The next in the Pagan Blog Project series of posts ( info here http://paganblogproject.com/?page_id=7 ) Working through the alphabet and up to F. I’d just like to start by saying thank you to those who take the time to read my posts, I know they’re long – thank you for putting up with that 🙂
‘I’m a solitary’ she said, ‘there’s no way I would fit into a group’
That’s a sentiment that I’ve heard numerous times over the years. Us pagans are fiercely independent and can use the ‘solitary’ tag like a club. Swiftly denying we ever could or would want to be part of a group. The reasons are many and varied Sometimes it’s through a bad experience ”tried it once, went bad, not doing it again thank you!” Sometimes it’s enforced solitary because there is no one else locally that you could work with, sometimes through lack of self confidence – we don’t really understand what we do ourselves so how can we share half formed thoughts and strange mental trails with others who may not ‘get it’ or worse – laugh. A lot of the time it’s because we don’t particularly want anyone else involved in in what is a private experience shared between you and your Gods… and sometimes it’s just because you plain don’t want to! All of the above are perfectly fine, I respect that some people work alone and are more than happy like that. It’s worth considering the flip side though, a whole new world of opportunity opens up when we decide to join in with our fellow pagans.
So maybe you’ve always wanted to try group ritual, or you’ve got an idea that you’d like to join a Coven someday. In the next few entries for my blog I’m going to cover as much about finding and being part of your local pagan groups as I can, I would more than welcome info and thoughts from readers (I have four – how cool is that!!) opinions, experiences and suggestions, all very welcome. This first entry is about local groups and is more or less a beginners overveiw (I’ll be covering online things and more in depth information in a later entry)
As human beings we do tend to be drawn into fellowship with others of a like mind, this is why religion got started in the first place. It’s a natural process of communal devotion, friendship and being part of a community as well as comparing your own experiences with those of others. It can be very helpful for Solitary’s and eclectics as well as those who do want to join a Coven or other style of working group. For seasonal celebrations it can be nice to have others to share them with, enjoying company and good food as well as experience. For magical workings the energies within a group can surpass that raised by someone on their own, leading to very profound experiences.
What exactly is a ‘group’ in regards to paganism. A group can be anything from two people who common interest and so share ritual and experiences and learn together – or it can be an informal group (of any number) who meet up once a month, again maybe to celebrate the seasons or just to chat, or it can be an active working magical group which may or may not require initiation and training. These are only three examples. There are as many types of group out there as there are pagans of different styles willing to run them. In general though there are these three main types you might come across. The informal get togethers, the more formal groups and the magical working groups.
Informal get togethers – in the U.K they are called ‘Moots’ are very common in the community, someone will decide that the area could do with a regular meetup of pagans, they’ll organise a time and a place, most usually once a month and frequently in a pub one evening (generally we don’t have a lot for minors, I’ll be coming to that later on in this series) Or being as it’s in the U.K it’ll be at someone’s house and tea is the most usual beverage! Some moots have regular speakers and perhaps may offer ritual at the festivals. Again you don’t have to have any experience or even be pagan, you can just come along and chat and ask questions it and see if you like what you find. Of the Moot’s I’ve attended the folks there were pretty well split equally into solitary/eclectic, formal coven based, Goddess worshippers, Heathens, other Northern paths and ‘I don’t know what I do I just do it’ and all the other paths, there’s also the usual smattering of ‘interested’ or ‘enquiring’. I highly recommend them as it’s a nice place for seekers to ask questions and for those of more experience to ask for a bit of guidance if it’s needed. They’re also a good night out socially. Everyone is welcome. You can get to know those in the local community – which is always a good idea if you do ever plan to join some form of working group, and to some extent it’s also a networking opportunity. You can keep up with the local pagan news, find out about national conferences or camps, and generally keep your finger on the pulse of the local community.
More formal groups are usually those with one or more members with a bit more experience than your average seeker, there will be a good turnout of those who’ve identified themselves according to their specific path for several years, they’re past the ‘Wicca 101’ or ‘Druidry for Beginners’ books and are trying to live the life to include community. They often take turns in facilitating Rituals amongst themselves. I’ve heard of ones who take the opportunity to read one specific book and work through that, or a drumming circle which often has Shamanic overtones. They may hold evenings to explore many different aspects of our path, maybe a Tarot evening, crystals, animal lore – anything non path specific that appeals. These ones are more difficult to find and it’s normally word of mouth unless they’ve decided to advertise in the pagan press or online.
Magical Working Groups are those who’s members are normally very experienced at their chosen path, quite often they have initiated members or those involved in one of the organised pagan paths such as Wicca or Druidry with it’s formal training, or they’ve worked together for so long as an eclectic group that they’re as good as a working coven in outlook and experience. They may or may not be looking for new members. They will hold their own celebrations away from the public eye, sometimes they might hold an Open at one of the bigger Sabbats, if there is nothing else available to the local community but on the whole they are the more hidden groups. These you would definitely need to find by word of mouth unless they’d taken the steps to open up training to others, in which case some kind of advert either in the pagan press or an occult shop may be the source for this kind of group. I’ll be talking more in depth about Covens later on.
Groups of course are as diverse as the people in them, so any local to you may not fit this ‘example’ and all of them have a certain amount of overlap – but hopefully this gives you the rough idea.
Of course first you’ve got to find your group. Now I’m the first to admit that when I started out I was utterly convinced that I was the only pagan in the area, the solitary figure who was ‘different’ and if you’d asked me I’d have sworn up and down that there wasn’t a group or a coven or even a like minded soul for leagues in any direction. Wrong! One of the first things you learn when you’ve joined the community is that there are more of us out there than you think! The trouble is not all of us wear a medallion sized pentacle or other equally recognisable symbol, we look and dress like everyone else. Therefore we’re difficult to spot.
A few years ago I would have said ‘look in bookstores, occult shops or the local ‘ethnic clothing’ store’ while this still holds true nowadays I say first stops are online, either Witchvox.com http://www.witchvox.com/ or Pagan Federation International http://www.paganfederation.org/ to see if there’s a group near you, both Witchvox and Pagan Federation International list local meetings and groups, and both of them cover overseas from their country of origin… For Witchvox look at the ‘adult groups’ section in your area and for Pagan Federation a separate search for your area such as ‘pagan federation North East England/Wales/Australia/Canada/<insert your area here’ will pull up information. PaganFed breaks down both the U.K and other countries into ‘districts’ for easier searching.
Both sites also list various events and have news sections.
So – if you haven’t investigated your local community and found fellowship with your local pagans, perhaps now is the time to start?
Next time I’ll be covering more in depth information about groups I’ve attended, the last entry next friday will cover working with a Coven.