Abusing authority power in politics, business, and religion leads to fatal tragedies that can't be resolved. It has happened in all of history. Hitler, Stalin, and some Catholic Popes out there are just a few examples I can recall at the moment. It is an inevitable cycle in everything we create. Predators sneak around every corner we turn; through the Internet and the smallest nooks and crannies we never expect. This sadly happens with some of our trusted Pagan leaders.
Anyone you trust may be out to hurt you. I hate to say it but in today's world it is true. I especially hate to say it in terms of our lovely Pagan figures. It happens and has the potential to happen in any coven and in any location. Horrible and disgusting, is it not? Finding a trustworthy and safe coven in these spiritually-evolving times is difficult. We are indeed a minority religion that gets trashed with petty ridicule and criticism and misconceptions. The list goes on. While most believers are wonderful people, many outsiders judge us based on their fears. It's normal. Sometimes, coven leaders may have a dozen skeletons in their closet that we don't know about until something tragic happens. If you're a solitary Pagan seeking a secure coven and you're looking online, here are my tips on what to look out for:
Get Away if...They Charge You Fees
This is silly but common. Some covens you find online may appear to be good, but if you meet with a representative of the group in person, they may ask for a "donation" or tell you each member must pay a fee for excuses like needing new tools or books. A spiritual person should never ask for money when you try to join their tradition. It's an easy red flag to see.
Get Away If...Your Inner Voice Goes Off
By far, this tip is the clearest warning to run as fast as you can. If you go to observe how a coven works and you don't feel comfortable from the get go, please get the hell out. It's better to be safe rather than sorry.
Get Away If...The Coven Serves Alcohol To Underage Members
If your new Priest or Priestess offers drinks to people below age 21, this might be a sign of some larger illegal practice. Wine is used in many rituals, but the federal law in America says this is wrong because it's not within a church setting. It could lead to something worse.
Get Away If...Many Minors Are Participating
Most of the time, you'll find that coven advertisements will ask that anyone interested is at least 18 years of age in the United States. They may accept minors with parental agreement, but if there is a flock of high school teenagers out past curfew to worship on a school night with no parents around, it could show the leader is up to no good if the teens don't have legal consent.
Get Away If...The Leader Promotes Sexual Activity During Practices
While we Pagans appreciate sexuality as the gift of all life, it doesn't make coven space appropriate if the leader encourages sexual contact between members during ritual. Even if each member is legally an adult, using sex in practice gives the leader a free opportunity to take advantage of any participant for "religious" purposes. Sexual assault will have an increased chance of happening if sex is invited.
These are some major red flags to look out for while seeking a coven. There are great groups out there, but safety comes first before deciding one coven is the right fit.
Form a buddy system and go coven hopping! Stay safe, everybody!