Pagan Communities

I met my first Pagan group at a local coffee shop.  After reading books and participating online I realized I was missing something – an in-person community that shared my beliefs.  I wanted to be part of a community that I could learn and grow with.
I found the group on meetup.com and went to their next public meeting.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect or what they would be like.  I was extremely nervous.

I ended up meeting a wonderful group of welcoming people who were ready to help a new Pagan find his way around.  Since that initial meeting I’ve been to several other meetups with them, including participating in a Litha festival over the summer.
Meeting people online can be great.  It really is possible to develop strong relationships over the Internet that help bridge the gap between those looking for others like them.  However, a signpost for me was how rewarding it can also be for Pagans to meet and know other Pagans in person, especially when new to the path.
Being part of a good local community adds a richness to our experiences that is hard to replicate online.  I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met in person, from simple things like how to pronounce Samhain to visualization techniques to use when casting circles.   They’ve provided direction and pointers to other resources, such as good local shops, other groups to meet and work with in the area, and a book library for members of the community to use.
I’ve also met other groups since then.  I’m fortunate to live in an area with several active and open Pagan communities, each with its own unique character.  As different as they are, they’ve all been extremely welcoming.

I do know some, however, that have had negative experiences with the groups they’ve met.  This can be hard for someone new to the path.  What I’ve learned, though, is we have to keep looking.  There are other groups out there.  Finding the right group of people can make a huge difference in how we experience being Pagan.
In a time where so many are still “in the broom closet”, it’s also encouraging to know some who aren’t.   The people that host these groups put themselves in a public position to help and develop their Pagan community.  They take time out of their schedules to plan events which opens their lives and sometimes their homes to strangers.  Our community grows stronger because of them.

What was you first experience meeting other Pagans in person like?  What made you finally log off and look for them?  Any words of encouragement for those nervous about meeting people face-to-face, or those that had a bad experience with a group?