It's an argument that comes up frequently in the Wiccan and Pagan community. There's one school of thought that says "only a witch can make a witch," which means you must be initiated and part of a coven -- typically a lineaged one -- before you can claim to be Wiccan, Pagan, or any other variety thereof. There's another camp that says anyone can be a witch or Pagan, and what matters more than initiation and coven connections is what's in your heart and soul. Will people ever agree on these things?
It's pretty unlikely.
However, as you begin your studies of Wicca and Paganism, you may at some point be offered the opportunity to join a group. You may also find that you really prefer working alone. Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of covens vs. solitary practice, so that when the time comes for you to make a decision, you can do so with some knowledge under your belt.
Working as a Solitary
Many people begin their Pagan or Wiccan studies by working as a solitary. This happens for a number of reasons, but the most common one is that quite simply, most people develop an interest in Paganism long before they meet a coven they're interested in joining. There are benefits to working alone, to be sure, but it also has its drawbacks.
- You can make your own rules, and follow your own set of ethics
- You can worship at your convenience, rather than following a schedule involving several people
- You're free to work with anyone you like, even if they're a member of another tradition
- You're not under any obligation to anyone but yourself and your deities
- You may find yourself eventually limited in the type and quantity of knowledge you obtain
- It's often hard for solitaries to network with other Pagans and Wiccans
- Sometimes, it's just nice to hang out with other people that believe as you do
- If you're looking to grow and learn spiritually, you may feel at some point you'd like a mentor or teacher, which you don't have as a solitary
Working In a Group
Many Pagans and Wiccans find that they enjoy group practice. There is a certain energy that can be experienced in a group that you just don’t experience as a solitary practitioner, and there are plenty of benefits to being in a coven. On the other hand, when you work with a coven or group, there's a whole new set of dynamics involved, which can create its own set of problems.
- Working in a group gives you the benefit of learning from people who may have more experience and knowledge than you
- When you're part of a group, you have more opportunities to network and meet others in the greater Pagan community
- Coven work typically is more structured and formal, and rituals are usually more elaborate, which some people find beneficial to their studies
- A coven usually has a pre-determined course of study, so rather than just randomly reading books, you'll find yourself following specific lesson plans as you move towards various degrees of initiation
- Coven work typically has to be scheduled ahead of time, making sure everyone is available
- If someone is on a power trip, a coven has the potential to be a miserable experience for everyone else involved
- When you're part of a coven, there are numerous relationships going on, so there can be issues if one person decides to cause problems
- If you join an existing coven, chances are good that they're already set in their ways, and may not be willing to make accommodations to meet your needs
Whether or not you decide to practice as a solitary or as part of a coven is a personal decision. Covens can be hard to find in some areas, but it is possible to do - just be aware that you may have to make some effort and put some work into the process. If you choose instead to be a solitary practitioner, there is nothing wrong with that either. Regardless, choose the path that is the right one for you.
Find out what readers in our Forum have to say about their experiences as solitaries and as coven members: Coven/Solitary: Pros and Cons