Finding a Pagan Path of Study
There are a few things you have to keep in mind when looking for a group to study with. The first is that YOU MUST BE the seeker. Don't rely on “When a student is ready for a teacher, they will appear.” Some philosophies believe this, but most pagan religions are participatory practices. Just because you've prayed or lit a candle or did some chanting doesn't mean whatever it is you've asked for will fall in your lap.... the buck stops with you. If you're sitting around your house playing video games and just waiting for something to happen doesn't mean it will. You'll have to accept the invitation to go out and meet people. You'll have to DO SOMETHING!
The second thing to remember is that all paganism today is NEW. Hence, you are a NEO-Pagan. It's nice to be able to say that what you do, who you worship, what you practice comes from the days of antiquity but unless you are gilding cow horns with gold before slicing their necks, or sacrificing humans into murky bogs, or are cast into the wilderness with nothing but a loincloth and a wooden spear... you are a NEW pagan.
Thirdly, most neo-pagan practices involve religion;
"Religion n.1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the Universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs”
I like the Farrar's definition for a genuine religion:
IMHO, these are the three most important things you have to take into account before you decide to change your whole life.... because your life will change. Adopting a new religion is adopting a new way to look at the world and a new way of treating it. Your consciousness will expand as your subconscious grows. The friends you have now will seemingly be standing still as you begin to move forward along your new path. The Divine will manifest in every decision and action you take because you will find that it is all interconnected and that there is no escape from yourself. You will become cognizant that your life is exactly where it's supposed to be because the buck ultimately stops with you and you are the one responsible for it. So, with that said... on with the subject at hand,
Then besides those up front and readily available resources there are web pages upon web pages of different groups and individuals that you can peruse, including MeetUp.com. There are advertisements in the back of pagan magazines. There are occult supply stores with their own networking. There are renaissance festivals to which all pagans are somehow attracted to. There are a myriad of resources on and off the web for finding a group so I think the real question must be:
How do I find a group I'm compatible with to study with?
As with almost every other pagan in the world, you start by READING. Get a hold of as many books as you can and start reading about the philosophies of the paganism you're drawn too. With the advent of private booksellers teaming up with Amazon and places like Ebay and Google books online, there is almost no book that can go unfounded. Check your local library. When I first started out some twenty years ago there was hardly a book left on the shelf that hadn't been checked out and never returned but today, most libraries keep occult books a plenty on their shelves.
Don't limit yourself to just books on the subject of the occult. Look at anthropological books, history books, and even some historical fiction. If you can, get your hands on some videos on a wide range of subjects and maybe even peruse YouTube.com to see if there are any pagan related videos available.
Find out what YOU are comfortable with. What kind of paganism do you want to practice. Is it Wicca? There are a plethora of forms of Wicca alone. Or is it Druidry? Asatruar? Voodoo? Santeria? Maybe you're actually more in line with the Hindu religion, or Buddhism? Have an affinity for the Greco-Roman period? There are groups out there that reconstruct the worship of those gods as well.
You can look to your ancestry. Most pagan religions revere their ancestors in some way. From there you can even further refine your search to Mediterranean, Nordic, Welsh, American Indian, Islander, etc. By reading about a particular path, you'll be able to recognize groups that utilize the very words you have been reading in the titles of their groups or members. Don't be afraid to ask outright. Even though most pagan religions are mystery religions, things like, “What kind of paganism do you practice?” are not kept secret for a true seeker.
Second, you want to figure out HOW you want to learn. How much of your life are you willing to invest in the change you want in your life? One day a week? Two? Three? Or are you only able to dedicate one day every couple of weeks, or even only once a month? Do you want to eventually be able to teach others? Every group teaches very differently. Some teach in very open formats, allowing students to float in at anytime. Others teach in sectional classes where one week you study this and another week you study something else. You may never see the same student twice or you'll see a core of the same students at every session. Still others are very disciplined, treating the course of study almost like a college class where specifics and ritual training can seem too rigorous for most. There are groups that don't teach per se but gather together to socialize more than anything else and plan on a holiday celebration if enough participants are available.
The variety of groups usually equals the variety of ways to be taught, so again YOU will have to do some research. Ask the questions.
You also need to know HOW a group celebrates its holidays, if they even do. Personally, I'm used to always being outside unless there is heavy rain, sleet, or heavy snow. If you are more of an 'indoor kinda person' that may not be right for you. The Wiccan students I've known have performed the parts of priest, priestess, quarter caller, etc. of every ring and are required to have memorized their lines. If you prefer something more free-flowing or loose, then there are plenty of groups that practice this way. Some regard robes and regalia highly and and others like to go sky-clad (that's nekkid, if you don't habla) and even others are more casually oriented where jeans and t-shirts are okay. What would you be more comfortable with?
Most of all, you have to at least meet the people and see if your personality clicks with the rest of the group. If you are not comfortable learning from a particular teacher then perhaps you are not supposed to be there. Ask the questions you have brewing at the back of your mind. If a group does something a particular way and you want to know why... ASK. They should have a good answer. Treat it like a job interview where you are looking to hire a teacher. Ask the instructors their qualifications. See if you can do a background check. Ask if you can attend a class or holiday celebration or other function before you decide on if it is the right group for you or not. If a group is registered with the government, ask why. If a group is not registered, ask why. Some groups are registered non-profit and others are not. Ask why. Some groups collect dues and others do not. Ask why. Some are taught in someone's living room and others are taught at a store. Ask why. Be comfortable with the answers you receive. If you don't get the answers you like, keep looking.
The group you belong with could drop into your lap tomorrow or you may not find it for many years. Don't despair. If you truly want to find a group to be with, it will come. Keep reading. Start to practice. Try a simple spell or two (I'll give you one.) Try a simple ritual. Don't let the fact that you're all alone stop you from pursuing your new chosen path. There are plenty of people you can consult until you find what you want. Practicing alone, or being a solitary, can be a good thing. There are some who prefer being in a community. The energy dynamic of solitaries and communities are very different, but neither is wrong.
Step One: Clean your candle.
Step Two: Carve what you desire to attract into the side of the candle. Depending on how wordy you get determines how you use the candle as your canvas. The most important thing is to BE SPECIFIC! (I did an attraction spell for a new boyfriend and I spent a month getting the wording down before I did the spell. I made the mistake of writing the word “witty” twice. My new beau, as perfect as he was, was a smart ass... witty, but verging on annoying.) If you use this spell to find a group (which is the whole purpose of giving it to you here) – you may want to say something like:
“I want to attract a Druid group in which to study with to further my connection to nature.”
Again, BE SPECIFIC!
Step Three: Light some incense and anoint your candle moving your hand deosil (clockwise or the “way of the sun”). Remember to visualize what you desire: see yourself already surrounded by those you want to study with. Imagine what it would be like at a holiday ritual. If you're an outdoor person, see yourself outdoors with fires while you are smiling and enjoying yourself. If you want a subdued, quiet indoor group, visualize a living room or dining room table with study materials around you. Empower the candle as long as you can with your visualization.
Step Four: Light your candle. Put in safe place. Let it burn day and night. When the candle is finished burning, you can collect the wax and wrap it with your chosen herb(s) in the orange or yellow cloth or bag. Tie the cloth closed with your string. Carry it with you like a charm: especially if you plan on socializing with other pagans - OR... you can bury or throw the remains away.
You can find this basic type of spell in almost any book on candle magic. One of my favorites is The Magic Candle by Charmaine Dey.
Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!
As we move into the waning phase of the moon where reversing spells are par for the course and encouraged to get rid of the blockages standing in the way of your progress in ALL matters, I thought I should share a quick story.
Many, many years ago, after being in a Wicca school for about 6 or 7 months, religious proselytizers came and knocked at my door. Filled with Wicca and confidence, I talked to them about their "religion" versus my "religion." I was haughty; I was overconfident; I was a bit malicious... so the Goddess saw fit to take me down a notch. She sent ants; lots and lots of Las Vegas red ants to bite the s*** out of my feet.
Watch the energy in which you empower your reversing candles. They are to help you, not take someone else down. That's for the Goddess to do. Try and claim her territory and no matter how righteous you feel, she'll remind you. Here's a myth about Arachne you may want to read.
Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!