Recently, I’ve been seeing the phrase “I can’t find anyone near me to learn from!” quite a bit more often. And there are times it makes me wonder.
The most recent was a few minutes ago, on one of the local email lists for the Pagan community in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) area, where someone was posting because she can’t find anyone near her to work with.
There’s a reason the Twin Cities are sometimes referred to as Paganistan.
We have a large and active community, especially given our relative size. There are public rituals, classes (free and otherwise), reasonably local festivals, and three local stores focusing specifically on the Pagan community. Last year’s two day Pagan Pride weekend had 35 workshops or discussions, 5 rituals, and a wide range of entertainment, vendors, and informational booths from groups in the area. (I’m on the board, I get to be pleased with this.)
I can drive most places in the Twin Cities I might need to in about 20-40 minutes outside of rush hours. (Maybe twice that, if you’re going from one suburb to another on the opposite side of the metro.) It makes getting to religious events around town a few times a month pretty feasible, even with gas prices where they are. (I have in mind a post about the actual costs of group membership, but this is not that post. Soon, though.)
If you don’t have a car, it’s a little trickier – a number of groups, including my former one, meet in homes which are not easily bus accessible, or not bus friendly on weekends. (In the case of the former covenstead, the nearest buses run about every 2 hours, and the closest stop is a serious walk away – not something I’d suggest after a demanding ritual.)
There are ways around that, though, with a little thought. Getting rides from someone, or getting a ride back to the nearest reasonable bus stop are both options people have used at various points. It often works out – and one of the reasons I regularly give friends rides is that I love the one on one time talking in the car, so I benefit too.
There are also a large number of resources for finding out about groups. I’ve already talked about many of these elsewhere. Witchvox is the most obvious, but there are the bulletin boards in stores, and various other online resources. I happen to know there *are* several groups that meet more towards her side of town. It’s not always obvious from the Witchvox listings (because several groups list themselves as Minneapolis or St. Paul, rather than the smaller suburb they’re in).
It is more clear if you go and look at individual group’s websites or more detailed descriptions, something that takes a couple of hours maybe, but is totally doable with a little investment of energy. (How do I know this? I went through every group listing on Witchvox a few weeks ago as part of sending out programming emails for Pagan Pride.)
There is also the other question: we’re talking here, at least in terms of Wiccan traditions, about small groups of people with a specific focus. Chances are good there *isn’t* going to be the perfect group for you right down the street. But if your life is generally in good order (as it should be if you’re looking at initiatory training and ongoing group work), you should be in a place that you can figure this out, somehow.
It may not be easy. It may take some sacrifice. (And I say this as someone whose ‘fun spending money’ for the past few years has been on the order of $20-40 a month to cover all non-necessary expenses.) But there are ways for determined people to find some solutions.
Not in the urban areas?
I have far less experience with more rural areas – I’ve lived all my life in either cities (as an adult) or first ring suburbs (my childhood) or second ring ones with reasonable transportation (college). The simple fact is that when there are fewer people, you’re probably going to have fewer and harder choices.
This is true whether you’re looking for Wicca, for a really good music teacher, for a less common sport, for a particular hobby, or whatever else: it’s a simple factor of numbers. The good news is that the methods that work for those things often work for Wicca – maybe it means coming up once a month for the weekend, instead of 4-6 times over the course of the month. Maybe it means doing some work over the phone or online (the stuff that can be done that way.) Maybe it means working out something else.
My former group had someone who drove about 90 minutes to get to us, from the middle of Wisconsin. Yes, it was a long haul. Yes, there were things she missed – she was up usually for two things a month, not more. Yes, there were times the weather was horrible, and she didn’t show up (and around here, that can be snowstorms, or it can be thunderstorms. Both are bad times to be driving.)
But everyone made it work for almost two years, before her focus shifted, and the group’s focus shifted a bit. That’s long enough for someone to get a solid base for personal practice, and to get connections to the rest of the community if they want to pick them up in future, which are excellent things.
The real question:
How badly do you want something? How much do you want to change your life to make this fit? That’s the question that *every* new interest or hobby or desire brings to us. It isn’t something new or strange or peculiar to being a witch.
Every new thing we want has challenges. If we want to do it well, we’re almost certainly going to have to invest in learning – time away from other things, money (to get to where we need to be, if nothing else), focus and attention to learn that come from other activities. We may give up time with our loved ones, hobbies, casual interests.
Witchcraft traditions just take it a little further. How much do we want this? How much do we want to invest in having a life that’s stable enough that we can take on the challenges (and joys) of initiatory work? Are we willing to work slowly towards a goal that might take two years, five years, ten years to fully achieve? Are we willing to wait for the right place, not the one down the street, or the one that looks easiest?
If we are, then it’s sometimes easier to step back and figure out what it takes to get there – what practical steps we can take now that will make it easier a few years down the road. But the patience to get an idea what we’re truly seeking is critical.