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So What Is a “Solitary Eclectic Non-Denominational Pagan,” Anyway?

Updated July 2014, long overdue. The basic beliefs, principles & philosophies have not changed, but my life has, and so some of the information needed revision, especially in the F.A.Q.

Let’s get one thing straight right off. What it ISN’T is Satanic or of the Devil, no matter what you may have been told by those who want you to believe thusly for their own ends. The Devil is a strictly Christian construct. I don’t know of a single Pagan of any flavor, myself included, who “worships” Satan. In fact, if you call most Pagans “Satanists” they will roll their eyes, laugh in your face at your ignorance and bigotry, or both. “Satanists” are perverting Christianity for their own ends, and few self-respecting true Pagans will associate much with such people.

Then what IS a “solitary eclectic non-denominational pagan”? It’s not too difficult. Let’s take it one word at a time.

Solitary

Solitary means alone, by one’s self, of course. I do my spiritual practice alone rather than as part of a group. I have always felt that one’s spiritual path was a personal and private matter anyway. My relationship with Spirit is between me and it anyway — there’s no requirement that anyone else be involved.

My solitude is partly by choice, partly by circumstance. I don’t have an overwhelming need to belong to a group, and I refuse to join a group that isn’t the RIGHT group for me. And I’m picky. I also REALLY don’t like large crowds of people (Myers-Briggs type ISTJ, heavy on the I), so I don’t seek out the various “gatherings” that occur where I could participate in group ritual. I have participated in the occasional cyber-ritual, which is an interesting hybrid of solitary and group work, but don’t make a regular practice of it.

The one true group ritual I ever participated in was a dedication ceremony with six at-the-time-close woman friends (who are scattered all around the country), the only time we were ever able to all get together in person for a long weekend a few years back. It was wonderful, but that’s because it was with the right people. Without that caring and bonding, I’d just as soon it be me and Spirit. We get along just fine with just the two of us.

Eclectic

Not bound to or by a single tradition, but borrowing meaningful and useful practices from wherever they may be found. In my case, I suppose that’s a mixture containing quite a few ideas that seem to appear in many pagan traditions at once; some basic Wiccan, shamanistic, and Druidic practices; a hefty dose of Asatru-based honor, leavened and tempered with a dash of Zen Buddhism. That still doesn’t describe it very well. You’d just have to hang around with me for a few months to start figuring it out.

See Non-Denominational as well.

Non-Denominational

I’m not an Official Card-Carrying Member of any particular brand of paganism — not Wicca or Santeria or Asatru or Shamanism or The Church of the Grand Pooh-Bah/Flying Spaghetti Monster or anything else. My own practices may show occasional similarities to any or all of the above at times, but I don’t follow any specific doctrine. Not being currently part of a formally organized group, and never having been formally initiated into any Officially Or Otherwise Recognized Group, I’m non-denominational. It’s somewhat like the Christians that just call themselves “Christian,” without specifying or belonging to the Baptist or Methodist or Episcopalian or Catholic Church — but only somewhat.

Pagan

Strictly speaking, “pagan” refers to one who is not Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. I won’t bore you with the etymology of the word “pagan” — there are other sites out there on the Web where you can find that little tidbit of data.

Pagans can be monotheistic or polytheistic — my own beliefs are rather mixed. I regard Deity as an “entity” (for lack of a better word) that transcends just about anything we can think of, including gender. Call it “Spirit” if you prefer. By whatever name you know it, it’s something that’s usually too big and grand and overwhelming for us to process and accept, so we filter that concept down to something we can wrap our perceptions around. Our filtering produces that which we call “gods” and “goddesses” — entities with qualities and attributes that we can relate to and understand. If you’re into anthropology or psychology, think of them archetypes if you like.

I recognize the male AND the female qualities of Spirit. In fact, as my own counter-reaction to the overwhelmingly masculine presence of Spirit in our culture, I tend to focus, not exclusively, on the female aspect. I’m more comfortable, for whatever reason, working with female aspects most of the time.

The Goddesses with whom I have a particular relationship are Northern European deities. The two that I’ve worked with most extensively are the Celtic goddess Brigit (known by many other names) and the little-known Scandinavian Jötunn Skadi. Both ladies are strong, talented, and independent women, and have given me a lot of their strength to support me over the years. Brigit chose me first and became my first Matron Goddess, and pretty well set me into my current path. Skadi came into the picture at that one group ritual I mentioned above. Working with her has been, ah, interesting. She is a firm believer in speaking truth, to oneself and others, and since beginning to work with her I’ve found myself speaking my true mind a LOT more (not always comfortably!!).

F.A.Q. (or rather the answers to the F.A.Q. — figure out the questions yourself)

  1. Yes, I have cats — five of them at present, all rescue cats. Yes, the Senior Cat, Sarah, just happens to be black. She’s my familiar and best buddy. I originally didn’t think she had any particular magic powers, except the power to snuggle up to me and make me feel better when I’m feeling rotten. Apparently she had her secrets, though — she & I lived for the first year and a half after my first marriage ended in a reputedly-haunted house, but apparently she & The Resident Ghost reached a “we don’t bother you, you don’t bother us” accommodation early on. Meet SarahCat here.
  2. No, I don’t wear black all the time. I wear it sometimes, but that’s because a) I look pretty good in black and b) it makes you look slimmer. But I also wear blue, and purple, and green — in fact just about any color that isn’t yellow or orange (I look utterly GHASTLY in yellow and orange!).
  3. No, I don’t participate in orgies, ritualistic or otherwise. Frankly, I wouldn’t know an orgy if it came up and bit me in the butt ::grin::. Sex is a personal and private matter between consenting adults. Enough said.
  4. Yes, I have an altar. It’s a pretty obvious altar, in fact, given that it sits right out in my bedroom and couldn’t really be anything else — candles, rocks, a Goddess figure, and whatever happens to be there this week. You’re welcome to look, but do not touch! Rearranging the stuff on someone’s altar is considered the epitome of bad manners by most pagans.Of course, that’s the OBVIOUS altar. I have one in my office, too, but it’s a lot more subtle — you probably wouldn’t recognize it as such, and that’s the intent.
  5. Practice magic? The only magic I know how to practice is “The Goddess helps those who help themselves.” If you want something done, be prepared to do it for yourself. On the other hand, I do perform rituals, even the occasional spell if you want to call it that. For example, I’ve been known to light a candle and meditatively focus on a goal, which some folks might consider practicing magic. However, lighting that candle and meditating never does the trick alone, because there has to be action on my part as well. The focus that little ritual gives me, though, always seems to help.I suppose it depends on your definition of “practicing magic”.There’s also the fact that everything is interconnected, and trying to force a change in one thing can have very unexpected and unintended consequences. I don’t want the responsibility when something goes badly awry because of my meddling in things I don’t understand.
    (Besides, I don’t think of it as “practicing” magic — you don’t “practice” it, you DO it.)
  6. Torture an animal? Hex a person? Oh, puh-leeze (heavy sigh, rolling eyes). Did you ever hear of karma? Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last four decades, I bet you have. What goes around comes around — some say once, some say three times, some say nine times, I don’t care how many times. (Which is not to say that I refuse to stomp on the cockroaches that insist on coming into my house — I’ll accept whatever bad karma comes out of that!)To me, paganism is all about personal responsibility for my own actions and behaviors. There’s a law known under many names on many different paths, but the Wiccans phrase it “An’ it harm none, do as thou wilt.” It seems like a very simple eight words, but start thinking about it and it gets tough. How do you define “harm,” for starters? Then you discover that no matter WHAT you do, you WILL harm someone or something. Then it becomes a matter of choosing which and what kind of harm you will do and hopefully it’s the least harm possible.If this still gives you trouble, ponder the difference between ethics and morals. In my experience, Pagans worry about ethics and don’t get too worked up about morals; fundamentalists of whatever flavor worry about morals and leave ethics high and dry too often. I ponder ethics a lot; the morals just don’t bother me much.
  7. Yes, I once was a Christian; in fact early on in high school I attended a real fundamentalist church and did all the before-school Bible studies and all that. None of it ever touched me down in my soul. The Goddess did. So been there, done that, don’t bother trying to convert me. I won’t try to convert you either — I don’t proselytize. On the other hand, once I came out of the broom closet, so to speak, my six best friends at the time all discovered that they were pagan, too; then there’s the former student/now friend who has started referring to “gods” in the plural in recent emails…..hmmm……maybe it is contagious despite non-proselytizing…..She works in mysterious ways!
  8. Where’s my pentacle? I have one but I don’t always wear it. I don’t care to flaunt it in everyone’s face.That’s in just as bad taste as flaunting an foot-high cross in everyone’s face. I do have several Goddess pendants that I wear frequently, as well as a Celtic triskellion (and triskellion and Goddess earrings) — I prefer my symbolism subtle, and to the unaware they just look like really cool jewelry.
    Maggie Smith on Religion
    (That said, should I ever end up going back to William Holland, I will be hard-pressed to resist the temptation to wear my pentacle right out there all week as a counter-measure to the rather in-your-face-Christian unofficial tone of the place!)
  9. Reincarnation? I don’t know. It’s at least as likely as the alternative. It might explain the Aztec Sun Calendar medallion I occasionally wear, as well as explaining a few recurring weird dreams.
  10. Astrology? Tarot cards? Runes? Divination at all? I don’t know if I believe in it or not. I don’t think it matters whether I believe in it or not. I’m pragmatic — if a tool works I’ll use it, and all those are tools. Runes work better for me than Tarot, possibly because they are less complex and possibly because of my Anglo-Celtic heritage. I have two sets that I use, one fluorite and one blue goldstone. That said, my favorite Tarot decks are my Robin Wood and Medicine Woman decks, if you’re interested.Astrology? Way back when, my best friend was studying astrology seriously. She did charts for my last couple of solar returns as well as a couple of transit charts for me. The transit charts all pointed to a lot of conflict and turmoil in my life during the previous eighteen months; the solar return chart for 2001 basically said “BIG CHANGES” in the coming year — a potential move, changes in the number of people I live with, and so on. At first I figured it was talking about my son leaving for college in a few months. WRONG! Six weeks later, I told my husband of twenty-two years, six months, and a day (but who’s counting) that I was leaving and I wanted a divorce. Then I moved out of the family home, to live alone (more or less; the offspring was more with me than not, depending on his mood and whim) for the first time in my life. If that’s wasn’t a BIG CHANGE then I don’t know what one is.
  11. Of course I read, voraciously and inveterately, and of course I can recommend some books on paganism. These are either classic books that have particularly influenced me over the years or newer ones that give a good overview (IMO) of paganism today:
    • Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon
    • Vivianne Crowley, A Woman’s Guide to the Earth Traditions
    • Phyllis Curott, Book of Shadows
    • Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond, People of the Earth
    • Diane Mariechild, Motherwit and The Inner Dance
    • Shekinah Mountainwater, Ariadne’s Thread
    • Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark and The Spiral Dance
    • Amber Wolfe, In the Shadow of the Shaman
    • Dana Eilers, The Practical Pagan and Paganism and the Law — essential solid advice
    • Robin Wood, When, Why…If —the best treatise on pagan ethics available

    Other authors you might want to look for include Silver Ravenwolf, Patricia Telesco, Diane Stein (early works only — her later stuff gets awfully far out there). This is by no means an exhaustive list!

  12. Direct all flames to /dev/null. I am not interested and won’t bother to read them.