Confessions of a Solitary
by Lisa (Wild Rose) Harris
I contemplated the full moon from my position under the “Triple Goddess” tree. The mountains seemed to glow from the magick of her light. The sounds of the night filled the air: the river’s gentle yet powerful sound enveloping the canyon, the haunting sounds of a great horned owl and coyotes singing from the ridge. The tree in the pasture we had chosen for our site was like no other I had ever seen. She was composed of three trunks of separate trees intertwined, which over the years had grown together to become one, rather than three, trees. I could feel her energy, and anytime I needed to meditate, contemplate or ground myself, I would go to her. Yes, the time and place was right, and there was true magick in the air.
The chilly autumn air of the Sierra Nevada foothills penetrated every part of my body, yet I did not shiver. I looked at my companion, my friend Pauline, who was the only other practitioner of the Craft I knew of in our small mountain town. She was bursting at the seams with energy. We shed our robes, letting them fall to the ground. Neither one of us made a habit of public nudity, yet we wanted to pledge ourselves to the Goddess, naked and unashamed, as we had come into this world. The pasture was well out of view of the road and the few houses that were around. That Samhain midnight, under the full moon, with the animals as witness, was the night I pledged myself to the Goddess and to the Craft.
Seven years later, I am still a solitary. I have met friends, teachers and organizations along the way, but none that I could dedicate myself to with “perfect love and perfect trust.” One self-proclaimed “teacher” from New York, whom I met through the same pagan pen-pal listing where I found my friend Pauline, was obviously interested in using the Craft to manipulate young, innocent pagans into sexual situations, long distance if need be.
When I broke off contact, after catching on what this guy was about, I was deluged with creepy dreams, ravens at my back door and other phenomena that I could only interpret as psychic attack. I did some research on protection spells. Finding nothing I liked, I created one of my own. The object I made and buried near my front door was so strongly charged that the energy it radiated caused a buzzing in my hands that reached up through my arms and into my chest. The words I spoke came from a place somewhere inside myself I was not familiar with. They were powerful and they actually rhymed (which is surprising since I have no poetic talent whatsoever).
Two weeks later, I received a letter from him asking for help. He told me that he was in jail after being lured into a sting operation and arrested because of his religion and his very high-profile promotion of the Craft. He told me that all of the pagan leaders had “turned their backs on him.” I knew that his own energy had turned on him and brought him to justice for what I suspect was some sort of sex-related crime. I burned the letter.
My first experience with magick was swift and strong. I vowed never to misuse power, because when bad energy turns back the power is amplified. I was lucky on two counts: first, that I had recognized the psychic attack, because I had experienced psychic phenomenon ever since I was a child, and second, that I realized there are those who would manipulate others in the name of their god in any religious movement, not just the Craft. I continued on my path, a bit wiser than I was before.
As I have continued, the magick I have created on my own has been so powerful that it has frightened me on occasion. Knowing the power that one can raise and direct has made me ever vigilant about only doing magick for the right reasons. I won’t even send healing energy to someone with out their explicit permission. I also teach my daughter that magick should not be done for selfish reasons, as what we set in motion tends to take on a life of its own. Karma works.
There have been times when I’ve wished that I could become part of a coven and do great magickal and celebratory works with others. There are other times when I am grateful that I have chosen a path that frees me of hierarchy and dogma. To me, the thought of earning degrees and having someone else “bestow titles” on me is too much like the Christian faith I was raised in. I entered the Craft as a spiritual quest, a way to connect with something that I understood, rather than trying to fit into someone else’s religion or dogma. My beliefs would put me at odds with some traditions. Some people may want and need a specific structure and system; I do not do well in such a system. I can’t bring myself to profess to believe in something unless I honestly believe and agree with every fiber of my being. That’s difficult for me to do in anything organized.
Another difficulty I have with working groups is just that, that they’re groups. My personal philosophy on paganism is that most “witches” were solitaries, doing kitchen magick and healing. I believe that this magickal work and connection with the natural world was an everyday way of life, and that witches got together mainly for seasonal festivals and rites of passage. I tend to agree with the theory that coven structure, as we know it, did not enter into the picture until later, during the Inquisition and the like. Since none of us were there at the time, we can only do our best to follow the path as we see it.
Now that I have a family and want a spiritual community for my daughter, I’ve addressed the group aspect of the Craft differently. We belong to a Unitarian Universalist Church in Tacoma, which has no dogma, only basic principles that I can wholeheartedly support, and which give my daughter the freedom to find her own path. When I arrived at the church, I immediately asked who ran their Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) chapter. “Where are your pagans?” I asked the board president. He explained to me that the group had gone defunct and that there wasn’t anyone who had the energy to reinvent the group.
I couldn’t abide by the idea of a Unitarian church without a strong pagan presence. Earth-centered spirituality is one of the many traditions the church’s practices are based on. The first thing I did was to write an article responding to a sermon given by the staunch humanist minister who was serving at that time. It was a pagan view on humanism, which challenged the congregation to find magick and sacredness in their lives, rather than just intellectual stimulation.
Once I stirred the pagan political cauldron, I found myself planning a winter solstice service, and soon people began saying that my energy was just what was needed to get things going again. One day I noticed that I was being introduced to new members as the “chief pagan,” and I was being referred to as “priestess.” I now facilitate the church’s Earth Centered Spirituality Group, which leaves me in the odd position of being a solitary leading a group.We get together to study and celebrate seasonal festivals and rites of passage, as I believe our ancestors did. We also reach out to the congregation and community to teach them about the wheel of the year and to dispel myths and propaganda. I didn’t set out to lead a group; it just happened.
My solitary work has taken a back seat, now that I spend so much time and energy facilitating meetings and rituals. Most of my personal practice involves cleansing, purifying and healing, while the seasonal celebrations seem to fall in with the group. I also recently began networking with other groups in the area. Since I have been thrust into a position of leadership and most of my “knowledge” and practice comes from books and personal experience, I feel that it is important to go out and learn from others. I was afraid that I didn’t have the right to lead a circle or study group. What I found in the community was wonderful people to celebrate with, and a feeling of belonging. I also found the rituals I wrote and organized weren’t any different than anyone else’s. I watched other groups spill, trip, forget words, read from cards and make the most of it just like we do. It didn’t hurt the rituals; it made them real. The Goddess loves a good laugh.
My practices have changed over the years. Rather than chanting under the Triple Goddess tree as a rural pagan, I find myself working indoors as a Northwest city pagan. I do healing work for family and close friends, honor the seasonal cycles with a family altar in the living room and occasionally find time for divination. Much of my time is spent at my computer researching and writing our next ritual. Since I never seem to be able to find a ritual from written sources I like, I write them myself.
For me, working ritual that I have created myself or with the help of others gives me more of a sense of connection than reciting something from a book. My wonderful, supportive husband, who is just now embracing his inner pagan, likes to tease me by calling me “Hemingway” when I write. I decided a long time ago that I am looking forward to becoming a very eccentric old woman, and so as not to shock anyone, I’m starting early. I like to write ritual, articles and homilies naked while drinking a glass of Merlot.
And so the wheel turns. It begins under a tree in the mountains and is continued at a keyboard in the city. Some things stay the same. I still ritually purify the house after an illness or argument. I still infuse candles with herbs, oils and energy to use in healing or personal and spiritual growth. Most of all, I try make spirituality a part of my day-to-day life, not just something I do at the full moon or at a Sabbat.
Although part of me still hopes to someday meet that group of people with whom I fit perfectly, I guess I have the best of both worlds, my own personal relationship with the Goddess and wonderful new friends to celebrate with. As I close this article, I raise my glass to the goddesses and gods everywhere, and to those who explore, celebrate and honor them in whatever way they see fit. So may it be.