We’re a subgroup of a subculture. Of a couple of them, actually: atheism and Paganism.
So it’s not a surprise that though there are many of us collectively, we are spread thinly and may live far away from anyone else who identifies as practicing the path of Atheopaganism. Thus, this post, about practicing as a solitary.
That said, I do encourage folks to meet up as best they can. I have heard many heartwarming stories of folks from the Atheopaganism Facebook group meeting in person and establishing friendships. I think that’s wonderful!
I myself mostly practice as a solitary. Though I have a ritual circle that meets 8 times per year or so and the rituals of which don’t generally involve invocation of deities, most of my day-to-day practice is things that I do by myself, or sometimes with Nemea, my partner in crime.
My solitary practices fall into several categories: Daily practices, contemplation, craft projects and solitary rituals.
In my daily practices, I often have very little time in the morning before leaving for work, as I am not a morning person and typically sleep in until the very last minute when I must prepare for work. Still, I stand before my Focus, and ground myself. The Arrival Phase of ritual is particularly important in solitary work, because it is there that we submerge into the Ritual State, or trance. The creation of a sense of being safe and protected is particularly important when working alone–you’ll want to ensure you have privacy and won’t be interrupted.
I then draw a Tarot card, and contemplate its meaning. It will become a theme for reflection throughout the day. And then I’m off to work, and my day.
In the evening, mostly I just like to spend time by candlelight, to enjoy the dreamy entrancing feeling of the flickering candles on my Focus. But sometimes I do more formal solitary rituals (see below).
In contemplation practices, I typically lay out a selection of ritual decorations and tools to create a Focus, and then read Tarot cards by candlelight. I am a very poor meditator, as my attention tends to be drawn away, but Tarot or other “divination” practices work well for contemplation for me.
Similarly, when creating Pagan craft projects, I like to lay out a Focus and play music that puts me in a proper mood. Generally, you need full light to work with cutting tools and so forth, but beginning with Arrival and declaration of Qualities you would like to be imbued in the product of your crafts can make a ritual out of a crafting project. For examples of such projects, see here.
In a solitary ritual, I plan an intention in advance, and do what I can to create the setting that will enable me to go deeply into trance. So I play appropriate ritual music (see link above), burn incense or dried herbs, light candles or oil lamps, and perhaps dress in special ritual apparel or put on a special piece of jewelry. I go through the five phases of the ritual structure for Atheopaganism that I recommend (Arrival, Qualities and Intentions, Deep Play, Gratitude and Benediction). Such solitary rituals are usually planned in advance.
However, bear in mind that such personal rituals may not involve prior planning. It is perfectly legitimate to simply ground, establish sacred space, and perform an impromptu ritual without thinking about even the goal in advance. Sometimes the goal is simply to experience the ritual state of trance itself, sheerly for the symbolic meaning and pleasure of it.
And now, a word about mind-altering substances. Many find dropping into the deep Presence and warm, glowing feeling of trance to be easier—particularly when solitary—if they have some chemical assistance. I make no judgements about this, but suggest that if you choose this route, you start from the standpoint that less is more. I find personally that a single glass of wine is helpful to me in establishing the Ritual State; any more than that and I am unfocused and not really in the best state for doing rituals. Others may prefer a little cannabis or even something stronger.
If you choose to experiment in this direction, one route I highly suggest avoiding is that of stimulants. The effects of such drugs as caffeine, cocaine and amphetamines are directly opposite that of trance: they tend to lead to people being hyper, scattered, and unable to focus very well unless taken in very small doses. Not to mention their addictive natures.
There is a lot of literature on the usage of chemical drugs in ritual contexts. I’m not familiar with much of it because that isn’t my area of interest, but if you root around the Internet I’m sure you can find a lot. One very good resource on psychoactive substances generally is the nonprofit site Erowid.
Obviously, you should be aware of the laws in your area and take care of your personal security in making decisions about use of chemical enhancement.
Explore your solitary practice and I hope you find much joy and meaning in it! Feel free to remark on your experiences in the comments.
Beautiful as this image is, please: don’t EVER wear sleeves like this when working with naked flame.