Thinking About: Solo v. Group Dynamics.

Why are you on your own? Why not join a group? You’ll be better off if you do.

I hear this a lot, particularly from my Pagan friends who have been working exclusively within a group throughout their Spiritual career. Honestly, its an understandable position from them. They have found something that works quite well for them and they wish to share that perspective with every Pagan they encounter. For me, it’s a reminder of why I left traditional Christianity behind when I was in my late teens.

Don’t go to that southern Baptist church. The one I attend is so much better.

That approach, for me, is like high pressure sales at Best Buy. You know, when you want to get your fingers on the various technologies and hardware platforms, so you can see the differences for yourself and determine which one meets your needs. Then the salesperson comes along and starts explaining why they think this platform sucks when compared to that one.

As I have noted before, I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty-plus years. Its never been smooth sailing. I’ve gotten a lot of bumps, bruises, and scares on this Path. There have been times that I have wondered just what the fuck I am doing. There are other times where everything just fits together so clean. There has been a lot of hard work that I never wanted to tackle at all. There has been work that I could barely contain my glee at getting straight into. And there’s been a lot of stuff that falls between the extremes I have noted here. In all my time on this Path, I have been with a local (to me) groups for about less than twenty percent of all that time. Most of that has been in the first few years of my time being on the Path. So, I am firmly entrenched in being a solo Pagan.

I know, I know. I can see your eyes starting to glaze over. This is Tommy getting started on the sales pitch as to why being a solo Pagan is so much better than working in a group. Except that its not. Having gone through my own bumps and bruises in my own personal experiences of bring in a group, as well as transitioning to being a solo Pagan – I know better than to declare one as being better than the other.

Some people take to the dynamics of groups far easier than others. When they discover that, sometimes they believe that going the route of the group is the answer for everyone. Their zeal at having found that missing puzzle piece to their practice can become a self-assigned mission to help others to “see the way.” Trust me, I know that feeling all too well.

When I first encountered Paganism, I wanted to share my new knowledge with everyone, particularly with my Christian Air Force co-workers. I pushed hard for them to understand and accept my beliefs as valid. I wanted them to realize how badly the earlier members of their faith had persecuted the earlier members of my own. What I wanted them to see was how alive I felt at finding a Spiritual Path that worked for me. Essentially, I let my zeal get too far ahead of my skis. So, I can really grok how that happens with those folks that want other Pagans to join their group. Just as I wanted my co-workers to revel in my moment of ecstasy of finding a Path where my footsteps were those of joy, I can see how these folks want that from their Pagan friends too. In fact, I marvel at their joy and would encourage them with heartfelt joy of my own for the beauty of those footsteps on their newfound Path. Seeing people taking those early steps is one of the most awe-inspiring things I know of.

Over the past few years, I have been asked to join a handful of local groups as an active participant and member. I have turned each one down, noting that I would be more than happy to attend as a visitor and participant for their public rituals, but that becoming a member just wouldn’t be in the cards for me. The reactions have been a mixed bag. Some have accepted that I prefer being a solo Pagan. Others have taken that rejection of becoming a permanent part of the group as a total rejection of their Path. I can understand that reaction, even if it is the furthest point from the truth. I do my utmost best not to be offended by that. Everyone has their own viewpoint of how something is.

I am a part of a group, even though my Spiritual path is taken from a solo perspective. I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. (OBOD) My training in the three grades is done on my own, though I always have a mentor assigned for help. A few times a year – except while COVID-19 rages throughout our world – I will come to their gatherings, so that I can participate with other members, as a group. For me, this is a reminder that group work is essentially to my growth, but that I can approach that on terms that are a little more comfortable for myself. No judgment. No pressure. If I wanted to completely cut out the group aspect, I can. I continue with this smaller aspect of group because it works for me. I can expand or constrict it as I need to.

I know there are those that would believe that I hate working in a group. That my preference to work alone is due to the “fact” that I prefer to not have any accountability. But that’s not true. I am accountable to myself. Believe me, I am much harder on myself over failure than anyone else would be to me. Truth be told, I am far more comfortable approaching my Spirituality on my own than within a group. That’s no indictment of groups or the people that prefer that approach. They know what works for them. They know how that approach brings ecstasy to their Path. But works for them does not necessarily work for others. And I really enjoy that diverse approach. I prefer human beings be their own individual self in whatever they do. There is a myriad of approaches that work. That myriad of approaches shows the creative inspiration that drives our collective reality and makes us the unique personalities that we are. Viva la difference!

–Tommy /|\

Around the fire at OBOD’s East Coast Gathering

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