By Patti Wigington, About.com
In modern Paganism and Wicca, there are far more people who practice as solitaries than there are people who have joined covens or established traditions. Why is this? It’s partly because most people who want to learn about Paganism develop the interest long before they meet a coven or trad that they’re interested in joining. It’s also because even if you decide you want to be part of a coven or group, it’s not always easy to find one. Wiccan covens and Pagan groups don’t exactly have a listing in the Yellow Pages, so you may have five covens right up the street from you, and you’d never know it.
Certainly, practicing as a solitary can have its rewards. After all, you can make your own guidelines and follow your own set of ethics. Worship can be done at your convenience, rather than according to a schedule dictated by others. As a solitary, you’re really under no obligation to anyone but yourself and your gods. Many people spend their entire lives practicing as solitaries, and never feel a need to join a coven or group.
Occasionally, you may find some drawbacks to practicing as a solitary Pagan or Wiccan. You might sometimes feel alone, like you have no one to network with or share ideas with. You may at some point feel like you’ve stagnated — it’s hard to figure out what the next step is if you don’t have someone to compare notes. Sometimes, it’s nice to just get feedback from like-minded people — someone who can help you when you’re wondering about what to do.
If you’ve decided to practice as a solitary — either temporarily, or in the long-term — here are some tips on how to have a successful experience:
Try to establish a daily routine. It’s easy to let your studies go by the wayside if you’re all by yourself, so establishing a daily routine will help you keep on task. Whether your routine includes meditation, reading, ritual work, or whatever, try to do something each day that helps you work towards achieving your spiritual studies.
Write things down. Many people choose to keep a Book of Shadows, or BOS, to chronicle their magical studies. This is important for a variety of reasons. First, it allows you to document what you’ve tried and done, as well as what works and doesn’t work for you. Secondly, by writing down your rituals, prayers, or spellwork, you’re laying the foundation for your tradition. You can go back and repeat things that you find to be useful later one. Finally, it’s important to keep track of what you do magically and spiritually because as people, we evolve. The person you are now is not the same person you were ten years ago, and it’s healthy for us to be able to look back and see where we were, and how far we’ve come.
Get out and meet people. Just because you’ve chosen to practice as a solitary doesn’t mean you should never come into contact with other Pagans or Wiccans. Most metropolitan areas — and a lot of smaller communities — have informal Pagan groups that get together regularly. This offers solitaries a chance to network and chat with each other, without having to form specific organized groups. Take advantage of resources like Witchvox and Meetup to see what’s in your area. If there’s nothing around you, consider starting a study group of your own for like-minded folks.
Ask questions. Let’s face it, we all need to start somewhere. If your read or hear something and you want to know more about it, ask. If something isn’t clear, or contradicts something you’ve already read, ask. Don’t accept everything at face value, and remember that just because one person had a particular experience doesn’t mean that you’ll have an identical experience. Also, keep in mind that just because you read something in a book doesn’t necessarily mean it’s valid — learn to ask whether a resource is worth using or not. Don’t be afraid to be a skeptic sometimes.
Don’t ever stop learning. Ask other people in the Pagan community — either online, or in real life — for recommendations about books and other resources. If you read a book that you enjoy, check the back for a bibliography and see what other books that author suggests. Remember that learning can take place by reading, but it can also develop from personal experience, and from speaking with other people involved in Paganism.