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Author Topic: Eclectic Covens/Ritual Groups  (Read 2098 times)

Anisaer

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Eclectic Covens/Ritual Groups
« on: September 09, 2016, 06:26:44 pm »
So give me the low down; the good, the bad, the ugly. I've been a solitarily practitioner for the extent of my pagan life but am really feeling the need for a local community. I'm aware that the probability of finding folks with the exact same tradition or pantheon is very slim. So what kinda mess am I looking at getting myself into?

Redfaery

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Re: Eclectic Covens/Ritual Groups
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2016, 07:00:11 pm »
Quote from: Anisaer;196011
So give me the low down; the good, the bad, the ugly. I've been a solitarily practitioner for the extent of my pagan life but am really feeling the need for a local community. I'm aware that the probability of finding folks with the exact same tradition or pantheon is very slim. So what kinda mess am I looking at getting myself into?
I was a member of an eclectic pagan circle for about a year. I'd say my experiences there were as good as I could reasonably expect. I met a few like minded people and had a lot of fun at the rituals. The group strove to be as inclusive as possible and by and large succeeded remarkably well. However, while they had a lot of breadth, this meant they lacked depth.
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Re: Eclectic Covens/Ritual Groups
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2016, 08:47:44 pm »
Quote from: Anisaer;196011
So what kinda mess am I looking at getting myself into?

 
That's going to depend - and it's going to depend on what you decide you're particularly looking for, and what you're not willing to compromise about, and what there is in your area (or the range you can drive to.)

What might be out there:
One of the complications is that - barring things like a UU Pagan-friendly group, which I'll come back to - many times, the more stable, better run groups tend not to advertise actively for new members. ('Better run' in the sense of 'stuff gets done, people show up, it's clear what the goals are and how you're getting there together' rather than groups that bog down in drama or talk but no action.)

Sometimes that's because you need to know someone doing things to get an invitation.

Sometimes it's because they're very passively advertising (an index card up in a local esoteric shop, a notice on Witchvox, but maybe no obvious website presence or Facebook presence or whatever).

(And this doesn't mean that a group that's more actively advertising is bad automatically! Just that there's probably people in your general area doing stuff you won't see unless you get lucky and/or put in some work to establish yourself as the kind of person who might do well with an invite to their thing.)

Depending on where you are, there may be open ritual circles for at least some Sabbats (Samhain is a very common time if there's going to be a public one at all in an area). There may be a Pagan Pride event coming up still in the area, and that's often a good place to get a feel for stuff in the vague area / ask people if they know of ritual groups / etc.

Besides Pagan Pride, Witchvox, any esoteric or New Age or herbal medicine stores may be sources of finding likeminded people.

If you can get to the Convocation conference (in Michigan in February), that may also be a good place to put out feelers for people geographically near you. (It gets people from a fairly wide geographic range, but a bunch of Michigan people go.)

If what you're looking for is 'community of like minded people to have a religious and social community that talks about related stuff' and are not too set on doing religious ritual of your particular variety with them, some people find the Unitarian Universalists a good option for that part (there's also a Pagan subcommunity: CUUPS. Both UUs in general and CUUPS vary *widely* congregation to congregation, so if there's a couple of options in an area you can get to, don't write off all of them because you don't click with one.) Some Pagans also find Quaker meetings work for them for this kind of community space, but again, it varies a lot meeting to meeting. (And some Pagans find Buddhist communities work for them).

There are also some other options - there was a sort of New Age focused community near me when I was in Minneapolis that wasn't my cup of tea, but had some tings that clearly worked for people who wanted some kinds of community practice. Basically, that intersection of 'reasonably openminded and flexible religious community that has enough community to do some stuff with that resonates with you'.

With the exception of maybe some UU stuff, you're not going to find Pagan-focused rituals any of those places, but you can get a lot of great community space to talk about issues like local issues, supporting people who are having a hard time, getting support yourself, finding friends who value thinking about religion and ethics and spending time on it, open-minded religious education for children, sometimes social justice activities or other volunteer options that improve the community, etc.

Things to watch for

Does the group have clear ideas about how to identify is someone is part of it, a guest, or not involved? Is there a process for joining?

A smaller group, especially one hosted at private homes, should have a process for you meeting them that starts somewhere public, doesn't push you to make a commitment too quickly, but does set reasonable boundaries around behaviour - like being on time for events, how to communicate if you won't be there, what stuff might get someone kicked out (and how conflict is handled in general.)

It's not uncommon for small groups to have occasional upheavals, but you're looking for things that are more "These people hit a conflict they couldn't solve, and some people left and a few months later, everyone's moved on" than "This sounds abusive" or "These people hold onto a grudge for years"

Larger groups (especially ones using rented church or community spaces, or that own their own buildings) can be a lot more flexible about people showing up or not, but you should still look for what the community standards are, and expectations.

If you're looking to do magical ritual (or other Pagan ritual of the form 'we do stuff and we expect change in ourselves and the world as a direct result') then you're going to want to vet more closely for 'do these people have a clue what they're doing'.

There are *lots* of different varieties of practice out there, and a number of them work well for at least some people. But some groups have practices that make my skin crawl not for 'this is evil' sorts of reasons, but 'this is an unsafe practice and no, I'm not doing that' reasons. (Also "That's probably not the highest risk thing I am doing in my life currently that might go badly, but I see no reason to take that risk if I don't have to." which is probably way more common. I have fairly high standards for 'ritual structures I am willing to support with my active presence' these days, but still.)

In contrast, the ritual group I am part of - which is one of the 'you need to know someone who invites you' variety - has people in it where *none* of us share an actual religion or specific ritual practices, but the group structure is set up in such a way that I can enjoy and get stuff out of what we're doing, even though it's almost always in a much looser ritual container space than I would do if I were doing group ritual in my tradition.  Part of this is that I'm very clear that if I said "Yeah, not willing to do this thing without more ritual structure to hold it", we'd be able to work something out I was comfortable with.

In reality, in most places, you're going to have a limited number of options in practice (i.e. groups you can get to often enough, doing things you're even vaguely interested in), so I usually tell people to give things a try, and be open minded about whether it will fill some of your needs in a way you can feel comfortable with. A group doesn't need to fill *all* your needs to still be worth your time - but you do probably need to be clear about what you want out of it, what you're not willing to do, and what stuff in the middle you can compromise about.

You mgiht find some of the essays on my website under the reaching out section to be useful to you (especially the stuff after the first section.)
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CoraFrost

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Re: Eclectic Covens/Ritual Groups
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2016, 01:07:24 am »
Quote from: Anisaer;196011
So give me the low down; the good, the bad, the ugly. I've been a solitarily practitioner for the extent of my pagan life but am really feeling the need for a local community. I'm aware that the probability of finding folks with the exact same tradition or pantheon is very slim. So what kinda mess am I looking at getting myself into?

 
Thank you for posting this thread. I've been feeling similar. I'll be over here lurking...
I\'m a white witch... but only between Memorial and Labor Day. ;)

Anisaer

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Re: Eclectic Covens/Ritual Groups
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2016, 07:53:30 am »
Quote from: Redfaery;196012
I was a member of an eclectic pagan circle for about a year. I'd say my experiences there were as good as I could reasonably expect. I met a few like minded people and had a lot of fun at the rituals. The group strove to be as inclusive as possible and by and large succeeded remarkably well. However, while they had a lot of breadth, this meant they lacked depth.

 
Thanks Redfaery, that's very reassuring! The part about expectations and depth is noted and makes total sense.

Anisaer

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Re: Eclectic Covens/Ritual Groups
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2016, 08:41:17 am »
Quote from: Jenett;196017
That's going to depend - and it's going to depend on what you decide you're particularly looking for, and what you're not willing to compromise about, and what there is in your area (or the range you can drive to.)



You've given me a bit to ponder on, Jennet, so thank you!

I'm in a few local (by local I mean a larger "quadrant of my state" area) web groups but they are pretty quiet. My intention was to put a call out to pagans within my smaller city/township (a lot of bigger events and more formal groups meet in the downtown/metro areas, which are at least a 30 minute drive for me) and see what kind of interest there was. Being on the outskirts of this area in a small town versus being more centrally located is my first complication.

Our local Pagan Pride fest is coming up within the next week and that's on my to-do list also but again; it will be a large gathering of people from multiple counties to the central downtown area. There are also two Druid groves, one in the suburbs south west of downtown and one in the next major city over. The same with UU groups/congregations. There's one downtown, but out in the sticks here we got one Methodist Church, one Catholic Church, one "Bible" church (whose parishioners are frequently found standing outside the gas station with signs proclaiming the end times), and one Wesleyan church plant that thinks itself the next Hillsong, if you catch my drift. It's pretty Lake Wobegone around these parts.

Quote
Basically, that intersection of 'reasonably openminded and flexible religious community that has enough community to do some stuff with that resonates with you'.

With the exception of maybe some UU stuff, you're not going to find Pagan-focused rituals any of those places, but you can get a lot of great community space to talk about issues like local issues, supporting people who are having a hard time, getting support yourself, finding friends who value thinking about religion and ethics and spending time on it, open-minded religious education for children, sometimes social justice activities or other volunteer options that improve the community, etc.

So yeah, basically this is the baseline of my expectations and what I'm looking for. I mean, occasional wheel-of-the-year focused ritual would be fantastic but I'm not going to hold my breath. Not being looked at sideways when I mention meditation or well-tending is the main goal.

My other complication is that my partner (who does not share my practices or beliefs) and I have two young children (under 3), so time and flexibility of schedule is limited. It's reasonable to me to find childcare for the older child but the baby is still to little IMO to be left with someone for more than 30-40 minutes. So he pretty much goes with me wherever. Thus any ritual work would need to be moderately informal or perhaps of the large group variety and open to the presence of a grunty but chill nursing babe.

Which also goes to your point about warning signs. I have no interest in meeting anywhere but publicly, at least until the establishment of some measure of rapport, direction, and boundaries.

 
Quote
In reality, in most places, you're going to have a limited number of options in practice (i.e. groups you can get to often enough, doing things you're even vaguely interested in), so I usually tell people to give things a try, and be open minded about whether it will fill some of your needs in a way you can feel comfortable with. A group doesn't need to fill *all* your needs to still be worth your time - but you do probably need to be clear about what you want out of it, what you're not willing to do, and what stuff in the middle you can compromise about.

I'm a pretty soft polytheist/Pantheist and a curious, open-minded person in general so I don't anticipate having a a problem with a variety of pagan expressions. As I mentioned, I think what I'm mainly looking for is a safe, flexible, open-minded community where children are welcomed and some celebration of the passage of time/seasons is maintained. I will think more here on what you've said and will draft a list of needs/wants in prefer risk order to help focus my search.

Thanks again!

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