Posted by: aediculaantinoi | March 19, 2013

What, Truly, Is A “Solitary” Practitioner?

[This was supposed to have been posted yesterday, but for some reason, it got saved as a draft rather than posted...drat, blasted intertubes! Well, at least it didn't get lost entirely. Imagine this is Monday, then...and I may write more later tonight.]

I forgot that in Neos Alexandria, Sunday was Kunegia. Damn…it not only fits with Antinous, but with Cú Chulainn. Drat…I can’t say that “well, at least I did other things,” because it’s no replacement for the acknowledgement of the festival; but, some of the deities concerned at least got their due out of the day, I suppose…

Today, however, I wish to write about a particular topic that has nothing to do with the holy-day of the given calendrical occasion. I was intrigued by a post over on The Wild Hunt recently by Eric Scott called “Unsolitary.” You should go and have a look at the post first, just so you can see from whence some of my thoughts on this matter spiraled out, as it were.

Solitary practice, one might say, is almost the default practice of a huge number of modern pagans in the U.S., and an increasing number throughout the world, especially in countries where there isn’t a lot of public awareness or openness about paganism. It’s very likely that almost everyone in modern paganism (with the exception of those raised in a given tradition, of which there are some, but not a lot) probably starts out realizing they’re “a bit different,” and then if they’re lucky and get some good resources, they might be able to find a local community of some sort. If not, they often become a solitary practitioner whether they like it or not; and even if they do find a local community, if it doesn’t suit their tastes for whatever reason, they might end up being a solitary again anyway.

Teo Bishop has been doing some interesting things with the Solitary Druid Fellowship. (I can’t get the page for the SDF to load at present…sorry for the lack of links.) I don’t know Teo that well, but a lot of people seem to be getting something out of this organization; and, Teo is a very nice individual. But I find myself questioning (while in no way suggesting a critique or undermining of his efforts): if there is a “fellowship,” can it really be “solitary”?

I reflect on my own situation as well. For the majority of the time that I’ve been involved in devotion to Antinous, I’ve done so on my own. Yes, there are a few times a year in which I am able to get together with other people, whether they’re hardcore and dedicated devotees of Antinous or not, and do rituals of various sorts; I also meet various Mystai of Antinous for social occasions apart from ritual during the year as well, and inevitably some matter or other of interest comes up in our conversation. The pronons used in some of our prayers in Latin (e.g. the “Antinoan Petition”) are first person plural, no matter what, because when I pray it (or anyone else does), I am in very definite solidarity with a number of other individuals, both in my specific organization and on a wider communal level. Even though I’m doing most of my devotional practices on my own (including some of the biggest holy days of the year during the past year), nonetheless I don’t feel alone or “solitary” in doing so.

So, that is a big question for me. If lots of Wiccans are solitaries, but they’re all following a set of ritual rubrics derived from the same source (e.g. Cunningham, perhaps?), then are they truly “solitary”? If one is a part of a larger organization or fellowship, even if one does the majority of one’s practices alone, is one truly “solitary”?

And, because I’m a polytheist and an animist and we ask questions like this, I also have to add: there are other beings who are not only the recipients of devotion in my practices (and those of many others as well), but who also take part in them with us on occasion, worshipping or honoring other deities…or even themselves. (Yes, that happens, too!) How, then, can anyone really be “solitary” when the world is filled with divine beings who aid and assist us, who join us in singing the praises of their fellows, and who are present often both when invoked and when not invoked into the ritual space?

I’m going to leave these as open questions, because I think it would be more interesting to hear other people’s answers than to attempt to offer my own answer in a once-and-for-all manner. So, what do you think?


Responses

  1. I don’t consider myself a solitary practitioner, in either my devotion to Antinous and related gods, nor in my devotion to the Four Gods. Though I originally did feel rather solitary/alone in my devotion to the Four Gods – and then a few people became interested as well and began interacting with them, and there were spirits that worshiped them too and I am excited to know that such things (spirits worshiping other spirits or gods or themselves!) are not so strange!

    I don’t think a group of people that shares rituals and prayers and structures and such is solitary, even if they are separated by distance, but…that is because I think such connections can transcend distance and I very much enjoy the level of connectivity that the internet brings, which adds a different layer to ‘solitary practice’. Hm….a lot to mull over!!

    • It’s an interesting topic, and perhaps deserves its own post at some stage. I’ve known from my studies of Hindu narrative that various gods therein worship various other gods therein (and sometimes even the gods end up doing reverence to human gurus and such!)…but, we often forget this is the case with Western deities, too. Hermes, after all, innovated animal sacrifice to the gods when he slaughtered some of Apollon’s cattle for that purpose, and made an altar for the twelve gods to do so–one of whom was, if I am not mistaken, himself!

      So, this element of the gods worshipping each other, and also sometimes even worshipping themselves, is not only a part of our lore, but it’s also a part of my experience, including some recent ones related to Antinous where he was basically helping me (as in “being the altar boy to my priest”!) to worship him…which is an odd position to be in, but there we go. ;)

      And, of course, lots else to mull over in terms of what constitutes solitarity (that’s not even a word, really, but there we go again!).

  2. I am solitary Pagan in so far that I am not part of any pagan community that physically meets. Being such, I stand before my gods alone.

    The pagan blogosphere at large is a community of sorts. I blog, people respond, and I read and reply to other blogs. Jason from the Wild Hunt wrote a while back that pagan bloggers do not matter much in comparison to real-life pagan organisers. I am aware he was talking mostly about the macro-developments in Paganism, but for me, pagan bloggers matter a great deal. I have been to a very limited amount of Pagan (mostly wiccan) meetings and found very few kindred spirits there. In any case, there was very little room for discussion. Dutch internet forums were filled with beginners in Wicca. I tried to build a Dutch forum of my own but it did not last.

    Through blogs I remain connected to the Pagan community at large. But I still feek solitary. Blogging is great, but the format is not always conducive to extended dialogue. As you very well know, many people are selective readers when it comes to online writing.

    Now I am a member of SDF and I recite the daily devotional every day. “I am one and we are many. Fellowship in solitude”. Through such liturgy, such language, fellowship takes hold. It is as I feel my fellows, even if they are unknown to me, standing behind me, saying the same words at the same time. Maybe I am no longer ‘a solitary’, but I do experience solitude. We all do. And ritual language can connect me to them, not just to the gods. Teo Bishop has stated that the SDF is not an online community in the sense an internet forum is. But I hope the SDF will extend itself, and provide a platform for more than the creation of a shared liturgy. And that other members become more active.

    I wrote about this on my own blog (https://paganlayman.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/f-is-for-fellowship/). But I haven’t yet set down with the more existential questions that you ask here. Thank you for prodding my brain.


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