Let’s face it….there is a lot to the craft that can’t be learned from reading a book. Finding a teacher and/or group to join is something that most, if not all, new Pagans seek out. It’s completely natural to want to meet other people who are interested in the craft. And its sometimes better to learn from others, in person, than try to piece things together by yourself at home.
I’ve been a member and leader of several groups throughout my time in this path, and I’ve learned a thing or two about finding the right group. Believe me, it is sometimes harder than it sounds. There’s a lot to be considered when choosing a group or teacher to work with. Hopefully, by the end of this message I will have given you a few things to think about when choosing your Pagan teachers.
The first obstacle to overcome is finding if there are any pagan groups in your area. One of the easiest ways that I have found is to visit www.witchvox.com, which is an online hub for Pagan groups and practitioners. You also might want to try asking at your local metaphysical bookstore for recommendations.
Even if you find a group and teacher in the area, how do you know they will be a good group for you? The process starts by analyzing yourself and your own needs. First think about what you are looking for in a group. What size of group would you feel most comfortable in? Would you be willing to travel to get to the group meetings and rituals? Do you like things to be informal or do you crave structure in your learning environment? Can you pay for classes? Would you prefer a teacher who guides you individually or are you looking for a group atmosphere? Are you looking to just gather information or do you want to be formally initiated into a coven? Would you like to be part of a group that is public, or one that keeps things more secret?
Consider also the type of Witchcraft that you would like to learn. Gardnerian circles are vastly different than those that follow Asatru. Research a little on the different types of Paganism, and find something you are interested in. If you don’t have a preference, try to find an “eclectic” pagan group. Normally these groups are very open to newcomers and teach a variety of methods from many different doctrines. Eclectic pagan groups can vary in size and method, but provide a good “primer” for the study of witchcraft and other occult methods. It is entirely possible to start in an eclectic group and then move on to a more specialized and formal coven once you get an idea of your personal beliefs.
In all fairness, the odds of finding a group that meets all of your requirements exactly is pretty slim. But, if you know what you want in a group, you will be more likely to find something that is comfortable and enjoyable for you.
Then take your search online and find the groups in your area. Unless a group consistently holds open rituals, it’s pretty standard to meet a representative of the group in public before being invited to a ritual or class. This is nothing against you as a person. Its just a way to keep group members, and you, safe. If your contact from the group does not suggest a public meeting first, you should make the suggestion. It’s just a measure of personal safety! There are some crazies out there these days (in society, not Paganism specifically) and you can’t be too careful.
After you’ve met the contact from the group you may be invited to an event. If you are interested or not, let them know either way. Its rude to leave someone hanging. If you do decide to attend the event, pay attention to the group dynamics from the start. Is it a welcoming group? Do you enjoy being in their company? What are their qualifications, and can you meet them?
You don’t want to join a group that doesn’t allow questions in a classroom setting, or a group where the members are bickering at one another. This first event is a chance to see whether the group meets your criteria and whether you’d be a good fit. If you decide the group is not for you, remain civil and amicable. This is especially important if the Pagan community is small in your area. You don’t want to burn any bridges.
You may have to “interview” a lot of groups before you find the right one. Or you may find that the first group you visit fits like a glove. While I certainly hope that you experience the latter, visiting a lot of groups does have the advantage of letting you know exactly what you do and don’t want in a group.
Many blessings and happy hunting,
Your Warm And Caring "Resident Witch In Charge"