You can start a coven without subscribing to any particular form of Wicca or witchcraft. Some of the most spiritual covens are those that do not have anyone in the role of High Priestess or Priest, but instead take it in turns to organise the meetings and rituals and take responsibility for any events. However, if you do want to follow a particular tradition.
Have a preliminary meeting in which you can plan for about six meetings ahead, deciding on the topics, the different venues and equipment you will need to buy. Using a good almanac and Moon diary, you can arrange to meet on the crescent moon some months to light candles and make wishes as well as on the full moon and on the major festivals. You may arrange a special evening also for healing work, especially if this is an area that you would like to develop collectively.
You can hold separate meetings for planning, but if you wish to make practical decisions at a meeting before an esbat, always carry out a ritual to strengthen harmony after such discussions as Earthly issues can intrude on even the most spiritual gathering. Another good time is afterwards when you are eating and drinking and so are relaxed and full of good feelings. Even then, have a short collective rite before you separate.
You can decide what equipment you need to buy at these planning meetings and one person can act as co-ordinator. Set up a joint fund for candles, crystals, incense, etc., and appoint one person to check and replenish supplies. Large supermarkets have an amazing array of candles, incenses and oils, as do gift shops and herbal pharmacies, while on the Internet there are a vast number of New Age mailorder outlets. I have also listed some in the back of this book.
Appoint one person to organise a specific festival and to act as High Priest or Priestess for that occasion. Hierarchies rarely work in less formal groups of friends. Remember, too, that sometimes the most reticent member may prove the most dynamic at singing chants and raising energies.
You may discover that particular members have special gifts -perhaps for leading the dancing or creating spontaneous rituals - but it is important that the most forward members do not take all the leading parts, leaving others to polish the chalice and sweep up the incense.
When you admit new members, you may decide to allow an initial time before the person decides to commit themselves -sometimes even the nicest people can bring personality mismatches that can make harmony difficult, even when dealing with rituals and with goodwill on all sides. You may also find that one personality automatically assumes leadership and if this does not prove beneficial, it needs to be tackled with humour and sensitivity if you are not to have a quasi-deity in your midst.
You may wish to choose a particularly wise member to look after newcomers, explain basic rituals and suggest reading material and meditations and visualisations that can be done at home. Other members may undertake to research aspects of the Craft that interest them, or collect information about deities and then run informal teachings sessions perhaps on a special evening. One person may undertake to update the Book of Shadows regularly.
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