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Groups of humans tend to behave a certain way.   Businesses, families, covens   —   they're all just groups of humans.

A Pagan can be a "solitary" and do his Pagan thing all by himself.   Rituals, prayers, meditation, divination, all done alone in the privacy of one's home.

But we tend to want to be around like-minded people with whom we can share our experiences and knowledge (and we can learn from them as well).   It is rewarding and satisfying, but certain questions arise.

Every coven has its own style.

— How often do we meet?   Monthly?   Weekly?   Only on the eight Sabbats?   Or on the night of the full moon?

— Where do we meet?   Should we buy a building?   Rent a facility?   Borrow a space from some other organization?

— Are we an "open" coven?   Do we require someone to be a "member" before he can come to our meetings?   Do we allow both "members" and "non-members" at our circles?

— If we have "members" vs. "non-members," how does one become a "member?"   Do we admit people with criminal records?

— Where does our money come from?   Bake sales?   Membership dues?   What if one of our most valued members can't pay his dues?   Do we kick him out?

— What kind of hierarchy do we have?   How long does the High Priestess serve?   How is she selected?   Does she outrank the High Priest?   Is there a minimum age for the High Priestess?   Is there a Council of Elders?

— What is the procedure for changing our basic ritual, or adding to it?

— Do we have bylaws?   What's the procedure for changing them?

— What is the minimum age for membership in the coven?   Will convicted criminals be admitted?   Homosexuals?   Is there any category of people that are excluded?

Here are some situations that could arise in an established coven:

  A person shows up at your circle who says he's a Christian.   He doesn't believe anything that you believe, but he wants to sit in and observe.   Should this be allowed?

  There is a woman who consistently shows up at your monthly circle drunk.   What (if anything) should be done about this?

  Someone dies, and his will leaves $50,000.00 to your group (the Coven of the Five Willows).   Who makes the decision about what to do with the money?

  Should the coven be incorporated as a non-profit?

  After your circle ritual, when people are talking informally and eating cookies, a group of them start talking about the Burning Times, about persecution against witches. One of the members of your coven says that he loves the goddess, and he's dedicated to the craft, but he wouldn't die for his beliefs. He says that if a hostile group of Christians or Moslems surrounded him with weapons, and they were threatening to kill him, he would gladly deny that he was a Wiccan, in order to save his own life. Is this acceptable in your coven? Do you demand that the members be willing to die for their beliefs?

  There is a middle-aged man who is a regular at your monthly meetings.   He has a habit of flirting with the more attractive female members (some of whom are still in high school).   He is married.   The bylaws don't address this situation.   What (if anything) should be done about this?

  Your High Priestess feels very strongly about an upcoming election.   She tells the Council of Elders that she wants to make a short speech at the beginning of the next meeting to endorse Candidate X.   Should this be allowed?   Who decides?

  A stranger shows up at your monthly circle wearing a huge inverted pentagram.   He introduces himself to others as a "warlock."   What (if anything) should be done about this?

  One of your members tells an offensive joke ("Hey, what do you say to a woman with two black eyes? Nothing   -   her husband already said it twice!").   What (if anything) should be done about this?

  You hold an outdoor circle/meeting deep in the woods.   Someone brings a joint.   What (if anything) should be done about this?

  It turns out that a young man who has been regularly attending your open circle meetings is only 15 years old (he looks 22).   His parents, who are evangelical Christians, sue the coven (and, individually, each member) for intentional infliction of emotional harm.   How do you handle this?

  One of your elders is arrested for indecency with a minor.   He denies the charges.   Should he immediately be removed from office?   Or should he be given the benefit of the doubt?

  People start bringing small children to the monthly circle meeting.   The parents don't supervise their children and, during the most solemn part of the ritual, the children make noise and cry.   What (if anything) should be done about this?   Who decides what level of chaos is allowed during ritual (and what is the minimum age for attendance)?

  One of your members consistently volunteers to help on committees (planning, food, fund-raising) but doesn't follow through   -   he fails to show up.   The other workers are angry.   How should this be handled?

  A national organization such as the Covenant of the Goddess sends you a letter inviting your group to affiliate with them.   Who makes the "yes or no" decision?

  One of your members announces (tearfully) that he's been unemployed for three months, and the bank is about to foreclose on his house.   He asks if the coven can possibly help him financially.   What should be the policy about this?

  Teenagers start showing up at your circle meetings.   They are frivolous, and tend to giggle during the most solemn part of the ritual.   What do you do?

  The High Priest is consistently late.   Everybody else shows up at 8:00 pm, but he drags in at 8:25, always with an excuse.   What should be the rule about this?

  One of your members is having personal problems, and asks for counseling.   Who in your group provides counseling?   What should be his minimum qualifications and/or minimum age?

  A man has been banned from your group (he started a fight last month).   On Thursday night, he shows up anyway.   Who handles this, and how?

  The local newspaper runs an article about your group, and one of your members, who was interviewed by the reporter, has made critical comments about the High Priestess ("We'd have lots more people showing up if Diana weren't so fat").   Is this grounds for expelling this member?

  One of your members has a personal website.   On it, he claims that he's the "High Priest for Life" of your coven (the Coven of the Five Willows). This happens to be a lie.   What should be done?

  One of your members dies.   In his will, he directs that his funeral be conducted by the elders of the Coven of the Five Willows.   What is your protocol for funerals?

  One of your members does tarot readings for $40.00 per session.   He wants to hand out fliers at the coven meeting.   Should this be allowed?

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