Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft – Ray Buckland
In the majority of Witchcraft traditions there is no way that an ‘individual’
can operate – membership in a coven is mandatory. Most traditions have a system
of degrees of advancement not unlike those found is Freemasonry and other secret
societies. With such a system it is necessary for a Witch to advance, within the
coven, to a particular degree before being able to even cast a Circle. In order
to initiate others it is necessary to attain the highest degree. As a First
Degree Witch they can join with the rest of the coven in worship and in the
working of magick but can do nothing alone.
Such a system is all very well, and those involved seem quite content with it.
But it seems to me that an important point is being overlooked. Back in the ‘old
days’ of the Craft, there were many Witches who lived at a far distance from any
village or even from any other people at all. Yet these ‘were’ still Witches.
They still worshiped the old gods and still worked their own magick. That, I
feel, was as it should have been…and as it still should be. There are one or two
traditions, today, that do subscribe more directly to the old ways. In the Seax-
Wica, for example, there is not the dependence on the coven situation; there is
the reality of the Witch alone.
The main point here is that you should not be ‘excluded’ from the Wicca for such
a reason. Just because you don’t live anywhere near a coven; just because you
don’t know of anyone else with similar interests; just because you are an
individualist who doesn’t care to join with others… these are no reasons why you
should not be a Witch. So lets look at Solitary Wicca.
What are the main differences between a coven Witch and being a Solitary?
1. With a covener, the rituals are performed by a group of people; several
(principally the Priest and/or Priestess) playing the parts.
As a Solitary, you do everything yourself.
2. The Coven meets in a large (usually nine ft. diameter) circle.
The Solitary has a small “compact” circle.
3. The Coven use a “full complement” of tools, depending on the tradition.
The Solitary uses only what s/he feels s/he needs.
4. Coven meetings must, to an extent, be held when most convenient for the
The Solitary can hold a ritual whenever s/he feels like it.
5. A Coven draws on all its members to build a Cone of Power.
A Solitary has only her/his own power to draw on.
6. A Coven has a wide variety of knowledge and specialties.
A Solitary has only her/his own knowledge and specialty.
7. A Coven is usually fairly set in its ways.
A Solitary can change with her/his moods.
8. A Coven ritual can become almost a ‘production’ or pageant.
A Solitary ritual can be the barest minimum of words and actions.
9. A Coven must attune itself as one.
A Solitary IS one.
There are many other differences, of course, but these are enough to illustrate
the point that there are both advantages and disadvantages to being a Solitary.
Generally speaking, there is much more flexibility to being a Solitary, but
there is also a more limited store of knowledge and magickal power on which to
draw. Let me elaborate on the above points.
1. As a Solitary, you do everything yourself.
You can write your own rituals, just for you. But you can also adopt and adapt
coven ones. As an example of what can be done, here are some of the rituals from
this book (Erecting the Temple; Esbat; Cakes and Ale; Clearing the Temple),
suitably modified. You can do the same sort of thing with most of the others.
Compare these with the originals as you go.
ERECTING THE TEMPLE
Wiccan rings the bell three times, facing east. She then takes the Altar Candle
and lights the East Candle from it, saying:
“Here do I bring light and air in at the East, to illuminate my temple and bring
it the breath of life.”
She moves around to the south to light that candle.
“Here do I bring light and fire in at the South, to illuminate my temple and
bring it warmth.”
To the west:
“Here do I bring light and water in at the West, to illuminate my temple and
wash it clean.”
To the north:
“Here do I bring light and earth in at the North, to illuminate my temple and
build it in strength.”
She moves on round to the east and then back to the altar. Replacing the Altar
Candle, she takes up her athame and goes again to the east. With point of athame
down, she traces the Circle, directing her power into it. Returning to the
altar, she rings the bell three times then places the point of her athame into
the Salt, saying:
“As Salt is Life, let it purify me in all ways I may use it. Let it cleanse my
body and spirit as I dedicate myself in this rite, to the glory of the God and
She drops three portions of Salt into the Water, saying:
“Let the Sacred Salt drive out any impurities in the Water, that I may use it
throughout these rites.”
She takes up the Salted Water and, starting and finishing at the east, walks
around sprinkling the Circle. She then goes around again with the thurible,
censing the Circle.
Back at the altar, she drops a pinch of salt into the oil and stirs it with her
finger. She then anoints herself with it, saying:
“I consecrate myself in the names of the God and of the Goddess, bidding them
welcome to this, my Temple.”
The Witch now moves to the east and, with her athame, draws an invoking
“All hail to the element of Air, Watchtower of the East. May it stand in
strength, ever watching over this Circle.”
She kisses the blade of the athame, then moves to the south, where she draws an
“All hail to the element of Fire; Watchtower of the South. May it stand in
strength ever watching over my Circle.”
She kisses the blade and moves to the west and draws an invoking pentagram.
“All hail to the element of Water, Watchtower of the West. May it stand in
strength, ever watching over my Circle.”
She kisses the blade and moves to the north, where she draws an invoking
“All hail to the element of Earth, Watchtower of the North. May it stand in
strength, ever watching over my Circle.”
Kissing the blade, she returns to the altar, where she raises her athame high.
“All hail the four Quarters and all hail the Gods! I bid the Lord and Lady
welcome and invite that they join with me, witnessing these rites I hold in
their honor. All hail!”
She takes the goblet and pours a little wine onto the ground (or into the
libation dish), then drinks, saying the names of the gods.
“Now is the Temple erected. So Mote It Be!”
Witch: “Once more do I come to show my joy of life and re-affirm my feelings for
the gods. The Lord and the Lady have been good to me. It is meet that I give
thanks for all that I have. They know that I have needs and they listen to me
when I call upon them. So do I thank the God and the Goddess for those favors
they have bestowed upon me.”
Then, in her own way, she gives her thanks and/or requests help. She then rings
the bell three times and says:
“An it harm none, do what thou wilt. Thus runs the Wiccan Rede. Whatever I
desire; whatever I would ask of the gods; whatever I would do; I must be assured
that it will harm no one – not even myself. And as I give, so shall it return
threefold. I give of myself – my life; my love – and it will be thrice rewarded.
But should I send forth harm, then that too will return thrice over.”
Here the Witch may sing a favorite song or chant, or play an instrument.
Witch: “Beauty and Strength are in the Lord and the Lady both. Patience and
Love; Wisdom and Knowledge.”
(If the Esbat is taking place at either the Full or the New Moon, then the
appropriate segment is inserted at this point. Otherwise go directly into the
Cakes and Ale ceremony.”
CAKES AND ALE
Witch: “Now is it time for me to give thanks to the gods for that which sustains
me. May I ever be aware of all that I owe to the gods.”
She takes the goblet in her left hand and her athame in her right and slowly
lowers the point of the knife into the wine, saying:
“In like fashion may male join with female, for the happiness of both. Let the
fruits of union promote life. Let all be fruitful and let wealth be spread
throughout all lands.”
She lays down the athame and drinks from the goblet. Replacing it on the altar,
she then touches the cake with the point of the athame, saying:
“This food is the blessing of the gods to my body. I partake of it freely. Let
me remember always to see to it that aught that I have I share with those who
She eats the cake, pausing to say:
“As I enjoy these gifts of the gods, let me remember that without the gods I
would have nothing. So Mote It Be!”
CLEARING THE TEMPLE
Witch: “As I came into my Temple in love and friendship, let me leave it the
same way. Let me spread the love outward to all; sharing it with those I meet.”
She raises her athame high, in salute, and says:
“Lord and Lady, my thanks to you for sharing this time with me. My thanks for
watching over me; guarding and guiding my in all things. Love is the Law and
Love is the Bond. Merry did I come here and Merry do I part, to merry come
again. The Temple is now cleared. So Mote It Be!”
She kisses the blade of her athame.
2. The Solitary has a small, “compact” Circle.
There is no need for the large, coven-size Circle when you are working alone.
One just large enough for you and the altar is all you need…probably five feet
in diameter would be sufficient. When ‘Erecting the Temple’, you would still
walk all around this Circle to ‘draw’ it with your athame, and to sprinkle and
cense it, but for addressing the four Quarters you need only turn and face the
directions from your place behind the altar. When working magick, it is easier
to build up power in a smaller Circle and it is generally a “cozier” feeling.
3. The Solitary uses only what s/he feel s/he needs.
You probably won’t need as many tools as a coven uses. You may decide to use no
more than you athame and censer. It is up to you; you have only yourself to
please. Don’t forget that you don’t HAVE to follow all the rituals exactly.
Examine as many traditions as you are able. See what tools they use and ‘why’
(it seems some groups use some items without really knowing why they do!), then
decide on which ones you need. You will find traditions that use broomsticks,
ankhs, wands, tridents, etc. You may even decide to add something that no one
else uses – the Pecti-Wita, for example (a Solitary tradition, as it happens)
use a ritual Staff which is not found elsewhere. Don’t add something just for
the sake of having it, or just to be different. Use something because you need
to use it, because you feel more comfortable with that particular tool then with
another or then without it at all.
4. The Solitary can hold a ritual whenever s/he feels like it.
A coven meets for the Sabbats and Esbats. The dates for the Esbats are fixed at
the most convenient times for the majority of members. As a Solitary, you can
have an Esbat whenever you feel like it. You can have Esbats three or four days
in a row, or go from New Moon to Full Moon without one at all. It’s up to you
and how you feel. If there is a sudden emergency – perhaps a healing that needs
to be done – you can get into it right away. You don’t have to desperately try
to contact others before you can get to work.
5. A Solitary has only her/his own power to draw on.
When working magick, a coven generates a lot of power. Working together, the
total power of the whole far exceeds the sum of the parts. The Solitary can do
no more then use the power s/he has. This is a fact and should be accepted. It
is one of the few drawbacks to being a Solitary. But this does not mean that
‘nothing’ can be done! Far from it. Many Solitaries do a great deal of excellent
work, drawing only on their own resources. A good parallel night be seen in
boat-racing or sculling, where you have teams of eight oarsmen, four, two or
single rowers. All propel their craft equally well. The only difference is the
greater speeds attained by the boats with the increased numbers of oarsmen.
6. A Solitary has only her/his own knowledge and specialty.
In a coven there is an accumulation of talents. One Witch might specialize in
healing, another in astrology, one in Herbalism, another in tarot reading. Once
might be an excellent tool-maker, another a great calligraphist; one a winemaker
and/or seamstress and another a psychic and psychometrist.
As stated, the Solitary has only her/his own knowledge available. This, then, is
another disadvantage but again, one that must be accepted. There is certainly no
reason why, as a Solitary, you should not be in touch with others (Wiccans and
non-Wiccans) who are astrologers, tarot readers, herbalists, etc. and to call
upon them for help and advice when needed. It is just that you don’t have them
readily to hand there in the Circle with you, available at all times.
7. A Solitary can change with her/his moods.
A Gardnerian coven rigidly follows the Gardnerian rites. A Welsh-Kelic coven
rigidly follows the Welsh-Keltic rites. A Dianic coven rigidly follows the
Dianic rites. This all goes without saying. Even an eclectic coven will
generally settle into rites, from whatever sources, with which it feels
comfortable and will stay with them. But the Solitary is free (freer even than
most eclectics, if only by virtue of having only her/himself to please) to do
whatever s/he likes… to experiment, to change, to adopt and adapt. S/he can do
elaborate, ceremonial rites on day and simple, plain, ingenuous rites the next.
S/he can do Gardnerian oriented rituals one time, Welsh-Kelic the next and
Dianic the next. There is tremendous freedom for the Solitary, which I urge you
to enjoy to the utmost. Experiment. Try different types and styles of rituals.
Find those that are exactly right for you.
8. A Solitary ritual can be the barest minimum of words and actions.
This follows on from (7) above. You can enjoy a true economy of ritual if you so
desire. Let me give you an example:
Erecting The Temple (Alternate)
The Witch lights the four Circle Candles from the Altar Candle and, with the
athame, “draws” the Circle, directing power into it. She then sits, or kneels,
before the altar and proceeds with a meditation on the elements:
(This should be familiarized – not necessarily word for word – so that it can be
followed through without effort)
“You are sitting in the middle of a field. There is lush green grass all about
you, with a generous scattering of bright yellow buttercups. Some distance
behind you, and continuing way off to your left, a wooded rail fence, with other
fields beyond it, stretches off to another distant fence, beyond which are more
fields leading to the foothills of the mountains which you can see in the far
A very light breeze ruffles the top of the grass and you can feel the
wind’s gentleness as it brushes your face. Crickets chirrup in the grass and,
from the trees beyond the hedgerow, you can hear the occasional song of a bird,
You feel contented, you feel at peace.
A swallow swoops down and soars low across the field not twenty feet in
front of you. He wings up and away over the trees towards the distant mountains.
A grasshopper lands on your knee, then almost immediately is gone again.
You get to your feet and stroll leisurely through the grass, parallel to
the hedgerow. Your feet are bare and the grass lightly tickles them as you move
along. You walk over to your right till you are close beside the hedge, then
advance along it. Reaching out your hand as you walk, you gently brush the
leaves; just catching them with your fingertips as you move along. There is a
slight rise in the ground ahead of you and off to the left. You leave the
hedgerow and move lightly up the hillock to stand where you can gaze about you
at all the beauty that surrounds you.
Seemingly coming all the way from the distant mountains, the breeze you
felt earlier is now more steady and you feel it on your face and arms. It gently
ruffles the tops of the grass and causes buttercups to nod their golden heads.
You stand on the hillock with your legs spread wide and slowly raise up your
arms towards the sky. As you raise them, you breathe in deeply. You hold the
breath for a moment, then gradually release it, bringing your arms back down to
shoulder level. As you release the breath you sing out the sound “Ah”……”A-a-a-a-
A second time the wind returns, this time blowing strongly; bending the
grass and stirring the hedgerow off to your side. It blows back your hair and
feels warm against your cheeks. For the third time you raise your arms to the
sky and cry out to the air. “A-a-a-a-a-a-a=h!” And for the third time the air
replies by sending the strong, rushing wind across the fields, bending the grass
before it and swirling up and around your body; tugging your hair back from your
face and fluttering the robes that you wear.
As the wind dies you allow your arms to fall to you sides and stand, with
head bowed, in the warmth of the sun. Breathing regularly, but deeply, you feel
the strength of the sun as it shines down upon you from out of the cloudless
blue sky. Slowly you life your face, with eyes closed, and bask in the radiance
that encompasses you. You breathe in deeply, sensing the cleansing and
purifying. AS you breathe, you feel the vitality building within you, fed by
those timeless flames.
You bring your hands up, together, to your chest, cupping them as though
holding the very orb of the sun. You continue raising them, up to your face then
on up high above your head. With palms open and upward, you spread your arms and
reach up, absorbing the sun’s rays into your body, this time through your hands
and down through your arms. Feel the energies rippling down through your body,
down through your legs, all the way to your toes. Feel the fire within you. Feel
Now you lower your arms and, turning back towards the hedgerow, you leave
the hillock and continue on along the side of the field. As you walk you become
aware of a new sound – the sound of a running stream a tinkling of the waters
rushing over and around pebbles and small stones reaches your ears and draws you
forward. You reach the end of the hedgerow and see a small wood set back behind
it. From out between the trees runs the stream, bubbling and bustling on its way
to it knows not where. It curves out and around, to rush off and disappear from
view on the far side of the hedgerow you followed.
You drop down to your knees and reach forward a hand to feel the water. It
is cold, yet not so cold as to turn you away. The rushing water murmurs protest
at the new obstacle and bubbles around and between your fingers, eager to be on
its way. You smile and slip the other hand in beside the first. You wriggle your
fingers and rejoice in the invigorating coolness of the water. You splash your
face and feel the cold droplets trickle down your neck. It is refreshing and
energizing. You cup your hands and raise a human grail of divine essence from
the stream you bend and plunge your face into it, to celebrate a catharsis of
the flesh of the spirit. The water refreshes, cleanses and purifies. It is a
gift; a freely given pleasure. You sigh a long sigh of contentment.
Rising to your feet again, you move on along the edge of the trees until
you reach the corner of a large, ploughed field that opens out to the left. The
soil is newly turned and the scent of it heavy in the air. You walk out towards
the center of the field, breathing deeply and feeling the good clean dirt of the
earth between your toes as you walk.
When you finally reach the middle of the ploughed field, you stoop down
and sweep up two handfuls of the rich, dark brown earth. It feels good; in
communicates a kinship of nature. You feel a ‘grounding and centering’ of your
body, through your feet, into the earth. It is a sense of coming home, or
reaching that which you have long sought.
You lie down on the earth, between the furrows, eyes closed and face
towards the sky. You feel the gentle breeze blowing over you and luxuriate in
the warmth of the sun. away in the distance you can just make out the tinkling
of the stream as you absorb the energies of the earth. Your spirit soars and
rejoices. And, in so doing, you have touched all of the elements.”
You can see that the “things said” and “things done” are all in the mind. You
may well feel comfortable doing all your rites in this way, though I do urge you
to ‘at least’ cast your Circle physically.
As a preliminary to the meditation above, you might want to read up on
meditations. Also, I would suggest incorporating the breathing exercises given
in most lessons, including the imagery of the white light.
For such a guided meditation, you might like to record it on tape, ahead of
time, and then play it back to yourself in the Circle.
9. The Solitary IS one.
This can be both an advantage (chiefly so, I feel) and a disadvantage. An
example of the latter: if a Witch happens to have a very short temper and has
been badly used by someone, s/he might possibly be driven by thoughts of
revenge. S/he might be tempted to overlook the Wiccan Rede, rationalizing
her/his thoughts and feelings in some way. However, unless s/he can get all of
the other coven members, including the Priest/ess to feel the same way that s/he
does, s/he can do nothing s/he might later regret. Far more likely is that the
coven would calm her/him an bring the problem into perspective. The Solitary, on
the other hand, does not have this “safety catch”. S/he must, therefore, be
constantly on guard and always carefully and closely examine the situation
before working any magick, giving special thought to the Wiccan Rede.
But on the other side of the coin, the Solitary does not have to make any
compromises in anything s/he does. The Solitary is one with her/himself and is
automatically attuned, with no disharmony or distraction.
So the Solitary Witch is indeed a reality. Don’t let anyone tell you that,
because you don’t belong to a coven and because you were not initiated by
someone (who was initiated by someone who was in turn, initiated by someone… and
so on, ad nauseum), you are not a true Witch. Tell them to read their history
(and ask them who initiated the very first Witch?). you ARE a Witch and you are
so in the fine tradition of Witchcraft. May the Gods be with you.