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It's been awhile since I've been on this site, but in my absence I've been doing a lot of study on Pagan paths and Witchcraft. I am at the point where I want to take a next step, but I'm not sure how to continue, so consider this post a request for some general advice. Keep in mind I have not yet attached myself to a particular tradition, but I want to learn more about them beyond what books can teach me.

I've been interested in everything under the umbrella of Paganism for a little less than a decade now, and have committed to finding a path beneath is that is right for me for the past two or three years. Currently, I've looked up some local covens and community groups (I live in the DC Metro area), but the only ones that attract me are too far to commute to. I desperately want a sense of community, friendship, and mentoring (IRL preferred) with other Pagan folk, especially since my Esbat-buddy is more often in Ohio for school now than she is near me.

So rather than asking ya'll whether I should power through and find a coven or remain a solitary for now, I want to ask you what questions I shoul ask myself to help me determine how I should proceed. If you have any personal experiences that adds to the topic, I welcome that, too.

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Well... expect a wide variety of answers to your post.... I can only speak from my own experiences.... and that is, that each time I got involved in some sort of community, group, coven, etc, it seemed to lead me down a road I didn't want to go down.

I gave up the hunt to try to find a group, or at least a working partner a long time ago, and once I ceased that search, it seems I've been happier, and more at peace with myself for it. It seems like trying to find that "perfect coven", is akin to trying to build that perfect "American dream", you know, with the picket fence, two story house, 2.5 kids and a dog that never pees on the rug.

Not saying it's impossible, just doesn't seem possible for people like me.... your mileage may vary though.

Best wishes to you.... watch out for the creeps and pagan zealots.

Good food for thought. I tend to go my own path (which is never so much of a path as much as it is a overgrown space I cut out for myself) and though I like talking to and learning with people, I suppose there are other ways to do that than through a coven.

As for the creeps and pagan zealots, dodged a few of those bullets already, but the extra warning is much appreciated!

Ask away, but, don't be surprised if the answers aren't unified.

Having grown up in a coven environment I have found that covens are like family. You love them all but don't like some of them sometimes and no one ever agrees completely about anything.
Which isn't what many people join a coven to find. They want a sister or brotherhood of like minded people that are not into individual beliefs and ideologies. Which to me sounds more like a cult than a coven.
Covens are learning experience's and those that join one should understand that. Actually most covens should understand that and also that the coven can learn from new people. Even people within the same basic belief structure has differing ideologies and that can be a good thing. Keeps the coven from becoming stale in my personal opinion with the exchange of beliefs and ideologies. 
So if you go for a coven find one that welcomes new idea's and one that is willing to teach you and is open to you teaching them. If you come across one that responds to your comment about your belief with "oh that's nice but we do it this way," and doesn't explain why or states we have "always" done it this way or that your idea is wrong...walk away quickly.

I'm aware that the coven experience isn't all agreement or uninterrupted happy times. You raise the point though that it's important to find an openminded group as opposed to a likeminded group. Part of why I am considering joining a coven is for the educative aspect (sharing ideas, knowledge etc.), but that's only possible if people are open to accepting you for who you are. As a teacher, I know the quickest way to shut a student down is to disregard their identities and beliefs, so it'll be important to keep this in mind if I do come across a coven.

It depends on what you're looking for. Firstly, would you define yourself as primarily devotional as most of what you do is in veneration of deities? With magick being secondary or non-essential? If so it might be worth looking more toward a Recon path even if you're not entirely recon (yet). Even if there are none local, many Recons find like minded individuals online and a sense if connection via the orthopraxic nature of traditional religion. There tends to also be greater exchange of knowledge with more reliable materials to pull from.

As for a coven, imo it's harder as an eclectic to find an eclectic coven that works and with which one meshes because of the emphasis on individualism - everyone has a completely different concept of what they're looking for even though they all desire similar things like a sense of belonging. Obviously it can and does happen but it's rather hit or miss.

For now it might be worth looking for a loosely defined group via a meet up who are willing to get together and hammer out a calendar in which each person takes a turn leading a ritual or class/discussion and see if things coalesce into something more defined.

Speaking from my own journey, I can understand you wanting to take the next step. I am fortunate enough that in NJ I had a lot of opportunities to meet other pagans and covens in my area, especially being right in the middle of Philly and NYC. i ended up trying out a lot of public events and found my home with my current coven, having been initiated during Yule this past year. 

I noticed you stated you studied a lot within the past few years and you're ready to meet others. Online is always a good place to look. Public events are great too, such as pagan pride day or public rituals by the covens closest to you. Or perhaps making a trip to others that are too far since those experts interest. Even if you decide it's too far to go constantly, perhaps once in a while would not hurt. Granted PPDs are usually Summer/Fall time, it's good to save them on your calendar. I found two you could go to.

http://www.dcpaganpride.org

http://www.nova-ppd.org

Another great tool would be Witchvox or Facebook since I've noticed a lot of them are advertising frequently on there. One other place I've seen is on Yahoo Groups. The newest one is Meet Up.

As far as finding out if you should be solitary or search for a coven, why not put intent into the universe to aid you in finding a coven or realizing you need to be solitary?

Thanks for your many ideas! I missed last year's DC Pagan Pride Day because of something for class, but hopefully this year can be different. I had looked at Witchvox, but Facebook or Yahoo Groups might yield some different results.

I did do a little Tarot reading and Dowsing divination, and came to the conclusion that right now I should keep my meetings casual, and wait a few years before I consider joining a coven. Very glad I did that, even though I honestly should have thought of that before!

Try one of the many "Meetup" group apps (like "Meetup") and setup your interests under the spiritual (there are a ton to choose from).  From there you should be able to find some group meets that will include like minded individuals that could lead you towards what you are looking for.  I know for a fact there are a ton of these in the DC area.  That could at least get you some leads on groups you may be able to mesh with.  It is also a safer way I think as it publicly advertised and the meetups are usually in public places (but not always).  Hope that helps! :)

Meetup.com, I have met several interesting people on there.

I once was a part of a group called Pagan Study Circle on Meetup and it was a pretty positive experience overall. It was interesting being somewhere between a coven and a coffee klatch. 

That sounds exactly like something I would be into. Gonna check Meetup for something like it. Although, tea might be a better alternative.

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