You might be called to explore a particular path, be that Wicca, Witchcraft, Asatru, Druidry or Shamanism, or you might just want to go with the flow of the eclectic and take stuff from all over. There are magazines, courses, physical groups, online groups, moots, festivals, open rituals, Covens, Groves, so much stuff. It’s a dream.
There are others just like you.
So you go online and start interacting with other people.
Sometimes this doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes the peace and spirituality you thought was there is not reflected back at you by everyone you meet. I’ve seen this happen quite a few times. Even people who have been involved for years suddenly throw in the towel and become Atheists. I guess every spiritual community is the same.
Here are a few things to bear in mind as you explore the various avenues of the Pagan community.
Freedom is important – many of us became disillusioned with organised religion. We were looking for something more earthy, less dominated by a clergy, more open to ideas and personal connection, something more magical maybe. Paganism can certainly offer this. But within this vast tent there are traditions that are also quite strict. Coven Wicca can make a number of demands on its practitioners. For instance you may be asked not to work with any other group, at least for a while. You will probably be asked to take an oath of secrecy. The methods you are taught may have been handed down since at least the 1950s in one of the Books of Shadows, and you may well be asked to copy one out in full for yourself. It’s good to know this beforehand.
People say there is no dogma in Paganism, but in reality that varies from tradition to tradition. If you are attracted by the eclecticism of Paganism and are new, one thing it’s good to know is that not all paths are that eclectic, and some demand a good amount of effort, focus, and dedication.
It’s all in the detail – Some groups use the 4 Elements of the Western Mystery Tradition aligning them to the four directions, others don’t. Some Druid groups cast circles, others don’t. Some Wiccan traditions allow men, others don’t. It’s good to spend some time exploring the map before you head out without a compass.
It’s not all in the detail – that being said there are huge areas of common ground that are shared by the many different groups and traditions. A love of the earth, the moon, the stars, inner working and chant, oh, and mead, lots of mead, to name just a few.
Not all Pagans are left-wing liberals. I know. It’s shocking, but it’s true. There are lots that are, but don’t expect everyone you meet to agree with your political choices. This is also true about what you choose to eat. If you are a vegan who rejoices in finding Paganism you might be surprised when you discover that being a vegan or vegetarian is not something everyone signed up for when they first stepped onto the path. Freedom is important. Some of the most destructive online encounters I’ve seen over the years have been about this. Also not everyone holds binary views on delicate topics. Recently I’ve seen this in conversations, and I use that term lightly, about Donald Trump, Race, Vegetarianism, Immigration, so many things. There can seem to be a group mind about this. For instance if you come onto a Pagan Facebook group and express your concern over immigration, you may well be instantly labelled a racist. There can appear to be a Pagan binary worldview. You either are, or you aren’t. Sadly this has the effect of instantly closing down any further constructive dialogue, and the person asking the question usually retreats, bruised, and wondering where the freedom they first encountered disappeared to.
So I guess what I’m saying is that there are a lot of people who hold very similar political views in Paganism, but again, that’s not often what people signed up for. Tread your path gently. Expect that people will agree with you, and also disagree, and that’s ok. Try not to expect people to be perfect (at least what you deem as perfect), just because they call themselves Pagans.
I’ve been blessed to have travelled around the world with my music, going to Pagan festivals and camps from Australia to the USA, from Italy to the Czech Republic, from Greece to Canada, and I can tell you that, although we have a vast amount of colour within the Pagan community, it is real, alive and vibrant all across the world. From standing in ritual with 1000 people at the Pagan Spirit Gathering, to being invited to share intimate ritual and sacred space with smaller groups, the connection is there, and it is wonderful.
Some come to Paganism for companionship and community. If that’s you, you will find it, but it might not match up 100% with what you want or need. It’s a slightly perilous direction to walk. Better to have the drive be a personal connection with the land, with the stories, for an ecstatic union with ancient Gods, to use that connection to really help to know who you are. As it said above the Temple of Delphi Know Thyself. If that is your primary reason for your Pagan path you should be fine. Do the work, and the community you join will know you as one who walks their talk. The community is a natural progression of your own personal path, something as well as. From there you have a far more solid foundation from which to step forward into the worldwide Pagan community.
Travel safe and well.