The Heart of Wicca

Child of a New Day

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Has anyone read Ellen Cannon Reed's "The Heart of Wicca"? If so what are your views of this book? I could see how her opinions in certain areas could upset some people. The thing I liked about this book is it forces you to really examine your beliefs and whether or not you have done your homework on Paganism. She sounded like the type that would give you a good kick in the butt if need be (read some stuff about her on WitchVox). Sounds like she frowns upon solitary practitioners of Wicca though, I know people would be offended by that. So I am interested in hearing what others have to say on the subject.
I haven't read this but it sounds interesting. What is your opinion on solitary practice versus a coven?
"The Heart of Wicca" critique (part 1 of 2)

Here's a review of Ellen Cannon Reed's "Heart of Wicca" that I wrote a while back. Just as a side note, Ellen Cannon Reed has some other thought-provoking material out there -- she is responsible for a Wiccan tarot deck (you can see it at ) and also wrote "The Witches' Qabala" and "Circle of Isis" (detailing her Egyptian-flavoured Wiccan sect.) Ellen Cannon Reed passed to the afterlife on October 7, 2003.

Here's my article (part 1 -- part 2 is in the next message posted here):

A Critique Of Ellen Cannon Reed’s “The Heart of Wicca”

This slim volume (running one hundred and thirty four pages, including the index and extra materials) is a challenging read and not one I would recommend to beginners. The subtitle “Wise Words from a Crone on the Path,” implies it is an exploration of the deeper meaning of Wiccan practice and philosophy from one who is an Elder of the religion. Despite the author’s years of training and experience as a high priestess, the book has a number of major flaws which are difficult to overlook and could be confusing to a novice.

Ellen Cannon Reed has been a visible member of the Wiccan community for years. She has been a practicing Wiccan since 1975, and is the high priestess of the Sothistar coven in California. She is the author of “The Witches Qabala” (Weiser: 1997), “Invocation of the Gods” (Llewellyn: 1992), and “The Witches Tarot” (Llewellyn: 1989). Her tarot deck is probably the best known of her works; it has become a modern standard commonly found among Wiccan working tools.

“The Heart of Wicca” includes chapters explaining in some detail Ellen Cannon Reed’s personal understanding of the following:
What Is Wicca?
Covens and Coven Leadership
Training and Study
The Sabbats
The Rede, Karma, and the Law of Three
Your Own Quest

There are a few bits of extra material at the end, including a message to those who choose to follow the author’s path, along with a list of unfortunately out-of-date internet links, a recommended reading list, index, and brief author bio.

The book starts off with a litany of gripes about how others interpret and practice Wicca, while claiming that her Wicca, which she describes as being “traditional Wicca,” is not at all like those she decries. For instance, she dismisses people who choose to perform their rituals using clearly modern mythical systems. She objects to the philosophical perspective that goddesses and gods are aspects or facets of a universal goddess or god, or elements of an all-encompassing divine force that is beyond human understanding in its totality. She questions whether one can be Wiccan if one doesn’t also practice magick. And she objects to the idea that you can honor the Lord and Lady if you don’t perform specific rituals such as casting a circle.

The author defines her tradition, which she calls “traditional Wicca,” as an initiatory Mystery religion. She says that this is very distinct from the social, political, or support types of groups which also claim to be Wiccan, implying that they do not deserve the right to call themselves Wiccan. She says in her introduction, on page ix:
“We are few, and have looked about us in dismay, realizing that other kinds of covens have proliferated… and that most newcomers to the Craft are not aware that our type of tradition exists.”

Immediately after the introduction the author explores the concept of “tradition,” defining it as “a specific way of doing things within our group” (page 17.) She makes it clear that her coven, and another coven she feels represents “traditional Wicca” best, are not consensus covens but follow a strict degree structure with High Priestess leading. She states that people she considers “traditional Wicca” are all “firm believers in the value of tradition.” Yet by her own definition, people who practice Wicca using modern mythology systems are traditions as valid as hers despite her claims otherwise – they are, after all, doing things a specific way within their own group. It might not be the same way that her group practices, but it is a system they have worked out and are following within their practice. The author can’t really claim that her specific coven’s way of doing things is the only “traditional” way, either, since she freely admits the other coven she holds up as an example of a “traditional” coven, the Coven Ashesh-Hecat, does not follow the same tradition as hers. Her definition of “tradition” is so broad that it easily includes anyone who wants to call themselves Wiccan, despite the author’s attempts to assert that there are many Wiccans who are not traditional, or are not following a tradition.

Ellen Cannon Reed states that neither of the covens she holds up as exemplars of “traditional Wicca” are either Gardnerian or Alexandrian (page 17). She also acknowledges that it is perfectly normal for Wiccans to create, add, and evolve bits and pieces of their practice over time. No Wiccan group can honestly claim to have a tradition which has been passed down to them in an unbroken line from pre-Christian times. Yet in her introduction to the book the author talks about “gritting her teeth” in frustration when she hears about other Wiccans who choose to create their own new traditions using modern myths which speak to them.

The topic of initiation is the other key element at the core of her frustration with Wiccans she tries to dismiss. The chapter on initiation describes the two forms that it takes: “small I initiation” which is a ritual of acceptance into a group, and “big I initiation” which is a personal experience involving a life-changing step in the spiritual maturation process. While other Wiccans perform the “small I initiation,” only a goddess or god can perform the “big I initiation.”

The author’s hang-up regarding initiation centers on the fact that she feels that to be Wiccan, you must have undergone a “big I initiation.” You must have achieved a minimal level of spiritual maturity, have undergone a life-changing spiritual experience, in order to call yourself a follower of Wicca. She feels that any Wiccan groups which are not made up of Initiates (the title she chooses to use to identify those who have experienced a “big I initiation”) are not really Wiccan. This narrow viewpoint is one which I’m afraid is one which the author must re-examine. There are a number of reasons for this.

Many people come to the Wiccan religion as the result of personal searching and examination of personal philosophy. Wicca is not a proselytizing faith – followers are not encouraged to actively recruit others. Choosing to self-identify as Wiccan is rarely a whim – and for those whom it might be a fashion or political statement, Wiccan involvement is usually brief as they realize it is a faith that requires individual work. Wicca is a personal faith, not an institutional one. Answers are not prepackaged for acceptance by the faithful, but something that each of us work out for ourselves. It could be said that each person who chooses to call themselves “Wiccan” has in fact received a “big I initiation” in order to have the courage to come out of the broom closet to themselves as Wiccan.

An analogy can be drawn from the gay/lesbian/bisexual community. When someone comes to the realization that their sexual orientation is not strictly heterosexual, they can honestly say that they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual regardless whether they are celibate or not, whether they are “out” to others or not. That “coming out of the closet” to one’s self is the equivalent of a “big I initiation,” as it is a significant step in one’s path through life. People who realize that they feel most aligned with Wicca, and who choose to follow this path, have indeed been touched by the divine. They have searched their hearts, and have uncovered a part of themselves that they might not have paid attention to before.

(see next message for part 2)
"The Heart of Wicca" critique (part 2 of 2)

(part 2 of 2 -- see the previous post for part 1)

Wicca as a religion is also more than just a small sect of dedicated mystics, in the same way that in the Roman Catholic faith, all followers are not expected to be nuns or monks. Within Wicca many groups already recognize this – many follow a degree system, with first degree being “rank and file” Witches, second degree for those worthy of the title “High Priestess” or “High Priest,” and a third degree for “Elder.” Other traditions within Wicca don’t bother with degree systems, choosing instead to recognize each practitioner as more or less an equal, with plenty of room for different roles which may change over time, and a different focus for worship or practice for each individual as they see fit. Those who clearly have more advanced understanding might be honored with the title “Elder,” but this is again sometimes done on an individual basis. Those who start out on the path do not need to be expected to be full-fledged Initiates dedicated to a mystical path, but there is certainly that element at the core of the religion. The mystical core should be nurtured and encouraged, but it is a mistake to assume that it is the only part of Wicca which is valid as a focus of practice.

If the author’s concern is that the Mystery element of Wicca is being lost, she should perhaps examine her understanding of Mystery. A good explanation of the Mystery element of Wicca is explained as follows:
“A mystery religion is not like Catholicism where a Priest is the contact point between the worshiper and the Deity, nor like Protestantism where a sacred Book provides the contact and guidelines for being with the divine. Rather a Mystery Religion is a religion of personal experience and responsibility, in which each worshipper is encouraged, taught and expected to develop an ongoing and positive direct relationship with the Gods.” (from the essay “An Introduction To Traditional Wicca” by Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries, found online at

The vast majority of Wiccan practitioners and groups encourage the understanding that religion is all about a direct relationship between the individual and the divine. Wicca, in all its many varieties and traditions, “traditional” or not, tends to emphasize this fact over any separation of individual from the divine through the need of an intercessor such as a priest, priestess, or divine scripture. By this definition of Mystery, Wiccans off all types definitely meet the test as few if any try to establish a requirement of formal intercessors between the individual and divine. Mystery is not just a specific set of rituals. Ellen Cannon Reed’s concern that Wicca is losing the Mystery element would have to be based on a completely different understanding of what Mystery is, something which she fails to define in “The Heart of Wicca.”

As a largely ecologically-centered religion, Wicca quite naturally also includes political, social, and ethical concerns which might not be the focus of one following an exclusively mystical path. Starhawk and her very visible coven Reclaiming are a clear example of a Wiccan group with more than just a mystical focus. Alex Sanders and Gerald Gardner are also perfect examples of Wiccans who did not have an exclusively mystical focus – they were both heavily involved in documenting and publicizing the existence of Wicca to ensure it did not die out. Ellen Cannon Reed herself, despite her claim that her own focus in Wicca is as an Initiate, obviously also puts a lot of her energy into attempting to teach others about the Craft through her writing. The author’s insistence that only the mystical focus is valid rings hollow. Wicca is a living, organic, growing entity which will naturally encompass numerous elements and goals as it evolves. To try and force it to not grow would be to force it to fossilize into mere dogma.

With her very restrictive views of what “real” Wicca is all about, I wonder if the author would have considered Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders, or Doreen Valiente to have been Wiccan. There is no question in my mind that they were. Yet each of them were largely responsible for highly eclectic assembling, changing, and reworking of materials into what a lot of us today take for granted as being basic to Wicca. Gerald Gardner in particular had a very obvious goal of popularizing Wicca in addition to any mystical aspirations he had. These three very influential founders of Wicca probably wouldn’t fit Ellen Cannon Reed’s narrow definition on what a “traditional Wiccan” is.

Ellen Cannon Reed argues in “The Heart of Wicca” for more scholarly research into the history and mythologies of the cultures on which we are basing our traditions. On this there is no quibble – our greatest problem in the past and even today too often we are sloppy or sometimes outright deceitful in factual claims. For instance, it is said far too often that Wicca is an old religion, that it is pre-Christian, that it is “old fashioned” (see page 127 of “The Heart of Wicca” for Ellen Cannon Reed’s contribution to this misinformation.) Historical scholarly works, in particular Ronald Hutton’s excellent book “The Triumph of the Moon” (Oxford University Press: 1999) have made it difficult to maintain the myth that Wicca is a continuation of a pre-existing religion. If anything, the evidence strongly suggests that what we know of as Wicca did not exist prior to Gerald Gardner’s involvement. He was definitely introduced to some non-Christian ideas and practices, but the religion of Wicca which he presented as whole cloth was largely his own created “tradition.” He obviously felt a need to flesh out the very rudimentary ideas he had been given by his initiator Dorothy Clutterbuck, which were very likely based on Margaret Murray’s thesis on witchcraft popular at the time. Gardner enriched it with Aleister Crowley’s ideas (most likely the primary source of “An it harm none, do what you will,”) classical occultism from available printed sources such as the Key of Solomon grimoire, Freemasonry, and other sources available to him at the time. Wicca is more honestly regarded as a modern religion drawing its sources from ancient as well as modern material. Ellen Cannon Reed can be forgiven some of her historical mistakes in “The Heart of Wicca” because Hutton’s book came out after hers, but she could have refrained from making historical claims she could not back up.

The author’s view of deity is another example of how she holds a very specific personal definition, which is fine, but feels that her definition is somehow the “correct” one, which means everyone else is wrong. Wiccans who do not hold her specific philosophy of the divine are therefore classified as not “real” Wiccans. This is highly questionable.

Ellen Cannon Reed’s insistence that each goddess and god is independent, unique, and definitely not an aspect or face of a greater divine force, is not supported by the earliest established Wiccan practices. “The Charge of the Goddess,” one of the core ritual pieces from early Gardnerian Wicca, clearly supports the Theosophical idea that all goddesses are one goddess, all gods are one god. It starts with the statement: “Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old called amongst men Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arianrhod, Bride, and by many other names…” If traditional Wicca consists solely of Ellen Cannon Reed’s view of deity, then “The Charge of the Goddess” can not be considered “traditional Wicca.” And that would mean that the oldest Wiccan traditions, Gardnerian and Alexandrian, are not “traditional Wicca” since “The Charge of the Goddess” is a central component. Evidently, “traditional Wicca” must not be defined by a specific philosophy of deity.

It goes along with encouraging honest scholarship that Wiccans should be more rigorous in their research of mythology. It sets us up as laughingstocks in scholarly circles when we confuse deities, ignorantly giving the attributes of one to another. On the other hand, we should also be aware that the stories of the gods and goddesses have always evolved. It is likely only since the advent of the printing press that the whole idea of an “official story” fixed on paper has come about. Oral transmission is notorious for changing the wording and often the meaning of things from one telling to the next. Many societies prior to the printing press were eager for new stories and gossip from outside their immediate community; it is easy to see how this would encourage the development of new tales, fabrications and embellishments of historical events, and the development of new myth. To assume that myth is fixed and unchanging is naïve and perhaps insulting. The deities, while perhaps eternal, are not necessarily unchanging.

The author does make some other excellent suggestions encouraging Wiccans to take their religion seriously, deepening the meaning to make it more than just a hobby or pass-time. It really should be a way of life. Wicca can be a strengthening bond between a practitioner and the place and circumstances of their life. It is a philosophy of relating to those around us, to our environment, to our lives, and to the unknowable in a way that encourages us to take responsibility for our personal growth. It can be very hard work but the benefits that come from greater maturity and responsibility for our own lives makes it worth the effort.

Ellen Cannon Reed does a good job of expressing what the core of Wicca is for her personally in “The Heart of Wicca.” Because she frequently asserts that her way is “traditional Wicca” and attempts to put down other Wiccans who do not practice the way she does, I would not recommend this book to those new to the path. It could leave the false impression that she is correct – that there is such a thing as a “One True Way” in Wicca. The myth of the “One True Way” is something I would prefer we leave to the monotheistic religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As Wiccans, with the lessons of the Burning Times of the Inquisition firmly planted in our philosophical past, we should know better than to fall for the “One True Way” fallacy.

For those who approach the book with a skeptical but open mind, who are willing to question statements presented as fact, “The Heart of Wicca” is an invigorating read to make you think. For those who are just starting out on the Wiccan journey, I would recommend you leave this one for later, once you have a solid grasp of the basics, have developed a healthy skepticism, and preferably after you’ve read some historical works such as Ronald Hutton’s “The Triumph of the Moon.”
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You have certainly given me a lot to think about Ben. I plan on reading the books you recommended. Thank you. I guess after reading the Heart of Wicca I felt two things, one that I needed to do some serious reasearch which could be taken as a good response but I also felt like I was unfit in my path you know "lesser than:confused: " which could be dicouraging. Is there any other books you could recommend that are beneficial in learning more of a historical factual background on the religion of wicca?
Child of a New Day said:
You have certainly given me a lot to think about Ben. I plan on reading the books you recommended. Thank you. I guess after reading the Heart of Wicca I felt two things, one that I needed to do some serious reasearch which could be taken as a good response but I also felt like I was unfit in my path you know "lesser than:confused: " which could be dicouraging. Is there any other books you could recommend that are beneficial in learning more of a historical factual background on the religion of wicca?

If you're interested in exploring the current understanding of the history of Wicca, there are a few books I'd recommend:

Ronald Hutton's "The Triumph of the Moon" (very scholarly -- but it is excellent) and his more recent book, "Witches, Druids, and King Arthur."

Isaac Bonewits' "Witchcraft: A Concise Guide" (easier to read than Hutton but just as insightful -- Bonewits is an influential Wiccan insider.)

Doreen Valiente's "The Rebirth of Witchcraft" (Doreen was one of Gerald Gardner's earliest, and probably most influential, high priestesses.)

Frederic Lamond's "Fifty Years of Wicca" (Fred was in Gardner's coven when Doreen was high priestess and has a lot of insider knowledge that he freely shares in this wonderful little book.)

There are some other books that are worth reading too but you should be aware the claims made are considered highly suspect and not necessarily proven. They are good to read though as a different point of view to the ones I just provided which are more authoritative and historically sound.

Raven Grimassi's "Witchcraft: A Mystery Tradition" (attempts to support the claim that Wicca is a continuation of a pre-Christian Pagan religion.)

Philip Heselton's "Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration" (explores the likely influences and sources of Gerald Gardner's claims about Wicca -- but some question Heselton's conclusions as not always supported by the evidence.)

If you're interested in learning more about how to practice Wicca you might find these books to be of interest:

Ray Buckland's "Wicca for One" (a very recent book written by the man who brought Gardnerian Wicca to the United States.)

Gavin & Yvonne Frost's "The Solitary Wiccan's Bible" (Gavin and Yvonne have been practicing witchcraft, not exactly a standard Wiccan form but their own denomination which they put together themselves, and are noteable because they have been active as teachers for decades now in the US. They call their denomination Wiccan but to be honest there are many Wiccans who do not consider the Frost's Wicca to be Wicca. This book is a good introduction though to how you could practice a religion like Wicca in ways that differ from Gardner's.)

T. Thorn Coyle's "Evolutionary Witchcraft" (Another very recent book that explores the Feri denomination first taught by Victor and Cora Anderson. I'm not sure if it's officially considered to be a variant of Wicca or not, but it does have a lot of Wiccan elements. The famous author Starhawk is a Feri initiate too.)

Raven Grimassi's "The Witches' Craft" and "Spirit of the Witch" present pretty mainstream Wiccan ideas in an knowledgeable style. The only part of his work I'd warn you about is that his historical claims are considered unproven by many mainstream scholars.

Janet and Stewart Farrar's books are also good. Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone (Janet's new husband since Stewart passed away) have a new one out that is also excellent -- it's called "Progressive Witchcraft."

Scott Cunningham's "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner" is also considered to be a classic.

I can suggest lots of other books if there are specific topics you're interested in. (If I were to start another career, I'd probably choose to be a librarian...)
Thank you. I will be visiting amazon quite frequently. I hope you do not mind my asking but how long have you studied? I just feel kind of overwhelmed I wonder if I will ever learn all that is needed for me anyway. Recently my aunt past away, she was a High Priestess. She lived in a different city and I occasionally spent the summers with her as a child. As an adult I would call her and ask questions, chit chat and such. I look back and feel like I just did not have the hunger for study that I do now. I miss her greatly and I feel like I want to make her proud. You never know how much you love and admire a person until they are gone. She was a great teacher and I just took for granted that she would be around as long as I needed her. So now I find myself without her and without a teacher. The Wiccan community where I am from is very small. Or everyone just hasn't come out of the Broom closet. Those who have are, I feel unwilling to share or will but only for a large fee. So asking questions really is not that usefull. I know I need to look within but it's nice to have someone who can relate to the path your on.
Child of a New Day said:
Thank you. I will be visiting amazon quite frequently. I hope you do not mind my asking but how long have you studied? I just feel kind of overwhelmed I wonder if I will ever learn all that is needed for me anyway.

I've been practicing Wicca now for over twenty years. I'm also a voracious reader so I'm always buying books (even Wiccan beginner ones at times) just to see what others are saying about things.

One of the key things to keep in mind is that spirituality is about the journey -- it might seem like the amount of stuff to learn is overwhelming, but the important thing isn't necessarily that you learn it all rather than that you grow in positive ways and deepen your relationship with the Divine. For some that means following a specific path or a specific denomination within a specific path. For others (lots of others, actually) that means following where their heart and conscience leads them and essentially making up their own unique path. Sometimes that unique path sticks within a general style like Wiccan, sometimes is goes across a number of different styles. That's OK as it's really what suits the particular person. There isn't really such a thing as a One True Way that suits all people all the time at least in my opinion.

It is tough when you don't have a teacher to guide you and answer questions but to be honest many people have done quite well by learning on their own. Sure, it might take a lot longer as the searcher goes on all sorts of roundabout paths to reach specific insights, but sometimes it's better to work on your own than to study under a teacher who is not really suited for you. Not all teachers are good at what they do, or are honest about presenting their own opinions as opinions. Some people who present themselves as teachers are doing it for questionable reasons -- ego gratification mostly, or a desire for power over others. Some teach as a way to liberate the gullible from their money. I would be highly suspicious of any teacher that expects to be paid for teaching a spiritual path (except perhaps in a formal school setting like a college or university). It's one thing to expect students to purchase their own books and materials for the training program, and another to expect the teacher to get a salary from the students for sharing their knowledge. There are many excellent teachers who see passing on their knowledge as part of their service to the Divine and to the community and do it for free. There is also a saying that "silver spoils the gift" when it comes to teaching a spiritual path.

The best advice in learning about any spiritual path is to read a variety of books, whatever you can get your hands on, and to keep an open yet critical mind. Just because something is in print don't accept it as valid unless it makes sense to you and appears to be supported by the facts. There are a lot of very questionable (and often contradictory) claims made especially in the occult arts and sciences which includes witchcraft and magickal spiritual paths. Try and compare things between at least two different authors (preferably more than just two) and see where they agree and where they differ. Chances are the things they agree on are more accepted and are likely valid. Things that are not agreed upon come down to opinions where we need to really make up our own minds.

Here are some other good beginner books that I'd recommend reading if you can find them. They are all relatively new and should be easy to get (if you can't find them in local stores that carry occult books, you can always order them from,, etc. or ask your local store to special-order them in for you.)

"Progressive Witchcraft" by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone.

"Wicca for One" by Raymond Buckland.

"Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner" by Scott Cunningham.

"Spirit of the Witch" by Raven Grimassi.

"Wicca: A Year and a Day" by Timothy Roderick.

And for a good historical overview of Wicca and witchcraft (and the differences between the two) I highly recommend Isaac Bonewits' "Witchcraft: A Concise Guide."

There is also a lot of excellent material (along with a lot of questionable stuff) on the internet. is a good place to start as they have a massive collection of essays, contacts, and links that are constantly being tidied up so that any "dead links" are weeded out. Messageboards like this one,, and also have a lot of knowledgeable people who are very willing to share information and discuss all sorts of topics. They're good places to ask questions!
Ben, Because of our conversation I decided to ask the God/dess for a Teacher and boy she/he works fast. I had a dream telling me that my teacher was near by. In the dream I was told to look in The Victorian Grimoire (I book I have had laying around for about six years). I have looked at it put it down read other things picked it back up etc. So anyway I finnally went to my book shelf today (because of the dream) and looked at the book. At first I thought it was kind of silly but what the heck right? I remembered what you said about not just accepting what I read as fact and comparing and such. So anyway I decided to read about the author . Turns out she lives or used to in my town. I thought that was amazing so I ran to the computer and typed in her name to see if she was running any workshops or classes. Well I did not find any classes that she was teaching but I did find another link. That link took me to a page with a phone number in my city, where they were offering classes on Wicca. Turns out the pagan community in my city is not that small. So I wrote down the number. I thought it was maybe out-dated but I tried it anyway. A friendly voice answered the phone and I began my questioning. The classes they offer are extremely reasonably priced. The setting is well semi-formal from what I gather but I will see when I go. It really can't hurt to check it out. So even if this is not where I get my teaching from, I believe the God/dess will use it to lead me in the right dirrection. I thought I would send you this to let you know that you played a role as well. Thank you for being so informative! I guess you did your service to the devine. Blessed Be!
I'm very glad to hear that you're finding some good leads near where you live. It seems to often work just like you described -- we just need to ask, be willing to keep our eyes and ears open, and then jump at the opportunities that appear.

Even if the particular classes don't turn out to be what you're looking for, you will have a chance to meet others in your area. And through them you might find the perfect teacher for you! Even if you don't find a mentor you might find some new friends which can be just as valuable as any mentor.
didymus said:
I haven't read this but it sounds interesting. What is your opinion on solitary practice versus a coven?

I hope you don't mind if I jump in on this question too. (I know, I type too much!)

From what I've learned there have always been people who will practice as solitaries, and those who prefer to work in groups. It's the same with pretty much anything whether it's spiritual or magickal or mundane. Some people feel inhibited and overly self-conscious with others especially with sensitive issues like one's personal spirituality and individual relationship with the Divine. Others find that they learn huge amounts through exposure to others in the exact same circumstances. We each need to decide for ourselves what our comfort levels are, what helps us to grow, and also be willing to challenge ourselves to take risks as the most dramatic growth usually comes from taking risks.

Even if we work in groups, though, it's important (in my opinion, anyways) to do a lot of solitary work. No one can do the work for us to make us grow. Spirituality is, at its core, about our individual relationships with the Divine, and no one can do the work required to establish and deepen that relationship for us. Working with others can help us by pointing out problems and shortcuts. It provides wonderful support networks for us to help us through the rough bits. But the real work is what each of us does ourselves and that is not found exclusively through group work.
Ben, I just wanted to tell you that I answered Didymus the way I did because he is my boyfriend. I think he felt bad for me when no one originnaly answered my thread. So he asked the question to get it started. What a sweatheart huh? So the jig is up. But back to the subject at hand. I have considered joining a Coven but I always come back to one thing. If it should be perfect love and perfect trust I think a problem would present itself maybe. What I mean by that is I am unsure that I would agree with the practices of the other coven members. Would I trust them. I struggle with this. What if a little down the line I learned that another member of the Coven was doing things ritually that I did not agree with or was outright wrong in my eyes. That some how did not represent the devine. How could I still participate in a ritual without that perfect love and trust. I just am unsure. Because I have never been in a coven or learned-studied in a coven I guess I have no basis for comparison. What do you think?
I wondered if there was some underlying relationship between you and Didymus the way you responded to his post. I understand now!

Working with a coven is just like interacting with people in other circumstances. The ideal, as you said, is to have "perfect love and perfect trust" between all the members of the coven. The best working covens are the ones where it's really like a family where everyone gets along really well and everyone loves each other and trusts each other. But just like with our biological families it's something that we have to work at and doesn't necessarily come automatically. What family out there is perfect? In the same way, I doubt there are any perfect covens out there.

Some people prefer being in a family that is small and intimate, or even prefer being completely solitary. Others prefer large extended families with lots of activity and lots of coming and going. They're all just different ways families can form and function -- one type is not necessarily "the right one" and all others pale reflections. There is no such thing as a One True Way for all people for all time.

Working with others definitely involves compromises. We have to compromise being selfish in order to accomodate the needs of the others. But we also make compromises by working as solitaries -- we are choosing to miss out on the support, advice, and companionship we could be getting from others. It all comes down to personal decisions about what is best for us at this particular time. And there is no reason why we can't change our minds at some later time.
bgruagach said:
Spirituality is, at its core, about our individual relationships with the Divine
That needs quoting all by itself - there's a definite fundamental truth there, and reflects at what happens when spiritual belief becomes socialised as religion.