyone involved.
Some groups ask departing members to participate in one last ritual, so the group can formally cut magical ties with the individual. If you’re leaving on good terms, this is a great way to gain some closure and still maintain a friendly feeling among you and the other members. If you contributed a measure bag or other magical link to the group at your initiation, this ritual would be the time to get such things returned to you.
If your group doesn’t have a ritual to separate you from them, you may wish to do one on your own. Think of this as the reverse of an initiation ceremony. While you may not be walking away from a Pagan path, or from the gods of your tradition, you are leaving a group that you have magical ties to. In many cases, severing those magical ties provides a sense of closure for the person who is leaving. You can even do something as simple as making a formal declaration during a solitary ritual, saying, perhaps, “I, Willow, am no longer part of the Three Ravens Coven, and shall perform all rites and rituals as a solitary practitioner in the eyes of the gods, until I am called to do otherwise.”
Finally, try whenever possible to leave in a friendly way. Despite misgivings you may have about the group, or conflicts which may have pushed you out, sometimes all we can do is take the higher road as we walk away to the next part of our journey.