I’d like to preface this post by saying that I suffer from (minor) diagnosed social anxiety, and have noticed a slight paranoia when it comes to other people – some of the situations mentioned here might be coloured in this light, though I’ll apply as much self-awareness where possible in regards to this.
I joined a new pagan moot this last summer. They’re private, not pagan federation. I’ve posted about them before, and we differ in some views and approaches but otherwise seem to get on fine. However, at our last meeting initiation ceremonies came up for discussion. The general consensus was that initiation ceremony is essential for practising as a Pagan, which I take issue with but understand the value of to some extent. Others in the group also took some issue with it. Then I brought up my concern that, due to my isolated living place, I may not have the opportunity for an initiation for a long while. I was surprised when some of the group offered to train and initiate me themselves.
This, of course, is an amazing and unsought opportunity that I can’t help see as Spirit giving me a nudge to get active again – I’ve been in a bit of a hibernation of practice for a long time now. However, I really wanted to run this all by some other pagans, as I felt some red flags raised that are perhaps subjective and specific.
For one, I’m very new to this group. This is a smaller issue, because I do respect and trust most of them. There’s one individual who gives me off vibes, but most of them are lovely and supportive people.
The other was the intensity with which they valued initiation. I can’t take fault with that, but my vibe from it was that they might undervalue me as an individual for not undergoing that kind of training. I now feel that some kind of guidance is important, but I was planning to take the OBOD course. I’m now considering just starting the OBOD course, as I do trust them quite a bit and have heard good things. This brings me to my next concern.
They seem to practice a kind of paganism perhaps not right for me. They’re quite literalist in approach and practical, whereas I’m very much a day-dreamy meditation type more interested in peace-on-earth type work, rather than overt practical witchcraft. I’m concerned I’ll be focusing on a type of practice I’ve already had experience with and ruled out as not my cup of tea. They said it wouldn’t be path-specific training, but I can’t see how their approach could be alienated from training such as that. Maybe I’m approaching witchcraft totally wrong, but it seems to me more heavy, structured and maybe more intense than I’m used to. In reality, I may well be overthinking it and get along fine with that practice, it being a regional variation and different from what I’ve previously experienced.
In general, I feel much less encouraged or inspired by being in this group, than I have in previous ones. It’s not that they aren’t inspiring people, but they’re not as connected I think with modern approaches to paganism and so tend to value traditional ways of being. One of the early texts I read in paganism was feminist witchcraft books, whereas one of the members recently sort of denied the gender-based issues previously extant in pagan circles in the 80s (which I only know about because one of the women there talked about it).
I’m also very cautious of bringing myself into too heavily literalist approaches, because I have certain mental illnesses in my family that I’m always careful about. There’s nothing wrong with literalism, but I know my own mental space and how delicate it can be. When I brought up the issue between my OCD and religious ritual, where I have to draw the line for my health and wellbeing, one of the members heavily downplayed my concerns and seemed condescending to me, but again that may be my social paranoia reading into it.
I get along well enough with the group as friends, however I’m not sure I feel comfortable with something this intense. The tone, however, is that it makes no sense to call myself pagan without this training. It’s a tone I’m sceptical of, yet to a certain extent I agree that having a stable structure would give me both more confidence and power as an individual. I also can’t deny that I’d benefit from having a teacher in-person, as opposed to seeking the OBOD course and having an online mentor.
To a certain extent this is a personal decision. But I wanted to run this by other pagans because it would be valuable to see if others feel those concerns to be red flags too, or if I’m overthinking things. I might well be projecting my own insecurities about having the right to call myself pagan, when I practice so little. They’re a really friendly group who celebrate variety and difference in practice and belief like any group I’ve been in. They know I’m interested in Druidry and would never ask me to practice anything else. I think they’re just trying to be helpful, and the second initiator I get along with just fine and admire quite a bit.
I’ve tried to keep the details of this as anonymous as possible for obvious reasons.
Thanks to anyone with advice or insight.