Covens are primarily Wiccan but that doesn't mean their aren't other groups. A coven can be any number of people from three upwards and are usually lead by a high priest and priestess. Either of these can lead without the other but I find it's better to balance out with both if possible. There have even been internet 'covens' though these are hard to lead and hold together in an organised way, ending up as more of a place for solitaries to share ideas. Nothing wrong with that but it can hardly be called a coven.
Covens can be as different as snowflakes, some are single gender, others mixed, some follow a single pantheon, others are more wide ranging, some take newcomers and others wont. It's a matter of finding the coven that suits you.
Covens do the same as solitaries but in a group, so it could be said that generally there is more power in numbers. The attraction of a coven is the availability of support, resources and someone to look up to.
Covens meet for the main festivals to celebrate , and often for the full moons, and other times for other means of development. Some hold training sessions at the new moon and meet to swap ideas.
A coven should be like a family, supporting each other in every aspect and accepting each other for everything they are and are not. This brings the trust needed to work often very sensitive rituals.
As with any other orderly group there are rules but these are set by each coven in itself, often to keep order and regulate attendance.
There can be many roles in the coven other than the high priest and priestess, these include the shopper that gathers the supplies for the coven, the candle maker as every coven will use many many candles, the tarot reader, the herbalist which I see as a very important roll, the web master (in this day and age it's a useful person to have) and the woods person keeping the whole coven safe while working outside. There are many other rolls that can be unique from coven to coven.
Time for a little terminology boys and girls:
- A candidate is a person that wants to join a coven but the coven has not decided if they wish to take them yet.
- An aspirant, or neophytes, is someone who has joined a coven and has taken their oath but has not reached their first degree initiation.
- An initiate is anyone who has been initiated into the coven.
- The coven Oath is a promise made by a candidate to keep the secrecy of the craft and the coven.
- The first degree is where the aspirant makes their promise to begin their learning and to walk the path of the witch. This is seen as the new moon and the maiden aspect, full of enthusiasm and ready to absorb knowledge.
- The second degree is where the initiate begins learning to teach. The full moon and the mother, having knowledge and understanding.
- The third degree is where the initiate is ready to start their own coven when the time is right. The dark of the moon and the crone, age and wisdom.
Originally someone who wishes to be part of a coven would study a year and a day before meeting and working with their coven members at their first degree initiation. A year and a day, or more, after that they would take their second degree initiation. Much later they would take their third degree.
So if you do decide to join a coven, be a good covenor, be enthusiastic and ready to learn, and most of all turn up on time.
(You can find this and much much more in “The real witches coven.” by Kate West. It's an amazing book and perfect if you want to learn more.)