Are you part of a particular tradition?
I’m a Gardnerian through the Long Island line. Sometimes, we’re affectionately referred to as Hard Gards, which mostly means that we adhere very strictly to the tradition as passed to us by our elders. It’s also physically impossible for us not to roll our eyes when people mention Judy Harrow. It’s not personal—it’s actually involuntary. I like Judy Harrow just fine, personally.
Most of my Pagan life has not been spent as a Gardnerian, however. That’s home, but along the way I’ve been all manner of eclectic and had a several year stint as a member of a grove in Blue Star Wicca.
Can I get a vouch for you?
Of course. Extended family need only ask.
Holy crap, you’re in my state! How do I find other Pagans in Charlotte?
The only open group actually in the city limits is Moon Circles NC, run by Ali. Circles are held at Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church (pronounce the acronym like “puke”—they love that) once a quarter, usually on a sabbat. They’re informal, laid back, and can have anywhere from ten to forty people in attendance. It’s a great opportunity to find people. Most folks who attend are solitaries of some stripe or another, but there are often members from other nearby groups as well who show up. Check out the web page and meetup group for upcoming dates. Yes, I’ll probably be there, so come say hi.
Other nearby groups include Misfit Sanctuary (which describes itself as Strega) and North Carolina Piedmont Church of Wicca (which is an eclectic group). I have met and can personally vouch for both of these groups’ leaders as reasonable, non-murdering people.
Can you recommend any books?
Yes (check out my resources page). I’ve read all the books. Or, rather, all that I can without being a robot. Not because I’m insecure (I am, but it’s because of how I look in low-rise pants) and I need to assert that I have some authority behind my practice, but because it’s literally my job to read all the books. I work at a university and specialize in contemporary Paganism and witchcraft. At some point I managed to convince someone with a Ph.D. that I could teach this shit to college students. Now, Amazon and an assortment of publishers mail books to me as they come out, because it’s my job to read them and say useful things about their contents (I sometimes fail at this).
Having read all the books, I can tell you that there is no, one, perfect book. All of them are any combination of the following: incomplete, inaccurate, poorly written, hard to come by, convoluted, patronizing, too expensive, or shallow. All books are at least one of these things. You must read many in order to get anything like a complete picture.
I would love to throw book titles at you, but in order to do so I need for you to tell me, as specifically as you can, what you’re looking for. If you want an introduction to Wicca, tell me what you’ve already read, if there’s a tradition you’re interested in, and maybe even how old you are. Some people need Scott Cunningham to be part of their first foray. Other people need Philip Heselton. There’s no shame either way, but I’d rather recommend a book you might actually enjoy reading.
Do you have a Facebook page?
No. You can follow me on YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, or here on my blog, but you won’t find me on Facebook. I realize that I’m in the minority, but I find Facebook to be somewhat invasive and mostly uninteresting.
Despite my Internet presence, I’m a bit on the reclusive side. I don’t do a lot of interacting. I love it when people comment and send me e-mails, but I also have this tiny part of my brain that freaks out and shuts down when a lot of people talk to me at once. I see a full inbox and I’m like UNGHHHSHHNNGGG and have to go pour myself a glass of wine. So while I can manage tarot clients, academic and business contacts, and returning my mom’s phone calls, I fail at forums, listservs, and basically all social media that involves more than pictures of my cat and the periodic emoticon.
OMG HOW DO I BECOME A WICCAN
That depends on whom you ask.
Wicca, like most other religions you could name off the top of your head, has a variety of factions and, also like other religions, we don’t always get along with each other. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the various branches of Wicca before pulling any kind of trigger. It’s also wise to examine both your motives and your goals. Do you just want to practice magic (in which case Wicca may have nothing to do with anything)? Do you feel called to worship Wiccan gods? (Do you cringe a little bit at my use of the phrase “Wiccan gods”?) Do you want to be part of a group? Etcetera, etcetera.
My own Wicca is only available through committing to train with a lineaged coven, for example. But for other people, becoming (a different kind of) Wiccan might be more dependent on reading a lot of books (never a bad idea anyway) and performing some kind of self-dedication to your deity-of-choice. That’s your call.
But be aware that there are kinds of Wicca, each with different standards and procedures for membership. And we often disagree with each other. Loudly.
How do I become a Gardnerian (or other kind of traditional Wiccan)?
You locate a working coven with a valid high priestess (or a high priest, in some traditions) and petition to join their outer court (or whatever they’re calling it).
Be careful here. Be aware that Wicca is not a religion that seeks converts. The point is not to assemble a congregation. Wicca doesn’t want you. It’s on you to demonstrate desire and sincerity. This means you should have studied, you should have explored on your own, and you should have a relatively clear sense of what you want and why you want it. These are things you should express in your initial contact with the coven in question. When I get e-mails that are little more than, “I want to be a witch let me join your coven when’s the next meeting,” I don’t even reply. It’s better to have two or three serious, thoughtful people than ten whose “research” hasn’t taken them farther than Tumblr or Google.
Be willing to travel. Because overwhelmingly you will have to.
Don’t be a dick. Nobody owes you shit.
Beyond that, it’s all at the discretion of the coven leaders. Covens have personalities and certain students will do better with some teachers rather than others. It’s okay to ask what the expectations are and whether or not you might fit in.
The best place to locate a traditional coven is still, after all these years, WitchVox. Go to your area page and search by tradition (or whatever other criteria you may have). You can also check places like Facebook, but be aware that some of us choose not be vocal here. Amber & Jet might also be worth a shot, but, again, many of us avoid it.
How do I know if a group is legit?
Lineage can usually be verified by asking around. Inquire on Amber & Jet (etc.). Ask around and see if anyone knows the group in question. You’d be surprised what Google can turn up. Also, coven leaders should be able to tell you where their training come from. I’ve found that when people aren’t forthcoming, they’re often lying. That’s not to say it should be on the Internet for all to see, but if you’ve been attending outer courts and have a rapport with the group leaders, it shouldn’t be taboo to discuss lineage. If there are holes or if they claim to not know, there’s a fair chance there’s a problem somewhere (again, depending on the tradition).
As always, be mindful that one can have a respectable, vouched-for lineage and still be a piss-poor group leader and teacher. Settling for something simply because it’s all that’s available almost always ends in tears. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, it’s not worth it.