FOR SOLITARIES ONLY by Brandy Williams

                       FOR SOLITARIES ONLY
                       by Brandy Williams

                          NUMBER THREE

     "Working  alone  is  not ideal.   Opening up  the  starlight 
vision  is  much more difficult without the support of  a  group.  
Those  who  travel the uncharted pathways of the mind  alone  run 
more risk of being caught in subjectivity." 
     Starhawk, Spiral Dance.

     "Anything  is  learned better by  apprenticeship  than  lone 
study...  We  strongly  recommend that the  self-initiate  should 
start  on  the path with a working partner or as one of  a  small 
     Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches Way.

     These  are  particularly  clear examples of  the  muths  and 
assumptions surrounding solitaries.   I might summarize them like 
     --A solitary tends to live in a fantasy world,  unchecked by 
other, possibly wiser, heads.
     --A solitary can't do genuine,  working rituals,  since that 
skill must be learned from an experienced practitioner.
     --A solitary is lonely,  handicapped by loneliness,  waiting 
and longing for the right group to join.
     These aren't things we say about ourselves,  and they are so 
far  from  my  experience I'm beginning to believe  they're  what 
others imagine we are.
     Some  solitaries I know are beginners,  and some of them  do
want to find a group to learn from.   Some don't,  few are desparate,
and none self-identify as handicapped.
     I'm a book person.  I've learned cooking, writing, gardening 
and  ritual  by reading manuals on the subject and  then  experimenting.

Solitaries tend toward the self-educuated, though most
of us have participated in at least some open circle rituals.   A 
ceremonial  magician recently demonstrated to me the  limitations 
of book learning:  dance, chant, and physical poses are difficult 
to learn from the printed page.   He allowed me to witness one of 
his  rituals,  and I'd given myself the background to pick up  on 
what I'd been missing.
     There are alternatives to formal teacher-student and working 
circle  relationships.   There  is a continuum  between  solitary 
practitioner and closed group member.  The pagan community stages 
festivals,  open circles and workshops,  all of which expose  the 
beginner  and the lone worker to ritual techniques and provide  a 
social  network.   We have a lot of options--and that's something 
our writers haven't noticed much yet.
     I don't honestly know why people keep telling me  solitaries 
live  in fantasies.   I think their image of us is one soul alone 
on a mountaintop.   I do know some pretty isolated people--physically
isolated, and cut off from pagan contacts--but they do have
spouses,  friends,  children, pets, co-workers and neighbors, all 
of  whom would notice if they began speaking aloud to spirits  of 
the seventh level.  
     The people I see getting carried away with starlight visions 
are  those who spend a lot,  or most,  of their time  with  other 
pagans.   Their behavior is a lot less inhibited than solitaries, 
who  are quieter and more secretive,  since we generally have  to 
hide  our  religion from almost everyone.   More than  once  I've 
caught  a newcomer or a solitary looking a little bewildered at a 
group of people dancing around the house in robes and three  tons 
of  jewelry,  saying "BB" to each other,  talking to their  cars, 
discussing the colors of energy fields in the circle, encouraging 
one  another  to believe a little more deeply in whatever  otherworldly
metaphor  is current.  Fantasy seems  to  require  group
reinforcement. I draw the newcomer aside, smile, and say "Welcome 
to the pagan worldview."
     Group  people's  attitudes  toward us seem to boil  down  to 
this:   we can't be trusted to run our own education and our  own 
religion.  Working alone isn't HEALTHY.
     I  have  met and corresponded with a number  of  solitaries.  
Living  at  the Aquarian Tabernacle,  attending open circles  and 
Festivals,  I've also met a lot of group members.  The two approaches  to our religious practice seem to be qualitatively  different.  Some of us want or need a lot of people around us, to support and encourage us.   Others prefer to work things out at  our 
own  pace with our own tools,  books and experiments,  picking up 
the occasional pointer and encouraging word.   Neither outlook is 
superior,  and  working alone may not be the ideal--what  is,  in 
real life?--but it is not a handicap.
     Many solitaries have very rich inner lives.   In our silence 
we can hear and explore facets of our religion and ourselves that 
otherwise would be buried in the bustle and noise of a group.  We 
do need people,  but we have also learned to center on ourselves.  
And  we  find,  in working alone,  in our  own  companionship,  a 
strength and joy that is impossible to describe.
     We can only recommend it.                            -Brandy