When I started my journey into witchcraft in 1995, the first book I read was called Ariadne’s Thread: A Workbook of Goddess Magick by Shekinah Mountainwater. A book which is now considered a classic in the realm of women’s spirituality and goddess worship.
I remember finding that book in a very limited religion section (the Christian section was over a book case and a half, if memory serves) of a small town library in Georgia. I’d been questioning my religion for some time and had a secret interest in witchcraft, magick, and the idea of goddess but until that day never realized there might be a way to step onto that path.
Ariadne’s Thread was a revelation to me. I could be spiritually rooted in the cycles of nature and the moon. Learning of the goddess felt like coming home. These ideas were liberating if I could find the courage to follow where Shekinah Mountainwater’s writing wanted to lead. Then, I did not have the temerity to step away from what was familiar to embrace something so different.
In the fullness of time, I did find the courage to claim my true self.
Shekinah Mountainwater’s book will always be a seminal part of my spiritual journey. Many other writers contributed then (Margot Adler, Starhawk, Silver Ravenwolf, Ellen Dugan, and Dorothy Morrison) and now (Jason Mankey, Erin Murphy-Hiscock, Laura Tempest Zackroff, Storm Fairywolfe, etc.)
However, A Witch Alone by Marian Green and Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner were the books which linked the ideas I’d gleaned from Ariadne’s Thread to the language which provided the definition I craved.
These authors helped me understand how to create my path as a Witch. They guided me in understanding I needed no one’s permission to practice the Craft. This is what it means to be a Solitary Witch or any other kind of Solitary Pagan Practitioner.
Let me share what being a Solitary means to me.
A Solitary Witch or practitioner is responsible for their own spiritual, magickal journey. They define their spiritual awareness, implement what is right for their path through feeling or personal gnosis, and do the necessary work of living their path.
Many people become Solitary practitioners out of necessity when their interest is piqued.
Why? They may have an interest in witchcraft or paganism but to their knowledge are alone in their local area. They may need to keep their path hidden from religious or non-religious friends or family.
Covens, groves, kindreds, and magickal groups can be hard to find or may be insular within their particular tradition or pagan community. This can make it difficult for a person interested in exploring a Pagan path or tradition to find others of like-mind or a teacher. So, people begin their spiritual journey into the Craft and/or paganism on their own. Some find their way into a particular tradition, group, coven or spiritual community over time, while others remain solitary by design or circumstance.
Everyone in my family is a solitary practitioner.
Car is a Druid. Ode is a Heathen. My son is a Hedge Witch. You could say we are a Coven of Solitaries. We come together for divination, to celebrate the Sabbats, or work a communal spell from time to time. We share our disparate beliefs and practices, discuss spiritual philosophy, and somehow manage to learn from one another.
The 3 Pagans and a Cat podcast is an expansion of what our family has always done. Talk. Share. Listen. Laugh. Learn. Now, we just happen to include a microphone every two weeks.
From experience, I can say being a Solitary Witch is not always easy but is my preference.
A solitary is both the student and the teacher. Solitaries must do their own research into mythology, correspondences for spellwork and ritual, decide if they want to perform divination and what method(s) work best for them. Solitaries learn on their own how to discern and call upon spirit allies or recognize different forms of spiritual energy. They must find the discipline to practice meditation, visualization and learn what it means to ground, center, and shield without the push of a teacher or group. A solitary has to figure out the basics of how to do everything and anything for their practice.
For this reason, I find it important to have a Grimoire (call it a Book of Shadows or whatever term is preferred) to record what I’ve learned, the types of magick or divination worked and the results, etc. Listen to our series called Building Your Book for helpful information on how to create one of your own.
For the solitary, the internet can be both blessing and burden. You can find a lot of good and useful information on the internet. However, you will find pages of information on different traditions, beliefs, philosophies and opinions about witchcraft and paganism which may contradict or challenge. A solitary must be able to follow what resonates for them, speaks truth to their mind and spirit then build their spiritual path and practice from there.
Here is a hard truth.
Being a Solitary Witch or practitioner means you will spend most of your spiritual journey on your own. I won’t deny, it can be lonely. For anyone coming out of a mainstream religion with an active spiritual community, accessible leaders or teachers, and definitive literature to study, the solitary path of the Witch or Pagan can seem unattainable or remote.
For this reason, my family and I take advantage of going to several large Pagan events sponsored in our state. For instance, Michigan Pagan Fest (June 20-23 and where 3PaaC will be streaming live from our 3 Pagans and a Cat YouTube Channel for the whole event. Subscribe to our channel and join us!) and Detroit ConVocation. We attend Grand Rapids Pagan Pride Day. All of these events feature spiritual enrichment classes, public rituals, and opportunities to meet other pagans.
We recommend searching out pagan events in your area (Google is your friend!). Going to these types of events helps our family feel connected to the wider Pagan community. We are also fortunate enough to live near Artes and Craft, the local pagan store owned by our friends, Pat and Paul which we talk about on the podcast and on this blog.
Free classes and/or rituals are offered at the store every weekend and by being a part of these activities my family and I have gotten to know people from the local coven and folks from the surrounding area who frequent the store. Admittedly, Car, Ode and I are lucky to have the store near us but living nearby is a recent development.
We struggled to find other pagans where we lived before moving close to Artes and Craft last October. A hardship echoed by many of the solitary members of the 3 Pagans and a Cat Facebook Group. Social media can help build connection but people still can feel isolated, especially if living in an area where there are a lot of mainstream religion folks.
Yes, there are pros and cons to being a solitary practitioner.
On the one hand, to be a Solitary Witch means I have complete spiritual autonomy. My path is my own and I create it in the way which speaks best to my spirit and how I practice the Craft. However, I have to really work at being part of the wider Pagan community both in real life and online. But with all my heart, I can tell you this:
I’d rather be a Solitary Witch than alone in a mainstream religious crowd.