Finding groups: resources and thoughts

(by Jenett)

First, I’ve expanded many of these thoughts on another area of my site designed for people seeking Pagan paths and groups. You can find it at http://gleewood.org/seeking

One thing that’s often confusing to newcomers to Wiccan-based paths is the idea that you apply to a group. Many of us grew up with the assumption that a church is open to anyone. This is not automatically true among Pagans!

Within the Pagan community, we have different kinds of communities. Some communities exist online – a way for people to share information and thoughts without requiring face to face group work. Some groups provide open and public rituals, where anyone (who is minimally polite and respectful) can join others for ritual.

However, many groups are smaller and focused. We meet in private homes (not a large public building), and we work closely together using ritual methods and goals that require a great deal of trust and comfort with each other. This means that adding new people is not simple! We need to make sure that the new person is a good fit for both the existing work and the existing people.

Many of our ritual methods are also designed for a smaller group size – this means that simply expanding (adding new people) changes the entire focus of the group. Sometimes people are open to that – but other groups deliberately choose to stay small and intimate. (Phoenix Song is one of the latter. There are many great people out there, but only a few of them will fit in our living room for ritual.)

So, how do you get started? Below, I’ve listed resources I’m familiar with – if you know of others that cover new ground, please let me know!

Learn a little about different paths:

Many people find Wicca or Wiccan-based materials first – but that’s not the only Pagan path out there. It’s worthwhile to spend some time looking at a range of different options before you focus heavily on one. Some resources that might help:

  • A basic overview from Witchvox (a great networking and resource site)
  • Overviews of different paths and an overview of Wicca (and the different ways people use the word Wicca)
  • Ecauldron’s Pagan Primer has many introductory resources.
  • Ecauldron also has a great forum with folders for a number of different Pagan religions with in-depth discussion. They’re good places to ask additional questions and look for resources because they get a lot of traffic. (Like other online sites, they have their own sets of rules – read carefully before posting for best results!)
  • Dana Eiler’s book The Practical Pagan doesn’t talk about beliefs or practices much – but does talk about some common questions for those new to the Pagan community like where to find people, what to expect, basic courtesy.
  • Some other book suggestions and ideas are available on my booklists.

Things to consider for yourself:

There are some things that you may want to think about before you begin searching in earnest – they have to do with what you’re looking for, and what might work with that.

Finding groups:

Finding groups or teachers can take a little time – but the more you’re aware of exactly what you want, the easier it will be to figure out your options.

  • Many groups are listed on Witchvox . Select your state or area from the drop down boxes in the left column, and then look at the listings for groups and events in your area.
  • Check and see if your area has a Pagan Pride event. While these events vary widely in size and scope, many have websites with other local resources.
  • Check and see if there are online resources for a particular tradition or path you’re interested in – many reconstructionist groups have sizeable national websites with resources, and a number of witchcraft and Wiccan traditions have lists or sites with help for seekers.
  • Many local areas have a public announcement list – often on Yahoo. Try searching on the name of a nearby large city or your state (or province/area) and terms like Pagan, Wiccan, or other similar phrases.
  • I’ve written blog posts on finding others and on learning about groups.

Evaluating what you find:

Take a good close look at the groups and teachers you find. No teacher – and no group – is going to be perfect in all ways. Expecting them to be is unfair to everyone! But you should look for people who are sincere, thoughtful, committed, and able to provide the kind of group or training you’re interested in.

Good luck!