Nottingham Pagan Network and organisations such as the Pagan Federation, The Centre For Pagan Studies or the Druid Network are very welcoming of newcomers to Paganism, while the internet and the "mind, body, spirit" section of any bookshop can provide rich sources of further information. On a local level there are many smaller groups often hosting social gatherings (sometimes called "moots") which are an excellent place to talk and learn about Paganism - here in Nottingham, for example, we have Nottingham Pagan Network, Nottingham Empyrean and Pagan Pride itself - so why not make contact with them (or meet them in person at Pagan Pride):

What Are Moots?
A Moot is a gathering where people meet to talk and socialise, different moots have different styles, some emphasize Pagan-related discussions while others have a more social flavour, either way moots are usually very welcoming and inclusive and are a great way to discover more about Paganism and Pagan people. Most moots are attended by Pagans and non-Pagans alike. At a moot you may meet people following differing Pagan paths: Witches, Druids, Shamans, ceremonial magicians, healers, diviners, astrologers, people who are interested in the more ecological aspects of Paganism or even the historical or academic aspects, as well as lots of people who may not be sure what kind of spirituality they are looking for and are simply curious - most moots welcome everyone wishing to socialise and communicate in an open and diverse environment. You may not always find someone whose outlook matches yours, but Pagans are normally very open and interested in other spiritual outlooks and you can usually enjoy a good discussion even if you don't agree or share others' beliefs.

What about Pagan Rituals?
Many Pagan groups hold rituals both in public and in private. Rituals are even more diverse in style and flavour than moots and many welcome non-Pagans but, unlike moots, rituals involve practical Pagan spiritual activities. Many public rituals are held at one of the eight seasonal holidays, or on a new or full moon, and you may want to do a little research beforehand on what the ritual is celebrating but public rituals are usually pitched at a "lowest common denominator" - ie. suitable for someone who knows almost nothing about Paganism - and are usually scripted carefully to explain what is happening and why and to make it clear how attendees can participate. As an attendee you are very unlikely to be called on to do anything other than whatever the rest of the group is doing, Pagan rituals are generally more participatory than many other religious services but if you feel some ritual action is against your religion or faith, or simply not for you, you will not be frowned upon if you politely step away or signal your wish to sit it out. If you are a non-Pagan at a Pagan ritual, be assured that no one will ask you to profess your beliefs publicly and, whether you are Pagan or non-Pagan, the experience will be, at the very least, interesting and informative, so long as you attend with an open mind and in a good spirit. Here's some more information for newcomers to Pagan rituals

Here are some helpful hints about attending Pagan moots and rituals:

•   Use as much common sense as you would at any other gathering of people you don't know.

•   Most events advertised give a contact phone number or email. Make contact beforehand and have a chat with the organisers so that they can give you an idea of what will happen at the event, what you should bring, what you should wear etc. and when you arrive they will often offer to look out for you and introduce themselves.  Organisers can also tell you how to find the event if they haven't got a specific venue booked as many moots are held informally in pubs or cafes and its always good to ask if there will be other new people there too.

•   If possible, go with a friend or arrange to meet an organiser for a chat before or as you arrive so that they can help you to feel comfortable before attending.

•   Have your own transport home sorted before you go - know public transport times and details in advance if you aren't driving yourself or being picked up by a friend or family.

•   Don't give out your address, phone number or other personal information unless you feel absolutely comfortable doing so (Pagans can be great folk, but they are still strangers to you) and don't give out other peoples' personal information to anyone without their permission.

•   Overt prejudice in language and attitude or even in jokes is generally a bad sign at any gathering, though there is sometimes a more relaxed and accepting attitude towards lifestyle choices within the Pagan community. Anybody who seems overly interested in sensationalism like sex or nudity, is probably a prat - just as such people are if you encounter them in any walk of life - at work, in a club, at a party.

•   Try not to preach your religious beliefs to others. Even if you believe everyone present is going to hell, you are still a guest and ought to remain respectful. Of course you can discuss your beliefs politely with others, just don't be persistent or judgmental.

•   Always listen to your intuition, if something feels wrong to you, then it probably is. Ask questions, there's no better way of gaining knowledge!

 ..  but the best advice of all is simply to be patient - finding friends and fulfillment in the Pagan community (like finding any other kind of friends) takes time, but is really worth it!

Nottingham Pagan Network