Recently, I’ve been seeing more posts from people who are frustrated because they feel left out – that following the passion of their heart is going to take resources (time, money, ability to travel for training) they just don’t have.
So, here, I want to discuss some of the options. The short answer is that whatever your current living situation, there are options for you that will help you along the way. However, not all options may be available to you right now, or you may need to be willing to make changes in your life to open up some different choices.
The good news is that you don’t have to do all of this now – you may find that new options open up for you in a year, or three, or five, that you’d never have dreamed right now. And, of course, other people are in the same basic position: we all have things we’d love to do, that just aren’t realistic for us at a particular time in our life.
In general, you can get enough materials to start a basic Pagan practice of your own with about $25 to start with (and perhaps another $10-15 every two months), and some amount of time more days than not.
Ideally, that would include some practice time (10-20 minutes other than rituals) and some reading and learning time. You’d also eventually want an hour or two to yourself for Esbats and Sabbats if you want to do structured rituals, but it’ll probably take you a few months to need that much time or privacy.
No matter where you are, or how much spare time or energy you have right now, you have some things that are fairly available to you.
- Online resources (assuming you have a ‘Net connection – but you’re reading this, so I assume you do.)
- Books (your library may have some), or you can use online resources to help you spend what book money you have as well as possible. Your library certainly has related books on mythology, herbalism, your local plants and animals, and all sorts of other topics.
- Getting out in and learning about nature – walking, gardening, observing through your window. Anything that helps you become more aware of the cycles around you can be helpful.
- Basic exercises in breathing, centering, grounding, and psychic self-care are all great places to start. (Check out the Doing section for more help.
- Becoming more aware of your own habits, inclinations, and tendencies – great ways to help begin to shape yourself in a new direction.
Tools are the very first think people think of – but it’s an area that there’s a lot of adaptation possible, at least while you’re working on your own. (And even after that.) I discuss this more on my tools page.
Specific practices are also often at least somewhat adaptable – as long as you’re aware that changing them may change the results. Meditation for 5 minutes, or 10 minutes is great practice – but there are also new things you’ll learn when you can do it for 20 or 30 minutes. Practices that don’t involve a circle can be fantastic – just don’t mistake them for knowing how to cast a circle or being comfortable working in one (those are things you’d have to learn through experience.)
In general, once you start working on specific practices, you will likely want:
- some amount of privacy (doesn’t need to be lots – just a closed door or time when other people are out/occupied for 5-30 minutes. In the bathtub can work for some people.)
- some amount of time on a more or less regular basis. (doesn’t need to be every day, but it it’s less than every week, you’re going to have a much harder time building skills and experience.)
- some simple tools (again, see the tools page for more).
Maybe negotiable: Group work
Group work is the place where things are often least directly under your control (for obvious reasons: they need to work well for everyone else in the group, not you alone.) If the group has specific requirements, you probably aren’t going to get far demanding they change them.
Common group expectations:
- between 2-6 group meetings most months (rituals plus classes, discussions, or other events.)
- time to work on your own – both on group-related learning, and on your own personal practice.
- a reliable way to get to those meetings (gas money, transit fare, etc.)
- travel time to those meetings.
- a contribution for shared meals (potluck, etc.)
- providing your own tools for work at home.
- any requirements of the group – which might include specific material or color for ritual robes, tools, books for assignments, etc.
- perhaps contributions to group resources (bringing food and drink for ritual, candles, incense, dues, etc.) depending on the group.
- some groups do charge for training: this is a complicated topic, and I discuss charging for training elsewhere on the site.
Time for group work varies a great deal from group to group, but in a Wiccan-derived group, you can expect to have:
- 2-4 hours per ritual for esbats (some groups do full moon, some do new, some do both as a group.)
- Sabbat celebrations (often a bit longer, so 3-5 hours) at the Sabbats (8 months of the year)
- Classes (more intensive during initiatory training, usually something like twice a month.)
- Other events – outings to specific activities, social gatherings, etc. (maybe once a month)
- Some amount of time at home, usually about 3-5 hours a week, but more if you are doing more intensive training, assignments, or working on a big project.
- travel time.
As you can see, this adds up to maybe 10-30 hours a month, depending. In many cases, there can be some flexibility (if you’re working one on one with a teacher in the group, you can schedule when it works best for both of you. Some groups combine these (so that classes and Esbat rituals take place on the same day, for example) to save on travel time and make scheduling easier. Others have shorter gatherings but they may take place on weeknights.
In general, though, since in order to have a group, people have to show up at the same time, there are some expectations about attendance. Most groups expect you to give priority to the group’s schedule after work commitments and major unusual needs (one time events like weddings, etc.) but before other things on your calendar (like going to the movies, casual outings with friends you could schedule at other times.)
Most groups schedule group activities well ahead so people can make arrangements.
- potluck meals vary a lot, but planning on $10-15 a month for 2-3 meals gives you a good range of options.
- groups that charge dues usually run $10-15 a month.
- contributions of supplies depend on the number of people in the group, but the same range is common most months.
- travel costs
- any other specific group requirements.
- if a teacher charges for any reason, then you need to factor that in.
There are options to save time and money:
- You may be able to carpool or use public transit to get to group events, to save transportation costs.
- There are great inexpensive dishes you can bring for potluck. (This is why I started learning to bake bread: it’s about the cheapest thing you can bring for potluck, but people still adore it. Even a fancy store-bought loaf is fairly cheap.)
- You may be able to borrow books rather than buying them.
- You may be able to use group tools (or at least some of the more expensive/hard to store ones).
- If the group shares expenses, has dues, etc. many healthy groups have some sort of work-study option where you help out with the less-fun stuff as your contribution to the group (cleaning, moving furniture, sorting and stapling papers, etc.)
- Schedule may be negotiable, or at least enough so to make things work. This depends on the schedules of the other group members, and especially whoever will be working with you as a teacher or mentor.
- If there are specific requirements for robes, etc. you may be able to get help finding inexpensive options, or someone may even have spare fabric you can have cheap or for free.
What’s less negotiable:
Group work means spending time with the group.
And in particular, initiatory group work requires that you be able to learn and work with the group regularly. That means you need to be free when they are, and be able to get to where they are. And, of course, not every town or city has a group – or a particular tradition, focus, deities they honor, etc – handy. In fact, most places don’t. That means that most people are in the same position: figuring out what the best choices are for them, and their needs and commitments.
Don’t despair, though! Life can have some very odd twists, so you never know when a great group will start up in your area (maybe someone looking to lead a group moves to town), or when life might take you closer to a group that’s a great fit for you. A great job might get you to move to a new area with just the right options, or you might end up in a situation where traveling periodically is okay for you.
It’s also why I strongly suggest people don’t focus on a particular tradition – or even a particular pantheon – too strongly. There are many wonderful groups out there that may be a fantastic fit for you in many ways. Some are from small traditions or paths. Some may honor particular deities – but be fine with you honoring others in your personal practice. Some may have a particular practice that doesn’t do much for you – but others that give you a really solid foundation and anchor in other ways.
Group work is all about the connections and the other people and the Gods involved: there are many ways those things can combine for a great outcome, so it makes sense to give it a chance.
Initiatory work does also take other kinds of being ready – but that’s a post of its own.
[last edited December 26, 2016]