Finding The Right Group
Finding a group is like playing the lottery sometimes. In order to find a group that is right for you or to gain more knowledge it is important that you are persistent.
Beginning the search:
First things first, remember that often the contact person is often the group leader and is a busy person. They too have a personal life, professional life and a life separate from the Craft. When attempting to contact them, send them an email at regular intervals. Do not be insulted if a response does not arrive, as soon you would like. In fact, do not be surprised if they do not respond to you right away or within the week. In this age of technology and instant gratification, we expect everyone to respond to our inquiries right away. This is not the case.
Some leaders often use a method to sort out the seekers that are searching on a whim. They realize that with the click of a search engine you have access to several groups. The sincere seeker though, will not give up. This is not a passing fad for them.
A good group leader will try their best to take the time (A very precious resource it is) to respond to every email. Often times many emails are from individuals that have little or no interest in sincerely learning the Craft. These seekers do not have the patience necessary to learn Wicca and often do not realize the time and energy investment that is involved with teaching a student.
When one can move pass the impact on only themselves but the impact that their wants and needs have on others, they can begin to knock on the door of the Mysteries.
Some teachers will not respond immediately and give it at least a week or two to receive a response. If you do not hear back from them, send out another friendly email expressing your interest. Remember to be polite as you are the one seeking to be a part of their group.
No group or teacher HAS to teach every one that inquires. This is a choice that they consciously make and can withdraw at any time.
Repeat this process to see if you have success. At no point should you to be rude to the group. This will close you out to the option of working with that particular group (and if they are from a larger umbrella, many of the associated groups).
When a teacher utilizes a method to scrutinize potential students, they are obviously looking for quality students and those that are willing to work with them for an extended period of time. This will benefit both the student and the teacher. It is only the sincere seeker that will find the rewards of working with a group and enjoying the benefits of bonding and knowledge gained from that.
What to do when you have found a Group:
When you do find a group and have established communication, it is time to meet one another. This can be accomplished over the phone, email, in person, etc. It is important to see if you are a correct fit for the group and they are a good fit with you. Groves, covens and groups tend to be a small tightly knit cohesive unit.
They do not want to welcome a new person to the group that may cause its unraveling. They most likely have worked for a long time in order to develop a strong group mind. One bad apple can cause unrest and discomfort with the other members. This is can be enough to dissolve the group especially if it is a relatively new one.
Meeting over coffee in a public place is a recommended event that you should participate in with your potential group. This gives you a chance to speak with your new potential teacher (quite possibly priesthood) face-to-face. This subtle interaction will give you key insight into many things about them, the group and who they are. You can see if your personalities “mesh” and if there is potential to build a strong lasting relationship with the group.
Even if you are not looking to become a permanent part of the group, you can see if they are a worthwhile group of individuals to spend time with. Of course, you cannot expect to learn everything about the group in one sitting (or it will be a long one). But from this meeting, you should be able to have enough information about them to make an informed decision to take the next step of working with the group or not.
During your meetings with the group, there are many warning signs that they may exhibit to give you clues as to whether or not you should continue to work with them. There are several things that you want to keep in mind when you are finding a group to work with. The process itself can be lengthy and you might not wish to work with every group you run into. Here are some red flags that should pay attention to:
Be on the lookout for groups that charge excessive amounts of money for teachings. Is this group/teacher truly promoting spiritual development or simply utilizing this as another source of income? Some groups take a modest fee in order to cover the costs of teaching. Some do not. If fees are charged, fees should be reasonable in comparison with what you would pay to take a community course, such as yoga, exercise, etc.
In addition, be alert for those groups that have unrealistic demands of their new members. Understand that this does not include an expectation of you to attend every ritual and class. This is normal so that the group will have time to meet and learn about the new member.
Unrealistic demands can include something such as; requiring new members to wait on a Priestess or Priest hand over foot. Requiring you to be at their every beck and call is excessive. In addition, there should be no humiliation of members and a healthy relationship between group members.
Stay away from groups that promulgate the use of drugs. If there are members of the group that use drugs privately that is an issue they need to resolve. There are those in this world that are addicts and need help. Each person will find help in his or her own time.
However, if the group is offering you drugs or requiring you to use drugs to be a part of them, this is a sign of a serious issue. The group may not be anything other than a social gathering of drug users looking for more to join.
Illegal or Unethical Acts:
Be weary of groups that participate in illegal or unethical acts. Anyone asking you to participate in these types of actions should be avoided altogether and reported to the proper authorities. This includes acts such as theft, fraud, etc. These types of actions have no place in the Craft and are not a part of it. After all, one of the major principles of Wicca is “An’ it harm none, do what thou wilt.”
If the group does not conform to the Rede, it may be wise to look elsewhere. In addition, sex should not be a requirement for participating within a group. If a teacher demands sex from the student, move on, this is not a group promoting spiritual development.
Isaac Bonewits put together a great resource tool for seekers looking for a new group. It is known as “The Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame, ” and a copy of the worksheet can be found on Witchvox. This is an excellent scale assessing the varying degrees of control a group will exercise over their members.
There is quite a difference between the commitment level required by a group in order to maintain a strong, cohesive relationship and to conduct training with a new member and that of a “cultish” group. It would be wise to stray clear of fundamentalist behavior as this can be a dangerous preview of what is ahead with your experience with the group.
Success at Last!
Once you have located a group that is a match for you, it is time to participate. Take as much time as you need to learn from the group. Take the time to build a relationship with the other members. From these, life long friendships can develop.
If you are unable to find a group at the current time, evaluate what is going on with your life and see if it is really the time to try to take on such an endeavor. Maybe it just is not the right time for you.
Patience and persistence though are the keys to finding a group that will surround you with those of like mind and spiritual practice.
Bonewits, Isaac (2001) . The Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ver 2.6):