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Saying Goodbye: When A Covener Leaves

b2ap3_thumbnail_muppets.jpgTo all of you new Covens out there who can’t imagine a Coven without every single Covener there: it won’t last. Someone, sometime, will head down a different path.

I know of Covens who have several core members who have stayed with their Covens from their inception. I know of Covens for whom none of their original members stay. My Coven is just over eight years old and of the 21 people who stood in Circle with us on the day we formalized, seven remain. Some left because they didn’t have time to attend meetings or do homework. Others left because their Spiritual paths took them elsewhere. Still others left because they didn’t get along with other members.   

b2ap3_thumbnail_wwofwest.jpgIt’s never easy to say goodbye to someone. In a Coven, people form attachments and that’s what should happen. Why would we want to Circle with people with whom we have no investment? While letting someone go hasn’t gotten a lot easier for my Coven, we have come to accept a few things about it: 

 Coven departures are normal and natural

Maybe a member got all that they needed from the Coven. Maybe exploring Witchcraft opened the doors to their true path, which wasn’t Witchcraft. Maybe they moved away. Maybe their life priorities changed. Whatever happened, the person needed to go and most often, it was what was best for all involved.

b2ap3_thumbnail_scaredchris.jpgCoven departures can bring up painful childhood associations and insecurities.

The family is falling apart!!!! What will happen to me???  A gentle reminder that a departure is good for the person as well as the Coven can be helpful. Remind the Coven that distracted or disinterested members are not good for the overall health of the Coven. Remind your Coven that no one has taken permanent vows (Unless your Coven does insist on permanent vows…not something I recommend!). Birds leave the nest, leaves fall from the trees. Remind your Coven of your own commitment to leadership and that so long as people are there, so will you be there, too. One person leaving doesn't portend "Coven Death!"

 In addition, departures can encourage reengagement! Coveners who haven’t been as focused lately, maybe even taking the Coven for granted, might start showing up a little more.  It can be helpful to remind your Covener of these things, but also remind them that new people are likely to come in now that there’s a little more room.

 While it’s important to be sensitive to these feelings of fear, don’t let the potential of remaining Covener’s upset prevent you from supporting a departure. Never discourage someone from leaving just because of how others might feel about it. Likewise, leaders shouldn't devote large amounts of time to these feelings. It can foster guilt in people who may be thinking it’s time to leave, preventing them from making the best decisions for themselves and possibly even building resentment within the Coven.


Honor sad or frightened feelings, but don’t dwell on them. Encourage upset Coveners to look deeper into their feelings on their own. It might be time for them to address unresolved painful experiences. 

 When it may be time to ask someone to leave


It’s an uncomfortable prospect. I’d rather scrub my cats’ litter box, do my taxes six times, and get a voluntary root canal—all on the same day—than tell a Covener they need to go. Often, leaders may avoid doing this nasty deed out of fear of hurting someone. That is real and valid. However, the healthiest Covens flourish when leaders hold the integrity and the health of the Coven itself over individual feelings.

Some of the following circumstances may be grounds for dismissing a Covener:

The Covener who never attends anything


Things come up. Kids or pets get sick. We might have to work. We might just be plain exhausted and need some alone time. But the Covener who is absent more often than present either isn’t making their Coven time a priority or they simply don’t have time to do Coven work. It’s not healthy for a Coven to have regularly absent members. It undermines the commitment of members who show up regularly. Absenteeism is a manifestation of disinterest, and disinterest in contagious in a Coven. Show your Coveners that their presence matters by asking mostly-absent Coveners to step aside. Something I’ve said to these folks: “We have limited space in the Coven. If you don’t have room in your life for this, please release your space for someone who would like to be here.”

The Covener who loves the other Coveners, but doesn’t love the Coven work.


This Covener is more than happy to show up with wine and cheese, but is usually the last one to sit down when it’s time to start the work. They rarely do their assignments, but they show up for every Covener’s party. They take on the bare-minimum of ritual jobs and spend most of the ritual preparation time chatting with a guest they haven’t seen in awhile. This person may be super fun in Fellowship, but they slow down the Coven’s progress. How I have addressed this: “We love your enthusiasm, and we may be friends, but this is a Coven, not a social club. If the work isn’t for you, maybe we should just hang out at festivals.”

The Consistently Disruptive Covener 


This person may have the best intentions and may do the work, but Coven meetings quickly become all about them. Maybe they consistently talk over other Coveners. Maybe they bring extreme emotion to every meeting they attend, taking away from the group’s focus. If after a few discussions (and perhaps suggested courses of action to change this behavior), the Covener doesn’t or is unable to change their behavior, it’s time to let the person go. Usually, a person like this needs more help than a Coven can provide. One of my guidelines: A Coven is therapeutic, but it is not therapy. A Coven is supportive, but it is not a support group.  Disruptive Coveners usually need one of the latter options. Sometimes, the best thing for a person like this is to send them on their way.

Violence, dishonesty, breaking of confidentiality, all of these are immediate grounds for dismissal. Early in my Priestess career, one of my Coveners threw a punch at another Covener, in full view of that Covener’s young children. I sent the violent Covener home and announced that she would not be welcome back again. We exchanged a few emails in which I suggested resources where she might get some help for her anger and let her know I wished her healing, but her healing would not be found in our Circle.

 b2ap3_thumbnail_mad-nancy.jpgCovens are built on love and trust. I don’t believe in “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” because they don’t exist! I borrow this example from one of my teachers: I would trust my good friend and former Coven Sister Izzy with the lives and welfare of my family and husband—implicitly—if I were not there to care for them. However, I don’t trust her with a buck in a dollar store (and she knows that!). There are things I love deeply about each of my Coveners, but there are things I don’t love about them. There are things I trust them all with, there are things I trust only to my husband and therefore, not my Coveners. But we have enough love and trust there to sustain a healthy Coven. Being dishonest with one another, sharing confidential information outside of the Coven, or throwing punches (either verbally or physically) means a call to the proverbial Coven bouncer. It’s time to let them go.


If you have to ask someone to leave, be professional but honest. Make sure they understand the specific reasons you are letting them go. Expect they will be defensive. Accept that there may be anger. No one likes to be second to say goodbye. But hold your ground with kindness and respect. The integrity of the Coven must come over individual feelings.

When you, the leader, are hurt when someone leaves

I will admit that a Covener departure is the most painful part of my Priestessing journey. I’ve felt anger when I’ve given a lot of time to a person and heard things like, “I’ve learned all I can” or “This has been a long time coming” or “I have no interest in what you’re teaching and don’t want to be around the other Coveners.” I’ve cried. I’ve asked, “How could they do this after all that I did for them???” I’ve dealt with bitterness and resentment. But the greatest lesson I learned from the Goddess in the moments when I’ve been most angry about a Covener leaving is, “
You gave this of your free will. They don’t owe you their continued presence.”  It's true. They don't! 

Often, it’s not about you, the leader. Remember, their path may have changed and it has nothing to do with you. Sometimes, the family-like dynamics of a Coven may bring up unresolved parental issues. As hard as you may have tried to love and guide them, they only ever see you as that manipulative stepmother who made their childhood into a nightmare. Maybe they’ll realize that when they walk away and get some therapy. Maybe they won’t. If you truly did your best for them, it’s all you can do.

Sometimes, it is about you, and that’s a tough one. Maybe you ignored them and didn’t realize it. Maybe you lost your temper one too many times (guilty!). Maybe you simply butted heads with that one Covener and you two were never going to have a good working relationship. Sometimes, a Covener departure is a good opportunity to look at the way you lead and uncover ways to improve it. In that respect, it's a painful gift. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_maxresdefault.jpgWhen someone leaves, be supportive. Never beg them to stay or make them feel guilty for leaving. At the same time, make sure they know they will be missed. No one wants to feel like their time wasn’t valued. Let them know what they contributed to the Coven work. Let them know what you learned from them. If there is a required break before they can attend public events again, make sure they know what it is.  

Heal your hurt and watch your gripe-talk. About a year ago, a Covener left abruptly and brashly. It was someone I had spent a great deal of time counseling and supporting, but in the end they became angry when I drew a necessary boundary. Their departure felt like a middle finger in my face. In the weeks after they left, I found myself griping about them, frequently. Finally, a remaining Covener asked me, “What support do you need in this? You seem like you’re really hurt.” I burst into tears. I hadn’t acknowledged that their leaving had truly hurt me and by not acknowledging it, I was fostering negative back-talk about this person, which wasn't good for anyone. If you’re tempted to speak poorly about a departed Covener, check in with yourself. If you’re hurting, find a way to address it that doesn't include continuous griping. Or rather, see griping as a symptom of needing help.

Perform a Specific Separation Ritual

b2ap3_thumbnail_charmed-ritual.jpg Don’t just take the person off the Coven Facebook page and pretend they were never there. When your Coven has gathered, do a specific ritual honoring the contributions the Covener made to the group. In my Coven, I read aloud a “farewell letter” from the departing Covener. The other Coveners share their thoughts, whether supportive or in cases of hurt feelings, cathartic. However the conversation goes, we’ve embraced the practice of each remaining Covener in turn stating what they learned from the Covener who is leaving and one wish they have for them on their future path. These must be said in as loving and constructive manner as possible. Particularly if the Covener left under painful circumstances, this is a good way to send them along in grace and love.

Make sure your Coven knows they can still be friends with the departing Covener, if they’d like to be. I’ve sometimes had Coveners worry about being “unloyal” to the Coven if they continued to hang out with a former Covener. I see no reason as to why Coveners shouldn’t remain friends with former Coveners unless, of course, it’s one of those punch-throwing former Coveners. Even so, it's not's more like proceed at your own risk. Remaining Coveners should be reminded that if they do remain friends with a former Covener, they must remember that the former Covener is no longer privy to confidential information shared within the Coven.

Try to understand that saying goodbye is part of the life of a Coven. It may not get easier, but knowing it’s one of the components of the Coven life-cycle can make it easier to accept.


Love the ones who remain. Look forward to embracing the new faces as they arrive. Everything in this Universe expands and then contracts....including your Coven membership!


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Courtney Weber is a Priestess, writer, Tarot Advisor, performer and activist originally from Portland, OR living in New York City. Her writings on Witchcraft have been published in numerous publications, including Spiral Nature and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess" and "Tarot for One: The Art of Reading For Yourself", both through Weiser Books. She is the producer and designer of "Tarot of the Boroughs" a contemporary Tarot deck composed of original photography set in NYC. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and cats.


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