For a lot of people, being a solitary practitioner is a matter of circumstance. I could easily claim that I live in an area where there are few pagans and even fewer heathens and it be true, but that isn’t the primary reason I practice my faith in solitude.
I see arguments on the internet all the time (and, despite how often we roll our eyes at “internet” arguments, we still all give weight to them, although few of us care to admit to it) about what does and doesn’t make someone heathen. Like there’s some sort of dividing line that separates those who consider themselves heathen into two categories – “heathen” and “not heathen enough.”
And it isn’t something I see just in Heathenry – I see it in Wicca and in Christianity as well. I’m sure it exists in other religions as well, so we’ll include those here as a matter of course. So many times, we use the religion – the faith – that is supposed to unite us and bring us together in a common cause so that we can support one another – to divide ourselves even further. Christianity branches into hundreds of denominations. Wicca has hundreds of traditions. Heathenry has a good dozen or so branches of its own.
Instead of uniting, Christians fight over what is and isn’t correct behavior. Wiccans fight over what is and isn’t proper magick. Heathens fight over what is and isn’t acceptable. No matter what faith we follow, there is fighting over what is and isn’t right in the model we’re using to view the world.
Honestly, I got sick of the in-fighting. I was reading through some of the posts in one of the heathen groups I’m a member of on Facebook, and someone asked whether or not it was acceptable to be a solitary practitioner. The conversation derailed because of the book the original poster shared an image of (one of Galina Krassnova’s books), and the majority of the comments were people talking about how “non-Heathen” she was and how her ideas were poisonous… you get the point.
Other commentators zeroed in on how Heathenry is a tribal religion so you need community in order to be a “real” heathen. I found myself both exasperated and bemused because here was a person saying “You need a tribe to be a heathen,” but doing so in a way that was not very community-oriented.
I’ve stated over and over again that I’m not a re-constructionist, and this is part of the reason why. Creating a tribe or a kindred (whichever name you want to use for it), while respectable, is just forming a group. All of the groups we form are just subgroups within our much larger society – tribes weren’t subgroups. In countries where tribes still exist (and there are a few left, but not many), those tribes make up the entire society. That tribe is the culture.
In our society at large, religion takes a backseat to everyday decision making. Sure, people who make decisions are influenced by their religion, but a person’s church group, coven, or kindred is still only one influence in a person’s life – that person’s life does not depend on abiding by the cultural rules established by said group.
That’s probably the #1 reason I’m not a re-constructionist – in my mind, it’s ridiculous to try to recreate conditions exactly the way they were in the past. Learn from them and be inspired by them – don’t try to recreate them. Use the good practices as inspiration for the foundation, but don’t let the past be the only thing guiding your actions. Evolution is a constant process – going backwards is idiocy.
I’m aware that not everyone shares my views, and I accept that. I’m okay with other people choosing to walk a different path. I can respect other worldviews without having to give up my own principles.
Another problem people have with my views (here I become someone who falls on the “not Heathen enough” side of the line) is that I believe in living, changing Gods that interact with us on a personal level. In the same post I mentioned, there were commentators ridiculing the idea that the Gods ever interact with individuals and stating that only the ancestral spirits and wights interact with people. As someone who is God-touched (I am quite literally “plagued” with the presence of the divine and can fall into a seer’s trance on the drop of a dime), I just rolled my eyes at this comment.
For some reason, there are people out there who have this idea that Gods are distant and disinterested. While that is true for some of the Gods, that isn’t true for all of them. Loki is the most social God I have ever met, and I see the way He influences the world everyday. On the other hand, Tyr is one of the most reserved Gods I have ever met, and in the five years I’ve been honoring the Nordic Gods, I’ve only personally interacted with Him three times.
Just like people are different, Gods are different. Not every God will be interested in every person (for some reason, Thor and I have never really gotten along. It feels like he tolerates me more than anything else, and the one time I tried to wear a Mjollnir necklace, the chain broke within a month). That’s okay. Not all of us are meant to walk the same path, and Thor’s path is obviously not the right choice for me. Which, in retrospect, makes sense, considering that the main paths I walk are the paths of Loki, Odin, Tyr, Freyr, Freyja, and Sigyn. (Conversely, I’ve been wearing the same Valknut necklace for almost two years and have had zero problems).
My personal interaction with the Gods is the primary reason I am a solitary practitioner. If the majority of Heathens were more open-minded about personal gnosis, I would not be solitary. The Gods have told me repeatedly that I should take up the mantle of priestess-hood, considering how easy it is for me to world-walk. Most people would never accept some of the things the Gods have told me as truths (such as Freyr as the dragon king), and I’m not the type of person who feels it is the right course of action to try to force other people into believing what I say as being the truth.
So, for now, I’ll stick with being a solitary practitioner, and I’ll write about the truths the Gods reveal to me as they reveal themselves. That’s all I can really do right now, considering the lack of hospitality some heathens seem to take pride in showing towards those who do not believe as they do.