Solo But Not Alone – No Need to Explain to My Tribe

Today is the Winter Solstice. Where am I celebrating it?  In my usual location for most major events on the Wheel – at home. Why home? Well, there’s a handful of reasons, but primary among those is familiarity and the feeling of “safe”.

See, as much as I enjoy getting out and about, I am not a super social animal. Anyone who saw me at Pantheacon earlier this year could easily attest to that. I spent a lot of time smacking away on my portable keyboard bluetooth’d into my iPad. And while I got off quite a few nice blog posts, as well as managed some good personal journaling – I only managed to connect face-to-face with a handful of people….most of whom I knew prior to coming out to Pantheacon. As a further attestment to my non-social skills, anyone who has seen me at a Pagan Pride Day knows how I wander around on my own – or that I sit in some far off location to people watch.

A lot of that works from how I grew up. I had very few friends. Those that I did manage a connection with were people I would be very, very tight with. Today, even with the ability of the Internet to expand some of my social skills, I still have only a few folks that I could count as very close friends. And of that group, there are even fewer that I know face-to-face.

I am what most Pagans refer to as a “Solitary Practitioner”. I actually hate that term. The mental description that hits my mind is playing the card game of Solitaire over and over again with Crow, Coyote and Fliodhas hanging over my shoulder – all making suggestions on what place to move a stack of cards to. I actually prefer the term “Solo Pagan”. Its a precise description of who and what I am…all wrapped up nicely in a ribbon and bow through just two words. Short, concise, to the point. But I am far too long-winded to have anything beyond short directly apply to me. Just ask some of my former college students. ::big grin::

I handle major rituals here at home because I am familiar with the terrain – both physically and on a more psychic aspect. I know the energies of the stones that make up my little stone circle. I know how to approach Crow, Coyote and Fliodhas here, and ask Them to join me for my ritual. Sometimes They show up. Most of the time, not so much. I don’t worry about that, because I am not the center of Their world. I am just a small part of it. They love and respect me for what I do, but I am still a human being. They have other things to do, at times. But it is definitely the familiar aspect that has me working major turns of the wheel at home.

Sometimes, I attend major turns of the Wheel with groups. And here is where the “safe” part of things comes into the equation. With the East Coast and Gulf Coast Gatherings that the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids holds, I have come to know many of the folks there. They are friends to varying degrees. And there are always new people to meet. I remember being the “new” person at these Gatherings, and how intimidating it can be. With those folks, I am friendly, and reassuring – I want them to feel “safe” as well. Attending these two Gatherings i not a problem for me. I know these people. They are my tribe. They are friends. The same goes for the Texas Imbolc Retreat that I have attended. Chris and Amanda are awesome people. I have met so many other awesome people there as well. While they are a different Druid order (ADF), they are still very much my tribe of people. I can be comfortable there.

Other gatherings? Well, when I feel uncomfortable, I split off from the main group and do my own thing. I have done this at professional conventions that I have attended. Much to the chagrin of my fellow coworkers, including my boss. But then, none of these people have really had to understand how difficult it is for someone to assimilate into a group of strangers. Why? Because they socialize easily. They are not making connections when they socialize. They are chatting up with small talk. None of it has any meaning. But I don’t operate that way. And when the talk is meaningless, I find elsewhere to be. That’s how I am built.

So, this morning, I saw the gathering of folks at Stonehenge for the sunrise. I marveled at how easy it was for them to relax and celebrate the rising of the sun on the shortest day amongst what I assume are strangers. For me, I would likely shrink off to the far edges, as far away from the stones as I could get without seeming to be too far out of the crowd. Out to the edges, where I could find calm, and quiet. Out where I could ground, center, and reach out to the Spirits of Place. Even if only to let Them know that not all humans are this loud. No matter strange that may sounds to others…because what others think has never mattered to me. Unless they are my tribe. And if they truly are of my tribe, I don’t need to explain. Not even once.

 

The Storm and Our Tribe

Each day, I read news events that continue to reinforce the arrival of the edges of the coming Storm. The individual attack in Nice, France. The attempted overthrow of the elected government in Turkey. And with the upcoming Republican convention in Cleveland – I have no doubt that there will be more to be heard. But that’s just a fact of our hyper-sensitive media coverage of events that happen around the world.

There’s no bone of contention from where I sit. The Storm has arrived. My Dream Crows continue to remind me that this is just the start, that there is more to come, and that it will be worse. How bad? I’m not completely sure. I don’t think anyone can be. Besides, trying to determine what is “bad” and the level of measuring that “bad” versus other “bad” depends greatly on individual perception.

But I have had dreams, which I hope do not come to any degree of fruition. In one, I found a Pagan family on my doorstep, running from the authorities who were going to prosecute them over not practicing a Christian faith in their particular state. The feel of the dream was very similar in feel to the over-arching story in the Gods-awful “Left Behind” books I read well over a decade ago. In the dream, I took the family in, and then stood my ground in my own front yard against these “authorities” with nothing more in my hand than my staff.

How true the reality of all that is, I am not sure. But it certainly brings to mind times such as the late 1930s and early 1940s, where families risked everything to hide their Jewish neighbors from the Nazi Gestapo in mainland Europe. It even brings to mind, the concepts of the Underground Railroad, where slaves were brought from the South into northern states during the period just before the American Civil War. And I began to wonder, how many Pagans would hide others from the claws of an oppressive regime that would utilize religion as a litmus test for “desired” or “undesired” status.

Think I am overblowing the situation? Consider this: late this past week, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made a statement on a television show about providing a litmus test against all Muslims here in the United States. If an individual professed adherence to Sharia Law, Gingrich suggested that the individual and their family should be expelled from the United States. Even if they were lawful, tax-paying citizens here. Mr. Gingrich is a very astute student of World History, and I respect his knowledge and interpretation of historical events greatly. However, I have difficulty finding respect for a statement like this, particularly when it smacks so closely to the pogroms that Adolf Hitler instituted against the Jews throughout Europe. Removing people from a “desirable” pool of citizens, simply because they adhere to the laws contained within their own belief systems is – dare I say – completely un-American in nature.

America is a land built upon the idea that each individual has inherent worth. America is built on the idea that you can think differently from others, and voice that difference publicly, without fear of being injured or killed. I will submit that Mr. Gingrich is certainly entitled to his opinion on what should be done about the potential threat of “sleeper-cells” of Muslims here in the United States, but that his call for actions can be limited under what is correct in our laws – particularly those that are built in within the Constitution of this country.

Would you take in a persecuted family – pick any faith or reason for their persecution – and protect them from the authorities? I know that I would. My Druidry teaches me that every individual has value in our environment. That the loss of one individual will affect the world around me in a way that is not replaceable. And that protecting those that need protection, and providing aid to those that need assistance is the right thing to do. Protecting their right to practice as they need to under their Spiritual beliefs is the ethical thing to do. Would you do that as well??

Before you answer, let me provide one more voice of thought. My friend, John Beckett, wrote a blog post concerning some of this a while back. I will quote him from that post:

Build your tribe. You aren’t going to survive this alone. And at the risk of sounding like a Libertarian, do not assume the government or government-run programs will take care of you. For centuries, families and communities took care of each other. Not nuclear families (a mid-20th century American perversion designed to make every man a king so he’d buy a “castle” in the suburbs), but extended families – several generations living in the same house, with other relatives living close enough to drop in on a moment’s notice.

The automobile and the rise of hyperindividualism killed the extended family. We aren’t going to undo that in our lifetimes, unless the curve of the Long Descent is a lot steeper than I expect. If you’re part of a good, well-functioning extended family, consider yourself fortunate… and don’t alienate them. For the rest of us, find the people who will be your family of choice and start developing those close ties now. That means you give your share toward the collective good. Ideally, everyone gives more than their share.

Include your spiritual allies: the Gods, ancestors, and spirits of your tradition, your family, and your location. This isn’t complicated: honor them on a regular basis, and when they speak (in dreams, in divination, in intuition, in synchronicities…) listen to them.

–John Beckett, “Something Bad Isn’t Coming, It’s Here

John is very, very right. My family is scattered far and wide throughout the United States, Europe and the Pacific Rim. Some of them, I can reach easily enough. Some of them, it would take a lot more effort to get there. But they are my family. They are my tribe. When they have need, I will be there as best as I can for them. Just as I would be there for a stranger that had a similar need. For me, the only way that I need to divide the world into an Us v. Them grouping, is if you wish to harm people solely based on whether they agree with what you believe or not.

Now, more than ever, we need to reach out and support our family – however you define it. If we are going to weather this Storm, we have to do it together, not individually.

–T /|\

 

ECG Leftovers — Solo Practice Thoughts

I have been back from OBOD’s East Coast Gathering in Pennsylvania for a little under a week now. I cannot get the sights, sounds, and conversations that I encountered throughout that weekend out of my mind. I was not really involved with too many of the conversations, as I had chosen to be in the background of most things, such is my nature as a solo practitioner. But there was a single moment that still sticks in my mind.

Yes, that moment in time was Cerri Lee’s talk as I had mentioned previously. There was a lot that she talked about where ritual was concerned – the logistics, the mannerisms towards making ritual a much more robust experience. But then, she started discussing how public rituals – as well as gatherings like ECG – served another purpose for those solo practitioners: providing the experience of being in a group.

Now, I am a solo practitioner – I am really beginning to detest the term “solitairy” – by choice. I have several Pagan and Druidry groups around me. I could easily join one and get the “group experience” that many Pagans enjoy. But I enjoy being a solo practitioner – able to choose my direction from a moment’s thought, and explore. And not have to be tied at the ankle with someone else, who may not be wanting this same direction of exploration at the time. My rituals for the Wheel of the Year are done by myself with no one else involved. These are impromptu as well — utilizing the OBOD ritual schematic as a framework, but weaving in what seems and feels right at that moment. Sometimes spoken, sometimes not — its a manner and style that works best for me.
But these public gatherings provide a different element for me. I am able to watch and observe others in ritual. See how they encompass the roles they are provided. During the Alban Elfed ritual, the Queen of the Harvest strode into the center of the circle, shrugging her cloak off with an effortless motion, and strode forward with a bearing that suggested she was the Queen. Her bearing was incredible — and she had me envisioning her as the Queen. She sold me on her part in that role. And I watched and observed, seeing how she not only played her part – she channeled it. She was the Queen, the physical embodiment of that role. I watched others as well – the fluid, easy-going manner that some had. As if ritual was a natural part of who they were – whether they were in the circle or not. Their bearing was the same inside the ritual circle as it was outside. In a way, I could observe them anywhere and see their Druidry in action. Sitting at a table discussing something as mundane as a Science Fiction television show, or something as deep and personal as their observation on what the Gods and Goddesses mean to them.

Cerri Lee also made the comment that “lone wolves were few and far between.” At first, I disagreed with this comment – after all, I am that Lone Wolf that she was discussing. However, in thinking further and deeper on that – she has a valid and important point. I can definitely remain in my aspect as a solo practitioner. However, at some point in time, I need to rejoin with people that are like me:  Pagans and Druids – and not necessarily those that are also solo practitioners. After all, OBOD has become my family. My tribe. My brothers and sisters. At Gulf Coast Gathering, we all cautiously sniffed at one another – trying to get a feel for one another. At East Coast Gathering, it was like a family reunion. My tribe.

My tribe. As a solo practitioner, the idea feels a little strange to me. As someone who has been on my Bardic grade for a while, I had never really noticed that before. And it showed in the way I went about my studies. I kept looking at some of the lessons in terms of solo work, and never added in the elements of working with others or others figured into what I was doing. Now, my studies have changed somewhat – I look at both aspects, and a lot of what I was not “getting” is starting to feel natural to me. But again, as a solo Pagan, it can sometimes be a little odd feeling for me.

In a manner of speaking, its a lot like living in a third-floor apartment of a forty-floor building — and being the only person living there. Once other people start moving, you start to understand the needs of being in a community. There’s the degree of protection, but there’s more in the spirit of fellowship as well. Of knowing that if you get stuck somewhere – you need only ask for help. And as I start to truly understand all of this, as I start to realize that respect, compassion, and truly loving and caring about others in a group can be possible — my ability to respect others, to have compassion for those in need – and even those who have no respect for me — I can feel my Path changing. Expanding. Growing. And all of that brings so much more meaning into every single moment in life for me. Each moment is unique. Everything around me is changing in each moment. Some at more rapid rates than others. All of them affecting and exchanging energy with others to varying degrees. And the depth of that thought is amazingly deep for me to contemplate.

Such deep, deep waters indeed.

waterripples