Many people live in places where there aren’t a lot of nearby options – or at least ones that suit their interests. This page is a guide to some options that might work for you if there’s nothing near you.
Start by looking again:
Chances are, Your Perfect Group isn’t right down the street. That’s no surprise: even people who live in areas with lots of Pagan group and event options don’t find their ideal group in their backyard.
Look at this as an opportunity. Take time to check out anything that might even possibly be a fit in your area. Leave out the places that make you feel truly uncomfortable, or that you simply can’t deal with for some reason (transportation, accessibility, etc.) but check out anything else you can.
There’s two reasons for this. First, you might just find something that is a good fit for you. (Not a perfect one in all ways, but one that offers a great deal of what you want.) Second, by connecting with more options, you raise your chances about hearing about events and groups that don’t advertise much – which might lead you to a great option later.
First impressions matter – but they’re not the only thing.
Remember that a group or teacher’s website may not be the full picture (especially for folks who are not active online much.) If there’s even a possible fit, see about meeting them for a conversation, or attending an open event with them before you rule them out.
Think of it a little like dating. You have some things that you’re really certain you want and don’t want. But there’s also a bunch of things where you have preferences, but can be flexible. The more you can be flexible with, the more options you’ll have to find a relationship that’s a really good fit for you.
It’s possible you may find a group that’s a good fit – except that part of their focus isn’t your first choice. In that case, look for what other options there are in that group. For example, some people want to work with a particular pantheon. However, they might find a lot of fellowship, community, and general skill training in a group that works with a different pantheon, but who supports their members in honoring whatever deities they wish in personal work.
The same is true of particular practices: a group may not focus on something, but may have members who are interested in a particular area, even if it isn’t part of their initial training/discussions. Ask about these things before you cross a group off your list that otherwise might suit.
Check back every so often.
I suggest every 6-12 months, you take another pass through your local resources, if you’re still looking for a group or teacher. People move, new group leaders start new groups, groups change their schedule or their focus. You’ll change too, over time, so a group that wasn’t a good fit for you last year might be a great choice next year.
If you’re looking for community, consider other spaces.
Sometimes, what people want is a community to spend time with, rather than formal training or work in a specific tradition. You might check out the Unitarian Universalists and Quakers if this is the case: both have some things in common with many Pagans (and some UU congregations host Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans groups), though it varies a lot community to community.
Make sure you’re keeping an eye on specific resources.
If you’re interested in a particular tradition, and they have seeker-friendly lists or discussion boards, check in regularly. It’s possible a group or teacher may show up in your area. Local, area, and regional announcement lists can let you know about workshops, festivals, and other events in your area that might be a great place to learn something specific.
Look at short-term events
Festivals, workshops, and other events in the 3-10 day range can sometimes be a great opportunity to learn specific skills, work with a specific teacher or tradition, or figure out if it’s worth investing time and energy in looking at more long-term options. There are three basic categories:
Weekend workshops are a common offering by many teachers out there.
They’re a good way to get a feel for that teacher, but also give you enough time to learn a particular skill or approach in a structured setting. Some run Friday night to Sunday afternoon, others start Saturday morning.
Consider subscribing to announcement lists for any area or regional esoteric shops you could get to, as well as area or regional Pagan mailing lists. You can also keep an eye on the websites or blogs of particular teachers, if there’s a specific area you’re interested in. Some places also offer weekend retreats or programs.
Weeklong intensives or workshops.
Probably the best known of these are Reclaiming’s Witchcamps.While Reclaiming is a specific path (and therefore, like all paths, not the right fit for everyone), many of the witchcamps include an option focused on foundational skills that can be a great fit for someone looking to get feedback, new ideas, and get more secure in their practice. You can also make great connections that carry through the year. There are other options out there, too, if you ask around.
There are a wide range of festivals and other Pagan events – of all sizes and kinds of focus. Some, like Pantheacon, take place in a hotel setting, but many take place in a camping environment (often with some non-camping options.) Ask around on your regional or area Pagan announcement lists to find options closer to you, or hang out on national (or international) discussion boards to learn about larger festivals many people travel to.
What would it take to make something work?
Sometimes, it’s easy to get locked into what we can’t do right now – rather than what we might be able to work towards. If you live in an area with no or few Pagan options, and you can’t travel to places that have more choices, it can feel overwhelming. However, there are some options.
What would it take to get to groups in your area?
If you don’t drive, it may be that someone from a group is near you and could carpool. Or that you could work something out. (Chipping in for gas money is appropriate.)
If you do drive, many people in groups do travel 30+ minutes to get there. If the group’s schedule makes that a bad fit with your life (say because of a work schedule or other commitment), talk to them about how flexible they can be before you rule them out.
What would it take for you to move?
If the issue is “We need a good job for me, and for my spouse”, you might be able to arrange your life so that you could move to a place with more Pagan options. It doesn’t even need to be a huge move – maybe moving to a larger city in your state would open up more choices. Over a couple of years, you could start looking at job listings and housing costs in the new area, use vacation time to travel to festivals or events in that Pagan community, and so on. You might even meet people who can help you find a job, or who have a great place to rent.
That said, if your issue is that you have elderly parents you need to stay near, or a family business you can’t move, then maybe moving is not the right option any time soon. In which case, go look at the other choices on this page. (But remember to reevaluate as your situation changes!)
What would it take for you to be able to travel to festivals or workshops to learn specific skills?
People often completely rule out the possibility of travelling to learn specific things.
Is childcare for your kids a problem? Could you swap children for a weekend with one of their friends so you could get a full weekend clear every so often in exchange for keeping all the kids another weekend? If travel money is the problem, is there a part-time job you could do and set aside the money for this? What would change if you or your partner got a better job? You can often get really good deals on cheap plane tickets or car rentals for a long drive if you avoid major holidays and high travel seasons.
Is there a possibility of working with a teacher or group long-distance?
Some groups are open to the “You come for a weekend every 2-3 months” model. Some groups aren’t. Some groups might be under the right circumstances (sufficient people to spread the teaching load, their own schedule allows for it, the teacher or someone nearby has a free guest room.) When there’s a good fit, the right circumstances often line up all around. This – other than the travel costs – is also often an inexpensive option, since often a local group member will have a spare guest room.
What about inviting a teacher to come and work with the local community?
If there are teachers within a reasonable distance for weekend travel from you, and you have at least a handful of people who would be interested in the same topics, you might be able to find someone who’d be willing to come every couple of months and work with you.
This probably won’t be the full scope of their tradition or practice, but it might be plenty to help you establish a solid personal practice and navigate a lot of the more challenging bits of learning foundational skills. In these cases, you should first be clear why you’re asking this person. (This might involve attending a class or event they run in their area, reading what they’ve written online and in print, etc.)
Think carefully about what you have to offer in terms of commitment, and why the teacher should commit to making this kind of time for travel and teaching. At a minimum, you should be prepared to cover their travel costs, feed them food they can enjoyably eat, and make sure they have a place to sleep that’s healthy for them (doesn’t trigger allergies, leave them with a painfully sore back, etc.) They may also ask for a fee to cover their time or their expenses at home while they’re gone.
[Last edited December 25, 2016]