I’ve spent nearly the entire week working on new ways to make ADF Druidism an accessible tradition to solitary Pagans. The work is still in its early stages, and I’m piecing together ideas which I hope to share once the leaves have fallen. My backyard maple is only hinting at new color, so it will be a few months yet.
Crafting religious practice gets me really excited, though. As perplexed as I was last week about the Gods (and I’ve been on the fence about capitalizing “god,” by the way — please share your thoughts about that grammatical choice in the comments), I’m having no problem with putting together new models for sharing my religion that might better serve people.
Religion, as I’m learning to practice it, allows each of us to be our own priestess or priest, our own empowered solitary practitioner. When we do religion in this way we become better equipped to serve our community, and we cultivate an intimate relationship with the Kindred.
Isaac Bonewits wrote in The Vision of ADF:
“Everyone is expected to communicate with Goddesses and Gods in her or his own way — spiritual growth is not a monopoly of the clergy. Every human being needs to learn how to contact the divine fire within, how to talk with trees, and how to unleash the power of magic to save the Earth. If there is such a thing as ‘spiritual excellence,’ we need to be striving to express that as well.”
Isaac placed great emphasis on terrestrial religious gathering (i.e. Grove rituals being held in physical locations), but I think the underlying message of the above quote speaks quite clearly to the path of the Solitary Druid. It is what a Druid does on her own — her devotionals, her studies, the development of her personal piety — that informs how she participates in community.
And I believe it is important to note that the work of the Solitary is the work of the community, because the Solitary who never participates in a terrestrial gathering is nonetheless a part of the greater religious body.
Perhaps this idea of a unified religious body is easy for me to conceive of, having been brought up in a tradition which understood the Church — capital C — to be the “Body of Christ.” All salvation doctrine aside, this concept of a unified body of believers was empowering, and created a sense of deep, spiritual belonging.
I think there is a Pagan analog, perhaps conceiving of ourselves as the “Body of the Mother,” or the “Children of Earth” (feel free to offer up any phrases in the comments that you think might be clearer, or more appropriate to Pagans).
We are less a “body of believers” than we are a “body of practitioners,” and in the case of ADF — a Pagan tradition which already emphasizes unity through practice — we have good cause to embrace this idea of a unified religious body.
See — I think Solitaries are the glue which holds a religion together. They (we) are not the cast-offs who simply can’t make it to the party. We are our own party.
We are, through the nature of our solitary circumstance, sometimes better equipped to engage in deep contemplation about the ambiguities, the paradoxes, and subtext which often goes unnoticed in group settings. In silence and solitude we hone our skills at cultivating the “divine fire within,” we uncover the language of the trees, and we connect in an intimate, personal way to the Earth Mother.
We have that available to us, that is.
I asked on Facebook, “Do you consider yourself a ‘Solitary Practitioner’ of a Pagan tradition?”:
There are a good number of people who are practicing their religious traditions alone, or mostly alone, and I think those of us who find ourselves in that position might do well to start exploring ways in which we can become united with one another in our solitude. That’s the work I’m busy crafting right now, and I’m at a point in the process where I could use some feedback from you.
Do you consider yourself a Solitary? If so, have you ever felt a sense of unity with other Solitaries? If you are an ADF member, what has been your experience of our community’s service to solitaries? Where have we succeeded, and were could our perspective use a little adjustment?