Confessions of a Solitary

Confessions of a Solitary

by Lisa (Wild Rose) Harris

I contemplated the full moon from my position under the “Triple  Goddess” tree. The mountains seemed to glow from the magick of her light. The  sounds of the night filled the air: the river’s gentle yet powerful sound  enveloping the canyon, the haunting sounds of a great horned owl and coyotes  singing from the ridge. The tree in the pasture we had chosen for our site was like  no other I had ever seen. She was composed of three trunks of separate trees  intertwined, which over the years had grown together to become one, rather  than three, trees. I could feel her energy, and anytime I needed to meditate,  contemplate or ground myself, I would go to her. Yes, the time and place was  right, and there was true magick in the air.

The chilly autumn air of the Sierra Nevada foothills penetrated every  part of my body, yet I did not shiver. I looked at my companion, my friend Pauline,  who was the only other practitioner of the Craft I knew of in our small  mountain town. She was bursting at the seams with energy. We shed our robes,  letting them fall to the ground. Neither one of us made a habit of public nudity, yet  we wanted to pledge ourselves to the Goddess, naked and unashamed, as we  had come into this world. The pasture was well out of view of the road and  the few houses that were around. That Samhain midnight, under the full  moon, with the animals as witness, was the night I pledged myself to the  Goddess and to the Craft.

Seven years later, I am still a solitary. I have met friends, teachers  and organizations along the way, but none that I could dedicate myself to with  “perfect love and perfect trust.” One  self-proclaimed “teacher” from New York, whom I met through the same  pagan pen-pal listing where I found my friend Pauline, was obviously interested in  using the Craft to manipulate young, innocent pagans into sexual situations,  long distance if need be.

When I broke off contact, after catching on what this guy was about, I  was deluged with creepy dreams, ravens at my back door and other  phenomena that I could only interpret as psychic attack.  I did some research on protection spells. Finding nothing I  liked, I created one of my own. The object I made and buried  near my front door was so strongly charged that the energy it radiated caused  a buzzing in my hands that reached up through my arms and into my chest.  The words I spoke came from a place somewhere inside myself I was not  familiar with. They were powerful and they actually rhymed (which is surprising  since I have no poetic talent whatsoever).

Two weeks later, I received a letter from him asking for help. He told  me that he was in jail after being lured into a sting operation and arrested  because of his religion and his very high-profile promotion of the Craft. He told me  that all of the pagan leaders had “turned  their backs on him.” I knew that his own energy had turned on him and brought him to justice for what I suspect  was some sort of sex-related crime. I burned the letter.

My first experience with magick was swift and strong. I vowed never to  misuse power, because when bad energy turns back the power is amplified. I  was lucky on two counts: first, that I had recognized the psychic attack,  because I had experienced psychic phenomenon ever since I was a child, and  second, that I realized there are those who would manipulate others in the  name of their god in any religious movement, not just the Craft. I continued on  my path, a bit wiser than I was before.

As I have continued, the magick I have created on my own has been  so powerful that it has frightened me on occasion. Knowing the power that  one can raise and direct has made me ever vigilant about only doing magick for  the right reasons. I won’t even send healing energy to someone with out their  explicit permission. I also teach my daughter that magick should  not be done for selfish reasons, as what we set in  motion tends to take on a life of its own. Karma works.

There have been times when I’ve wished that I could become part of  a coven and do great magickal and celebratory works with others. There  are other times when I am grateful that I have chosen a path that frees me of  hierarchy and dogma. To me, the thought of earning degrees and having  someone else “bestow titles” on me is  too much like the Christian faith I was raised in. I entered the Craft as a spiritual  quest, a way to connect with something that I understood, rather than trying to fit  into someone else’s religion or dogma. My beliefs would put me at odds with  some traditions. Some people may want and need a specific structure and  system; I do not do well in such a system. I can’t  bring myself to profess to believe in something  unless I honestly believe and agree with every fiber of  my being. That’s difficult for me to do in anything organized.

Another difficulty I have with working groups is just that, that  they’re groups. My personal philosophy on paganism is that most “witches” were  solitaries, doing kitchen magick and healing. I believe that this magickal  work and connection with the natural world was an everyday way of life, and  that witches got together mainly for seasonal festivals and rites of passage. I tend  to agree with the theory that coven structure, as we know it, did not enter  into the picture until later, during the Inquisition and the like. Since none of  us were there at the time, we can only do our best to follow the path as we see it.

Now that I have a family and want a spiritual community for my daughter, I’ve addressed the group aspect of the  Craft differently. We belong to a Unitarian Universalist Church in Tacoma, which  has no dogma, only basic principles that I can wholeheartedly support, and  which give my daughter the freedom to find her own path. When I arrived at  the church, I immediately asked who ran their Covenant of Unitarian  Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) chapter. “Where are  your pagans?” I asked the board president. He  explained to me that the group had gone defunct  and that there wasn’t anyone who had the energy to reinvent  the group.

I couldn’t abide by the idea of a Unitarian church without a strong  pagan presence. Earth-centered spirituality is one of the many traditions  the church’s practices are based on. The first thing I did was to write an article  responding to a sermon given by the staunch humanist minister who  was serving at that time. It was a pagan view on humanism, which challenged the  congregation to find magick and sacredness in their lives, rather than just  intellectual stimulation.

Once I stirred the pagan political cauldron, I found myself planning a  winter solstice service, and soon people began saying that my energy was just  what was needed to get things going again. One day I noticed that I was being  introduced to new members as the “chief pagan,” and I was being  referred to as “priestess.” I now facilitate  the church’s Earth Centered Spirituality Group, which leaves  me in the odd position of being a solitary leading a group.We  get together to study and celebrate seasonal festivals and rites of passage, as  I believe our ancestors did. We also reach out to the congregation and  community to teach them about the wheel of the year and to dispel myths and  propaganda. I didn’t set out to lead a group; it just happened.

My solitary work has taken a back seat, now that I spend so much  time and energy facilitating meetings and rituals. Most of my personal practice  involves cleansing, purifying and healing, while the seasonal celebrations  seem to fall in with the group. I also recently began networking with other groups  in  the area. Since I have been thrust into a position of leadership and most of  my “knowledge” and practice comes from books and personal experience, I  feel that it is important to go out and learn from others. I was afraid that I  didn’t have the right to lead a circle or study group. What I found in the  community was wonderful people to celebrate with, and a feeling of belonging. I also  found the rituals I wrote and organized weren’t any different than  anyone else’s. I watched other groups spill, trip,  forget words, read from cards and make the most of  it just like we do. It didn’t hurt the rituals; it made them real.  The Goddess loves a good laugh.

My practices have changed over the years. Rather than chanting under  the Triple Goddess tree as a rural pagan, I find myself working indoors as a  Northwest city pagan. I do healing work for family and close friends, honor the  seasonal cycles with a family altar in the living room and occasionally find  time for divination. Much of my time is spent at my computer researching and  writing our next ritual. Since I never seem to be able to find a ritual from written  sources I like, I write them myself.

For me, working ritual that I have created myself or with the help of  others gives me more of a sense of connection than reciting something from  a book. My wonderful, supportive husband, who is just now embracing  his inner pagan, likes to tease me by calling me “Hemingway” when I write. I  decided a long time ago that I am looking forward to becoming a very eccentric  old woman, and so as not to shock anyone, I’m starting early. I like to write  ritual, articles and homilies naked while drinking a glass of Merlot.

And so the wheel turns. It begins under a tree in the mountains and  is continued at a keyboard in the city. Some things stay the same. I still ritually  purify the house after an illness or argument. I still infuse candles with  herbs, oils and energy to use in healing or personal and spiritual growth. Most of all,  I try make spirituality a part of my day-to-day life, not just something I do at  the full moon or at a Sabbat.

Although part of me still hopes to someday meet that group of people  with whom I fit perfectly, I guess I have the best of both worlds, my own  personal relationship with the Goddess and wonderful new friends to celebrate with.  As I close this article, I raise my glass to the goddesses and gods  everywhere, and to those who explore, celebrate  and honor them in whatever way they see fit. So may it be.