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Solitary or Coven: Is One Better Than The Other???

Posted: January 7th. 2007
Times Viewed: 2,647

If there is one question that sharply divides the Wicca community, it is that of whether or not solitary training is as valid as the training received by a well-known and respected coven. There are many practicing witches who have spent most, if not all, of their formidable years within a coven and are fully convinced that there are no other true forms of the Craft available and therefore no other way for one to actually become a witch.

This is a sticky point to debate as no one can truly say for certain what makes an actual witch. And, there is always the ever-nagging question of where the first witch came from if indeed it does “take a witch to make a witch.”

Solitaries will state that becoming a Wiccan and even a witch is a calling and something that one simply is and also decides to be. Solitaries maintain that the god and goddess make or designate witches from others in the mundane sense.

There is also the argument for being a natural born witch and even possibly having a hereditary distinction. There has been a recent resurgence in this line of thinking as more information about Pagan lifestyles and Wicca has become available both online and on bookshelves. Eclectic Wicca is now its own tradition and the practitioner can follow a free form of worship and magick as well as choose to join a group or practice the path alone.

Many coveners are convinced that without proper training and passing on of a lineage and certain secrets, full potential and a true form of the Craft can not be attained by a solitary. From this point of view, there is the rationale of not reinventing the wheel every time someone wants to perform a ritual. Why use a free form of worship and magick that has not been tried and true when there are many proven paths to successful spell crafting?

Those in a coven also see the advantage of the energy that has been impregnated in the traditional rituals that have been used many times over as a part of magickal workings. Lineage and traditions are thought to build energy and power as well as preserve a way of life and thinking.

There are definite pros and cons to both the solitary and the coven aspects of the Craft.

When considering solitary, there are many perks such as a solitary being able to do every ritual and working their own way in their own timeframe, learning at their own pace, doing only what works for them and editing out those things that do not, having a deeply private relationship with nature and the divine, general personal freedom, total mobility, self initiation as they choose, and the possibility of developing their own tradition.

However, all this freedom comes at a price, meaning that a solitary will have to gather all their own resources, will not have access to group teachings or support, and will have to be a totally self motivated and dedicated person.

A witch working in a coven will have access to many teachings and teachers, access to coven resources, will be working within and tend to have a sense of community, should experience spiritual support, and there is always power in numbers. The flip side to this coin is the fact that there is no autonomy within a coven, no mobility (if you have to move, the coven does not move with you), one is held to coven rules and regulations, traditions can be rigorous, there is a great deal of secrecy involved with coven life, and the group initiates and advances a witch as they see fit.

Historically speaking, covens are considered a relatively new phenomenon. With no written or artifact history of witches working in groups until the 1950’s when Gerald Gardner’s book "Witchcraft Today" came out (this is excluding the accounts from the Salem Witch Trials as most of those persecuted were believed to not be witches at all, just victims of greed and persecution), it would therefore appear that the history and lineage of the solitary witch is much older. The solitary path is something that definitely needs to be considered as a valid option by coveners, just as solitaries view coven work as an option.

Solitary witches are witches in their own right and quite possibly part of the oldest forms of Witchcraft. One of the oldest and most classic solitary witches was the Witch of Endor who was noted in the Bible starting at Samuel 1.28. Saul sought after this witch for divination before a battle he was to fight. He went to her out of fear of the future, even though he had apparently been a leader in the persecution of witches in his time.

The Witch of Endor was alone in her path and her trade. There are also many other fiction and non-fiction versions of the solitary that appear and reappear throughout history such as Circe, Medea, Kerridwen, Lilith from Jewish folklore, Morgan le Fay, Dame Alice Kyteler, Merlin, the evil Queen from Snow White, the fairy godmother of Cinderella, and both witches in the Wizard of Oz. There are certainly many more that could be added to this brief list from many different sources.

In short, the path of the solitary witch is that of the storybook witch, the wise woman, the hermit, the folk healer, the herbalist, the druid, the midwife, and the shaman. It is a proud lineage of its own, as valid as that of any other tradition or coven.

The emphasis here is that both paths have validity to them, and within a community sense, it is a shame that a spirituality such as Wicca that claims to value and honor diversity has sects in it that will maintain, a lot like Christianity and Islam, that their way is the only way to truly be or become a witch.

The Pagan and Wiccan community should strive for harmony. There should be recognition and credibility given to the diversity that exists within the community.

Some witches may be born, some called, and some made. Some witches may work within a coven and some choose to walk their own path alone as a solitary. All are witches. All are Pagans.


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