First of all, what is a Coven?
A coven can be a group of Wiccans or just Witches. If a group of Wiccans, they would gather for every Sabbat and 1-2 times a month for esbats (Sabbats are days we celebrate the sun and esbats are nights we celebrate the moon) to do rituals and magick. If they are solely Witches they would gather likely on full moons and whenever else they deem fit to practice magick together. In this post though I will be talking of Wiccan covens.
Different covens practice different paths of Wicca so if you are going to join a coven it is very important that you find one that meets your beliefs. How you join a coven differs from coven to coven. In some covens you can inquire about joining, in others you have to wait to be invited. In a coven there are usually 1-2 leaders known as the High Priestess or the High Priest. The number of Wiccans in a coven is usually between 3 and 20.
There are pros and cons to working in a coven. Some pros are that you get support and companionship. As a solitary I can vouch in saying working alone can be quite lonely and isolating. Also, when in a coven you have people who you can teach you about the craft. When you are solitary you have to figure out everything for yourself. When you're in a coven you can study to get higher degrees in the coven and eventually get the status of High Priest(ess). Lastly some people enjoy having a set schedule and a plan for how to learn. It gives them a routine and structure that they work well with.
Despite the pros there are some cons. Although some people love the structure, some people don't. The coven will make decisions about meeting times and attendance that may not fit your schedule. Certain covens have expectations of it's members that you may not be comfortable with. For examples how you dress in a meeting (dressed or skyclad). You will also be held accountable for keeping the laws of the tradition of the coven. If said laws are broken the coven can kick you out. If you leave your coven and start a coven of a new tradition you may have to start your training all over again. Lastly, in a coven you will be hanging out with a group of people. If you don't like a member it's going to be uncomfortable.
Training in a Coven
Every coven is different but in general this is usually how the process goes. So you've told a coven you're interested, they invite you to attend an open ritual. When you go to the ritual you will get to check out the coven and they get to check you out. If you guys like each other and they decide they want you to join as a dedicant or a witch in training. Then someone will agree to be your teacher. As a dedicant you study the craft for a year and a day before you earn your first degree initiation and acceptance into the coven.
You will get a list of expectations that may include attendance and study requirements, promises to uphold the Wiccan Rede, and an oath to keep the coven a secret.
The coven will have a dedication ritual for you that essentially says you are committing yourself to the Wiccan path. After another year and a days study after your dedication, if the high Priest(ess) deems you ready you will be part of a ritual where you are reborn into the Wiccan path. You then will earn your First Degree Initiation, you gain the title of Priest or Priestess, and you're officially a member of the coven. Then after another year and a day study from that ritual and the High Priest(ess) deems you ready you will earn your Second Degree Elevation and the title High Priest(ess). You are now qualified to start teaching, writing, and leading ritual. In some traditions you will be able to start your own coven. The last step is at least a year and a day after that ritual if the High Priest(ess) deems you ready you earn your Third Degree Elevation, and the official title of clergy, and the title of Lady or Lord. At this point you can break away from the mother coven, or hive off and form your own coven.
Priests, Priestesses, and Elders
Within a coven there is generally both a High Priestess and a High Priest. The High Priestess is seen as the Goddess incarnate and is the spiritual centre of the coven. The High Priest assists the High Priestess and is seen as the God incarnate. Elders are people who have all their degrees but have chosen not to be a High Priest(ess). They are the mediators and spiritual resources of the coven. They also don't have to be old but rather just experienced in Wicca and magick.
The next post will be about traditional rituals (like handfastings and self dedications and more)
If you'd be interested on a general mytake where I talk about how I found the path and specific things to me in relation to Wicca you should let me know either in the comments or by liking this mytake!