So why solo? Why are you on your own when you’re a part of a Druid Order? I do not hear these questions from a lot of folks, but I do hear it from people who have been on their own Pagan path for quite some time. And its a fair and valid question to ask. After all, Druids are typically seen as working together in groups (or groves, if you prefer). So are plenty of other Pagan folks. I am, after all, a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, would I not seek out other OBOD members and join their groups, if they have one? Or even form one? Well, not really. There is a lot to unpack, unwrap and show in all of this, so I will do my best to explain.
Save the Drama for Your Llama
I have been a part of a few groups, mostly in my earlier days within Paganism. I have watched group leaders flake out and ditch the entire group, leaving all of us to either pickup the pieces or completely disband. Now, I get that group leadership can be full of drama and tiring on so many levels. When you’re the only one at the top, its really hard to separate the group from the rest of your personal life, and that overlap can really grind on your last nerves. You need walls of separation to be established. On [x] days, group work stuff happens. On [y] days, your personal life has control. There can be certain times where the precedence for one happens over the other. I have watched leaders who try and juggle the two in a 366x24x7 format, and have seen the sensational flame-out that occurs from it. Then there is the inevitable overly dramatic moments. People having personality issues with others, no one wanting to compromise on anything, and the constant power struggle to be the closest to the group leader. All of that requires a steady hand from a leader, and when the leader is already struggling with issues relating to the lack of balance between the group and their own personal life? Yeah, it can be one really twitchy time.
I have watched these mental gyrations and struggles happen, first hand. Its not a pretty sight, and the stress can easily spill over to others – particularly to those that have empathic abilities. All of that makes me extremely gun-shy with group dynamics and fairly skittish to the idea of permanently joining a group or even starting one.
Easier When the Group is One
When your group is one, a lot of the stressors mentioned above tend to go away. Sure, you still have the balance issue that takes place, but the handle is your own to manipulate. Add one or more people to that mix, and you have new considerations to try and get through. I have been a Pagan since 1986. In all that time, I think my total time being in a group is just a touch over four years….combined. That means that most of my time has been as a solo Pagan (or Solitaire, if you prefer – but that sounds too much like playing cards for me), so I do believe I have a bit of a bias as to which is more preferable. Being solo is my default setting, if you will.
Groups at Gatherings Sates My Needs
In the past, and hopefully the future, I have attended large group gatherings. Typically, everyone at these type of events come from different backgrounds and groups, but we still work together to hold a ritual (at most, if not all of the events). For me, this works well enough to sate my needs for being around other Pagans. It tweaks my need for socialization, if you prefer. But that does not mean that I will tell a single individual that being solo is better than being a group.
Really, Its Up to You
The only person who knows if solo Paganism is better than group Paganism (or vice versa), is you. You know what fulfills the needs for you on your Spiritual Path. Some folks do better in a group setting, where they have people to converse with, socialize with, and even lean on for help in whatever lessons are meted out. Others, such as myself, prefer the self-paced methodology of learning their Spirituality – essentially just point me in the appropriate direction, give me a push, and stand back. It works for me. When I need my socialization, discussion time or play time with other Pagan folks, I go to public gatherings and seek out others (and let others seek me out). It works for me, but is not necessarily appropriate for others.
How Did You Figure It Out For You?
Well, that goes to just trying. I was in the military when I figured out that I was a Pagan Polytheist. It was the mid 1980s, and Wicca was the hot perspective to go to. I bought four books when I first started trying to understand this new Path I was examining.
- Drawing Down the Moon (M. Adler) was a fantastic introduction to all sorts of aspects where Paganism was concerned. I thoroughly enjoyed the section on The Church of All Worlds, but had no CAW group anywhere near me that I knew of.
- The Spiral Dance (Starhawk) was an extremely confusing book for a straight-down-the-line newbie. I think it was written more with the idea that the reader would have already had a touch of understanding about the concepts of Pagans and Witches.
- The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft (R. Buckland) was another unfortunate first choice. I understood a lot of the concepts about the Wheel of the Year, as well as some of the more philosophical points that Uncle Bucky brought about. I do wish I had read the big blue book first though.
- A Witches’ Bible Volume I & II (S. Farrar & J. Farrar) is perhaps one of the more unfortunately titled books I have ever read. Much of this book was the formation of my understanding of ritual work, at that time.
At that point, my understanding of being a Pagan was academic. When I joined my first group, I learned that there was an action aspect to all of this, driven by ritual aspects. From there, I become a solo Pagan again when I was transferred overseas. There was a public gathering group, but it was more about meeting and talking to people than it was about doing ritual or learning more about Spirituality. When I returned to the States, I joined another group in my local area. After that, I had seen enough of groups to know that I wouldn’t function adequately within them beyond the scope of a “sometimes guest”. But those experiences don’t stop me from encouraging people to look into groups for themselves. Just because I like Coca-Cola does not mean that everyone else has to hate Pepsi-Cola, know what I mean?
The best advice I can give it anyone looking into whether group work or solo work is better for them – is to tell you to try them both. Be open-minded enough to be aware of a change, if you happen to find one is better than the other further down the line. To be honestly open, should I find the right group for me, I would most definitely join it. I’m not actively looking for change, but I’m trying to be nimble enough to work with it, should it show up.