“I Love Being a Self-Trained Solitary and I Don’t Want a Coven”
These words are often spoken to me, and I would just like to take a moment to say, “That’s wonderful.” Sometimes solitary study and practice is just what certain Wiccans want and need. Not everyone needs to take initiation, work with a coven, or train with a Tradition. The thing is, it’s automatically more challenging for a solitary training alone to learn what good sources are and to gain mastery of various definitions that will make them a savvy Wicca practitioner. The internet and “101 books” are both wonderful and horrible in that regard. Now, you may already be a savvy solitary Wiccan. And that’s great if you are. But in case you may not know a few of the following things, I would like to point them out so the solitary new folk can have the benefit of knowing them, thus saving time and frustration later on. Here are a few things that it can be difficult for a self-training Wiccan to find out:
Many people say they are Wiccan but are really practicing a Wicca-based form of Paganism that isn’t actually Wicca…and that’s fine.
Wicca has earmarks and it isn’t necessary for you to have a practice that has all of those earmarks if you don’t want them. BUT, it’s important for you to know what they are so you can intelligently discuss Wicca versus a more free-form solitary eclectic Paganism. The two are not remotely the same thing. Your personal path should look exactly like what you want it to be, but if you refer to it as “Wicca” and it looks nothing like Wicca, well, that seems a bit silly. There is NOTHING wrong with being a solitary eclectic Pagan who borrows heavily or lightly or not at all from Wicca. Here are the earmarks that are present in each Wiccan practice:
**Work with one God and one Goddess in each ritual
**Each ritual uses the 4 Tools of Wicca, which are the Athame, the Wand, the Cup/Chalice, and the Pentacle
**Each ritual contains the following rites: The Erecting the Temple Rite, the Invocation, the Great Rite, the Simple Feast, and the Libation, Clearing the Temple
**The 8 Sabbats of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year are observed and studied
**The Esbat concept is understood whether or not it is used (usually lunar celebrations)
**The Rede is studied and used as a guideline, COMPLETE with knowing where it comes from and that it has more than one interpretation
**Liturgy is used and developed, and written down
**The history of Wicca is studied, and it is understood that Wicca is MODERN, though it has some ancient components to it
If your practice doesn’t have the above, it’s fine. But then you may want to refer to yourself as a solitary eclectic PAGAN, rather than as a Wiccan. Wicca has parameters, and you may seem a bit silly if you insist that you are Wiccan but don’t practice something that looks like Wicca.
Many people mistakenly think that a coven is a group who do together what solitaries do alone.
While there are certainly various types of covens in existence today, in Traditional Wicca, where you get trained in the 3 degrees, a coven is NOT a group that gets together to do what solitaries do alone. In Traditional Wicca, a coven is an organized, chartered religious congregation led by trained clergy of the 3rd degree, and it’s more than that. It’s a family, it’s a place to go with your troubles, it’s a social group, it’s a place to get help, and it’s a place to discover the training, which is not just academic in nature, but a way to learn to handle life’s challenges in a specific way. And it’s a place of service. Everyone serves everyone else, and everyone contributes. The 3 degrees, while they vary a bit from Tradition to Tradition (more later), are not simply acknowledgements of “levels,” but they activate specific energies in the life of the practitioner. These energies are mindfully designed and create very specific, very useful learning situations that are not recreated on one’s own and cannot be known nor approximated by solitary study. This is important to understand. The three degrees are not for everyone and you can be perfectly happy without them. But no, you are not getting the same thing on your own. The ONLY way to get those experiences is to engage with those who have been trained to facilitate them for you, and in turn, you become qualified to facilitate them for others, should you choose. Traditional Wicca is NOT a random set of skills, but a very, very specific set of skills and experiences that are gotten by design that is revealed by those with that information and experience. Do you need to have it? Nope. But you can only get it one way. Reject it if you will, but only do so if you understand that self-study does not approximate the three degrees. They are too intricate and not about “becoming more advanced.” They are about taking very specific studies and experiences that are not intuitively obvious and are not contained in books. And no, they are not widely different in different groups. They have specific things that are present in all legit Traditions. The Gods don’t care if you are initiated, though, so if it doesn’t matter to you, don’t sweat it. The Gods predate Wicca.
You can take training in various ways with various teachers without joining a coven.
Valuable training can be gotten through engaging different teachers and different experiences with no actual coven training and no “joining.” There are qualified teachers who take solitary students. In my book, “Prerequisite to Wicca 101: A High Priestess Reveals What Beginner Books Won’t Tell,” I explain how to vet solitary teachers, covens, and other learning opportunities for quality, ethics, and safety. Do check it out if you care to do so. The book includes resources on long-distance training in the bonus section. But for now, just know that you CAN find good quality training as a solitary practitioner. Here are some places to find training:
**Metaphysical stores often have “Wicca 101” classes and even more advanced classes
**You can attend Pagan Fests and take classes there
**You can use workbooks written for interactive study. I have one coming out on astral temples later on…I’ll post here when it’s available
**You can study online. Schools vary a great deal on quality, price, and even whether they teach real Wicca at all. See my book for links!
**You can start a study group and use the texts of various teachers to work together with like-minded friends
Solitary study and practice can be a super fulfilling way to live and work. It allows the practitioner to follow his or her heart to create a relationship with the Gods in an organic and individually meaningful way. And often, those who have taken formal training end up practicing alone from time to time or at certain stages of their lives. It’s important for all Wiccans to have solitary experience. There is something uniquely special about designing your own practice your own way. By becoming savvy about education, Wiccans can make educated choices about what they want and what they need. And they can know what they DON’T want only if they understand the spectrum of what’s available to them. Happy practicing, my lovelies!