“I live in ____, and there are no Pagans around here.” I hear this a lot; either people asking me directly for networking assistance, or just people posting on Facebook or on email lists. In fact, I talk to Pagans all over the country who are sure there are no Pagans nearby to them. They’re often surprised when I rattle off 3 or 4 local groups near them when I live hundreds of miles away.
Hi, I’m Shauna, and I’m a nerd for Pagan networking. See, long ago, I started traveling and teaching.
And as I started traveling and teaching, I saw the value of joining all the local Pagan email lists. If I was teaching in ____ , I wanted to know what local groups were going on, when their Pagan Pride event was. I even wanted to see if there were Pagan community drama/blow ups happening on their email lists, since I teach leadership and community building. If I know what issues are cropping up, I can address them in my classes.
I also noticed that sometimes when I’m brought into an area to teach, even the organizers of the class who are paying me gas money and a little besides that, haven’t necessarily promoted the class on the email lists, and I want to make sure that they get enough attendees to cover costs, so I’ll often do class promotion directly to help out.
So somehow I ended up on several hundred Yahoo groups. And, not a lot of people post on those lists any more as people have largely moved over to Facebook, but what this taught me is that it’s not as hard as you would think to connect to and find Pagans nearby to you.
But how do I get involved?
When you are shy and don’t know anyone, it can be a challenge to get connected. Pagans who move to a new area often ask me, “I know there are groups, but nobody knows me, I don’t know how to join up and get involved.
Here’s a quick and dirty checklist for how to find some Pagans nearby to you:
1. Check Facebook. Go in the search bar for Pagan and the name of your town, or more likely, the name of your nearest metro area. Also check using the name of your state. Try a few different search terms.
You can also do a lot of networking through the “friend of a friend” phenomenon on Facebook.
(For the sake of simplicity, I’m assuming that you are out and can join a group with your regular profile; if you have chosen to not be out, you may want to create a separate Pagan profile to shield your identity.)
2. Check Meetup.com and Yahoo groups, do the same thing; search for Pagan or metaphysical and the name of your city, or even county sometimes particularly in more rural areas. You might try searching on a few different combinations of words.
3. Check Witchvox for upcoming events, or to find groups to contact. Keep in mind that Witchvox often lists dozens of local groups that no longer exist but who never took down their profiles, so you might contact some of those folks, but you may not get a response. Also, even active groups are sometimes notoriously bad about emailing people back. If you’re on their list and they have any kind of open meeting or gathering, it’s often easier to connect with people by meeting up with them if you aren’t getting an email response.
4. Check for UU churches in your area, or more specifically, look to see if there is a CUUPS Pagan group at a UU church near you. There is a listing for CUUPS groups by state online.
5. Check for a Pagan Pride near you. Pagan Pride days that are affiliated with the national Pagan Pride project are listed on the national site, however, there are some events that use the term Pagan Pride Day and that aren’t affiliated with national and thusly don’t show up on national’s page, however, you can often find them on Google or Facebook.
Join the email lists, join the Facebook groups, and find out what kinds of events are going on. Sometimes when you join a Facebook group or email list, you’ll see lots of snark and drama that will turn you off to attending any events, which is understandable. Other times, you won’t see many events being posted. Keep in mind that there are two factors at work.
- Often the loudest mouths are the ones posting the most on Facebook; it doesn’t necessarily mean that the group is bad, and you might want to still check out their event in person.
- The other factor is the Pagan apathy factor, which is that our events are pretty much almost all volunteer run, and when there isn’t a strong visionary leader making things happen, or when there’s been a community blow up or for a variety of reasons, people may be hosting events but might not be taking the time to post them on the lists. Or people may just be too busy, or, may not have thought to join the lists in the first place.
In either case, it’s totally appropriate to pose a polite question to these lists or FB groups and ask, “Hey, I’m new, what events are coming up in the community?” People are (usually) polite in response. Sometimes you’ll get the loudmouth, but don’t let that put you off.
The next step is actually going out into the world to visit some groups; attend an open event, a ritual, a class. Go to the local Pagan bookstore if your area still has one, attend a metaphysical fair, etc.
Some things to keep in mind as you visit new groups:
- Long-running groups usually become cliques. They don’t intend to, but they often are not even thinking about the experience of new folks coming to an event, so you might feel like there’s a “them” running the event, and that you are not welcomed. It’s probably not the case; the folks running the event are often busy because they do this as volunteers. They often are used to working together and perhaps even snarking at each other. It can take a while before you become part of the team when people have been working together, and it’s even harder for us shy introverted types like myself. If you like what the group is about, keep attending. The clique thing will often ease up once they get used to seeing you around, though at some point if you want to become more involved you’ll need to speak up.
- Not every group will be your cup of tea. If people are really annoying you because they have bad attitudes or are consistently bragging about their magical powers or psychic attack, that may not be a mature enough group for you. Not every group’s ritual style may be for you; I typically can only connect with rituals offered in an ecstatic, participatory style like Reclaiming. But you often can’t know what you don’t like until you experience it. The ritual style may not be for you, which doesn’t make the group bad, just not for you. Actually, I don’t even like tea!
- If you find a group you like and want to get involved, the best thing you can do is volunteer to help with something, even if it’s sweeping the floor or bringing something for potluck. Ask how you can help. If the event organizers are crazy busy doing setup or cleanup, that may not be the best time to ask, but you can always say, “Hey, looks like you’re really busy, is there some way I can help you now?” or, “You seem busy, but I’d like to talk some time about how I can help, I’d love to volunteer.”
There’s also exploring Being groups vs. Doing groups. Being groups are Groves, Covens, Circles, that largely are private and focus on exploring a tradition/doing rituals/learning for themselves. Doing groups put on Pagan Pride days, festivals, public rituals, or other public things. Some groups are both Being and Doing groups, but keep in mind what you’re looking for in a local group. If you don’t want to be consistently drafted into volunteering for ritual roles for public rituals, joining a group that regularly does this and expects that of members might not be your thing. On the other hand, if you want to get out there and do things for your local community, joining a secret private coven that doesn’t attend Pagan Pride might not be the best option either.
Actually, I’ll say it again. The single greatest thing you can do to get involved and find a local group is to volunteer.
This is especially true of events like a Pagan Pride event, or if your community has any local Pagan networking organizations offering open festivals and events. You’ll get to know who the local community leaders are, the local traditions, what groups are out there.
You’ll pick up the dirt on the local groups too. You’ll learn that High Priestess A dated/broke up with High Priest B and their groups now hate each other, even though that was 30 years ago. Or that group leader C has a penchant for sleeping with newbie Pagans. Or that group leader D does amazing work but is kind of disorganized and terrible about getting back to people. Or that group leader E goes off on tirades on their volunteers and is kind of a tyrant.
Take all of that information with discernment. It’s a small world. Breakups happen. Gossip happens. Sometimes a bad breakup is just a bad breakup with hurt feelings all around. Sometimes, however, it indicates that one (or more) parties may have some issues that you don’t want to deal with in a group leader, or has other ethical ramifications.
While gossip and backbiting can be a hindrance to our community, it’s also one of the few ways in our organic community that we have to spread information. There are really bad group leaders out there. There are also really great leaders out there. You’ll probably hear bad stuff about everyone, the longer you’re in community, and that can give anyone a headache.
For me it’s getting the full picture. Who’s gossiping about that leader? Do they complain about everyone? Do they feel that the world is out to get them? It’s possible they may not be the best source. When I meet the leader in question, are they friendly and polite, or are they gregarious and a little slimey, or are they grouchy and unapproachable? If I’m in a meeting with them, are they stubborn and intractable or are they open and willing to hear new ideas? And are they tired after a hard day, or are they always grouchy?
Sometimes it can take a while to make a solid judgment call. Keep in mind that as a new person, you may be bringing up thoughts and ideas for things that either 1. they’ve tried before and didn’t work, or 2. they’d like to try but haven’t had enough volunteers to accomplish. So their frustration may not be directed at you, just at the situation.
In other words, sometimes you have to do your homework. If there is a group in your area that’s very specific to your interests, like Hellenic Reconstructionism, and there’s nothing else like that for 5 hours in any direction, you’re going to want to give them a chance. But after a while you might just determine that you and some of the others are just oil and water. Unfortunately, that does happen. Other times, you join a group and find home. It’s worth taking the time to go on a few “dates” with different groups, as it were, to see if there is compatibility.
The point is–there are options. Additional options include attending local festivals. Every year that I attend Pagan Spirit Gathering, I meet people from Chicago who thought there’s no Pagan community going on there. And there’s lots of festivals out there. Finding out which ones are close by to you can be a challenge, but if you keep on networking, you’ll find something eventually.
How can I help?
And as always, if you’re looking to find folks in a particular area and you want a little help, give me a shout out. If I know any contacts in that area I’ll do my best to help. I don’t always respond quickly to messages particularly when I’m traveling, but if I can help I will. Just email me at Shaunaaura@gmail.com
Often the best I can do is tell you that I know of groups X, Y, and Z. If I know actual people that I can give a positive recommendation for, I will. If I’ve heard some really bad things about a group leader, I might offer a caution, but I leave it up to each individual to decide.
There’s a lot of great groups out there. Consider joining one and being part of your local community!