Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is paganism a solitary path?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately due to recent experiences in my life over the last few months.  About three years ago I joined an online group as a way of broadening my horizons and learning from others who follow this path, or more specifically a wiccan path, but I found that after a while I left due to the inevitable power plays and bitchiness that seem to occur within a group setting.  More recently I joined a physical coven in an attempt to once again experience this path in a group atmosphere - I have been a solitary since I was 15, I wanted to see what working in a group was like - and sadly I have been disappointed once again as group dynamics have led away from the practical application of working together.  And I have seen others who have broken off to do their individual journey having grown from the group experience.  It has all left me wondering if this path can really be followed in a group experience.

Firstly, many come to some form of paganism wanting something that isn't a "follow these rules, believe this way" scenario, and so it seems that the idea of a group who attempt to follow a set of beliefs and practices could have its flaws.  Maybe its just my experience, but as soon as you formalize a group like a coven you have to set some ground rules, structures (ritual structures etc) and boundaries that will probably not mesh perfectly with all the members beliefs.

Secondly, we are generally questing for our own knowledge and spiritual connection on this path - this is a solitary undertaking, nobody can tell us how to undertake this journey and while part of your journey may be taking on the group experience most I know who do this still practice their own way at home.

Thirdly, there is the politics and group dynamic aspects that are inevitably part of any group.  Not only the who should be in charge, who makes the final decisions and the power plays that can result as people who feel they have a right or greater knowledge to lead disrupt group harmony.  But there is the communication aspect, the trust and openness that is needed within a group to ensure that negative energies and misunderstandings (that are bound to occur) don't dominate the activities and practices.  All this makes working energies and practices as a group difficult.

Maybe I'm coming from a negative place right now, but I've done a lot of soul searching in the past month on whether to let my group go and return to my solitary roots.  It was an experience I needed at the time and I came away with life lessons I will learn from, but I look at my path, my journey and I see that I am the only one who can walk it, I direct my feet and I will uncover its mysteries on my own.


  1. I think it varies from time to time, place to place, and the people involved at the time. The first coven I was in seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, but then the coven leaders/hosts went back into the closet after a year and I've bounced around ever since. Sometimes I run into good groups (for a while before the personal power plays emerge) or I'll run into the wrong-from-the-get-go crowd. I'm mostly happy solitary, but sometimes I long for a good group setting.

  2. I'm pretty up-front and vocal about my bad coven experiences. I tried 3 different covens...each one had some level of ego-tripping and power playing. The worst experience was one where I was physically assaulted by one of the "Elders". When I founded my own coven, it was with the idea that I would have more control over allowing abusive people in my inner circle. We're a small group, but the girls who have embarked on this path with me are outstanding individuals. Our group has grown at a slow and steady pace and so far we've been able to conduct business with a spirit of cooperation and compromise.

  3. Great post. I've experienced many of the things you have spoken of, and it explains why many covens are short-lived. It is inevitable a lot of the time that some sort of breakdown occurs- usually I find it's the leader that needs to take the higher ground and handle things in a mature and responsible manner, but unfortunately no-one is perfect and this can't always be the case. I think there are benefits in both solitary and group work and that groups come when you need them and go when you don't. Good luck in your journey!