You’ve found the Pagan group, Wiccan coven, Druid grove, or some other organization that you think is right for you – in fact, they’re PERFECT!! -- and they’ve asked you to join. So now what do you do? Before you say yes, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:
1. Can I fulfill the time commitment required of me?
The group/coven may have some obligations that its members are expected to fulfill. Can you show up on time and prepared for meetings? Do you have the time and energy to devote to studying, reading, and learning whatever requirements are set for members? If your group meets every Saturday, but that's the day your kids have soccer games, will you be forced to make a choice between your group and your family? If you can't devote the required amount of time to this group, it may not be wise to join just yet.
2. Can I follow the group’s rules?
In many traditions, the secrets of the group are oathbound and initiatory -- which means you can't go home and blab to your spouse about all the stuff you did in ritual. It's also not uncommon for a group to require that members' names be kept confidential. If you can't stand the idea of not sharing your new secrets with family and friends, you might want to hold off on joining a group that requires secrecy and privacy of its members. Does the group/coven have a set of bylaws? You need to be able to follow them - if you can't, you might need to give this group a pass.
3. Can I continue to get along with everyone in this group?
Group dynamics are a tricky thing, particularly when you're the "new person" in an established organization. It's important to figure out whether you can get along with everyone, not just now but later on. If there's one member who rubs you the wrong way, figure out whether it's something you can live with, or if it's going to make you brood and get angry later on. Decide this before you commit. Depending on how the other members of the group view this person, you could be in for some problems further down the road. Watch for warning signs in prospective covens.
4. Is there room for me to grow spiritually and advance in my studies?
Are members expected to learn and grow, or does the High Priest/High Priestess just want a group of followers? If it's the latter, and there's no set course of spiritual advancement, you'll need to really think about what you can gain from joining this group. Not only should each member bring something of value to the group, but the group should provide benefits in return. If you want to advance and learn, but all you're being offered is a chance to be part of a "Weekend Wiccan" group, you may want to reconsider. Does this group encourage spiritual growth?
5. If something happens and I choose to leave the group or coven, will it be accepted?
Traditionally, if a member leaves a Pagan group in good standing, their names are removed from the group's roster, their magical tools are returned to them, and they are sent off into the world with warm blessings. Occasionally, however, a group/coven may make it difficult for departing members. If the group you're looking at makes any mention of causing any trouble with members who leave (listen for the term "Witch Wars" here), you'll need to seriously think about whether this is a group you wish to be part of.
6. Will my family or spouse support me in my decision to join a group or coven?
Whatever your spiritual path, it's far easier to walk if the people who love you are supportive. If you've discovered Wicca and your spouse or parent is worried about you possibly burning in Hell, you could have a problem. While it's important to find ways to grow spiritually and network with like-minded people, it's equally important to keep harmony in your home. You may need to hold off on joining a coven or group until you can honestly discuss the topic with your family or spouse and address any concerns they might have. Read about surviving interfaith marriages.
Making a Final Decision
If you’re able to honestly answer “yes” to every single one of the above questions, then this might just be the right group for you. Accept the offer of membership with grace and dignity, and do your best to uphold your end of the group’s oath. After all, a group/coven is a small family, only better – because you get to choose your spiritual family!
Be sure to read about coven life vs. solitary practice to look at the benefits and pitfalls of each.