I started identifying as a Pagan & a witch back in 1999. I self-initiated into Witchcraft like a lot of teenagers did back then through my main lady, Silver Raven Wolf. Thanks, Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation! It was an exciting ride for a 15 year old kid who lived in an accepting community called Sarasota, Florida. After the initial glamour of being a witch wore off, I realized I was in over my head as a lonely practioner. There was only so much I could learn from books! YouTube & social media didn’t exist yet!
I think back on the time period between ages 15-27. This was the time before Deeply Rooted Church & before having any real social connections in Paganism. I more or less stumbled through what it meant to be Pagan. There was no one to back me if people got nasty & bullied me. There were times I thought about converting back to Christianity simply because I was so desperately seeking social ties.
Solitary witchcraft or being a solitary Pagan is a completely legitimate practice. My man Scott Cunningham was a genius when he wrote Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. He exquisitely painted a picture of how to do things without a coven or group model.
It wasn’t enough for me. I needed folks to relate, learn, & grow with during the course of my spiritual path.
I was fortunate to find my church, Deeply Rooted. For ten wild years, I had community. I faced the challenges of working in a group environment, learned about my own social blunders through interacting with others, & blossomed from the anxiety-ridden bipolar wreck into a priestess.
And then 2020 happened. We shut the doors of the church to protect the community & I found myself alone again. All those wonderful aspects of community which I must have taken for granted were suddenly gone. My heart was broken, however, I got through it. As the new normal began to take hold after vaccinations & flattening the curve, I don’t think I had ever been happier to see my people again.
I was home!
I notice a lot of folks, after 2020, are considering joining up with communities & groups. I think the idea of more Pagans engaged with bigger organizations such as Deeply Rooted Church, Circle Sanctuary, or the countless others is a fantastic idea. I want to offer folks who are transitioning from the solitary aspect to the group dynamic a few key pieces of advice.
- Don’t give up. It’s easy to feel like a drop in the ocean during a big gathering or even a turn out of ten people. You may not immediately get noticed if you’re a person who tends to be quiet. I would seek out a member of the clergy (priest, priestess, etc) & ask them to help you make introductions. You don’t have to do this, however, it makes things a little easier if you’re overwhelmed by suddenly engaging with crowds.
- Don’t get bullied. I don’t care how well any organization, coven, church, or group functions, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch who want to spoil it! Don’t think that you’re less important because you’re new! Tell a member of the leadership such as a member of the Board of Directors, founder, or clergy that someone is making you feel uncomfortable. Your experience is valid.
- It’s okay to be quiet & just watch! I notice that many folks at our community like to stay silent & take it in until they feel comfortable to approach others. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this! When you’re ready, or if you’re ready, reach out to folks!
- Take your time & breath! Social situations can induce anxiety & panic in many individuals. This is normal because there is a very real difference in interacting with people physically as opposed to social media. If you find yourself becoming triggered, don’t feel bad about walking away & taking deep breaths. It’s also okay to leave. This is about your spiritual experience, not performing for others.
- Ask questions. If you find yourself unsure about how things work in a particular community, church, or coven – Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Sometimes the clergy of a community is so busy running around or working that they don’t immediately realize that folks are confused. Some time long-term members of an organization take things for granted such as renting out library books, how to use the kitchen facilities, or what goes on a ritual. It is okay & totally valid to ask as many questions about operations, procedures, or whatever else is going on within a Pagan gathering. That’s what good Pagan leadership is expected to do – serve you!
There are too many subjects concerning working in a group dynamic to cover in a single article. I encourage folks to ask questions. I have about a decade of experience working in a Pagan church. For those of you who want to stay solitary, I respect your path! For those of you who are questioning things after the heavy isolation period of last year, I’m here for you! Thank you for reading along! Blessed Be – Shining Quill the Unicorn