Articles/Essays From Pagans
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On Death and Passing: Compassion Burnout in Healers and Shamans
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May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
How to Bond with the Elements through Magick
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April 2nd. 2016 ...
An Alternative Conception of Divine Reciprocity
Becoming Wiccan: What I Never Expected
The Fear of Witchcraft
Rebirth By Fire: A Love Letter to Mama Maui and Lady Pele
Blowing Bubbles with the Goddess
Magic in Sentences
The Evolution of Thought Forms
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
Lateral Transcendence: Toward Greater Compassion
Spring Has Sprung!
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Energy and Karma
Community and Perception
December 20th. 2015 ...
Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
The Dream Eater--A Practical Use of Summoning Talismans
Native American Spirituality Myopia
A Dream Message
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents
August 6th. 2015 ...
Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
July 9th. 2015 ...
Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The Magic of Weather
June 7th. 2015 ...
A Pagan Altar
A Minority of a Minority of a Minority
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Why I Bother With Ritual: Poetry and Eikonic Atheism
May 6th. 2015 ...
Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism
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March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
Historiolae: The Spell Within the Story
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
The Three Centers of Paganism
Magick is No Illusion
The Ancient Use of God/Goddess Surnames
The Gods of My Heart
January 1st. 2015 ...
The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
Pagans All Around Us
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
A Microcosmic View of Ma'at
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
Abandoning Expectations and Remembering Your Roots
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Group or Solitary: Which Is Best For You?
Article ID: 13502
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,605
Times Read: 4,770
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Author: Bronwen Forbes [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: October 18th. 2009
Times Viewed: 4,770
One of the biggest and most important decisions you will make as a newcomer to the Pagan path is whether to join an existing group of like-minded practitioners or go it on your own as a solitary. Of course, there will be other big decisions to make later but they are all dependent upon what you choose to do now.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that I am a big advocate of finding others who a) are further along the path than you and learning all you can from them and b) are folks your gut seems to trust (more on this in a future article, I promise) . Why? Let me give you an example.
At one time my group’s holiday rituals were open to any Pagans in the area who chose to attend (if they told us they were coming in advance) . Since our group was the only one and the first one in the area for some time, we attracted a lot of people who hadn’t ever been in ritual with other Pagans, even though they’d been solitaries for years.
A solitary came to one of our rituals, speaking to anyone who would listen about her “astral fiancé.” Apparently she’d met a man on the astral plane – but never in real life – and they planned to marry just as soon as she moved to Ireland and figured out which one of several million Irishmen he was. To further hinder her search, she didn’t know what his name was. At some point in the ritual they apparently got “married” (it was Beltane, after all!) because by the end of the evening she was referring to her “astral husband.” As an occasional writer of fiction, I wish I could make up stuff this good!
Does the idea of an anonymous “astral fiancé” sound a little farfetched? It sure did to us – especially when she quit her job, moved to Ireland, and (no surprise) never found him. Last we heard she was back in the States, flat broke, and living out of her car. If this woman had had some basic non-book training and/or regular contact with a group at the beginning of her Pagan studies, she’d have known better than to delude herself to the point of homelessness.
I’m not saying that every solitary Pagan is going to end up doing something profoundly stupid, spiritually-speaking, and end up living in a car, but just as you turn to a more experienced roadster when you’re learning how to drive that car, it makes just as much sense to find someone – preferably several someones – when you’re learning the Pagan basics. The book you study in order to pass the written driver’s test is good for learning the rules of the road, but you’re not going to get your license without a lot of supervised, hands-on experience. So it is with Paganism.
On the other hand, there are times and places and personalities that are better suited for solitary work. Perhaps you live too far away from the nearest group to make regular travel for rituals and classes impossible. Or maybe the local coven or grove sets off your “icky alarm” and you’d prefer to never be in their presence again, thank you very much. Or maybe your work life is too hectic and home life is too full of the needs of small children to be able to make a commitment to a group’s calendar.
Or maybe, just maybe, you are more suited to a spiritual life of quiet, private observance and contemplation and will, in fact, go farther on your Pagan path if you travel alone. I’ve met some fine people in my life for whom this is the case; I admire their personal dedication even though I can’t emulate it.
If it’s just my husband, my child and I in the house on a holiday or full moon, we’re not likely to have a formal ritual – much like my widowed mother-in-law who will cook up a storm if a few of her children or grandchildren are expected for dinner but “just can’t be bothered” to cook if she’s just feeding herself.
So how do you know if you’re more suited for a group or a solitary practice? Ask yourself the following questions. Your answers should tell you what decision you need to make to better your chances of a satisfying spiritual future.
Is there a group nearby that I like and trust? If the answers are “yes” (Yes there is a group, yes it is nearby, yes I like them, and yes I trust them) , and they have space for you, by all means petition to join. However, if there is even one “no” (There’s a group nearby but I don’t like them and wouldn’t trust them to teach me how to walk my dog, much less take an active role in my spiritual development) , you’re much better off on your own.
Do I have the personal discipline to actively practice on my own? I freely admit that I do not. I need to commit to a group and the group calendar to actively, integrally observe even the basic holidays and moon phases. And that’s okay – I’m not the only one!
However, if you can – or would even prefer to – make a personal commitment to make small observances to the Gods at this time every day (or week, or holiday) and know you’ll keep that commitment, then I say good for you! You have at least some of what it takes to be a solitary.
Am I willing to ask for help or a reality check from time to time? I don’t think it ever occurred to our above-mentioned Beltane guest to ask anyone online or in person if she was deluding herself or if her astral experiences were real. When my husband was first starting to study Paganism, he made a point of seeking out community elders and experienced practitioners at local Pagan festivals and asking them questions. Even though these good folk weren’t his formal teachers, they were more than happy to answer him.
If you join a group, your High Priest or High Priestess will provide help and reality checks – that’s their job. If you choose to go solitary, you should consider attending a nearby gathering, Pagan Pride Day, or workshop at a Pagan store once in a while just to touch base with the rest of the community. I’d hate for you to drop everything and move to Ireland if it’s all in your head.
Ultimately, only you can choose whether to join a group or strike out on your own at the beginning of your Pagan life. Only you know your geographical, work, family, and personal circumstances that will all factor into the decision.
Whichever way you choose, I wish you all the best. In some ways, we are all alone – the Path is different for each person who walks it; in other ways we are all part of this wonderful, awe-inspiring, sprawling Pagan community.
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
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