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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in solitary

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
The Solitary Path

Some people find comfort and deep learning in solitude. Others find inspiration and wisdom in the interaction with others, where the edges of our souls meet. I find a good balance between the two in my life, needing solitary reflective contemplation and the shared words, laughter and brilliance of my friends to encourage and nourish creativity. I have a strong circle of female friends with whom I share ritual practice, dance, creative crafts and good food, alongside weekends away, sometimes as "girly" weekends, sometimes as spiritual pilgrimages.

I have found ritual with these ladies deeply inspiring, and the bond that it creates reminds me of the sanctity within all our relationships.  However, I mostly practice my Druidry on a solitary level, literally walking the wild paths of the heath or deep into the heart of the forest alone.  In those moments I feel a deep connection to the world around me, whereas in ritual with others I feel a deep connection to them.

I think a balance is definitely required, in working both alone and with others. But here I shall speak of working alone, and the benefits that can be obtained from following a spiritual path with your own wits, instinct and inspiration to guide you.

I think that more of us need to spend quality time alone. I realise that in our society many people already feel alienated and isolated, but I wonder how much of that stems from not really being able to properly be with your self. I worry about the next generation, who have phones and tablets and a constant barrage of virtual communication that they can resort to anytime they are left alone. I remember a time when my husband was away for a work conference, and feeling the need for human company I went down to the local pub to chat with others from the village at the bar. There was conversation between the customers and the publican, but as soon as she left to go to the kitchen conversation died, and people went straight to their phones rather than talk to each other. I sat there, wondering what on earth has gone wrong with our society in that we cannot talk to each other anymore, but I digress.

The need for other human companionship can be strong, and it's not a need that we should ignore, being a social species. However, what I would posit is that we certainly do need to learn how to be alone, to listen to ourselves, to become attuned to our thoughts and behaviour in order to better understand ourselves. I strongly feel that when we understand ourselves, we understand others and can be in the world with more empathy and compassion. Often I have taken time out away from the world in order to better understand it - in this I feel a very strong connection with monastic traditions. By removal from the world and the thoughts of others I can better hear the gods, the ancestors and the spirits of place all around me. By spending time alone with my thoughts I learn the cycles that they go through, paying attention to them and really noting them.  With a little Zen, when we actually pay attention to our thoughts they don't control us as much as they might otherwise, offering us an opportunity to live with real intention instead of leading reactive lives.  

Spending time in meditation alone, learning how the mind works we can then begin to hear the songs of others as naturally our thoughts quiet down.  We have paid them attention, and now that our thoughts have received the attention they desired, they no longer crave more.  We hear the birdsong, we feel the sunlight on our skin, the wind in our hair where otherwise we might have been distracted by thoughts, feelings, emotions and situations.  The world opens up, and we are once again reminded that the world is more than just us - that we are a part of a beautiful living, breathing system where everything is inter-related. It is an exquisite gift.

Spend more time with yourself. If you can, spend half an hour, an hour or a couple of hours each day alone, perhaps going for a walk or meditating. If at all possible, go on a weekend solo retreat, or a week-long solo retreat in a place that inspires you, where you can really connect with what is important and with your own beautiful self. Learn to love that self for what she is, for who she is and connect with her, giving her as much time as you would your dearest friends.

When we learn to love our own self, that love will then spill out into the wider world, nourishing and sustaining others. 

For more on the solitary path, see my latest book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid, available now through Moon Books.


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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Big Ritual for Solitaries

The ancient Minoans had a lot of opportunities for what I like to call Big Ritual. The priesthood of the temples at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Zakro put on Mystery plays for the public, enacting stories from Minoan mythology at the solstice and equinoxes as well as at other festival dates. The cave shrines and peak sanctuaries were staffed by priestesses and priests who provided ceremonies for the public at the sacred times throughout the year. The more important inhabitants of the towns even had the prospect of attending large rituals within the temples themselves. But we modern folks don’t generally have access to that sort of event.

Sure, we have our altars and shrines at home, just as the Minoans and other ancient peoples did. But sitting in meditation with an altar is its own special kind of activity and doesn’t push the same buttons, if you see what I mean, as Big Ritual does.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
When 2 are 1

The beauty of nature can be found in the most unusual places and teach us the most unexpected lessons.  A few days ago I was returning to work from a lunch (half) hour spent going through the neighborhood thrift store.  I pulled into traffic and then had to wait at a long light.  While sitting there, I looked up and saw an amazing and unexpected sight.

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  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal says #
    I thought that might be the case but the dang light changed and I had to go back to work! It was, indeed, a case of 2 becoming 1.
  • Natalie Reed
    Natalie Reed says #
    What you describe sounds like part of the mating dance of eagles - eventually they would have clasped together and free fallen tow

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Being Solitary Can Be Dangerous

Pagan activities with a group of people can draw strange looks and even the occasional nutter who wants to “save” everyone.  I have discovered that, sometimes, practicing your spirituality alone can lead others to think you are actually insane.  I suppose I should add this to the list of differences between Traditional Pagans and Solitaries.  It isn’t that we are crazier than Traditional Pagans (at least I don’t think so), it’s just that Solitaries seem to be more suspect than groups.

Perhaps when someone sees a group of people doing something out of the ordinary it is viewed as strange but nothing more than “a bunch of wackos”?  Perhaps when the same behavior is practiced by an individual it crosses the line into “crazy”?  Let me give an example.

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  • Witch Nikki Porras
    Witch Nikki Porras says #
    REALLY? I have been Solitary for too many years now, I do not feel safe in GROUPS....which might contain some negative people....(
  • aought
    aought says #
    Always the conundrum, I think that those of us on solitary paths realize that there is danger in being isolated. But, it's difficu
  • Neda Marin
    Neda Marin says #
    Haha I absolutely loved this post! I am still very new in terms of self acceptance and awareness in regards to my own path. While
  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal says #
    Honestly, my biggest concern in this situation was that they would drop their child as they fled from me! I heard no screams of p
  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell says #
    Nice to run into another one of your posts. From this one I noted another one "Solitary does not mean Isolated" June 30, 2013 on w

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Being Solitary is a defining part of who I am as a Pagan.  I meet so many other Solitaries in my journeys and often find them feeling disconnected from the greater Pagan Community.  That is why I write this blog and speak on this topic whenever I can.  The specific topic I write about today applies to every segment of the Community because, when it comes right down to it, each of us are Solitary within our own minds, and that’s important to remember.  Even Traditional Pagans often feel disenfranchised or isolated, (and most practice away from their Covens as well as with them) so this article is really for everyone in the Community.

A few of you might be aware that I was involved in a very serious (and very stupid) accident in mid-December.  I quickly sent out a call to my friends asking for healing energy directly from my hospital bed.  I was in extraordinary pain when I sent that request and was badly broken.  One aspect of my life as a Solitary has been to shield myself from the energy of others in most instances.  Bad experiences from my past have made me very cautious about the energies I take in and (generally speaking) I never open myself to energy from people I’ve never met.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Its good to hear that the magic worked for you. Your title, "like a drop of rain" always reminds me of doing accidental weather m
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Glad to see that you're up and about again, Mr. Neal. I can be counted among the mostly solitary Pagans of the world, and I will

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I have spent decades talking to Pagans about the perceived “culture of poverty” within the Pagan Community.  That is the belief that “I can’t afford that and I never will be able to” or “I can’t go to that festival for $70, even though they will feed and house me for 3 days.”  I have spent the last year telling anyone and everyone who will listen that the Pagan Community needs a professional media corps.  If you’d like to see some of my arguments for why, check our website – 

I realized something a few weeks ago.  Pick the euphemism you prefer – “put your money where your mouth is”, “put up or shut up”, or “if you talk the talk you need to walk the walk.”  It is true that I spend a fair amount of money every year attending various Pagan events and festivals.  Like many of us, I also buy plenty of Pagan goodies from incense to altar tools to books, books, and more books.  All of those activities are good for our Community economy but really aren’t enough to help us get to where we need to go.

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  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Well said.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

It’s a sad fact that there are a few Pagans among us who have to hide their beliefs because it could cause them to lose a job or they feel their religion might be used against them in a custody battle, or an assortment of other legitimate reasons.  Before the explosion of Paganism into the public realm in the 1980s this wasn’t really an issue because most covens were kept secret and there was little public information about Paganism or Witchcraft.  Since that time, the term “broom closet” (borrowed from the LGBT community’s term) has grown in use.  It contrasts those of us who do not hide our Pagan beliefs (“out of the broom closet”) versus those who do (still “in the broom closet”).  As more and more of us stopped hiding our beliefs (which is not at all the same as advertising them), this term became more and more common.

As a Community, we have been very respectful of those who are “in the broom closet”.  We ban cameras at events, we hold events that are closed to the public, and often go so far as to keep secret the location of events, even from participants, until the last moment.  Much of this is a holdover from the days when Paganism was hidden.  It is also a legacy of basic practices of many covens, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we have simply incorporated this idea of “hiding in plain sight” into almost everything we do in some Communities.  I think it’s time for a new dialog around this issue.

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  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal says #
    Thanks for the comment Taylor. If I wasn't out of the broom closet before, I certainly "outted" myself when my first book came ou
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    I've been out of the broom closet for a long time and haven't suffered adverse effects. As you say most people don't care and if t

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